Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Sunday, Jun. 1, 2014 – 12:00 am

CNN, the television news network, offers a handy website calculator that allows a user to compare the cost-of-living differentials among the nation’s towns and cities.

It reveals, for instance, that someone contemplating a move from Austin, the capital of Texas, to Sacramento would have to pay 22 percent more for otherwise identical basics such as groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care. And that doesn’t take into account California’s substantially higher taxes.

Using CNN’s calculator to make various comparisons essentially confirms what most Californians already know – this is a relatively expensive place in which to live.

It’s the reason, for instance, that the Census Bureau, using an alternative method of calculating poverty that includes cost of living, determined that California has the nation’s highest rate with nearly a quarter of its 38 million residents impoverished.

Housing is especially expensive in California, as the CNN calculator confirms – 52 percent higher in Sacramento than in Austin. And with housing usually a family’s highest expense, it really bites those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder, even if it’s not bothersome to those at the top.

The evolution of California into a two-tiered society – a huge impoverished subpopulation at the bottom, an incredibly rich overclass at the top and a shrinking middle class – makes the state a poster child for income disparity and generates no end of political hand-wringing.

Liberal legislators propose all sorts of remedies, ranging from increasing the minimum wage and welfare benefits to raising taxes on the wealthy.

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