Saturday, May 07, 2016

The Swamp Thing

We Californians are a welcoming lot.

We open up our Golden Gate to millions of visitors each year, many of whom like what they see and decide to stay despite being confronted by Batman imitators, militant vegans, psychic surgeons and rebirthing therapists.

Occasionally, however, a visitor to our state earns our everlasting acrimony.  And we’re not talking about Mediterranean Fruit Flies.

In this case, it’s the Honorable Rick Scott, the governor of Florida who just blew in  last week from the land of hubris and humidity to lure California businesses to his state.

The way Scott sees it, because California is raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, “700,000 people are going to lose their jobs.  There are a lot of opportunities for companies to prosper in Florida,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

A radio ad paid for by the state warns not only of layoffs but of job-stealing robots. That apparently won’t happen in Florida where time stands still.

All well and good but, according to published reports, businesses don't move between states much, and corporate relocations are irrelevant to the overall economic health of any state.

Less than 1% of the businesses that disappeared from California in 2013 were due to out-of-state relocations, according to data from In addition, only 1% of new businesses in California came from other states.

Of course, that doesn’t factor in the spooky job-gobbling robot factor.

And what about that minimum wage boost? According to one economic study, the industries that will feel the impact of higher wages are ones least likely to move. About a third of workers who will get a pay increase are working in stores or restaurants.

In other words, don’t expect your favorite neighborhood bistro to relocate 3000 miles just to save on dishwasher salaries.

Scott said he’s fixated on getting people, not just businesses, to move to Florida.

So was does the Sunshine State have to offer?

Well, there’s no state income tax. That’s what they don’t have. Here’s what they do have:

Weather: Searing heat accompanied by soul-sucking humidity. Without air conditioning, south Florida would be a populated mainly by alligators and mosquitoes. Come to think of it, the mosquito population already outnumbers humans.

Bills:  Floridians pay some of the highest electric bills in the country. (See Weather, above).

Sinkholes. Florida can lay claim to having more sinkholes than any other state in the nation, Last year, a sinkhole 30 feet wide by 30 feet deep forced the evacuation of a neighborhood near Tampa. The year before, one swallowed a man as he slept in his bedroom.  His body was never recovered.

Storms: The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season was a slightly below average season that produced only 12 tropical cyclones, eleven named storms, four hurricanes, and two major hurricanes. Sure, we have earthquakes. But we don’t have an earthquake season. Hurricane season lasts from June through November. Then, there's the fact that between 1991 and 2010, an average of 66 tornadoes per year struck Florida, making it the third most popular state for tornadoes during that time. In 2014, six of the country's 26 lightning deaths happened in Florida. The state is often called the lightning strike capital of the country. But wait, there’s more. During the summer, there’s a thunderstorm almost every afternoon.

Critters: In addition to flying insects the size of baseball bats, Florida is home to  such endearing creatures as the Giant African Land Snail, an invasive species that could adversely affect agriculture, natural ecosystems, human health or commerce. Florida cockroaches are lovingly referred to as Stink Bugs while a species known as Love Bugs fly in swarms as large as 100,000.

Corruption:  Harvard Law School’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics has issued a report on corruption which finds that illegal corruption is “moderately common” in Florida’s executive branch and state’s legislative branch. Hampton, Fla. has been called one of the most corrupt towns in America.

Theft: Florida tends to lead the nation in fraud and identity theft, according to the Sun-Sentinel. Also in medical malpractice claims. Maybe that’s why the state has one of fastest growing lawyer populations.

Violence: Florida may be just the fourth most populous state in the U.S., but it contains more of nation’s 100 most dangerous cities — a total of 11 — than any other state.

Weirdness: Columnist Dave Barry’s favorite Miami Moments:

—The time a 73-year-old motorist, apparently unaware that he was doing anything wrong, was stopped by police driving his Chevrolet Cobalt... on Runway Nine of Miami International Airport.

—The time two men caught a six-foot shark in Biscayne Bay and decided to sell it to a fish wholesaler. They had no car, so they took the shark – which was still alive – onto the downtown people mover at rush hour.

—The time cocaine smugglers, fleeing from a U.S. Customs jet, threw 20 bales of cocaine out of their aircraft, and one of the bales nearly hit the chief of police of Homestead, who was speaking at a Citizens Crime Watch meeting.

I'm afraid Gov. Scott's Siren Song is falling on deaf ears. I'll be staying right here.

Robert Rector is a veteran of 50 years in print journalism. He has worked at the San Francisco Examiner, Los Angeles Herald Examiner, Valley News, Los Angeles Times and Pasadena Star-News. His columns can be found at Robert-Rector@Blogspot.Com. Follow him on Twitter at @robertrector1.

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