From Floridians Who Know. The state is sinking in more ways than one.
Florida is sinking and it’s not because of climate change. A new report, Florida – A State of Embarassment, by the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans (FLARA), categorizes the reasons why seniors and young families should not move there.
The report cites crimes that prey on the elderly, regressive taxes, growing gaps between rich and poor, low spending for public schools and libraries, unmet job and social welfare needs, high home foreclosure rates, poor emergency medical care and more.
“Behind Florida’s palm trees, tropical birds and beautiful beaches is a state with a multitude of very serious problems that are being ignored by its political leaders,” it begins. “These problems undermine the potential for prosperity for Florida’s residents and place their future at risk.”
Here are 10 reasons why Florida is not all sunshine.
1. “Ground zero” for health care fraud.According to several reports by the FBI, Florida leads the U.S. in health care fraud, which it says is a $80 billion a year problem.
2. Most identity theft in the nation. Citing a 2012 Federal Trade Commission report, the state had 361.3 complaints per 100,000 people. This included government documents and benefits fraud (mostly false IRS tax returns), credit card fraud, telephone or utilities fraud and bank fraud. FLARA said, “Identity theft is so acute in Florida that nine of the 10 large urban areas nationally with the highest rates of identity theft are in Florida. The Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Pompano Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area leads the nation with 645.4 complaints per 100,000 population, followed by Naples-Marco Island with a rate of 397.8 and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater with a rate of 352.3.”
3. More shady crimes in Sunshine state. The FLARA report had the sixth highest violent crime rate in the country—murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—according to 2013 FBI statistics. It also had the nation’s highest level of public corruption convictions, with more than 8,000 government officials arrested between 2000 and 2010, and 1,126 convictions, FLARA said.
4. Second most regressive taxes in U.S. Florida is known for being a state where you can keep your home no matter what legal troubles occurred in another state. But FLARA says that perk comes with a price: regressive taxes. “The [state’s] poor and the middle class are taxed at higher rates than than the wealthy in all but one state (Washington),” it said. “The poorest 20 percent of Florida’s non-elderly persons paid 13.2 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes, compared with 8.3 percent for the middle 60 percent [of taxpayers], and 2.3 percent for the top 1 percent.”
5. Third widest rich-poor gap in U.S. There are a lot of statistics tracking the state’s growing inequality and the economic dislocations caused by it. In 2011, Florida had the nation’s third largest income gap between the top 1 percent and remaining 99 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “The average income of the top 1 percent was $1,141, 314 compared to $35,393 for the bottom 99 percent,” FLARA said, adding that “income inequality is growing.” Of the 50 largest U.S. cities, Miami was third for income inequality, a 2014 Brookings Institution report found. Florida ranked eighth for states with the highest percent of public school students eligible for free or reduced cost meals—due to household incomes. One out of six Floridians were below the federal poverty line, according to 2011 U.S. Census data.
6. Tremendous unmet job creation needs. Florida is a dismal place to look for work. It has the nation’s “third highest proportion on unemployed persons who have been jobless for six months or more,” FLARA said, citing a 2013 Economic Policy Institute study. “Florida had the third highest percentage, 46.2 percent. New Jersey (46.6 percent) and the District of Columbia (46.6 percent) had the highest percentages.”
7. State spending on education at rock bottom. Whether it is low public investment in education from a young age or state efforts to help the poor or jobless, Florida is not a generous state, a ream of statistics confirms. Citing 2010 Census data, FLARA said the state had the nation’s second lowest per capita spending for education at all levels. It ranked 50 th—dead last—for state and local expenditures for higher education. Only five other states had fewer books “per 1,000 population in public libraries” in 2013. Only six states had lower high school drop out rates in 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
8. State spending for social welfare was also bad. Looking beyond education, FLARA found that Florida’s spending on social welfare needs was terrible. Only seven states spent less for local and state social welfare programs, according to 2010 Census data. It also “received an F in the access to emergency care category, placing it 49 th among states,” FLARA said, citing a 2014 American College of Emergency Physicians report.
“Florida has few psychiatric care beds, which contributes to long wait times for emergency patients,” the report said. “People are waiting on average more than five hours in Florida’s emergency departments. These factors contribute to a situation where many—even those with health insurance—are experiencing issues in accessing appropriate emergency care services.”
9. Leads U.S. in home foreclosures and second in underwater mortages. The housing market collapse is still roiling the “sunshine” state. Florida has the most homes in the foreclosure—one in 346, as of January 2014—according to RealtyTrac. And only Nevada had more home mortgages with a bigger gap between money borrowed and current home value. “RealtyTrac reported that 34 percent of Florida homeowners with a mortgage had a home worth at least 25 percent less than the combined loans secured by the property,” FLARA said.
10. These realities should deter people from moving to Florida. That was the report’s conclusion, saying it was ironic that Florida’s economy and government services were hostile to seniors and young families—because the influx of famlies and seniors helps to lift the economy by creating demand for all kinds of businesses and jobs.
“Our research finds that the three most serious problems undermining the well-being of Floridians are: (1) a wide income disparity which constrains economic opportunity, limits job creation, and increases poverty; (2) unacceptable high levels of violent crime, public corruption, identity theft, and fraud; and (3) a weak public education system,” FLARA said. “The Florida Alliance of Retired Americans believes these and Florida’s other problems can be overcome. Unfortunately, business as usual by Florida’s political leaders will likely deepen Florida’s severe problems…
“If you decide to relocate to Florida, the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans hopes that you will become active in changing Florida for the better.”