2024: California Provides a Peek at What’s Ahead for U.S. Under One-Party Rule
Americans who may be curious about what life under Democratic party control will bring don’t need a crystal ball. Having lived under 1-party progressive rule for years, California can provide them a full picture—but they may not like what they see:
The End of the Middle Class
California is home mostly to the very rich and the poor. The primary cause of its high inequality is the cost of housing, according to The Economist: California’s inequality problem is not “the stagnation of low incomes per se. It is stagnation relative to costs—in particular, the cost of housing.” According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the gap between California’s home prices and those in the rest country started to widen in the 1970s, going from 30 percent above U.S. levels to more than 80 percent by 1980. The LAO blames public policies that suppressed construction when the rest of the country underwent a housing boom. Today, it’s virtually impossible to build new construction in California, as, thanks to regulations like the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), literally anyone can challenge any development, anonymously, with no legitimate cause. As if housing weren’t prohibitively expensive enough, the legislature’s solar mandate passed last year adds another $20,000 or so to each unit’s cost.
But it’s not just housing that feeds inequality. California boasts some of the highest and most regressive taxes in the country. We bear a top income tax of 12.3%, but it’s the everyday taxes like high sales taxes that really hit lower earners. Plus, on top of the most expensive gasoline in the country, thanks to mandates on its composition that require specialized refineries, gas taxes running 50+¢ per gallon bring the cost of gasoline 50% above the national average—which disproportionately hurts poorer workers who live farther from their jobs.
“Sin” taxes on soda, alcohol, tobacco, vaping, and more are the most regressive, with such taxes depriving the poor of money they could have spent towards bettering their lives: healthcare, better food, and life’s little pleasures that take the sting out of daily struggles.
California’s cities, from San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento, to L.A. and even formerly-tony Orange County, now teem with thousands of people living in their streets. Many drug-addicted and/or mentally ill, these individuals pose hazards to themselves and those around them. Yet rather than providing recovery services or pathways to helping them achieve their full potentials, billions of taxpayer dollars are directed to stasis, including delivering drug paraphernalia and other support that keeps people on the street and away from real help. San Francisco’s Tenderloin is a blocks-long open-air fentanyl market, and drug overdoses have exploded, especially during the COVID shutdowns.
Having destroyed cheap housing through urban renewal and regulations that removed low-cost options from the market, government now mandates “affordable housing” that costs $500,000 or more per unit, and, not surprisingly, has been produced at a trickle, providing no relief from the crisis.
Having also destroyed their mid- and downtowns with anti-enterprise policies, cities offer special favors to their favored cronies of the day: San Francisco famously offered Twitter tax exemptions to locate in the depressed mid-Market area. The city of Oakland decided its salvation lay in becoming a marijuana center, providing start-up funds for new dispensaries under its “cannabis equity program.” (While I am a proponent of drug legalization, the caveat is that it be offset by community standards and education—not subsidized as a celebrated lifestyle.) Needless to say, neither approach has resulted in revitalization.
Basic Services No Longer Provided
The traditional/conservative view of legitimate government-provided services includes such basics as streets, schools, and police. California has a bad habit of directing funding to favored projects, with automobile taxes, for example, going to high-speed rail. Decades of neglect of our streets and highways has left them in a shambles: a recent study shows California as the state with the worst roads in the country, despite the highest gas taxes.
Oakland voters by an 87% majority approved a bond measure for road improvement, with funds languishing for years as the city pondered how to direct them, finally settling on an “equity” allocation: first identifying the worst streets near schools, then dividing the city up to weigh (1) the proportion of poor-condition local streets each area contains, and (2) the proportion of Oakland’s historically underserved communities that live in each area. Not surprisingly, this methodology has left many if not most streets potholed. In the tradition of the “invisible hand,” a pair of “Pothole Vigilantes” came to the rescue, clandestinely filling potholes in the dead of night. Oakland’s mayor’s response to this threat on her DOT’s monopoly: “Thanks, PVs,” she Tweeted. “This job will be for in-house union pros.”
Similarly, long before “defund the police” became a national movement, Californians had a first-hand taste of rationed policing. After Oakland defunded its force by 10% in 2010, its police department released a list of 44 crimes to which it would no longer respond. Not surprisingly, crime rocketed, and those who could afford to responded by making private security a high-growth industry. USA Today has ranked California as having the highest murder rate in the country—and that’s before the COVID shutdowns. Since then, violent crime has exploded, with children as young as 11 now among its perpetrators.
K – 12 education tops California’s budget spending, with an average per-student cost of $12,000. Yet California ranks among the bottom states in the nation for student achievement in reading, math, and science, with just 30% of 8th graders testing proficient in reading, 29% in math, and an abysmal 24% in science. However, California is in the forefront in teaching students about sex, gender and, if the state Education Department gets its way, soon in “critical” ethnic studies that teaches that capitalism is racist; African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and American Indians are victims; and that Jews and Irish in America have secured white “racial privilege.” Hardly an education preparing a generation to succeed in meeting 21st century challenges.
The End of Independent Contracting; Power to Unions
In 2019, California passed AB5, ostensibly an anti-“gig” worker law to “protect” Uber and Lyft drivers, but in practice shutting down independent contract work for freelance writers, photographers, journalists, DoorDash drivers, and including medical professionals like certified registered nurse anesthesiologists. It impacted an estimated 2 million workers in California, in a period in which COVID shutdowns put millions out of work, and made delivery Apps the lifelines of millions of others sheltering in place. Joe Biden has promised to extend the law nationwide, where it’s estimated to harm 57 million Americans—a sop to his union backers looking forward to a “Great Awakening” under his presidency.
Green Policies’ Real Outcomes: A Degraded Environment, Blackouts, High Utility Costs
California’s “green” energy mandates have resulted in its neglect of public lands. The federal government is responsible for land and fire management on more than 40 percent of California land, while the state is responsible for fire prevention, suppression, and safety in a little over 30% of lands. Shifting land management from responsible maintenance, including forest management tactics of controlled burns, targeted tree-harvesting and -thinning, and brush clearing, the federal and state governments now oversee lands that are tinderboxes for our growing out-of-control wildfires. Smoke from the fires results in a worst-in-the-nation air quality, entirely offsetting gains made from mandated reductions in “greenhouse gases” from power plants and other regulations. California’s politicians are protected from accountability for these unintended consequences of their policies, however: “California tracks wildfire emissions separately from fossil fuel emissions, so the wildfires won’t impact the progress the state makes toward its climate goals on paper.”
California’s black-outs result from two state government-originated causes:
1) California’s mandates for “green” energy production have resulted in utilities shifting resources to building solar and wind at the expense of maintaining its equipment, undergrounding lines, and other fire-prevention measures. As a result, when there is a perceived threat of wildfires—e.g., it’s windy—large swaths of people have their power shut off as a preventative measure.
2) Solar doesn’t work at night, nor do solar and wind produce enough energy to meet high demand, e.g., when it’s hot.
The result of both are massive black-outs, leaving thousands of people at risk from heat with no air conditioning, poor air quality with no power to run air purifiers, loss of life-saving devices, fire from candles, and other hazards of being without power for days on end. No one has explained how this already overtaxed grid is going to handle the increased demand from Gov. Newsom’s ban of gas-fired cars effective in 2035.
And to add insult to injury, Californians bear the highest utility costs in the country: 40% above the national average, and double our neighboring states of Oregon and Washington.
Reasons for Optimism
There are plenty of Californians who understand and appreciate free markets, freedom of speech, and personal and property rights, and we’re not quiet in sharing information of its benefits to others. Fortunately, many Californians are starting to wake up to the causes behind the destruction of this once Golden State, and a backlash is afoot. Republicans flipped four congressional seats in the 2020 election, and younger folks who consider themselves progressives are starting to Tweet such sentiments as that “homelessness in San Francisco is enough to turn you alt-right.”
And thanks to his ineptitude in dealing with wildfires, massive unemployment fraud and general dysfunction of state government, his draconian shutdown of the state for the past 9 months (which hasn’t prevented “surges” far worse than elsewhere), and especially his own blatant disregard of his own stay at home order, Governor Newsom is now facing a very real recall threat. Despite the MSM’s reporting it as “Recall effort against California governor an attempt to ‘destabilize the political system,’ analysts say,” organizers of the recall point out: “We wouldn’t have been as successful as we’ve been if it weren’t for Gavin Newsom.”
Americans who would rather forestall the “Californication” of the country under the Biden-Harris/Biden-Sanders platforms would do well to get up to speed with good, alternative information to share with friends, associates, and neighbors.
It’s been said before, but bears repeating: information is Leviathan’s enemy. Arm yourself. We at Independent are here to help.