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EconomicPolicyJournal.com: California Is Worse Than You Think

Posted by M. C. on January 14, 2021

For example, the California legislature in its progressive wisdom effectively decriminalized theft as long as thieves take less than $950 worth of merchandise, officially reducing such theft to a misdemeanor but in effect making it legal, since progressive California prosecutors don’t like to be bothered by petty criminals.

Democrats also have the immigrant vote in their back pockets, and California has seen a wave of immigrants help turn it into a one-party state. For now, the numbers are just overwhelming, and we can expect California to move even further to the left as its housing and poverty problems become worse and Democrats successfully convince voters that free markets are cause.

https://www.economicpolicyjournal.com/2021/01/california-is-worse-than-you-think.html

By William L. Anderson

My colleague from the philosophy department was becoming increasingly angry. He was trying to be polite, but it was clear that he was raging inside. After a few minutes, he smiled a very strained smile and excused himself.

Our conversation was about California, or to be more specific, California governance. As readers can imagine, he was bullish on how the Democratic Party governs the state, California being perhaps the most one-party state in the USA. Every statewide election has gone to a Democrat in the last decade, and Democrats have a supermajority in the state legislature, which means that there is no meaningful Republican opposition and whatever the Democrats want, they get.

Not surprisingly, California governance is squarely progressive. The unions representing government employees effectively run the legislature, and as a result, pay, benefits, and pensions for those workers increasingly are straining the state budgets. (Steven Greenhut, a libertarian journalist based in California has documented the unsustainable growth of government in that state for nearly two decades.) Yet, the state continues to march politically and economically in the progressive direction as though the laws of economics didn’t matter.

For the most part, I have observed progressive California from far away, but my life took a different turn a few years ago, and the state is becoming my new home. I married a retired nurse from Sacramento in 2018, and because of health issues with her adult daughter, she has had to remain in that city, something not in our original plans. Because our campus either has been closed or severely restricted during the covid-19 lockdowns, I have spent most of the past year working from my wife’s home.

Living and working in California has offered me the opportunity to observe California progressivism up close, and it has been an interesting experience. Yes, the state where I officially reside, Maryland, is famously one-party and progressive, but the progressivism of California makes Maryland’s legislature look almost red state by comparison and surreally so in some ways.

For example, the California legislature in its progressive wisdom effectively decriminalized theft as long as thieves take less than $950 worth of merchandise, officially reducing such theft to a misdemeanor but in effect making it legal, since progressive California prosecutors don’t like to be bothered by petty criminals. In practice, that means consumer goods are much harder to find in California stores than one might experience elsewhere. For me, the difference was quite revealing, as I recently returned to Maryland after spending close to nine months in Sacramento.

When I go to the Walmart near my wife’s home, I find that many things that openly are on display in Maryland are behind locked cases in California. Furthermore, California’s draconian labor laws mean Walmart has fewer employees, so if I wish to purchase something I easily could buy in Maryland, I have to wait for a long time and often I just walk away because no one is available to open the glass case. Yet, even with these provisions, shoplifting losses for California retailers are enormous, and the state’s protheft laws have encouraged organized grab-and-run rings.

My progressive colleagues, like my philosophy professor friend, see no problem with such developments. To them, the real thieves are the capitalists, the retailers like Walmart that refuse to pay “living wages” to their employees, and, according to Senator Bernie Sanders, the capitalists have “been looting” Americans for years. Thus, the wave of theft in that state is a positive development, according to progressives.

I can go on, but it isn’t difficult to expose the vast array of sins (economic and otherwise) committed by the California political classes, and I liken this kind of punditry to swinging a bat in a room full of pinatas—one simply cannot miss. Steven Greenhut has been exposing California’s follies for years. However, perhaps the best recent commentary I have read on the progressive mentality that governs the state comes from blogger Mike Solana, who deftly skewers progressive politicians from the Golden State who now are accusing the tech industry of having “extracted wealth” from California and then left for the greener pastures of lower-tax havens such as Texas and Florida.

Solana’s rip is worth the read if for no other reason than that he exposes the cluelessness of progressive politicians and pundits, and one can be assured that progressive politicians will fit Tallyrand’s description of the Bourbons: “They had learned nothing, and had forgotten nothing.” Yet, Solana also is puzzled as to why Bay Area politicians who fail spectacularly also win landslide elections:

Nothing in San Francisco can be set on a path to slow correction until at least six of the eleven district board seats along with the mayorship belong to sane, goal-oriented leaders cognizant of our city’s many problems, and single-mindedly focused on solving them. These politicians will likewise need to be extremely well-funded. This is to say we need a political class, funded by a political machine, neither of which currently exist. Even were both the class and the funding apparatus to rapidly emerge, and even were the new political coalition to win an undefeated string of miracle elections, it would take four years to seize meaningful political power from the resident psychotics in charge, who, as per the last election, appear to be very popular among close to ninety percent of voters (a curiosity for another wire). This is to say nothing of the broader Bay Area political toxicity, nor the state political dynamics, which are poised to exacerbate every one of our problems. It is a multi-front political catastrophe.

During the covid-19 pandemic, which California politicians—and especially Governor Gavin Newsom—mismanaged spectacularly, California voters overwhelmingly chose the progressive status quo. While writers go on and on about the mind-boggling politics of California, the voters continue to send the left-wing progressives into office at all levels of government. While some might believe that “education” is the key to the so-called self-governance of democracy, voters in California clearly are choosing their candidates for reasons other than demonstrating wisdom in office. Indeed, why voters insist on putting the worst on top is perhaps the most intriguing question one asks about California politics.

Typical wisdom says that voters “vote for their pocketbooks,” but the progressives whom the lower-income voters overwhelmingly choose to elect are responsible for California having the nation’s highest poverty rates. Furthermore, for all the antiwealth rhetoric that California’s progressive candidates spew out, the very poor and the very rich voters in California tend to choose and support the same candidates, and the Democratic Party is the party of choice of the state’s large number of billionaires.

There is little or nothing that the current progressive state government has done that promotes the promotion of real wealth in California, yet even as state authorities actively destroy economic opportunities, the voters respond by demanding more of the same. That would seem to be a mystery, but maybe not. Let me explain.

In the past few years, wildfires have ravaged huge tracts of mostly public land in California (and in much of the West, although California has been hit the hardest). There are many reasons for the fires, the most obvious being that most of California receives little rainfall and many fires occur in mountainous terrain, where it is difficult to fight them. But there is much more, and most of it has to do with progressive policies. Even the George Soros–funded Pro Publica recognizes the role of fire suppression-based land management practices in making the fires worse:

The pattern is a form of insanity: We keep doing overzealous fire suppression across California landscapes where the fire poses little risk to people and structures. As a result, wildland fuels keep building up. At the same time, the climate grows hotter and drier. Then, boom: the inevitable. The wind blows down a power line, or lightning strikes dry grass, and an inferno ensues. This week we’ve seen both the second- and third-largest fires in California history. “The fire community, the progressives, are almost in a state of panic,” (Tim) Ingalsbee said. There’s only one solution, the one we know yet still avoid. “We need to get good fire on the ground and whittle down some of that fuel load.”

Yet, the progressivist religion that defines the Democratic Party in California cannot acknowledge that the leave-nature-alone policies could have anything to do with the scope and intensity of the wildfires. Instead, the powers that be have decided that climate change—and only climate change—is responsible, and the way to deal with the problem is to impose draconian rules that make life difficult for most people living there, from outlawing new natural gas residential hookups to its infamous “road diets” imposed to discourage people from driving cars. Despite the fact that California politicians, such as Gov. Gavin Newsom, claim that these policies will significantly reduce global temperatures and make wildfires less intense, the reality is quite different, as California accounts for less than 1 percent of so-called greenhouse gases in the world.

Perhaps the most symbolic action by California’s government of progressive arrogance is the continued development of the “bullet train,” an ambitious (to be charitable) project to build high-speed rail from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Under urging from then governor Jerry Brown, voters in the Golden State in 2008 agreed to permit a bond issue to begin funding what Brown claimed would require a maximum of $33 billion. California’s mountainous terrain forced design and route changes, turning the LA-SF “dream” into a train that would run between Bakersfield and Merced, two cities in the flat Central Valley. To make matters even worse, passenger rail service via Amtrak already exists in the valley, and even if everything were to go to plan (a heroic assumption, one might add), the bullet train would save only forty-five minutes in travel from the existing route.

As the proposed length of the bullet train becomes shorter, the costs continue to skyrocket. The original $33 billion estimate now has ballooned to more than $100 billion—if the project even is completed. Yet the project continues to live. Last year I spoke to a former coworker of my wife who enthusiastically supports the rail project. When I asked her about the cost and the fact that there really is no demand for this service, her response was instructive: “But we NEED trains!” Never mind that this is a boondoggle that dwarfs almost anything else we know as government waste; never mind that California taxpayers are being forced to fund a massive wealth transfer to politically connected contractors in which there are all costs and no benefits. The state “needs” trains.

My faculty colleague also became angry at my panning the California bullet train, and I have wondered why progressives are so defensive about this project. There is no doubt that it is a huge waste of money and that the passenger-mile costs are well above anything else that exists in public transportation, but that doesn’t seem to matter. One would think that “good government” progressives would see the disconnect here.

One possible explanation comes from Murray Rothbard, who recognized that progressives ultimately are at “war with nature.” While Rothbard was writing about egalitarianism, nonetheless one can argue that progressive policies are aimed at producing very different outcomes than what would happen if people were free to make their own choices, and especially choices with their own money.

Because of the rise of the tech industry, California has seen an increase in wealth that probably is unprecedented in the history of this country—and maybe the world. Not surprisingly, the state’s tax take has massively increased in the past two decades, with the percentage of income tax revenues rising dramatically as tech entrepreneurship has created a new billionaire class. While one can think of these new billionaires as a new class of wealthy, in many ways their outlooks (at least after they become wealthy) often reflect the outlooks of the wave of entrepreneurs such as Andrew Carnegie who developed new technologies, put them to economic use, created vast amounts of wealth, and then created the foundations that ultimately would be governed by a wealth-destroying philosophy of progressivism.

In part, the wealth created permits foundation-financed “visionaries” to demand that resources be directed in a different way than would be done in a market economy, with “serve the people” and “make a difference” as mantras. We see that time and again in California, where tax-engorged “visionary” progressive politicians seize wealth created by private enterprise in order to pursue their own causes such as environmentalism.

Of course, as we already have pointed out, progressive policies tend to make the original problems worse. Not only have progressives made mass wildfires more likely, but they also have been behind the rise in homelessness in California. In the late 1970s, the San Francisco city government instituted rent controls. Not surprisingly, housing shortages followed, and the real price of housing skyrocketed. As shortages became worse, progressive politicians doubled down on the controls. Today, more than five thousand people live on the streets in San Francisco, and the government—bound by its own progressive ideals—is helpless to do anything but hand out money and defend its policies. And this in the city with the most billionaires per capita in the world.

There are three reasons why California governance will not change even as it heads toward a fiscal cliff. First, and most important, progressive ideology is intractable and does not yield to the laws of economics. Progressive politicians are feted in the mainstream media and in California’s left-wing education institutions, and voters don’t seem to want any alternatives. (After all, California “needs” trains.) Politicians who raise questions as to this model of governance can expect to be demonized in the media and will face violent protests if they show up in public venues—and especially on college campuses.

The second reason is that California voters are drawn to progressive Democrats no matter what disasters these politicians might inflict. The highly educated voters do not support progressive Democrats just on economic issues, but also on the highly contentious social issues, and with the 2020 “revolt of the rich” dominating Democratic Party politics at the present, it is doubtful that this current wave of progressive-favoring voters will change direction.

Democrats also have the immigrant vote in their back pockets, and California has seen a wave of immigrants help turn it into a one-party state. For now, the numbers are just overwhelming, and we can expect California to move even further to the left as its housing and poverty problems become worse and Democrats successfully convince voters that free markets are cause.

The third reason things won’t change in California is that progressive government creates its own sets of monopoly rents that are distributed to politically connected interest groups. In the case of the Golden State, state-employee and municipal labor unions are by far the most powerful political entity, and they control vast blocs of voters. Their power was recently demonstrated by their support of the covid-19 lockdowns in the state—during which public employees continued to draw full pay even as the lockdown policies ravaged the state’s tax base.

Should one doubt the power of California’s government-employee unions, witness the “success” of what was called AB 5, the law that almost killed the “gig” industries in the state, putting thousands of freelance writers and musicians out of work. Written by the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) as a means of ending the Uber and Lyft rideshare services (and protect unionized taxi and public transportation workers), the fallout was so bad that even the legislature had to back off some of the restrictions. Voters did the rest last November when they beat back most of the most onerous provisions of the law. (One doubts that the musicians and writers that lost their jobs changed their progressive voting patterns in the most recent election. Such is the staying power of progressive ideology.)

If one believes that perhaps the wave of progressive voters will become “converted” to a “free minds and free markets” approach (the “left libertarian” position), the experience of New York City should be instructive. In 1975, the economy was in recession, businesses were fleeing the city’s onerous tax rates and antibusiness climate, and city officials were fraudulently selling capital bonds to pay for previously issued capital bonds. (William E. Simon, the US secretary of the Treasury in 1975, laid out the entire scenario in his blockbuster A Time for Truth.)

New York’s problem was obvious—except in the minds of progressives. Where most of us would understand that having unions running away with the budgets while suppressing productive private enterprises is a losing proposition, progressives see a nefarious capitalist plot. That New York City had a relatively brief renaissance in large part because of the deregulation of banking and finance (which was begun by President Jimmy Carter) plays no role in progressive thinking at all.

Unlike New York City, California does not have an economic ace in its pocket. Even though much of the tech industry has prospered during the state’s draconian pandemic shutdowns, the state government (not to mention cities and counties) is facing the worst financial crisis perhaps in its history. Not surprisingly, the progressive response is to increase incendiary rhetoric toward wealth creators and demand even higher taxes and more business regulations.

Progressivism is a utopian philosophy of governance that will never find nor create its utopia. If California voters and politicians do not understand the current crisis and how it came about, they probably never will understand. Instead, we will see the continuous march to perdition as California politicians refuse to acknowledge that they are killing the geese laying the golden eggs.

William L. Anderson is a professor of economics at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland.

The above originally appeared at Mises.org

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Elon Musk on the Mass Exodus of Business from California

Posted by M. C. on January 2, 2021

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How California Is Filling Its Hospital Beds With Covid Patients – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on December 21, 2020

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/12/no_author/how-california-is-filling-its-hospital-beds-with-covid-patients/

By Bill Sardi

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Don’t ‘Californicate’ The Rest Of America – Issues & Insights

Posted by M. C. on November 20, 2020

It isn’t pretty, but that’s precisely where California is now. Other states should be concerned. As Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds observes, some tax refugees from California and other “migrants from high tax states might bring their political attitudes with them, moving to new, low-tax states for the economic opportunity but then supporting the same policies that ruined the states they left.”

Never mind that the party for his buddy, himself a lobbyist, also included a bunch of medical industry lobbyists. The photos show not only more people in attendance than allowed under state guidelines, neither the governor nor his wife were wearing masks.

Newsom called it a “bad mistake.” A better term might be rank hypocrisy, as Newsom himself admitted: “I should have stood up and … drove back to my house … the spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted,” he said. “ I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”

Nice words, but Newsom isn’t alone in his two-faced behavior. This week, a handful of California legislators are enjoying an expenses-paid five-day vacation in Hawaii, where they’re attending the annual Independent Voter Project conference at a high-end resort.

https://issuesinsights.com/2020/11/19/dont-californicate-the-rest-of-america/

By I & I Editorial Board

Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

California was once a shining exemplar of everything a state should be — inventive, creative, energetic, freewheeling, fast-growing and conservative. No more. Today, it’s a giant welfare economy run by far-left kleptocrats and union shills who can’t even keep the lights on. As hundreds of thousands of Californians flee the once-Golden State, the rest of America should ask itself: Will they bring their politics with them?

Put another way, will California’s broken model be adopted by much of the rest of the country, turning reliably red states blue and seeding the nation with high taxes, more rules, corrupt politicians, and slow growth?

We hope not, but given the 2020 election, it’s not an idle question. California’s political class is widely regarded as among the most corrupt, irresponsible, hypocritical, hard left and incompetent of any comparable group of state politicians in the country, which is saying a lot.

The troubles have been on full display this week.

A week after imposing sweeping new restaurant closures across much of the state and telling Californians not to gather in groups for Thanksgiving, California Gov. Gavin Newsom admitted on Monday that he attended a birthday party for an old friend at an ultra-swank Napa Valley restaurant, The French Laundry.

Never mind that the party for his buddy, himself a lobbyist, also included a bunch of medical industry lobbyists. The photos show not only more people in attendance than allowed under state guidelines, neither the governor nor his wife were wearing masks.

Newsom called it a “bad mistake.” A better term might be rank hypocrisy, as Newsom himself admitted: “I should have stood up and … drove back to my house … the spirit of what I’m preaching all the time was contradicted,” he said. “ I need to preach and practice, not just preach.”

Nice words, but Newsom isn’t alone in his two-faced behavior. This week, a handful of California legislators are enjoying an expenses-paid five-day vacation in Hawaii, where they’re attending the annual Independent Voter Project conference at a high-end resort.

The Associated Press says the event “includes policy discussions and schmoozing with corporate sponsors.”

“Organizers booked about 50 rooms and have about 120 people staying at the Fairmont Kea Lani on Maui’s southwest shore,” the AP reported.

In short: One set of rules for average Californians, who have just had a new, strict lockdown imposed, and another for the state’s political elite.

These are just the most recent examples of the misrule and mismanagement of California, which has become a de facto one-party state under the Democrats, who were way ahead of the national curve in turning the state’s elections into fraudulent farces that encourage cheating which systematically benefits their party.

Faced with such poor governance, many Californians have said, “Enough!”

With taxes soaring, quality of life plunging as violent crime and homelessness surge, home prices out of reach, nonsensical government regulations spreading, an increasingly heavy-handed government and a slumping job market, California now ranks 47th out of 50 states on the widely followed Economic Freedom Index issued annually by Canada’s Fraser Institute.

As their future prospects dim, many longtime and even native Californians are leaving for better times in neighboring states such as Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, Utah and New Mexico.

More recently, the departing have moved even farther away, relocating in Texas, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. It’s a “reverse Beverly Hillbillies” migration.

From 2007 to 2016, some 7 million Californians (gross total) left the state, most of them middle-class or upper-class in income. In 2018 alone, the number of economic and quality-of-life refugees surged by nearly 700,000, and the flood appears to be continuing today.

Here’s the problem. It’s one thing to move from a state because it’s going in the wrong direction. It’s quite another to move and not understand that you had something to do with it.

Looking at California’s surrounding states, once bright red in their political hue, there’s an increasing amount of purple and even blue. Former Californians who didn’t like what happened in their state have held on to their foolish leftist voting habits and beliefs, and repeated the pattern elsewhere.

In short, Cali, not to mention New York and other high-tax, high-regulation states that punish businesses and citizens alike, are hemorrhaging citizens to more-friendly states around the country.

The trends in California are especially ominous. As City Journal’s Steve Malanga pointed out in a piece earlier this year dubbed “Calculating the Californication,” a Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, found that 52% of those living in California were considering moving elsewhere.

Among those, more than 71% blamed soaring housing costs and 58% cited high taxes, while almost half pointed to the state’s increasingly radical left, toxic political environment — everything from the “cancel culture” and rampant political correctness, to a reliance on green energy, a crackdown on religion, the release of violent felons, and a decaying, union-run education system that teaches kids to hate America but not basic skills.

As evidence of the latter, one need only point to a recent headline: “Huck Finn, To Kill A Mockingbird, Other Classic Books Banned In California Schools For ‘Racism.’ ” Any wonder that a majority of confused, ignorant young people now embrace socialism and its ideas, while rejecting the greatest wealth- and freedom-creating system ever?

As for those who are leaving, numbers don’t lie.

“Conservatives and moderates are the most unhappy with the state and most anxious to leave,” says Malanga. “Liberals, by contrast, are mostly staying put, and some think life in California is just great. Only 38% of Democrats said that they were considering leaving, compared with 55% of independents and 71% of Republicans.”

As Michael Anton wrote in his recent book, The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return,” which details California’s dystopian government and dysfunctional political culture:

In barely one generation … California was … transformed into a left-liberal one-party state, the most economically unequal and socially divided in the country, ostensibly run by a cadre of would-be Solons in Sacramento and in the courts, but really by oligarchic power concentrated in a handful of industries, above all Big Tech and Big Hollywood.

The middle class — what’s left of them — continue to flee high taxes, higher costs, cratering standards of living, declining services, deteriorating infrastructure, worsening quality of life, and an elite that openly despises them and pushes policies to despoil and dispossess them.

It isn’t pretty, but that’s precisely where California is now. Other states should be concerned. As Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds observes, some tax refugees from California and other “migrants from high tax states might bring their political attitudes with them, moving to new, low-tax states for the economic opportunity but then supporting the same policies that ruined the states they left.”

American states, beware. Take in as many Californians as you wish. But don’t accept California’s far-left, utterly broken governance and cultural model. It’s not “progressive” in any true meaning of the word. And once adopted, it will ruin your own state.

— Written by the I&I Editorial Board

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Erie Times E-Edition Article-Progressives inflict progress in California

Posted by M. C. on September 19, 2020

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation requiring all 430,000 undergraduates in the California State University system to take an “ethnic studies” course, and there may soon be a similar mandate for all high-school students. “Ethnic studies” is an anodyne description for what surely will be, in the hands of woke “educators,” grievance studies.

https://erietimes-pa-app.newsmemory.com/?publink=02be34d5b

California, our national warning, shows how unchecked progressives inflict progress. They have placed on November ballots Proposition 16 to repeal the state constitution’s provision, enacted by referendum in 1996, forbidding racial preferences in public education, employment and contracting. Repeal, which would repudiate individual rights in favor of group entitlements, is part of a comprehensive California agenda to make everything about race, ethnicity and gender. Especially education, thereby supplanting education with its opposite.

The 1996 ban on preferences was not intended to, and did not, end all measures to increase the participation of minorities and women in the state’s post-secondary education, or in doing business with the state government. So, Proposition 16 should be seen primarily as an act of ideological aggression, a bold assertion that racial and gender quotas — identity politics translated into a spoils system — should be forthrightly proclaimed and permanently practiced as a positive good.

California already requires that by the end of 2021 some publicly traded companies based in the state must have at least three women on their boards of directors, up from the 2018 requirement of one woman. Last month, the legislature mandated that by the end of 2021 at least one director shall be Black, Latino, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaskan Native, or identify as LGBTQ. And by 2022, boards with nine or more directors must include at least three government favored minorities.

Where will this social sorting end? Proposition 16’s aim is to see that there is no end to the industry of improvising remedial measures to bring “social justice” to a fundamentally unjust state, and nation. The aim is to dilute, to the point of disappearance, inhibitions about government using group entitlements — racial, ethnic and gender — for social engineering. Most important, Proposition 16 greases the state’s slide into the engineering of young souls.

They are to be treated as raw material for public education suffused with the spirit of Oceania in George Orwell’s “1984”: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.” Progressives have a practical objective in teaching the essential squalor of the nation’s past. The New York Times’s “1619 Project” — it preaches that the nation’s real founding was the arrival of the first slaves; the nation is about racism — is being adopted by schools as a curriculum around the nation. If the past can be presented as radically wrong, radical remedies will seem proportionate.

Last month, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation requiring all 430,000 undergraduates in the California State University system to take an “ethnic studies” course, and there may soon be a similar mandate for all high-school students. “Ethnic studies” is an anodyne description for what surely will be, in the hands of woke “educators,” grievance studies.

Discussions of the proposed high-school requirement are being conducted in the progressive patois about “collective narratives of transformative resistance” in the “postimperial life” of a nation groaning under the bondage of capitalist, patriarchal and other “systems of power.” Students will be taught to become “positive actors,” with the government’s public-education bureaucracy stipulating what political positions are and are not “positive.”

Coming in the context of such measures, Proposition 16’s proposed repeal of the ban on racial preferences should be understood as repealing all scruples about the government- approved groupthink that Orwell warned against in “1984.” In this enterprise, California progressives have company.

Writing in the British journal Standpoint, Charles Parton, with 22 years of diplomatic experience working in and on China, explains that President Xi Jinping’s hostility to freedom’s prerequisites includes root-and-branch rejection of education, understood as the development of individuals’ abilities to think critically. Xi, who calls teachers “engineers of the soul,” wants education to be, Parton says, “collective, ideological and political.” The Chinese Communist Party says education begins by “grasping the baby,” primary school promotes “loving” the party, socialism and the collective, secondary schools inculcate “the ideology of socialist builders,” and universities must be, in Xi’s words, “CCP strongholds.”

The CCP’s and California’s indoctrinators differ somewhat concerning the particular mentalities they aim to impose. But both groups would extinguish actual education — teaching individuals how, as opposed to what, to think.

The principal difference is that the CCP is more candid than California is about replacing thinking with the regurgitation of governmentstipulated orthodoxies.

In 1932, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis celebrated how a single state “may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Or as a warning to it. George Will is a Washington Post columnist. Email him at georgewill@washpost.com.

George Will

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Why U.S. Wildfires Hit California More Than the Southeast | Intellectual Takeout

Posted by M. C. on September 18, 2020

The wildfires are a reminder of an unpleasant reality: governments are poor stewards of the environment.

Looking elsewhere for a solution.

https://www.intellectualtakeout.org/why-u-s-wildfires-hit-california-more-than-the-southeast/

By Jon Miltimore

California wildfires continue to blaze in one of the worst fire seasons in recent memory. While California fires are nothing new, government data show the damage has been substantial.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says that since August 15, when California’s fire activity accelerated, there have been at least 24 fatalities and more than 4,200 structures destroyed. (Ten people have also died in Oregon, CNN reports.) So far in 2020, California wildfires have burned more than 3.2 million acres of land – an area roughly the size of Connecticut.

As the fires rage, politicians argue over what (and who) is to blame.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti say climate change is the culprit, while President Donald Trump says the fires are the result of poor land management.

These answers are not mutually exclusive, of course, and evidence suggests that both poor land management and California’s high temperatures and arid climate have played a role.

While addressing California’s extreme temperatures is difficult, especially in the short term (unless you’re a member of the X-Men named Storm), evidence suggests immediate solutions are available to improve state and federal forestry management.

Excessive Extinguishing

Citing the fires scorching the West, The New York Times last week ran an article that stated it was time for government agencies to rethink their fire management policies.

“For over a century, firefighting agencies have focused on extinguishing fires whenever they occur. That strategy has often proved counterproductive,” the Times reports. “Many landscapes evolved to burn periodically, and when fires are suppressed, vegetation builds up thickly in forests. So when fires do break out, they tend to be far more severe and destructive.”

This was precisely what economist Jairaj Devadiga pointed out in a 2018 FEE article that examined why California’s wildfires historically have been much worse than those of Baja California, where fires are allowed to burn naturally at low intensity, regularly clearing out forest floors and limiting the spread of large conflagrations.

Though the Times doesn’t mention Baja California, the paper does endorse the Mexican state’s strategy of allowing fires to burn naturally to eliminate vegetation, pointing out that experts attribute the tactic to the more successful fire prevention approach found in the Southeastern United States.

Scientists who study wildfires agree that allowing forests and grasslands to burn periodically — by, say, intentionally setting smaller fires under controlled conditions — can be a more effective way to clear out vegetation. In Ponderosa pine forests, for instance, low-level fire can nurture ecosystems and help prevent destructive large-scale fires from breaking out.

This already occurs in the Southeastern United States, where officials use prescribed fires to burn millions of acres each year. While the region still sees destructive blazes — like Tennessee’s drought-fueled Great Smoky Mountains fires in 2016, which killed at least 14 people — experts credit the use of controlled burns with sparing many Southeastern communities from fire damage.

Contrary to Western states, “fire is widely accepted as a tool for land management in the Southeast,” fire scientist Crystal Kolden told the Times. This is in stark contrast to California, where just 50,000 acres were intentionally burned in 2017. (As a point of reference, academics estimate between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres of forest burned annually in prehistoric California.)

Fortunately, it appears that political leaders are beginning to recognize the problem. In August,

Newsom signed a memo acknowledging California needs more preventive fire.

While this is a step in the right direction, federal regulations could prove an obstacle to the strategy.

As Sam Rutzick at Reason point outs, the Clean Air Act of 1990 treats the smoke from a controlled burn as a pollutant (in contrast to a wildfire allowed to burn) and the National Environmental Policy Act requires “a couple-thousand-page document analyzing every single conceivable impact to the environment that the (burn) plan might have.”

Ownership vs. Stewardship

The wildfires are a reminder of an unpleasant reality: governments are poor stewards of the environment.

 

As the economist Holly Fretwell has observed, it has become conventional wisdom that government officials know best when it comes to protecting the environment. But the reality is government officials and bureaucrats operate under incentive structures and management systems that often run counter to effective land management.

Unlike private landowners, they have little incentive to be prudent long-term stewards of the land, which is why, Fretwell points out, “almost one-third of the acreage managed by the Forest Service is at high risk of catastrophic wildfire.”

The truth is federal agencies are much better at enforcing regulations than providing meaningful land stewardship. This is one of inherent problems when lands are owned collectively. As FEE’s Webb Beard has observed, echoing Aristotle, when something is owned by everyone, it is effectively owned by no one. The incentive to maintain or improve it is removed because these decision-makers do not benefit from prudent stewardship, and often do benefit from imprudent exploitation, neglect, and virtue-signaling but counterproductive “protection.”

This is why many economists see property rights as a solution to federal land mismanagement. When individuals own something, they have incentive to maintain it and protect it effectively, evidenced by the strong record of private property owners who have turned around threatened ecosystems.

“Ted Turner and buffalo ranchers brought the buffalo population back from the brink of extinction because of property rights. Fishermen almost fished the population of British Columbia halibut into extinction, and property rights brought their population back,” Beard wrote. “In many regions of Africa, trophy hunting helps to keep populations of certain animals from dipping to extinction levels and helps to fund conservation.”

If you’re wondering why you rarely hear of wildfires ravaging Texas, consider this fact: 95 percent of Texas’ land mass is privately owned.

As the Times points out, effectively managing wildfires will require “a cultural shift” in thinking.

This means finally accepting the efficacy of prescribed burning, but it also means decentralizing the process and allowing more private ownership and more localized stewardship over these lands.

As Dr. Kolden points out, indigenous populations have a long track record of using fire effectively to manage forested areas.

“We should be empowering the people who know how to do this,” Kolden told the Times.

This is no small matter. It’s not exactly the hallmark of government agencies and bureaucrats to acknowledge that others might have more local knowledge and expertise to solve a problem than they do.

There’s also the matter of addressing federal regulations that make it difficult for state agencies to use controlled burning as a tool (though simply eliminating policies that call for automatically extinguishing natural blazes is a step in the right direction).

It should also be acknowledged that no solution will immediately solve California’s wildfire problem. The journal Nature Sustainability published a report in February stating the Golden State would have to burn 20 million acres of forested land to restore forest health. You don’t solve a century’s worth of mismanagement overnight.

The good news is, as Elizabeth Weil noted in a recent ProPublica article, “we know how to prevent megafires.” The solution is ending aggressive fire suppression and empowering individuals who understand land management.

Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension and director of the Northern California Prescribed Fire Council, said this means embracing the hands-off fire prevention culture of the Southeast.

“Your average person goes out back with Grandpa, and they burn 10 acres on the back 40 you know, on a Sunday,” Quinn-Davidson told Weil.

In other words, it means relinquishing control, which is something politicians and bureaucrats have a hard time doing, especially in the Golden State.

That may be the biggest hurdle for preventing disastrous wildfires in California.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.

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Exclusive: California Official Confirms Double-Voting on Super Tuesday – Double Trouble: Allegheny County, PA Mails Duplicate Ballots

Posted by M. C. on June 2, 2020

Government incompetence and criminality beats the ordinary criminal every time.

https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2020/04/15/exclusive-california-state-election-official-confirms-double-voting-by-mail-in-super-tuesday-primary/

by John Binder

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has confirmed that double-voting by mail took place in the March 3, 2020, Super Tuesday primary, Breitbart News has exclusively learned.

Days before Super Tuesday, citizen watchdog group Election Integrity Project California sent a letter to Padilla requesting his office look into possible double voting in the 2020 primary election.

More than a month later, in a letter dated April 7, 2020, Padilla confirmed double-voting in one case and suspected double-voting by a number of other registered voters on Super Tuesday, according to the letter obtained by Breitbart News.

Padilla confirmed in at least one case that two ballots from one voter were “opened and counted on election night.” Twelve of the 15 total registered voters identified with “duplicate voting history” are “suspected to have cast two ballots for the March primary election,” Padilla wrote in the letter.

In the remaining two cases, Padilla said county election officials “caught the duplicate voter records prior to election day and only one vote was tallied.” Padilla said the findings have been “forwarded to investigators to follow-up as necessary with the voters.”

The letter from Padilla can be read below:…

But that is nothing compared to Allegheny County

https://editions.lib.umn.edu/electionacademy/2020/05/15/double-trouble-allegheny-county-pa-mails-duplicate-ballots/

Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), PA is fielding questions from voters after a software problem resulted in mailings of duplicate ballots for the state’s upcoming primary. WESA has more:

Allegheny County’s efforts to encourage mail-in voting for the June 2nd primary may be almost too successful: A state database has apparently sent out duplicate ballots as it struggles to keep up with demand – although the county says no matter how many ballots come in the mail, no one will get more than a single vote.

In a release sent out late Thursday afternoon, the county’s Election Division said that a problem with the state’s SURE system, a voter registration database, has caused the printing of duplicate labels for mailing and absentee ballots. According to the release, that’s because printing orders are so large that the system is “timing out”: When an employee clears that condition, the system sends the rest of the job to the printer, while apparently also returning the job to the queue to be reprinted again.

Allegheny seems, in part, to be a victim of its own success in encouraging voters to cast absentee ballots:…

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Disrupting Schools For Racial Justice | The American Conservative

Posted by M. C. on December 30, 2019

I cannot imagine how the teachers in the State of California, always on the cutting edge of things progressive, feel after the passage of this law:

Maybe African American males and females, for some reason or reasons, disrupt at a higher rate. Ever thought about that? Of course they haven’t. In the Kingdom of the Woke, it is forbidden to act on the evidence of your senses when that evidence contradicts progressive dogma.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/disrupting-california-schools-racial-justice/

Rod Dreher

I’ve mentioned in this space before what a revelation it was to me to transfer to a new school for my 11th grade year. I went from a good public school to a better public school: a boarding school for gifted kids. The revelation was what a classroom environment could be like when teachers didn’t have to spend so much time trying to make kids be quiet so she could teach. I had never experienced that before.

In my old school, I don’t recall that it was a racial thing. Kids just would not shut up. I remember going back to visit my favorite teacher in my old school, on the first break we had from my new one, and being gobsmacked by how much time she had to spend trying to discipline her class. And this was normal for every class! Like I said, my old school was considered to be one of the better ones in the state, too. The impression I had — and this was coming up on 40 years ago, so take it with a grain of salt — was that our poor teachers had to spend a shocking amount of time as disciplinarians. There was nothing bad, just the constant chit-chat of restless teenagers who refuse to keep their stupid mouths shut.

I cannot imagine how the teachers in the State of California, always on the cutting edge of things progressive, feel after the passage of this law:

A California bill that passed the Legislature would prohibit schools, including charter schools, from suspending students for willful defiance.

That means if a student is acting up in class, teachers and school officials will not be able to suspend them from school.

More:

The bill by Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would ban the suspension of students in grades K-8 for refusing to obey a teacher or administrator, a practice known as willful defiance.

“I’ve dealt with a lot of these cases,” said Berry Accius, founder of Voice of the Youth, a nonprofit mentoring program in Sacramento. “Unfortunately, I’ve had kids that have been suspended for sometimes three months.”

Accius said school suspensions are used disproportionately against students of color.

“African American males and females, they are suspended at a higher rate — especially the African American males,” Accius said.

Maybe African American males and females, for some reason or reasons, disrupt at a higher rate. Ever thought about that? Of course they haven’t. In the Kingdom of the Woke, it is forbidden to act on the evidence of your senses when that evidence contradicts progressive dogma.

Now state legislators, in their wisdom, have condemned elementary school teachers and the well-behaved students — black, white, Latino, Asian, whatever — to the tyranny of brats. Progressives are dismantling the ability of a basic social institution — the school — to defend itself, and to maintain order sufficient to fulfill its function. And then, when the parents who can afford to get their kids out of the public schools do so, progressives will call them racist.

A couple of weeks ago I saw a black friend, an older woman, who retired a few years back from a lifetime of teaching in Louisiana public schools. She could have taught longer, but she was sick and tired of having to deal with disruptive students and the parents who did nothing but make excuses for how their poor little preciouses were being picked on by the mean old teacher. I don’t blame her a bit, but I do feel the most sorry for the kids who come to school to get the education they deserve, but which the state and society won’t provide for them, because parents and school authorities lack the will to impose basic classroom discipline.

At least in the Golden State, disruptive students will be able to go act up in, by law, the bathroom of their gender choice, because as the state’s public school superintendent said, “In California we move forward, not backward.”

 

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Editorial: California can’t account for billions of education dollars

Posted by M. C. on December 7, 2019

Expand that concept to a national level.

We are probably better off not knowing where that Kalifornia money went.

Safe rooms and Play Doh maybe.

Then think about what is taught. That is the scary part.

Government is the last thing we need in the education system.

https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/12/04/editorial-california-cant-account-for-billions-of-education-dollars/

By Stephen Frank

Want to waste tax dollars? Give it to your failed government schools. Want quality education? LAUSD is a holding action, no longer an education facility—so few graduate with real diploma’s earned. Now we find the government schools can not even keep accurate the money given to them…

Inexcusable that, six years after K-12 spending revamp, audit finds needy kids aren’t getting help they should

By Mercury News & East Bay Times Editorial Boards, 12/4/19   |

It’s been six years since California lawmakers revamped the state funding formula for local schools.

It was heralded by then-Gov. Jerry Brown as a way to simplify K-12 education spending and close the state’s achievement gap by giving more money to districts that disproportionately serve needy kids.

Since then, state spending on schools has increased about 50%. But, as state Auditor Elaine Howle explained in a troubling report last month, there is no way to track whether money is being spent as it should.

School officials across California have co-mingled billions of dollars of state money that was supposed to be used for children who fall into one of three categories: English learners, low-income or in foster care.

Howle’s findings confirm what critics have been saying for years: Rather than specifically helping needy kids, the money has simply been used to boost general spending.

That partially explains why California students’ test scores continue lagging the national average and the state has failed to close the achievement gap that divides along racial and economic lines.

If California has any hope of narrowing that divide, legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom should require accountability for the $63 billion of state money currently spent annually on K-12 education.

It’s time to end this reckless spending. As we enter the state budget cycle for the 2020-21 fiscal year, lawmakers must stop doling out money without a meaningful tracking system for how it’s spent.

Brown’s original plan made sense. State spending for schools had become far too complicated, with more than 110 special “categorical” programs that had different funding and eligibility requirements.

The plan was to eliminate the categorical programs and give local school districts more control over the money. Hence, the Local Control Funding Formula was created.

LCFF is pretty simple. School districts receive a base amount determined by students’ attendance figures and grade levels. In addition, they receive a supplemental 20% for students falling into one of the three needy categories. And in districts with concentrations of more than 55% needy students, per-pupil funding increases 50% for each kid beyond the 55% threshold.

The so-called supplemental and concentration funding is supposed to be spent to provide additional help for those targeted children. But when Howle audited a sample of three school districts — Oakland, Clovis and San Diego — only Clovis tracked how the money was spent.

That’s because there are no state regulations to ensure districts separately account for the extra funds. Moreover, if the districts don’t spend the money on those needy students the year they receive the funds, they can spend it on anything the following year.

Hence, there are no rules to ensure Brown’s law is being followed. Indeed, while he was in office, Brown repeatedly resisted such a requirement. Consequently, there is no way to determine whether the additional funding is producing measurable student performance improvements.

The idea behind LCFF was to provide more local control. Parents were supposed have input into how the money is spent — something that’s meaningless if they’re not provided useful data — and school districts were supposed to be freed from the restrictions of hundreds of categorical spending programs.

But LCFF was never intended to be a giveaway of funds without obligations. Our neediest students were supposed to be better served. There’s no way to know whether that’s happened.

The lack of accountability — for how the money is spent and whether it’s producing results — is no longer acceptable.

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Why These Five States Would Be Better Independent Countries | The Daily Bell

Posted by M. C. on December 1, 2019

Add New Jersey. Many of us Pennsylvanians would gladly add Philadelphia as an incentive.

https://www.thedailybell.com/all-articles/news-analysis/why-these-five-states-would-be-better-independent-countries/

By Joe Jarvis

Trump scares me. But progressives terrify me.

Whoever comes next will be more extreme than Bernie Sanders.

Californians may hate Donald Trump now. But you can bet Texans will hate whoever comes next.

The federal two-party system ensures a perpetually unhappy populace. Each tries to force their will on the other when it is “their turn.”

And the rest of us, who aren’t on one side or the other, constantly lose.

This is unneeded friction. Forced unity creates far more problems than it solves.

But why put up with the swaying whims of federal politics?

In America, we have a marketplace of 50 state governments lying in wait.

I moved from Massachusetts to Florida three years ago. The taxes are lower, the living is cheaper, the laws are less restrictive, there’s little traffic, and the weather is nicer.

But that didn’t allow me to escape the shadow of Washington DC.

But imagine if we could keep the ease of moving from state to state, but without the federal government following us.

States would sink or swim on their own merits. No help from DC. And no interference either…

Plus, not a single US state would even be close to the smallest country on earth, by population or land area. Much tinier countries do just fine on their own.

California has plenty of reason to become its own country. It is the most progressive state without much in common with DC or many other states.

Californians are still being prosecuted by the feds for owning state-legal marijuana dispensaries. California wants liberal immigration policy, while the US government thinks otherwise.

It’s also the most populous state. It would be the 36th largest country on earth by population. Larger than Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Poland. Slightly smaller than Spain, Argentina, and Ukraine.

California has the 5th largest economy in the world. That’s ahead of Great Britain despite having less than 2/3 the population.

Some states are net payers of federal taxes. They pay more to the federal government than they get back.

California receives $.99 in federal expenditures for every $1.00 it pays. That means it would hardly be affected financially by divorcing the US government. Overall California would keep 1% more money in the state without federal taxes and without federal programs.

Other estimates claim it is much worse, and California only gets 70 cents back on every dollar it sends to Washington DC.

An initiative Calexit wants a 2020 ballot question to ask Californians if they want to secede from the US. Louis Marinelli is the co-author of the initiative. Here’s his take:

[C]an you think of 25 red states that might like to see blue California secede? I can think of 30 that voted for Donald Trump.

Look, the United States claims to be the freest country in the world. We ought to enjoy the fundamental right of self-determination, and if we so determine, self-rule.

Then California can sign a military base agreement with the Americans to lease land for their existing bases. California will not be hostile towards them, but our immigrants will be protected from them.

Additionally, by keeping the tens (sometimes hundreds) of billions of dollars we lose each year supporting red states that hate California, we will reduce our debts, fund our liabilities, and provide every Californian with a debt-free college education and universal healthcare.

I personally think Cali’s high taxes, restrictive regulation, and overbearing laws are ridiculous.

But who am I to tell Californians that they can’t bankrupt their state? I’d prefer to have them govern themselves, especially if that meant California voters didn’t have control over me and my affairs.

California isn’t the only state where federal taxes and aid zero out. New York and Florida are also large population states with close to even return based on what they give to DC.

Florida has millions more residents than Chile or the Netherlands.

With no income tax, it is quite attractive to work there.

Plus Florida has the 17th largest economy on Earth, topping $1 trillion GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

That’s bigger than Turkey’s economy, despite having just a quarter of the population.

At just under 21 million inhabitants, Florida would be the 58th largest country on Earth by population.

New York would be 59th by population.

With the 15th largest economy, this is slightly smaller than Spain’s economy. Meanwhile, Spain has twice the population of New York. Clearly, New York is quite capable of operating as an independent nation.

Of course, New York City alone could be its own country. And then they wouldn’t be able to dictate oppressive urban laws to rural upstate New Yorkers.

Then again, NYC wealth is redistributed to other portions of the state…

This highlights the natural friction of grouping incompatible regions under one government.

 

Texas is another large state that would do just fine on its own. As a country, it would be 51st largest by population, larger than Australia.

Texas’ GDP of $1.6 trillion is also slightly larger than each of the Australian, Russian, and South Korean economies.

The size of the economy is on par with Canada. Yet Canada has almost 9 million more residents.

Only three states receive less money per person from federal expenditures than Texas. Texas takes in the fourth smallest amount of money per capita from the federal government.

Oh, and of course there’s that little fact that Texas was once an independent country.

It became its own country, called the Republic of Texas, from 1836 until it agreed to join the United States in 1845. Sixteen years later, it seceded along with 10 other states to form the Confederacy. The Civil War forced it back into the Union, where it has stayed ever since.

New Hampshire would be a relatively small country–a little bigger than Estonia in terms of population.

But New Hampshire would also be the richest country in the world.

At least among the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries. This list includes 34 of the most advanced countries like the USA, UK, Australia, Japan, Denmark, Israel, the Netherlands, Canada, Chile, etc.

Median income, adjusted for purchasing power, even puts New Hampshire ahead of Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland.

New Hampshire is another net payer of taxes. It gets about 70 cents back on every dollar it sends to DC.

New Hampshire also has a small secession movement. One organization is called the Foundation for New Hampshire Independence. Another calls itself NHexit.

A 2014 Reuters poll showed 23.9 percent of Americans would support their state peacefully seceding from the union if necessary, while 53.3 percent opposed the idea.

Secession

This list is far from complete.

For instance, Hawaii probably has the most legitimate reason of any state to secede. They were an independent Kingdom until 1893. The USA annexed Hawaii after the monarchy was overthrown.

Native Americans are another group who have a strong historical claim to independence.

And what’s Alaska still doing as part of the United States anyway? It isn’t even attached.

Being united by force just averages the good states with the bad. It means states can’t feel the full benefit of their good policies. It means they don’t suffer the full consequences of their failures.

It means wealth is redistributed. It means power is centralized. It means individuals have less control than they would over a smaller, more local government.

Forced unity eliminates the marketplace for the government. Let the states compete, and the best policies will rise to the top.

The American people will then truly have a choice and a voice in government.

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