America • California • Economy • Identity Politics • Post • Republicans • The Left

Cure for America’s Socialist Mania: Prosperity

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America, President Donald Trump vowed during his State of the Union in February, “will never be a socialist country.” Well, we have some good news and some bad news about that.

First, the bad news. A new Gallup poll finds that four in ten Americans are favorably disposed to socialism in “some form.” Just over half—51 percent—say they believe socialism “would be a bad thing” for the country. That’s a pretty slim majority.

The usual caveats apply, of course. Gallup surveyed 1,024 adults, as opposed to registered or likely voters, the most reliable sample group. And the poll was conducted by phone across all 50 states and Washington, D.C., with a bias toward cell phone users.

So, who knows? When in doubt, cast a cold eye.

For example, Gallup found 47 percent of the people it surveyed would vote for a socialist candidate for president. In other words, nearly half of Americans would vote socialist in 2020.

Seriously? Self-described Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders is currently pulling around 18 percent of Democrats nationally, according to the RealClearPolitics poll average. He’s trailing former Vice President Joe Biden—no socialist, he—by 20 points or so . . .

Read the rest at the Sacramento Bee

Photo credit: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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California • Democrats • Elections • Law and Order • Post • Second Amendment

Kamala’s Contradictions

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Kamala Harris, the junior U.S. senator from California who is battling among some two-dozen other candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, didn’t have much of a career before 1994. That was the year she became the new “steady” of California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a man who is a full 30 years her senior. In a process of poontronage, Brown appointed Harris to lucrative sinecures in state government and raised money for her successful run for San Francisco district attorney.

Harris went on to win election as state attorney general in 2010, even though the Sacramento Bee endorsed her Republican rival, Steve Cooley. (So much for the power of endorsements!) In 2016, Brown urged former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to drop out of the U.S. Senate race, and his former steady went on to win the November election handily. Harris now wants to be president, but she is hardly the only Willie Brown understudy on the rise.

In 1995, a year after he met Harris, Brown encountered fundraiser Carolyn Carpeneti, an elegant blond of 32, and the two became romantically involved. In fact, the pair had a daughter in 2001, when Carpeneti was 38 and Brown 67. As the San Francisco Chronicle noted in 2003, “people familiar with her career—political professionals, city officials, her ex-husband—say Carpeneti’s success is rooted in her relationship with Brown.”

Over a five-year period, groups controlled by Brown paid $2.3 million to Carpeneti, recently granted a sweetheart no-bid deal to recruit for California’s online college project. As Dan Morain noted in CALmatters, the person who selected Carpeneti, Heather Hiles, “is connected to San Francisco politics, having overseen communications for Gov. Gavin Newsom while he was running to succeed Brown as mayor of San Francisco in 2003.”

Like Carpeneti, the success of Kamala Harris is also rooted in her relationship with Willie Brown. The most successful Brown understudy recently announced that, that if she is elected president, within 100 days she would issue an executive order against “assault weapons,” because “1 in 4 police officers killed in the line of duty by gunfire is killed by an assault weapon.”

But just as the corporate leftist media ignored Harris’s relationship with Brown, so too have they ignored her most notable encounter with a cop killer.

As San Francisco’s D.A., Harris promised she would never seek the death penalty. But a murder of a police officer was one of the special circumstances for which voters approved the death penalty in 1977. The San Francisco Chronicle examined 90 cases of cop killings since 1987, and found that prosecutors sought the death penalty in nearly every case.

In 2004, David Hill, 21, a member of the Mob Hill gang, deployed an AK-47 to gun down San Francisco police officer Isaac Espinosa, 29. Harris announced, “today I want to be very clear: in the city and county of San Francisco, anyone who murders a police officer engaged in his or her duties will be met with the most severe consequences.” Despite the tough rhetoric, however, Harris would not seek the death penalty for Hill.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a former mayor of San Francisco, showed up at Espinosa’s funeral and said, This is not only the definition of tragedy, it’s the special circumstance called for by the death penalty law.” Police union president Gary Delagnes demanded that Espinosa’s killer “pay the ultimate price.” Delagnes also drew an ovation, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle report, the officer earned “a dirty look from Harris, who was sitting in the front row.”

San Francisco police officer Mike Nevin argued that the death penalty is already reserved for a small percentage of the most heinous crimes. Killing a police officer should qualify, the officer said, “because if you’re willing to kill a cop, you’re willing to kill anybody.” That failed to change the thinking of Harris, and in her 2009 Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer, Harris found the number of nonviolent offenders “truly staggering” and put them at the top of her “crime pyramid.”

Harris won a narrow victory in 2010 but the Attorney General stayed quiet in 2014 when previously deported Mexican national Luis Bracamontes gunned down police officers Danny Oliver and Michael Davis. The Mexican’s weapon of choice was an assault rifle and during his trial, he shouted “black lives don’t matter” at family members of the victims.

In 2015, repeatedly deported Mexican felon Jose Inez Garcia Zarate shot and killed Kate Steinle on a San Francisco pier. Harris defended the city’s sanctuary policy and failed even to decry “gun violence” in the case

That same year, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik used assault rifles to kill 14 unarmed innocents and wounded 22 at an office party in San Bernardino. A year later, Harris issued a statement on the “devastating and tragic terrorist attack,” but failed to name the Islamic terrorists and their motive for the mass murder.

Meanwhile, for murdering Isaac Espinosa with an AK-47 and attempting to murder his partner, Barry Parker, David Hill drew a life sentence, without the possibility of parole. Had Hill been sentenced to death, as Feinstein and others wanted, the killer would have been saved by Governor Gavin Newsom. In March, Newson reprieved all 737 murderers on California’s death row, including Luis Bracamontes who said during his trial that he wished he had killed more cops.

But opposing the death penalty in San Francisco means never having to say you’re sorry. Then again, the rest of America might think otherwise.

Photo credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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Administrative State • California • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Deep State • Democrats • Economy • Elections • Government Reform • Post

Public-Sector Unions: The Other Deep State

When government fails, public-sector unions win. When society fragments, public-sector unions consolidate their power. When citizenship itself becomes less meaningful, and the benefits of American citizenship wither, government unions offer an exclusive solidarity.

Government unions insulate their members from the challenges facing ordinary private citizens. On every major issue of our time; globalization, immigration, climate change, the integrity of our elections, crime and punishment, regulations, government spending, and fiscal reform, the interests and political bias of public-sector unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest. Today, there may be no greater core threat to the freedom and prosperity of the American people.

In the age of talk radio, the Tea Party movement, internet connectivity, and Trump, Americans finally are mobilizing against the uniparty to take back their nation. Yet the threat of public-sector unions typically is a sideshow, when it ought to occupy center stage. They are the greatest menace to American civilization that nobody seems to be talking about. Ask the average American what the difference is between a government union, and a private sector union, and you’re likely to be met with an uncomprehending stare. That’s too bad, because the differences are profound.

While America’s labor movement has always included in its ranks varying percentages of crooks, Communists, and thugs, it derived its mass appeal based on legitimate and often compelling grievances. Most of the benefits American workers take for granted—certainly including overtime pay, sick leave, and safe working conditions—were negotiated by private sector unions.

Over time, private sector unions overreached, negotiating pay and benefits packages that became unsustainable as foreign manufacturers slowly recovered from the devastation of World War II and became competitive. The diminished influence of private sector unions parallels the decline in American manufacturing, a decline only partially caused by insufficient flexibility on the part of union negotiators in a changing world. Properly regulated, private sector unions may still play a vital role in American life.

Differences Between Public and Private Sector Unions
Public-sector unions are a completely different story. If Americans fully understood the differences between public and private sector unions, public-sector unions would probably be illegal.

Public-sector unions do not negotiate with management accountable to shareholders, but instead with politicians whom they help elect and, therefore, are accountable to the unions. Moreover, politicians, unlike corporate executives, typically occupy their offices for shorter periods of time. And politicians, unlike corporate executives, don’t own shares that might be devalued after they leave office due to decisions they made while in office.

Not only are politicians far more accountable to the unions they negotiate with than to the people they serve, but the consequences of giving in to outrageous demands from public-sector unions are much less immediate and personal for the politicians. When a corporate executive gives in to union demands that are unsustainable, the corporation goes out of business. Union negotiators know this, and in the private sector, the possibility of business failure tempers their demands.

But the survival of government agencies doesn’t depend on efficiently competing in a market economy where consumers voluntarily choose to purchase their product or service. When government agencies incur expenses that exceed revenues, they raise revenues by increasing taxes. Consumers have no choice but to pay the higher taxes or go to jail.

If electing their own bosses and compelling taxpayers to guarantee revenue sufficient to fulfill their demands weren’t enough, public-sector unions have another advantage denied private sector unions. They operate the machinery of government. Their members run our public schools, our transportation agencies, our public utilities, our administrative bureaucracies including code enforcement and construction permitting, our public safety agencies; everything. This confers countless unique advantages. Depending on the intensity of the issue, the percentage of unionized government employees willing to use their positions as influencers, educators, gatekeepers, and enforcers may vary. But within the permanent bureaucracy of government, it doesn’t take a very large minority of committed operatives to wield decisive power.

Public-sector unions epitomize the establishment. Politicians come and go. But like the deep state, public-sector unions are permanent, embedded in the bureaucracy, running the show.

How Public-Sector Unions Arose
While the rise of public-sector unions paralleled the rise of the private sector labor movement in the United States, it lagged behind by decades. Apart from the postal workers’ unions that emerged in the late 19th century, or the Boston police strike of 1919—which was decisively suppressed by then-Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge—there wasn’t much support for public-sector unions in the early 20th century.

During the 1930s, as private sector unions acquired federal protections via the Wagner Act of 1935, public-sector unions remained unusual apart from the postal workers. Historians disagree about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s position on public-sector unions, but it is reasonably clear that even if he did support them, he did not think they should have the degree of protection afforded private sector unions. His most quoted remark on the topic was in a 1937 letter to the president of the National Federation of Federal Employees:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters. Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.

The fact that FDR, a pro-labor Democrat, had a nuanced position on public-sector unions, believing that collective bargaining had “distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management,” ought to be strong evidence that they are problematic. Not quite 20 years later, in 1955, none other than George Meany, founder and long-time president of the AFL-CIO, flatly stated that it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government,” and that the AFL-CIO did not intend to reach out to workers in that sector.

But where common sense and propriety inhibited some of the most illustrious supporters of organized labor from unionizing the public sector during the first half of the 20th century, circumstances changed during the century’s latter half. Corruption, opportunism, and a chance to achieve decisive power for the Democratic Party gave rise to new laws that enabled unionized government.

The modern era of public sector unionism began in the late 1950s. Starting in Wisconsin in 1958, state and local employees gradually were permitted to organize. Today, there are only four states that explicitly prohibit collective bargaining by public employees, and only 11 additional states place any restrictions on collective bargaining by public employees.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 7.2 million employees in the public sector belonged to a union in 2018, compared with 7.6 million workers in the private sector. Union membership among public-sector workers is more than five times higher (33.9 percent) than that of private-sector workers (6.4 percent). After a slow start, public-sector unions now wield far more power than their private-sector counterparts.

How Public-Sector Unions Fought for Clinton in 2016
Everyone knows that in 2016, Donald Trump—and Bernie Sanders, for that matter—were not “establishment” candidates. But what is that? America’s so-called establishment today is a political alliance favoring bigger, more authoritarian government at all levels—local, state, federal and international. It unites transnational corporations, global financial interests, and government unions. It is an alliance that finds its primary support from members of these elites and the professional classes who serve them, and acquires a critical mass of additional popular support by pandering to the carefully nurtured resentments of anyone who is deemed a member of a “protected status group.”

While “protected status groups” now include nearly everyone living everywhere in America, those people living in urban areas are more susceptible to the union-sponsored propaganda of identity politics, because they are more exposed to it.

For over a generation, especially in California’s urban centers, but also in Chicago, Seattle, Miami, New York City, and hundreds of other major American cities, government unions have exercised nearly absolute control over the political process. This extends not only to city councils but also to county boards of supervisors, school boards, and special districts ranging from transit systems to departments of water and power. Most government funding is spent at this local level. Most government jobs are at this local level. And the more local these jurisdictions get, the more likely it is that only the government unions have the money and the will to dominate the elections.

In America’s cities, where the union agenda that controls public education trains Americans to be hypersensitive to any alleged infringements on their “identity,” big government is presented as the guardian of their futures and their freedoms. In America’s cities, where poor education combined with over-regulation has resulted in a paucity of good jobs, welfare and entitlement programs are presented as the government’s answer. And the more poverty and social instability we have in America, the bigger government gets.

Take another look at this map that depicts the absolute vote margins by county in 2016. From viewing this map, it is evident that the split that was exposed on November 8, 2016, was not simply urban versus rural. It was government union-controlled areas versus places relatively free of government union influence.

From the above map, only a few places stand out as decisive factors in Clinton’s popular vote victory—Seattle, Miami, New York City, and most prominently, Los Angeles and Chicago.

In Los Angeles County, Clinton received 1,893,770 votes versus 620,285 for Trump. In Chicago’s Cook County, Clinton received 1,528,582 votes versus 440,213 for Trump. Let that sink in for a moment. If just a few blue counties—not blue states, blue counties—were taken out of the equation, the popular vote would have been a toss-up. The political systems and the public schools in all of these blue counties are controlled, many informed observers would say absolutely, by public-sector unions.

Government Union Agenda vs. the Public Interest
It would be cynical and unfair to suggest that politically savvy members and leaders of public-sector unions are consciously supporting policies that undermine America’s democracy, prosperity, freedoms, and culture. But that’s what’s happening.

It doesn’t matter all that much what union members and leaders think; the institutional momentum of their organizations have this effect. The primary agenda of a government union, like any organization, is to survive and thrive. For government unions, this means to acquire more members, collect more dues, and acquire more power and influence. The only way this can be accomplished is for government to expand.

This is where government union reform should be a nonpartisan issue. Because even big-government advocates have the expectation that expanded government programs will be effective. But government unions actually become more prosperous and more powerful when government fails—and, for that matter, when society fails. The worse things get, the more calls there are for new government programs to solve them. The bigger the crisis, the greater the opportunity. And at the forefront of these calls for bigger government to solve every problem are the government unions, using all of their considerable power and influence to make the call.

We see this at the local level all the time. Thousands of local tax and bond measures are placed on ballots across the nation every election cycle, as well as between elections, during primary season, and in special elections. Opposing these proposed new taxes and bonds are the usual hardscrabble assortment of local anti-tax activists; typically a handful of volunteers with almost no money. Supporting these new taxes and bonds are public-sector unions, with standing armies of professionals and, for all practical purposes, unlimited funds. Also supporting the new taxes are the private contractors that stand to gain from the increased spending, as well as the government bureaucrats themselves, who use municipal budgets to fund “information outreach” to voters. But for these unions, the victory is sealed when the new taxes and bonds are approved. If the new revenue they collect and spend fails to solve the problem, it doesn’t really matter.

At the state and national level, it is easy to see the influence of government unions corrupts public policy.

Immigration and climate change are core issues where the inherent interests of government unions are in conflict with the public interest. Immigration to the United States in the 21st century should consist of highly skilled and highly educated immigrants, since America already has millions of unskilled residents who need to choose jobs over welfare. But while the American people would benefit by inviting scientists, engineers, and doctors to immigrate and fill advanced positions for which there is a shortage of qualified applicants, it would not benefit government unions.

The more difficulty America has in assimilating newcomers, the more government jobs are created. If immigrants don’t speak English, public schools must hire teachers with foreign language certifications. If they live in poverty, public schools must develop free-meal programs. If these immigrant communities fail to achieve the educational results that make them employable, the government will need more social workers and welfare administrators. If the ongoing poverty breeds higher crime rates, more police, judges, bailiffs, prison guards, and probation officers are the answer. The worse things get, the more government employees and government benefits become necessary.

And, of course, as these communities fail to become prosperous, they are taught by leftist, unionized social studies teachers that it’s not their responsibility, but rather the fault of their white male oppressors, and they’d better vote for Democrats in order to guarantee their reparative handouts. And to enforce “diversity” quotas—unionized government bureaucrats.

With climate change, the conflict between government unions and the public interest is equally stark. Here again, there is also a strong connection between connected government contractors and the public-sector unions. Instead of building subsidized housing, special needs school facilities, and more prisons—which come with marginally assimilable immigrants—these contractors supply solar farms, wind farms, “smart” appliances, and everything else that comes with mandated climate change mitigation. It doesn’t matter if any of these mandates accomplish anything, so long as profits are made. And overseeing it all are the government unions, who hire more code inspectors, environmental consultants, and a byzantine monitoring and enforcement bureaucracy.

While immigration and climate change are core drivers of government union endorsed government expansion, they aren’t the only factors. In every area of policy and spending, government unions benefit when things are harder for ordinary families and small businesses. In all areas, taxes, borrowing, spending, and regulations, the more there is, the more the government unions benefit.

The Financial Power of Public-Sector Unions
One of the primary reasons government union activists exercise influence disproportionate to their numbers is because behind these activists are billions of dollars in annual dues, collected from government payroll departments across the nation.

In California alone, government unions collect and spend nearly $1 billion a year. Nationwide, government union revenues are estimated to total at least $6 billion per year. Apart from private sector unions, no other political special interest enjoys access to a guaranteed, perennial torrent of money of comparable magnitude. This money is not just spent on federal elections; most of it is directed at tens of thousands of state and local election campaigns.

With this perpetual torrent of funding, fueled almost exclusively through membership dues, government unions engage the permanent services of the finest professionals money can buy. While much of their spending is explicitly political, even more is spent on community organizing and “educational” advocacy which is not reportable as political spending. Thousands of lobbyists, political consultants, grassroots organizers, public relations firms, opposition researchers, academic researchers, and other freelancers are on-call to these unions.

If you study money in politics, you soon realize there is a rough parity between major political donors who contribute to causes and candidates on the Right versus those who contribute to the Left. But the election of Donald Trump in 2016 revealed the so-called Right to be nearly as bad as the Left, as libertarians and NeverTrump Republicans abandoned their base. This abandonment was especially obvious among donors, whose only apparent unifying political theme was lower taxes for wealthy people. Trump and his supporters exposed the libertarian and NeverTrump Right for being just as committed as the establishment Left was to importing workers to drive down wages and exporting jobs to increase corporate profits. As a result, donations to Republicans, while remaining roughly at parity with donations to Democrats, were for the most part not supporting an America First agenda.

An illustration of how this schism within the American Right, and especially among big libertarian donors, persisted into the 2018 midterms is exemplified by their withdrawal of key financial support for pro-Trump candidates. And here’s where the union money becomes decisive. Into the political conflict between Left and Right, between Democrat and Republican, into a battle for financial supremacy already skewed, because half the Republican donors are now exposed as being more committed to a uniparty establishment than to Republican voters, ride the unions. And almost all of the union money goes to Democrats.

The lack of parity in political power and political advocacy becomes further lopsided when accounting for the role of nonprofits and government bureaucracies. Much has been made of the educational nonprofits supposedly beholden to right-wing donors. Their collective spending is indeed impressive, led by heavyweights like the Heritage Foundation, along with well-known stalwarts such as the Cato Institute, the Reason Foundation, and several others at the national level along with a growing number of state focused organizations such as the many member organizations of the State Policy Network.

But contrary to the wailing of the establishment media and left-wing pundits, the influence of these organizations is overstated.

First, many of them must adhere to orthodox libertarian principles in order to keep their donors. This makes them useless on immigration and trade, which are two of the defining issues of our time.

Second, because arrayed against these organizations is the entire rest of the nonprofit universe, which while mostly self-declared as nonpartisan, is in reality a part of that great mass of establishment organizations that have reached a consensus on open borders, “free” trade, and climate change activism consistent with the big government coalition: corporations, government unions, and the financial sector.

To provide one example, the combined budget of just a partial list of the major U.S.-based environmentalist nonprofits and foundations totaled over $4 billion per year as of 2018.

The Financial and Cultural Consequences of Unionized Government
Spokespersons for government employee unions perpetuate a myth of staggering absurdity and tragic consequences—that they are protecting hard-working Americans from wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals.

The reality is that government employee unions are focused on one thing: expanding government employee pay, benefits, and privileges. This requires expanding government, and that priority comes in front of everything else, including the cost to society at large. In states where government unions have taken control, such as California, expansive environmentalist regulations have made prices for housing and utilities the highest in the nation. In California, America’s poster child for union control, excessive compensation packages for unionized government workers have resulted in chronic deficits and accumulating state and local government debt that by some measures already exceeds $1.5 trillion. High taxes and over-regulation have made California consistently rank as the most inhospitable place in the nation to run a small business.

Exactly how does any of this protect the poor from the wealthy?

It doesn’t, of course. But the deeper story is how government employee unions are not only failing to “protect” the aspiring multitudes in California, or anywhere else in America, but are in fact enabling the wealthy special interests they claim to protect us from. The most entrenched and massive corporate entities are not harmed by excessive regulations, because they can afford to comply. An obvious example would be calls to increase the minimum wage– a movement almost exclusively restricted to states with powerful public-sector unions. Large corporate entities like McDonald’s will simply automate a few positions, tinker with the menu and recipes, incrementally raise prices, and go forward. Large corporations can hire attorneys and lobbyists, they have access to capital, and when the smaller players go out of business they gain market share. They benefit from over-regulation, but the consumer and workers suffer.

Less obvious but far more consequential is how the financial sector also benefits from an overbuilt, financially irresponsible, unionized government. When excessive rates of pay and benefits consume government budgets, financial institutions step up to extend debt. Bond underwriters collect billions each year in fees to issue new debt and refinance existing debt. When excessively generous pension plans are granted to unionized government employees, pension funds pour hundreds of billions into Wall Street investment firms, earning additional billions in fees. As for “carbon emissions auctions,” also rolling out inexorably in blue states, as that ramps up, virtually every BTU of fossil fuel energy consumed will put a commission into the hands of a financial intermediary. Trillions are on the table.

Unionized government hides behind environmentalism to justify increasing pay and benefits over-investment in infrastructure—which after all is environmentally incorrect. As the cost-of-living inevitably rises through artificial constraints on the supply of land and energy, the unionized government workers negotiate even higher pay and benefits to compensate, and the corporate monopolies that control existing supplies of land and energy get more revenue and profit. And of course the resultant asset bubble is healthy both for pension funds and wealthy investors, even as low and middle-class private-sector workers are priced out of owning homes—or even automobiles—and struggle to make ends meet.

It is crucial to perceive the irony. Government unions empower the worst elements of the capitalist system they persistently demonize. The crony capitalists and speculative financial interests benefit from an overbuilt, over-regulating, state and local government populated with overpaid unionized workers. Those virtuous capitalists who want to compete without subsidies are successfully lumped together with these robber barons, discrediting their support for reform. Those small business owners who want to grow their enterprises are harassed and marginalized.

If government employee unions were illegal, the most powerful political force in California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and a host of other smaller blue states would cease to exist. But losing these government unions wouldn’t “turn government over to the corporations and billionaires.” Quite the opposite. It would take away the ability of those corporations and billionaires to collude with local and state government unions who currently control the lawmakers. It would force them instead to compete with each other, lowering the cost of living for everyone. It would restore balance to our debate over environmental policy, energy policy, and infrastructure investment.

Wherever government unions become as powerful as they have become in California, their domain increasingly becomes a feudal state, where the anointed and compliant corporations build monopolies, government workers lead privileged lives, the rich get richer, the middle class diminishes, and the poor become dependent on government. Nobody who is serious about reversing California’s decline into feudalism—or America’s potential decline—can ignore the fundamental enabling role unionized government is playing.

It is important to emphasize that the most ominous consequence of unionized government is its complicity in the asset bubbles that, if abruptly deflated, threaten to plunge the United States, if not the world, into a liquidity crisis. Government unions in the United States control the directorships managing trillions of dollars of public employee pension funds. These pension funds are the biggest single player in the U.S. equity markets. They are also major investors in real estate and bonds. One may argue all day as to just how inflated all these asset classes have become, but regardless of your stance on the question, one thing is indisputable: public employee pension funds are dangerously underfunded despite the fact that there has been a bull market in stocks, bonds, and real estate for over a decade. They will use all their influence to keep the bubbles inflated—and that includes ongoing support for extreme environmentalist regulations to create artificial scarcity of everything—houses, energy, water, food, commodities—buoying their prices which boosts profits, as well as mass immigration to create unmanageable demand for homes, also buoying prices and investor profits. The insatiable need for perpetually increasing asset values constitutes an identity of interests between public-sector unions, multinational corporations, and international investors and speculators that is as obscure as it is inviolable.

Government Union Abuses That Provoke Bipartisan Opposition
“Bipartisan” isn’t what it used to be. Now that America’s political establishment has been exposed as supporting with bipartisan unity, regardless of party, the policies of importing welfare recipients, exporting jobs, fighting endless wars, and micro-managing all forms of energy production under the pretext of saving the planet, the term “bipartisan” doesn’t evoke quite the same transcendent connotations it once did. With that noted, it remains true that with respect to public-sector unions, establishment Democrats are worse than establishment Republicans. When it comes to fighting the influence of public-sector unions, most Republicans lack the courage of their convictions, whereas most Democrats have no convictions at all.

Two exemplary issues, however, have the potential to bring Republicans and Democrats together in opposition to public-sector unions. Those issues are public education and pensions. These issues are not only capable of fostering productive, bipartisan reform efforts, but that eventuality is almost inevitable because the status-quo is not sustainable.

Public Education: In blue states, union control over public education is almost unassailable despite strong opposition. California’s failing school districts face insolvencycaused by a combination of administrative bloat and out-of-control costs for pensions and retirement health benefits. The academic achievement of California’s schools is hard to measure objectively. California’s average SAT score, 1076, places it in 34th place among states. According to a study sponsored by U.S. News and World Report, California’s K-12 system of public education was ranked 26th among states.

But this average performance obscures a bigger problem in California’s union controlled public schools. Union work rules are causing the schools in the most vulnerable communities to get the worst teachers. In 2012 a coalition of mostly Democratsfiled a lawsuit, Vergara v. California, attempting to change these rules. Claiming that education was a civil right, they tried via litigation to revise three union work rules; tenure (a job for life) after only two years, dismissal rules (almost impossible to fire an incompetent teacher), and layoff rules (seniority over merit).

The impact of these three rules was, and is, a relentless migration of the worst teachers into the worst performing schools, since they can’t be fired, but they can be transferred. View the closing argumentsof the plaintiffs for a compelling description of how these three union work rules are destroying California’s public schools. In 2016, after a favorable district court ruling, the appellate court ruled againstthe plaintiffs, and California’s Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. The schools harmed the most by these corrupt union rules are those in the burgeoning low income immigrant neighborhoods of Los Angeles, where literally hundreds of thousands of children are denied a quality education.

For better or for worse, these kids are America’s future. But who wins when society fails? The government unions win. As demographically ascendant low-income immigrant subcultures are permanently handicapped because their children got indoctrinated instead of educated, taxpayers will have to hire more unionized public servants to redistribute wealth and preserve the peace.

The good news? Increasing numbers of Americans of all ethnicities and ideologies are realizing the impact of union controlled schools is denying future opportunities to a generation of children. The battle over charter schools, home schooling, and union work rules in traditional public schools is far from over.

Public Employee Pensions: With pensions, reform is even more inevitable, because financial reality will compel reform. According to Pew Research, in 2016 state and local government pensions plans disclosed assets of just $2.6 trillion to cover total pension liabilities of $4 trillion. This understates the problem. These pension plans assume they can earn, on average, 7.5 percent per year on their invested assets, yet, as discussed, despite nearly a decade of a bull market in stocks, bonds, and real estate, these pension plans are less than 70 percent funded.

Pension finance isn’t as complicated as the experts would have you believe. What “pension liabilities” refers to is how much money would have to be invested, today, for these pension plans to earn enough interest over time to eventually pay all of the future pension benefits that have been earned so far. Think of pension assets as a growing tree, nourished by the water and sun of investment earnings, supplemented by the fertilizer of regular taxpayer contributions, and pruned each year by the payments going to retirees. If this tree is less than 70 percent of the size it needs to be, then it’s going to get pruned faster than it can grow. Eventually, there won’t be any cuttings to provide pensions to retirees.

For clarity, take the metaphor one step further. What if this undersized tree had been enjoying a decade of abundant water and sunshine—the generous investment returns of the bull market—but suddenly that changes, as it always has and always will? What if this undersized pension asset tree now has to endure years of drought and cloudy weather, stunting its growth at the same time as the pension payment pruning for retirees continue at the same pace?

This is what America’s public employee pension funds are already confronting. The tree is too small, and in response more and more fertilizer—payments by taxpayers—have to be applied to keep it alive. This data compiled by the California Policy Center explains what’s coming:

A city that pays 10% of their total revenues into the pension funds, and there are plenty of them, at an ROI of 7.5% and an honest repayment plan for the unfunded liability, should be paying 17% of their revenues into the pension systems. At a ROI of 6.5%, these cities would pay 24% of their revenue to pensions. At 5.5%, 32%.” To restate—according to this analysis, at a 5.5 percent annual return for the pension funds, 32 percent of total tax revenue would have to go straight into the coffers of the pension funds, just to keep them solvent.

These are staggering conclusions. Only a few years ago, opponents of pension reform disparaged reformers by repeatedly asserting that pension costs only consumed 3 percent of total operating expenses. Now those costs have tripled and quadrupled, and there is no end in sight.

The looming pension crisis is already uniting fiscal conservatives, who want smaller, financially sustainable government, and conscientious liberals, who want to protect their cherished government programs from being eliminated in order to pay the pension funds. And as out-of-control pension costs become a problem too big to ignore, it casts a spotlight on the entire question of overcompensation for unionized government employees. Government employees, on average, retire 10 years sooner and enjoy annual retirement benefits two to five times greater than private sector workers. In California, on average, they make twice as much in pay and benefitsduring the years they work, and veteran employees are eligible for as many as 58 paid days off per year, not including sick leave.

A harrowing example of just how skewed political discourse has become can be found in the government union campaign against California’s Proposition 6, placed on the November 2018 ballot by tax reformers. The proposition was struck down by voters, who were barraged with union-funded flyers and television ads featuring a rugged firefighter, in uniform, explaining how public safety would be jeopardized if voters approved Prop. 6. But nobody told the rest of the story, how this firefighter, as readily verified by publicly available online data, made $327,491 in 2017. That’s only a bit unusual. The average firefighterin a California city in 2015 made $200,000 in pay and benefits. It would be interesting to compile more recent data. The number certainly has not fallen.

Teachers and firefighters are our heroes. They are our role models. But the best among them are unrecognized, because the worst among them are not only nearly immune to being fired, but make exactly as much money as the best. The only thing that matters is seniority. It is likely that the finest teachers are underpaid. But overall, and especially with respect to the cost of retirement benefits, unionized public employees are overpaid, and the cost is becoming too much to bear.

These two issues, quality schools and financially sustainable pensions, represent the wedge that could eventually roll back, if not break the power of public-sector unions. Everyone cares about public schools, because their success or failure governs our children’s future. Everyone cares about public employee pensions, or will care, because if they aren’t reformed, they will bankrupt our cities, counties and states. The primary reason public schools are underperforming, and the primary reason public-sector pensions are not reformed, is because public-sector unions fight reform at every turn.

But all their power cannot deceive voters forever. Change is coming.

Fighting Back
In June 2018, in the landmark case of Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector employees cannot be compelled to pay anything to unions as a condition of employment, not even the so-called agency fees. In the months leading up to this case, public-sector unions made Janusout to be a catastrophe in the making, fueled by “dark money” and poised to destroy the labor movement.

In the months prior to the Janus decision, the mainstream press played up the panic. The Economistreported that “Unions are confronted with an existential threat.” The Atlantic went with “Is This the End of Public-Sector Unions in America?” Even the Wall Street Journal was caught up in the drama, publishing a report with the ominous title “Supreme Court to Decide Fate of public-sector unions.”

Maybe some union officials actually thought an unfavorableJanusruling would destroy their organizations, but more likely, they saw it as an opportunity to rally their base and consolidate their power.

The Janus ruling has come and gone, but public-sector unions are as powerful as ever. In ultra-blue states such as California, they still exercise nearly absolute control over the state legislature, along with the city councils and county boards of supervisors in nearly every major city and county. Their control over school boards is also almost absolute.

In a just world, public-sector unions would be outlawed. Until then, their agenda and their impact must be exposed for all to see.

This pattern repeats itself across the United States, especially in ultra-blue states. For example, following the 2018 midterms, fourteen states had democratic “trifectas,” where Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature, plus the governorship. These would include the powerhouse states of California, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Illinois, along with Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Delaware. These states have one overwhelming political variable working in their favor—the politics of their major urban centers are dominated by public-sector unions.

It has been long enough since the Janus decision to assess the initial impact. As of July 2018, unions could no longer collect “agency fees” from workers who didn’t want full membership. Comparing monthly payroll deductions from early 2018 to those from late 2018, one analysis indicated the unions were not very successful in converting these agency fee payers to full members. It is likely that the impact on public-sector unions based on losing their agency fee payers may have caused their revenue to decline by between five and ten percent. That’s a lot of money. Or is it?

In almost any other context, reducing the annual revenue of a network of political players by somewhere between $300 and $600 million per year would be a catastrophe for the organizations involved. But these are public-sector unions, which still have well over $5 billion per year to work with. Losing most of their agency-fee payers clearly had a permanent and significant impact on union revenues, but for them, and only them, it might be most accurately described as a one-time loss of manageable proportions.

The bigger impact that the Janusruling might have regards what is going to happen to their rates of full membership. It is now possible for public-sector union members to quit their unions. But will they? And if they want to, will the unions be forced to make that an easier process?

Some of the tactics the unions have adopted to make the process of quitting more difficult are being challenged in court. These cases would include Uradnik v. IFO, which would take away a public-sector union’s right to exclusive representation, or Few v. UTLA, which would nullify many steps the unions have taken to thwart the Janusruling. How those cases play out, and whether or not public-sector unions can remain accountable enough to their members to keep them in voluntarily, remains to be seen.

Public-Sector Unions and America’s Future
With America’s electorate split almost evenly between Republicans and Democrats, between liberals and conservatives, between socialists and capitalists, between Right and Left—however you want to express those polarities, it doesn’t take much to alter the equilibrium. But wherever you identify powerful forces shifting the balance, you find the public-sector unions are the puppeteer.

Should America import millions of highly skilled immigrants whose children will excel in public schools no matter what? Of course not. Private success requires no public money.

Should America reform its financial house of cards before a liquidity crisis crashes the global economy? No. Because pension solvency requires asset bubbles.

Should public-private partnerships fund new infrastructure so private investors can competitively develop new cities on America’s vast reserves of open land? Not a chance. Artificial scarcity keeps property tax revenues up, and helps prop up the real estate asset bubble.

Should incompetent bureaucrats and teachers be fired? No, because the union protects them.

To understand how intractable this problem has become, it’s worthwhile not only to identify the differences between public and private sector unions, but also the differing philosophies that guides them. To be sure, these structural differences are profound: unlike private-sector unions, public-sector unions elect their own bosses, are funded through coercive taxes instead of competitively earned profits, are rewarded by inefficiency and failure which they use as justification to expand government, and operate the machinery of government, which allows them unique powers to harass their opponents.

But these structural differences need to be viewed in the context of the ideological differences between unionized workers in the public and private sectors. These ideological differences are not absolute, but they are nonetheless very real and impact the political agenda of public-sector unions versus private sector unions. There are at least three areas of ideological differences:

Authoritarian vs. Market Driven: Workers for the government exercise political power, whereas workers in the private sector exercise economic power. A private sector union can cause a company to go out of business, an economic threat, whereas a public sector union can cause their manager—the elected politician—to lose their next election, a political threat. This basic difference makes if far more likely that private sector union workers will have a better appreciation of the limits of their power, since if their demands have a sufficiently adverse economic effect on the company they’re negotiating with, that company will go out of business and they will lose their jobs.

Another related manifestation of the authoritarian core ideology among government workers is the simple fact that the government compels people to pay taxes and provides only one option for services, whereas corporations must persuade consumers to voluntarily purchase their products if they want to stay in business. Private-sector union members understand this difference quite well, because they live with the consequences if their company fails in the market.

Environmentalist Restriction vs. Economic Development: Workers in the private sector benefit from major construction projects and resource development. These projects create new jobs, and they yield broad societal benefits in the form of more competitive choices available for basic resources; energy, water, transportation, and housing.

When more development occurs, this increases supply and lowers prices. Development creates jobs and lowers the cost of living. Private sector union members understand this, but public sector union members have an inherent conflict of interest. This is because public sector workers benefit when roadblocks are placed in the way of development. An extended process of permitting and review, labyrinthine regulations impacting every possible aspect of development, creates jobs in the public sector.

The harder the public sector can make it to build things, the more fees they will collect and the more government jobs they will create. Ironically, the public-sector unions have an identity of interests with the most powerful monopolistic corporations on earth in this regard, because they both benefit from barriers to competitive development. Private sector union members just want to see more jobs and a lower cost of living, which development ensures.

Internationalist vs. Nationalist: This area of ideological differences between public and private sector unions is perhaps the least mentioned, and the most subject to overlap and ambiguity. But identifying this difference is crucial to understanding the differing agendas of public- and private-sector unions.

For example, the ideological agenda of the unions controlling public education in the United States are dramatically out of touch with the values of a great many Americans. In states where public education is controlled by powerful teachers unions, classroom materials and textbooks routinely demonize the role of the United States and Western Civilization in current affairs and world history. Their emphasis is to mainstream the marginalized, at the expense of teaching the overwhelmingly positive role played by democracy and capitalism in creating freedom and wealth. Another critical example is how job losses to foreign manufacturers affect members of these respective unions; it has an immediate, deeply negative impact on members of private-sector unions, but is something that has no effect on a public-sector worker.

Members of public-sector unions who consider themselves in favor of free markets and resource development, and harbor pro-American patriotic sentiments, would do well to examine carefully how the leaders of government employee unions have powerful incentives to promote policies in direct opposition to these values. And that is where there might be hope.

The precarious equilibrium between Right and Left in America is maintained not only by virtue of powerful public-sector unions pushing as hard as they can in favor of the Left; public employees themselves constitute a critical swing vote in America’s electorate. Including federal workers, there are nearly 20 million government employees in America, and nearly all of them vote. If you include households with government workers in them, you likely could double that number. These Americans have a tough choice to make: Will they vote for more government, because more government will create more career opportunities for themselves and their loved ones, or will they only ask themselves what political choices will offer the most benefit to all Americans?

Public employees, like all Americans, are awakening to the propaganda that passes as mainstream journalism. Despite rampant suppression of the truth, they can see what has happened to Europe thanks to mass immigration. Despite endless rhetoric coming from the press and public institutions, they realize that campus radicalism and identity politics are a nihilistic dead end. Despite nightly “news” that spends more time on celebrity gossip than global events, they can see the where socialism leads in the devastated nation of Venezuela. They’re even realizing that climate change activism is a cover for globalist rationing and wealth redistribution. They see the hypocrisy.

Public-sector unions are the brokers and enablers of corporate power. As politicians come and go, and business interests rise and fall, they are the continuity, decade after decade. In every city and state where they’ve been allowed, they are the deep state. They are globalist instead of nationalist, authoritarian instead of pluralistic, they favor rationing and regulation over competitive development. They want to make everything harder, scarcer, more expensive. They prefer cultural disintegration and chaos to unity because it empowers them when things get bad. In a just world, public-sector unions would be outlawed. Until then, their agenda and their impact must be exposed for all to see.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

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Administrative State • America • California • Center for American Greatness • Cities • Democrats • Donald Trump • Greatness Agenda • Immigration • Post • The Resistance (Snicker)

Democrats’ Sanctuary Hypocrisy Shines Through

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In just a couple of weeks, Democrat hypocrisy on immigration has gone from a steady flow to an overwhelming torrent. Their complete disregard even for their own policies when it comes to applying them to illegal immigration is remarkable. For no reason other than that it would require them to stop demagoguing Trump and instead start working with him, Democrats once again show that power trumps principle with a few recent examples.

Consider the response to the humanitarian crisis at the border—one that continues to grow apace, directly propelled by our weak asylum laws and lax border enforcement. Democrats scoff at claims by the Trump Administration and Customs and Border Enforcement about the activities of cartels and human smugglers at the border, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

A new report from the nonpartisan RAND Corporation found that smugglers and cartels earned as much as $2.3 billion from Central American migrants in 2017. Failure to address the crisis at the border is directly lining the pockets of, as the report dubs them, “transnational criminal enterprises” (TCOs).

As the report explains:

Drug-trafficking TCOs . . . control primary smuggling corridors into the United States and charge migrants a “tax” known as a piso, to pass through their territories. In addition, drug-trafficking TCOs may also coordinate some unlawful migrants’ border crossings to divert attention from other illicit activities, and recruit or coerce some to carry drugs.

That last finding is key. As Border Patrol resources continue to be diverted away from actually policing the border toward dealing with the massive influx of families and unaccompanied minors, cartels and smugglers are able to engage in cross-border mischief with almost no interference. Members of Congress who take the time to go to the border have seen it first-hand.

The human smuggling industry is also growing like gangbusters. The RAND report puts the take for all kinds of smuggling from $200 million to $2.3 billion in 2017. And the stories of sexual abuse—particularly of migrant women and girls—are well documented by leading left-wing outlets: the New York Times, Huffington Post, even Doctors Without Borders.

Yet not a peep is heard from the Left, the party that tells us they believe all women, and who supports a #MeToo movement that, by its own words, was founded to “help survivors of sexual violence, particularly Black women and girls, and other young women of color from low wealth communities.”

In other words, human smuggling, criminal violence, and sex trafficking matter—but only with regard to select victim groups. Because acknowledging that criminal activity is running rampant at the border means Democrats would have to stop protesting Trump and work with him to acknowledge and address the role our lax enforcement and weak asylum laws play in encouraging the victimization of these groups.

But this should not be a surprise, given that lip service is a Democratic specialty. Look no further than their response to a suggestion by the Trump administration to release detained immigrants into “sanctuary cities”—cities who intentionally disregard federal immigration enforcement law.

The Left howled at Trump’s suggestion, calling it “manufactured chaos” and as well as cynical and cruel. But, why? The president’s suggestion (which the White House has now disregarded as a policy option) is simply a logical extension of what Democrats have said for years that they want.

Over the last two years, the party has sought to limit the detention resources available to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and some have gone so far as to say the entire agency should be dismantled. Democrats are largely fine with a large number of illegal immigrants simply being able to live freely in the United States, without consequence.

In 2013, then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) flatly stated Democrats’ “view of the law is that . . . if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not a reason for deportation.” Former San Antonio mayor and presidential candidate Julián Castro has suggested that illegal border crossings be decriminalized entirely: “The truth is, immigrants seeking refuge in our country . . . shouldn’t be a criminal justice issue.” His fellow presidential contender, Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) has openly advocated tearing down existing border barriers.

That’s why liberal cities have fashioned themselves as “sanctuary” jurisdictions, after all. They see nothing wrong with the act of crossing the border illegally. In fact, illegal immigrants who live in College Park, Maryland, and San Francisco, can now vote in municipal and school board elections. California’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, used his inaugural address in January to propose strengthening the state’s sanctuary law by making illegal immigrants eligible for the state’s version of Medicaid care until age 26.

So, why, then, were so many Democrats up in arms over Trump’s proposal to simply give them what they say they want? They’ve intentionally made their cities magnets for illegal immigrants, why shouldn’t they want the responsibility of supporting them?

Ironically, in “resisting” Trump, the singer Cher stumbled onto the point (and, also managed to highlight the hypocritical irony of the entire situation). “I understand helping struggling immigrants,” she tweeted, “but my city (Los Angeles) isn’t taking care of its own. What about the 50,000+ citizens who live on the streets. People who live below poverty line, and hungry? If my state can’t take care of its own (many are vets) how can it take care of more?”

Yes, Cher. Exactly. The country cannot encourage and then support the creation of a permanent underclass of illegal immigrants when our resources are already strained to the breaking point. It cannot be a shining example of justice while willfully ignoring the black market for human beings created in response to our border policies.

If the Left is consistent is anything, it is in their loudly telling the rest of us how to live while refusing to acknowledge the consequences of what they espouse or live up to their own principles.  

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo credit: iStock/Getty Images

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America • California • Democrats • Healthcare • Immigration • Post

A Legal Immigrant’s Lament

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In the late 1940s, my father, Kenneth Billingsley, a veteran of World War II, was working in a mine in the northern reaches of Manitoba. So through no fault of my own, I was born a long way north of the border. Despite childhood stints in Alliance, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, when I sought to reside in the United States, the government imposed certain requirements.

I had to certify that I was not a member of the Communist Party, that I could understand and speak English, and that I would not become a public charge, a burden on American taxpayers. I didn’t. Since gaining legal residency I have been gainfully employed and paying taxes as the law requires. Given that record, an April 17 article from the USC Center for Health Journalism Collaborative, headlined “Will Undocumented Immigrants Avoid New State Health Benefits?” came as something of a surprise.

The authors are Yesenia Amaro, who writes for the Fresno Bee, and Virginia Gaglianone of La Opinion in Los Angeles. Before that, Gaglianone “collaborated with KPFK 90.7 Pacifica Radio,” an outfit whose website touts recently deceased Sandinista and FMLN supporter Blase Bonpane and leftist icon Noam Chomsky.

Gaglianone and Amaro write of a Mexican national named Claudia Navarro, whose daughter suffered from spina bifida. Mexican doctors couldn’t help her, so 27 years ago, the story goes, Claudia “brought her two young children to the U.S. to seek medical help. She obtained limited Medi-Cal benefits for her child, despite her immigration status, and arranged treatments that kept her daughter alive.”

Medi-Cal is California’s government health system for qualifying low-income people earning at 138 percent of the poverty level, which was $33,534 for a family of four as of 2018. The authors do not spell out how Navarro “obtained” the Medi-Cal benefits, or how she “arranged” the life-saving treatments for her unnamed daughter.

The language implies there might have been something improper about the process. The cost of spina bifida surgery can range as high as $30,000, but the authors don’t quantify the U.S. taxpayer dollars spent on the child. And no word about where the father of the children is living now.

Gaglianone and Amaro do not indicate how Claudia’s unnamed child is doing at the age of at least 27, and the full adult is not quoted in the story. The authors do not explain whether Claudia, now 51 and living in Los Angeles, arranged any Medi-Cal benefits for her other unnamed and unquoted child. Likewise, the story does not say Navarro arranged any government benefits for herself, but she does seem to have some regrets.

“Now, 27 years later,” Gaglianone and Amaro explain, “Navarro worries that her decision to seek benefits could threaten her chances at becoming a legal U.S. resident.” She is “focused on proposed federal restrictions that would place new limits on who can qualify for a green card” and the broader definition of  a “public charge”—essentially a “taxpayer burden” and an expanded list of federal taxpayer-funded public benefits that would count against immigrants, including food stamps and Medi-Cal.

Since Claudia entered the United States illegally, she never certified that she would not become “essentially a taxpayer burden.” According to the story, her reason for violating U.S. immigration law was to gain medical services for her daughter, all funded by U.S. taxpayers. Claudia also told the reporters that her adult children “are on Medi-Cal.”

Gaglianone and Amaro claim 1.5 million “uninsured and undocumented immigrants in California are forced to weigh the benefits and potential risks of using public services.” They cite “Ana” who “asked to keep her real name confidential,” and has been waiting 30 years to become a U.S. resident.

Ana also worries about being denied “for having asked care for my children.” Her “older son,” who allegedly received taxpayer-funded care is not named or quoted, and readers get no clue what the mysterious “Ana” does for a living and whether U.S. taxpayers contribute to her livelihood.

According to an official government Medi-Cal website: “You may qualify for health insurance through Medi-Cal even if you are not a U.S. citizen or a U.S. national,” and “You do not have to be a citizen or have satisfactory immigration status to qualify for Medi-Cal.” Those who meet eligibility requirements but lack legal immigration status are “entitled to emergency and pregnancy-related services and, when needed, state-funded long-term care.”

Medi-Cal wields a budget of $20.7 billion but does not quantify how much taxpayer money it spends on false-documented illegals. A ballpark figure for reimbursements from Mexico is zero, and by all indications, state and federal politicians are OK with that arrangement, a bad deal for U.S. taxpayers.

Meanwhile, over at Medi-Cal, information about immigration is “only used to verify status for Medi-Cal eligibility purposes.” And as the government health site also explains, “if you are not registered to vote where you live now and would like to apply to register to vote today please visit this website or call 1-800-345-VOTE (8683).”

Gaglianone and Amaro don’t say whether Claudia and Ana ever voted in the United States but according to a State Department investigation, false-documented illegals have been voting in local, state and federal elections for decades. For all but the willfully blind, that’s a bad deal for legitimate citizens, legal immigrants, and the rule of law.

Photo Credit: Vic Hinterlang/Getty Images

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California • Democrats • Post • Progressivism • The Left

California Has Become America’s Cannibal State

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For over six years, California has had a top marginal income tax rate of 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. About 150,000 households in a state of 40 million people now pay nearly half of the total annual state income tax.

The state legislature sold that confiscatory tax rate on the idea that it was a temporary fix and would eventually be phased out. No one believed that. California voters, about 40 percent of whom pay no state income taxes, naturally approved the extension of the high rate by an overwhelming margin.

California recently raised gas taxes by 40 percent and now has the second-highest gas taxes in the United States.

California has the ninth-highest combined state and local sales taxes in the country, but its state sales tax of 7.3 percent is America’s highest. As of April 1, California is now applying that high state sales tax to goods that residents buy online from out-of-state sellers.

In late 2017, the federal government capped state and local tax deductions at $10,000. For high earners in California, the change effectively almost doubled their state and local taxes.

Such high taxes, often targeting a small percentage of the population, may have brought California a budget surplus of more than $20 million. Yet California is never satiated with high new tax rates that bring in additional revenue. It’s always hungry for more.

Scott Wiener, a Democratic state senator from San Francisco, has introduced a bill that would create a new California estate tax. Wiener outlined a death tax of 40 percent on estates worth more than $3.5 million for single Californians or more than $7 million for married couples.

Given the soaring valuations of California properties, a new estate tax could force children to sell homes or family farms they inherited just to pay the tax bills.

Soon, even more of the Californian taxpayers who chip in to pay half of the state income taxes will flee in droves for low-tax or no-tax states.

What really irks California taxpayers are the shoddy public services that they receive in exchange for such burdensome taxes. California can be found near the bottom of state rankings for schools and infrastructure.

San Francisco ranks first among America’s largest cities in property crimes per capita. The massive concrete ruins of the state’s quarter-built and now either canceled or postponed multibillion-dollar high-speed rail system are already collecting graffiti.

Roughly a quarter of the nation’s homeless live in California. So do about one-third of all Americans on public assistance. Approximately one-fifth of the state’s population lives below the poverty line. About one-third of Californians are enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for low-income residents.

California’s social programs are magnets that draw in the indigent from all over the world, who arrive in search of generous health, education, legal, nutritional and housing subsidies. Some 27 percent of the state’s residents were not born in the United States.

Last month alone, nearly 100,000 foreign nationals were stopped at the southern border, according to officials. Huge numbers of migrants are able to make it across without being caught, and many end up in California.

A lot of upper-middle-class taxpayers feel that not only does California fail to appreciate their contributions, but that the state often blames them for not paying even more—as if paying about half of their incomes to local, state and federal governments somehow reveals their greed.

The hyper-wealthy liberal denizens of Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the coastal enclaves often seem exempt from the consequences of the high taxes they so often advocate for others. The super-rich either have the clout to hire experts to help them avoid such taxes, or they simply have so much money that they are not much affected by even California’s high taxes.

What is the ideology behind such destructive state policies?

Venezuela, which is driving out its middle class, is apparently California’s model. Venezuelan leaders believed in providing vast subsidies for the poor. The country’s super-rich are often crony capitalists who can avoid high taxes.

Similarly, California is waging an outright war on the upper-middle class, which lacks the numbers of the poor and the clout of the rich.

Those who administer California’s plagued department of motor vehicles and high-speed rail authority may often be inept and dysfunctional, but the state’s tax collectors are the most obsessive bureaucrats in the nation.

What is Sacramento’s message to those who combine to pay half the state’s income taxes and have not yet left California?

“Be gone or we will eat you!”

Photo Credit: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

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California • Center for American Greatness • Economy • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • taxes • The Left

Second of a two-part series. Read part one.

Too Few Homes, Too Many Homeless: How to Fix It

It’s already spring in subtropical California. Up and down the coast, from Venice Beach to San Francisco, tens of thousands of homeless people live in makeshift abodes, strewn along the streets and alleys, the beaches and boardwalks, beside parking garages, freeway onramps, and under bridges. Their numbers are increasing every year. They now live openly in the hearts of magnificent downtowns, permanently encamped on the lawns of city halls and civic centers. In some areas, entire urban parks are filled with their tents. A perfect storm of court decisions and legislation have tied the hands of law enforcement, and well-organized activists join forces with well-financed nonprofits and their partners, politically connected developers, to prevent any practical solutions.

And so, day after day, Californians living and working near some of the most expensive real estate on earth pick their way through sidewalks littered with shit and syringes, dodging stoned junkies and screaming schizophrenics, hoping they won’t catch typhus or hepatitis as they make their way to their jobs, take their kids to school, and try to live normal lives. There is no end in sight.

The burgeoning population of homeless in California, now estimated at some 150,000 people, is a problem that could be solved in months if the appropriate political and judicial decisions were swiftly enacted and decisively applied. Instead, there is no indication it will ever be solved. The state has become a magnet for the welfare cases of America as well as the expatriates of the world, at the same time as the state has imposed crippling restrictions on the ability of the private sector to build new housing.

California is unaffordable because extreme environmentalists have imposed an agenda of engineered scarcity onto state policymakers that, unfortunately, dovetails perfectly with the agenda of special interests—in particular, public sector unions and bureaucrats, and large corporate land developers and construction contractors.

Virtually all of these special interests are aligned with the Democratic Party—the party of greed, lies, envy, and deception, controlled by leftist plutocrats and their willing accomplices. Until California’s voters wake up and break this immoral, self-serving coalition, there is little hope that housing prices in particular, or the cost-of-living in general, will ever come down in California.

Outside of blue-state America, the battle still rages, and victory is still possible. But to win, it will take bold policies, expressed with clarity and enthusiasm, policies that will offer struggling middle and low-income communities opportunities for upward mobility.

Towards a Housing Surplus and a Shortage of Homeless People

Here are policies that would make housing plentiful and affordable:

1) Eliminate all government subsidies, incentives, or waivers to developers. All players in the housing industry should be unsubsidized and play by the same set of rules.

2) Stop requiring diverse types of housing within the same development or neighborhood. Mixing high-density, subsidized housing into residential neighborhoods devalues the existing housing, and this social engineering is unfair to existing residents who have paid a high price to live there.

3) Rollback the more extreme building codes. Requiring 100 percent of homes to be “energy neutral” or mandating rooftop photovoltaic arrays, for example, greatly increase the cost of homes.

4) Lower the fees on building permits for new housing and housing remodels. Doing this might require pension reform, since that’s where all extra revenue goes, but until permitting costs are lowered, only ultra-wealthy developers can afford to build.

5) Speed up the permitting process. Development approvals should take days or weeks, not months or years. Again, the practical effect of this failure is that only major developers can afford to build.

6) Reform or eliminate state and local environmental regulations. In most cases, Federal laws already provide adequate environmental safeguards.

7) Make it easier to extract building materials in-state. California, for example, is spectacularly rich in natural resources, yet it has to import lumber and aggregate from as far away as Canada. This not only greatly increases construction costs, but it’s also hypocritical.

8) Increase the supply of land for private development of housing. Currently, only 3.6 percent of the continental United States is urbanized. There are literally hundreds of thousands of square miles of nonfarm, noncritical habitat that could be opened up for massive land development.

9) Engage in practical, appropriate zoning for infill and densification in urban cores, but only after also increasing the supply of open land for housing, and only while continuing to respect the integrity of established residential neighborhoods.

Along With Policy Solutions, Expose the Corruption

Democratic politicians, backed by an establishment coalition that wields overwhelming financial supremacy in the political arena, have sold their program as morally superior to Republican alternatives. But their case, marketed to voters by the finest political campaigners and public relations firms that money can buy, falls apart under the weight of facts.

The cold economic truth about Democrats in California is this: They have made it the most inhospitable place in America for low and middle-income residents. Unchecked, they’re going to do it to America. But they do not hold the moral high ground. They are immoral hypocrites, slandering their opponents, exploiting their supporters, and laughing all the way to the bank.

Providing opportunity by making California affordable has a moral value. There is a moral value to embracing policies of abundance—by turning the private sector loose to increase the supply of housing, energy, and water—rather than creating politically contrived and artificial scarcity.

There is a coherent alternative vision to the self-serving politics of scarcity. But it would mean launching a sustained assault on government unions, extreme environmentalists and their allies, along with the plaintiff’s bar and the social justice fanatics who have taken over grassroots movements. It will require challenging not just their lofty idealism or their proclaimed altruism but also their premises and their methods.

A similar moral argument must be made to solve the problem of homelessness, and it will also require a sustained assault against a similar cast of characters. Over the past 30-40 years, the rights of the mentally ill, the homeless, and even the illegal immigrant, have been elevated to the point of impracticality but, even more disgracefully, to the point where everyone is worse off. Solutions will require litigation and legislation.

Immigration laws need to be reformed to take away the incentive for migrants to undertake perilous journeys. The mentally ill need to be taken off the streets and put back into hospitals. Criminals need to be reincarcerated. For those homeless who truly are simply down on their luck, without other options, housing codes need to be modified so that “permanent supportive housing” can take the form of a $399 10-foot-by-10-foot tent, pitched in a parking lot or field, with every dozen tents sharing a $649 porta potty. Sites can include central facilities providing showers and food distribution. Once the situation is stabilized, and Americans have taken back their streets and neighborhoods, additional amenities can be considered.

The moral high ground must be asserted at every turn. It isn’t a concern for the homeless that prevents offering them tents, porta-potties, and basic facilities for food and hygiene. It’s greed and corruption that diverts a few homeless people into expensive palaces, while the rest of them still live in dangerous squalor, destroying neighborhoods and public spaces. It is the naked, raw, sickening, institutionalized greed of a corrupt, failing society, run by crooks masquerading as saviors.

It is not moral to make housing unaffordable in the name of environmental justice. It is not moral to make government services unaffordable in order to reserve funds to pay government workers pensions that are many times more expensive than Social Security. It is not moral to make perfect the enemy of the good and deny a warm and safe tent to tens of thousands of homeless, in order to get a few hundred people into $500,000 apartments. It is not moral to turn American into a magnet for destitute foreigners, when only a small percentage of them will make it here anyway, and while native-born Americans cannot find housing or jobs.

Here’s another excerpt from another email from a Southern California resident. It epitomizes what has happened there, and what is going to happen to America if the bad guys win:

When I moved to Venice three years ago, my Mom and I invested in a triplex, which I live in and have been renovating constantly. It should have been a tear down, but I have been set on restoring the place, and it’s been a labor of love. It is so tough to actually upgrade your place as a landlord, I can’t even change my siding on my home without a permit and coastal commission approval (which isn’t even worth the hassle), yet large scale developments can bypass all zoning and environmental reviews.

My dad’s parents met picking fruit in Salinas County. Eventually they moved to Pomona and bought a plot of land. All of their paychecks went to building their home while they lived with family. It took them a long time, but they bought all the materials and built everything themselves. This became a major source of equity and it propelled them up into the next class bracket.

No one can do that today. Permits are so incredibly expensive and dealing with zoning and code is a nightmare. I am afraid that there is no even playing field anymore, and that upward mobility is dead. Everything really seems stacked against the individual taxpayer.

Democrats, and the powerful elites who back them, have turned California into a quasi-feudal state. Its residents now comprise an aristocracy of the privileged and connected, ruling over destitute masses who vote Democrat in order to receive promised government handouts, with the middle class in full flight. Meanwhile, California’s economy is reliant on artificially inflated asset values and an upcycle in a volatile high-tech industry. The financial headwinds that buffet California are going to turn into a hurricane. It’s simply a matter of time.

No coalition of special interests exists to save America from California’s fate. It will take individual, patriotic Americans, joining together to challenge every premise of the Left, recognizing that immigration, housing prices, and homelessness are interrelated problems, caused by the same cast of special interests, and symptomatic of a more general totalitarian threat to our freedom, our prosperity, and our national identity.

California • Center for American Greatness • Democrats • Economy • Environment • Post • The Left

Too Few Homes, Too Many Homeless: How it Happened

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Apart from the fine weather unique to California, there is little stopping the homeless crisis that grips that state from infecting the rest of America. The Golden State’s other, even bigger problem—unaffordable housing—is also coming to America. All the elements are in place.

First of a two-part series

The problem of increasing homelessness boils down to three fundamental policy failures: Massive immigration, overpriced housing, and an inability of state and local governments properly to deal with homeless people.

Volumes could be written about each of these problems, because each one of them is symptomatic of deeper challenges. Immigration is fundamentally transforming our culture. Overpriced housing is only one element of the economic asset bubble that offers an illusory, unsustainable substitute for genuine economic growth. And our inability to deal with the homeless is just one example of a stultified society, mired in legal disputes, bureaucratic inertia, and corruption.

Before exploring how these three problems exacerbate homelessness, it’s important to declare their larger significance. The way each of these problems affects homelessness and how each of them might be solved in order to resolve the problem of homelessness points the way to larger, more general solutions.

Mass Immigration Raises Demand for Housing
The easiest of the three to understand is mass immigration. It is also the easiest to solve, which unfortunately is only to say the other problems are even tougher. Since 1965, more than 60 million people have immigrated to the United States. During that time, the total population has risen from just under 200 million to more than 325 million. In other words, immigration is responsible for at least 50 percent of the population growth in America during this time.

In reality, the number is considerably greater than 50 percent. For example, the Brookings Institution estimates that between 2006 and 2017, the population of childbearing-age offspring of native-born Americans has fallen by 0.5 percent per year, while the population of childbearing age offspring of immigrants has risen by 3 percent per year. Immigrants are having children at well above replacement levels, while native-born Americans are in slow decline.

The point to all that is simple. Demand for housing in America has dramatically increased because of population growth, and population growth largely has been the result of immigration.

One may argue all day that a rising population is necessary to ensure healthy economic growth, but that argument needs some important qualifications.

First, while it is generally true that a rising population is a good thing, how true it is depends greatly on what sort of population grows. When it comes to immigration, the data points to a complex mix. According to a summary of studies done on America’s immigrant population, “From 1970 to at least 2000—and possibly all the way to 2007—each new wave of immigrants was less educated, relative to natives, than the wave that had come before.” The article notes, “The educational decline has ended, but the improvement has not led to economic successes. Another area where the dramatic increase in new immigrants’ education did not result in a dramatic improvement in their situation is welfare use.” With respect to illegal immigration, the data showed them to be among the least educated, particularly those from Latin America.

When it comes to immigration, if the United States were able successfully to restrict immigration to skilled professionals, these immigrants would be able to afford homes, and they would be greater contributors to private-sector economic growth.

But there is a bigger challenge: what does optimal population growth look like? At what point do Americans decide there are enough people living here, and the downside to mass immigration outweighs the upside? Perfecting an economic model that accommodates slow population growth, or none at all, remains a challenge that no society has met, anywhere on earth. It is a challenge that is most often touted by the American Left for reasons of ecological sustainability, yet the American Left includes the most enthusiastic champions of mass immigration.

Regardless of these nuances, mass immigration has increased the demand for housing in the United States. This has driven up the prices for housing, which has left low-income residents—millions of whom are low-skilled illegal immigrants—either homeless or barely hanging on to an overpriced rental.

Political Mistakes Have Artificially Restricted the Supply of Housing
Returning to a numerically moderate, merit-based immigration policy, with secure borders, is a cakewalk compared to rolling back the political mistakes that have restricted the supply of new housing. Across the nation, but especially in blue states like California, it has become extremely difficult for a property owner to develop housing on their land. The array of forces working to restrict housing is daunting—virtually all “enlightened” politicians, powerful environmentalist pressure groups, big land developers, and the financial sector.

In California, for years, state legislation has made it nearly impossible for developers to construct new housing outside the so-called urban growth boundary. Instead, development is redirected into the footprint of existing urban areas. Environmentalist laws such as California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) create additional barriers. California’s legislature has now made it necessary for new home construction to be 100 percent “energy neutral” by 2020, greatly increasing building costs.

Where the environmentalist inspired mandates leave off, insatiable public-sector greed kicks in. According to a study last year by the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association, the lowest per house city service and “impact fees” were $20,000—in Sacramento, of all places. The highest fees were a mind-boggling $160,000 per home in Fremont, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area.

What is the true motivation for these outrageous fees—ostensibly to pay for public services associated with new homes? Excessive public-sector compensation, “negotiated” by government unions that exercise almost absolute control over California’s state and local politicians.

In California, public employees collect, on average, twice as much in pay and benefits as the average full-time private sector employee. The biggest cause of this excess? Public-sector pensions and retiree health care, which for retirees in California with 30 years of government service average well over $70,000 per year.

Public sector greed is a primary factor in elevating California’s cost-of-living to punitive levels. The irony is deep. Public employees could afford to make less if they made less.

Complicit in the artificial, politically contrived scarcity of housing in California are the biggest land developers. These politically connected large firms can afford to wait years if not decades for their projects to gain approval, and they can afford to pay thousands if not millions in fees to attorneys, consultants, and government agencies long before they ever reap any profit. But when they finally sell their housing developments to consumers trained to pay $1,000 per square foot or more, their profits are fat indeed.

No discussion of California’s inflated housing values is complete without explaining the benefit these bubble values impart to financial interests. Mortgage lenders build their base of collateral. Pension funds see their real estate portfolios yield impressive gains. Public entities realize growing property tax receipts. But asset bubbles do not constitute economic growth, and pursuing this economic strategy is both exploitative and unsustainable.

Policies to Address the Homeless Are Inadequate and Corrupt
Insufficient supply in the face of unprecedented demand aren’t the only reasons California has a homeless problem. Miserably inadequate “solutions,” mired in corruption are also to blame. Part of the problem is that the available solutions are hampered by an assortment of judicial rulings.

In Los Angeles, officials estimate the homeless population now exceeds 50,000. Homeless people have taken over huge swaths of the city. Moving them out of some of the most desirable public spaces is nearly impossible, however, because in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Jones v. City of Los Angeles (2006) that law enforcement and city officials can no longer enforce the ban on sleeping on sidewalks anywhere within L.A. city limits until a sufficient amount of “permanent supportive housing” could be built.

To address this growing problem, in 2016, 76 percent of Los Angeles voters approved the $1.2 billion Measure HHH to “help finance the construction of 10,000 units of affordable permanent-supportive housing over the next 10 years.” How these funds have been applied will be read in history books centuries from now as an example of epic corruption. Here is an excerpt from an email received from a local activist fighting to save Venice Beach from the homeless invasion. It speaks volumes:

We know there is a serious problem of large populations of homeless people in and around Los Angeles and we know the solution is not an easy one for anyone. We have compassion for these people and we want to help. But the homesteaders along Venice Boardwalk are not your average “down on your luck homeless”; they are mostly either out of prison left in the streets with nowhere to go or bohemian drifters and runaways who are hooked on drugs and choose this lifestyle. Many do have a place to go or capability of other means of existence but prefer the ease the Venice community for comfort, camaraderie and ease of obtaining food and restroom facility.

Clearly, the homeless encampments in Venice Beach, where well over 1,000 vagrants are estimated to reside, are destroying that community. The city’s response? Conversion of a 3.2-acre, city-owned parcel into a homeless shelter capable of holding, get this, “about 100 people.” The shelter in progress, which will be “wet,” meaning vagrants who are intoxicated will be allowed to enter the shelter, is located less than 500 feet from the beach.

In a less corrupt city, that property could be sold, and the proceeds could be used to set up and monitor a tent city housing thousands of people.

This excerpt from another email received from a neighborhood activist in another afflicted part of Los Angeles explains what’s really going on:

Unfortunately, there is too much money involved for anyone to be considering tent cities. The costs are running between $400,000 and $500,000 per unit for the projects. All of the parcels they are considering are worth millions of dollars and the taxpayers of L.A. would be much better off if the city just sold them and used that money to fund government rather than new taxes. Everyone at city hall is pushing these facilities. The city has billions to spend on them. The City Council members get campaign donations from the developers. The developers then use our money to build these buildings. The buildings are then handed off to nonprofits with long term contracts to run them. When we showed up to protest the Sherman Oaks proposed sites, our opposition consisted of LAHSA, United Way and a bunch of other so-called non-profits that stand to get big dollars from these sites.

These inflated costs are well documented. This absurd waste is repeating itself throughout California.

Coming to a State Near You
It isn’t impossible to fix the problem of inadequate, unaffordable housing and a burgeoning homeless population. What California’s facing isn’t something that had to happen. But powerful special interests like things just the way they are, and those special interests are growing in influence across America.

At the national level, the push for open borders might be unstoppable, thanks to the peculiar alliance between all Democrats who want to import sympathetic voters, hard Leftist globalists who want to undermine and ultimately destroy America as we know it, libertarian globalists naively standing on “principle,” and big business interests hoping to suppress wages. That’s a tough coalition to crack.

But it gets worse. Perhaps even more influential is the financial elite, who have decided on a macroeconomic level that the real estate asset bubble must be maintained in order to preserve credit enabling collateral. These financial wizards view immigrant-fueled population growth as an essential factor in maintaining a high demand for real estate.

At the national level, an equally daunting alliance has formed to make housing construction more difficult. The environmentalist movement leads the way, clamoring for a smaller “urban footprint,” using “climate change” paranoia as the moral bulldozer to clear away opposition. But the bulldozer is rarely necessary. The intelligentsia—that is, mainstream media, think tanks, and thought leaders in the professions of architecture, design, construction, engineering, and infrastructure—has glommed onto the small-is-beautiful theme, pushing for “new urbanism,” “smart growth,” “in-fill,” “urban containment,” “transit villages,” “light rail,” “densification,” and so on. But they’re not alone.

Right behind the environmentalists are the public employees, whose pension funds and property tax revenues are goosed by real estate bubbles. On a parochial level, but more often than not, an additional incentive cities have for densification and urban containment is that it keeps development within their municipal borders, within confined areas, lowering the per capita cost of providing public services at the same time that it grows revenues.

While California is so far gone it may only serve as a cautionary example, it would be a mistake to assume that any other state is immune from these influences. In Texas, a state where homes remain affordable, voters in November elected a Democrat as the new chief executive for Harris County. Don’t laugh. Harris County is the third-largest county in America, covering all of Houston and greater Houston, with more than 4.5 million residents.

One may safely presume that Democrats will push for restrictions on housing using the same tactics they use in California—i.e., urban containment, environmentalist construction mandates, escalating fees. But the surprise election of Democrat Lina Hidalgo, a 27-year-old with no government experience, is not the first wave assault on home affordability in Houston. It’s the next wave.

A thorough exposé of the encroachments “smart growth” zealots are making on policy in Houston can be found in urban geographer Joel Kotkin’s August 2018 article in City Journal, “The Battle for Houston.” Kotkin explains how despite the success Houston has had to-date with minimal zoning and practical flood control infrastructure, the zealous “experts” are trying to change everything. Instead of upgrading flood control channels and levees, they are proposing mandatory elevated homes, something that would cost more, and disproportionately harm low-income neighborhoods. And, of course, the experts are advocating “for the creation of a ‘thick’ (meaning denser) city, with an enhanced role for traditional transit.”

Houston, beware. Everything the smart growth crowd asks for, they’re going to get, as long as Democrats—and their coalition of big business, big labor, unionized government, financial predators, environmentalist nonprofits and their army of trial lawyers—are in charge. The war for California has been lost. California has to be recaptured, if that’s even possible. The war for Texas is on, with the largest metropolitan area already in enemy hands.

America, the scarcity profiteers are coming for you.

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California • Democrats • Law and Order • Post • The Culture

The Battle of the Boyne and the Laboratory of the States

Former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, now governor of California, heard a still, small voice the other night. The voice said, “Gavin, the intentional killing of another person is wrong.” So His Excellency stepped forth the next day and announced he was taking steps to close every military installation in the state.

Sorry, my mistake. That’s not what the governor did. Never mind that the fundamental purpose of any nation’s armed forces necessarily involves killing people. Never mind that California is full of left-wing nut jobs who would cheer any bid to kick out the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Never mind that several years ago, such types in Puerto Rico succeeded in giving some of our military activities there the heave-ho.

However consistent such a move would have been with Newsom’s insight into the wrongfulness of killing people, it seems the better angels of his nature, or the California Chamber of Commerce, or both, made the idea of denuding America’s West Coast of her military establishments a non-starter with him. California is well on its way to becoming the Puerto Rico of the West anyway. No need to turn the Golden State into the apotheosis of “Get woke, go broke.”

No, what Newsom did was to suspend enforcement of the death penalty in California, indefinitely.

This raises a whole new set of “never minds.”

Never mind that the people of California have repeatedly rejected the abolition of capital punishment. In 1986, they removed state Chief Justice Rose Bird and two other justices for willfully interfering with death penalty enforcement. When the issue was submitted to voters directly, they defeated abolition in 2012 and 2016. In 2016, in fact, Golden State voters approved instead a ballot measure to speed up death penalty enforcement by expediting the appeals process.

Never mind that the still, small voice Newsom found more persuasive than that of his constituents cannot have come from the Lord of Hosts, who prescribes death for murder in both Old and New Testaments. Nor can it have come from any of the Christian luminaries (from Augustine and Aquinas to Luther and Calvin to C.S. Lewis) who have expressed their agreement with that precept.

Nor could that voice have come from Kant, Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, or Mill, who, as then-New York Mayor Ed Koch pointed out, also endorsed capital punishment. Nor from Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, or Lincoln, who not only endorsed it but, in Washington’s and Lincoln’s case, actually imposed it. Nor from keen observers of the American scene ranging from Ambrose Bierce to Will Rogers to Mike Royko.

John Calvin spoke for them all when he wrote:

If [rulers] sheath their sword and keep their hands unsullied by blood, while the wicked roam about massacring and slaughtering, then so far from reaping praise for their goodness and justice, they make themselves guilty of the greatest possible injustice.

I’ve argued the case against Newsom’s lofty stance many times at American Greatness, and there would be no use in rehashing it now for the governor’s benefit. He wouldn’t notice if I did, not even if I spoke to him in his dreams. Preeners gonna preen, and the one thing Newsom’s inner voice will never, ever tell him is that he is making himself guilty of the greatest possible injustice.

Let’s instead turn from his state to mine.

Driving in San Antonio the other day, I saw a bumper sticker: “Don’t California My Texas.” It was a neat way of voicing the fear among some red-state residents (such as Instapundit Glenn Reynolds of Tennessee) that an influx of refugees from badly governed blue states will have the perverse effect of turning red states blue. Where once you had the deepest part of the Deep South, you now have Florida. (Ecch.)

We Texans have plenty for which we must answer, even without our blue-state newcomers. One such reproach is that we have, and have always had, a high crime rate. But if you think we’re bad now, wait until we turn blue and have someone like Newsom shutting down our death row. Then we’ll really be in a fix.

Texas is “Exhibit A” in death penalty opponents’ argument that capital punishment is a poor deterrent. “Look at Texas,” they’ll say. “That state executes more people than anyone, yet their murder rate is sky high.” Those advocates are, for the most part, not actually dumb enough to suppose that the presence or absence of capital punishment in a state is the only factor that determines its crime rates. But they cite Texas in hopes of thereby duping people into accepting the counterintuitive idea that death does not deter.

In Texas, one salient fact is that the population is more diverse than in, say, Iowa. Sorry, folks. I know it’s impolite to say so, but for whatever reason, black and Hispanic Americans tend to have higher crime rates than non-Hispanic whites do. Many of the non-death row states, like Iowa, are lily white, homogenous, and mainly rural. Others simply have the misfortune of being governed by Democrats. If they can do without capital punishment, good for them. The rest of us aren’t so lucky.

Neither does comparing white and minority crime rates tell the whole story. Just as there are minorities and then there are minorities, there are whites and then there are whites. So, lest you think that, being neither black nor Hispanic, I am patting myself on the head for a good little boy, let me frankly state that my own forebears—mostly Germans, Scots, and Irish—also have a deserved reputation for being a tad obstreperous from time to time.

In America, the most irascible of these are the Scotch-Irish: Scots who had settled in Ireland and later emigrated to America. They cut a wide path across the Appalachian frontier, into Texas and throughout the South. Their exemplar is Andrew Jackson, a duellist who carried in his body a bullet from one fatal fight, a source of constant pain lodged next to his heart. (Jackson is one of three U.S. presidents who survived gunshots to the chest, the others being Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.)

Former U.S. Senator James Webb (D-Va.) has written a book about the Scotch-Irish called Born Fighting. Their dueling ways are examined in Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South. Thomas Sowell explored their influence on modern black culture in his book Black Rednecks and White Liberals. The Scotch-Irish are, no doubt, who 1960s radical H. Rap Brown was talking about when he said, “Violence is as American as cherry pie.”

Their legacy is not always a source of pride. During the Mexican War, the cruelty of Scotch-Irish frontiersmen toward civilians earned them the name “diablos Tejanos” among the Mexicans, and it disgusted many of their American officers. The top U.S. commander, General Winfield Scott, called it enough “to make Heaven weep, and every American of Christian morals blush for his country.” And, of course, the Scotch-Irish would later lend one of their words, and many of their sons, to the most notorious terror group in American history: the Ku Klux Klan.

Photo credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

A key event in Scotch-Irish history is the Battle of the Boyne, when Protestant forces led by William of Orange defeated Catholics loyal to the deposed King James II. It took place near Drogheda, Ireland, on July 1, 1690, but is commemorated on July 12 due to a subsequent switch to the modern, Gregorian calendar. In Northern Ireland, July 12 festivities continue to this day, with bands parading and big bass drums booming after a night devoted to colossal bonfires that rival any ever built by the Texas Aggies in College Station.

To the Orangemen, it’s like our Independence Day; to their Catholic neighbors, it’s more like Nazis marching through Skokie. Accordingly, the annual parades feature not only children in holiday regalia such as in the picture above but also counter-demonstrators, barricades, riot police, burnt-out vehicles and other mayhem, including even a young woman run over as in Charlottesville. Click this link to see hundreds of July 12 images, each one worth a thousand words.

Now let’s get back to America, where such fractious spirits have room to roam. Here in Texas, there is a small town north of Houston called Cut and Shoot. I used to think it got its name from a strip of country honky-tonks whose frequent brawls provided the young community with its leading local industry. But the real origin is more bizarre: a dispute among churchgoers about whether a certain disreputable preacher would be welcomed at the community meeting house. How’s that for obstreperous?

It all goes to show how culture, even more than demography, makes the Texas murder rate so high. What, then, can capital punishment do against such a force? Actually, quite a lot. Here is where “the laboratory of the states” enters the picture.

The United States underwent a nationwide moratorium on enforcement of the death penalty beginning in 1967 and ending with Utah murderer Gary Gilmore’s voluntary death by firing squad in 1977. Executions remained very rare thereafter, not returning to anything like their pre-moratorium frequency until the mid-1990s.

Also in the mid-1960s, the country was engulfed by an enormous crime wave that has yet to fully recede. The wave crested in the early 1990s, just as the death penalty was starting its partial comeback.

How much of this is mere coincidence, and how much of it is cause and effect? The Texas experience offers a clue.

In 1964, Texas put five criminals to death, its last executions before the moratorium began. Meanwhile, criminals murdered 785 Texans. The Texas murder rate was 7.6 per 100,000 inhabitants, slightly more than half-again higher than the national rate of 4.9 per 100,000.

Late in 1982, Texas carried out its first post-moratorium execution, one of only two that year nationwide. In that year, 2,466 Texans died at murderers’ hands. The state’s murder rate was 16.1 per 100,000, closer to twice the national rate of 9.1 per 100,000 than to half-again higher. So, during the 18-year absence of capital punishment, our position in comparison to the national murder rate had grown worse.

By the mid-’90s, the annual number of executions in Texas had risen to the double digits. In 2000, murderers killed 1,236 Texans and Texas saw a record 40 executions, almost half the 85 carried out nationwide that year.

Wait a couple of years for that high-water mark to have its effect. Then what? Between 1982 and 2002, the nation’s murder rate fell 38 percent. Texas—despised by “progressives” as the execution capital of the nation—beat that trend by a little bit, with its murder rate falling 63 percent, to 6.0 per 100,000, scarcely over 2002’s national rate of 5.6 per 100,000.

This is even more striking when compared to the jurisdictions (at that time, 12 states and the District of Columbia) that had no death penalty. Their murder rate fell only 21 percent.

The Texas death chamber is not nearly as busy now as it was in 2000, and—surprise, surprise—our murder rate is starting to edge up again. But we still have the reputation of being Death Row Central, and here’s the good news: For the past several years, our murder rate has actually been running slightly below the national rate.

Does that prove deterrence? By itself, no. Who knows what other variables are at work? But researchers who’ve taken great pains to factor out those other variables think they’ve seen a deterrent effect—and the point is this: The burden of proof rests not with those who affirm deterrence but with those who deny it. As I put it when discussing this subject two years ago:

If a reasonable possibility exists that executions actually carried out will deter some murders, then the people put at risk by our failure to enforce the death penalty far outnumber the Death Row inmates who are the focus of so much concern among capital punishment’s opponents. The ones put at risk are the hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children who will fall victim to criminal violence tomorrow, next year and on into the future.

The governor of California has just given those innocent men, women, and children the back of his hand. And President Trump should box his ears for it.

This is the hill to die on—or, as General Patton would say, the hill to make the other poor, dumb bastard die on. Mr. President, go to California. Take the side of California’s voters against the vainglorious posturing of their new governor. Make an issue of crime and punishment, especially capital punishment. The Democrats have all gone hard left on the issue, and if you press them, they can’t help but fight you over it. Nor can they avoid losing, bigly.

Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

 

America • California • Democrats • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post • The Left

Democrats to Legal Voters: Drop Dead

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Since Democrats took control of the House of Representatives in January, they have unleashed a torrent of radical policy ideas. Among the most outrageous are the Green New Deal, “free” college tuition, and eliminating private healthcare in favor of a single-payer system. While bankrupt of erudition, these proposals serve a purpose to feed an angry political base with a steady diet of socialist red meat. More likely red tofu, as red meat would be restricted under the current ethos of social re-engineering sweeping our nation’s capital.

Now comes the most radical and dangerous idea yet. In pushing its H.R. 1 “For the People Act of 2019” election “reform” bill, House Democrats opposed a Republican measure that condemned voting in U.S. elections by illegal immigrants. With the exception of six brave souls, the House Democrats voted in lockstep to kill the measure.

That’s right, one of America’s two major political parties is now on the record supporting the voting rights of foreign nationals in U.S. elections. The gravity of this position should not be lost on legal American citizens who cherish their voting rights. If this policy were implemented, the value of American citizenship essentially would be rendered worthless. The American people would no longer have exclusive sovereignty over the direction of their nation. Anyone in the world, no matter their allegiance to our country or respect for its founding principles, would have as much say as you in determining America’s future and its leaders. That is a truly frightening idea that must be vehemently opposed.

Given the agenda of anti-borders groups and political leaders, this should not come as a shock. There has been a growing effort to mainstream the idea of noncitizen voting at the local level. The pioneer in this nefarious idea has been California, America’s noxious petri dish of radical, left-wing immigration policy. Last fall, San Francisco became the nation’s largest city to permit noncitizens to vote in local elections. This expanded voting was only allowed in the school board elections, but does anyone think it will stop there? The state’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, has proudly endorsed California’s status as a sanctuary for illegal aliens. He and state representatives in Sacramento no doubt will read the signals from the Democratic caucus in Washington as a green light to push onward.

Other sanctuary jurisdictions are following California’s lead. Chicago devised a cynical, back-door approach to noncitizen voting by creating an identification card for illegal aliens. Purportedly to allow access to basic needs in the city, the card is also accepted as a valid form of ID to register to vote. And to think the United States once sent former presidents and diplomats to monitor the electoral integrity of other nations! What high moral ground do we stand today on when this sort of chicanery is allowed to take place here?

These actions, the rejection of the House GOP measure in particular, should be taken as a malicious insult both to native-born American citizens and legal immigrants alike. Why? Power-hungry, narcissistic politicians have concluded that you, the American voter, cannot be counted on to vote a particular way—their way. Their solution is to import endless waves of foreign nationals in defiance of our immigration laws.

A vast majority of these arrivals have only lived under despotic, totalitarian regimes with no grounding in American democratic values. As such, these arrivals are ripe for exploitation: by politicians dangling benefits for votes, by employers seeking cheap labor at the expense of American workers, and by brutally violent members of gangs like MS-13 who hide in the same sanctuary communities among others living here illegally. As a final insult, the whole thing is packaged as compassion for the illegal aliens, while anyone who disagrees is branded as a low-brow, xenophobic hate merchant.

Happily, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said H.R. 1 is dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled chamber. The endorsement of noncitizen voting is only one among many of the bill’s many poison pill components. Rest assured, however, that the push for noncitizen voting will, like post-nuclear holocaust cockroaches, survive and resurface in a community near you. Stand strong against noncitizen voting and against any politician who advocates for it before complacency allows it to spread further.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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America • California • Democrats • Identity Politics • Immigration • Post

Dual Loyalty Detectives

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Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) recently bashed those U.S. Senators who voted against Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) legislation, charging that “they forgot what country they represent.” In similar style, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) cited political influence “that says it’s OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” Omar is also on record that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Millennials and their younger siblings may not have heard such charges, so they might consider ways to detect dual loyalty.

First, check for American politicians who claim there is no distinction between the United States and Israel. At the same time, look for American politicians who bring Israeli candidates to the United States to help them campaign in U.S. elections. Understand that these politicians are open to charges of dual loyalty.

Next, research how many Israeli nationals have broken U.S. immigration laws, crossing the border illegally or overstaying visas. Then look for those U.S. politicians who ignore these violations of American law, protect the Israeli lawbreakers from deportation, and give them welfare and other benefits funded by American taxpayers.

Find out how many false-documented Israeli nationals living in the United States illegally voted in American elections. Run a search on American politicians who objected to these law violations, and tried to stop illegal voting. Those politicians who did nothing might be open to charges of dual loyalty.

While they are at it, Millennials should calculate how many American jobs these false-documented Israeli illegals take from American citizens. Determine the amount they send back to Israel every year, and see if this includes any public funds from U.S. taxpayers.

Likewise, seek out how many Israeli nationals are in U.S. prisons and calculate the amount their incarceration costs U.S. taxpayers. Then find those American politicians who seek no compensation from Israel for these court and housing costs. Those politicians might be open to charges of dual loyalty.

That done, compare the record of American politicians with Mexico.

Check out former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s 2014 opus, Hard Choices, in which she helpfully explained, “after all, much of the southwestern part of the United States was part of Mexico.” Notice how, during the 2016 campaign, former Mexico City mayor and current Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard openly collaborated with Democrats to get out the vote for Clinton.

As a State Department investigation confirms, false-documented Mexican nationals have been voting in national, state, and local elections for decades. Millennials should see if they can discover how many false-documented illegals voted in 2016 and 2018. Politicians such as California Secretary of State Alex Padilla won’t cooperate with federal probes of voter fraud, which could indicate dual loyalty on his part.

Likewise, California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon proclaimed, “there is no sensible place for barriers between California and Mexico.” Democrats provide Mexican nationals with education, medical care, drivers’ licenses, welfare, and in-state college tuition, all funded by American taxpayers. Millennials should calculate these costs, and determine if this indicates dual loyalty.

Last year, California state senate boss Kevin de Léon appointed false-documented illegal Lizbeth Mateo, a Mexican national, to the California Student Opportunity and Access Program Project Grant Advisory Committee, a state government position. As then-Governor Jerry Brown noted, existing law reserves such positions for American citizens.

Get the latest data from scholars at Yale and MIT charting some 22 million illegals in the United States, the vast majority Mexican nationals. Last year Mexicans abroad sent $33.7 billion back to Mexico, an increase of 21 percent from the previous year. Calculate how much American taxpayers contributed to such remittances. The amount Mexico contributes to the upkeep of Mexican convicts such as mass murderer Juan Corona is easier. A ballpark figure is zero, but for good measure, review what happened every time Americans voted to curtail government benefits to people who should not be here.

California’s Proposition 187, passed in 1994, would have barred illegals from public school educations and from receiving a variety of government-funded services. In mass protests of the measure, the Los Angeles Times wrote, “flags of Mexico, El Salvador and other Latin American nations were everywhere.”  Mexican flags also emerged by the thousands after Californians voted in 1986 to make English the state’s official language (Proposition 63), barred racial and ethnic preferences in college admissions in 1996 (Proposition 209), and banned bilingual education in 1998 (Proposition 227).

Unlike other groups, as Victor Davis Hanson points out in Mexifornia, Mexicans tend to idealize their own country and trash the nation whose immigration laws they violated. Prominent Democrats have no problem with that. They violate the rule of law, push for open borders, and protect foreign nationals in the country illegally, even violent criminals.

Democrats allow Mexican nationals to vote in American elections, appoint them to government positions, and regard vast tracts of the United States as part of Mexico. Millennials might wonder if it’s okay to support a foreign government like that, and if leading American Democrats forgot what country they represent.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Scott, Andy, Los Angeles Times

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California • Identity Politics • Immigration • Infrastructure • Podcast • Progressivism • The Left

Video: Victor Davis Hanson on California in Collapse

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YouTuber “Conservative Resurgence” returns with another great video highlighting Victor Davis Hanson’s insights on the all the trouble progressives are making in California. Check it out.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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California • Donald Trump • First Amendment • Free Speech • Post • The Left

Trump Has Saved the Free Speech Movement

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He took a hard punch in the face for all of us.”

With these words, President Donald Trump transformed Hayden Williams, the young conservative campus activist who was viciously punched in the face at UC Berkeley last month, from a victim to conservative folk hero.

Trump went further. With Williams looking on in starstruck awe, the president announced at the Conservative Political Action Convention on Saturday that he would sign an executive order that would oblige American universities to comply with the First Amendment’s free-speech protections or risk losing federal funding.

For President Trump, it was an old refrain: his words echoed sentiments he expressed exactly two years and one month ago on Twitter, the day after the city of Berkeley was set ablaze in a riot over conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos’s planned speaking engagement on campus.

In other words, President Trump is finally making good on his promise to hold universities accountable for trampling on the free-speech rights of conservatives. It also means UC Berkeley will finally have to come to terms with its own celebrated (and now ironic) legacy as the “Home of the Free Speech Movement.”

As the president of the Berkeley College Republicans in 2017 and someone who was involved with inviting Yiannopoulos, David Horowitz, Ann Coulter, and Ben Shapiro to speak at UC Berkeley, I feel vindicated by the president’s words at CPAC. All of the hard work my colleagues and I put into fighting for conservative students’ right to voice their opinions on liberal campuses, unmolested by the Left, appears to be on the verge of paying off in a big way.

In February 2017, it was a different story. Milo Yiannopoulos effectively was shut down by radical leftists, who threw explosives, set trash cans on fire, and broke windows. My friends and I were pursued in the streets by angry mobs threatening to bloody our faces beneath the heels of their boots. Locked away later in the safety of a dorm room I warned, “The Free Speech Movement is dead.”

To me, that moment seemed both transformational and deadly: a pivot point from the era of impregnable American constitutional rights to a de facto repeal of those rights in favor of politically correct thought control and mob rule. Our inability to secure a venue for Horowitz and Coulter to speak on campus, and the large police presence required for Shapiro—who had spoken at UC Berkeley in April 2016 without incident—only confirmed to me my worst suspicions about the state of our country.

In this, Berkeley was a microcosm of the Left’s shocking abandonment of even its own principles. Once the epicenter of the 1960s Free Speech Movement, Berkeley now stood as yet another “good censor” in the model of its neighbors at Google. The New Free Speech Movement—an organic, grassroots swell of campus conservative courage—was killed in its cradle by thuggish “anti-fascists,” with the tacit approval of cowardly university administrators who no doubt would still turn around and trumpet Berkeley’s free-speech heritage in fundraising appeals, even as they denied and destroyed it on-campus.

But they can no longer claim to be the caretakers of that heritage. President Trump has defrocked them. We should be relieved by that, but we should not forget that the case of Hayden Williams was merely the most egregious example of a trend that has persisted on Berkeley’s campus for years.

Where was the mainstream media when Jack Palkovic was assaulted in front of a local news crew by two men, just because he had the gall to wear a Make America Great Again cap in public? Where was the mainstream media when Kiara Robles was pepper-sprayed in the face and William Wright pelted with paint during the Milo Yiannopoulos riots? Where was the media when Joey Gibson and Keith Campbell were hospitalized after a rally in support of Trump?

These people were my friends and acquaintances. Yet the objective fact that their blood was spilt was met with the kind of polite, disinterested silence that the media reserves for neo-Nazi marchers. The assumption implicit in their deafening silence was clear: We had it coming. We must have. After all, we supported President Trump.

And now, President Trump supports us. With that support will come real change: change the media cannot bury or ignore. The sanctimonious, haughty, platitudinous nonsense that academic elites feed themselves about “only being intolerant of intolerance” will be swept away by the harsh light of the law, which will penetrate every nook and cranny where the black-clad, black-hearted Black Bloc hide. The Free Speech Movement will live again, and once more stick its thumb in the eye of cosseted liberal elites seeking to foist the arid ideology of technocracy on unquestioning students.

Decades ago, another free-speech radical declared war on “well-meaning liberals” and exhorted his peers: “You’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels . . . upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

President Trump has ensured that the bodies of innocent conservative college students are not fodder for progressive machine politics. President Trump understands that that machine operates in direct opposition to our freedom, and because of that, he has taken the steps necessary to prevent the machine from working at all. The Free Speech Movement lives at Berkeley again. And the well-meaning liberals couldn’t be more terrified.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Fox News

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California • Center for American Greatness • First Amendment • Post • Religion and Society

Violating the Confessional Will Make Bad Catholics and Bad Americans

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California legislators want to force Catholic priests to break the sacramental seal of confession and reveal what penitents disclose in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect. Senate Bill 360 by Jerry Hill of San Francisco would achieve this by designating priests—and all clergy, in fact, regardless of religious affiliation—as “mandatory reporters” of such crimes.

The brazenness of this proposed law is breathtaking. We all know that California lawmakers are basically allergic to reality, but it’s distressing to contemplate that, at best, they have never heard of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause, or, at worst, they hate and want to gut it.

Yet it is not at all surprising this would happen in a cultural moment when:

  • CNN anchor John King felt comfortable musing that maybe Second Lady Karen Pence shouldn’t get Secret Service protection because she’s an evangelical Christian
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) attacked now-Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s impartiality because she’s an orthodox Catholic (remember “the dogma lives loudly within you”?)
  • The Obama administration tried to force nuns to pay for contraceptives in violation of their Catholic faith
  • Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) implied that a judicial nominee who is part of a Catholic charitable organization, the Knights of Columbus, couldn’t be an impartial judge
  • The Colorado Civil Rights Commission openly expressed its bigotry against Christian cakemaker Jack Phillips (but was slapped down by the Supreme Court last term)
  • The mainstream media perpetrated a coordinated smear campaign against 16-year-old Nick Sandmann of Covington Catholic High School and his friends.

The California bill is just the latest and boldest salvo in a broader assault on religious liberty, a precious right Americans ought to hold dear, orchestrated by the Democratic Party’s progressive, “social justice” wing: a pack of extreme, anti-Christian fundamentalists.

However, we might wonder whether we should really care about this bill. After all, haven’t some Catholic priests done horrible things to some children? Why should they get “special treatment” just because they wear a Roman collar? Maybe we should force them to report the abuse or neglect of minors.

That impulse is understandable given the degree to which the Church has soiled itself in recent decades, and because some of her leaders have behaved unbelievably shamefully in speaking about and denouncing clerical sex abuse, but this bill emphatically is not the way to protect children and secure justice.

A Bad Standard Made Better
Whatever our in-the-moment instincts say, we have to remember that we simply will not and cannot promote the common good and human flourishing by trampling on the natural right to religious freedom.

In Employment Division v. Smith (1990), Justice Antonin Scalia authored what might have been his very worst majority opinion. In it, he seemed to imply that we could and must suborn religious freedom in some cases in order to promote the common good.

In Smith, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment’s free exercise clause permits the government to prohibit sacramental peyote use and thus to deny unemployment benefits to persons discharged for such use. Smith stands for a broader proposition, too: “[I]f prohibiting the exercise of religion . . . is . . . merely the incidental effect of a generally applicable and otherwise valid provision, the First Amendment has not been offended.”

Essentially, Smith teaches that if a law is general in its reach and therefore doesn’t target a particular religion, then it’s analyzed under rational-basis review—a very lax standard under which the government nearly always wins.

In response, and endorsing a more robust conception of religious freedom, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) in 1993 to overrule Smith; many states followed suit, passing their own RFRAs after the Supreme Court held in City of Boerne v. Flores (1997) that the federal RFRA was an unconstitutional attempt to abrogate states’ sovereignty pursuant to Congress’s Section 5 enforcement powers under the 14th Amendment. (Congress fixed that and other issues by enacting the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, “RLUIPA,” in 2000.)

RFRAs subject laws that allegedly infringe upon religious free exercise to strict scrutiny review; the government nearly always loses such cases, which is why we say that strict scrutiny—the highest standard of review known to modern constitutional law—is “strict in theory but fatal in fact.”

Religion Rightly Understood
RFRAs also stand for a broader proposition that religion—the freedom to worship God in accord with the binding dictates of one’s conscience, in private or public—is of paramount importance, and should only be infringed in the rarest of circumstances, namely, in the interest of preserving public order or to protect another’s rights.

An example of a practice that offends both limiting principles would be human sacrifice as practiced by the ancient Aztecs. Clearly, the victim’s right to life should matter more than the free exercise of the one who would sacrifice him. In endorsing a robust conception of religious freedom—a person is presumptively free to practice his religion until he hits an obvious limitation—RFRAs shield religion from crude “balancing tests” or imprecise, overly deferential judicial analyses, both of which result in the government’s accruing sweeping power to regulate, and thus control, the substantive content of religion.

But religion, rightly understood, is a pre-political right, ordered toward the supernatural and so is simply outside the government’s domain of competence. As Madison wrote in his “Memorial and Remonstrance against Religious Assessments”: “This duty [to the Creator] is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society” (emphasis in original).

California legislators, arrogantly and tyrannically, have decided that duties to our Creator, pursued and exercised in even the most sensitive of sacraments—the confession of sins—must be subject to their watchful, bigoted eyes. The inviolability of the confessional’s contents is what allows it to work; if people cannot be fully candid with the man who stands in the person of Christ to absolve their guilt, then they are not truly free to be faithful Americans Catholics.

Violations of the confessional are violations of a right which the Constitution does not create but merely recognizes as existing by nature. That is unacceptable. But if it is allowed to happen, it would have far-reaching, negative consequences for any person of faith.

Happily, however, such a law would have a positive side-effect: giving good, holy priests opportunities to prove their fidelity to Christ and His Church by enduring (probably) a bloodless martyrdom when they refuse to violate canon law or their own consciences under the threat of government coercion.

If this bill becomes law, no religious believer is safe.

First, they came for the Catholics, but I was not a Catholic, and so I did nothing. . . .

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images

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California • Democrats • Energy • Environment • Post

California’s Rendezvous With Reality

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Californians brag that their state is the world’s fifth-largest economy. They talk as reverentially of Silicon Valley companies Apple, Facebook and Google as the ancient Greeks did of their Olympian gods.

Hollywood and universities such as Caltech, Stanford and Berkeley are cited as permanent proof of the intellectual, aesthetic and technological dominance of West Coast culture.

Californians also see their progressive, one-party state as a neo-socialist model for a nation moving hard to the left.

But how long will they retain such confidence?

California’s 40 million residents depend on less than 1 percent of the state’s taxpayers to pay nearly half of the state income tax, which for California’s highest tier of earners tops out at the nation’s highest rate of 13.3 percent.

In other words, California cannot afford to lose even a few thousand of its wealthiest individual taxpayers. But a new federal tax law now caps deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000—a radical change that promises to cost many high-earning taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

If even a few thousand of the state’s 1 percent flee to nearby no-tax states such as Nevada or Texas, California could face a devastating shortfall in annual income.

During the 2011-16 California drought, politicians and experts claimed that global warming had permanently altered the climate, and that snow and rain would become increasingly rare in California. As a result, long-planned low-elevation reservoirs, designed to store water during exceptionally wet years, were considered all but useless and thus were never built.

Then, in 2016 and 2017, California received record snow and rainfall—and the windfall of millions of acre-feet of runoff was mostly let out to sea. Nothing since has been learned.

California has again been experiencing rain and cold that could approach seasonal records. The state has been soaked by some 18 trillion gallons of rain in February alone. With still no effort to expand California’s water-storage capacity, millions of acre-feet of runoff are once again cascading out to sea (and may be sorely missed next year).

The inability to build reservoirs is especially tragic given that the state’s high-speed-rail project has gobbled up more than $5 billion in funds without a single foot of track laid. The total cost soared from an original $40 billion promise to a projected $77 billion. To his credit, newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom, fearing a budget catastrophe, canceled the statewide project while allowing a few miles of the quarter-built Central Valley “track to nowhere” to be finished.

For years, high-speed rail has drained the state budget of transportation funds that might have easily updated nightmarish stretches of the Central Valley’s Highway 99, or ensured that the nearby ossified Amtrak line became a modern two-track line.

California politicians vie with each other to prove their open-borders bona fides in an effort to appeal to the estimated 27 percent of Californians who were not born in the United States.

But the health, educational and legal costs associated with massive illegal immigration are squeezing the budget. About a third of the California budget goes to the state’s Medicare program, Medicaid. Half the state’s births are funded by Medicaid, and in nearly a third of those state-funded births, the mother is an undocumented immigrant.

California is facing a perfect storm of homelessness. Its labyrinth of zoning and building regulations discourages low-cost housing. Its generous welfare benefits, non-enforcement of vagrancy and public health laws, and moderate climate draw in the homeless. Nearly one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients live in the state, and nearly one in five live below the poverty line.

The result is that tens of thousands of people live on the streets and sidewalks of the state’s major cities, where primeval diseases such as typhus have reappeared.

California’s progressive government seems clueless how to deal with these issues, given that solutions such as low-cost housing and strict enforcement of health codes are seen as either too expensive or politically incorrect.

In sum, California has no margin for error.

Spiraling entitlements, unwieldy pension costs, money wasted on high-speed rail, inadequate water storage and delivery, and lax immigration policies were formerly tolerable only because about 150,000 Californians paid huge but federally deductible state income taxes.

No more. Californians may have once derided the state’s 1 percent as selfish rich people. Now, they are praying that these heavily burdened taxpayers stay put and are willing to pay far more than what they had paid before.

That is the only way California can continue to spend money on projects that have not led to safe roads, plentiful water, good schools and safe streets.

A California reckoning is on the horizon, and it may not be pretty.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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California • Center for American Greatness • Environment • Post

A Modest Proposal: Deluge the Woke

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California is a global leader in fighting climate change. California’s citizens consistently have supported cutting edge technologies to wean their state off fossil fuel and nuclear power, and are on track to be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. But is this enough? How else can Californians do their part? What more can they do to set a fine example to the rest of the world?

Clearly, more can be done. So why not flood California’s Great Central Valley, sequestering billions of gallons of ocean water that might otherwise be endangering coastlines around the world?

The feasibility of such an endeavor is hardly a pipe dream. One great dam, extending south from the Marin Headlands across the Golden Gate, plumb into the mountainous ramparts of the tony Pacific Heights neighborhood in San Francisco, would easily permit the establishment of a gigantic lake, over 1,000 feet deep, to extend from majestic Mt. Shasta in the north to the red rock Tehachapi Mountains far to the south. For nearly 500 miles from north to south, and 150 miles or more from east to west, this gigantic reservoir could absorb 100 percent of California’s precipitation and storm runoff for decades, slowing the rise of our expanding oceans.

At the same time, Californians can quickly harvest the “low-hanging fruit” of seawater sequestration, by flooding the Imperial Valley. Since much of the Imperial Valley is below sea level, all it would take would be a pipeline, siphoning water out of the ocean off the coastal enclave of La Jolla, crossing the mountains to dump it into the Salton Sea.

Side benefit! The shrinking Salton Sea would be revitalized. Additional side benefit! A trunk pipeline could, also with no energy input required, drain additional ocean water into Death Valley, which is also below sea level.

Sequestration, after all, is hardly a foreign concept to awakened scientists, especially in California, who, year after year, spend billions in taxpayers money to study ways to stop the rising seas. But instead of sequestering carbon dioxide in caves, why not sequester seawater in California’s Central Valley?

It shouldn’t cost that much, after all, since all that is needed is a single dam, four miles long and less than a half-mile high, sealing off the Golden Gate. It shouldn’t take that long, either. Opening back in 1937, the famed Golden Gate Bridge was built in three years. If Mt. Tamalpais is scraped off, along with most of the rest of the Marin Headlands, and bulldozed into the bay, surely this great work can also be completed within three, four years tops.

As for the cost, everyone knows that no cost is too great to stop the rising seas. Californians have experience spending vast amounts of money to fight climate change. They drive on pitted, dangerous, negligently inadequate roads in order to pay for “light rail” and a “bullet train.” They pay staggering rates for electricity and water in order to pay for “wind power,” and to “save the Delta Smelt.” Californians, apparently, have hundreds of billions to spend on such projects, because no cost is too great when the fate of the planet hangs in the balance. It’s time to think big.

To assist with the cost, California’s many outspoken billionaires, nearly all of whom favor saving the planet by any means necessary, should also pay their “fair share” for the great sequestration. A statewide “climate emergency billionaire” tax could be assessed on 100 percent of their liquid assets (their fixed assets will be underwater), raising additional hundreds of billions of dollars.

The social justice element of this ambitious project might be troubling, since millions of “people of color” reside in California’s Central Valley. But not to worry, because the western portions of San Francisco and Marin County, along with the entire Silicon Valley, will also be inundated. This great migration will be a fantastic opportunity for California’s affluent coastal elites, many of them white “allies,” to link their fates with their disadvantaged counterparts, and to share in their hardships. Nobody will have “privilege,” and everyone will be heroes of the environment.

What about California’s agricultural industry? After all, California grows nearly all of America’s fruits and nuts, and even exports rice to China! But whatever agricultural bounty is lost can be offset by the biggest aquaculture experiment in the world. What Californians lose in fruits and nuts, they’ll gain in catfish and tilapia.

A true skeptic, perhaps even a “denier,” might correctly point out that filling California’s Central Valley with 1,000 feet of water would only cause the world’s oceans to drop by 1.5 inches. Filling the Imperial Valley and Death Valley might buy another inch. This sort of debate, however, should be silenced. We all have to do our part. We have to start somewhere. And since even now, the oceans are only rising by about one inch per decade, California’s brave sacrifice buys the planet about 20 years!

But where will all these Californians go, if nearly half the state’s population is displaced? Some of them could move to Los Angeles, a welcoming city that is, after all, already a magnet for the displaced of the world. What’s another 20 million newly arrived people for a “woke” population of wealthy liberals to support? Construct high rises in Brentwood and Beverly Hills in the backyards of the movie star mansions. Let’s embrace our density!

There’s an even bigger upside to the diaspora that California’s great new lake will cause. California’s displaced millions can also move to Nevada, where they will tip the political balance forever in that state as they vote for Democrats. These newly minted, fabulously enlightened policymakers can use their mega majority in Nevada to support yet another monumental step forward in the battle against rising seas—they can flood the Great Basin, allowing the people of America’s Intermountain West to also signal their illustrious virtue.

It is time for the spectacularly woke liberal voters of California to step up to save the planet from rising seas. Sequestration is an idea that’s time has come, because no price is too great, when the planet itself is in peril.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia 

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California • Conservatives • Democrats • Elections • Post • Republicans

California Republicans’ Munchausen By Proxy Problem

To paraphrase the oft-misquoted Mark Twain, rumors of the death of the California Republican Party are greatly exaggerated. The results of the November 2018 elections, while not completed until December, got worse each passing day until we came up with the final tally. It was, to use the technical terminology preferred by political pundits, a massacre, a slaughter, a bloodbath. As I’m an eternal optimist, and in an effort to stop myself from curling up into the fetal position and avoid making plans to flee the once-Golden State like so many others, I am able to see the good news buried within these dismal results. (“There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!”)

I wrote in October that the continued leftward lurch of California Democrats would result in such dismal living conditions that voters would have to take notice. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a bit longer.

What I’m seeing now, however, isn’t just that the patient is ailing. She is, and the results show that something’s definitely amiss. But the growing chorus of voices insisting that the patient is already dead, and worse, is deserving of death—that chorus is coming from inside the house! Mike Madrid, a “GOP political consultant” according to his Twitter handle (albeit one who advised Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa in his failed bid for governor), is everywhere lately saying just that. Here he is in the Los Angeles Times, calling the time of quietus like they do on “Grey’s Anatomy”:

“It’s dead,” Mike Madrid, a former political director of the California Republican Party, said of the state GOP. “It exists in small regional pockets, where there are enough white, non-college-educated working-class communities for there to be a Republican Party. But that’s not much.”

Interesting. This non-white, college-educated, private-school-supporting immigrant mom is a Republican, and actually put my life on hold (as a mother of four, I admit that it was more like a vacation!) for a year to run for office in one of the deepest blue areas of Los Angeles County. I found the exact opposite. People’s belief in liberty isn’t defined by the color of their skin, and almost no one is excited by the prospect of more crime in their neighborhoods, more filth on the streets, and higher costs for everything. The problem is that the Republican Party has been invisible, or not making the (very good) case for common-sense solutions to all the problems that unfettered one-party rule has brought us.

Madrid is not alone in aiming his arrows inside the tent. In that same article, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a putative Republican, claims that President Trump is the problem. And here is former Republican Assembly leader Kristen Olsen, quoted everywhere with her view that California’s Grand Old Party is dead. She also places the blame squarely on a president who didn’t even campaign in our state and who had nothing to do with our steady decline in Republican registration that started in the mid-1990s. (For the record, in California President Bush was also Hitler, John McCain was awful, and Central Casting’s Mitt Romney was practically the Devil—so nothing’s new on that front.)

These voices are not alone. These centrist Republicans all claim to want the same thing—the best treatment for the rotting corpse over which they stand. They all care so much, we should take their advice and be for the abolition of the internal combustion engine, the breeding of cattle, the removal of borders, and forget about the enforcement of laws! I mean, that’s being reasonable and bipartisan. Why would they lead us astray?

Here’s my theory. Munchausen’s Syndrome is a psychological malady that afflicts those who want attention for imagined diseases. While sad, its even more heartbreaking cousin is Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, wherein a parent can go so far as to hurt her child in order to fake an illness and garner sympathy. The child’s condition improves when the parent is kept away. What sort of attention are these “GOP is dead in California” naysayers getting? Lots and lots. In addition, there’s been a flurry of movement from folks who want to start a new, third party in California to appeal to voters with common sense.

Leave aside for the moment the fact that creating a third party is a fiscal and organizational heavy lift in one state, let alone in 50. When I was asked to participate in one of those ventures, because I ran my campaign as a proponent of common sense, I said, “no thanks” because the only predictable result of such an operation is to remove all vestiges of opposition to the current untethered Democrat agenda in Sacramento.

Starting a third party or forging a “New Way” with the very people who’ve been pinching off the air supply of the state’s conservative voters for years isn’t a path to victory. I also happen to like being a member of the party that freed the slaves, stood for civil rights and didn’t inter Japanese Americans during World War II, but maybe that’s just me.

It sure feels like I’m alone sometimes in L.A., where most people think they don’t know any Republicans. In fact, there are more registered Republicans in Los Angeles County than in roughly 40 other states, but when the people leading our own team persist in calling us names, why would Republicans want to out themselves? The people who want to speak for us but who also think rank-and-file Republican voters are haters incapable of effectively defending our platform or positions are now super interested in the outcome of next week’s election for the chairmanship of the California Republican Party. Like the mother who fakes her child’s illness, they should be kept far away from the action.

Do the candidates for chairman think the California GOP is dead?

Jessica Patterson doesn’t think it is. “We will attract more voters when we expose the failures of liberal policies. Our students deserve better than the schools they’re in today. People should be able to afford a house to own or rent. Law enforcement officers should be respected, and entrepreneurs should be appreciated for the businesses they start and jobs they create. . . . I’m confident voters will respond positively.”

Travis Allen, another contender who ran for governor last year, saw firsthand the crowds of people who aren’t being represented in Sacramento. He says, “Many Californians have no one to speak for them. That’s why we need new, strong leadership in the GOP!”

Steve Frank is also campaigning to run the statewide party and points out the failure of the party is not in a message that voters don’t like, it’s in the lack of structure to get that message out. “We have over two dozen GOP County Central Committees that barely operate. Until we recognize our problems, admit them and fix them, the Republican Party in California will continue as a regional party, no longer a statewide party.”

Ouch. Frank is right, in a way. This is fixable, and while I’m sure that all the erstwhile centrist Republicans are nice people (I know and like former Assemblywoman Catherine Baker, for example), they aren’t being particularly helpful when they endorse the views of left-wing critics who call our voters racist, xenophobic extremists. Anyone worth his salt as a spokesperson for the independent-thinking citizens of California would point out that the things such “experts” claim killed the GOP in California—the propositions against illegal immigration, race-based admissions, and defining marriage—were all passed by healthy majorities of voters at times when Republicans were already well below half of the electorate.

Yes, Virginia, there is a California Republican Party, and I don’t think it’s dead. Real candidates on the hustings don’t think it’s dead, either. Republican Brandon Saario is one of several people running to replace L.A. City Councilman Mitch Englander, who was the only registered Republican in the group of nonpartisan officeholders. Saario sees plenty of contempt on the part of voters,  for the City Council specifically. “I haven’t had a single voter say anything negative to me because of my party affiliation.” Of course, he’s running in an area with slightly more Republican registration than I did.

My experience, however, proved to me that being present meant the world to voters, many of whom said I was the first Republican they’d ever voted for. You don’t need to be a Republican to vote for one, of course, and that’s where the Munchausen’s Syndrome crowd is doing the most harm. We need to play a game of addition, not of subtraction. As a voter named Louise wrote to me, “It was fun getting to know you and your platform last year! While I am a registered Independent, I always lean to the right it seems. God, Constitution, Family, Law and Order and so much more!  Republicans need to blow their horn more” (emphasis added). This doesn’t square with the calls for changing our tune.

We all know that the healthiest political color is purple. (Second best is red—no one is fleeing Texas.) So do us a favor, GOP consultants who want to hasten the death of the party, please leave us be. According to the Cleveland Clinic, only removing the child or other victim from the care of the person with “Factitious Disorder Imposed on Another” or FDIA  (the new, less colorful name for Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy) can prevent further harm to the victim. If you’d like to become a Democrat like Brian Maienschein, feel free to do so. Otherwise, stop imposing your disorders on our party. All parties can overreach, of course, but I’ll stick with the party that when it goes too far, does so on the side of freedom.

Photo Credit: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

California • Center for American Greatness • Environment • Post • Progressivism

Is Gavin Newsom California’s Denier-in-Chief?

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California’s newly elected governor, Gavin Newsom, gave his first “state of the state” address on February 12, and it was a speech more noteworthy for what he didn’t than for what he did mention. Were Newsom’s sins of omission the conscious choice of a seasoned politician, or is he in denial, like so many of his California leftist cohorts?

Before criticizing the content, and the omissions, of Newsom’s speech, it’s necessary to make something clear: Nobody can deny California’s accomplishments; its great universities; its vibrant, diverse industries; its global economic and cultural influence. But California’s accomplishments are in spite of its state government, not because of it. That cannot be emphasized enough.

Newsom began by saying Californians had to make “tough calls” on the issues of transportation, water, energy, migrants, the homeless, healthcare, and the cost-of-living. He proceeded next to make no tough calls.

Forget About Fixing Roads, Let’s Build Half a Bullet-Train
With respect to transportation, Newsom made no mention of California’s crumbling, clogged freeways and connector roads. To be fair to Newsom, when you don’t have to commute day after day during rush hour—and even when you do drive, you have a driver so you can sit in the back seat of a very quiet, very smooth ride, and conduct teleconferences—you don’t really think about “roads” the same way the rest of us do. So understandably, Newsom chose to talk about high speed rail, and even on that topic, he hedged his bets. He proclaimed the project would cost too much and take too long to build a track from Sacramento all the way to San Diego, or even from San Francisco to Los Angeles. Instead he committed to focusing on completing the track from Merced to Bakersfield, where work has already begun.

Is this denial? Or just the out-of-touch priorities of an extremely wealthy man who doesn’t have to drive? Merced? To Bakersfield? Along the entire 163 mile stretch between these two cities, including everyone living in all the five surrounding counties, there are only 2.8 million people. How much will that cost? $10 billion? $20 billion (more likely)? Has Newsom considered how much highway improvement could be done with all that money? For that matter, might we ask the voters of Fresno and Kern counties, as if all that money should be spent there—“would you rather have $20 billion spent on road improvements, or that train?” Or are we afraid of the answer? Does Gavin Newsom understand that even if high-speed rail were built in all its original scope, it would still do virtually nothing to ameliorate California’s transportation challenges, which can only be solved by building new roads and widening existing roads?

Forget About Increasing Water Supply, Let’s Build Half of the “Twin Tunnels”
On the issue of water, Newsom also split the difference on what promises to be California’s second biggest infrastructure money pit after high-speed rail. That would be the two proposed “delta tunnels” that would transport runoff from Northern California, under the Sacramento River Delta, and onward to thirsty farms and cities in arid Southern California. But the governor didn’t call for two tunnels, nor did he kill the project. Like Solomon, Newsom is going to give the “water fix” advocates half of their baby. He wants to build one tunnel.

Newsom correctly stated that demand for water exceeds supply in California, but he was firmly in denial as to the solution, which is to create more supply. For the cost of even just one delta tunnel, massive desalination plants could be constructed on the Southern California coast. Those facilities, combined with runoff capture and sewage reuse projects throughout California’s coastal cities, could make them water independent. Seismic upgrades to levees along with new fish hatcheries could preserve cost-effective, environmentally acceptable movement of northern water to southern customers through the delta, something that’s worked for decades. And more storage via new off-stream reservoirs, aquifer recharge, and raising the Shasta Dam would supply additional millions of acre feet. Instead? A tunnel that will cost at least $20 billion, and add zero water to California’s annual supply.

Never Mind the Shortages We Created, Let’s Invite the World to Migrate Here
California’s politically sacred mission these days, of course, is to invite the migrants of the world to settle here. Newsom didn’t disappoint his crowd, trotting out dubious statistics to prove that undocumented immigration is a “manufactured problem.” But again, Newsom is denying the big picture: If California rolls out the welcome mat for the destitute masses of the world, where does it end? There’s good, accurate data available on this.

More than 800 million people in the world live in extreme poverty—defined as living on less than two dollars per day. What about Latin Americans, who according to Newsom’s equally photogenic counterpart in the U.S. Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), “must be exempt from immigration laws because they are ‘native’ to U.S. lands”? Over 150 million Latin Americans live on less than $4 per day. Hundreds of additional millions of Latin Americans struggle economically. Why not form “caravans” to bring them all here? Newsom, along with the entire California Legislature, will cheer them on and let them in, no matter what the cost.

As it is, currently 2.6 million undocumented immigrants live in California. Even the liberal website politifact.com acknowledges that 55 percent of immigrant households in California benefit from welfare, with their only supposedly debunking caveat being that some of these households have U.S. born children. Other recent studies put the California total as high as 72 percent. There is a cost to Californians for all this, estimated as high as $25 billion per year, so where does Gov. Newsom draw the line? Three million more migrants? Five million? Ten million? One hundred million? Or is he in denial?

And What About Those Politically Created Shortages?
Newsom mentioned “overcrowded classrooms,” and talked about “too much demand, too little supply” for housing. But his solution for education was, what a surprise, more money and “accountability for all public schools, traditional and charters” (a slap at the charter schools, well received based on the applause from the union-controlled audience). Newsom remained in denial as to the real reason California’s public schools are failing, the fact that teaching professionals have been unionized, and the unions have used the dues revenue to exercise nearly absolute control over state and local politicians. Thanks to the teachers union, bipartisan reforms to union work rules (dismissal policies, layoff criteria, lengthened tenure) are watered down or completely squelched, and charter schools are under constant attack.

As the old cornball adage goes, denial ain’t just a river in Egypt, Gov. Newsom. Public sector unions destroyed public education in California. Do something about that, if your thousand watt compassionate smile is doing anything more than hiding a vacuous brain, guiding a feckless, morally indifferent human, attracted to nothing more than publicity, power, money, and beautiful women. That’s probably an overly harsh, unfair and inaccurate assessment of the Governor. So maybe he will silence his skeptics, by doing something that takes actual courage. Take on the teachers union. Don’t talk about it. Fight them. Fight them tooth and nail. Fight them on the beaches. Fight them in the streets. Fight them in the hills. Never give up.

Wasn’t Newsom’s campaign slogan “courage for change”? Offer that slogan, but nothing else, to the semi-literate, totally innumerate, thoroughly indoctrinated products of California’s public schools, and see how much good it does. They are the victims of the teachers unions. They need courage from the Governor. Not a pretty face. Not a pretty phrase.

Newsom’s solution for the housing shortage, so far, is to sue cities and counties that won’t build government subsidized “affordable housing.” But “affordable housing” is never affordable, and everyone knows that by now. It’s just a money tree for connected developers. To make homes “affordable” doesn’t have to cost taxpayers a dime. Just deregulate the private housing industry, making it easier to develop land. Then, strip away the overreaching design mandates that turn ordinary homes and apartments into hermetically sealed, stupefyingly expensive, miniature Borg cubes with embedded, connected chips in everything from the toilets to the coffeemaker, festooned with phony “gingerbread” eaves and trim that some marketing department tested with focus groups.

Newsom, to his credit, did mention the need to modify the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), an absurdly intrusive law that is a gold mine for trial lawyers and unions who use it to stop land development in its tracks. But his solution? Turning CEQA reform over to a task force consisting of union officials and large home developers.

Newsflash, Gov. Newsom! Union officials and large home developers won’t benefit from CEQA reform, so they won’t come up with anything useful. They like CEQA just the way it is. Because CEQA is the reason the median home price in California is $547,400. That is an absolutely obscene amount for anyone to have to pay for a home. But it further enriches the billionaire land developers who have the political clout and financial heft to withstand the avalanche of CEQA lawsuits and regulatory hurdles. Who is harmed by CEQA? The average Joe who owns ten acres and knows a building contractor. Those guys can only dream of meaningful CEQA reform. Better yet, they should move to Texas which is still open for business. Or, that is, move to Texas before Gov. Newsom’s other photogenic counterpart, “Beto,” and his gang of Leftists with a twang, manage to turn that state into another California.

Charisma Can’t Make Up for Denial, But Redemption is Possible
On every topic, Newsom’s theme was at least consistent. Let’s be tough, let’s be honest, let’s do our duty to ALL Californians. But he wasn’t tough, and he wasn’t honestly choosing the right questions to ask, so it’s hard to see how he was doing his duty to all Californians. And for a man leading the biggest state in the United States, who could very well end up being inaugurated as the next U.S. President in January 2024, we need more. Much more. Here are three topics of bipartisan urgency that Newsom should have, but didn’t touch.

He didn’t talk about how on the next economic downturn, state and local public employee pensions are poised to bankrupt half of California’s cities and counties and totally blow up the state budget.

He didn’t talk about how California’s public employee unions have formed a coalition with extreme environmentalists and Leftist billionaires to stop all development of land and energy in order to create an asset bubble that benefits public coffers and private investments while screwing everyone else.

He didn’t talk about how, even if you believe all the alarmist hyperbole regarding climate change, you can’t possibly go “carbon free” without more hydro-electric and nuclear power.

Newsom’s mannerisms might remind one of Chris Collinsworth, a tall and well-liked sportscaster who talks with a perpetual smile on his face. But Newsom isn’t a sportscaster. He’s presiding over a state—with 40 million people and “the fifth largest economy on earth”—that has been taken over by a gang of money grubbing, power-mad, opportunistic, platitude-spewing con artists.

If Newsom’s intentions are half as benevolent as that compassionate smile of his tells us they are, and if his “courage for change” is sincere, then here’s another way he can redeem himself in the eyes of his skeptics. He can live the life that his political comrades have imposed on California’s hardest working residents. Instead of moving into a 12,000-square-foot mansion, located on an eight acre compound in one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in Sacramento County, Newsom should move his family into one of those California median priced $547,400 homes, situated on a 3,200 square foot lot, surrounded by other homes on 3,200-square-foot lots, and send his four children to a public school.

Redemption is good for the soul, so there’s more: for Newsom to fully live the California dream, and prove he cares about “ALL Californians,” he should give his personal wealth away to charity—or better yet, send it to the CalPERS public employee pension fund because they’re going after every dime they can get their hands on. Then, Newsom should cut his governor’s pay to $71,805, which is California’s median household income, and refuse all outside honorariums and fees. And he should do this not for two weeks to make a statement, or even for the next four years. He should do this for the rest of his life.

He would be in denial no longer.

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: Anda Chu/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images

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California • Democrats • Donald Trump • Identity Politics • Immigration • Infrastructure • Post

‘Immoral’ Wall Talk is Just Code for Open Borders

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Benjamin Franklin, one of the great intellects of America’s Federal Period, observed, “Love your neighbor; yet don’t pull down your hedge.” In other words, barriers to delineate borders are important—not “immoral,” as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would have us believe.

In spite of the inanity and incorrectness of Pelosi’s characterization, apparently it has been adopted as a talking point among more radical congressional Democrats, who dutifully repeat it whenever they’re within 30 feet of a microphone.

Taken to its logical extreme, fences, doors, and gates are immoral because they deny entry to other, equally deserving souls. Of course, this is reductio ad absurdum, taking an idea to its logical, yet ridiculous, conclusion. After all, even the Speaker shouldn’t have to allow anybody to walk in off the street and into her house. Or should she?

Let’s examine the moral implications of the two situations. The migrants are looking for better economic circumstances, which include shelter and sustenance. Doesn’t the homeless person walking past Pelosi’s house have the same needs? Both the migrants and the homeless face heightened risks due to crime. (For that matter, so do poor people who must live in bad neighborhoods, due to the cost of housing.) Both populations want to live free from fear.

The major difference between these two situations is that, especially in Pelosi’s San Francisco, there are extensive, government-provided social services to help our citizens. Many U.S. locales, including the Speaker’s, have even extended a number of those services to illegal non-citizens who have already penetrated our borders.

Therefore, to be morally consistent, should not Pelosi favor extending much of this social safety net to citizens of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico, among the many others who aspire to cross our borders? (That would be reductio ad absurdum, again, except it is actually what we do, but in the form of foreign aid to corrupt and ineffective governments; the worst of both worlds.) After all, why reward those who break our laws (illegal migrants), but not those preferring a legal path to entry?

But if morality demands that we subsidize all the poor here, as well as those who might want to come here, is that not effectively declaring the border irrelevant to begin with? And how can the wall per se be the culprit? For how can a wall be immoral while border agents, drones, electronic sensors, and legal entry restrictions are posited by Pelosi as moral and lawful? That would be a mockery of morality.

To be consistent, therefore, the Pelosi version of morality should demand the erasure of borders and of allowing people to flow where resources are most plentiful and available. The logical result of that would be the depletion of resources by a rapidly increasing population until there is no longer an abundance of resources and largess to attract new entrants. This is analogous to locusts consuming a field of crops and moving on to the next. It implies that farmers who abandon their crops to locusts are the most moral of beings. Reductio ad absurdum, again.

It is interesting to ponder in the open-border scenario the morality of the impact on current citizens, a debate best left for another time. As a practical matter, with the exception of a few dozen House Democrats, the concept of open borders is politically unpalatable and untenable. Hence, a misdirection to “the immoral wall.”

Rejoining the real world from Planet Pelosi, perhaps it is appropriate to discuss what might be thought of as surrogates, or more limited alternatives, to open borders. One possibility would be to grant green cards to any family that can find a citizen willing to sign a binding contract to support them for their first five years in the United States. That should afford them adequate time to become independent and productive, and to learn English (after all, much of the world accords a priority to learning our language). It would not burden non-consenting citizens with the costs of immigration. (We offer that option merely for discussion, not to endorse it.)

Another option to avoid resource depletion would be to focus immigration on the highly skilled, who could readily support themselves and a family at the outset.

We confess that the previous sentence was a sort of trap: We already do that, of course. But maybe not enough. What we do know is that it works. But clearly surrogates are not enough for Speaker Pelosi and her band of radicals.

By resorting to the concept of morality and its logical corollary of open borders, Pelosi and her pals are opening Pandora’s Box. We would remind them of a simple truth: The richest societies tend to attract the poorest immigrants. Human nature seeks more than minimal advancement. Consider that the migrants populating the U.S.-bound “caravans” from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are not trying their luck in more prosperous nearby countries such as Costa Rica or Panama, and they are declining asylum in Mexico. They are bound for the great economic colossus of the United States.

The bottom line: Talk of an “immoral wall” is politician-speak for open borders, whether in her heart of hearts that’s what Speaker Pelosi really wants.

Photo Credit: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

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California • Center for American Greatness • Infrastructure • Post • Progressivism • The Culture

How to Make It Home in California: Rules for the Modern Odysseus

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I drove back from San Francisco not long ago to the rural San Joaquin Valley. It is only 200 miles. But in fact, it can feel like Odysseus trying to get back home to Ithaca from Troy.

Walking to the car in San Francisco was an early morning obstacle course dotted with the occasional human feces and lots of trash. The streets looked like Troy after its sacking. Verbal and physical altercations among the homeless offered background. The sidewalks were sort of like the flotsam and jetsam in the caves of the Cyclopes, with who knows what the ingredients really were. Outbreaks of hepatitis and typhus are now common among the refuse of California’s major cities.

The rules of the road in downtown San Francisco can seem pre-civilizational: the more law-abiding driver is considered timid and someone to be taken advantage of—while the more reckless earns respect and right of way. Pedestrians have achieved the weird deterrent effect of so pouring out onto the street in such numbers that drivers not walkers seemed the more terrified.

The 101 freeway southbound was entirely blocked by traffic—sort of like the ancient doldrums where ships don’t move. About 20 percent of the cars in the carpool lane seemed to be cheating—and were determined not to let in any more of like kind. The problem with talking on the phone and texting while driving is not just cars, but also semi-trucks, whose drivers go over the white line and weave as they please on the theory that no one argues with 20 tons of freight.

The trip can take over three hours in theory and often longer than six hours in practice. The rub is not just traffic. Road repair and expansion shuts down lanes (ironically replete with large signs bragging that the construction is proof of your tax dollars at work), often without little warning or guidance. Service stations along the way are usually overcrowded. Some of their restrooms also are premodern. I once stopped in one that had no toilet seat, one handle remaining on the water fixtures, no toilet paper, but plenty of unmentionables on the floor. In California, you sometimes request a key to enjoy the privilege of using such hospitality.

Last week I stopped at a quick stop and held the door open for a customer behind me, whose thanks was, “What the f— you looking at?” And I had deliberately not studied his roadmap of tattoos.

It is easy to catalogue the detritus alongside our green state’s highways—you see everything from shredded tires to car seats, plastic bags of trash, and abandoned cars. When I go cross country from I-5 to the 99 on two-lane roads, cross-traffic at stop signs will 10 percent of the time run the stop sign, and 20 percent make only a rolling stop. The Highway Patrol seems to pull over more and more upscale and new cars. Are those the most likely speeders, or it is a waste of time to write up tickets to those who do not have the visible means of paying fines, given California’s recent generous ticket amnesties?

How to Make it to Ithaca
For the California driver in the age of the post-apocalypse, the rules of the road and getting home are obvious.

1) Assume that a state with among the highest income, sales and gas taxes has commensurately among the nation’s worst roads. Therefore, do not become depressed by blood alleys, potholes, bullet-holed and graffiti stained road signs, or roads unchanged from a half-century ago when the population was less than half of what it is today. You are an adventurer on the frontier, not a complacent commuter or traveler. Approach the next few hours as a challenge rather than a nightmare. Envision a California road trip like Odysseus did his on voyage on the Aegean.

2) It is wiser not to use the restrooms on any California cross-country drive. Excrement can be many places other than in the toilet. Also, fill up before starting. Don’t count on finding gas stations that are not overcrowded or have all their pumps working—even the ones with national affiliations that look as inviting from the off-ramp as Circe’s smile.

My favorite is one where all the tiny glass windows at the pumps where the electronic instructions guide you are either broken or scratched out. My second favorite one was where the pump had no hose and no sign saying it had no hose. In California, you often fill up by holding the pump handle down nonstop, given the automatic levers are broken or missing. A state law requires emergency free air and water services for all gas station customers; perhaps because it’s mandatory, the air and water dispensers usually do not work.

3) Assume “Mad Max” conditions at any time. Contraptions can pose as vehicles in the most regulated vehicle state in the nation (there is a reason why the California DMV is dysfunctional). Cars can still tow each other, 1950s-style, with sagging rope. Expect a piece of lumber or a mattress to go Frisbee on every other trip. Anticipate that a quarter of the drivers have bad brakes, worse tires, and ignore or cannot read signs and posted warnings. The person who passes you at 90 miles per hour likely does not have a license, or registration, or insurance—or, perhaps, any of the three.

Remember that you will encounter pre-civilizational Laestrygonians at any moment who can cut you off, ram you from the rear, sideswipe you, slam on the brakes without warning, or as Lotus-eaters simply fall asleep or doze off in a drunken stupor. Recall that you are driving in a state of 40 million with roads designed for 20 million.

When passing or being passed, please do not look at the passed car—at least if it is one of the few without blacked out windows. If you do, the driver will speed up or cut you off. If you are sideswiped or hit in an intersection, expect that there is a 25 percent chance the offender will leave the scene of the accident (about half of all collisions in Los Angeles are hit-and-run).

4) Another percentage of the drivers seems incensed at the decline of their once Golden State, and they drive in a fit of controlled road rage. Yet an accidental cut-off, parking too close to their bumpers at a gas station, or expecting to be let in on a merging on-ramp—any of these scenarios trigger an Old West stand-off.

The story of California is not just that large percentages of Californians ignore the law, but rather that those who are law-abiding seem in a spasm of fury that they alone do honor the law, and they can be just as touchy in an accidental encounter. Consider them like Odysseus’s own crew: good people who are crazed by the long way home, and whose behavior cannot any longer be predicted. In their defense, they are not paranoid: remember that none of Odysseus’s crew made it to Ithaca.

5) Unfortunately, if you must stop and get out of the car, do not talk, smile, or chat with strangers. Consider them Sirens, Circes, and Calypsos who are not what they first seem. Watch especially the smiling guy (if you are unwise to stop to fill up) who approaches you with a melodious, “Hey, bro, how about a five?” Thousands of felons have been released from California jails and prisons. Millions over the last decades have arrived illegally from foreign countries. You know as much about them as Odysseus did the residents he encountered in North Africa or Sicily. So there is some likelihood of encountering a felon or criminal or someone who has no idea of U.S. customs and protocols at some point on your odyssey homeward.

6) Do not drive a “nice” car. Thieves may case it wherever you park. It will also draw the attention of a revenue hungry Highway Patrol on the road. Even when stationary, a Lexus or Mercedes provokes the state’s envious. Or it simply will be far too expensive to register or repair or insure because of those reasons and more. Remember, it is hard not to be dented if you drive a lot cross country. A seven-year old or more Toyota or Honda is the make to get you home.

7) Do not trust a GPS navigation system on California roads. The highways are so frequently under construction, or poorly maintained or inadequately mapped, that any computerized directions will eventually mislead at best and send you in circles at worst. California’s GPS is your Aeolus’s bag of the winds—but after they are all released and blow in all directions. In California, if you drive north or south, you can get home with delays; but if east or west, all bets are off.

8) Do not drive if possible in the fog or snow. Pull over if raining heavily. Californians demand year-round warm, clear, and dry weather. They have no expertise in adverse conditions—and no desire to learn. They drive in ice and fog at speeds as if they have radar—which they don’t. Hydroplaning is never considered. When signs say “chains required” it translates into oncoming twentysomethings in two-wheel light cars without chains or mud tires, spinning into your lane. My favorites are those who speed to 60 miles per hour in dense tule fog, honk or blink at you to speed up, pass, and then nearly stall in front of you in sudden whiteout fright.

9) Avoid driving after 10 p.m., the start of zombie time. Drivers appear then who are often inept, texting, or young. Even the more sober use the night hours to speed and make rolling stops. Still assume a quarter of the drivers are intoxicated or high: the intoxicated weave over the white line; the stoned radically change speeds without warning as they go in and out of awareness. Roads are so poorly maintained that even state construction sites often lack proper nocturnal warnings and you can be easily sucked into an open trench of a manmade Charybdis, or collide with cement and rebar—the sorts of liabilities that would get any private builder quickly sued.

California roads are dark at night, given that about a quarter of all freeway and intersection lights do not work, due either to poor maintenance or to copper wire thieves who have dethreaded them. At night please do not pull over, unless you wish to be in Scylla’s reach, and thus prey of some sort to a few people who will have a sudden interest in you.

10) Under no circumstances honk, flip off, or roll down the window at a wild and reckless California driver. Usually he is wild and reckless because he knows that California courts, from past experience, consider him a bad deal: he has no cash for fines, but incurs lots of costs to fine, jail, and lockup. The result is that he thinks he has nothing to lose and you the random passerby everything. And he reckons that the police agree. He is confident that his Laestrygonian California is the future, yours of the polis its past. And he may be right.

If you make it to Ithaca, expect, like Odysseus, that even then you are not quite home yet, given there are always surprises to come from your absence . . .

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Photo Credit: David McNew/Getty Images

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