The Most Crucial Small Business Saturday is Coming

Photo by Richard Balog on Unsplash

Small Business Saturday on November 28 is this event’s most important in its 11-year history because of what the pandemic has done to small businesses and their workers. Now with an upsurge in coronavirus cases and potential stiff business restrictions imposed by California governments, it is more important than ever to support small businesses during this holiday shopping season. 

It is no exaggeration to say that shopping at small businesses this season could mean an open or closed sign on the door of many neighborhood businesses as the new year begins. 

In an American Express Shop Small Impact study it was revealed that 75% of small business owners need holiday spending to return to normal so they can stay in business in 2021. Nearly half said they need better than average spending to survive. 

Small business is not only the backbone of the state and national economy—that is pretty well agreed upon by economists—but in this time of extraordinary health and economic crisis small business is the measuring stick for job and business recovery. Big business has the resources to weather the Covid-19 storm. But if small business shows signs of life, it will be like new blades of grass poking through the turf telling us brighter, warmer days are ahead. 

The biggest incentive to shop small is that you are not only helping to keep small businesses operating, you are making your community stronger. When you purchase a product or service at a local store or restaurant, you are helping to pay the salary of a neighbor, a friend or a family member. You are helping to keep the people in your town or city employed so that they can support their families. Most importantly, you are demonstrating the value that you place on the small-business people who, by providing you and your community with incomparable products and services, work hard to keep your trust each and every day. 

Instead of dealing with temporary workers who don’t know the merchandise, there’s a good chance you’ll be dealing directly with the mom-and-pop owner and staff who care very much about making you happy. They want you to come back time and again. 

You’ve always appreciated that small business or near-by restaurant being there—now that neighborhood business needs you. 

The economic stimulus package that helped keep small businesses alive during the initial advance of the virus is gone. A new stimulus package may or may not be available as the virus shows its sharp teeth again over the winter months. That’s why small business needs customer support to carry on until that day we are all praying for when there is a return to normalcy. 

Small businesses follow health care protocols for social distancing, mask requirements, and clean up. But there are other ways to patronize a local business that doesn’t require an in-person visit. Consider shopping online at a small business’ website, order a gift card for future use, or have products or food delivered by delivery app services. 

Covid-19 has made the positive life enjoyed by your neighbors in small businesses a very difficult challenge. Let’s join together this holiday season by helping to uplift our communities’ spirits by keeping those core neighborhood small businesses operating. 

It all starts this Saturday. Be there!

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

Three Healthcare Achievements To Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. It may seem hard to believe, but even in this year unlike any other, there’s still plenty to be thankful for—including some notable developments in healthcare policy.

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1. Individual health insurance premiums have stabilized and declined.

Open enrollment on the HealthCare.gov exchanges run by the federal government goes through December 15. In some states, open enrollment is even longer. California, for instance, allows people to sign up through its Covered California exchange through January 31.

When people log on to shop for a plan, they may be pleasantly surprised at what they find.

President Trump may have spent much of his presidency lobbying for Obamacare’s repeal. But on his watch, premiums for exchange plans decreased for three straight years. Next year, premiums for “benchmark” plans will fall 2%. That’s a decline to $379 a month for a 27-year-old, from $389 a month last year. For a family of four, that plan will run $1,486 in 2021, compared to $1,524 last year.

Since 2018, average monthly premiums for that benchmark plan have dropped almost 8% for our hypothetical 27-year-old—and 6.5% for our family of four. That’s equivalent to $32 a month in savings for the twentysomething—and $104 a month in savings for the family.

Competition is helping to drive these lower prices. More insurance companies than ever are now participating in the exchanges. Just 4% of enrollees will have only one plan choice this open enrollment, down from 29% in 2018.

2. It’s easier to access affordable health coverage.

Because of the pandemic-induced economic crisis, millions of people lost their jobs—and with them, their employer-sponsored health insurance. But thanks to several actions taken by the Trump administration pre-pandemic, they have access to more affordable health insurance options than under the Obama administration.

Consider short-term, limited-duration health plans. They aren’t subject to Obamacare’s cost-inflating regulations and mandates, so they’re less expensive than what’s for sale on the exchanges.

In 2018, the Trump administration expanded the maximum duration of a short-term plan from three months to 12 months. And it allowed insurers to renew the coverage for up to three years.

Those moves have made short-term plans a viable alternative to conventional exchange coverage in the 22 states where they’re available on the terms promulgated by the Trump administration. Other states have implemented more stringent regulations that blunt short-term plans’ impact.

A healthy 30-year-old in Atlanta can buy a mid-level short-term plan for $250 a month, nearly 50% less than the $467 a month a similar plan costs on the Obamacare exchange. A 60-year-old smoker in Atlanta could get a short-term plan for $888 a month; the comparable exchange plan is 27% more expansive, at $1,227 a month.

Workers can also be thankful for the expansion of health reimbursement arrangements, or HRAs. Employers have long been able to deposit untaxed dollars into HRAs for their employees to use for out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. In 2019, the Trump administration finalized a rule effective January 1, 2020, that allows employees to use HRA funds to purchase individual coverage that they would then own personally.

This could have huge implications for the health insurance market. Employers could re-assert some level of control over their health insurance expenditures. Rather than spending ever-greater amounts on employer-sponsored coverage and having to manage benefits programs themselves, they can commit to a defined contribution toward each employee’s health insurance.

Workers, meanwhile, could choose plans that work for them, rather than their employers. Because they’d control their healthcare dollars, they’d have a strong incentive to shop around for the best deal. And with an army of potential customers entering the individual market with HRA dollars to spend, insurers would surely ramp up their offerings to meet that demand. Such competition would result in lower prices and better quality.

The Trump administration expects 11.4 million Americans to secure individual coverage using HRAs by 2029.

3. Covid-19 vaccines will soon get us out of this pandemic.

Last week, Pfizer PFE -0.6% and Moderna revealed that their vaccine candidates are about 95% effective. Pfizer announced on November 20 that it had applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA. If granted, the authorization could allow the company to begin distributing vaccines in December.

The end of the pandemic now appears in sight. In the meantime, therapeutic treatments are saving the lives of people who contract the virus. Earlier this month, the FDA gave emergency authorization to bamlanivimab, an antibody therapy from Eli Lilly LLY -2% that has been shown to prevent hospitalizations and reduce Covid-19 symptoms if administered early on.

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Thanksgiving may be a little more subdued this year. But for those who follow health policy and are invested in making healthcare more affordable and of higher quality, there is indeed reason to be thankful.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Garcetti’s signature homeless program shelters thousands, but most return to the streets

In the spring of 2018, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti put his personal stamp on the city’s response to homelessness by announcing a departure from its primary focus of building permanent housing. Garcetti proposed to open a homeless shelter in each of L.A.’s 15 council districts.

Garcetti has largely made good on that goal, defying the skepticism that greeted his plan, called A Bridge Home. Rallying council members to the cause and making deals for public and private land from San Pedro to Canoga Park, the mayor has opened at least one shelter in all but one council district. So far, 20 are up and running and five more are nearing completion. By early next year they will have added nearly 2,000 new shelter beds to the city’s inventory.

But a Times review shows that Garcetti’s signature homelessness program, which has cost about $200 million, has had less success living up to its promise to move people on the streets into permanent housing and improve the communities around the shelters with enhanced policing and increased sanitation services. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Prioritizing Small Business in California

“Taxes on capital, taxes on labor, inflation, bureaucratic regulation, minimum wage laws, are all – to different degrees – unnecessary slices of the wedge that stand between an individual’s effort and reward for that effort.” – Jack Kemp

During Governor Newsom’s November 16th press conference, where he announced that he would pull the “emergency brake” in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and plunge almost all of California’s population back into the most restrictive tier, the Governor made a special effort to acknowledge the plight of small businesses. He explained that the coronavirus-wracked economy threatened the hopes, dreams and livelihoods of California’s entrepreneurs, and he pledged that the top priority of his January budget would be to “support our small businesses that are trying their best to weather this storm.”

This focus on supporting the state’s small businesses is much needed. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey (collected between November 9th and November 15th), 51.4 percent of California small businesses believe it will take more than 6 months before they return to their normal level of operations. Moreover, 2.3 percent of California small businesses have closed permanently while another 5.9 percent expect to permanently close in the next 6 months.

But is the state budget really the best vehicle with which to help California’s 4.1 million small businesses? In the current budget year, 91 percent of California’s $133.9 billion in General Fund expenditures is locked into spending on education, health and human services, and corrections, so there is not a lot left to repurpose. And while the Legislative Analyst’s Office recently reported that state tax collections are running $11 billion above projections, legislative leaders have already signaled that this revenue should be used to restore cuts to universities and state worker pay made in this year’s budget.

Consequently, any financial assistance from the budget, while certainly welcome, necessarily would be limited given already existing claims on state resources. As a case in point, the Governor just announced the launch of a rather small California Rebuilding Fund – involving “a $25 million anchor commitment and $50 million guarantee allocation from the California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank” – intended to help the state’s smallest businesses.

If Gov. Newsom cannot help small businesses financially, he would do better to find other ways to support them. The most obvious action would be to allow them to operate and generate revenue by returning counties responsibly to less restrictive tiers. After all, the recent spike in coronavirus cases in the state has more to do with social gatherings than indoor shopping, gyms or other business activities.

Short of this, the Governor could look to more creative ways. Unfortunately his Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, which released its final report on November 20th, provides little actionable guidance. Here is the entirety of the Task Force’s recommendations for helping small businesses: “Expand Support and Provide Flexibility to Small Businesses – California should build on the impactful efforts to support small businesses, especially those owned by women and people of color and operating in economically distressed areas. Small businesses are the cornerstone for economic growth, and we must recognize that, in order to invest in our communities, we must invest in the people who make them vibrant.”

Amen to that.

Thankfully, the National Federation of Independent Business regularly surveys small businesses about their problems and priorities, and its July 2020 survey could spark some useful ideas for Gov. Newsom to pursue. Asked to rank 75 individual issues, California small businesses cited the following as their top five (in order): Cost of Health Insurance, Unreasonable Government Regulations, State Taxes on Business Income, Federal Taxes on Business Income, and State/Local Paperwork. While the Governor might not be able to influence the cost of health insurance or federal taxes on business income, he certainly can affect the other three.

Take unreasonable government regulations as an example. Gov. Newsom could provide flexibility to independent contractors and gig workers by leading the charge to repeal AB 5. Now that California voters have approved Proposition 22, a few hundred thousand ride-hail and delivery drivers join independent truck drivers and workers from dozens of favored industries as being exempt from the requirements of AB 5. That leaves the remaining independent contractors and gig workers – those without the political connections needed to obtain an exemption – facing an uneven playing field in the marketplace.

By prioritizing the removal of bureaucratic regulations like AB 5, as well as taxes on capital and taxes on labor, Gov. Newsom can truly support California’s entrepreneurs and help them survive the pandemic. After all, these are unnecessary slices of the wedge that stand between an individual’s effort and reward for that effort.

Dr. Justin L. Adams is the President and Chief Economist of Encina Advisors, LLC, a Davis-based economics research and analysis firm.

Liberal Press Intensifies War on Suburbs

While conservatives routinely, and accurately, characterize the establishment media in America as being profoundly biased both against President Trump and, more significantly, biased against everything that is even slightly right-of-center, they don’t generally consume this media. Because it is inescapable, they’ll see an example of liberal media bias here and there, find it frustrating, and move on to One America News or the Epoch Times, or their favorite conservatives on Twitter.

This is a mistake. The major networks and the major newspapers don’t just relentlessly poke at President Trump, they reinforce—also relentlessly—every piety and supposed axiom and premise of leftist ideology. Right-of-center people need to be aware of this and understand how it works.

Another powerful example of media bias is found in America’s major cultural magazines: The New YorkerVanity FairThe Atlantic, and New York magazine. Now routinely including feature-length articles on every conceivable public policy issue, these magazines hammer away, establishing certain truths as “beyond debate” where, in reality, there needs to be impassioned debate. The cumulative impact of these articles is a leftist intelligentsia in America that is increasingly closed-minded about an expanding array of issues.

“Suburbs” as Code

A recent article in New York exemplifies the degree to which partisan propaganda has replaced impartial analysis about what is a deceptively mundane issue. In the article’s subtitle in the print edition, “The System—Segregation and the suburbs,” the reader is already subjected to an editorial opinion. The implication is suburbs are inherently racist and unjustifiably segregated.

The cover photograph, of an elderly white man using a gasoline powered mower to cut his front lawn, adds additional context designed to subconsciously reinforce a political message: Old privileged white people live in suburbs, burning fossil fuel to mow their water-wasting lawns. The already indoctrinated will infer even more from this photograph: Who does this old man think he is? What does he contribute? Why is his life so comfortable when so many people are in need? How can we correct this injustice?

Writer Zak Cheney-Rice leads off by stating, “To really understand the suburbs as imagined by Donald Trump and Joe Biden, you first have to understand that neither of them is really talking about the suburbs. They are talking about segregation.” Got that? “Suburbs” is code for “segregation.”

Cheney-Rice goes on to claim that late in Trump’s campaign, the president fell back on appeals to racist suburbanites because he’d failed on the big issue which was to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Through his article, Cheney-Rice recites arguments that are no longer questioned in polite company: suburbs equate to “white housing exclusivity,” the origins of suburbs were “white flight,” suburbs are a sanitized way to achieve racial segregation, and in turn, segregation is “a means of resource accumulation and protection.”

Most of what Cheney-Rice argues, however, falls short when compared to facts and history.

To support his arguments regarding white flight and intentional segregation, Cheney-Rice has to reach back to the early 1960s. Nobody disputes that segregation was a reality back then, but “back then” was 60 years ago. The author uses Atlanta as a case study in white flight and segregated suburbs, but admits a few paragraphs later that Atlanta’s suburbs are now largely integrated.

And what about California’s suburbs? Most of them were built to accommodate new residents, as California’s population exploded during the 1960s and 1970s. Suburbs in California and throughout the American West were built because people liked living in detached homes with yards, and had absolutely nothing to do with “white flight.”

Big Progressive Lies

The problem with articles that perpetuate the myth that suburbs are inherently racist is that it can be used to justify extreme solutions that are ultimately counterproductive. As Trump repeatedly pointed out in his remarks on America’s suburbs, overall, they are already over one-third populated by ethnic minorities. And while the media never reported it honestly, Trump would always go on to say how everyone living in suburbs, including ethnic minorities, worked hard to achieve that lifestyle, and none of them want to see their quality of life destroyed.

The progressive war on suburbs is one of the biggest issues of our time because this war relies on two big lies—that suburbs are racist and that suburbs are ecologically unsustainable. By accepting these lies, we will not only lose our suburbs, we will lose, in all facets of our lives, our property rights, our prosperity, and our incentive to work and achieve.

Cheney-Rice is correct that not one, but two generations ago, there were still parts of America where institutionalized segregation existed. But what Cheney-Rice and like-minded progressives cite as evidence of racism today is disproportionate outcomes, which they fail to attribute to other causes such as broken homes, corrupt elected officials, public schools ruined by the teachers’ unions, and an overall culture—encouraged by the mainstream media—that devalues education and disrespects law and order. It is perfectly normal for anyone, white or black, to move out of low-income neighborhoods as soon as they can afford to do it. It has nothing to do with racism.

To be clear: Cheney-Rice, writing for New York, is only one voice in a coordinated media assault on suburbs. Here are just a few recent examples from The AtlanticNew York TimesWashington PostChicago TribuneLos Angeles TimesDetroit NewsBaltimore SunNBCAssociated PressBloomberg, and Time. It’s a bottomless pit of endless content, with one message: destroy the suburbs. If you object, you’re a racist.

The solutions that progressives are offering, especially when combined with the requirements of environmentalists, spell certain destruction for the suburbs. Basing their urban planning on the antiracist principle of “inclusion,” progressives intend to mandate subsidized housing in every suburb in America. In practice, this means that households where both parents work full time to have enough money to pay their mortgage and take care of their children, will find themselves with neighbors who don’t work, don’t have to get up early in the morning or quiet down and sleep at night, and who don’t have the same care of ownership for their homes.

Who Will Bear the Cost?

How much reasoning does it take, how many psychological studies, how many examples from history are necessary to convince progressives that when people don’t have to work for what they have, they don’t value their possessions with the same care as those who do have to work for everything they’ve got?

“Inclusive” zoning, designed to sprinkle subsidized housing through America’s suburbs, is a form of Communism. It has nothing to do with race. The question should not be, “are you a racist, or not?” The question should be “are you a Communist, or not?”

To pile on the misery that forced “desegregation” would impose on hard working suburbanites of all races, environmentalists have declared suburbs to be ecologically unsustainable. Consequently, they believe we cannot have any more of them. “Urban containment” is their mantra. This, too, does not get the attention it deserves from conservatives.

America’s population is projected to increase from just over 330 million today to more than 400 million by 2060. If the environmentalists have their way, all of that population growth will occur within the footprint of existing cities. Already, in a series of progressive/environmentalist legislation and ordinances passed at the state and regional levels, and spreading around the nation, officials are changing zoning laws to allow multi-family dwellings in neighborhoods that are currently single-family homes.

At this point, the role of libertarian enablers should be mentioned. Libertarians have an argument—not strong, but at least plausible—that owners of single-family homes should be able to do whatever they want with their property. This flies in the face of the zoning laws that everyone living in a neighborhood relied on when they invested their lifetime earnings into home ownership, but libertarians are purists.

How libertarians might adapt more productively to the conversation over urban planning is to first defend the right of owners of open land to develop their properties to build new suburbs, and then, and only then, defend the right of homeowners in existing suburbs to rezone their properties.

In any case, libertarians are not the enemy. They’re just confused. The real enemy is the Communists, hiding behind overblown, distorted ideals of anti-racism and environmental protection. And as these Communists destroy America’s suburbs, rest assured it won’t be the wealthy enclaves of rich liberal idealists that end up with subsidized apartment houses plopped next to mansions with spacious lots and manicured lawns. Those people can afford to litigate. As usual, it will be the hardest working Americans, the middle class of all colors, who will pay the price for progressive idiocy.

It is nearly impossible to counter adequately the agenda-driven misinformation that comes out of America’s establishment media, but their war on suburbs is a war that must be fought. Suburbs are not racist. They are not ecologically unsustainable. They are beautiful, and we need more of them.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Protests Against Gov. Newsom’s Curfew Throughout California

During the weekend, protests against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide California curfew were held throughout the state, drawing thousands to break the curfew.

The curfewwhich went into effect for 95% of the state starting on Saturday, was immediately met with resistance from citizens who opposed such an order, with many calling into question the legality of it and how it would be detrimental to family gatherings or other needs not covered by the curfew exceptions from 10 PM to 5 AM.

In Bakersfield and Fresno, crowds of about 100 each turned up. Many San Diegans opted for more smaller sporadic protests on street corners, with a group of about 50 protesting outside of Chico city Hall up north. A group of about 100 also protested in Redding.

However, many other areas had much larger protests, or protests outside of high-profile areas. Both Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti had large protests outside each of their residences. In the case of Garcetti’s protest on Sunday, the decision of LA County to shut down all outdoor restaurant business during the weekend also played a large factor.

The largest protest, of which more than 400 people attended, was held in Huntington Beach alongside the Pacific Coast Highway. The Huntington Beach protest, held by people calling themselves “Curfew Breakers” started at 10 P.M. Saturday, coinciding directly with the official start of the statewide curfew. …

Click here to read the full article from the California Globe

California’s Political Hypocrisy

California politicians must be bent on emulating Roman history. At the same time we have “Nero fiddling while Rome burns,” it’s also “bread and circuses for all.”

In Rome, the fat-cat elitist politicians knew that the people could riot and overthrow their aristocratic lives. To be able to maintain their comfortable lives required keeping the people fed well enough and distracted with grand entertainment – gladiator battles and chariot races. This appeased the people of Rome for periods of relative calm.

Events recently in California have demonstrated once again that too many politicians forget they are elected by the people, to represent the people. While it is evident that far too many of California’s elected politicians feel they are aristocracy, their bread and circuses only last so long, and appease so much.

Gov. Gavin Newsom was caught in recent weeks dining in Napa Valley at a large dinner party at the swanky French Laundry restaurant, violating his own COVID stay-at-home orders. Monday at his press briefing, he issued a duplicitous apology, arguing that Napa was in the orange, less restrictive of his lockdown tiers, and the party was outside… as if that minimized his personal breach.

Newsom smiled and smirked and even lied during his apology to the people, claiming the dinner party was outside. Photos taken by another guest dining at the French Laundry show that his large group was indeed indoors.

Within days of Newsom’s blatant violation of his own statewide lockdown orders, many state lawmakers headed to Maui for an annual conference hosted by the Independent Voter Project. We still aren’t sure how they bypassed the Hawaii 14-day quarantine all other travelers are ordered to follow.

By Friday, Gov. Newsom ordered 41 California counties back into the most restrictive of lockdowns, and a 30-day statewide 10:00PM curfew.

A political friend offered his own plan: “At 10:01 PM on Saturday, November 21, I’ll be going outside, waiving our Gadsden Flag, ringing a cowbell, and telling Governor French Laundry Newsom to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine.”

He suggested we start a state wide movement to do the same.  Everyone goes outside at 10:01 PM Saturday night Nov. 21st and tell the Governor “Covid This!”

We also learned this week that the RecallGavin2020 has a head of steam with 800,000 signatures gathered, and solid funders.

Many thought that the 4-5 month silence from the recall campaign meant it was stalled.

Au contraire… the recall busy bees had been quite productive, continuing to gather signatures. Top fundraisers joined the movement and secured important funding.

Just as with the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis, the ground game is as important as the big name backers and funders. It’s good to see both factions working together, as both are equally important.

Many think Gov. Newsom and his people were caught off-guard and totally flat-footed. The last governor who mocked recall attempts found himself on the receiving end of being tossed out of office and replaced by a Hollywood star.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Unnecessary State Reviews of COVID-19 Vaccines Could Delay Distribution

We are in the midst of a pandemic of historic proportions. COVID-19 has killed more than a quarter of a million Americans, caused pain and suffering to many more, damaged a thriving economy, and caused great public anxiety. And it promises to get worse before it gets better. The numbers of cases, the percentage of positive test results, and hospitalizations are all trending upwards. That bodes particularly ill as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach, tempting many of us into high-risk situations.

Relief seems to be on the horizon—however distant. Pfizer, a major producer of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines, in partnership with biotechnology company BioNTech, has just reported 95% efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccine, based on nearly complete data from their late-stage (Phase 3) 43,000-subject trial. Moderna has reported 94.5% efficacy with their vaccine, based on a 30,000-subject trial. There are 65 other vaccines in clinical trials, including 12 in Phase 3, made with many different technological approaches. For example, the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus), from chimpanzees that has been genetically modified so it cannot grow in humans, while both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines use “messenger RNA,” a DNA-like molecule that, when injected into humans, causes cells in the body to synthesize a coronavirus coat protein, which then elicits an immune response. Although none of these vaccines is likely to be widely distributed until mid-2021, the news is very encouraging, indeed. We expect to eventually have several vaccines available that will slow, or even halt, the spread of the infection.

However, even excellent vaccines are worthless if people don’t take them. In a recent survey by the STAT-Harris Poll, only “58% of the U.S. public said they would get vaccinated as soon as a vaccine was available when asked earlier this month [October], down considerably from 69% who said the same thing in mid-August.” A global survey conducted by Ipsos World Economic Forum survey during the week of October 8th yielded similar results; it found that only about 64% of Americans would get a vaccine if one were available.

Thus, we face a dilemma: We need to get lifesaving vaccines out as quickly as possible, while reassuring a somewhat skeptical public that speed does not imply uncertainty about safety or efficacy.

THE WRONG (I.E., THE BUREAUCRATIC) RESPONSE TO VACCINE HESITANCY

Some of the increasing resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine appears to stem from concerns that the White House might have exerted undue political pressure on the FDA to cut corners in the evaluation of the COVID-19 vaccines in the run-up to the November presidential election. There has also been widespread disinformation from anti-vaccine activists, including alarming, even bizarre claims. (In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization recently declared an “infodemic”: “an overabundance of information—some accurate and some not—that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”)

Damaged public confidence in the FDA’s review process has spurred several state governors to establish their own scientific committees to reassure the public by conducting independent state-level “reviews of vaccines’ safety and effectiveness. As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “Frankly, I’m not going to trust the federal government’s opinion, and I wouldn’t recommend [COVID-19 vaccines] to New Yorkers, based on the federal government’s opinion.” California, some other western states, and West Virginia have also established a “review” process.

These initiatives are a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, they are redundant, and likely to be a waste of time. The traditionally conservative FDA, which has access to confidential manufacturing and testing data and boasts extensive experience and expertise with new vaccines, will conduct thorough, science-based reviews for safety and effectiveness before granting marketing approval. Applications submitted to the FDA for regulatory approval of vaccines are both voluminous and complex, involving chemistry, medicine, pharmacology, clinical trial design, and statistics. In order to understand where the red flags are in all of those aspects of the product, institutional memory about similar, previous products is important, and that knowledge resides within the FDA. Moreover, every application for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine will also be reviewed by the FDA’s vaccines advisory committee comprised of independent outside experts, making state-level independent reviews both superfluous and inferior.

If these state-conducted checks can be performed quickly, efficiently, and proficiently, and reassure the public, they would serve the public interest. But if they delay access to the vaccines unnecessarily, or they raise spurious issues concerning safety or efficacy that discourage people from taking the vaccines, they will actually harm public health.

Another important consideration for governors is that if these individual state reviews become protracted or onerous, they are likely to be challenged in federal courts as violating the federal preemption doctrine, which prevents a state law from interfering or conflicting with federal law. Even the filing of such a case could defeat the goal of encouraging public acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines, and actually have the opposite of the intended effect.

The governors who established these advisory committees will need to remain alert to their possible shortcomings and should be ready to take appropriate steps, including disbanding the committees altogether, if it becomes obvious that they are superfluous or do not function well. At the federal level, the incoming administration should seek to restore public confidence in the FDA and the integrity of its evaluations, and to convince governors that their states’ reviews are unnecessary and costly. Even before supplies begin to trickle out from manufacturers, which could be within a month or two, the feds and states should focus on coordinating the “unprecedented challenge” of distributing them.

We need those vaccines: Almost 2,000 Americans died yesterday from COVID-19.

John J. Cohrssen is an attorney and statistician who served in senior positions for White House agencies including the Office of the Vice President.

Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a Senior Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

California’s Gavin Newsom Presides With Aristocratic Hauteur

If Hollywood were to cast a governor and future president, and if a straight white male were still politically acceptable, he would look like California’s Gavin Newsom. The 53-year-old governor, a former mayor of San Francisco, Newsom handsomely epitomizes the preening politics of the California elite class that has nurtured and financed his career from the beginning.

Like aristocrats of the past, Newsom seems oblivious to the realities felt by constituents among the lower orders. In the face of massive wildfires, he postures on climate change, conflating fires with an angry mother Earth — as opposed to poor land management — and uses the conflagration to justify a radical policy of switching to all-electric power over the next decade, with the elimination of gas-powered cars by 2035. In the midst of a near economic free-fall, he favors raising taxes and works to tighten pandemic lockdowns; and, with the state losing its ability to train workers, he backs an education system where almost three out of five California high schoolers graduate unprepared for either college or a career.

Listening to Newsom, or following California media, one would have no idea how badly California’s economy has performed during the pandemic. In the most recent statistics, California’s unemployment rate stood at 11 percent, well above the national average of 7.9 percent, and better than only four other states. Since the March lockdown, California, with 12 percent of the nation’s population, accounts for 16.4 percent of all unemployment. California also is recovering jobs slower than all but two states, tourism-dependent Hawaii and Nevada. Since the pandemic, the state’s largest metro, Los Angeles–Orange County, has suffered the second-largest job losses in the U.S., and two others, the Bay Area and the Inland Empire, rank in the top ten.

This awful performance has had little impact on the state’s politically and economically well-positioned ruling class. Newsom may be far from a popular governor, ranking in the lower third among his compatriots, but he enjoys a solidly Democratic legislature and almost lockstep support in the media. Voters are showing signs of getting restless, though, defeating proposals and taxes that he heartily endorsed along with his public-union and tech-industry allies. Typically, he avoided taking a position on Proposition 22, the ban on contract labor detested by the tech firms but deeply supported by the unions.

Conservatives like to ascribe the label “leftist” to politicians such as Newsom. In reality, California’s governor is no Marxist firebrand but rather a favored candidate of what the Los Angeles Times described as “a coterie of San Francisco’s wealthiest families,” including the Fishers (who founded the Gap clothing chain), the Pritzkers (whose family includes the current Illinois governor), and especially the Getty family, which essentially adopted Newsom, financed his business ventures, and allegedly paid for his first lavish wedding while helping launch his political career. These families overall have prospered in California’s highly bifurcated economy, among the least egalitarian in the nation. Its prime beneficiaries cluster along the state’s postindustrial, temperate zones.

Newsom rose, as former assembly speaker and San Francisco mayor Willie Brown suggests, as the favored spokesman for San Francisco’s local well-to-do. “He came from their world, and that’s why they embraced him without hesitancy and over and above everybody else,” Brown told the Los Angeles Times. “They didn’t need to interview him. They knew what he stood for.”

Newsom postures as a social-justice advocate and believer in austere green virtues, but the corporate aristocracy has helped him live in luxury, first in his native Marin, and now in Sacramento. Newsom’s passion for the good life caused him some embarrassment recently when he was caught violating his own pandemic orders at the ultra-expensive, ultra-chic French Laundry in Napa. This episode exemplifies America’s elite nomenklatura — demanding sacrifices of the masses, whether in the form of lockdowns or housing, but less often from themselves.

In addition to woke posturing on race and gender issues, climate change stands as the key driver of this kind of politics. In many regions, notably the Midwest, Democrats face a conflict between siding with the environmental lobby or with workers in fossil fuels, large-scale manufacturing, and construction. That tension is less evident in California, where a draconian tax and regulatory environment has reduced construction, particularly in the big coastal metros, and where manufacturing has stagnated, while policymakers have targeted the heavily unionized oil industry for extinction.

Draconian climate-change policies allow progressive elites to advertise their good intentions without curtailing their economic opportunities. The state’s renewable-energy policies enrich his Newsom’s tech backers even when their efforts — such as the Google-backed Ivanpah solar farm — fail to deliver affordable, reliable energy, and bring severe impacts on sensitive habitats, notably in the state’s deserts. Even the most impressive of the tech masterminds, Elon Musk, can trace a significant part of his fortune—now estimated at over $100 billion, the world’s fifth-largest—to generous subsidy policies for solar panels and electric cars. Policies that raise energy and housing prices, of course, tend to be politically unpopular—so Newsom, like his predecessors, imposes these regulations administratively, or through executive orders, thus freeing the governor to avoid legislative and political tangles and freeing him of any obligation to explain these positions to the public.

Climate issues have also offered Newsom an ideal way to justify failed progressive policies. Newsom and his ally, presumptive Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris, blamed the wildfires on climate change and all-purpose bogeyman Donald Trump. The media echoed the charges: the New York Times suggests that California is “ground zero for climate disasters,” while the Los Angeles Times claims that California now fights not just fires and droughts but also “climate despair.”

In reality, as the usually left-leaning Pro Publica has revealed, the fires were made far worse by green policies including constant lawsuits against local efforts to clean up old growth, particularly dead trees, and stopping even sustainable logging. The state Legislative Analyst’s Office also found that overall, the fires were less driven by global warming and more by policies that allowed for the accumulation of fuel, as well as growing development in certain exurban areas—partly motivated by a desire to escape the extremely high housing prices along the coast.

The fires are certainly not great for the environment or for reaching the state’s super-ambitious greenhouse gas (GHG) goals: according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the 2018 fires emitted roughly as much GHG as an entire year of electrical generation. California, though a hotbed of climate extremism, reduced its greenhouse gases between 2007 and 2016 at a rate that ranked just 40th per capita among the states. Even if California wiped out all emissions, it would have an almost-infinitesimal impact on global climate—and in fact, a negative one, if industry relocates to China, where much electricity is still powered by coal.

Newsom also preens about California’s enlightened commitment to social justice. His filmmaker wife Jennifer, scion of a very wealthy Bay Area family, has made a documentary that brands America a “racist country” from its origins, a nation where racial and gender oppression is systematically rife.

Social justice? It’s rarely noted how Newsom’s policies, particularly in reference to climate change, have only intensified inequality. California already suffers the widest gap between middle- and upper-middle-income earners of any state, while driving up housing costs and narrowing opportunities for working-class people in blue-collar industries. Since 2008, California has created five times as many low-wage as high-wage jobs. It has lost 1.6 million above-average-paying jobs in the past decade—more than twice as many as any other state.

The state’s ever-more aggressive green policies seem certain to accelerate that trend. Rather than a sign of bold progressive change, the electrification mandate is likely to consolidate further a new model of high-tech feudalism — one that offers opportunity for powerful regulators and renewable-energy firms but imposes a harsher future on most other Californians. Newsom’s defenders praise his energy policies, which in 2017 alone increased prices at three times the national rate. These increases have been devastating to poorer Californians, particularly in the state’s less temperate interior, where “energy poverty” has grown rapidly.

The impact has been toughest on blue-collar sectors. Over the past decade, the Golden State has fallen into the bottom half of states in manufacturing-sector employment growth, ranking 44th last year; its industrial new-job creation has been negative. By contrast, competitors such as Nevada, Kentucky, Michigan, and Florida have seen gains. Even without adjusting for costs, notes the New York Times, no California metro ranks in the U.S. top ten in terms of well-paying blue-collar jobs, but four — Ventura, Los Angeles, San Jose, and San Diego — place among the bottom ten.

Newsom’s recent plan to impose forced electrification on those parts of the economy running on fossil fuels and his efforts to cut off other sources of supply, like natural gas and nuclear power, will put enormous strain on a state already suffering power outages and rising prices. The mandate to use electric trucks, which are expensive and inefficient, threatens jobs at California’s three major ports — Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Oakland — which support nearly 5 million California jobs, nearly one in four of the state’s total. The new electrical truck mandate, shipping companies note, will threaten the competitive advantage of these ports, with many jobs likely to head for Houston and other ports free of such strictures.

The question now is how long Californians will put up with Newsom’s posturing. Over time, high energy prices affect not just blue-collar industries but also the rapidly departing tech sector; artificial intelligence and live-streaming providers are among the largest and fastest-growing consumers of electricity. Ultimately, Newsom’s political coalition of greens, the wealthy, and public unions could be strained by the state’s deepening fiscal crisis. A high unemployment rate and an already-expansive welfare state will demand more money from the state’s already-beleaguered middle class. Some business leaders, notably Disney’s Robert Iger, have balked at strict lockdowns on theme parks, which have been devastating to Southern California. Even the state’s leading green entrepreneur, Musk, has become increasingly critical of the state’s lockdown and regulatory policies.

Dissatisfaction from the middle and working class may present an even greater challenge for Newsom. Dissent over green policies in particular has been growing of late, particularly among minorities and advocates for the poor. Newsom’s attempt to raise property taxes on businesses amid the recession was defeated handily—mainly by voters outside Los Angeles County and the urban core of the Bay Area—as was his affirmative action push, financed lavishly by his wealthy backers, which also failed at the polls.

Talk of a major new tax increase—up to 16 percent on top earners—is not likely to appeal to aspiring entrepreneurs. On November 3, California voted decisively for Joe Biden, but middle-class voters, including minorities, showed a surprisingly independent streak. Minority business groups bitterly noted in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, the biggest backer for the measure raising property taxes: “Unlike Facebook, restaurants, dry cleaners, nail salons and other small businesses can’t operate right now and many may never open again. The last thing they need is a billionaire pushing higher taxes on them under the false flag of social justice.”

Unless Newsom starts expanding beyond his narrow circle of backers, he may find himself facing a multifaceted peasant rebellion, one pitting unions against wealthy elites, the woke against the vast majority, and small businesses against big companies and the well-connected. To present a serious challenge to the state’s one-party rule, California’s floundering Republican Party needs to find a compelling candidate and raise money from what remains of its economic base. This may be too much to ask, but, given his state’s collapsing prospects, Gavin Newsom may face mounting challenges, if not in California then at least to his national ambitions. Even the most elaborate preening has its limits.

Joel Kotkin is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Urban Reform Institute. His latest book is The Coming of Neo-Feudalism. You can follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

California Businesses Brace For Minimum Wage Increase in January

As the end of the year approaches, many businesses across California have begun planning finances for next year due to a drastic minimum wage raise that stands to hurt many small businesses struggling in the wake of COVID-19 economic constraints, as well as a struggling economy.

Starting on January 1st, the state minimum wage is due to increase to $14 an hours for businesses with 25 employees or more and $13 an hour for businesses with fewer than 25 workers. California is currently on a plan started in 2017 to increase the minimum wage each year until 2022 when it hits $15 an hour, with small businesses under 25 employees meeting that rate in 2023.

After COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in March, there was a call by many lawmakers and businesses statewide to delay the raise due to a massive economic shutdown, with many small-businesses struggling to make ends meet and unemployment rates in California skyrocketing to highs of over 16% and jobless claims hitting over the two million mark in less than a month.

However, lawmakers in California, led by Governor Gavin Newsom, refused to delay the increase in July, citing the need by many workers for a larger paycheck during the time of crisis, as well as calls to not delay raises for many essential workers who need the raise.

“The increase  represents the raise they deserve,” said Governor Newsom in July. “Many of those workers are on the front lines of the pandemic, providing child care, working in our hospitals and nursing facilities and making sure there’s food on grocery store shelves.”

However, the raises for the hourly workers come January come at a major cost for many employers. For several weeks, business owners across the state have let the California Globe know about what the raise, as well as other new employment changes, such as the enaction of SB 1383, a soon to be law that expands protected family leave in small businesses, will mean for small businesses in California.

Nearly all expressed negatively what the changes will do to their business come January.

“Oh, I know I’m already looking at layoffs,” noted Arthur Hasegawa, a San Francisco auto garage owner. “This is not the time to mess with our businesses, because we are all doing everything we can to remain afloat as well as keep as many people as possible. This minimum wage bill will force us to lose a few people, and that maternity bill [SB 1383] will leave us shorthanded as a result. And it gets even more complicated because if you let people go, they can claim discrimination. I know people dreading letting employees go who are expecting babies   go because they know they’re going to fight it on those grounds.

“It’s just putting us between a rock and a hard place.”

Dangers of minimum wage increase during the pandemic

Another, restaurant co-owner Liz Dorna of Orange, also said that the raise will only lead to trouble.

“There’s a pandemic going on that already cut into business,” said Dorna. “We lost so much business with the lockdowns and being restricted to take-out meals. We lost even more by having to upgrade cleaning procedures and buying PPE. Now there is another huge cost coming. And Newsom and everyone could have stopped it. But he didn’t.

“For people who say of businesses that ‘everyone is suffering’ they obviously don’t currently own a restaurant in California.”

Carlita Hernandez, a Los Angeles flower shop owner, also expressed distress: “LA County just had more restrictions up the other day,” explained Hernandez. “I only have a few employees who have worked here each for over ten years. The restrictions causing less customers to come and that $1 an hour raise means I have to give someone their two weeks notice right before Christmas. Tell me, how the hell do I make that decision? The government is putting me in an impossible decision.”

And others are facing worse fates.

“We’re doing everything we can,” expressed Humboldt County furniture store owner Aaron Shaw. “But that extra dollar an hour, with all our employees? We either fire a few or go out of business.

“This is what the state has done. They’re telling us “Do you want to ruin a few people’s lives, or do you want to end your dream?

“We’re just being squeezed now. No matter what we do, we lose.”

The $14 minimum wage is to go into effect on January 1, 2021.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.