Newsom’s virus updates go from clear to muddled

In his last news briefing of 2020, one of more than 100 held since the COVID-19 pandemic exploded in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom looked seriously into the camera and assured Californians that public schools could reopen as soon as February.

The pressure to return to in-classroom learning had been intensifying for months, and Newsom’s “California Safe School for All” plan was an attempt to temper growing discontent.

It didn’t work. Superintendents in seven of California’s largest school districts said Newsom failed to address the needs of big-city schoolchildren and called his policy “confused.” The state’s largest teachers union said it left “many unanswered questions.” The independent Legislative Analyst’s Office, which evaluates proposals for state lawmakers, said his proposal was “likely unfeasible.”

Once a reassuring elixir to millions of Californians facing the harrowing unknowns of a contagious, deadly virus, Newsom’s briefings — streamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and covered extensively by California news outlets — appear to have lost the impact they commanded in the spring. …

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

Vaccine Chaos: Californians Scramble For Shots Amid Mixed Messaging

The chaos and confusion many Californians experienced this week in their search for a COVID-19 vaccine only intensified today as Gov. Gavin Newsom revealed that the state would not receive an additional supply of doses it was counting on to accelerate vaccination. 

Newsom said he, like other governors, expected about 50 million doses to be released from storage by the feds in the next few days. “And then we read, as everybody else, that they have reneged or … are unable to deliver on that,” he said at a news conference unveiling a new mass vaccination site at Dodger Stadium. 

The governor said he does expect there to be enough vaccine for Californians who already have received their first shot and need the required second dose. But the state needs to verify the supply it will be given, he said. 

Just 48 hours ago, federal officials had promised states an expanded supply of vaccine and demanded they start vaccinating people 65 and older and those with documented preexisting conditions to speed the slow pace of immunizations nationwide. 

But a national stockpile of vaccines held back for necessary second doses appears to have been depleted, meaning that states won’t get the amount of vaccine they were counting on to dramatically ramp up mass vaccination campaigns, according to a Washington Post report Friday. 

Newsom last week announced an audacious goal of immunizing 1 million people in 10 days, under mounting political pressure over the state’s slow vaccine rollout. But at least 450,000 people would need to receive shots today to fulfill that goal. The state is on pace to achieve it, Newsom said, adding that there is a lag in the state’s data reporting.

California has used about 30% of the doses it has been allocated from the federal government while Texas has used about 55%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California ranks 43rd among states in the proportion of people it has immunized. 

On Wednesday, following hastily-announced federal guidance, Newsom said that anyone 65 and older could now be immunized — broadening a complicated priority system that previously reserved doses for health workers and nursing home residents.

Local public health officials and health systems weren’t at all ready for an onslaught of potentially 6 million seniors. Not all adopted the state’s recommendation, creating a patchwork of access that Californians are now trying to decipher. 

Reports of glitches mounted as counties launched dozens of different online platforms for appointment sign-ups and waiting lists. Tiny Inyo County, with about 18,000 residents, had to ask people to sign up with just a Google form. …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters.org

Election Integrity Still Matters

This is neither a column about “Stop the Steal” or “there was no fraud.” At this point, whether there was a sufficient level of fraud to affect the outcome of the 2020 presidential election is a moot point. Nonetheless there were, and continue to be, legitimate concerns about election integrity in the United States.

If this nation is to survive as a constitutional republic, those concerns must be addressed. The problem is that our nation is currently so divided that there exists little trust in any remedy that may be proposed by one side or the other. Just how deep is that mistrust? Consider this.

In a Politico/Morning Consult poll taken shortly after November’s election, 70 percent of Republicans rejected the notion that it was conducted in a “free and fair” manner. Before the election, just 35 percent of Republicans held that belief. The shift was opposite among Democrats, where 95 percent believed the election was free and fair afterward, compared with 52 percent who said the same before the election.

Despite this divide, there is a workable template for election reform that was the product of a bipartisan commission. Several of its recommendations are worthy of consideration.

After the 2000 election debacle culminating in the Supreme Court case of Bush v. Gore, a Commission on Federal Election Reform was formed. It was a continuation of a previous commission created by former President Jimmy Carter. Co-chairing the new commission was James A. Baker III, who served as Treasury Secretary in the Reagan administration and Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush. The commission’s twenty-one members were a who’s who of political heavyweights and academics from across the political spectrum.

In a 91-page report, the commission put forth 87 recommendations to secure fair elections. Key among these proposals was the recognition that voter ID laws are important to preserve election integrity. Granted, with the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a perceived need to rely heavily on mail-in voting last year, but that does not mean that we should ignore this important recommendation for future elections.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Golden State Ideas Inspire Biden

After four years of being relentlessly targeted by a Republican president who worked overtime to bait, punish and marginalize California and everything it represents, the state is suddenly center stage again in Washington’s policy arena.

California is emerging as the de facto policy think tank of the Biden-Harris administration and of a Congress soon to be under Democratic control. That’s rekindling past cliches about the state — incubator of innovation, premier laboratory of democracy, land of big ideas — even as it struggles with surging coronavirus infections, a safety net frayed by the pandemic’s toll, crushing housing costs and wildfires, all fueling an exodus of residents.

There is no place the incoming administration is leaning on more heavily for inspiration in setting a progressive policy agenda. …

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

Anti-Business Policies Are Driving Flagship Firms Out of California

It’s hard to say the word “innovation” and not think of California. Technology has paced the state’s growth in everything from agriculture and oil to housing, entertainment, and aerospace. California has always been the harbinger of the American future, the promise of ever-greater economic and social progress.

Yet increasingly, many of today’s innovators are fleeing the state. This past week, one half of the company arguably most symbolic of tech development in the state—Hewlett Packard Enterprises—one part of the now broken-up old Hewlett Packard and focused on lucrative areas like cloud computing and IT infrastructure—decided to leave for Houston. Within a week Elon Musk, the latest in the line of truly transformative California tech entrepreneurs, also announced that he would move to Texas, along with Oracle, a Fortune 100 company and global leader in database management. Other recent departures also include more traditional firms as Charles Schwab, McKesson, Bechtel, Parsons Engineering, and CB Richard Ellis.

The corporate exodus accompanies a human one. The state’s population, notes demographer Wendell Cox, is now virtually stagnant, with more people leaving and fewer people coming. Millennials, particularly as they ponder family formation (as we recently demonstrated in a report from Heartland Forward), are following a similar pattern. Today, suggests Cox, California, once the ultimate land of youth, is now aging far faster than the rest of nation.

Until the past year, Silicon Valley seemed immune to the economic stagnation or decline afflicting other key state industries such as aerospace, manufacturing, and energy. “We were fat and happy,” notes Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, the region’s leading business group. “Now people are shaking their heads. HPE’s moving sends the message from one of the core founders of Silicon Valley. It’s very troubling.”

The appeal of Silicon Valley, as Wunderman is quick to add, has not disappeared: natural attractiveness and a congenial climate, leading universities, an unmatched pool of technical talent, and the preponderance of leading venture-capital funds. Even as the state suffers the nation’s highest poverty rate, the tech giants have ballooned in value, and new companies, including a set of IPOs, driven by the low cost of money and the pandemic disruption, are creating an enormous tax windfall—this year estimated at $26 billion.

California politicians, notably Governor Gavin Newsom, believe that this patten is immutable, and that even as companies leave, new ones will take their place. Yet the process is slowing. In recent years, according to figures developed by UCI business school professor Ken Murphy, California has been losing market share among the 11 states with high concentrations of innovation-oriented firms. Since 2005, California’s share of the nation’s innovation business has dropped 3 percentage points, while competitors like Florida, Oregon, Arizona, and Utah have expanded their share. The Bay Area has also seen an exodus of corporate headquarters, often to Texas.

California’s innovation industries, which include science and engineering services, are no longer adding jobs faster than those of several other states, notably Florida, Utah, Arizona, and Washington. California’s innovation economy, to be sure, remains a powerful one, with 27 percent of all innovation businesses nationally, but in a world of corporate mobility, for how long will businesspeople be willing to absorb the higher costs of the Golden State?

California’s business flight has been gaining momentum for years. State housing policies, including climate-related regulation, and extraordinarily high development fees, have made it hard to build on the periphery of the major metros, where most population and job growth takes place. One result has been that the state’s new house-building permits have fallen to barely half that of key competitor states like Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and Arizona. California also accounts for all three of the worst metros for first-time buyers, according to a recent AEI survey, and six of the top ten.

High housing costs affect employees and are one reason why so many firms with many mid-income office workers—McKessonToyota, Bechtel, Jacobs, Parsons, Nissan, Bank of America—have departed for places where these workers can afford to buy a house. High energy prices affect both consumers and industrial companies. Regulation against such things as fossil fuels has driven Occidental Petroleum, one of the largest home-grown firms, out of the state, and threatens the future of Southern California Gas and other remaining fossil fuel companies, not to mention the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people in both the Central Valley and Southern California who work in the industry.

Rivaling regulation as a negative is taxes. California already has the nation’s highest income tax—with a top marginal tax rate of 13.3 percent—and capital gains are taxed at that rate. A new proposal circulating in the legislature would add three new surcharges on seven-figure earners. It would add a 1 percent surcharge to gross income of more than $1 million, 3 percent on income over $2 million, and 3.5 percent on income above $5 million. That means a combined state and federal marginal tax rate of 54 percent for high earners. By contrast, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, and some other states attracting tech-industry firms have zero state income taxes.

The tax burden seems likely to get worse. This fall, state public employees pushed a ballot measure that sought to eliminate Proposition 13’s protection for commercial properties, a measure that failed by a small margin. Members of the majority in the state legislature have introduced AB 2088, designed to assess a 0.4 percent “wealth tax” on residents with net worth above $30 million. Approximately 30,400 taxpayers would be affected by this tax, estimated to generate $7.5 billion annually. Moreover, the tax would be assessed on people planning to leave the state for ten years after their exit—a clause of dubious constitutionality. “You get a wealth tax and people will leave in droves,” predicts Daniel Young, former president of the Irvine Company, and a long-time developer of multi-family housing in Silicon Valley.

Some cities, particularly San Francisco, seem determined to gore the golden goose entirely. Even in a year where most of California rejected new taxes, San Francisco enacted new wealth taxes and backed an expansion of rent control. The city’s stores remain closed, and rents are falling more than in any major metropolitan area; the city seems incapable of cleaning its streets or controlling rampant property crime and widespread homelessness.

Before the pandemic, California’s boosters and leaders could convince themselves that the state had developed a progressive and sustainable economic model. Covid-19 and the economic downturn have stripped away this illusion, as the state’s unemployment rates now surpass the national average, worse even than in the New York area, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. It is particularly bad in Los Angeles, where less than half of residents now hold jobs. Los Angeles County has lost over 1 million jobs to the pandemic and suffers an unemployment rate higher than any of the major California urban counties.

Initially, the technology industry created lots of middle-class jobs. Hewlett Packard, founded in 1939, was an exemplar of enlightened management and employee benefits. Yet in recent years, Silicon Valley companies have become ever more virtual and digital, with fewer jobs for working- and even middle-class employees.

Today, the state’s economy is totally dominated by a handful of enormously powerful companies—Apple, Google, Facebook, Salesforce—none of which make tangible products, at least not in California. These firms, notes Robert Lapsley of the California Business Roundtable, see themselves as global first and foremost, not primarily as part of a state economy. “We need these people to step up and they are not doing it,” he suggests “That was not a problem when David Packard was around. We have lost that voice.” Many of these firms’ employees are overseas. Even in the Valley, close to half of tech employees—nearly twice the rate for the tech industry nationally— are non-citizens, working under HI-B visas. The federal government recently sued Facebook for discriminating against American workers in favor of foreign ones.

We have gone a long way from “the fire in the Valley” era, with its garage startups, homebrew computer clubs, and innovation by oddballs like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Today, tech firms have become more concentrated. Back in 2006, notes Scott Galloway, author of The Four, a book examining the rise of the tech giants, only one, Microsoft, was in the top five in market cap; today, tech firms account for all five of the country’s top firms by market cap.

Ironically, these firms have done well in part because they have been largely unregulated. And when they object to taxes and regulations, they have the resources and technology to move operations elsewhere—as Musk, Uber, Lyft, Facebook, and Apple have done. Some new companies, such as Peter Thiel-backed Palantir, have chosen to move their headquarters elsewhere—in Palantir’s case, to Denver, in part to escape woke criticism for its work with the military and ICE. With two out of three tech workers now willing to leave San Francisco, big tech can get bigger while spreading talent and wealth around.

Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that he would never start Facebook in today’s California. Yet he seems unconcerned about the fate facing smaller firms. His foundation gave millions to Proposition 15, a measure that would have increased property taxes on businesses and opposed by most legacy businesses, and particularly by minority-owned firms. In a letter to Zuckerberg, the business owners noted: “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.”

Jim Wunderman, head of the BAC, suggests that political pressure from both Washington and Brussels leads the tech mavens to adopt a progressive script—the firms are more concerned about privacy and monopoly issues than about higher taxes or even the most intrusive regulations. They also have to fend off their own left-leaning employees, by seeming to take progressive, pro-labor positions, even in an industry with virtually no unions and where the lower end of the wage spectrum offers little in the way of benefits. “A lot of their employees are progressives,” Wunderman suggests. “They are trying to be responsive to the people who work for them.”

One remarkable phenomenon has been the indifference of state government to big-name departures, even when signature companies such as McKesson—a firm with roots going back to the 1850s and now a “centralized distributor” for the Covid-19 vaccine—or Toyota, the world’s leading car company, shift out of state. Yet, notes Lapsley, the state makes virtually no effort to look out for companies that choose to stick around.

Kaitlin Lewis, Assistant Deputy Director of Communications for the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), suggests that the state is in “constant communication” with companies and also administers the California Competes Tax Credit program, a job-creation initiative begun in 2013 to help businesses grow and stay in California. In early November, California Competes had awarded $80 million in tax credits to a diverse set of businesses that are projected to create 6,535 new full-time jobs in California. The funding, Lewis says, will bring more than $400 million in new investments.

That may sound promising but consider some context: HP Enterprise is tracking full-year revenue of $27 billion in 2020. It has spent $7 billion in operating expenses in 2020, much of that related to the presence of its corporate headquarters, which will now move to Texas. The $80 million in tax credits that GO-Biz administers to retain businesses is not even close to adequate to retain a major employer like HPE, much less the other unhappy employers leaving or about to leave the state.

“Privately,” notes one top southern California business leader, “the sense is the state doesn’t care about the economy as long as money is coming in. Even Jerry Brown saw the importance of the broader economy outside a few tech firms and IPOs. Newsom’s people still think everyone wants to be us.”

In the past, to be sure, California evolved its remarkably diverse economy to meet new challenges. Yet as the critical mass of talent shifts elsewhere, and the regulatory burdens grow, one must question how long the Golden State’s economy can rely on a handful of firms and some IPOs, many of which will end up absorbed by larger firms. California’s future as a dynamic place for aspiration and innovation is far from guaranteed. Continual assertions of its greatness cannot obscure the likely long-term impact of the flight of the icons.

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. Marshall Toplansky is Clinical Assistant Professor of Management Science at Chapman University. He was formerly Managing Director of KPMG’s national center of excellence in data and analytics, and he is a co-founder of Wise Window, a pioneer in sentiment analysis and the use of big data for predictive models.

Trump Retreats as Pence Fills Void

Frustrated by the loss of his Twitter account and forced to accept that he soon must leave office, President Trump has effectively stopped doing his job, delegating daily responsibilities to Vice President Mike Pence while hunkering down with a shrinking group of acquiescent aides and contemplating additional presidential pardons.

Trump had considered leaving the White House before his final day in office Wednesday, even as early as this weekend, but he has opted to depart on the morning of President-elect Joe Biden’s Inauguration Day, according to two people familiar with discussions who cautioned that, with Trump, plans are always subject to change.

Intrigued by the idea of upstaging Biden, the president has requested a major send-off. It would begin with a throng of cheering, flag-waving staffers and supporters to see him off on the White House’s South Lawn, according to a person familiar with the planning, and continue to a more formal ceremony at Joint Base Andrews, featuring a red carpet, military band, color guard and 21-gun salute. He would make his final Air Force One flight to Florida, to take up residence at Mar-a-Lago, his West Palm Beach, Fla., estate. …

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

California’s General Fund Relies on Bailouts and Billionaires

One of the biggest reasons California’s technology moguls supported the Biden/Harris candidacy had nothing to do with ideology. It had to do with their pocketbooks. Because with a Californian presiding over the Senate, and a Californian Speaker of the House, expect federal bailouts to flow west by the hundreds of billions.

The likelihood of federal money to prop up failing local governments, state agencies, and public employee pension funds has just gone from remote to probable, as Democrats take control of all three branches of the federal government later this month. Simultaneously, and as a result of this political outcome, the likelihood of massive new state taxes here in California targeting the super rich drops from probable to too-close-to-call.

Consider the impact of Assembly Bill 2088, if enacted, on California’s wealthiest households. This “wealth tax” will impose, year after year, an annual tax at a rate of 0.4 percent of any California resident’s worldwide net worth in excess of $30 million.

To use the example of California’s richest man, Elon Musk, who according to Forbes had a net worth in early January of $176 billion, AB 2088 would require Musk to pony up 704 million, every year, for the privilege of living in California. Mark Zuckerberg, with a current estimated net worth of $92 billion, would have to pay the state $368 million. Every year.

It is easy enough to understand the emotional indifference that a libertarian might display towards Musk getting soaked for $704 million per year, or that a conservative might display towards Zuckerberg having to turn over $368 million per year, or that liberals arguably feel towards anyone wealthy being forced to pay their “fair share.” But California’s rich already pay a huge share of California’s total state tax revenues.

For example, the Governor’s Budget for 2019-2020 projected 69 percent of all general fund revenue to come from personal income taxes. Another 20 percent came from sales taxes and 9 percent from corporation taxes. The other 3 percent came from a variety of sources, mostly insurance tax. While property tax is a significant source of revenue, it is a local revenue source and only impacts the state budget insofar as when property taxes go up, it relieves pressure on the state to allocate more out of the general fund to support local schools and other local agencies.

Bearing in mind that nearly seven out of every ten dollars going into California’s general fund comes from personal income taxes, the following chart shows who is paying those taxes. Using Franchise Tax Board data from 2018, and sorted by the reported taxable income of the 16.8 million Californians filing returns, it is immediately apparent that nearly everyone paying taxes made under $100,000. That is, 13.2 million Californians, or 78 percent of the people filing state income tax returns, contributed only $7.8 billion or 9 percent of the total personal income taxes collected.

On the other side of this chart, to the right, the flipside of this top-heavy equation is presented. There were 89,000 Californians in 2018 that reported taxable income of over $1.0 million. At one-half of one percent of the total filers, their numbers don’t even register on the chart. But the orange column, representing the $34.5 billion they paid in taxes, dwarfs the contributions from the other brackets. One-half of one percent of California’s taxpayers paid 40 percent of all personal income taxes.

Moving one notch to the left to incorporate the filers who reported taxable income in excess of $500,000 in 2018 yields further evidence of just how top-heavy California’s reliance is on the wealthy to fund state government operations: Only 275,000 individuals, representing 1.6 percent of tax filers, paid 56 percent of all personal income tax revenue, which in turn is 40 percent of ALL general fund revenue in the State of California.

It is easy enough to scoff at the prospect of extremely wealthy people having to pay more. But one way or another, California’s state government needs more money. Governor Newsom’s proposed 2021-2022 state budget proposes record spending. He does this in the face of structural deficits that existed before COVID-19 trashed California’s economy. The pandemic drove the global economy online, disproportionately helping California’s tech industry, but how much higher can tech stocks soar, and how much more will the tech billionaires pay?

In addition to a wealth tax, still under consideration in the state legislature is Assembly Bill 1253, which would impose “three new surcharges on the state’s highest earners: 1% for taxable incomes over $1 million, 3% for incomes over $2 million and 3.5% for incomes over $5 million, meaning California’s wealthiest could pay 16.8% on their taxable income.” The tax is expected to generate over $7 billion per year.

Of the two bills, AB 1253 is more likely, since it would not require the gyrations that a precedent setting wealth tax would require. But would California’s wealthy residents leave the state? The litany of reasons California is driving away residents and businesses is long and compelling, with high taxes having an impact along with exhausting, endless regulations, a punitive cost-of-living, and a passive-aggressive bureaucracy.

Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Californians paid relatively high taxes (for the time), but got plenty for their money. Californians saw their taxes used to build a massive, statewide system of water storage and distribution, beautiful freeways to tie together the growing cities, and the finest public university in the world.

Today Californians live in a state of 40 million people with an infrastructure designed for 20 million people. New infrastructure projects are rarely approved, and when they are, more money is spent on litigation and bureaucracy than on actual construction. Thanks to preposterously overwritten regulations, California’s homebuilders cannot profitably build affordable homes without collecting government subsidies. California’s timber industry could thin the forests and would pay taxes on their earnings, but because they have been regulated nearly into oblivion, California’s forests burn like hell, year after year. One could go on.

Perhaps California’s weather and scenery will keep the super rich around. Perhaps California’s generous social benefits and decriminalization of petty theft and public intoxication will guarantee a growing population of indigent. But the middle class and the small businesses are leaving. That’s a problem for everyone, including those who can afford to stay.

While the wealthy contribute 40 percent of all tax revenues to the state’s general fund, it is the middle class and small businesses that pay most of the other 60 percent. With every moving van that heads east, more of that burden transfers to the wealthy. They had better hope their gambit has paid off, and their new friends in Washington DC are generous indeed.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

 *   *   *

NRA Files for Bankruptcy

The National Rifle Association on Friday filed for bankruptcy protection as part of a restructuring plan aimed at moving the influential gun rights group to Texas.

The filing comes six months after New York state’s attorney general filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the NRA for allegedly misappropriating funds.

The advocacy group said that it would restructure as a Texas nonprofit to exit from what it described as “a corrupt political and regulatory environment in New York,” where it is currently registered

The NRA, which said it was not financially broke, filed for protection under Chapter 11 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Dallas. …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Biden’s Covid-19 Prioritization: A Slippery Slope That Ignores Many

As Joe Biden and Kamala Harris transition into the White House, they have made rebuilding from the destruction of Covid-19 one of their key issues. On January 10, 2021, the presidential transition team tweeted a video of Joe Biden talking about their plans to rebuild from Covid-19.

“Our focus will be on small businesses on main street that aren’t wealthy and well-connected that are facing real economic hardships through no fault of their own,” said Biden in the tweeted video. “Our priority will be Black, Latino, Asian and Native American owned small businesses, women owned businesses, and finally having equal access to resources needed to reopen and rebuild.”

During his speech, Joe Biden left out a bevy of cultures that constitute the diversity in America. What is to be of businesses who are owned by people who do not identify as white or as any of the groups that Joe Biden mentioned in his speech? One of the cultures he left out was that of the Armenians’. 

The Armenian people are no strangers to American politics. Armenians like George Deukmejian, the former Republican Governor of California, and Kenneth L. Khachigian, who was the Executive Speechwriter to President Ronald Reagan and a Senior Aide to President Nixon have graced American politics since the years that Armenians began to immigrate to America, with hope for a better future in the land of opportunity.

In 301 AD, Armenia was the first country to recognize Christianity as their national religion. But the rich history of the Armenian people was not always pleasant. In 387 AD, the Armenian Kingdom was divided under Byzantine and Persian rule. Long after, in the 16th Century, the Armenian people fell under Ottoman rule during the Ottoman-Safavid war. In the 19th Century, Eastern Armenia was taken over by the Russian Empire. Although the Armenians contributed soldiers, merchants and intellectuals to their rulers, they were never treated as equals. Under Ottoman rule, Armenians were constantly the subject of “ethnic cleansing.” In 1915, the Armenian Genocide – which is the most well-known of these massacres – was carried out, and 1.5 million Armenians were murdered because of their Christian faith. Women were raped, children were forcefully assimilated, and men were labored to their death. The scars left in the Armenian culture from centuries of needless massacres, wars and violent conquests bleed into the 21st century – which continue to cause transgenerational effects on the mental health of the Armenian people, including anxiety and PTSD, which are very common in Armenian communities here in America.

After gaining a short-lived independence in 1918, the Armenians were forced to join the Soviet Union in 1920, where they fought on the front lines against Nazi forces on the Eastern Front during the Second World War – losing more soldiers per capita than any other Soviet nation, including Russia.

When the Soviet Union fell apart, the Republic of Armenia was born in 1991. Levon Ter-Petrosyan was elected to serve as its first President. But troubles continued. A bloody war caused by a geographical dispute with neighboring Azerbaijan lasted 6 years. The war officially ended in 1994, but minor skirmishes continued. Most recently, on September 27, 2020, the geographical dispute was sparked again after Azerbaijan broke the ceasefire agreement, taking thousands of lives from people who just want to live peacefully. This time around, the Azerbaijani army was aided by Syrian mercenaries, ISIS fighters and Turkish firepower.

As you can see, the Armenian people are hardly  a “privileged” people. We do not demand special treatment by America – or any other country for that matter. We continue to work hard and utilize all the opportunities that America provides all Americans on their quest to fulfill their American dream. When we do protest, it is simply for recognition and not for direct action, intervention or special treatment. Thousands of Armenians protested outside the Turkish Consulate in Beverly Hills on October 11, 2020, to get worldwide recognition for Turkey’s involvement in the recent war against the Armenian people. The Los Angeles Police Department’s Twitter account reported that the crowd size was estimated to be close to 100,000 people, with ZERO violent incidents to report. They even praised the attendees for peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights.

Why does Joe Biden leave Armenians out of his list of businesses that he will prioritize for Covid-19 relief? Small businesses owned by Armenians, ubiquitous in Southern California, play a dynamic role in fueling the California economy. They have been as equally impacted by Covid-19 as any other business owned by any other nationality. Are the Armenian people not affected by Covid? Are we not considered to be “oppressed” enough? What factors constitute one’s placement on the scale of oppression in order to get special treatment? In fact, this issue is not unique to Armenians. Hundreds of different groups of Americans that make America a diverse nation while fueling her economy are left out of Joe Biden’s proposed Covid-19 prioritization per the video in the tweet. That is just plain wrong, and profoundly un-American

By no means do I wish that Joe Biden lists the Armenian people as a priority or give Armenians any special treatment over our neighbors who identify as different groups. But prioritizing one group of people over another is a dangerous slippery slope. Armenians are not unique in this case; many groups of people have had their share of setbacks and are never mentioned in legislation proposed by progressive groups. In America, the land of equality, choosing to prioritize one group of people while ignoring the unique struggles of others is fallacious, wrong and morally indefensible. We may come from different cultures, but we are all Americans.

David Ter-Petrosyan is a university student studying Economics. He is a delegate to the California Republican Party and a founding member of the Armenian Republican Association (wwwArmenianRA.com). 

Controversial law professor John Eastman retires from Chapman University

John Eastman, an endowed law professor at Chapman University who last week repeated false claims of election fraud to an angry crowd just before they stormed the U.S. Capitol, is retiring.

Chapman President Daniele Struppa issued a statement late Wednesday saying the school and Eastman negotiated an exit, and that their agreement “closes this challenging chapter for Chapman.”

The deal comes as hundreds of students and professors at Chapman are calling for Eastman’s dismissal, citing a range of issues ranging from his accusations about Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ qualifications for office to his legal work for President Donald Trump in which he has made unverified claims that the election was rigged to help President-elect Joe Biden.

Eastman most recently generated controversy with a speech he gave on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C. While standing next to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Eastman told the crowd about a chaotic and unproven vision of election fraud. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register.