Is Anything Off-Limits for California’s Police Unions?

Police tapeA few weeks ago the Costa Mesa Police Association (read: Police Union) and their former law firm agreed to pay $607,000 to settle a lawsuit after their scheme against two Costa Mesa city councilmen came to light.

As I wrote in my book, this settlement represents a small but important victory in the broader philosophical war between California’s public employee unions’ unquenchable demand for more and the handful of public officials willing to stand and say there is simply no more to give. This result should also give hope to public officials across the state who have been at the pointy-end of the public employee unions’ so-called “advocacy” during labor negotiations or an election cycle.

The plot that eventually led to the settlement sounds like the set-up for a Don Winslow novel, but everything you are about to read is true.

On August 22, 2012 a private investigator, Chris Lanzillo, who was employed by the police union’s law firm was tailing the two councilmen in hopes of digging up dirt for use against them in the upcoming November city council elections.

The two Costa Mesa city councilmen were in the police union’s cross-hairs because they were trying to cut-back public employee pensions and benefits. The city had a $5.1 million budget deficit that year, and the offending proposal reduced retirees’ pensions from 90 percent of their salary at age 50 to a mere 81 percent of their pay at 55. That same year, Costa Mesa had 99 employees who earned more than $200,000.  …

Click here to read the full article from Townhall

Towards a Grand Bargain on California Water Policy

Lake Shasta Water ReservoirWhen it comes to water policy in California, perhaps the people are more savvy than the special interests. Because the people, or more precisely, the voters, by huge majorities, have approved nine water bonds in the past 25 years, totaling $27.1 billion. It is likely they’re going to approve another one this November for another $8.9 billion.

The message from the people is clear. We want a reliable supply of water, and we’re willing to pay for it. But the special interests – or whatever you want to call the collection of politicians, unelected bureaucrats with immense power, and other stakeholders who actually decide how all this money is going to be spent – cannot agree on policy. A recent article in the Sacramento Bee entitled “Why San Francisco is joining Valley farmers in a fight over precious California water,” says it all. “Precious California water.” But what if water were so abundant in California, it would no longer be necessary to fight over it?

As it is, despite what by this time next year is likely to be $36 billion in water bonds approved by voters for water investments since 1996, the state is nowhere close to solving the challenge of water scarcity. As explained in the Sacramento Bee, at the same time as California’s legislature has just passed long overdue restrictions on unsustainable groundwater withdrawals, the political appointees on the State Water Resources Control Board are about to enact sweeping new restrictions on how much water agricultural and municipal consumers can withdraw from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers.

This is a perfect storm, and every conservation, recycling and storage project currently funded or proposed will not make up the shortfall. In 2002, well before these new restrictions were being contemplated, the California Dept. of Water Resources issued an authoritative study, “Averting a California Water Crisis,” that estimated the difference between demand and supply at between two and six million acre feet per year by 2020. An impressive response from the public during the most recent drought, combined with some investment in water infrastructure has narrowed that gap. But the squeeze is ongoing, with tougher challenges and tradeoffs ahead.

Abundance vs Scarcity

When thinking about solutions to California’s water challenges, there is a philosophical question that has to be addressed. Is it necessary to persistently emphasize conservation over more supplies of water? Is it necessary to always perceive investments in more supplies of water as environmentally unacceptable, or is it possible to decouple, or mostly decouple, environmental harm from investment in more water supplies? Is it possible that the most urgent environmental priorities can be addressed by increasing the supply of water, even if investing in more water supplies also creates new, but lessor, environmental problems?

This philosophical question takes on urgent relevance when considering not only the new restrictions on water withdrawals that face Californians, but also in the context of another great philosophical choice that California’s policy makers have made, which is to welcome millions of new immigrants from across the world. What sort of state are we inviting these new residents to live in? How will we ensure that California’s residents, eventually to number not 40 million, but 50 million, will have enough water?

It is this reality – a growing population, a burgeoning agricultural economy, and compelling demands to release more water to threatened ecosystems – that makes a grand political water bargain necessary for California. A bargain that offers a great deal for everyone – more water for ecosystems, more water for farmers, more water for urban consumers – because new infrastructure will be constructed that provides not incremental increases, but millions and millions of acre feet of new water supplies.

The good news? Voters are willing to pay for it.

How to Have it All – A Water Infrastructure Wish List

When considering what it would take to actually have water abundance again in California, the first step is to try to determine the investment costs, imagining a best case scenario where every good idea got funded. Here’s a stab at that list, not differentiating between local, state and federal projects. These are very approximate numbers, rounded upwards to the nearest billion:

Projects to Increase Supplies of Water

(1) Build the Sites Reservoir (annual yield 0.5 MAF) – $5.0 billion.

(2) Build the Temperance Flat Reservoir (annual yield 0.25 MAF) – $3.0 billion.

(3) Raise the height of the Shasta Dam (increased annual yield 0.5 MAF) – $2.0 billion.

(4) So Cal water recycling plants to potable standards with 1.0 MAF capacity – $7.5 billion.

(5) So Cal desalination plants with 1.0 MAF capacity – $15.0 billion.

(6) Desalination plants on Central and North coasts with 0.5 MAF capacity – 7.5 billion

(7) Central and Northern California water recycling plants to potable standards with 1.0 MAF capacity – $7.5 billion.

(8) Facilities to capture runoff for aquifer recharge (annual yield 0.75 MAF) – $5.0 billion.

Total – $52.5 billion.

Projects to Increase Resiliency of Water Distribution Infrastructure

(9) Retrofit every dam in California to modern standards, including Oroville and San Luis – $5.0 billion.

(10) Aquifer mitigation to eliminate toxins with focus on Los Angeles Basin – $7.5 billion.

(11) Retrofit of existing aqueducts – $5 billion.

(12) Seismic retrofits to levees statewide, with a focus on the Delta – $7 billion.

Total – $24.5 billion.

The total of all these projects, $77 billion, is not accidental. That happens to be the latest best case, low-ball estimate for California’s completed high speed rail project. Without belaboring the case against high speed rail, two comparisons are noteworthy.

First, an ambitious program to create water abundance in California and water infrastructure resiliency in California based on this hypothetical budget is achievable. These numbers are deliberately rounded up, and the final costs might actually be lower, whereas it is extremely unlikely that California’s high speed rail project can be completed for $77 billion.

Second, because people will actually consume these new quantities of water that are being supplied and delivered, private financing will be attracted to significantly reduce the taxpayer’s share.

The Impact of a $77 billion Investment on Water Supply, Resiliency, and Ecosystems

As itemized above, at a capital cost of $52.5 billion, the total amount of water that might be added to the California’s statewide annual water budget is 5.5 million acre feet.

This amount of water would have a staggering impact on the demand vs. supply equilibrium for water. It is nearly equal to the total water consumed per year by all of California’s urban centers. Implementing this plan would mean that nearly all of the water that is currently diverted to urban areas could be instead used to ensure a cool, swift flow in California’s rivers, while preserving current allocations for agriculture. The options for environmentalists would be almost unbelievable. Restore wetlands. Revive the Delta. Refill the shrinking Salton Sea.

The environmentalist arguments against the three dams are weak. Shasta Dam is already built. The impact of expanding the Shasta Dam is purportedly the worst on McCloud creek, where it will affect “nearly a mile” of what was “once a prolific Chinook salmon stream,” (italics added). That negative impact, which seems fairly trivial, has to be balanced against the profound benefit of having another 500,000 acre feet of water available every summer to generate pulses of swift, cool water in the Sacramento River. The proposed Temperance Flat Reservoir is proposed on a stretch of the San Joaquin River that already has a smaller dam. The Sites Reservoir is an offstream reservoir that will not interfere with the Sacramento River.

The environmental benefits of these dams are not limited to their ability to ensure supplies of fresh water for California’s aquatic ecosystems. They can also be used to store renewable electricity, by pumping water from a forebay at the foot of the dam into the reservoir during the day, when solar energy already brings the spot price of electricity down to just a few cents per kilowatt-hour, then generating hydro-electric power later in the evening when peak electrical demand hits the grid. This well established technology has already been implemented on dams throughout California, and remains one of the most cost-effective ways to store clean, but intermittent, renewable energy. It will also be a profit center for these dams.

The environmentalist arguments against desalination are also weak. The energy required to desalinate seawater is comparable to the energy necessary to pump it from Northern California to the Los Angeles Basin. The outfall can be discharged under pressure a few miles from shore, where it is instantly disbursed in the California current. The impact from the intakes is grossly overstated by environmentalists, when considering that even if all of these contemplated desalination plants were built, the water they would intake is only a fraction of the amount of water taken in for decades by California’s power plants that are sited on the coast and use seawater for cooling.

As for the Delta, the primary environmental threat to that ecosystem is the chance that an earthquake destroys the hundreds of miles of levees, causing the agricultural areas behind those levees to be flooded. Not only would agricultural contaminants enter the water of the Delta, but the rush of water flooding into the areas behind the levees would cause salt water from the San Francisco Bay to rush in right behind, creating conditions of salinity that would take years to remove, if ever.

This is why investing in levee upgrades and a Delta Smelt hatchery is a preferable solution to the Delta tunnels. The tunnels would ensure a resilient supply of water from north to south, but the Delta would still be vulnerable to levee collapse. Levee upgrades and a Delta Smelt hatchery would accomplish both goals – resiliency of the water supply and of the Delta ecosystem. Moreover, the presence of massive water recycling and desalination facilities in Southern California would take a great deal of pressure off how much water would need to be transported through the Delta from north to south.

How to Finance $77 Billion for Water Infrastructure

Funding capital projects depends on three possible sources: operating budgets, general obligation bonds, or revenue bonds. Operating budgets, which used to help pay for capital projects, and which ought to help pay for capital projects, will never be balanced until real pension reform occurs. So for the most part, operating budgets are not a source of funds.

A useful way to differentiate between general obligation bonds and revenue bonds are that the general obligation bonds impose a progressive tax on Californians, since wealthy individuals pay about 60% of all tax revenues in California. Revenue bonds, on the other hand, because they are serviced through sales of, for example, water produced by a desalination plant, are regressive. This is because all consumers see these costs included in their utility rates, and utility bills constitute a far greater proportion of the budget for a low income household.

The Grand Bargain – Creating Water Abundance in California
(MAF = million acre feet)

Projects to increase supplies of water

By financing water infrastructure through a combination of revenue bonds and general obligation bonds, instead of solely through revenue bonds, water can remain affordable for ordinary Californians. The $24.5 billion portion of the $77.0 billion wish list, the funds for dam, aqueduct, and levee retrofits, along with aquifer mitigation, are not easily serviced through revenue bonds. A 30 year general obligation bond for $24.5 billion with an interest rate of 5% would cost California’s taxpayers $1.6 billion per year. Some of these projects, to the extent they are improving water delivery to specific urban and agricultural consumers, might be funded by bond issuances that would be serviced by the agencies most directly benefiting.

To claim that 100% of the revenue producing water projects can be financed through revenue bonds is more than theoretical. The Carlsbad Desalination Plant financing costs, principle and interest payments a nearly $1.0 billion for the plant’s construction, are paid by the contractor that built and operates the plant, with those payments in-turn funded through the rates charged to the consumers of the water. The contractor also retains an equity stake in the project, meaning that additional capital costs incurred privately are also funded via a portion of the rates charged to consumers.

Some of the revenue producing assets on the grand bargain wish list may also have a portion of them paid for by general obligation bonds. Determining that mix depends on the consumer. For example, a revenue bond for the reservoir projects may be applied to agricultural consumers who are willing to pay well above historical rates to have a guaranteed source of water for their orchards, which have to survive through dry years.

For urban consumers in particular, making the more expensive projects financially palatable may require general obligation bonds to cover part of the costs, so the remaining costs are affordable for ratepayers. For example, desalination is a relatively expensive way to produce water, making it harder to finance 100% with revenue bonds. But without desalination, wastewater recycling and runoff capture are not sufficient local sources of water in places like Los Angeles. The overall benefit to Californians of adding another 1.5 million acre feet per year to the state’s water supply, using desalination which is impervious to droughts, may be worth having some of its cost financed with general obligation bonds.

To fund roughly 50% of the revenue producing water supply infrastructure ($26.2 billion) and 100% of the water resiliency and distribution infrastructure ($24.5 billion) on this list would cost taxpayers about $3.0 billion per year. While this might strike some as an unthinkable amount to even consider, these projects meet all the criteria for so-called “good debt.” Constructing them all would solve California’s challenge of water scarcity, possibly forever. All of the projects are assets yielding ongoing and long-term benefits that will outlast the term of the financing. At the same time, water would become so abundant in California that prioritizing water allocations to revive ecosystems would no longer provoke bitter opposition. And California’s residents would live again in a state where taking a long shower, planting a lawn, and doing other water-intensive activities that are considered normal in a developed nation, would once again become affordable and normal.

Other Ways to Help Pay for Water Abundance in California

Enable and Expand Water Markets

Even if a grand bargain is struck between environmentalists, farmers, and water districts, and massive investments are made to increase the supply of water, enabling and expanding water markets will help optimize the distribution of available water resources. Similarly, reforming California’s labyrinthine system of water rights might also help, by making it easier for owners of water rights to sell their allocations. Fostering water markets while protecting water rights have interrelated impacts, and ideally can result in more equitable, appropriate water pricing across the state. It might also help make it unnecessary to impose punitive tiered rates or rationing on household consumers.

Reform Environmentalist Barriers to Development

CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, is a “statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.” While the intent behind CEQA is entirely justifiable, in practice it has added time and expense to infrastructure projects in California, often with little if any actual environmental benefit. An excellent summary of how to reform CEQA appeared in the Los Angeles Times in Sept. 2017, written by Byron De Arakal, vice chairman of the Costa Mesa Planning Commission. It mirrors other summaries offered by other informed advocates for reform and can be summarized as follows:

  • End duplicative lawsuits: Put an end to the interminable, costly legal process by disallowing serial, duplicative lawsuits challenging projects that have completed the CEQA process, have been previously litigated and have fulfilled any mitigation orders.
  • Full disclosure of identity of litigants: Require all entities that file CEQA lawsuits to fully disclose their identities and their environmental or, increasingly, non-environmental interest.
  • Outlaw legal delaying tactics: California law already sets goals of wrapping up CEQA lawsuits — including appeals — in nine months, but other court rules still leave room for procedural gamesmanship that push CEQA proceedings past a year and beyond. Without harming the ability of all sides to prepare their cases, those delaying tactics could be outlawed.
  • Prohibit rulings that stop entire project on single issue: Judges can currently toss out an entire project based on a few deficiencies in environmental impact report. Restraints can be added to the law to make “fix-it ticket” remedies the norm, not the exception.
  • Loser pays legal fees: Currently, the losing party in most California civil actions pays the tab for court costs and attorney’s fees, but that’s not always the case with CEQA lawsuits. Those who bring CEQA actions shouldn’t be allowed to skip out of court if they lose without having to pick up the tab of the prevailing party.

Find Other Ways to Reduce Construction Costs

The Sorek desalination plant, commissioned in Israel in 2015, cost $500 million to build and desalinates 185,000 acre feet of water per year. Compared to Carlsbad, which also began operations in 2015, Sorek came online for an astonishing one-sixth the capital cost per unit of capacity. Imagine if the prices Israelis pay to construct desalination plants could be achieved in California. Instead of spending $15 billion to build 1.0 million acre feet of desalination capacity, we would spend less than $3.0 billion. How did they do this?

The bidding process itself adds unnecessary costs to public infrastructure projects. Moving to a design-build process could significantly reduce duplicative work during the plant’s engineering phase. Project labor agreements are another practice that at the very least deserve serious reconsideration. Would it be possible objectively evaluate the impact of project labor agreements, and determine to what extent those mandates increase costs?

What about economies of scale? If ten desalination plants were commissioned all at once, wouldn’t there be an opportunity for tremendous unit savings? What about creativity? Elon Musk, who has disrupted the aerospace industry by building rockets at a fraction of historical prices, said “the construction industry is one of the only sectors in our economy that has not improved its productivity in the last 50 years.” Is he even partly correct? Is that worth looking into?

Shift Government Spending Priorities

Cancel High Speed Rail: The most obvious case of how to redirect funds away from something of marginal value into water infrastructure, which is something with huge public benefit, is to cancel the bullet train. The project is doomed anyway, because it will never attract private capital. But what if Californians were offered the opportunity to preserve the planned bond issuances for high speed rail, tens of billions of capital, but with a new twist? If voters were asked to redirect these funds away from high speed rail and instead towards creating water abundance through massive investment in water infrastructure, there’s a good chance they’d vote yes.

Cancel the Delta Tunnels: By investing in levee hardening, the Delta’s ecosystems can be fortified against a severe earthquake. Reducing the possibility of levee failure protects the Delta ecosystems from their worst environmental threat at the same time as it protects the ability to transfer water from north to south. Investing in hatcheries to increase the population of the threatened Smelt is a far more cost-effective way of safeguarding the survival of that species. And investing in infrastructure on the Southern California coast to make that region water independent greatly reduces the downside of a disruption to water deliveries through the Delta. Canceling the Delta Tunnels would save $20 billion, money that would go a long way towards paying for other vital water infrastructure.

Reform Pensions: The biggest out of control budget item, by far among California’s state and local agencies, is the cost of public sector pensions. A California Policy Center analysis released earlier this year, based on public announcements from CalPERS, estimated that the total employer payments for pensions for California’s state and local government employees is set to nearly double, from $31 billion in 2018 to $59 billion by 2024. And that is a best case baseline. If there is a severe market correction, those required contributions will go up further. No discussion of how to find money for other government operations can take place without understanding the role of pension costs in creating budget constraints.

Reduce State Spending: Other ways to shift spending priorities in California, while worth a discussion, are mostly controversial. Returning the administrator to faculty ratio in California’s UC and CalState systems to its historical level of 1:2 instead of the current 1:1 would also save $2.0 billion per year. Outsourcing CalTrans work and eliminating redundant positions could save $2.5 billion per year. Reducing just state agency headcount and pay/benefits by 20% would save $6.5 billion per year. Just enacting part of that, incremental pension reform for state workers, could stop the runaway cost increases that are otherwise inevitable.

California’s state budget this year has broken $200 billion for the first time. Of that, general fund spending is at $139 billion, also a record. Revenues, however, have set records as well. The rainy day fund is full, and an extra deposit of $2.6 billion has it overflowing. Why not spend that $2.6 billion on water infrastructure? For that matter, why not spend all of the $1.4 billion of cap and trade revenue on water infrastructure?

Financing more water infrastructure will more likely come via public and private debt financing. But redirecting intended future borrowings, in particular for high speed rail and for the Delta Tunnels, could cover most if not all of the infrastructure investments necessary to deliver water abundance to Californians. And at the least, redirecting funds from government operating budgets can defray some of the operating costs, if not some of the capital costs.

Work to Build a Consensus

How many more times will California’s voters approve multi-billion dollar water bonds? The two passed in the last four years, plus the current one set for the November ballot, raise $20 billion, but only $2.5 billion of that goes to reservoir storage. Only another $3.3 billion more goes to any type of supply enhancements – mostly to develop aquifer storage or fund water recycling. Meanwhile, consumers are being required to submit to permanent water rationing, and dubious projects are being funded to save water. Artificial turf is a good example. There isn’t a coach in California who wants their athletes to compete on these dangerous surfaces. On a hot day in Sacramento, the temperature on these “fields” can reach 150 degrees. They are actually keeping sprinkler systems operating on these horrendous boondoggles, just to reduce the deadly heat buildup.

Credibility with voters remains intact to-date, but cannot be taken for granted. If a grand bargain on California’s water future is struck, it will need to promise, then deliver, water abundance to California’s residents.

Change the Conventional Wisdom

California’s current policies have stifled innovation and created artificial scarcity of literally every primary necessity – not just water, but housing, energy and transportation. Each year, to comply with legislative mandates, California’s taxpayers are turning over billions of dollars to attorneys, consultants and bureaucrats, instead of paying engineers and heavy equipment operators to actually build things. The innovation that persists despite California’s unwelcoming policy environment is inspiring.

California’s policymakers have adhered increasingly to a philosophy of limits. Less water consumption. Less energy use. Urban containment. Densification. Fewer cars and more mass transit. But it isn’t working. It isn’t working because California has the highest cost of living in the nation. Using less water and energy never rewards consumers, because the water and energy never were the primary cost within their utility bills – the cost of the infrastructure and overhead was the primary cost.

Changing the conventional wisdom applies to much more than water. It is a vision of abundance instead of scarcity that encompasses every vital area of resource consumption. A completely different approach that could cost less than what it might cost to fully implement scarcity mandates. An approach that would improve the quality of life for all Californians. Without abandoning but merely scaling back the ambition of new conservation and efficiency mandates, embrace supply oriented solutions as well. Build wastewater recycling and desalination plants on the Pacific coast, enough of them to supply California’s massive coastal cities with fresh water. Instead of mandating water rationing for households, put the money that would have been necessary to retrofit all those homes into new ways to reuse water and capture storm runoff.

Paying for all of this wouldn’t have to rely exclusively on public funds. Private sector investment could fund a large percentage of the costs for new water infrastructure. Water supplies could be even more easily balanced by permitting water markets where farmers could sell their water allotments without losing their grandfathered water rights. If the bidding process and litigation burdens were reduced, massive water supply infrastructure could be constructed at far more affordable prices.

The Grand Bargain

Water abundance in California is achievable. The people of California would welcome and support a determined effort to make it a reality. But compromise on a grand scale is necessary to negotiate a grand bargain. Environmentalists would have to accept a few more reservoirs and desalination plants in exchange for plentiful water allocations to threatened ecosystems. Farmers would have to pay more for water in exchange for undiminished quantities. While private financing and revenue bonds could cover much of the expense, taxpayers would bear the burden of some new debt – but in exchange for permanent access to affordable, secure, and most abundant water.

*  *  *

This is the third and final part of an investigation into California’s water future. Part one is “How Much California Water Bond Money is for Storage?,” and part two is “How to Make California’s Southland Water Independent for $30 Billion.” Edward Ring is a co-founder of the California Policy Center and served as its first president.

Silicon Valley’s Leftists and the Night of the Slap Drones

internetSome of them, the big ones, will intrude the old fashioned way, beating down the door. Maybe others will look like insects, crawling innocuously across your property to come inside through your drains and A/C ducts. Or they’ll find an open window.

Across America, they’ll come by the millions, having manufactured themselves. They’ll be several generations smarter than the smartest smart phone in existence today. They’ll know everything about you, and at 4:30 a.m., on a hot night in late June, all at once they’ll come for you and everyone like you. Some of you will die, deemed to dangerous to live, but most of you will just be humanely incapacitated. Against all this technology, your AR 15 rifles are pathetically inadequate. Remember that. When it comes to protecting yourself from a tyrannical government, your guns are obsolete.

This may be a hypothetical scenario, but it isn’t a fantasy. It’s less than a decade from being technically feasible, if it isn’t already.

The Virtual Panopticon is Already Here

High technology has already transformed our military and law enforcement. Autonomous warfare is a new reality, relegating inhabited ships and planes to irrelevance in a transformation of stupefying velocity and consequences. Robots now patrol shopping malls and parking lots. Police drones watch us from above. Cameras (with blinking lights) now surveil even residential neighborhoodsNetworked cameras are using AI to monitor license plates, identify individuals via facial recognition, and respond to “suspicious anomalies.” Applying the concept of “crime prevention via environmental design,” police camera surveillance is being augmented by “directly linking into residential and business cameras.”

So what, right? We want to be safe. We’re not doing anything wrong.

Hold that thought. Let’s continue.

Do you use the internet? Of course you do. This means the government is able to (1) monitor your phone records, (2) mandate ISPs to turn over records of your online activity, (3) hack your mobile and wireless devices, (4) utilize “back doors” into your encrypted apps, (5) track your location at any time via your cell phone, (6) tap into any internet line, (7) monitor all your financial transactions, and (8) read your email.

Big deal. My life is boring. Have a look. Knock yourself out. I don’t care. Ok, here are a few more reminders of just how far big tech has intruded into our lives.

Do you use a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher, a refrigerator, an air conditioner, and, of course, a television? What about a coffee maker, an oven, an air purifier, or a clock or a radio? Do you have a swimming pool? Do you water your lawn?  Well guess what, the “internet of things” means all of that is being remotely monitored. And if none of your appliances are “connected,” it doesn’t necessarily matter. If you use electricity, there is now software that “profiles” anything that’s plugged into an electrical outlet, then generates a database of unique appliance signatures to “train an artificial neural network that is employed to recognize appliance activities.”

And then there are our new and omnipresent digital helpmates, SiriAlexaGoogle Assistant, and all the rest of those devices who talk to you and listen to you.

It’s all wondrous. Bring it on. The fun has just begun. Wait till the androids arrive; we’ll marry themgive them rightslet them vote and own property. Because they aren’t going to be remotely monitored, and they won’t adhere to programs written by human beings with an agenda. Of course not. Relax. But someday soon, try to tell an atheist who married his android that it’s just a toaster, and that apart from big brother watching from afar, nobody’s home inside.

If you think the millions are brainwashed today, imagine tomorrow.

The Owners of the Panopticon are Leftist Oligarchs

Which brings us to the big tech giants who have created near monopolies on how we communicate online, how we learn, how our opinions are shaped, and what we believe in. We have seen how, in order to influence elections and mass political sentiments, Google manipulates search results, Facebook meticulously curates fantastically detailed profiles of its billions of users at the same time as it suppresses politically incorrect views, YouTube selectively demonetizes or restricts videos, and Twitter “shadowbans.” And we know they coordinate their efforts. Where’s this headed?

If you want to know where high technology is taking us, go to the Silicon Valley, in sunny California. In this epicenter of high tech, Santa Clara County, 45% of working age residents (25-45) are foreign born. These foreigners tend to be either wealthy, highly educated Asians who own and work in high tech companies, or relatively poor, uneducated Latin Americans who do menial service jobs. That dichotomy is reflected in the price of housing, bid upwards by Asian immigrants who bring with them suitcases full of cash, and the poverty rate, pushed up by hard working, low wage Latino immigrants who can’t afford the cost of living. Santa Clara’s median home price is $925,000 and the poverty rate is 9.4%. But how are these demographics represented in Silicon Valley’s politics?

The White liberal elite, who love to hire Asian programmers on H-1 visas (thousands of whom are foreign agents), and love to hire Mexicans and Central Americans to cook, clean, landscape, and drive down wages for service workers across the board, have concocted a winning political message. It is cynical and dishonest, but devastatingly effective. They posture and bellow as loud and as often as they can how much they care about “people of color” and “diversity,” at the same time as they enact draconian restrictions on land development, conventional energy use, or any sort of infrastructure investment that might actually help lower the cost of living. For them, it doesn’t matter. They’re rich.

And now they have Donald Trump, the most convenient boogeyman in the history of American liberalism.

Leftists Want to Turn America into California

One recent and very representative expression of the liberal arrogance that informs the Silicon Valley elite is an influential article written early in 2018 by Peter Leyden, a journalist and entrepreneur who calls Silicon Valley home. Entitled “The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War,” the article claims “there’s no bipartisan way forward at this juncture in our history — one side must win.” Perhaps, sadly, that is the only thing in this frighteningly arrogant manifesto where everyone might find agreement.

Leyden’s partisan certainty is only matched by his astounding failure to recognize the cold reality of his state’s supposedly enlightened policies. He writes “Since 1980, their [Republican] policies have engorged the rich while flatlining the incomes of the majority of Americans. But California has the fourth highest rate of income inequality in the U.S., eclipsed among major states only by the equally Democrat-controlled New York. Leyden is invited to take a walk through the barrio in East San Jose, or the ‘hood up in San Francisco’s Hunters Point. He should ask the residents how they feel they’re being served by the politicians running California. He should ask them how they like watching millions of wealthy Asian immigrants buy up all the homes and drive up the prices, while poor Latino immigrant workers drive down all the wages.

When it comes to “climate change,” Leyden’s pronouncements are also representative of California’s liberal elite. In between his despicable use of the term “Deniers,” which equates climate skeptics with holocaust deniers, Leyden writes “California is leading the world in technological innovation and creative policies to counter climate change.” But what if Leyden and all his alarmist cohorts are dead wrong? What if the debate over climate change should not be silenced? Because what if including clean fossil fuel and safe nuclear power is the only possible way humanity can rapidly and effectively empower aspiring billions of people in the developing world, delivering the energy-driven prosperity to their cultures that is absolutely correlated to lower birthrates? What if renewable power is actually less sustainable? More immediately, what if creating this artificial scarcity of energy is making it impossible for low-income Californians to pay their bills? But the elite don’t care about that. They’re rich.

By the way, try to search for balanced material on clean energy on Google – you pretty much can’t find it. And if you can still find robust links to credible information produced by climate contrarians on your Facebook feeds, know that you are only seeing them because Facebook has put you into a “silo.” Those with online activity patterns that indicate they aren’t already receptive to climate contrarianism will NOT see those links. They won’t know. They will view monolithically packaged information spreading one message – the debate is over, fossil fuel and nuclear power are bad for humanity and the earth. Case closed. Ditto for every other important, politically incorrect premise of conservatism.

The War for America’s Future is Happening Now, and Later will be too Late

There’s nothing wrong with some immigration; there’s nothing wrong with investing in renewable energy. But to brand the skeptics as “racists” and “deniers,” and to suppress their arguments in the electronic public square – that is where the Silicon Valley abuses their power. And it has just begun.

The most chilling part of Leyden’s discussion on the virtues of California’s “one party state” is when he asserts “America today does exhibit some of the core elements that move a society from what normally is the process of working out political differences toward the slippery slope of civil war.” He goes on to write “two different political cultures already at odds through different political ideologies, philosophies, and worldviews can get trapped in a polarizing process that increasingly undermines compromise. They see the world through different lenses, consume different media, and literally live in different places. They start to misunderstand the other side, then start to misrepresent them, and eventually make them the enemy. The opportunity for compromise is then lost. This is where America is today. At some point, one side or the other must win – and win big. The side resisting change, usually the one most rooted in the past systems and incumbent interests, must be thoroughly defeated — not just for a political cycle or two, but for a generation or two.”

Leyden’s remarks epitomize the implacable resolve of the left wing in America. He should be taken seriously. “One side or the other must win – and win big.”

The problem here, of course, is that we “deplorables” don’t want to be “thoroughly defeated.” We don’t want to live in a nation where we can’t afford homes, we can’t find good jobs, we can’t afford heating or cooling, and our transgressions are perpetually monitored inside and outside our rented apartments. We don’t want to live in “smart growth” communities where the only places we can afford to live are in high rises and the only transportation we can afford to use are trains and buses. We don’t want our culture destroyed by mass immigration nor do we want our economic ambitions crushed by unfair trade and punitive environmental mandates. We don’t like what the Democrats have done to California. We’re not going to accept their way of life.

Silicon Valley is the origin of modern high technology. It has offered innovations, most of them desirable if not the stuff of dreams. It is transforming the world. But it is easy to imagine how so much power can be misused. And Silicon Valley today is controlled by leftists. These high-tech titans form the most powerful group in a leftist coalition that includes academia, entertainment, mainstream media, and the HR departments in every major corporation in America. If you don’t think this coalition is powerful enough to take over the federal government and turn America into California, you’re dreaming.

Which brings us back to the Night of the Slap Drones. Back in June, 1934, another virulent pack of leftist utopian fascists decided that the “side resisting change” had to be “thoroughly defeated.” Within hours, on this “Night of the Long Knives,” hundreds of people identified as the resistance were silenced forever – shot in their beds at 4:30 in the morning, or arrested and hung within days. And if it happens this time, it won’t be knives and guns that do the killing. It will be robots and drones, controlled by the left-wing oligarchs and their minions of “anti-fascist” true believers, the elite of the Silicon Valley.

Stop them now. Because if and when they take power, resistance will be futile.

Ed Ring is a fifth-generation Californian with more than 20 years experience in business and politics, primarily with start-up and early-stage organizations. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development. Ring has an undergraduate degree in political science from UC Davis, and an MBA in finance from the University of Southern California.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Proposition 5: The Property Tax Transfer Initiative

property taxProposition 5 will be on the November 6, 2018 statewide ballot and could provide you property tax relief if you are a qualified California homeowner.

If passed, Proposition 5 will extend Proposition 13 property tax benefits.

First, a brief history of property tax propositions:

  • Proposition 13 passed in 1978 making base property tax 1%, with 2% maximum annual increases.
  • Proposition 60 authorized seniors a one-time move of the property tax to another property. In the same county if the new home’s purchase price is equal to or less than the sold dwelling.
  • Proposition 90 allowed counties to accept Proposition 60 property tax basis from a home sold in a different county to be applied to those that accept low property tax transfers. 10 counties have opted into accepting these transfers.

What is being considered today:

  • If passed, Proposition 5 will make it so that those 55 and older will be able to move their Proposition 13 tax benefit to a home of any value, anywhere in California any number of times. Plus, Proposition 5 adds two addition categories of persons: those that lose their home to natural disasters and the permanently disabled homeowners of any age.

If you are thinking of moving call me at 949-616-2988 to discuss your particular circumstance.

Note: this article is not tax or legal advice.

For further details about Proposition 5 and how it may affect you read the information below.

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The California Association of Realtors sponsored the initiative and referred to it as the “People’s Initiative to Protect Proposition 13 Savings.” The California Attorney General describes Proposition 5 as “Changes Requirements for Certain Property Owners to Transfer their Property Tax Base to Replacement Property. Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute.”

Starting January 1, 2019 three segments of the population would be enabled to benefit from the passage of Proposition 5, they include: 1) homeowners over 55 with their primary residence in California, 2) homeowners that have had their primary residence substantially damaged or destroyed by a disaster, as declared by the Governor and 3) any homeowners that are a severely and permanently disabled person.

To fully understand the significance of the 2018 Proposition 5 you will need to have a basic understanding of the Howard Jarvis’s lauded Proposition 13, passed in 1978, along with Proposition 60, passed in 1986, and Proposition 90, passed in 1988.

Proposition 13 made it state law that property tax base rates are 1% of the full cash value, usually the purchase price, (minus the $7,000 homeowners’ exemption) and that the property tax may only increase a maximum of 2% per year.  Proposition 13 defined “full cash value” as the county assessor’s valuation of real property as shown on the 1975-76 tax bill under “full cash value” or the appraised value of real property when purchased, newly constructed, or a change in ownership that occurred after the 1975 assessment.

Proposition 60 allows seniors a one-time opportunity to use the Proposition 13 benefit of having their lower property tax basis transferred to a newly purchased replacement dwelling. Seniors are defined as any person over the age of 55 years and includes a married couple one member of which is over the age of 55 years. The current law in place is that the replacement dwelling must be of equal or lesser value than the dwelling to be sold. Proposition 60 only applies to intra-county primary residence replacements and was enhanced with the passage of Proposition 90.

In 1988, Proposition 90 was passed and enhances the Proposition 60 benefits by allowing counties to opt into allowing Proposition 60 transfers of property tax basis from other counties. Only 10 counties in California have chosen to accept this inter-county property tax bases, they include: Alameda, El Dorado, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Ventura counties.

Proposition 5 would enhance Propositions 60 and 90 by allowing homeowners 55 years of age or older to transfer their Proposition 13 tax basis to a home of any price (proportionally), located anywhere in the state, any number of times. Let me provide a hypothetical example to explain by what I meant by proportionally. Say you purchased your home 21 years ago for $200,000, with a property tax basis of $2,000 and with compounding your property tax basis is now $3,000 and your home is now worth $900,000 and you want to purchase a home for $1,200,000. You sell the less expensive home and purchase the home that costs $300,000 more, your property tax basis from the original home would move with you for the first $900,000 in value and your property tax basic 1% levy would only increase by the difference in the full cash value. Your new property tax would be the $3,000 moved basis plus an additional $3,000 for the property tax on the increased value. Therefore, your property tax base would be $6,000 instead of $12,000 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1, Buy Up Example

Figure 1, Buy Up Example

If you want to buy a less expensive home, your property taxes will be reduced proportionally equal to the original home. Any replacement property of equal or lesser value purchased or newly constructed by a person eligible to transfer the base year value of his or her original property, the base year value of the replacement property will be calculated by dividing the base year value of the original property by the full cash value of the original property, and multiplying the result by the full cash value of the replacement property. If in the same scenario as above, you sold your $900,000 property and purchased a $450,000 home the new property tax would be half of the new sale price or $1,500 per year (see Figure 2). The buy down is a little harder to follow so let me provide a second example. If your existing home sells for $600,000 and your property tax is $2,000 and you purchase a home for $400,000 your new property tax basis would be 1% of one-third of $400,000 or about $1,333.33 per year (see Figure 3).

Figure 2, Buy Down Example 1

Figure 2, Buy Down Example 1

Figure 3, Buy Down Example 2

Figure 2, Buy Down Example 2

The benefits to those that have suffered from having their primary residence substantially damaged or destroyed by a disaster, as declared by the governor, applies to replacement properties that are comparable to the home that was damaged or destroyed without regard to the age of the owner(s). This is explicitly for a replacement property that is located intra-county. Proposition 5 has language indicating that the state Legislature may authorize each county board of supervisors to adopt, after consultation with affected local agencies within the county, an ordinance allowing the transfer of the base year value of property that is located within another county in the State.

The third category of persons that may benefit from the passage of Proposition 5 include any severely and permanently disabled person, who resides in a property that is eligible for the homeowners’ exemption. The property tax base year transfer is also applied to replacement dwellings that are purchased or newly constructed on or after June 6, 1990. The benefit would be in place regardless of the number of prior transfers, the value of the replacement home or whether the replacement dwelling is located within the same county. There are other details, but this gives you a general overview of the three classes of persons that may choose to benefit from the passage of Proposition 5.

The California Association of Realtors believes that if Proposition 5 is approved by California’s voters it would make moving between counties once again affordable for California’s retirees, help victims of officially recognized natural disasters and provide relief to the severely disabled.  These property tax benefits would result in the freeing up of home inventory and encouraging home ownership. If you are considering moving contact me to discuss your unique real estate needs, (949) 616-2988.

John Paul Ledesma, GRI | Broker Associate | HomeSmart Evergreen Realty| DRE 01810644

www.MissionViejoREDispatch.com

Note: this is not tax or legal advice.

©2018 John Paul Ledesma

Why Teachers Unions are the Worst of the Worst

Teachers unionWhen considering the influence of unions on American society, there are vast differences depending on what type of union one considers.

Private sector unions, for all the criticisms they may deserve, have nonetheless played a vital role in securing rights for the American worker. Subject to appropriate regulations, private sector unions have the opportunity to continue to play a vital role in American society. If they would bother to embrace the aspirations of their members, instead of the multinational corporations their leaders now apparently collude with, they might even support immigration reform. That would elevate the wages and benefits of all American workers, especially those doing low paying jobs.

Public sector unions, on the other hand, should be illegal. They negotiate with elected officials who they help elect. They negotiate for a share of coerced tax revenue, rather than for a share of profits, meaning there are no competitive checks on how much they can demand. The agenda of public sector unions is inherently in conflict with the public interest. But given the reality of public sector unions, it is important to recognize that some public sector unions are worse than others.

Public safety unions, for example, have successfully lobbied for pension benefits that are not sustainable. This calls for a difficult but necessary economic discussion that can only end two ways – either these pension benefits are going to be reduced, or cities and counties across California and elsewhere will go bankrupt in the next major recession. But public safety unions have not undermined their profession the way the teachers unions have.

The teachers unions are guilty of all the problems common to all public sector unions. They, too, have negotiated unsustainable rates of pay and benefits. They, too, elect their own bosses, negotiate inefficient work rules, have an insatiable need for more public funds, and protect incompetent members. But the teachers union is worse than all other public sector unions for one reason that eclipses all others: Their agenda is negatively affecting how we socialize and educate our children, the next generation of Americans.

Work Rules Harm Public Schools

One of the most compelling examples of just how much harm the teachers union has done to California’s schools was the 2014 case Vergara vs. the State of California. In this case, attorneys representing public school students argued that union negotiated work rules harmed their ability to receive a quality education. In particular, they questioned rules governing tenure (too soon), dismissals (too hard), and layoffs (based on seniority instead of merit). In the closing arguments, the plaintiff’s lead attorney referenced testimony from the defendant’s expert witnesses to show that these and other rules had a negative disproportionate impact on students in disadvantaged communities.

Despite winning in the lower courts, the Vergara case was eventually dismissed by the California Supreme Court. Teachers still get tenure after less than two years of classroom observation. Incompetent teachers are still nearly impossible to fire. And whenever it is necessary to reduce teacher headcount in a district, the senior teachers stay and the new teachers go, regardless of how well or poorly these teachers were doing their jobs. The consequences of these self-serving work rules are more than academic.

The evidence that California’s public schools are failing is everywhere. Los Angeles, a city whose residents are – perhaps more than anywhere else – representative of America’s future, is home to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), with 640,000 K-12 students. And as reported earlier this year in the LA School Report, according to the new “California School Dashboard,” a ratings system that replaced the Academic Performance Index, LAUSD is failing to educate hundreds of thousands of students. In the most recent year of results, 52 percent of LAUSD’s schools earned a D or F in English language arts, and 50 percent earned a D or F in math. Fifty percent of LAUSD’s schools are failing or nearly failing to teach their students English or math.

Attack Innovative Charter Schools

In the face of failure, you would think LAUSD and other failing school districts would embrace bipartisan, obvious reforms such as those highlighted in the Vergara case. But instead, these unions are relentlessly trying to unionize charter schools, which would force those schools to adhere to the same union work rules. In Los Angeles, the Alliance Network of charter schools has delivered demonstrably better educational outcomes for less money, while serving nearly identical student populations.

How does it help to impose union work rules on charter schools that are succeeding academically? How does that help the children who are America’s future?

A Left-Wing Political Agenda

The other way the teachers union is unique among public sector unions is their hyper-partisanship. Despite and often in defiance of their memberships, nearly all unions are left-wing partisan organizations. Nearly all of them support left-wing causes and Democratic political candidates. But the teachers unions do so with a zeal that dwarfs their counterparts. Larry Sand, a former LAUSD teacher and prolific observer of teachers union antics, has spent years documenting their left wing agenda.

For example, reporting on the annual conventions of the two largest national teachers unions, Sand writes: “The National Education Association convention at the beginning of the month gave us a clue which theory would become reality when the union passed quite a few über liberal New Business Items, maintained its lopsided leftward political spending, and gave rogue quarterback Colin Kaepernick a human rights award. And here in the Golden State, the California Teachers Association continues its one-way spending on progressive initiatives and endorsed 35 state legislators in the June primary – all Democrats.

A week after the NEA convention, the other national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers held its yearly wingding and left absolutely no doubt as to its future political direction. The resolutions passed by the union at the convention would make any socialist proud. Universal health care – whether single-payer or MediCare for All, full public funding for, and free tuition at all public colleges and universities, and universal, full-day, and cost-free child care are what AFT wants for the country. Additionally, the union resolved to double per-pupil expenditures for low-income K-12 districts and to ‘tax the rich’ to fully fund ‘IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), Title I and state allocations to public colleges and universities.’”

Left-Wing Student Indoctrination

This left-wing political agenda finds its way into the classroom, of course. At the same time as California’s K-12 public school students are not being effectively taught English or math skills, they are being exposed to agenda-driven political and cultural indoctrination.

Again, as documented by Larry Sand: “Nor are textbooks safe. Communist and notorious America-hater Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” is assigned in many high school history classes. Zinn felt that the teaching of history “should serve society in some way” and that “objectivity is impossible and it is also undesirable.” As a Marxist, he’d prefer a society that resembles Stalin’s Russia. Additionally, Pacific Research Institute’s Lance Izumi notes that pages and pages of the latest California History, Social Science Framework ‘are devoted to identity politics, and the environmentalist, sexual, and anti-Vietnam War movements, with detailed and extensive bibliographical references. In contrast, the contemporaneous conservative movement, which succeeded in electing Californian Ronald Reagan as president, with its complex mixture of social, economic and national security sub-movements, is given cursory and passing mention, with no references provided.’”

Public sector unions are going to be with us for a long time. But in the wake of the Janus ruling, members who don’t agree with the political agenda of these unions can quit, depriving them of the dues that – to the tune of nearly a billion per year just in California – make them so powerful.

Teachers, in particular, should carefully consider this option. America’s future depends on it.

Ed Ring is the co-founder of the California Policy Center and served as its first president.

America Is Not a Nation of Immigrants

Statue of LibertyAmerica is a nation of immigrants. It’s a commonplace among the political class. Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), emergent leaders in the open-borders vanguard of the Democratic Party, never tire of saying so. Both object to the Trump Administration’s hard line on border control and have buttressed their calls for an “immigration reform” that would in effect re-open the floodgates of migrants from south of the border. The reason, they say, is that immigration is the defining characteristic of the nation.

It isn’t.

The “nation of immigrants” trope is relatively new in American history, appearing not until the late 19th century. Its first appearance in print was most likely The Daily State Journal of Alexandria, Virginia, in 1874. In praising a state bill that encouraged European immigration, the editors wrote: “We are a nation of immigrants and immigrants’ children.” In 1938, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said to the Daughters of the American Revolution: “Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.” John F. Kennedy would later use the term as the title of a book, written as part of an Anti-Defamation League series, so it is undoubtedly objective, quality scholarship.

But in 1874, as in 1938, and even in 1958 when JFK’s book was written, America was not a nation of immigrants. The women Roosevelt was addressing were not the daughters of immigrants but rather the descendants of settlers—those Americans who founded the society that immigrants in 1874 came to be a part of.

Curiously, yet another Kennedy understood this and might have a thing or two to say in protest against the “nation of immigrants” myth, even if he didn’t quite mean what he said.

During the U.S. Senate debate of the 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act, Ted Kennedy, young Joe’s great-uncle, promised: “our cities will not be flooded with a million immigrants annually.” Today, with far more than a million new arrivals per year, it seems Ted’s words did not age well.

The liberal lion also promised that “the ethnic mix of this country will not be upset,” and America would not be flooded “with immigrants from any one country or area.” Yet in 2014, the number of Latinos in California finally overtook the number of whites. This, too, did not age well.

“The bill will not flood our cities with immigrants. It will not upset the ethnic mix of our society. It will not relax the standards of admission. It will not cause American workers to lose their jobs,” Kennedy assured his colleagues and fellow citizens. He was disingenuous at best. None of it worked out the way Kennedy promised in 1965.

The Emma Lazarus Myth
All of this is not presented simply to take a jab at young Joe, who is simply parroting the liberal line of the moment, but to highlight certain implicit truths—now disregarded by the progeny—in the assurances of his forebear.

If America has always been a nation of immigrants, why then did Ted Kennedy and others feel the need to reassure Americans that this nation would not be inundated by foreigners? This suggests that America was not, in fact, a nation of immigrants in the 1960s, and politicians aware of this spoke in this way to reassure a public equally aware of it and certainly unwilling to see America become a nation of immigrants.

Similarly, implicit in Ted Kennedy’s rhetoric is some recognition of the fact that mass immigration has the potential to change the country in ways that citizens might not like—such as by driving down wages and hurting native workers. Joe Kennedy, however, has suggested immigration is always a net good. Which Kennedy do we believe? (“Neither” is a perfectly acceptable answer.)

Then there is Kamala Harris. The freshman senator from California took the Independence Day holiday as an opportunity to claim the Declaration of Independence was signed by “immigrants” and performed the obligatory shout out to Emma Lazarus, who many liberal politicians believe wrote our immigration laws. Although Lazarus’ poem was added to the Statue of Liberty nearly two decades after the structure was dedicated, her belated verses became, at least to the Left, of more importance than the statue itself and the nation for which it stands. The idea of immigrants as all helpless “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse,” as Lazarus conceived, plays to the Left’s patronizing narrative of foreigners and citizen-subjects alike. But the problem with this conception of America’s immigrants, the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) argued, is it’s a myth—and a bad one, at that.

“The 20 million-odd immigrants who arrived between 1870 and 1910,” said Moynihan, “were not the wretched refuse of anybody’s shores.” Rather, the fiery New York liberal concluded, they were an “extraordinary, enterprising and self-sufficient folk who knew exactly what they were doing and doing it quite on their own, thank you very much.”

Moynihan was right. America’s early immigrants were, with some exceptions (such as the Irish fleeing famine), Jewish tailors, Italian masons, German shopkeepers, skilled craftsmen, and artisans. It was not uncommon for these immigrants to make their fortunes in America and remigrate, either because they had never intended to stay or were induced by hardship. Those who stayed did so because they truly wanted to be American.

Lawbreaking Carries Huge Costs
To say that most of today’s immigrants do not have the qualities Moynihan adumbrated is not racist but rather an objective statement of facts, especially when 51 percent of households headed by an immigrant—legal or illegal—use at least one welfare program per year, compared to 30 percent of native households. Immigrants from Central America and Mexico, the bulk of today’s arrivals, have the highest rate of welfare use. Accordingly, the Left has shifted its politics to dangle a generous welfare-state before immigrants and illegal aliens.

Indeed, in 2017 the combined cost of education, medical, justice, and welfare expenditures attributed to illegal aliens alone amounted to $116 billion—up from $113 billion in 2013. That figure accounts for total taxes paid by illegal aliens. Moreover, it’s worth noting that amnesty for illegals would only exacerbate this problem, because amnesty would make available to them more forms of means-tested welfare benefits, and in turn increase the fiscal drain on American taxpayers.

While exceptional immigrants certainly still do arrive in the United States, progressive policy in the form of a generous welfare state has made it so immigrants no longer need to have the qualities of which Moynihan spoke.

But were America’s Founders immigrants, as Harris claims? Perhaps the simplest answer is found in the evolution of the English language in America. The term “immigrant,” Samuel P. Huntington informs us, did not come into usage in America until the 1780s—to distinguish new arrivals from the founding settlers.

Prior to the American Revolution, the English and the Dutch, according to historian John Higham, “conceived of themselves as founders, settlers, or planters—the formative population of those colonial societies—not as immigrants. Theirs was the polity, the language, the pattern of work and settlement, and many of the mental habits to which the immigrants would have to adjust.” If the Founders were immigrants, as some have mendaciously claimed, it would have been a tremendous surprise to them, because they certainly did not conceive of themselves as such.

By 1790, the population of the United States was 4 million. With the exception of a black minority and Indians, America was 60 percent ethnically English, 80 percent British—with Germans and the Dutch making up the remainder—and 98 percent Protestant. In 1797, John Jay noted specific attributes of American identity. In doing so, Jay did not simply adumbrate what “makes an American,” but made a distinction between settlers and immigrants. These are language (English), manners and customs (Anglo-Protestant), religion (Christianity), principles of government (British).

“We must,” Jay said of newcomers, “see our people more Americanized.”

Drawing from Huntington’s exhaustive demographic research, we find that while European wars kept immigration to a crawl, the overall American population increased by 35 percent between 1790 and 1800, 36 percent between 1800 and 1810, and 82 percent between 1800 and 1820. Huntington attributes the population explosion to high birth rates and fertility rates among the native-born population.

What Immigration Numbers Really Mean
Although it should be clear by now, the Left will never admit their claim of America as an historically multicultural-immigrant society is unsupportable, because that would damage their devil’s bargain with identity politics.

Concerning immigration patterns, from 1820 through 1924, 34 million new arrivals entered the United States, mostly from Europe. Throughout this period, intermittent waves of immigration were punctuated by pauses and lulls. These respites provided immigrants time to Americanize. By contrast, from 1965 through 2000, 24 million new arrivals entered the United States, mostly from Latin America and Asia, and with few if any pauses between waves. In just 35 years, America experienced nearly as much immigration as it did over a century. Nevertheless, from 1820 through 2000, the foreign-born averaged just over 10 percent of the total American population.

To claim that America is a “nation of immigrants” is to stretch a truth—that America historically has experienced intermittent waves of immigration—into a total falsehood, that America is a nation of immigrants. For the truth of the first thing to equal the truth of the other, every nation that experiences immigration may just as well be considered a “nation of immigrants.” Germans have lived along the Rhine since before Christ, yet Germany has also been swarmed by foreigners from the Middle East and North Africa. Is Germany, therefore, a nation of immigrants? A resounding nein is the answer we are hearing from Germans.

The Right Way to Live
Before America was a nation, it had to be settled and founded. As Michael Anton reiterated in response to New York Times columnist Bret Stephens: America is a nation of settlers, not a nation of immigrants. In that, Anton is echoing Samuel Huntington, who showed that America is a society of settlers. Those settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries—more than anyone else after—had the most profound and lasting impact on American culture, institutions, historical development, and identity. American began in the 1600s—not 1874—and what followed in the 1770s and 1780s was rooted in the founded society of those settlers.

“The most important fact to keep in mind when studying political changes in America is that the United States is a product of a settler society,” writes historian J. Rogers Hollingsworth.

Settlers, Anton explains, travel from an existing society into the wilderness to build a society ex nihilo. Settlers travel in groups that either implicitly or explicitly agree to a social compact. Settlers, unlike immigrants, go abroad with the intention of creating a new community away from the mother country. Immigrants, on the other hand, travel from one existing society to another, either as individuals or as families, and are motivated by different reasons; and not always good ones. Immigrants come later to be part of the society already built by settlers, who, as Higham wrote, establish the polity, language, customs, and habits of the society immigrants seek to join and in joining must embrace and adopt.

Justice Louis Brandeis would later echo Jay, declaring that the immigrant is Americanized when he “adopts the clothes, the manners, and the customs generally prevailing here . . . substitutes for his mother tongue the English language,” ensures that “his interests and affections have become deeply rooted here,” and comes “into complete harmony with our ideals and aspirations.” Only when the immigrant has done this will he have “the national consciousness of an American.”

Certainly, the Left (and a great many neoconservatives, for that matter) pays lip service to the principles that constitute what we call the American Creed: liberty, representative government, individualism, and equality. The principles of the Creed are transcendent of race and ethnicity, and it is for this reason that America has the capacity to assimilate foreigners into its society in a way that is unique to the rest of the world. One can become an American in a way that it is impossible to become a German, for example.

But the principles behind the Creed are universal because they are largely abstractions. As such, they do not tell us anything about the society that actually attracts the immigrants, nor do they tell us anything about the people whose culture fostered the Creed. This is generally as far as civic nationalists are willing to go. Either out of political expediency or for fear of being condemned as racists for merely stating that this nation has an historic demographic; upon whose culture the societal scaffolding of our nation was built, and thus laid the foundations of a Creed by which all men can live.

The “crucible in which all the new types are melted into one,” said Teddy Roosevelt, “was shaped from 1776 to 1789, and our nationality was definitely fixed in all its essentials by the men of Washington’s day.” These “essentials” are derived from the historic Anglo-Protestant, Middle American core of the nation, in whose culture we find the British traditions of law, justice, and limits upon government power, the English language, a legacy of European art, literature, philosophy, and music, Protestant moralism, and an ethic of self-control, self-reliance, and self-assertion.

In the Anglo tradition, Americans will find their customs, prayers, precepts, and political ideas; the bicameral legislature, the division of government powers, a legislative committee system, and so on. In the Protestant tradition, Americans find responsiveness of government to the people, their work ethic, individualism, a zeal for religious and cultural restoration, and a deep skepticism of centralized state power.

What the Multiculturalists Can Teach Us
The Creed did not appear spontaneously, it is the product of the culture of this nation’s historic Anglo-Protestant demographic. Millions of immigrants and their children attained prosperity in America because they Americanized and adopted Anglo-Protestant culture. There is no question that this is precisely what historically has been the case, and we can find affirmation in the words of the critics of Americanization.

Will Kymlicka, a multicultural theorist, argued in 1995 that before the 1960s, immigrants “were expected to shed their distinctive heritage and assimilate entirely to existing cultural norms.” This process of Americanization Kymlicka grudgingly labeled the “Anglo-conformity model.” “Anglo-conformity” is on target, and it is precisely this process that has benefitted both the nation and the immigrants who have embraced it. Moreover, there are two implicit truths in Kymlicka’s words: America was never a multicultural society, and Americanization was in full effect until the 1960s.

How effective? Prior to waves of sustained immigration from Latin America after the 1960s, the United States was a land of 200 million people virtually all speaking English.

The Left has fully rejected this older approach to assimilation as “un-American.” It is, to the Left, un-American to ask that foreigners respect our laws and, if they are so fortunate as to be admitted to this great nation, embrace the culture that made it all possible. According to the Left, America’s historic demographic is the only thing wrong with America at all, and if these native-born Americans will not acquiesce their forced obsolescence, then they should simply leave the country to make room for more “good Americans” who are not American at all. America, however, is “not the common property of all mankind,” as Anton has so correctly noted.

There are no patriots among those who have slandered or misconstrued the history, culture, and principles of this nation in an effort to subvert and destroy all that we call America. There are no patriots on the Left. America belongs to no one but Americans. It does not belong to the foreign masses of the world and it does not belong to the Left who, having rejected the American way, cannot count themselves among its patriots.

This article was originally published by the Center for American Greatness, Inc.

Correction: This article was edited slightly on July 12 to reflect that California’s Latino population overtook the white population in 2014; California did not become a majority Latino state. According to U.S. Census figures, the Golden State’s Latino population is 38 percent.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Is Crony Capitalism Alive and Well in California?

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image1661658If there’s one thing that unites Californians, it’s a disdain for crony capitalism.

What is crony capitalism, you ask? We see it all the time. Think local elected officials throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Amazon to try and lure their second global headquarters to their city. PRI’s senior fellow in business and economics Wayne Winegarden has written about lawmakers offering generous electric car subsidies that would only really benefit Tesla.

Hard-working people are annoyed when government picks winners and losers in the economy through tax giveaways, set-asides, contracting preferences, or other favored treatment.

Did you know that it also costs California taxpayers significant sums, as well?

Matthew Mitchell and Tammy Winter at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University have just released an interesting new study called, “The Opportunity Cost of Corporate Welfare.”

They argue that neither evidence nor economy theory suggests that these incentives work. In fact, taxpayers in California are footing the bill for these giveaways to favored companies and industries.

Mitchell and Winter calculated what it would mean if California eliminated all the corporate subsidies in the state tax code.

They found that with the savings, California could:

  • Reduce the corporate income tax by 36 percent,
  • Reduce the state personal income tax by 6.2 percent,
  • Reduce the state sales tax by 5.8 percent, and
  • Reduce the state’s overall tax burden by 1.4 percent.

This echoes what Wayne Winegarden has written in the “Beyond the New Normal” series. There is an opportunity cost to government spending decisions. With the right economic policies in place, we can see sustained economic growth across all sectors of the economy.

Like Winegarden, Mitchell and Winter argue that state policymakers should focus on policies that enhance the economic freedom of all citizens.

With California currently ranking 49th in economic freedom on the Cato Institute’s annual rankings, sadly it’s highly unlikely that a pro-economic freedom agenda will be embraced by the majority party in Sacramento any time soon.

Tim Anaya is communications director for Pacific Research Institute, where this article was originally published. 

Gov. Brown’s May Revise Shows No Need for Gas Tax Increase

The first takeaway from Gov. Jerry Brown’s May Revision of his budget for 2018-19 is that California didn’t need that $5.5 billion yearly gas-tax increase the Legislature passed last year. The proposal shows we have $8 billion in revenues in excess of projections.

In one area I persistently agree with Gov. Brown, “Despite strong fiscal health in the short term, the risks to the long-term health of the state budget continue to mount.” Unfortunately, according to the governor’s budget revision, we have $291 billion in long-term costs and the Legislature has done little to fix the state’s fundamental problems.

In his budget announcement and press conference, Brown emphasized the volatility of tax revenues, especially capital gains-tax revenues, shown in this chart:

moorlach-graphic

And he emphasized we’re overdue for a recession. Of course, he didn’t mention it has been President Trump’s economic policies – tax cuts and regulation reform – that have lifted the national economy above the sub-par performance of the Obama administration.

“How you ride the tiger is what we now face,” he said. “It’s going up, but when it goes down, a lot of these programs will be cut. Life is very giddy at the peaks.” No doubt, he is right. But he also ignored most of the reasons for this volatility even as he pointed out the Rainy Day fund will be filled at $13 billion, though he estimated that an impending economic storm would require resources closer to $60 billion. That’s a budget hole expected in the next recession, which could be $30 billion a year for two years. In such a scenario, the Rainy Day Fund would provide just 22 percent of that potential revenue shortage.

I see a much bigger danger. Taxes are so high in this state. To survive the next recession, companies will flee to states with much lower taxes. Because of the state’s punishing taxes, including then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s $13 billion tax increase in 2009, our state’s economy crashed hard. Unemployment soared to double-digits and was exceeded only by the rates in Michigan and Nevada. It may happen again.

The period of rising revenues we’re now enjoying should be used to reduce our already committed liabilities and the overall tax burden.

Of course, having increased taxes last year – not just the gas tax, but the cap-and-trade tax Brown pushed through, estimated at $2.2 billion a year – Brown wasn’t about to suggest cutting taxes. It will be up to the voters to repeal the gas tax this November.

Given that the rising tax revenues won’t be returned to the taxpayers who worked so hard to earn them, the governor at least is proposing spending the money on some true needs. I have worked up a list of options, below, of 15 one-time spending recommendations that should be prioritized. But first let me recognize three of Brown’s proposals that have some overlap to my suggestions:

  • $2 billion for infrastructure: “The proposal will target these funds to the universities, courts, state facilities and flood control. Investments are also proposed for high-priority capital expenditures.”
  • $359 million for homelessness. His proposal notes more funding will begin to flow “from a bond and a fee on real estate transactions” passed last year – another tax that I opposed and don’t believe we need. This money would be a “bridge” until these funds are spent.
  • $312 million for mental health “for enhanced early detection of mental health problems and the education of mental health professionals.” The budget proposal also would put the $2 billion “No Place Like Home” initiative funding on the ballot “to accelerate the delivery of housing projects to serve the mentally ill.”

My proposals include prefunding the $2 billion for No Place Like Home, which will be paid back with the bond proceeds.

I’d also like to help out cities and counties with their pensions by injecting several billion dollars directed to their unfunded liabilities in lieu of taxpayer rebates. In his press conference, Brown unfortunately answered, when that question was raised, “A lot of cities signed up for pensions they can’t afford. The state can’t step into the shoes of the cities and counties. They’re going to have to handle that.”

Again, he’s largely right. And he’s actually putting his legal resources and political chits behind the overturning of the so-called “California Rule,” which ratchets up pension costs with no ability for governments to correct costs at the front end, leading them to fiscal ruin at the back end.

Because of that, we’ve got cities and counties laying off police and fire simply because their pension costs are so high. And the cities and counties can’t raise their tax base more than 2 cents on the sales tax. Current leaders in our cities and counties weren’t the ones who spiked pensions decades ago, but the California Legislature made it really easy.

Sacramento is renowned for taking funds from cities and counties during recessions. Giving something back to them would be a noble thing to do.

The state also has a backlog of rape kits. Not only is that unfair to the victims, but after catching the Golden State Killer, how many more predators could we catch and prosecute?

We also need to harden power lines across the state. If this state wants to emphasize electric cars, we’re going to be sending a whole lot more electricity around, which means more wildfires unless the power lines are put underground.

Compared to his January proposal, the governor’s May Revise only tinkered with education funding. But we could use more funding for career technical education. A lot of kids don’t want to go to college, but could have successful careers in the trades or other vocations. They should be afforded the training opportunities just as much as those we send to our elite institutions.

Finally, this budget largely is a stopgap getting the governor beyond his tenure in office. He said he wanted to leave it in good shape for his successor. But so much more needs to be done, especially in improving the state’s harsh anti-business fiscal policies, shoring up pensions, fixing long-neglected infrastructure and reducing the housing and homelessness crises.

Below is a list of my 15 policy proposals for spending the $8 billion in excess revenues. It is largely in priority order. And if the state wins the litigation for the No Place Like Home bond dollars, or it is approved by the voters on the ballot in November, then that money could be cycled into any of the remaining priorities.

Priority Description Amount
1 No Place Like Home Prefunding of approved bonding $2,000,000,000
2 Provide funding to 482 cities to be appropriated to their pension liabilities $482,000,000
3 Provide funding to 58 counties to be appropriated to their pension liabilities $580,000,000
4 Provide matching funds for city pension liabilities $964,000,000
5 Provide matching funds for county pension liabilities $1,160,000,000
6 Fully fund bringing current the Rape Kit testing backlog $12,500,000
7 Fund Armed Prohibited Persons System (APPS) gun holder backlog $12,500,000
8 Hardening of electric power lines around state $1,168,000,000
9 Oroville Dam state water project conveyance levee repairs $100,000,000
10 Temperance Flat construction $250,000,000
11 Refund the Fire Tax $471,000,000
12 Continue Career Technical Education Funding at prior level $200,000,000
13 Renters’ Tax Credit increase $300,000,000
14 Opioid treatment and prevention task force $100,000,000
15 Water Tax off-set $200,000,000
$8,000,000,000

This article was originally published by the Flash Report

I’m waiting for the apology

 

Donald TrumpI’m waiting for the apology.

I love it when liberals who are so damn sure President Trump is about to destroy the world, and it turns out they’re dead wrong. It’s even more fun when their heads explode because their handwringing proves to be nothing more than cynical tactics designed to scare people. In other words, their predictions are pure BS!

Unless you have had your head under a rock this week (or have been watching CNN) you know that the President of South Korea met with Rocket Man. OK, two dudes meeting; so what, no big deal. WRONG!

Not since the 1940s have the leaders of South Korea and North Korea actually met, shook hands and had a meaningful conversation which in this case has led to the official end of the Korean War.

Over the past year President Trump has taken an incredibly hard line with North Korea. He started by intensifying sanctions that were already pretty strict, and then double downed by placing sanctions on some Chinese players who were supporting North Korea. Instead of bowing to the threats of North Korea, he increased our military presence there so there was no doubt we were serious about stopping their nuclear ambitions.

And, all the while, left-wing activists, politicians and journalists here and around the world whined that Trump’s tough stance would lead to WWIII. The media in the U.S. even declared Trump unfit for office. Maxine Waters and some of her more mentally challenged buddies in Congress called openly for Trump’s impeachment — not because he had done anything illegal mind you, but only because he did his job.

It’s a bit of a first, at least in a great long while. Obama caved into North Korea, or just as bad, he refused to take any action at all for fear of upsetting North Korea’s maniacal president.

Not so President Trump. Early on he identified North Korea as one of the biggest threats to peace in the world. Like Obama, Hillary disagreed. And, like Obama, she claimed little or nothing could be done in any event to reign in North Korea’s crazy dictator.

President Obama had eight years to address the problem — to do something, anything. Hillary Clinton, his Secretary of State, could have advocated for action as well. But neither of them did a damn thing. Nothing. Nada. Zilch!

So for you on the left, we are anxiously awaiting your apology to President Trump.

Sure, North Korea is still a problem. No doubt it will be for a quite some time. But that’s all the more reason for clear, decisive action designed to contain the problem rather than allow it to grow. The fact remains that President Trump has done more in his first 16 months in office than any other administration since the Korean War.

Thank you Mr President!

John Philip Sousa, IV, is the Chairman of Stars & Stripes Forever PAC, starsandstripesforeverpac.org.

Political Means versus Economic Means

March 30 marks the anniversary of the birth of someone who introduced a crucial distinction in understanding political reality – sociologist Franz Oppenheimer. In The State, he contrasted the “political means” and the “economic means.”

There are two fundamentally opposed means whereby man…is impelled to obtain the necessary means for satisfying his desires. These are work and robbery, one’s own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others…I propose…to call one’s own labor and the equivalent exchange of one’s own labor for the labor of others, the “economic means”…while the unrequited appropriation of the labor of others will be called the “political means.”

Oppenheimer directed his distinction toward developing the conquest theory of the state.

All world history…presents…a contest…between the economic and the political means…The state is an organization of the political means…forced by a victorious group of men on a defeated group, with the sole purpose of regulating the dominion of the victorious group over the vanquished.

Oppenheimer drew some very important conclusions about the relationship between the nature of society and the nature of the State

Always, in its essence, is the “State” the same. Its purpose…the political means… Its form…dominion.

Wherever opportunity offers, and man possesses the power, he prefers political to economic means.

By the “State,” I do not mean the human aggregation…as it properly should be. I mean…that summation of privileges and dominating positions which are brought in to being by extra economic power…I mean by Society…all purely natural relations and institutions between man and man…

The “state” is the fully developed political means, society the fully developed economic means…in the “freemen’s citizenship,” there will be no “state” but only “society.”

The “state” of the future will be “society” guided by self-government.

Franz Oppenheimer’s insights were particularly influential on Albert Jay Nock. Particularly in Our Enemy the State, Nock expanded on them, arguing that the State (in contrast with the voluntary arrangements people make to live together, which he called government) was based on theft, so that “the State is fundamentally anti-social.”

The State has said to society…I shall confiscate your power, and exercise it to suit myself.

The interests of the State and the interests of society…are directly opposed.

The State…has invariably, as Madison said, turned every contingency into a resource for depleting social power and enhancing State power.

There are two methods…whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth…the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others…the political means.

The State…is the organization of the political means…primarily a distributor of economic advantage, an arbiter of exploitation…an irresponsible and all‑powerful agency standing always ready to be put into use for the service of one set of economic interests as against another.

The State is not…a social institution administered in an anti‑social way. It is an anti‑social institution.

State power has an unbroken record of inability to do anything efficiently, economically, disinterestedly or honestly; yet when the slightest dissatisfaction arises over any exercise of social power, the aid of the agent least qualified to give aid is immediately called for.

Under a regime of actual individualism, actually free competition, actual laissez‑faire…a serious or continuous misuse of social power would be virtually impracticable.

The distinction between the economic (voluntary) means and the political (coercive) means offers individuals a powerful tool in understanding society. As Nock wrote, “as long as the State makes the seizure of wealth a matter of legalized privilege, so long will the squabble for that privilege go on.” Therefore, restraining State power is essential to society, because “The weaker the State is, the less power it has to commit crime.” Having moved far along a mistaken path, recognizing that insight grows ever more important.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University, an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a research associate of the Independent Institute, a member of the FEE faculty network, and a member of the Board of Policy Advisors at the Heartland Institute. His books include “Apostle of Peace” (2013), “Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies” (2014) and “Lines of Liberty” (2016).