My new book, “Taxifornia 2016: 14 Essays on the Future of California” has just been released and is now available for purchase at CreateSpace here. “Taxifornia 2016” is a collection of 14 essays authored by a dozen prominent conservative and libertarian writers on the future of California. Understanding that liberal Democrats and their public employee union allies wield great control on state policy, these writers see California in deep crisis and in need of reform, and tackle the state’s problems in 2016 with an eye toward new solutions that are faithful to the transformational value of limited-government and personal freedom. This book exposes the truth about California’s problems and offers detailed common-sense solutions to fix them. I am so excited to have it published and to share it with reform minded Californians!
The fact is, California is really not as liberal as the politicians it continues to elect. According to a little reported March, 2015 poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (“PPIC”), a respected bi-partisan organization, an eye-popping plurality of 35% of Californians consider themselves to be “conservative”, while 34% consider themselves to be “liberal”, and 30% identify themselves as “middle-of-the-road.”
Looked at another way, a huge majority of 65% of Californians identify themselves as center or right!
Respected public opinion polls conducted by organizations like PPIC, USC/Los Angeles Times, and The Field Organization reveal a markedly more politically diverse, moderate and even conservative outlook of the populace than reflected by the cast of characters California routinely now elects to office. Actual voter sentiment on many issues is in some cases startlingly different from the actions of its elected leaders. It is these opinions of Californians themselves that give hope for reforming the state. It is not such an extreme statement to make in saying that just as the personal views of the East German people themselves were not reflected by their own distant and abusive communist government before these citizens tore down the Berlin Wall, it is these voter sentiments in California that serve as the reason for me not giving up on the state, and in urging my conservative and Republican friends to stick around and join the fight! Voters are actually with us on many issues.
For example, other important findings in the PPIC poll conflict with the policies California’s elected leaders in control seek to impose. While Sacramento politicians still introduce new tax increase measures by the dozen, 62% of voters think the tax burden is already near the top or above average compared to other states; 57% think they are paying more taxes than they should be; 78% think that the state and local tax system should be changed and of that 47% favor major changes; 81% oppose raising the state gasoline tax; and 74% oppose increasing vehicle registration fees.
Though voters accepted Governor Jerry Brown’s arguments in November, 2012, to “temporarily” raise taxes to record levels, 56% of Californians today either oppose the taxes or are against making them permanent.
After years of liberals trying to lay the blame on the Proposition 13 tax cut, a recent poll showed 58% of Californians today still support Proposition 13.
The contrast today in voter attitudes and the philosophies of the people Californians elect could not be starker than in the case of voter sentiment in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline is favored by Congressional Republicans, but opposed by environmentalists and President Obama, and both of California’s liberal U.S. Senators, Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein, who voted against it. While the majority of Californians approve of the job Obama, Boxer and Feinstein are doing, 54% favor building the pipeline. And though Feinstein and Boxer are indeed popular, when voters were asked whether the state would be better off if California’s two U.S. Senators who have served for 22 years continued to run for re-election or if new candidates should become senators, nearly 60% voters said the state would be better off with new candidates, as opposed to 29% who said California would be better off if the long-serving senators continued to run. And 48% of voters said they felt “strongly” that the state would be better off with new candidates, according to the poll.
So take heart my conservative and Republican friends in California. You are not alone and we have plenty to work with to reform this state!
The editors at California Political Review were a little perplexed late last week when we had a disruption in our daily email system. Then on Monday morning we lost our entire site, it just went blank on the Internet. Sadly, we learned that a computer hacker had somehow managed to secretly sabotage our website, and just shut us down.
California Political Review has become a significant news and opinion content provider. In the last two years, our site has received over 1 million Page views and our readership grows every day. We have published over 20,000 reader comments. Our daily email subscription list stands at 23,000, and we have a robust Facebook page with close to 20,000 fans. We are very grateful for the loyal support of our readers and regret that our website has been disrupted this week. Thank you for your support! Please know we are back now and as ever, absolutely committed to offering the best we can on news and views on California politics!
M. Stanton Evans passed away earlier this month at the age of 80. A graduate of Yale University, Stan was a true giant of the conservative movement, a contemporary of William F. Buckley, having published 10 books, including “The Future of Conservatism” in 1969, which predicted the rise of Ronald Reagan and the emerging success of the Republican Party if it represented conservative principles. That book greatly influenced my own involvement in politics. Stan helped define modern conservative political philosophy in his books: we was not a libertarian or tea party person, rather he defined himself always simply as “a conservative,” favoring limited government, lower taxes, less spending, more freedom, and a coherent national defense policy to not contain, but rather to defeat communism, the greatest worldwide threat to political freedom in his era. He is credited with authoring the “Sharon Statement” of Young Americans for Freedom (“YAF”), was chairman of the American Conservative Union, and founder of the National Journalism Center.
As National Chairman of YAF and a member of the Board of Directors of the American Conservative Union myself, I came to know Stan well and call him a friend. I was saddened by his passing but glad I was able to personally attend his memorial service at The Heritage Foundation on March 13. Stan was known personally not only for his commitment to conservative principles but also for his terrific sense of humor. Much of his memorial service focused on the retelling not only of touching tales about Stan, and also his humor.
The “Association of Bay Area Governments” or “ABAG” is a nonprofit lobbying group that many Bay Area local governments pay big annual dues to, in order to coordinate their efforts to get more funding from Sacramento and Washington, D.C. ABAG, based in San Francisco, is not exactly a government agency, rather, it is like a “trade association”, and therefore its operations are far more opaque than those of a real government agency subject to all the public scrutiny laws. Sometimes the government agency members of ABAG try to lay-off responsibility for some of their functions on this “trade association” for government. A secret benefit of doing so it that sometimes the activity can occur below the public’s radar screen and more-than-a-little outside the more ready enforcement mechanisms of the Brown Act and the California Public Records Act against ABAG’s members, which are the state’s key public integrity laws. One such situation occurred when San Francisco politicians and bureaucrats decided to deposit public bond monies meant for parks and other public improvements for ABAG to manage regarding the so-called “South of Market” fund, which also collects payments from developers pursuant to development agreements, in order to use the funds to enhance public facilities in a general effort to offset negative public impacts of a new development.
But the San Francisco Chronicle has reported trouble at ABAG, big trouble. News reports and a statement by ABAG itself, indicate that Clarke Howatt, who resigned late last week as Director of Financial Services for the nonprofit government advocacy agency, “executed a sophisticated scheme to defraud” ABAG of $1,300,00 of public funds entrusted to the agency for park improvements. The funds were found missing as a result of an audit of the South of Market Stabilization Fund, which is a pool of public bond funds and developer funds. Howatt, who is under criminal investigation, has issued a statement that he “will make every attempt to get the funds restored.” But no one seems to be able to account for them at the moment. The $1,300,000 million was wired out of a bank account at Howatt’s orders to a different bank account setup in San Diego county to the attention of a person who does not exist.
Thank God for audits! Let us hope they can find the money!
Reactions to the million dollar government embezzlement have been muted in California. While the Chronicle has reported the story, other news media outlets have ignored it. That is a shame, because the story is an example of how government agencies have mismanaged a public bond fund, by pushing authority for the bond funds outside the exclusive responsibility of a responsible and more accountable government agency. While our Sacramento politicians love to pass laws that make things like serving duck liver and shark fin soup in our state’s restaurants illegal, they really ought to better be spending their time on considering laws about things that are really serious problems, like improving the public’s confidence in how the billions of dollars in public bond funds are managed in the state, and making sure rogue employees in groups like ABAG, let alone ABAG itself, can’t and don’t steal our public’s bonds.
As the year ends, the editors at California Political Review would like to thank our loyal readers for visiting our site, and wish you all happy holidays and a great New Year.
In 2014, CPR’s readership continued to grow. Since we started the site three years ago, we have published and republished hundreds of articles. Readers have clocked in just over 2 million “Page Views” in this time, and we have published almost 19,000 reader comments.
We have a dedicated volunteer staff of editors, and great relationships with content providers that allow us to publish their work. I would especially like to thank Steve Frank, whose daily contributions to the site through his dedicated portal are not only thought provoking but have become a welcome part of CPR’s continued success.
We will know for sure who the winners are tomorrow in California’s November, 2014 election, but we can surely state a day ahead of time who the losers are: our voters, who barely knew there was an election going on. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported on a poll showing that a whopping 42% of voters, when asked, did not even know that Jerry Brown was on the ballot running for re-election as Governor on November 4! Yet Brown is ahead in the polls by double-digits, and is so confident of victory, that one of his controlled committees for statewide ballot propositions has accepted a $100,000 contribution from Phillip Morris without any media outcry that Brown has comprised his values for the tobacco company’s money! Voter turnout is expected to be around 46%, a historic low, and well below the 70% turnout registered in the last mid-term election in California in 2010.
Why are voters not participating? Because the Democratic politicians running for statewide office are basically shoe-ins. They are not running vigorous campaigns to win, not advertising on TV and radio much, not debating their GOP opponents, because they do not have to do so to win. Liberal Democrats and their labor union allies have simply swamped our political system and now dominate it so thoroughly, it looks almost impossible for a Republican candidate to win a statewide election. The Democrats have the support of Big Labor, but they also have the support now of Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big Soda, Big Telecommunications, and Indian Gaming, because they are in total control. The result is a lack of much any meaningful debate over how to solve California’s problems and in that, no competition of ideas in the public policy market, and an even further marginalization of the “loyal opposition” GOP, who are ignored and even further diminished in getting their ideas out to voters. One-party dominance of California’s state politics is here, but has been developing for awhile. In 2010, Democrats swept into victory in every single statewide office. By 2012, they won Democratic super-majorities of over 66% in both houses of the state legislature, putting them in total political control of the state. In the meantime, the Republican Party has struggled to just to participate in the debate and make a showing over solving California’s many problems. Party registration is at a historic low of just 28.2%, something like 15 points behind the Democrats.
Republicans may be posed to make very modest advances in California this election, in a national election that looks wonderful for the GOP outside this state. Perhaps California will deliver a net pickup of just one Congressional seat for Republicans in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. Maybe Republicans can also break the Democrats super-majority control of one of the Houses of the state Legislature tomorrow. However, tomorrow’s election is looking to be an inconsequential one for the state, with Democrats maintaining their literal stranglehold on political power in the state government. And it looks like California will now start having many more inconsequential statewide elections in the future because of the lack of competition the Democrats now have and the “one-party” state they now run.
Not too long ago, liberal pundits used to complain about the “dysfunction” in California’s state politics. They would blame the Republican minority in the Legislature or the initiative system for the alleged “dysfunction” but what they were really saying is that the Democrats did not have total control. Now the Democrats do have total control, and what has been one of the results? Poverty, the now well-known fact that California has the highest poverty rate in the nation. And that happened under Democratic control.
Students of history might note that citizens in East Germany were able to vote, but unable to participate in a meaningful election for 57 years, from 1933 to 1990. Elections that were held during this period were inconsequential and meaningless, with no real influence on public policy. Citizens gradually lost most of their civil rights and freedoms during this period. But by 1990, inspired by the cataclysmic fall of the Berlin Wall, voters finally won the opportunity to participate in government and cast a meaningful vote.
Perhaps California needs a similar cataclysmic event to make elections meaningful again. Democratic control and dominance of public employee union special interest political spending to keep Democrats in control in California surely means less meaningful public debate, fewer challenges to the ruling authority, and a void of new ideas to help solve California’s many problems. The solutions California will get from the Democrats in control in future will predictably be “same old – same old” packaged as something new, with increasing voter apathy and even more meaningless elections. It is hard to believe that current voter apathy in the state will reverse itself on its own in future. Democracy itself is therefore at risk in California’s future, and that is sadly the real dysfunction of California’s politics.
Other than Ashley Swearengin, the start of an “absentee” political campaign month for statewide Republicans
My wife and I received our absentee ballots this week, on Wednesday, surrounded by the fewest pieces of campaign mail and the most deftly absent television and radio advertising for statewide GOP candidates that we have ever seen in the critical first week of an election campaign. Typically absentee ballots are mailed to “permanent” early voters by mail, like us, four weeks before an election. Catching early voters with direct-mail and other advertising before they return their ballots, which could be completed and returned right now and not on election day, is important in smart election campaigns because candidates and measures can rack up votes “in the bank” before any uncertainties may emerge in the subsequent four weeks of campaigning.
We are Republicans with a good voting history, so usually our house is flooded with campaign mail during absentee ballot week. But not this week. We received two different mailings from the California GOP, one entirely dedicated to opposing Proposition 45, and another entirely dedicated to opposing Proposition 46. Neither of the mailings listed “Neel Kashkari for Governor” or any statewide or local GOP candidate. We received just one slate mailer during the whole week, that featured Republican Ashley Swearengin for Controller but did not include any advertising for Neel Kashkari for Governor or any other statewide GOP candidate. (It was a mailer produced by a company we own.) We did receive two different mailers from Dana Point City Council candidates, but that was it. We didn’t receive any dedicated mail from Kashkari or any other Republican statewide candidate, no other slate mail, and we did not hear or see one radio or television advertisement for Kashkari or any other statewide GOP candidate. The only advertising we saw during absentee voter week was the one slate mailer mentioned above, that featured advertising just from Republican Ashley Swearengin for Controller.
On the Democratic side, we did see television advertisements featuring Governor Jerry Brown, who is running for re-election, but it was about supporting Propositions 1 and 2, regarding the state water bond and establishing a state “rainy day fund” to even out financial ups and downs for the state. Brown appears so confident of victory, that he is using his political capital to promote ballot initiatives rather than a “direct ask” of voters for his re-election.
There are many conclusions to be drawn from the first week of the last four weeks of this election campaign, but top among them is that other than Swearengin, the statewide GOP candidates are placing an awesome amount of trust and confidence in regular GOP voters to simply turn out and vote for them, because they are not spending any money to communicate with these voters at all during this critical stage. I think that is a huge mistake for those GOP candidates, especially Peter Peterson running for Secretary of State, who thinks he has a chance to win, but hasn’t raised or put up the money for advertising to do so. If a candidate does not make any real effort other than an email campaign to whip up the GOP base to vote for them, and are otherwise totally silent to them, even GOP base voters will not have a compelling reason to vote for the candidate of their own party when the ballot is in their hands. My takeaway is that, win or lose, Ashley Swearengin will surely be the leading candidate in the GOP field of statewide offices this election, because she is actually making an effort and running a campaign during the absentee voting period, unlike Kashkari and the others. My view is that the votes for each of the rest of the GOP team on election night, as I see the election right now, will be dismal in comparison to Swearengin, who has also gleaned dozens of major newspaper endorsements and can be seen to be working really hard to try to win her race. In a recent interview on Fox Business News, Swearengin came out strongly for tax cuts and regulatory reform, unlike her opponent. She was stronger on these important issues than anything I have heard from Kashkari.
Jerry Brown is a very popular Governor. It is good that Kashkari stepped forward to offer an opposing view on the November ballot. But his campaign and the campaigns of all the other GOP candidates are shaping up to be depressingly weak and unworthy, almost insulting, of the precious time, support and capital of the rest of us GOP activists who want to see Republican candidates and causes victorious. Just getting on the ballot and then doing no advertising or true voter outreach other than sending out some emails, does not help us rebuild California’s Republican Party. We need some success in gaining votes and changing voter attitudes about the GOP, and to my mind Swearengin, in making the only real effort to win this election, is where Republicans should be returning the favor of their maximum support.
One would think that the editor of a major California newspaper would not only be an exceptional journalist – but an exceptional Californian, too. But that is not the case at the Los Angeles Times, which announced yesterday that an exceptional former New York City investment banker, Austin Bueter, would be the new editor.
Beuter, 54, served as Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s deputy for a year in 2010. Previous to that he did a stint in the Clinton Administration as a political appointee working on foreign affairs.
According to the Times, Beutner was born in New York, and grew up in Michigan. He attended the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College earning a degree in economics, became a financial analyst for Smith Barney and then became a partner in New York City’s Blackstone Group. He became wealthy. He eventually started his own New York City-based investment banking firm, Evercore Partners.
There is little doubt Beuter is an accomplished and intelligent person. And he has even admirably overcome personal tragedy, working through a year-long recovery from a very serious bicycle accident.
Yet Beuter really has only a tenuous connection to Los Angeles and it is based on money, politics and philanthropy, not education and real work experience in journalism. And he is not a journalist. He is a rich liberal from New York, educated in the Ivy League, who has served as a Democratic political appointee, and is now making editorial decisions for California’s most important newspaper. Thus, he is a pillar of the East Coast Liberal establishment, no doubt. Is that what California and the Times needs now? Will he succeed?
Beuter’s California experience is lacking. He has not lived through any of California’s major earthquakes, a Dodger World Series, an NFL Football team in Los Angeles, or a real Republican Governor. His experience in life is about Ivory Towers rather than the dinner special at Norm’s, and it is as distant from the experience of a Tea Party meeting in Palmdale that one can get. One might expect this lack of “living California” to inspire a disrespect in him for a number of California’s unique qualities, including the important initiative process, often seen by liberals as “too populist” and “dysfunctional” – because liberals can’t always control it.
With all the fine, highly educated award winning journalists available to chose, even liberals, the Times has gone with a rich East Coast Left-wing political insider and funder as their new editor. The Times makes this decision as the age of print newspapers reaches its twilight and continues its decline, and as the Times itself is meeting stiff competition from more centrist and conservative newspapers such as The Valley’s Daily News, and the new Los Angeles Register, published by the owners of the Orange County Register.
There is little doubt that Los Angeles itself is marching down a road to eminent bankruptcy. According to the UCLA/Anderson School, not one new job has been added to the rolls of the employed in the city in the last 23 years. In the meantime, public employee pension obligations are sucking close to 20% of the city’s annual General Fund, forcing reductions to taxpayers in 911 safety services and street maintenance. Major employers like Toyota are pulling out of the area for more business-friendly locations in states like Texas. The Los Angeles tax base is shrinking but government spending is not. And taxpayers are tired of the taxes, having rejected a sales tax increase last year by 55% at the polls.
It is against this looming backdrop of failure that Beuter takes the helm of the Times, as a man representing old liberal ideas that are in fact failing in Los Angeles. He is not a “Man of the People,” rather, he is a man of the wealthy, connected and liberal. On the question of Beuter’s success, surely time will tell, but we are predictably not expecting much at all.
According to a report in the Oakland Tribune, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has decided to stop driving. In what amounts to a voluntary surrender of her driver’s license after a fender bender in her illegally unregistered city-owned and self-insured Lexus SUV (Oakland is near bankrupt according to USA Today), and after numerous digitally recorded images of her surfaced illegally using her cell phone while driving her own Toyota Prius.
Quan is seeking re-election as Oakland’s Mayor. Oakland is the seventh largest city in California with a port that is more active than San Francisco’s. In recent years it has also been identified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as one of the most dangerous cities in the nation to live in, with a high murder rate, and as many as 600 people a year being victims of violent crime in a city of 600,000. Quan’s boosters say the stats are getting better under her reign and since Jerry Brown was the Mayor, but Mayor Quan’s own flirtations with law breaking probably don’t help the statistics much.