Will Gavin Newsom be tougher on guns than Jerry Brown?

Gun Open CarryCalifornia Democrats on Monday outlined a plan to enact new forms of gun control, and they’re hoping Gov. Gavin Newsom will sign firearm restrictions that his predecessor vetoed last year.

Standing alongside former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head at a 2011 Tuscon event, Democrats in the Legislature called for more gun restrictions.

So far, they’re proposing Assembly Bill 165, which would provide training to police officers on the use of gun violence restraining orders, and Senate Bill 61, which would limit firearm purchases to one gun per month.

“Stopping gun violence takes courage, the courage to do what’s right, the courage to new ideas,” Giffords said at the news conference. “I’ve seen great courage when lives are on the line. Now is the time to come together, be responsible. Democrats, Republicans, everyone, we must never stop fighting. Fight, fight, fight. Be bold. Be courageous. The nation is counting on you.” …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Gov. Gavin Newsom – What To Expect

Gavin Newsom budgetJerry Brown became the youngest governor in California history in 1974 largely thanks to his father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, who governed the state from 1959 to 1967. Now, new California governor Gavin Newsom has ascended to office enjoying something of an “extended-family” relationship with the Browns. In 1943, businessman William Newsom, Gavin’s grandfather, helped Pat Brown win his race for San Francisco district attorney. In 1960, Governor Pat Brown awarded the concession for the Squaw Valley Winter Olympics to Newsom and John Pelosi, father-in-law of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In 1975, new governor Jerry Brown appointed another William Newsom, the son of Pat Brown’s pal, to a judgeship in Placer County, and in 1978, Brown appointed the same Newsom to the state Court of Appeal.

Will Gavin Newsom carry on the Jerry Brown style of governance? Yes and no. He’s on record saying that “there’s no greater political mind in our lifetime than Governor Brown,” and he certainly seems to have Jerry’s progressive side down. But so far, he shows little of the former governor’s more skeptical side. Despite his zeal for big government, high taxes, and bullet trains, Jerry Brown — especially in his second two-term stint (as the oldest governor in California history) — sometimes functioned as an effective goalie against bad legislation. On his way out the door, for example, Brown vetoed SB 320, which would have required state universities to offer abortion drugs. Brown also remained skeptical of single-payer health care. “Where do you get the extra money?” Brown asked reporters in 2017. “This is called ‘the unknown by means of the more unknown,’” Brown explained, “which makes no sense.”

By contrast, on his first day in the governor’s office, Newson announced plans for a government-funded single-payer health system. Newsom also announced that he would seek to reinstate the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, responsible for “widespread consumer misery” in California, according to health reporter Emily Bazar. He signed an executive order making the Department of Health Care Services responsible for negotiating all drug prices for Medi-Cal and ordered the establishment of a California surgeon general to work on “reducing health-related inequality in the state.” Newsom’s plans included no cost estimate—the stumbling block that Brown identified in 2017.

Brown scaled back some of the rules and perks that have contributed to the state’s $400 billion pension debt. By contrast, Newsom’s first budget calls for $7.8 billion in payments, above what is required by law, to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). He’s not likely to do anything at odds with California’s government-employee unions, which proclaim that the state legislature is “our house.” The new governor plans no change to the state’s high income and corporate taxes and even wants to slap a tax on drinking water. He and his allies are already targeting Proposition 13, the state’s 1978 cap on property-tax hikes.

In 1996, voters passed Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative, barring racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment, and contracting. Newsom opposes it, charging that it has “undeniably had a devastating toll on the demographic makeup of our student body.” It hasn’t, and as Thomas Sowell noted in Intellectuals and Race, after Proposition 209’s passage the number of African Americans and Hispanics graduating from the UC system increased, and the number graduating in four years with a GPA of 3.5 or higher rose 55 percent.

During Brown’s final weeks in office, the State Supreme Court denied seven of his clemency requests, calling them an “abuse of power.” Last September, Brown ignored testimony from victims and signed SB 1391, which bars prosecution of 15-year-old juveniles as adults, whatever the gravity of their crime. Newsom plans to keep moving in this direction, taking the Division of Juvenile Justice out of the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. “Today is the beginning of the end of juvenile imprisonment as we know it,” Newsom said at recent event in Stockton. “Juvenile justice should be about helping kids imagine and pursue new lives — not jumpstarting the revolving door of the criminal justice system.” Brown used similar language in his signing message for SB 1391.

Brown ran for president three times; Newsom is said to have an eye on the White House, too. In the New Yorker, Tad Friend described Newsom as “tall and lithe and still boyish at fifty-one, with teeth that Tom Cruise would envy and hair lacquered with Oribe gel.” During the campaign, Newsom “sported his trademark look: a white Ermenegildo Zegna shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a blue Tom Ford tie.” In San Francisco, according to wife Jennifer, Newsom was known as “Mayor McHottie,” by women and gay men alike. According to Friend, Newsom wants to “embody Bobby Kennedy’s grainy glamour, to provide moral clarity in a bewildering hour,” but whether he’ll become “President McHottie” remains to be seen.

Is California closer to closing private prisons with Newsom at helm?

PrisonCalifornia Democrats think 2019 is their best chance yet to accomplish a long-held liberal goal: shuttering the state’s private prisons.

Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed in his inaugural address “to end the outrage that is private prisons,” and now state lawmakers are mounting a renewed effort to turn that applause line into reality. They’re painting the move as an act of resistance against one of the Trump administration’s most important corporate partners.

But with California’s corrections system still far over capacity, some state leaders are questioning how far they can go in casting aside the private prison industry.

The state’s use of private prisons jumped after a federal court ordered officials to reduce perilous overcrowding in 2009, when inmates were crammed into gymnasium bunk-beds and the suicide rate was nearly double the national average. The prison population has dropped precipitously since then, but California currently has more than 4,000 inmates in private facilities, about half in-state and half in Arizona, costing the state millions of dollars a year. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News

Can California Afford to Provide Universal Health Care Coverage?

Healthcare costsPerhaps no issue looms larger on both the state and national political stage than the question of universal health care coverage.

U.S. Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris (D) sent a shockwave through the national health care debate on Monday Jan. 28th by nonchalantly stating that she would eliminate private insurers as a necessary part of implementing “Medicare-for-all,” according to a CNN report.

Due to a firestorm of attention, most of it negative, the next day the Harris campaign walked back the previous day’s remarks in large part by stating that the candidate would also be open to more moderate health reform plans, which would preserve the private industry, according to the CNN report.

Newly elected California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) campaigned on the issue of single-payer health care and on his very first day in office unveiled a comprehensive package of reform proposals aimed at expanding state health care coverage subsidies and lowering its costs, which includes extending Medi-Cal to undocumented immigrants, according to a report by the LA Times.

In an interview, Gov. Newsom told the LA Times “These are not just symbolic gestures…We’re hoping to ignite a new conversation. It’s a moral imperative, not just economic,” states the LA Time report.

But as many experts, including Gov. Newsom, have pointed out, big systemic reform to the system, such as a move to a single-payer health system, would require the unlikely support of the Trump Administration.

Newsom has done a good job of tempering expectations for single-payer health care and his proposed coverage expansions and prescription cost controls demonstrate to the his supporters and the public that he is serious about expanding coverage as well containing costs.

But the 800-pound guerilla in the universal health care conversation is where will all the money come from to provide guaranteed government financed coverage to every Californian and everyone who likely to come to California once universal health care is guaranteed by the state?

“Where do you get the extra money? This is the whole question…I don’t even get it…how do you do that?,” said former California Governor Jerry Brown (D) following a universal healthcare discussion in Washington, D.C. in a 2017 interview with the LA Times.

At the time, Gov. Brown pointed out that the overall cost of medical care in California is equal to 18% of the state’s gross domestic product, which would be about $450 billion.

“You take a problem and say I’m going to solve it by something that’s an even bigger problem, which makes no sense,” then Governor Brown said at the time, according to the LA Times report.

Gov. Newsom developed some questionable rhetoric during the 2018 campaign, where he said that the State of California cannot afford not to move to a single-payer system because health care has become such a big expense in the state.

It appears that one of the major points of disagreement between former Gov. Brown and now Governor Gavin Newsom is the question of whether the State of California can afford to move to a universal health care system, specifically a single-payer system?

More recently, other high-profile liberal Democrats have come out against single-payer health care with former Mayor of New York City and billionaire Michael Bloomberg stating that Medicare-for-all “would bankrupt us for a very long time,” according to a CNN report.

“I think we could never afford that,” Bloomberg said, addressing pin factory employees in New Hampshire. “We are talking about trillions of dollars.”

“I think you could have Medicare-for-all people who are uncovered, but that’s a smaller group,” Bloomberg said.

“But to replace the entire private system where companies provide health care for their employees would bankrupt us for a very long time,” said Bloomberg according to the CNN report, which noted that Bloomberg made the comments in response to Sen. Kamala Harris calling for an end to the private health care market.

So what does all this mean for the current universal health care debate in California?

It means that California Democrats might want to heed the advice of two of the county’s most prominent liberal Democrats—former Gov. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg—and proceed with great caution regarding the feasibility of California going it alone on universal health care.

There is no question that the state could choose to enact a single-payer or Obamacare-type universal health care system, but the million dollar question, or trillion dollar question rather in this case, is would such a system work and be fiscally sustainable over the long-term?

As a long-time analyst of fiscal issues in California, I believe that former Gov. Jerry Brown and Michael Bloomberg are correct to point out the major challenges and risks of moving to a universal health care system—both at the state level and the federal level.

David Kersten is an independent political consultant who lives in the Bay Area. Kersten is also an adjunct professor of public budgeting at the University of San Francisco.

Gov. Newsom’s Claims on Benefits of Full-Time Kindergarten Rebuked by Studies

shocked-kid-apGov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2019-20 budget includes $750 million in new funding to help school districts shift from part-time to full-day kindergarten. Presently, 30 percent of districts only offer part-time kindergarten, as is allowed under state law, which provides such districts the same per-pupil funding as districts with full-day kindergarten.

In interviews, Newsom has depicted the shift and his other proposals to beef up early childhood education as the sort of obvious ways to improve public schools that are within reach because of the state’s improved fiscal health. Assembly Budget Committee Chair Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Democrats in the Legislature “absolute agree” that full-day kindergarten should be a state priority. Other education stakeholders, especially teachers unions, agree.

But as debate over Newsom’s proposal ramps up, advocates of full-day kindergarten will be asked to explain why claims about its effectiveness are not corroborated by the strong majority of academic studies of such programs in California and elsewhere.

A 2009 Public Policy Institute of California study found that while parents and educators are enthusiastic about full-day kindergarten, “research to date … has provided little evidence of long-term academic benefits beyond kindergarten or first grade.” This was backed up by a peer-reviewed 2012 study of some kindergartners’ results in California standardized tests.

The single study that appears to have been based on the most data – a RAND think tank analysis of the academic performance of nearly 8,000 kindergarten students in the 1998-99 school year – was even more downbeat. While RAND offered some qualifications, it said that overall, its research “reinforces the findings of earlier studies that suggest full-day kindergarten programs may not enhance achievement in the long term. Furthermore, this study raises the possibility that full-day kindergarten programs may actually be detrimental to mathematics performance and to nonacademic readiness skills.” The latter is a reference to students’ willingness to take instruction and participate constructively in class.

Duke study one of many to find initial benefits fade

These conclusions were supported by a peer-reviewed study released in 2010 by Duke University researchers. It found that initial benefits from attending full-day kindergarten “disappeared” by third grade and that “children may not have as positive an attitude toward school in full-day versus half-day kindergarten and may experience more behavior problems.”

However, on its website, the National Education Association depicts the benefits of full-day kindergarten as largely beyond challenge. An “advocacy guide” cites reporting by Deborah Viadero of Education Week showing that a study of 17,000 students in Philadelphia had found enduring gains from full-day kindergarten. But Viadero has also reported on other studies that reflect the phenomenon cited by other researchers of initial gains by kindergartners disappearing in subsequent years.

The NEA also cites research by the San Francisco-based WestEd advocacy group, in particular a 2005 policy brief that doesn’t refer to or offer counterarguments to any of the studies that raise doubts about whether the benefits of full-time kindergarten endure.

More recently, in 2014, the New America Foundation – which, like WestEd, has long called for greater investment in public schools – touted a study by Chloe R. Gibbs at the University of Virginia that the foundation called the “best research yet on the effects of full-day kindergarten.” New America said the study “holds some preliminary good news for proponents of full-day kindergarten.”

But the New America account of the study went on to note that it was too soon to conclude whether the initial gains identified by Gibbs would last – the central issue raised by most previous academic research.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog

Making Community College ‘Free’ Will Harm Serious Students

College debtIt took nearly a dozen years after graduating from college to pay off the student debt I accumulated to get my degree—and that was in the days when tuition to a private university was around $5,000 a year including room and board. I’ve been through the college-shopping process with three daughters and have looked at asking prices of nearly $50,000 a year at some universities, so I understand the importance of affordability. It’s depressing thinking of kids getting their start in life with college loans the size of mortgages.

Given that reality, it’s also easy to understand Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal that would provide California residents with a “free” second year of community college along with the provision of additional Cal Grant funding for parents who are struggling to put their children through college. This is well intentioned, but is one of the worst ideas in the governor’s new budget given the real-world effect it will have on California students.

The idea of a free college education goes back to California’s earliest days. As recently as 1960, the Master Plan for Higher Education reaffirmed “the long established principle that state colleges and the University of California shall be free to all residents of the state.” Shortly after that, the state university systems began charging tuition—and prices have soared as demand has outstripped supply and the legislature cut back on subsidies. As a matter of policy, it’s a good idea for people to pay for the things they use. If you want an education, you need to pay for it.

Even with a tuition-based system, the University of California and California State University systems are overburdened given that they offer a better deal than most private alternatives. There’s been progress, but it can still take six years to get a degree at a Cal State campus. Many students who cannot get the classes they need at “impacted” campuses.

In all aspects of life, the price mechanism is the best way to assure the right balance of supply and demand. If, say, the government mandated that car dealers slash the price of new cars by 50 percent, buyers theoretically would be able to get a cheaper car—but they’d take a number and wait a long time to actually get one.

Fortunately, California has an incredible system of 115 community colleges. Students who want a good education without saddling themselves with debt can get those first two years of courses inexpensively before finishing their degree at a college or university. In 2017, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that provided free tuition to community colleges for state residents who were attending college on a full-time basis and first-time students. They only had to pay some ancillary fees. Newsom’s plan would do the same for that second year. Advocates point to a “skills gap”—the need for Californians to get a better education to fill the needs of the work place.

Community college already is dirt cheap, at $46 a credit. Making it free will only assure that people who aren’t particularly serious about getting an education will take up space in sought-after classes, thus making it tougher for others to get into their preferred classes. This sounds harsh, but people unwilling to invest $1,100 a year in their own education perhaps ought to find something else to do. There is nothing like spending one’s own money to force people to take the coursework seriously.

There are many ways to come up with that relatively small amount and the state already waives fees for the poorest students. And adding additional student aid through Cal Grants will help some people pay for four-year universities, but one of the reasons that college tuition has soared well beyond inflation – and beyond the prices of most consumer goods—is that the aid itself is inflationary.

Back to the car analogy. The average transaction price for a new vehicle has topped $36,000. If the government decided that cars are so important that it was going to provide a $10,000 subsidy for their purchase, you could guess what would happen. Prices would climb given that buyers would have a lot more money to use as a down payment.

The same principle is at work at universities. Tuition has soared and so have debt levels. Easy government loan money has kept universities from making tough spending choices. Unfortunately, it’s hard to break out of that spiral. Universities cost a lot and students who want to attend need to find a way to pay. More debt becomes an easy short-term answer.

The community college system remains the blow-off valve—a way to enable Californians to get a quality education without amassing debt or further burdening the state university systems. It sounds counterintuitive, but making those colleges “free” will only make it tougher on the people that this proposal is supposed to help.

This column was first published by the Orange County Register.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. He was a Register editorial writer from 1998-2009. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

Newsom makes health care the centerpiece of California’s resistance to Trump

MedizinFor California under Gov. Gavin Newsom, the resistance to President Donald Trump is about health care.

Much as his predecessor Jerry Brown made climate change the state’s big challenge to Trump, Newsom has embarked on a health agenda that includes extending care to undocumented adults and direct government negotiation of drug prices.

Unlike the other 2020 candidates pushing universal health care, Newsom’s policies aren’t just theoretical Washington talk, so there’s much more at risk. If his innovations in expanding Obamacare, extending Medicaid to undocumented immigrants — itself a jab at Trump’s hard-line immigration policies — and negotiating lower drug prices work, he could emerge as a hero of the Democratic Party. His policies could be templates for candidates pushing ahead on universal health care — an aspiration shared by Democrats even if they are still divided on what specific policies to pursue and how quickly to pursue them. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico

Spending Plans Will Run Up Against Fiscal Reality

Gavin NewsomGavin Newsom was recently inaugurated as California’s 40th governor, taking over a general-fund budget that is flush with cash and a state government that is in remarkably good shape — at least superficially — from a fiscal perspective. For all his flaws, outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown left Newsom with a $15 billion surplus and a rainy day fund that is nearly full. As an added plus, the economy that is humming along even though an erratic stock market points to storm clouds on the horizon.

The big question is whether Newsom will heed Brown’s advice and govern as if there’s always a recession around the corner — or ignore the former governor’s warnings about Democratic lawmakers who always say “yes” to any “harebrained” spending scheme. Unfortunately, based on Newsom’s inaugural words, initial budget and many of his early high-level administrative appointments, the safe money is on the latter. Newsom wants to spend big.

One need not read between the lines in Newsom’s introductory words. He spelled it out clearly. Newsom pointed to Brown’s inaugural address, which quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. There was the foolish man who built a house on sand and the wise man who built it on rock. “For eight years, California has built a foundation of rock,” Newsom said. “Our job now is not to rest on that foundation. It is to build our house upon it.”

So now that the state is on solid financial footing, the new governor envisions a rapid expansion of government social programs. “We will support parents so they can give their kids the love and care they need, especially in those critical early years when so much development occurs,” Newsom said. That speaks to the $1.8 billion in early childhood programs that the new governor is touting. The term “we,” of course, refers to California’s taxpayers.

“We will launch a Marshall Plan for affordable housing and lift up the fight against homelessness from a local matter to a state-wide mission,” he added. The term “Marshall Plan” is not subtle. That was the American financial assistance program to help Western Europe rebuild after the devastation of World War II, at a cost of $100 billion in current dollars.

Continuing the metaphor of California as a home, Newsom added that “In our home, every person should have access to quality, affordable health care.” He has long advocated for some type of universal healthcare coverage (although not necessarily the single-payer system that failed to make it through the Legislature in 2017), and some of his most noteworthy aides have a background in promoting government healthcare programs.

“Everyone in California should have a good job with fair pay,” he said. “Every child should have a great school and a teacher who is supported and respected. Every young person should be able to go to college without crushing debt or to get the training they need to compete and succeed. And every senior should be able to retire with security and live at home with dignity.” Those are vague, feel-good ideas that would garner few objections. But his ideas for implementing them, such as his bidget plan for free community college, will come with a hefty price tag.

There will be plenty of time to dissect the specific policy proposals that will move forward as the legislative session gets under way. For instance, the community college idea is a particularly bad one. California community colleges already are inexpensive. Making the second year of tuition “free” (the first year already is free for first-time California students) will only clog up the classrooms with free riders, thus making it tougher for those students who are serious about getting an education to get classes and improve their job prospects.

However, the main purpose of this article is to provide a warning amid the exuberance of a new gubernatorial administration. Basically, that financial foundation might be built less on rock and more on sand than many of us would like to believe.

There’s no complaining about the size of the budget surplus and rainy day fund, but there’s more to a budget than those items. As a comprehensive new California Policy Center report from Ed Ring and Marc Joffe points out, “We estimate that California’s total state and local government debt as of 6/30/2017 totaled just over $1.5 trillion. That total includes all outstanding bonds, loans, and other long-term liabilities, along with the officially reported unfunded liability for other post-employment benefits (primarily retiree healthcare), as well as unfunded pension liabilities.” That’s a 15-percent increase from two years ago—and a number that equals 54 percent of the gross state product.

The Brown administration had done little to deal with the unfunded liabilities. Its one major pension reform law, the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act, was exceedingly modest. In the waning days of his administration, Brown’s attorneys argued before the state Supreme Court for changes in the “California Rule,” which restricts the ability of governments to reduce pension benefits going forward. That’s still unresolved and Newsom already has made clear his opposition to changes in pensions—and one of his top aides comes out of the California Labor Federation.

Bottom line: Just because the general-fund budget is in good shape does not mean that California’s overall fiscal picture is all that bright. A responsible new administration would attempt to fix those problems, which are crowding out public services at the local and state level, before engaging in a spending spree that will add to the state burden. Newsom’s early budget hits $209 billion overall and includes a grabbag of new programs, although he does send money to pay off some pension debt and is bolstering the rainy day fund.

The outgoing governor increased taxes early and often. It’s unwise to add new burdens on taxpayers, especially given that economic boom times always are followed by a bust and many Californians continue to flee the state’s high tax burden. Newsom already is proposing new fees on water and 911 service.

California’s most notorious public-policy disasters have come, counter-intuitively, during the best fiscal times, when revenues were swelling and budgets were flush with cash. The best example came in 1999, when Gov. Gray Davis signed a law that caused a pension-hiking frenzy and led directly to the state’s debt crisis. The stock market was riding high and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) promised that increasing pensions by 50 percent retroactively wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime because market returns would cover the costs.

It didn’t cost a dime, but cost billions of dollars annually in general-fund payments and added hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed liabilities. The biggest danger to California is now a governor who believes that the state is in such great financial shape that he can start spending with wild abandon. He will not be restrained by the Legislature, which now has strong Democratic super-majorities that are itching to spend money. We don’t want to wish for an economic downturn, a stock-market crash or another busted housing bubble, but that appears to be the only hope right now to derail the coming spending train.

This column was first published by the California Policy Center.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

California’s Doomsday Clock Getting Closer to Midnight

california-flagIn 1947 a group of scientists unveiled the Doomsday Clock to show how near civilization was to a man-made catastrophic end. Maybe California should have its own doomsday clock, since it seems headed for a wreck.

Today’s official Doomsday Clock reads 11:58 pm, two minutes before disaster. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which manages the clock, cited “the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change” as the reason for the shortness of time.

By coincidence, Jerry Brown, who governed California for 16 years, is now that organization’s executive chairman. In taking the job, he quoted Manhattan Project director Robert Oppenheimer, who said “the whole world is going to hell.” 

Some would argue that the world will have to wait because California is going to arrive first. They have a point. California long ago lost its way.

For instance, this state, once an epicenter of enterprise, continues to bleed businesses. Relocation specialist Joe Vranich figures about 13,000 businesses fled California from 2008 to 2016, and he expects the flight to pick up speed rather than slow.

California is losing people, as well, by the millions. Many who haven’t left yet are just waiting for an opening. A 2017 University of California-Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found that 56 percent across the state have considered moving because of intolerable housing costs. One in four of those says “that if they did decide to move, they would most likely relocate out of state.”

Meanwhile, the state is a chosen destination for the wealthier and better-educated, according to a December Los Angeles Times report, even as millions of middle-class residents flee California’s high taxes, suffocating regulations, unaffordable housing costs, and some of the worst traffic (and roads) on Earth.

Attracting the bright and the affluent is certainly to California’s advantage. They arrive with capital, innovative thinking, experience, and the energy that helped them amass their wealth. But losing middle-class residents, including large numbers of young professionals, to other states, leaving California with only the extremely rich and the extremely poor, foretells a shaky future.

If California was losing its middle class to the upper class rather than to other states, this, too, would be an advantage. As former Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Janet Yellen – and many others – has said, upward mobility “promotes a healthier economy.” But simply pulling out is a loss. Middle-class Californians who leave take with them their work ethic, their investment and consumption dollars, their inventive business ideas, and their human capital.

Of course the entire middle class isn’t trying to ditch California. Certainly not members of the state’s public-employee unions. It’s in their best interest to stay until they can start collecting their generous pensions, which, we might add, have multiplied the tax burden that’s obliging the middle class to seek refuge in other states.

Escaping California is a rational choice. It has arguably the heaviest tax burden in the country, and is constantly increasing it. Businesses are regulated as if they were subsidiaries of the state.

Accelerating the exodus is an intractable housing crisis. Prices are so high that many middle-class earners can’t afford to buy homes. In Los Angeles County, where more than one in four Californians lives, 92 percent of all homes, “are unaffordable to the average person.” Those who rent rather than purchase have to dedicate one-third to nearly one-half of their income to housing, depending on where they live.

Even so, they probably consider themselves fortunate. Many in California don’t even have a home. While the state makes up only 12 percent of the national population, 25 percent to 30 percent of the country’s homeless live here.

There are dozens of other California conventions that annoy, antagonize, confound, enrage, inconvenience, and eventually drive out, the “subjects” of California. To name a few, there’s the wholly unnecessary single-use plastic bag prohibition, a coming fossil fuel ban to serve a political agenda, and a spiteful disregard for federal immigration law. There’s also the man-made drought,punishing gasoline prices, the menace of a future single-payer health care system, the political indoctrination taking place in public school classrooms, and a crusade to outlaw gasoline and diesel vehicles, to name a few more.

Is California “on the verge of becoming,” as Richard Colman has suggested, “a failed state” that’s “on the brink of collapse”? While the state’s doomsday clock rapidly approaches midnight, we haven’t run out of time yet. It is, however, getting late.

New Tax Proposals Hurt the Middle-Class

TaxesNo one disputes that California has a big budget surplus. According to the Office of the Legislative Analyst, California has budget reserves in excess of $18 billion. Our budget reserves exceed the entire state budget of eighteen other states.

One would think that the funds available for discretionary spending would chill any appetite for higher taxes. But this is California.

Despite the highest income tax rate, the highest state sales tax rate and the second highest gas tax, both our newly elected governor and our extremely progressive legislature desire to impose yet even higher taxes.

The most surprising thing about two of the new tax proposals is that they hurt the very groups the majority party claims that it is trying to help.

During his tenure as governor, Jerry Brown succeeded in shepherding through several tax hikes. However, he was unsuccessful in pushing a new 911 surcharge and a precedent-setting tax on water.

But as is common in California, new tax proposals never really die and these two have been resurrected in Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget.

To read the entire column, please click here.