Do Californians Even Care About High Taxes?

Tax surveyIn Tuesday’s Republican debate in Milwaukee a graphic was displayed to show where Facebook activity occurred discussing taxes. The green shaded areas on the graph indicated areas and states that had Above Average chatter on taxes (whatever average is). What catches the eye is that about two-thirds of California is white — no heavy tax chatter. Included in the white area are the large metropolitan and heavily populated areas of Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Sacramento.

Does this mean that Californians don’t care about taxes, at least to the extent that they don’t talk about taxes on Facebook as much as residents of other states?

More to the point for analysts and consultants, does this Facebook chart bode well for the many advocates who are hoping to place tax increases on next year’s ballot? Are taxes not a concern for Californians?

Certainly, the Facebook graphic is not a scientific survey. Who knows how many likely voters are spending time on Facebook to discuss taxes?

Perhaps, Californians are not as concerned about taxes because the state is flush. The Controller’s Office announced yesterday that in October the state pulled in nearly $200 million more than was expected lifting the surplus over $500 million more than anticipated by budget projections.

A budget surplus would play a role in the coming debates over tax measures on the ballot and lead voters to feel that no new taxes are necessary – at least those who discuss such things on Facebook.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Political Battle of the Ages: Boomers vs. Millennials

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

NEW GEOGRAPHY–The old issues of class, race and geography may still dominate coverage of our changing political landscape, but perhaps a more compelling divide relates to generations. American politics are being shaped by two gigantic generations – the baby boomers and their offspring, the millennials – as well as smaller cohorts of Generation X, who preceded the millennials, and what has been known as the Silent Generation, who preceded the boomers.

Both the boomers and the Silents gradually have moved to the right as they have aged. Other factors underpin this trend, such as the fact that boomers are overwhelmingly white – well over 70 percent compared with roughly 58 percent for millennials. People in their 50s and 60s have seen their incomes and net worth rise while millennials have done far worse, at this stage of their lives, than previous generations.

Although millennials are more numerous than boomers, the elderly are a growing portion of the population, and they tend to vote in bigger numbers. Voters over age 65 turn out at a rate above 70 percent, while barely 40 percent of those under 25 cast ballots. That may be one factor in why this presidential campaign is dominated not by youth, but by aging figures like Donald Trump (69), Hillary Clinton (67) and Bernie Sanders (74).

The Silent Generation

Leading generational analysts – Neil Howe, Morley Winograd, Mike Hais – have suggested that the experiences people have growing up shape political beliefs throughout their lives. This does not mean that people do not change as they age, but where they started remains a key factor in determining how far these changes spread within a generation.

The now-passing Greatest Generation – the group that survived the Depression and the Second World War – were largely shaped by the experiences of the New Deal and the boom of the postwar era. This has made them consistently less conservative than successor generations, and they have retained their Democratic affiliations.

In contrast, the Silents – many of whom grew up under President Dwight Eisenhower and during the Cold War – have gradually moved toward the Republican column. After generally supporting the Democrats in 2006, they have backed GOP candidates but remain surprisingly balanced in their affiliations; Pew estimates Silents who at least lean Republican constitute 47 percent, versus 44 percent Democratic.

Surprisingly, Silent Generation Democrats are not much more socially conservative on issues – such as gay marriage, abortion and climate change – than the younger generation. But Silent Generation Republicans are far more socially conservative than their younger counterparts, particularly on immigration. This may be one factor that keeps the Donald Trump energizer bunny animated.

Boomers Move Right

Although now outnumbered by millennials, 83 million to 75 million, boomers, those born from 1946-64, remain the largest voting bloc, accounting for some 35 percent of the electorate. Despite being closely identified with the 1960s hippie movement and the counterculture, this group has been heading right for at least 30 years. This may be traced to their experience with the inept and depressing Jimmy Carter presidency and their support for the more self-assured optimism of Ronald Reagan.

Since the second term of the first boomer president, Bill Clinton, that generation has favored the GOP in virtually every election. And they are getting more conservative over time. Since the 1970s, the percentage identifying themselves as liberal has dropped consistently while those holding conservative views have steadily climbed. In 2011, 42 percent of boomers identified as conservative, more the twice the number who considered themselves liberal.

Focus on Generation X

Generation X, smaller than the boomer and millennial demographic behemoths, with roughly 65 million, occupies a particularly critical, if unappreciated, niche in our evolving political structure. Born from the mid-1960s to early ’80s, this generation will produce our next generation of leaders.

The politics of the X’ers are complex. On social issues, they are notably more liberal than boomers but considerably more conservative than millennials. Younger X’ers, many of whom grew up under the generally successful era of Bill Clinton, are notably more liberal than their older counterparts, but a strong majority do not approve of President Obama.

Overall, the X’ers represent something of a swing vote and could be a source of some moderation on social and environmental issues. As a group, they are widely seen as more pragmatic than boomers, who tend to embrace ideological politics. Although likely to support the GOP nominee in 2016, the margin may not be great and, if the Republicans remain committed to embracing clownish candidates, the X’ers could even end up in the Democratic column.

Millennials: Game changers?

With the exception of the Greatest Generation, the millennials are the only age cohort that can be said to be solidly Democratic. Given their huge numbers and relative youth, they will ultimately dominate our political system. By 2030, there will be 78 million millennials and 56 million boomers. But, as in other generations, their political affiliations could shift, at least somewhat, depending on how the parties shape their message over the next decade or two.

Millennials’ social views strongly benefit Democrats. The Republicans have turned off a large portion of a generation that embraces gay marriage by a huge margin and is heavily pro-immigration. The shift to the Democrats could be supercharged if Trump, disliked by four-fifths of Latinos in some surveys, gets the GOP nomination.

Millennials also could push the Democrats even further to the left. They have become a major base of support for socialist candidate Bernie Sanders. The Vermont septuagenarian has played well to this generation’s latent anti-capitalism (about as many of them favor socialism as the free market system; his call for free college no doubt appeals to those worried about college debts). More than three times as many millennials like Sanders’ Facebook page as Hillary Clinton’s, and he is polling about even among them with the former secretary of state, well ahead of his national rankings.

Although smaller in numbers, Republican millennials have gained some ground in recent elections, with most white millennials now in favor of a GOP takeover of the White House in 2016. Their expanding presence could have a potentially moderating impact on a party that appears committed to engaging in ideological and demographic suicide. Young Republicans tend to be more socially liberal – 64 percent, for example, embrace broad acceptance for homosexuality, compared with 45 percent of GOP boomers – and more often define their conservatism in economic terms, a potentially strong issue after seven years of generally anemic, and highly concentrated, income and job growth.

Who wins?

Generational politics pose both risks and rewards for each party. A Trump candidacy may excite older voters and many younger white voters, but the cost among a pro-immigrant, heavily minority millennial voting bloc could prove damaging over the longer run.

Democrats, too, face risks, particularly if they continue on the path of radical wealth redistribution and draconian climate change regulation. Although still strong, support for Obama has been steadily weakening since 2008. Millennials are the only age group to still approve of President Obama’s record, but by only 49 percent, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

The future may be determined by the extent that millennials feel that Democratic policies inhibit their ability to move up economically. Younger millennials, having grown up during a weak economy under a progressive president, are notably more conservative than older ones, notes a recent Harvard study.

They increasingly share some attitudes with conservatives, having become notably more deeply distrustful of many of the nation’s political institutions. Nearly half describe themselves as independents, far more than any other age group.

To be sure, mllennials will likely stay more liberal than boomers (about as many are conservative as liberal), but they could shift further to the right once they enter their 30s and start earning a living. Once they are accumulating such things as a house and starting families, they may not easily embrace policies that would see much of their income taken away – radical redistribution is more appealing when you have little and know even less.

To take advantage of these trends, Republicans first need to adjust their views on social issues, notably on immigration and gay rights, and come up with policies to address rampant income inequality. If they fail to do so, generation dynamics will likely allow the Democrats to dominate electorally for the next decade or more.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of, the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. His most recent book is “The New Class Conflict” –Telos Publishing: 2014. Joel Kotkin lives in Orange County. This piece first appeared at The Daily Beast.) 

Fiorina: The Falling Star

The rapid rise and equally rapid fall of Carly Fiorina deserves our attention.

Before the most recent GOP debate, she was languishing in the polls at only 4 percent of the vote, according to a Sept. 9-Sept. 13 CBS survey. After a smashing performance at the event, she soared into second place with 15 percent (CNN, Sept. 17-Sept. 19). Now the most recent polls have her falling back into the pack with only 6 percent support (CBS, Oct. 4-Oct. 8).

What happened?

Her initial rise was partially due to her headline-stealing riposte to Donald Trump for his ill-considered comments demeaning her physical appearance. By linking her cause to that of all women, she effectively played off the GOP front-runner’s publicity and vaulted to the top of the field.

But the deeper reason for her climb was that Republicans want to nominate a woman to counter Hillary Clinton; they found Fiorina, a self-made woman, a far more authentic model of female advancement than they did the former first lady. Here was a woman who did not depend on her husband’s career to move ahead and who did not have the baggage of scandal and secrecy that burdens Clinton’s candidacy.

Fiorina showed an eclectic knowledge of national affairs and fluently recited key facts about our weakened defense posture. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO seemed like a non-ascorbic, scandal-free alternative to Clinton.

There has been no major scandal or faux pas to bring Fiorina down. While the impact of her debate performance may have worn off over time, why is she suffering this fate while Trump, Ben Carson and Marco Rubio have continued to gain from their debating styles?

While The New York Times contributed to her fall with a front-page article chronicling — and bashing — her record at HP, it was the bloggers who brought Fiorina down. The Times story regaled the saga of how Fiorina had induced HP to buy Compaq despite evidence of its declining clout and emphasized the 30,000 layoffs under her tenure as CEO.

But the bloggers really did a number on her conservative credentials. They quoted her 2010 comment during her contest with Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California that Roe v. Wade is “settled law” and noted her endorsement of Rubio’s (R-Fla.) plan for amnesty for illegal immigrants, as well as her support for Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court and her willingness to weaken Proposition 13, which holds down property taxes in California.

The blogs left Fiorina bleeding.

For rest of article click here.

Originally published on on October 13, 2015


Duf Sundheim, former state GOP chair, jumps into 2016 Senate race

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

Former California Republican Party chair Duf Sundheim, 62, is jumping into the 2016 U.S. Senate race, in what’s expected to be a tough race against the Democratic front-runner, state Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Sundheim, a moderate, pro-choice Republican who has worked with former Secretary of State George Shultz and former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed on political reform issues that include redistricting, open primaries, and pension and education reform, vows to bring a bipartisan approach to the job.

A former member of the Republican National Committee board of directors, Sundheim has long been active in trying to broaden the appeal of the California GOP, which lags 15 points behind Democrats in state voter registration. …

Click here to read the full article

Legislation Hiking Initiative Filing Fee Faces Resistance

VotingUnexpected bipartisan opposition has formed against a piece of legislation designed to cut down on California’s sometimes outrageous ballot initiatives.

In addition to the left-leaning Consumer Watchdog organization, citizens’-rights groups like the California Taxpayers Association and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association have mustered their members against the bill. Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, told the San Francisco Chronicle “that only six of the 26 states that allow citizen initiatives have filing fees and that the highest is $500, in Mississippi and Wyoming.”

Hoping to stave off a shift in fortunes, Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, has already tweaked Assembly Bill 1100 in an effort to calm the drama. Co-authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, the bill originally proposed a massive increase in the fee charged by the state to file an initiative. Currently just $200, Low and Bloom set out to hike the fee to $8,000 — a daunting number for some, but calculated to just about cover what it costs the state to pay the attorney general’s office for drafting each initiative’s title and summary.

Low was inspired to push for the reform by a contentious recent effort that would have created a so-called Sodomite Suppression Act. “Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin submitted a ballot measure in February that would have ‘any person who willingly touches another person of the same gender for purposes of sexual gratification be put to death by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method,’” as the Sacramento Bee recalled. “Determined to prevent the measure from moving forward, Attorney General Kamala Harris took the measure to court and was relieved of the official duty to write the title and 100-word summary necessary before signature-gathering.”

A checkered past

Proponents of Low’s reform insisted that the bill was about more than shutting down such lurid proposals. California’s ballot initiative system has seen its fair share of half-baked ideas over the years, drawing criticism from more conservative analysts concerned that the state’s view of direct democracy was too romantic and naive.

As the Chronicle noted, initiatives have now been filed that would ban alimony, create a secession commission, eliminate private power companies, fly the state flag above the national flag, “and call the state’s top elected official ‘president of California.’”

Another ongoing challenge, some critics noted, was guiding voters away from voting in favor of unaffordable but otherwise appealing measures.

In fact, Low’s efforts to curb crazy initiatives have not been the first — nor the first to do so by jacking up the price of admission. “Given the sheer number of proposals that have been submitted recently, the Legislature has actually already tried to make filing fees more expensive,” Civinomics noted. “Laws were submitted in 2009, 2010, and 2011 to raise the fee, but two of them were vetoed by then-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the other was dropped by the bill’s author.”

GOP opposition

For now, Republicans have recently tended more toward supporting a permissive initiative process, concerned that California lacks many other effective hedges against the state’s near-one-party rule and its more liberal judges, who largely dominate the courts. So when AB1100 came to a vote in the Assembly, votes for and against split almost exactly along party lines. Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, put forth a popular argument on the right, warning “the higher fee would make it difficult for individuals and nonprofit groups to file for an initiative,” as the Los Angeles Times reported. “She said that if the increase in the cost of living since the fee was implemented was figured in, it would now be $2,700.”

Then, as the bill made its way to the Senate, reality set in. In committee, “the filing fee was trimmed from $8,000 to $2,500 and then to $2,000,” the Chronicle recounted. “The plan to hike the charge in lockstep with increases in the Consumer Price Index also disappeared.” Nevertheless, the changes weren’t enough to satisfy critics, who will likely have to count on Gov. Jerry Brown to stop the bill from becoming law.

California and the GOP Debate

Republican presidential candidate businesswoman Carly Fiorina stands on stage for a pre-debate forum at the Quicken Loans Arena, Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015,  in Cleveland. Seven of the candidates have not qualified for the primetime debate. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Looking for California in the GOP debate presented some challenges even with one candidate who has tentative ties to the Golden State and the state’s Democratic governor who tried to put himself into the debate via a letter to the candidates on climate change.

There was only one Californian (sort of) in the field of 17 — Carly Fiorina who made her name as CEO of Hewlett-Packard and was handily defeated by Barbara Boxer for the California U.S. Senate seat in 2010. She now lives in Virginia.

She did fairly well in the first debate, many pundits declaring her the winner. And it appeared that former Texas governor Rick Perry has Fiorina lined up for the Secretary of State job if he becomes president. In criticizing the Iran nuclear deal Perry said, “I’d rather have Carly Fiorina over there doing our negotiation rather than (Secretary of State) John Kerry.”

Major California companies Google and Apple also made it into the first debate with Fiorina saying they should cooperate with the government on investigations that might prevent terrorism.

Apparently, Jerry Brown sent his letter to the wrong recipients for the main debate. California’s Democratic governor tried to work his way into the debate when he sent a letter asking GOP candidates how they would address climate change. He should have sent his letter to the Fox News Channel debate moderators. They didn’t bother to engage the candidates on climate change in the debate featuring the 10 leading candidates.

There was a reference to climate change in the first debate held for candidates in positions 11 to 17 in the polls. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham responded that if he debated presumptive Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton on climate change she would argue cap-and-trade that would ruin the economy while he would focus on energy independence and a clean environment. Cap-and-trade is a key strategy in Brown’s camapign on climate change.

Immigration was a big issue at the debate although nothing specific to California. However, the situation on sanctuary cities was raised in both the earlier and later debates. The sanctuary cities issue gained headlines after the shooting death in San Francisco of Kate Steinle by an illegal immigrant who had been deported many times but still came back. Candidates from Jeb Bush to Ted Cruz, to Bobby Jindal said they would eliminate federal funds to sanctuary cities.

There are a number of presidential candidates working with individuals with strong California ties. To name a few: Jeff Miller is campaign manager for Rick Perry, Mike Murphy is a strategist for Jeb Bush and Todd Harris is communication director for Marco Rubio.

While California didn’t have a big role in the debates one of her favorite sons was mentioned frequently –Ronald Reagan. And that will carry over with the next Republican debate scheduled for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley September 16.

Originally published of Fox and Hounds Daily

CA GOP Can Wield Power During Special Legislative Sessions

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Jerry Brown made the Republican legislators relevant again. Brown’s call for special sessions for transportation and Medi-Cal funding invariably brings talk about possible tax increases. With a two-thirds vote needed to raise taxes, and the Democratic majority shy of the super two-thirds mark, Republicans must be part of the conversation.

Despite their best efforts offering innovative approaches to some of California’s difficult problems during the legislative session, the Democrats on major bills and the budget that needed simple majority approval mostly have sidelined Republicans. But that will not be the case when revenue solutions are sought and debated during the special sessions.

According to the governor, the special sessions are about permanent revenue sources to bolster transportation infrastructure and Medi-Cal. While Republicans put forward plans to use current revenues to satisfy funding concerns for the roads, much of the talk will focus on tax and fee increases. Republicans have said no to the need for new taxes since the state is awash in new money. Even post budget signing, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported the state brought in a half-a-billion dollars more that the budget anticipated.

(As an aside, Republicans may have already supported a tax in their road funding proposal depending on how a court rules. One Republican suggestion is to use cap-and-trade funds recently put on gasoline production to fund transportation. The California Chamber of Commerce has gone to court claiming cap-and-trade amounts to a tax. If the Chamber suit is successful part of the Republican transportation package is a tax.)

Republicans position on taxes will also be tested in any Medi-Cal fix. One of the leading proposals to fund Medi-Cal is to increase the tobacco tax. If the governor is searching for a permanent revenue source to fund Medi-Cal, tobacco tax seems a poor choice. The tobacco tax is a diminishing resource as fewer people choose to smoke. Increasing the tax on smoking is supposed to discourage the practice thus limiting future revenues. Relying on the tobacco tax to rescue the Medi-Cal program would seem short sighted given the governor’s stated goal.

Given the need for Republican votes for tax plans, Republicans are in the middle of the debate and can offer savings ideas and plans re-directing current revenues that cannot easily be dismissed by the majority. If the GOP simply gave in to raising taxes then the issue of Democrats needing a supermajority is moot. Republicans will use their leverage to be deeply engaged in any solutions.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Writing the Rules for the Republicans’ Big Quiz Show


Some years ago I worked in game show development for a wonderful actor and TV host, Bert Convy, who’d recently formed a production company. He asked me to create game elements for a new show, and we negotiated an agreement that would pay me a very minimal royalty. I remember sitting in an upholstered leather chair in his office as he stood leaning against the front of his desk, looking irritated.

“I’m really a producer now,” he said ruefully. “I’m screwing the talent.”

Today, I’m going to use this odd talent to solve the problem of how to get 16 Republican candidates into one televised debate.

In addition to my background in game shows, I present my credentials as a former Republican candidate in a primary for U.S. Congress and two elections for the California Assembly. I have participated in debates and forums where there were two candidates, three candidates, four candidates, and 10 candidates. Once I was excluded from a debate and spent the evening in the parking lot talking with members of the press and public.

I offer my considered opinion — as a uniquely qualified professional in the field of bells, buzzers, questions and cameras — that it is a really bad idea to hold a debate with 10 candidates on stage and six in the parking lot.

Aside from the problems inherent in the selection process, 10 is too many candidates to have on stage at the same time. Answers will be repetitive and viewers will struggle to remember who said what. Candidates will pay joke writers for zingers to help them get into the news stories.

And the spectacle will become the story. An MSNBC host will remark that the candidates look like boarding group B for a Southwest flight to Cleveland. Fox News will respond that Hillary Clinton flies on private jets because nobody could afford the airline fees for that much baggage. CNN will cut to a report on a missing plane.

Instead, the Republican presidential debates should follow a format similar to Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game, where players take the field for just two or three innings. It would work like this:

Segment 1: Four candidates take the stage. Each is given a 20-second introduction by the moderator. Each makes a one-minute opening statement. Then a question is randomly chosen from a selection of questions on domestic policy, and the candidates each have two minutes to answer. Next, a question is randomly chosen on foreign policy, and each candidate has two minutes again. Finally, the candidates each have 30 seconds for a closing statement.


The format repeats until all the candidates have been heard. Current polls would be used to determine the order in which candidates take the stage. The suggested timings would present 16 candidates, in four segments, in two hours.

To give viewers the opportunity to hear more, the sponsoring news organization would conduct interviews of each candidate in advance and post the full-length videos on its website as the debate begins. It’s not the Nixon-Kennedy era anymore — we have the “second screen” to offer options for deeper content than television alone can provide. Viewers can be pointed to the online material with on-screen graphics and comments by the moderator.

This format treats the candidates respectfully and provides clarity for viewers, with a reasonable blend of pace and depth. And it accomplishes the most important goal of a televised debate: enabling voters across the country to see and hear the people who are seeking to become the next president of the United States.

After all, this isn’t a game.


Reach the author at or follow Susan on Twitter: @Susan_Shelley.

Independent voters on track to surpass state’s GOP voters

As reported by the Orange County Register:

California Republicans found a moment to celebrate last year when they broke Democrats’ two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature. But that may prove a fleeting diversion from ever-growing signs of doom.

Democrats hold every partisan statewide elected post, as well as large majorities in the Legislature and among the state’s congressional delegation.

New data shows that if current voter registration trends continue, the state’s independent voters will outnumber Republicans within four years.

Voters with no party preference now account for …

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VIDEO: Gov. Scott Walker Explains How He Would Fix Our Immigration Mess

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, one of early front-runners for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, discusses his views on immigration policy and reform with Orange County Register Opinion editor Brian Calle.