Darrell Steinberg wants you in an ant farm

The second most poweful politician in California is Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento; after Gov. Jerry Brown. Steinberg’s background is with labor unions. And he represents the state capitol — that is, state workers whose jobs, wealth, perks, pensions and power depend on having the biggest, highest-taxing, most-regulating and most-bullying government possible.

Today he detailed his political philosophy in a letter to the Wall Street Journal. He was responding to a Journal article attacking SB 375, the 2008 bill that he sponsored, and which then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law. According to a summary by the Southern California Association of Governments, which implements much of the bill, SB 375:

“SB 375 (Steinberg) is California state law that became effective January 1, 2009. This new law requires California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop regional reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and prompts the creation of regional plans to reduce emissions from vehicle use throughout the state. California’s 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) have been tasked with creating ‘Sustainable Community Strategies’ (SCS). The MPOs are required to develop the SCS through integrated land use and transportation planning and demonstrate an ability to attain the proposed reduction targets by 2020 and 2035.”

Steinberg began his letter:

“More unmitigated sprawl, more smog, more cars on our already congested freeways—is that tarnish what Californians really want to see for the future of the Golden State?”

What contempt he has for regular, middle-class families:

  • By “More unmitigated sprawl” he means nice suburbs in which to raise families, instead of the high-rise projects he want to shove us into like ants.
  • “more smog” is a red herring. Smog from cars has dropped more than 95 percent in 50 years, and keeps declining as cars get cleaner.
  • “more cars” means individual freedom of transportation, instead of being squeezed into uncomfortable buses or mass transit that takes three or four times the minutes to get someplace. In any case, cars are here to stay. SB 375 won’t change that much. And does Steinberg take mass transit?
  • “already congested freeways” are congested because, beginning with Gov. Jerry Brown’s “era of limits” administrations in the 1970s and early 1980s, the state has not built enough roads, instead wasting highway funds on mass transit, or general-fund pork. Moreover, the easy way to relive congestion is to privatize the freeways, which then would become toll roads charging more during rush hours.

Contradiction

Steinberg wrote:

“Wendell Cox, in his April 7 Cross Country [article in the WSJ]: “California Declares War on Suburbia,” indicates that’s a favorable path, while mischaracterizing the intent and impact of a bill I authored in 2008 that will provide California residents exactly what they want: more housing options, greater access to public transportation, shorter commute times and an average savings of $3,000 per household per year on transportation and energy costs.”

Ever hear of a government program that saved money? And notice the “will provide California residents exactly what they want.” But Steinberg contradicted himself in the very next paragraph:

“The California Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375) is a rational approach that serves as a blueprint for other states on how to turn inevitable growth into smart growth. Its provisions provide regions with a thoughtful framework to minimize expanding development, relieve roadway congestion, provide housing and working alternatives to Californians confounded by gridlock, and improve air quality. That is why it earned the support of a broad coalition including the California Building Industry Association, the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and environmental and affordable housing advocates.”

By “rational approach,” he didn’t mean you decide, rationally with your family, where and how you will live. He meant “rational” in the sense used by political philosopher Michael Oakeshott in a famous essay, “Rationalism in Politics.” In that sense, “rationalism” means an ideological scheme that is not based in reality. In one summary, ”Oakeshott argues that the rationalist, in awarding theory primacy over practice, has gotten things exactly backwards: The theoretical understanding of some activity is always the child of practical know-how, and never its parent. In fact, he sees the dependence of theory on practice as being so unavoidable that not only is the rationalist incapable of skillful performances guided solely by theory, he is not even able to stick to his purported guidelines while performing poorly.”

In housing, “rationalist” projects are the Cabrini Green housing projects in Chicago, which were supposed to bring nice living conditions for poor folks, but ended up being gang- and crime-infested, and were torn down. Another “rationalist” project is the whole city of Detroit, which has been run by Steinberg-like liberals for 60 years, has lost half its population and is a byword for urban disaster.

Consider again this sentence of Steinberg:

“Its provisions provide regions with a thoughtful framework to minimize expanding development, relieve roadway congestion, provide housing and working alternatives to Californians confounded by gridlock, and improve air quality.”

That’s pure, controlling, elitist “rationalism”:

  • “minimize expanding development” means destroying your property rights to build a house where you wish, with your own money, after paying a market price to a willing seller.
  • “relieve roadway congestion” doesn’t mean private toll roads, but slamming you into a crowded bus.
  • “provide housing” means forcing you into Cabrini Green-style projects.
  • “working alternatives” means government dictates not only where you live, but where you work. Assuming you even have a job in a state where Steinberg, Schwarzenegger, Gov. Jerry Brown and others have spent a decade destroying jobs.

He continued:

“That is why it earned the support of a broad coalition including the California Building Industry Association, the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties and environmental and affordable housing advocates.”

But these supporting groups he listed are either a building association in tight with the government and eager to get political contracts in an ultra-politicized state, government entities or ideological activists wanting a piece of the manipulative action. Naturally “environmental…activists” would support SB 375, because it advances their goal of making the earth a nice nature preserve without any people.

And get this. He wrote:

“Housing choices and preferences are changing, and those who imply otherwise have their heads in the sand. Market research reported in this paper just last year reveals a shrinking market demand for single-family homes.”

Yes, that’s because people are broke from the anti-jobs policies impose by him and such Republicans as Schwarzenegger. You can’t live in a nice, single-family home home if you’re standing in an unemployment line.

Steinberg:

“Yes, SB 375 incentivizes higher densities, but it uses a carrot, not a stick.”

Right. It uses a giant carrot to hit people over the head.

Steinberg:

“And while developers content with their standard formula for sprawl may hem and haw, the fact is that people who want single-family homes will always be able to find them.”

Yes, if they’re rich. That’s a point I have been making, as has Joel Kotkin.

Steinberg even said:

“The general belief that smart growth policies are driving California’s people and business investment to other states is just plain wrong. The numbers don’t lie. The National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers recently reported that California gained $14.5 billion in venture capital last year. That’s more than half of the country’s $28 billion in venture capital investments and almost five times the amount of the second-ranked state of Massachusetts. And while people relocate for any number of reasons, California’s population has increased 10% from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”

That’s a bait and switch. We get so much venture capital because computer nerd geniuses keep coming to Silicon Valley with companies like Facebook; or start them there. But if your IQ is lower than 160, forget it. As Joseph Vranich has reported, businesses keep exiting California at record rates. That’s why the state unemployment rate rose in March, to 11 percent statewide.

As to the state’s population growth of 10 percent, that was the lowest decade-over-decade performance in the state’s history. As recently as the 1990s, growth was 25.7 percent. The growth the past decade mainly was from other countries. But now even that has ended, as Mexicans are fleeing unproductive California of Steinberg-Brown-Schwarzenegger for the booming, pro-growth Mexico of Presidente Felipe Calderon.

Steinberg concluded:

“California is a desirable place to live and our population will continue to grow. We’re diverse, innovative and our economy is good at producing high-wage jobs.”

Just not many of them.

California will not have the “smart growth” future Steinberg promises because it won’t have any growth at all.

(John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 19 years, is a reporter and analyst for CalWatchgog. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)