California’s Failed Climate Change Policy

As California burns, Governor Gavin Newsom fiddles – with California’s climate change goals. In response to record-breaking wildfires, the Governor announced that California must accelerate its goal of reaching 100 percent green electricity by 2045. And on September 23, as dark smoke infiltrated our lungs and millions of acres burned, the Governor issued an executive order, requiring the sale of all new cars to be zero-emission by 2035.

But pronouncing distant goals does nothing to reduce the risk of devastating wildfires over the next decade and beyond.

Maybe it’s time to address the consequences of climate change, rather than merely hoping to stop climate change. After all, there is no guarantee that California’s climate change policy will have any effect on arresting climate change, given that California accounts for less than 1 percent of global emissions. But it is virtually guaranteed that our health, homes, and lives will suffer from continued wildfires if the State fails to address the effects of climate change.

None of this means that California should cease its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. But it does mean that California must adopt a more effective, data-based policy for the following reasons:

First, by failing to take sweeping action to address the growing fire risk, the State is actually undermining its climate change goals. The 2018 fires alone released more than 45 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, producing over nine times the emissions that were reduced in 2017, according to Beacon Economics. This year’s record-breaking fires will further set back California’s efforts.

Second, California government has utterly failed to conduct any cost-benefit analysis in setting its green energy goals. A review of the legislative reports behind the 2018 legislation, requiring 60 percent of electricity to be derived from renewable energy resources by 2030 and setting a goal of achieving 100 percent renewable or zero-carbon electricity by 2045 reveals an utter lack of empirical analysis regarding the goals’ impact on energy reliability or electrical costs. As a result, electricity prices in California have increased five times as fast as the national average since 2011, affecting jobs and incomes.

Separately, the California Independent System Operator has warned the Public Utilities Commission that California risked energy shortages by shutting down traditional power plants in favor of solar power, which can generate 20-25 percent of the State’s supply, but which vanishes in the evening. That prediction came true this year when a prolonged heat wave resulted in rolling power outages. Yet, California advances its renewable energy goals without assuring energy reliability.

Third, our aging energy infrastructure can spark wildfires when stormy or windy conditions damage transmission lines. After all, the equipment that caused the Paradise fire was on a line built in 1921. However, diverting utilities’ resources to develop more expensive green energy sources has left them without sufficient resources to undertake the necessary, but massive, effort to harden their energy infrastructure.

This year’s record-breaking fire season demonstrates that the State needs to take a less doctrinaire and more pragmatic approach toward addressing climate change. This includes the following:

1. Authorizing a sufficient number of traditional power plants that can immediately supply dependable energy when there are energy shortfalls, as we increase reliance on renewable energy.

2. Implementing a massive program to thin forests and clear them of deadwood. Last month, the Governor and the U.S. Forest Service announced a future joint effort to reduce wildfire risks across one million acres a year through controlled burns and debris removal. By contrast, in an average year, Florida’s state forest service authorizes 2.1 million acres of controlled fires, according to its agriculture department.

3. Using cap-and-trade revenues to help fund an accelerated program to strengthen our aging energy infrastructure, whose vulnerability places homes, lives, and property at risk when high winds knock down transmission lines.

It is time for pragmatic leadership that protects the public today because tomorrow’s goals are no substitute for today’s action.

Dan Kolkey is a former judge and former counsel to Governor Pete Wilson and serves on the board of the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

San Francisco, Bay Area Rents Plummet Due To Space Concerns, COVID-19

On Tuesday, reports by several realtor and rent-tracking companies found that San Francisco has seen overall rent prices drop by up to 31% since September of 2019, with other Bay area locations also seeing significant drops in rent prices.

According to a Realtor.com study, the average price for a studio apartment in San Francisco fell by 31% to $2,285 a month, a large fall compared to the 0.5% average decline nationwide. Three of the top five counties on the list were from the Bay area, with Santa Clara County and San Mateo County also seeing drops of close to 20%. Alameda County was also in the top 10 with a 12% drop.

The ten largest rent drops per county in the United States since September 2019. (Photo: Realtor.com)

Zumper National Rent Report also found that rent drops are hitting larger apartment as well, with one bedroom apartments falling by at least 20% throughout the city.

The rent drops have been largely due to the COVID-19 lockdown forcing many people to stay at home, with many finding that they want extra room that apartments in suburbs or even cities farther away can provide. Many have also left because of rents simply being too high.

“Before the coronavirus, we had people not minding smaller apartments because of the great area they were in,” noted San Francisco realtor Patricia Hayes-Faber, to the Globe. “But during the virus, so many began working from home, especially tech sector workers. They were now in these small apartments all day, and they couldn’t leave to go to the shops or restaurants around them because they were all closed.

“And that’s when more and more went on the market. Everyone I asked was heading out to Stockton, across the Bay or more south. A few said they were going to LA because it was cheaper there. Imagine that.

“So rents have been going down since then, and are showing no signs of stopping. A lot of these firms that bought these places up during the boom are now panicking because they aren’t getting the desired return on investment. And as more and more leases end, we’re going to see more apartments for cheaper prices.

“If the pandemic goes on for awhile, and people don’t returns to offices right away or places don’t open up, parts of San Francisco can be cheap-ish again. And right now we’re seeing skyrocketing costs of places in Texas, Oklahoma, and elsewhere, so people are being discouraged enough to not move too far out – I’ve had so many clients say they wouldn’t be caught dead in Texas. But we’re going to be seeing a cheaper San Francisco when this is all over, which may bring another boom.”

Political rent shifts in 2020

The shift of rents is also playing havoc with elections this year, as many neighboring areas are seeing a new, generally Democratic-leaning group of voters come in. Some Congressional districts, such as the 4th district, are seeing closer races than usual due to voter influx. Meanwhile, majority Democrat cities themselves are seeing a slight bump in Republican percentages as they have been less likely to move.

“There aren’t a lot of Republican here,” said San Francisco apartment renovator Joel Rourke to the Globe. “But a lot of business we’ve had since COVID-19 has been people who said they were Republican or implied that they voted that way. Five years ago, it was all Democrats who were calling me. But many of them have been leaving. And the people who have been staying are generally wealthier and more Republican. A lot of real estate agents and apartment owners I work with mentioned this too.

“I mean, the city is still very much Democratic. But wouldn’t it be wild if the city starts to go the other way?”

However, despite the large drops, San Francisco still leads the nation in the most expensive one-room bedroom apartments, with the median being priced at $2,830.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Misusing Taxpayers’ Money for Campaigns

California voters are not only voting on presidential, congressional, legislative and local government offices and a dozen statewide ballot measures but deciding the fate of 234 local tax and bond measures.

The California Taxpayers Association estimates that if passed, the local tax measures would raise about $1.5 billion a year in new revenues. The proposed bond issues, mostly for schools, total nearly $15 billion and their passage would automatically trigger increases in property taxes to repay lenders.

These are hefty financial stakes and the local officials that placed measures on the ballot have reason to worry about their passage. Voters rejected 62% of the 239 local measures on the March 3 primary ballot — and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic struck home, the state’s economy plummeted and more than two million jobs were erased.

The recession that’s still raging is a two-edged sword for local government and school officials. It has cut their tax revenues sharply and also tends to make voters even more leery about paying higher taxes.

City council members, county supervisors and school trustees are tempted, in their zeal to persuade voters to vote for new taxes and bonds, to violate a state law prohibiting them from using taxpayer funds for campaign purposes.

Government Code Section 54964 forthrightly declares, “An officer, employee, or consultant of a local agency may not expend or authorize the expenditure of any of the funds of the local agency to support or oppose the approval or rejection of a ballot measure, or the election or defeat of a candidate, by the voters.”

In fact, such violations have become commonplace in recent years. Under the guise of providing “information,” local officials routinely hire campaign management firms to design advertisements, mailers and other material aimed at persuading voters to pass the proposed taxes and bonds.

They have done so because they know that state and local prosecutors just as routinely refuse to prosecute violations of Section 54964 by their fellow officeholders.

The only investigative agency to interest itself in such violations is the California Fair Political Practices Commission and while the FPPC lacks authority to enforce Section 54964, it can treat agencies that step over the line dividing information from advocacy as campaign contributors.

Recently, for example, the FPPC targeted the County of Los Angeles, which in 2017 spent a million dollars for an ill-disguised, but successful, campaign to pass Measure H, a quarter-cent increase in the sales tax. The campaign included broadcast commercials in English and Spanish that used the slogan “Real Help. Lasting Change.”

County officials, without admitting liability, agreed to pay the FPPC a $1.35 million penalty for failing to report their spending as a campaign contribution. However, that pales in comparison to the estimated $355 million a year that Measure H’s passage will generate.

Last week, the FPPC invited the public to use its “AdWATCH” program to monitor the materials local officials are using to promote their tax and bond measures and upload questionable items to the agency for examination and perhaps investigation.

“The public can play a vital role in helping our enforcement division in making sure campaigns and public agencies are following the rules and ensuring a level playing field,” FPPC Chair Richard C. Miadich said in a statement.

The FPPC’s efforts are welcome, despite being an indirect and relatively weak way of discouraging improper use of taxpayer funds for campaigns, but it’s likely to be the only way as long as prosecutors refuse to enforce the law.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Prop. 20: Will Voters Fix Unintended Consequences in State’s Soft-on-Crime Shift?

Starting with the Legislature’s approval of former Gov. Jerry Brown’s public safety realignment plan in 2011, California has undergone a big change on criminal justice policy.

Turning its back on policies like “Three Strikes” that were passed during the 1990’s, voters approved three ballot measures (Props 36, 47, and 57) that reduced mandatory sentencing laws and shifted thousands of offenders serving time for serious offenses into local communities.

Writing in the forward to Kerry Jackson’s 2019 book Living in Fear in California, PRI President, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy Sally C. Pipes writes that, “these collective policy changes represented a radical departure from California’s history of tough-on-crime policies.

With citizen-initiated consequences frequently comes a host of unintended consequences.  Unless there’s a specific provision in the law to allow the Legislature to act, voters must act again to correct them.  That’s what Proposition 20 on the November ballot will give voters the opportunity to do.

Jackson writes in his book that, “since the passing of Prop. 47, some opponents have said that the ballot measure has left law enforcement with less incentive to pursue low-level offenders.”  He writes of a surge of automobile break-ins and surge in repeat burglaries and property crimes since the measure’s passage.  In addition, the surge in shoplifting cases against retailers statewide since these changes went into effect has been well-documented.

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s analysis of Prop. 20, any person with two or more prior convictions for theft-related crimes could be charged with a new crime of serial theft.  Those acting with others who commit petty theft or shoplifting two or more times within a 6 month period and the value of the goods stolen exceeded $250 could be charged with organized retail theft.   Both new crimes would be punishable by up to 3 years in county jail.

Proponents write in their official ballot argument that “nonviolent crimes in California include domestic violence, exploding a bomb, shooting into a house with the intent to kill or injure people, raping an unconscious person and beating a child so savagely it could result in coma or death.”  Prop. 20, if enacted, would restore the definition of these crimes – 22 in all – as violent crimes.

As Jackson writes in Living in Fear in California, “expanding the catalog of violent crimes whose violators should not be considered for early release is a rational response to the flaws that have plagued some of the state’s criminal justice reorganizations.”

Opponents of Prop. 20 call it a “prison spending scam” in their official ballot argument.  They make that case that its passage would “waste tens of millions on prisons while cutting rehabilitation programs and support for crime victims.”

To be sure, the Legislative Analyst’s office estimates that “more than several thousand people would be affected by the proposition each year” and annual state and local corrections spending would increase by tens of millions annually if it passes.

But proponents note that under the specific language of Prop. 20, offenders charged and convicted under Prop. 20’s provisions would be “directed to local jail or rehabilitation programs.”

During the Prop. 57 campaign, Gov. Jerry Brown publicly stated that he would exclude sex offenders from parole when implementing the measure.  While Brown may have been sincere in his intent, a judge ruled that they would be included in the rules implementing the measure.  “If the voters had intended to exclude all registered sex offenders from early parole consideration under Proposition 57, they presumably would have said so,” Judge Allen Sumner wrote.

With Prop. 20, California voters now have a chance to say so.  Its fate will have a significant impact on whether the countless incidents of crime related to the passage of last decade’s sweeping public safety policy changes will become a way of life for some time to come.

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s senior director of communications and the Sacramento office.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Killing Us Slowly With Their Laws

The California Legislature last month ended its 2020 legislative session where most of the final day of session was spent arguing about partisanship and figuring out how to conduct business virtually. I wrote a column about it, which was featured in Business Journal. You should go read it. 

We know 2020 has been a year like no other. It has presented several challenges that many of us are still trying to navigate, but it has especially been challenging for businesses and business owners. The Valley Industry and Commerce Association fought hard and we keep fighting terrible policies which continue to be proposed by lawmakers. If it sounds like I have already told you about the awful bills coming out of Sacramento, it’s because I have. 

It’s incredibly frustrating when I meet with lawmakers to discuss policies that are bad for business and I see that the business perspective and our concerns are not getting across. 

Take AB 5 for example. I spent all of 2019 expressing to lawmakers the type of impact this would have on industries that depend on independent contracts and, of course, on the independent contractors themselves. Did they listen? No. What ended up happening? Well, several bills were introduced in 2020 which sought out exemptions from the law for certain industries like I said would happen. Some bills were even introduced to repeal the law altogether. But most importantly, people were out of work because no one would hire them as independent contractors due to the fear of being out of compliance with the new rules. Misclassifying someone as an independent contractor instead of an employee could cost an employer a large sum of money.

California has a number of labor laws that businesses need to adhere to, and AB 5 is just one of them. The problem with the abundance of laws, rules and regulations is that employers need to stay up to date with all of them. The more rules and regulations, the higher the chances are of an employer mistakenly being out of compliance. You know what happens then? Well, put simply – lawsuits. 

Trial lawyers have been aggressively utilizing the Private Attorneys General Act to sue businesses for any kind of alleged minor labor law infraction. 

PAGA was intended to give workers a way to protect themselves from employers who commit serious violations of labor laws, but some trial lawyers have been abusing the law to enrich themselves at the expense of small businesses and our economic well-being. 

There are many examples of how abusive PAGA lawsuits are derived from very minor infractions that the employer could resolve quickly, such as details on a paystub. The commonsense way to address these minor problems for the benefit of employees, is to allow employers to fix them as soon as possible. But instead, businesses currently have to hire lawyers and pay out settlements, which is a lose-lose for employers and employees. 

On top of all this, you have labor unions pushing these new labor laws that include a private right of action which will only make trial lawyers richer as they wait for employers to make a mistake where they can file a lawsuit. 

During this pandemic, the business community has had to fight policies pushed by the unions as they’ve exploited COVID-19 to advance their policy agenda. They’ve used COVID-19 to push for workers’ compensation expansion, additional paid sick leave and a right of recall where employers would have been forced to recall workers who had been laid off and wait five days for the worker to respond. Thankfully, the governor vetoed the right of recall bill although the city of Los Angeles passed it for the hospitality industry.

California lawmakers are slowly killing businesses. Yes, we need to be supporting our workers, but we also need to be supporting the businesses who employ those workers. We need to allow them to make decisions that are best for their operations and services. Piling on more rules and regulations during this economic crisis is making it impossible for those businesses to recover, especially if they will need to spend money on settlements and lawsuits. 

Here is my message to lawmakers: support businesses, reform PAGA, eliminate a private right of action in every bill and please listen to me when I tell you that a bill, especially one related to labor law, should not move forward.

Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry & Commerce Association.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.

Armenia and Artsakh: Why America Should Care

On October 11th, close to 100,000 Armenian-Americans took to the streets of Los Angeles to march in solidarity with their relatives back home in Armenia. Last Thursday, hundreds of Armenian-Americans took to protest in front of the White House. Not one window shattered, not one vehicle burned, not one building spray painted. These protests in the United States are only a small part of the wave of protests going on around the world by Armenians who are affected by the events going on back home.

On the morning of September 27, 2020, Armenia’s Ministry of Defense reported shots fired on Armenian forces from the Azerbaijani military, breaking a legal ceasefire that was entered into by the two post-Soviet countries in 1994. Following the shootings last month, using weapons sold to it by Israel, Azerbaijan has started shelling civilian villages and towns in Artsakh, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing thousands more. They targeted historical sites, including thousand year old Christian churches, and cemeteries. The reason for these attacks on Armenian history: Azerbaijan wants to destroy it, because it ruins their claim to the lands of Artsakh.

Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity. In 301 AD, the King of Armenia declared that Christianity was to be the national religion. All over Armenia, hundreds of ancient Armenian churches serve as sites of prayer for Christian Armenians, which make up close to 98% of the country of Armenia. After Armenia was annexed into the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin intervened and decided that Artsakh, which is the portion of land immediately to the east of Armenia major, should be a part of Azerbaijan. He did this in an effort to lower the population of Armenia so he could annex it into Georgia.

In 1991, Armenia declared her independence and broke away from the Soviet Union, as did Azerbaijan. The lands of Artsakh remained in limbo. At the time, close to 98% of the residents in Artsakh were Armenian. Soon after, Azerbaijani forces started harassing the Christian Armenians in the region, and soon after, a war began. The bloody war ended in 1994, after the Azerbaijani forces raised the white flag and agreed to a ceasefire. Until today, Artsakh is fully under the control of Armenians, who just want to live peacefully on their historic lands. Azerbaijan claims the land is historically theirs, which is ridiculous – considering Armenian churches and gravestones exist in Artsakh that are older than the country of Azerbaijan.

Since the start of the war on September 27, most of the international community has been silent. President Erdogan in Turkey has sent forces and military firepower to Azerbaijan to help them in the fight against the Christian Armenians. For years, international leaders have been quiet when President Erdogan invaded countries in an effort to rebuild the Ottoman Empire he dreams of, and they are quiet now. Leaders like Vladamir Putin and Donald Trump are sitting back while Turkey wrecks havoc in the Middle East, which is the cause for many of these protests.

Armenian-Americans are not asking for the President to get involved. We are not asking for American troops to fight for Armenia. We are asking for something as simple as a tweet that will show his solidarity. In 2016, a large number of Armenian-Americans in swing states voted for President Trump, and his seeming silence on the killing of Armenian civilians may now affect their judgment in November.

President Erdogan has gone too far, and nobody has slapped him on the wrist. He is using the silence as an opportunity to expand his military, his economy, and his Turkic influence. Sooner or later, when he uses his influence to invade the countries of American allies because they are standing in his Ottoman Imperialistic fantasies, America will start to care. Until then, the silence on the murder of innocent Christian civilians is deafening, politically unwise and morally indefensible.

David Ter-Petrosyan is a university student studying Economics. He is a delegate to the California Republican Party, a founding member of the Armenian Republican Association (wwwArmenianRA.com), and the Deputy Campaign Manager at Eric Early for Congress.

Alex Padilla’s $35 Million Convoluted Contract Invites Lawsuit

Examples of how California’s one-party rule has us sliding ever closer to third world status become more frequent with every passing week.

From a governor who issues a sweeping executive order banning gasoline powered vehicles to record levels of poverty and rampant homelessness, it is now difficult to distinguish much of California from Venezuela.

One-party rule is also associated with corruption. Under normal circumstances, when government enters into contracts for goods and services with the private sector, taxpayers are protected against waste and fraud by a stringent oversight process mandated by state law. This includes a transparent bidding process to prevent cronyism.

There are exceptions to normal bidding procedures in the event of an emergency.

But exceptions for emergencies are an open invitation to waste taxpayer dollars.

In a high visibility debacle at the beginning of the pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom attempted to execute a $450 million contract for personal protective equipment (PPE) with a company that had only been in existence for a few hours.

Fortunately, that deal collapsed when the company’s own bank raised concerns about the financing and its ability to actually deliver the equipment.

Another example of a third world contracting scandal was only recently uncovered, involving the attempt of California’s Secretary of State to execute a $35 million contract with a political consulting firm, SKDKnickerbocker, whose website prominently states that it is on “Team Biden.”

Indeed, one of its principals is a spokesperson for the “Biden for President” campaign. In its written proposal, it identifies the individuals that will work on the project, all of whom prominently note their personal connection to Democratic politics. …

Click here to read the full article from the Riverside Press-Enterprise.

If the Senate Refuses ACB, We’re Headed for Anarchy, Tyranny & Lawlessness

In partnership with Western Journalism.

Trump has selected a supremely qualified jurist and astute legal scholar with the courtroom experience and judicial temperament to faithfully uphold the U.S. Constitution.

That’s the conclusion of our new independent report published by the United States Justice Foundation, a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to instructing, informing and educating the public on significant legal issues.

After an extensive analysis and independent review of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s background, qualifications and record, the United States Justice Foundation found her to be “the perfect choice for the U.S. Supreme Court.”

The report is available for free to download at USJF.net. Don’t expect any of the leftist media to read or report it.

Instead of a thoughtful investigation into Judge Barrett’s qualifications or legal record, the mainstream media has rushed to reprint the Democratic propaganda machine’s vile talking points of hatred and bigotry.

The United States Justice Foundation report identifies the false propaganda that has been widely distributed in a coordinated effort to discredit Judge Barrett.

The deliberate disinformation campaign promoted by extremists against Judge Barrett has been profoundly disturbing, including attacks on her religious beliefs, false statements about her views on tolerance and even ad hominem attacks on her children.

Far-left activists have unleashed a barrage of hateful and baseless attacks on this eminently qualified and exceptional jurist.

A Biden 2020 campaign staffer claimed that all Catholics should be disqualified from serving on the Supreme Court. Far-left comedian Bill Maher called Judge Barrett “a f—ing nut.”

One misogynist left-wing blogger, The Palmer Report, attacked Judge Barrett as “a deranged freak show of an extremist who is creepily obsessed with taking away the most basic rights of a couple hundred million Americans.” The article had been shared 3183 times.

The lowest attack on Judge Barrett was leveled by Ibram X. Kendi, a Boston University professor, who attacked Judge Barrett’s adopted children. The New York Times best-selling author implied Barrett was a “White colonizer” and that her children were “props in their lifelong pictures of denial.”

Democrats are even threatening physical violence and a descent into anarchy if they are unable to stop Judge Barrett’s confirmation.

“If they even TRY to replace RBG we burn the entire f—— thing down,” tweeted extremist Reza Aslan, a professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside.

Why is so much venom directed at Judge Barrett? Simple. She represents a direct threat to the Beltway’s insider culture, described succinctly by President Trump as “the swamp.”

If confirmed, Judge Barrett would disrupt the established order as the only justice who did not attend an Ivy League law school.

At this historic moment, the United States Senate can recall and renew our civic virtue as a constitutional republic through the swift confirmation of President Trump’s supremely qualified nominee.

If the Senate fails to confirm Judge Amy Comey Barrett to the Supreme Court, it would accelerate our decline into anarchy, reinforce the tyranny of the mob and signal a formal abandonment of the rule of law.

The views expressed in this opinion article are those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by the owners of this website.

California Using “Public Health” as Rationale to Push Progressive Political Goals

Public health authorities in California have unveiled a “Blueprint for a Safer Economy” that requires counties to meet new “health equity metrics” in order to emerge from the current Covid-19 lockdowns. It’s a broad experiment in social justice. Under the plan, counties must reduce “disparities in levels of transmission” in “low-income, Black, Latino, [and] Pacific Islander” communities before they can move forward with reopening. In effect, local businesses must remain closed until local bureaucrats are satisfied that ill-defined racial quotas have been met.

The underlying assumption of the blueprint is that race-based coronavirus disparities are the result of “systemic racism,” despite zero evidence that the state’s coronavirus policies have been discriminatory. The plan ignores potential differences in culture, behavior, and underlying health, resting instead on the premise that racism is the driving force behind every disparate outcome. The blueprint also subverts the democratic process. Unelected public health officials are restricting essential freedoms, including mobility, worship, and economic activity, without deliberation by the state legislature or the possibility of review or appeal.

Unfortunately, the California blueprint is just part of a broader pattern of state governments using public health as a rationale for seizing power. Throughout the pandemic, blue-state politicians have appealed to science as justification for long-term economic lockdowns, mask mandates, and other emergency measures, regardless of whether these policies have been sanctioned by state legislatures or voters. Science becomes the highest authority; citizens must obey.

Yet progressive leaders have been willing immediately to jettison science when it conflicts with their pre-existing political priorities. Earlier this summer, leading epidemiologists pilloried conservative lockdown protestors—declaring them a threat to public health—but then endorsed the much larger Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd in May. In short, they created a policy of “science for thee, but not for me.”

The disproportionate victims of any attempt to race-code the criteria for reopening in California will be the poor, the marginalized, and the nonwhite—the very people whom the equity policies are supposed to help. If, that is, Los Angeles County fails to reopen because it falls short of its “health equity metrics,” the Zoom class of intellectuals, public health officials, and progressive politicians will celebrate its own good intentions, even as bartenders, waitresses, taxi drivers, and small shopkeepers—many of them minorities—find themselves out of work.

The public should be on alert. If the progressive-scientific establishment can simply dictate policy outside the democratic process by appealing to “public health equity” — a vague concept that can extend to almost every facet of human life — voters may soon find themselves at the mercy of a new “soft totalitarianism,” as author Rod Dreher has characterized it. Citizens with a basic respect for freedom should resist this new encroachment. It degrades science, language, and democracy all at once, and acknowledges no natural limit to its power. Tyranny in a lab coat would still be tyranny.

Christopher F. Rufo is a contributing editor of City Journal and director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth & Poverty. He’s directed four documentaries for PBS, including his new film, America Lost, which tells the story of three “forgotten American cities.” Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

New CA Task Force on Reparations is a Dangerous Exercise in Virtue-Signaling

Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez suggests that California should pay reparations — not for slavery, but for subjecting everyone in the state to a lousy political class. He has a point.

As the Golden State’s landscape burned, power grid faltered, and social fabric frayed, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill empaneling a nine-member task force to “study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans,” with “special consideration for African Americans who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.”

California became the 31st member of the union 170 years ago, in the Compromise of 1850. It entered as a free state and supported the North with blood and treasure in the Civil War. Why on earth would Sacramento even consider paying reparations? As Pacific Research Institute’s Rowena Itchon wrote about the bill, “America’s not perfect, but reparations could cause even more division in this country.”

That point is crucial. We live in a time when people who are neither racist nor bigoted but are merely insufficiently woke can find themselves harassed, and even threatened, if they don’t raise a fist in solidarity with a movement that seeks to segregate, cancel, disrupt, and destroy. Our tinder is dry.

From the legislative analysis of Assembly Bill 3121, we learn that the task force will consist “of both legislators and non-legislators with special interest or expertise in reparations proposals.” Is this a clue that its recommendations are predetermined? One strains to imagine that anyone considered an “expert” in the field of reparations would have reservations about paying out large sums of other people’s money. The companion floor analysis from the Senate side recalls that “existing federal law provided restitution to citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry, and their spouses and families, who were confined to concentration camps during World War II”—the implication being that if reparations were right for those victims, then they are right for the ancestors of slaves now living in California.

Deeper in the Senate floor analysis we find assurance that “AB 3121 does not grant reparations. Nor does it dictate what form reparations might take or how the state might determine eligibility for reparations.” But the analysis helpfully suggests that restitution can be in “cash payments, tuition remission, student loan forgiveness, job training and public works projects, down payment grants, or community investment.”

Which, of course, brings up the question of cost. It isn’t likely to be modest. According to the Roosevelt Institute, anyway, the proper amount of restitution is roughly $800,000 per eligible household. National compensation along those lines would “necessitate a $10 to $12 trillion expenditure” as “the baseline for black reparations” in the twenty-first century. Given that California’s population constitutes a bit more than 12 percent of the nation’s, we could reasonably expect reparations to cost state taxpayers between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion. One wonders if the task force will consider the damage that such a redistribution would have on the state’s economy.

That is, if the task force is even up to the task of sorting out who is legitimately eligible for reparations, as well as who is responsible for funding the money pot. “How should we even define ‘African American,’ given the widespread history of rape during slavery and intermarriage since?” asks the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner. “Modern research suggests that at least a third of African Americans have at least one white ancestor. Do we want to return to the ‘one drop’ rule?”

Tanner brings up the case of Vincene Verdun, from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University, as one of many examples of tangled family histories that can never be unraveled. “As she herself notes, as the descendant of both slaves and slaveholders, she is both a victim and a wrongdoer. For that matter, records of slavery are incomplete and inaccurate, meaning that it will often be difficult to trace ancestry accurately. Reparations would be an invitation to perpetual litigation.”

Or consider the “descendants of free blacks or black immigrants who arrived post-slavery,” the “whites who have no slave-owning forebears,” as well as those who immigrated to the U.S. after the Civil War, says Tanner. Brookings Institution fellow Jonathan Rauch argued two decades ago that “reparations would be fundamentally illiberal, and therefore unjust,” because “people who have enslaved no one (and most of whose ancestors enslaved no one)” would have no choice but to “pay damages to people who were never slaves.”

Tanner also brings up a reality California’s big-spending lawmakers routinely ignore: reparations would likely not help those the policy purports to help. “Government social-welfare programs,” he says, “have a dismal track record when it comes to bridging the racial divide and empowering African Americans. Doubling down on failed programs is not really making reparations.”

A cynic would say that making things right isn’t even the point of AB3121—that the law is little more than an exercise in virtue-signaling. Cynics are sometimes useful because they get right to the point.

Kerry Jackson is a freelance journalist based in California and a former editorial writer at Investor’s Business Daily.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.