Allowing Markets To Allocate Water Can Stave Off “Day Zero” in California

Drought water cropsCape Town, South Africa, a city of 450,000 in a metropolitan area of 3.7 million, is experiencing a catastrophic drought. Capetonians have been dreading the arrival of July 9, or “Day Zero”— when taps in private homes will be switched off and residents will have to go to collection points for rationed allotments of water.

Some version of Day Zero could one day come to parts of California, where water woes continue to bedevil government officials and citizens. From 2011 to 2015, the state experienced the driest four-year period in recorded history (though geologic evidence indicates there have been worse droughts in the past). A robust rainy season in 2017 replenished many reservoirs, but the winter of 2018 has been dry. As of February 1, the snowpack, which provides much of the state’s water during the dry season, was only 21 percent of its normal size. The 2011–2015 drought led Governor Jerry Brown to mandate a 25 percent reduction in water use, but mandating it doesn’t mean that it will happen. Mandated reductions that require homeowners to spend money and time irrigating with non-potable water and replacing old toilets are unlikely to meet their targets, given the low nominal cost of water.

A number of remedies have been suggested, one of which is to allow markets, rather than politics, to allocate water. At a recent conference at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, scholars focused on the importance of market signals in getting people to change their behavior in the face of climate uncertainty. Economist Gary Libecap noted that when prices signal the real value of water, they encourage “agricultural users to switch to water-saving irrigation technologies or to water-saving crops.” (Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of California’s water consumption.) The same is true for urban users, who pay much more per unit of water than agricultural users.

In the absence of water markets, prices don’t reflect the full cost of using this precious resource, resulting in inefficient use. The best example: organic farming. Organic agriculture produces lower yields than traditional agriculture and uses disproportionately more inputs—especially low-cost, high-value water. Lower yields in organic farming mean less output per unit of water used.

Plant pathologist Steve Savage analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2014 Organic Survey, which measures productivity from most of the nation’s certified organic farms, and compared them with those at conventional farms, crop-by-crop and state-by-state. His findings are extraordinary: of the 68 crops surveyed, organic farms showed a “yield gap”—poorer performance—in 59. Many of the shortfalls were large: organic strawberries yielded 61 percent less than conventional farms; fresh tomatoes, 61 percent less; tangerines, 58 percent less; cotton, 45 percent less; rice, 39 percent less; peanuts, 37 percent less. “To have raised all U.S. crops as organic in 2014 would have required farming of 109 million more acres of land,” Savage concludes. “That is an area equivalent to all the parkland and wildland areas in the lower 48 states, or 1.8 times as much as all the urban land in the nation.”

One reason that inefficient organic agriculture uses more water is that it excludes the cultivation of crop varieties crafted with molecular genetic-modification techniques—so-called GMOs—that can be made to withstand droughts and to be irrigable with brackish water. For example, more than a decade ago, Egyptian researchers showed that transferring a single gene from barley to wheat allows the wheat to grow with far less irrigation than conventional wheat; it can survive on meager rainfall alone. Similar genetic modification has created drought-tolerant corn varieties, and more such crops are in the works.

Genetically engineered crops also conserve water by allowing cultivation in salty soils. Fully one-third of irrigated land worldwide, including much of California, is unsuitable for growing crops; every year, nearly 500,000 acres of irrigated land are lost for cultivation due to salt accumulation. Scientists have enhanced the salt tolerance in crops as diverse as tomatoes and canola, and made them irrigable with brackish water, thus conserving fresh water for other uses. Another innovation: by making no-till cultivation possible, the genetic engineering of crops for herbicide tolerance helps trap soil moisture (and also releases less CO2into the atmosphere). Under drought conditions, this can mean the difference between a harvest and a crop failure.

The best solution to California’s water problems would be to encourage water markets and end water subsidies for farmers. A second-best approach is to tax the most egregious examples of waste—and organic products are at the top of the inefficiency list. Placing a tax on already outrageously priced, water-wasting organic products would lessen the demand for them and alleviate some of the pressure on California’s uncertain water supplies. And such a tax would be progressive, falling disproportionately on wealthy consumers. In short, reducing California’s organic agricultural production in favor of more efficient, modern techniques would deliver “more crop for the drop.”

Without housing fix, Silicon Valley will falter

Silicon ValleyThree times in the past 18 months, prominent journalistic organizations have questioned whether Silicon Valley has peaked. Leading off the bad-mouthing was the hometown San Jose Mercury News, which reported in September 2016 that tech growth had slowed in the area compared with other regions and noted that Santa Clara County was down nearly 21,000 tech jobs from its 2000 peak.

That was followed by the London Guardian reporting in May 2017 that start-ups were increasingly likely to fail as the tech venture-capital model struggled, and by Bloomberg News reporting in September 2017 that the high cost of housing was leaving thousands of jobs unfilled.

This month, the Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project, which is headed by the San Jose-based Silicon Valley Leadership Group, released a report on the region that was at least as bleak as the media accounts. It said Silicon Valley was still thriving and a global leader – but that it was unlikely to maintain its status as the U.S. pace-setter in creating tech jobs unless housing construction sharply increased, to end the upward spiral in rent and mortgage payments. A modest tract house can fetch more than $1 million in San Jose and triple that in wealthier suburbs. Rental costs, even in less affluent neighborhoods, are among the nation’s highest.

“The gap between job and housing growth is large and widening,” stated the report, which defined Silicon Valley as including the city-county of San Francisco, Santa Clara County and San Mateo County.

Many of the key findings were based on comparisons of where Silicon Valley stood in 2010 versus 2016. The study noted there was a 29 percent increase in payroll jobs during that span, but only a 4 percent increase in total housing units. As more people were forced to commute to Silicon Valley, the average commute lengthened by 18.9 percent over the six years.

“An average Silicon Valley commuter now spends 72 minutes commuting per day, round trip. This figure has grown marginally since last year and remains second only to the commute time of New York City workers, who spend 74 minutes commuting,” the report noted.

Region’s population fell despite economic boom

Silicon Valley saw another negative landmark in 2016. Despite a booming economy, the report cited U.S. Census Bureau population estimates showing the region had a slight decline in population.

The downbeat report came as no surprise to one former Silicon Valley resident: Santa Cruz attorney Kate Downing, who resigned from the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission and moved from the city in 2016 because her family could no longer handle Palo Alto’s housing costs. She told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We’re just not building enough housing. More correctly, cities are not permitting developers to build enough housing. … I think more affordable housing would have kept us in Silicon Valley.”

Lawmakers from the region have had some success in trying to make it easier to build homes in California. State Sen. Scott Weiner, D-San Francisco, was the lead author of a bill enacted in 2017 that limits cities with bad records on new housing from preventing new projects that meet basic zoning rules.

This year, Weiner and co-authors Senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, have introduced Senate Bill 827. With exceptions, it would make it far easier to build small apartment-condo buildings up to 85 feet in height within a half-mile of a transit center.

This article was originally published by

Seven initiatives to watch that threaten California prosperity

VotedVoters may face as many seven ballot measures damaging to California’s business and political climate in November. Any one of these measures should motivate millions in opposition spending by affected industries. More than a few are likely to qualify for the ballot.

Conventional wisdom teaches that gubernatorial elections deliver older and more conservative voters to the polls, which normally drives liberal and anti-business initiative entrepreneurs to aim their measures for presidential election years, like 2016 or 2020. But this formerly reliable rule has crumbled in the face of a low qualification threshold, interest group imperatives, and impatient wealthy donors. It’s open season on the deep pockets!

Increase taxes

In 2016, California voters extended top income tax rates (already the highest in the nation) through 2030, increased tobacco taxes by $2-a-pack, and imposed new taxes on marijuana use and production. Elsewhere, voters in hundreds of local jurisdictions raised sales, property and excise taxes for a variety of municipal or school services.

For certain unions and special interest groups, this isn’t enough. Two proposed ballot measures would impose multi-billion-dollar tax increases on businesses and upper income earners.

The United Healthcare Workers union has proposed a one-percent income tax surcharge on all income over $1 million, which would raise up to $2.5 billion annually for various health care programs. Wealthy taxpayers would pay a top rate of 14.3%, well above the highest income tax rate of any other state.

A coalition of liberal interest groups is circulating a split roll property tax proposal, requiring that nearly all commercial and industrial properties, except production agriculture, be assessed to full market value, and then reassessed every three years thereafter. Tax bills for business would increase by $10.5 billion a year.

Worsen housing crisis

California’s notorious housing shortage contributes to many social ills, including poverty, long commutes, air pollution, and flight of middle class jobs and job seekers. Tenant advocates, backed by the head of the Los Angeles AIDS Healthcare Foundation, are circulating a proposal that would exacerbate this shortage by repealing long-standing limitations on rent control.  Far from alleviating the housing shortage, this proposal would simply allow local politicians to benefit some existing renters at the expense of future renters and homeowners.

Regulate industries

A measure purporting to improve consumer control over personal internet privacy promises to be among the hardest fought and most expensive ballot battles. A San Francisco investor proposes requiring businesses to provide to consumers upon request a copy of any personal information it has accumulated and allows consumers to opt-out any or all collection of their personal information – even if not personally identifiable. This measure undermines widespread business models in the industry and likely reduce many services now available to internet users.

United Healthcare Workers is also soliciting signatures for a measure to establish price controls for privately-operated kidney dialysis treatment. Intended to create leverage on dialysis clinics to increase unionized staff, passage of the measure would increase overall costs by shifting dialysis treatments from clinics to more expensive venues like emergency rooms or hospitals.

Stall economic development

For more than two decades, excise taxes on California gasoline and diesel remained flat, contributing to the erosion of purchasing power of those tax revenues and creating a backlog of maintenance and operational improvements for roads and highways. In 2017, the Legislature and Governor agreed on a $5 billion annual boost in transportation revenues to repair roads and bridges and add capacity in some of the most congested corridors.

A San Diego politician has proposed repealing the excise tax increases and subject future increases to statewide voter approval, which would freeze in place hundreds of planned transportation improvements throughout California, without a plausible replacement revenue stream.

Disrupt state governance

A Silicon Valley millionaire is again attempting to qualify a measure to break apart California, this time into three separate states, centered on the Bay Area, Greater Los Angeles and San Diego/Orange County, with the rural area divided among the new states. The new states would obviously create new and unpredictable winners and losers – economically, socially and politically. Rather than working to knit the fabric of our state more tightly together, this proposal would tear it apart.

Initiative proponents will begin submitting petitions to counties in May for signature verification. It is not too soon to begin educating affected business and industry leaders about the consequences of these proposals.

resident of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

What Janus v. AFSCME could mean for California

Supreme CourtOn Monday, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. For California taxpayers, the potential impact is huge.

The issue is straightforward: Does public-sector unionism violate the First Amendment rights of workers who do not want to join a union?

The lawsuit was brought by Mark Janus, a resident of Illinois and an employee of the state as a child-support specialist. Because Illinois is not a right-to-work state, he was required to pay agency fees to the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. In short, he was forced to associate with an organization with which he disagreed. A fundamental part of the First Amendment’s right of association is the right not to associate. As Thomas Jefferson noted, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

No one is watching the case more closely than Rebecca Friedrichs, the California teacher who brought a similar right-to-work challenge here in California. Her case also went the United States Supreme Court where it was widely believed she would prevail. Regrettably, the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the high court deadlocked in a 4-4 tie. With the arrival of Scalia’s replacement, constitutionalist Justice Neil Gorsuch, the days of forced unionism for public employees may be numbered.

The Janus case presents the identical issue as the Friedrichs case and, even though it involves a public employee from Illinois, there is no dispute that a ruling in Mark Janus’s favor would have the same binding effect in California as if Rebecca Friedrichs had prevailed in her action against the California Teachers Association.

If the court rules for the plaintiffs in Janus, state and local government employees in the 22 states that are not right-to-work jurisdictions will no longer be forced to subsidize unions as a condition of their employment. Rather, they will be free to join the organizations of their choice or not to join at all. The same applies to their contributions of money. In short, Janus may very well resurrect employees’ rights to free speech and association, as well as restore political balance by preventing public-employee unions from spending money collected from workers who may be opposed to the union’s political agenda.

And that latter point is key.

In California, public sector unions are without question the dominant political force. With their ability to extract hundreds of millions of dollars annually from their members, they are able to set the political agenda (which usually includes big employee compensation packages) and are able to defeat even modest reforms in education, welfare and criminal justice. Moreover, their prodigious campaign spending allows them to rent politicians who will make sure that the collective bargaining agreements that are executed with the unions favor the unions to the detriment of taxpayers who must pay for all this largess. The business community and taxpayer interests in California enter every political battle at a disadvantage from the start.

It doesn’t take a seer to predict what will happen in California if the plaintiffs in Janus prevail. The experience in other states which have opted for right-to-work status has been dramatic. When union membership is optional, union membership — and forced union dues — decrease. It is very likely that the political strength of California’s public sector unions will diminish if public employees no longer have to pay dues. At that point, interests that favor lower taxation and a positive business climate might finally be able to have their voices heard.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Southern California News Group

Climate Change: Local Governments Tell Different Stories in the Courtroom and on Wall Street

Global WarmingBy 2050, because of climate change, Oakland officials insist that the city faces dealing with “100-year” type floods every two years – or maybe it won’t have those floods. Apparently, that forecast all depends on who city officials are talking to – whether you are an energy company being sued by the city of Oakland demanding money because of the dangers climate change supposedly bring or you are an investor interested in buying an Oakland municipal bond. In the latter case, Oakland officials attest that the city is unable to predict the impact of climate change or flooding.

This contradiction should be a concern to taxpayers and is worthy of the panel discussion scheduled at Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy on Tuesday, February 27.

The panel, which includes the Reason Foundation’s Marc Joffe and Chapman University Law Professor Anthony T. Caso, will focus on the lawsuits potential impact on municipal bonds and the ultimate effect on taxpayers. “The Unexpected Consequences of Climate Change on Government Finance” is scheduled to begin at noon at the Drescher Graduate Campus in Malibu.

Within the past year, eight California jurisdictions have filed public nuisance climate lawsuits against a slew of oil and gas companies demanding millions of dollars to offset the certain dangers facing the jurisdictions because of climate change. At the same time, these local governments have reached out to investors to back local bonds, declaring in the bond prospectus that they cannot predict risks related to climate change.

As law professor Caso suggested in an Orange County Register op-ed last month, “One could hardly be criticized for concluding that the cities and counties involved in these lawsuits have either lied to the courts or to their bond investors. If they have lied to either, there is big trouble ahead.”

The trouble for taxpayers comes if the Securities and Exchange Commission seeks million dollar penalties from the governments for making false statements to investors. When a local government must pay a penalty it falls on the backs of taxpayers. Such a consequence could also lead municipalities being required to offer more disclosure and result in higher borrowing costs for future bonds.

ExxonMobil has filed a counter action pointing out the discrepancies in the California jurisdictions’ actions—some would say hypocrisy—when discussing the effects of climate change—a different approach in the courtroom versus Wall Street. ExxonMobil argues that the lawsuits are designed to force companies to align policies with those “favored by local politicians in California.”

The integrity of the local governments and ultimately taxpayers’ financial responsibility is hanging in the balance.

ditor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Is a California Housing Revolution on the Horizon?

HousingFrom downtown Los Angeles to Santa Monica, train commuters on the Expo Line journey from asphalt to ocean through some of the most expensive real estate in the United States. Each train pulls into stations of low-slung buildings that soon fade into vast expanses of single-family homes. The view from Los Angeles is hardly unique. Commuters from San Diego to the Bay Area and Sacramento see low-rise suburbs as the norm. And everything costs a fortune.

That might begin to change if the state legislature passes a bill addressing local land-use regulations. Introduced by Scott Wiener, a Harvard-educated attorney and state senator, Senate Bill 827 would effectively abolish zoning restrictions in Wiener’s district of San Francisco and for significant portions of the state’s most populous areas — and likely produce a boom in new housing construction. SB 827 sweeps away many local limits on height, density, and design within a half-mile of a train station—such as for BART or CalTrain—and within a quarter-mile of stops on high-frequency bus routes. So-called transit-rich zones would see local height limits lifted to anywhere from 45 feet to 85 feet—roughly from four to eight stories—depending on factors such as street width and station proximity. Cities could build taller, but they could not require that buildings be shorter. New projects built near transit hubs would also be exempted from minimum parking requirements. And as long as a particular project is up to code, no municipality could introduce design standards preventing developers from including the maximum number of units possible in a building.

Wiener hopes to fight sprawl by allowing Californians more opportunities to live closer to public transit, and to address climate concerns by reducing their need to drive. To Wiener, a liberal Democrat, housing is also about social justice. He believes progressives have “lost their way on housing,” as he told Forbes recently. Young people, the poor, and the elderly are demanding shelter only to find its supply limited by stringent regulations. “Gentrification is fueled by a lack of housing,” Wiener argues. “When there isn’t enough housing and rents skyrocket, landlords have an economic incentive to push out long-term renters by raising the rent or evicting them.”

Nearly a third of households in California’s metro areas can’t afford rent, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. A majority of these rent-squeezed households—some 3.7 million—are in Los Angeles and the Bay Area. In San Francisco and Oakland, even making $90,000 a year barely puts one above the affordability threshold. California’s affordability crisis is rooted in a housing crisis: not nearly enough homes are being built to keep up with demand. “We under-produce by about 100,000 housing units every year, and we have a housing debt that’s growing,” Wiener says. The most feasible way to pay off that housing debt, he believes, is to let developers build more units in concentrated areas.

Housing is the most pressing issue in California politics. Last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed 15 bills aimed at tackling housing affordability. Senate Bill 35, for instance, forces almost all of California’s cities to approve projects that complied with current zoning rules. Another bill placed a measure on the 2018 ballot directing nearly $1 billion a year to subsidize new low-income housing. These efforts are part of a growing trend in Sacramento to preempt local restrictions on housing. Some of these measures, such as a 2016 law easing the approval of new “accessory dwelling units” statewide, appear to be working. Los Angeles is seeing a 20-fold rise in applications for these so-called “granny flats,” built in backyards or above garages.

Transit-oriented development has assumed sacred status among Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) progressives popping up across California. The ideal scenario for lowering the barriers to housing density near transit is to get more with less: more housing and affordability with less displacement and sprawl. The result is a traditional Main Street for the twenty-first century. After all, compact, mixed-use developments, accessible by foot, were the norm until the rise of the automobile and institution of zoning laws.

Building more housing is broadly popular in California. Sixty-four percent are in favor of more housing in their cities, according to a PPIC poll of the state. In San Francisco, some 70 percent support building more housing to alleviate cost burdens. Leaders in Los Angeles have formulated a plan to add 6,000 new homes within a half-mile of Expo Line stops between Culver City and Santa Monica.

Of course, building in someone else’s backyard is always more popular than construction in your own. Most instances of transit-oriented development, such as the kind that Arlington, Virginia, has pursued, take the shape of a corridor running through—but not impinging on—preexisting tracts of single-family homes. Los Angeles’s Expo Line housing plan up-zoned 250 acres while leaving the surrounding 2,000 acres of homes untouched.

Wiener’s proposal is more aggressive: it would immediately up-zone nearly all of San Francisco, as well as South Los Angeles’s sprawling landscape of single-family homes. Transit corridors in Oakland, San Diego, San Jose, and Sacramento would be able to build for demand. Nearly 3 million housing units could be situated within a half-mile of transit hubs throughout California. With fewer permitting rules, units could be built faster and with a greater variety of housing types between a home and a high-rise.

Critics of SB 827 fear displacement. Los Angeles city councilman Paul Koretz has labeled SB 827 “devastating,” telling the Los Angeles Times that his Westside neighborhood of “little 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s single-family homes [would] look like Dubai 10 years later,” and without any public say in the matter. Damien Goodmon, founder of the Crenshaw Subway Coalition in Los Angeles, calls the bill a “declaration of war,” seeing it as a mask for large-scale gentrification. Laying on the hyperbole, Goodmon calls Wiener “a modern-day Andrew Jackson” pushing “a legislative agenda to enact a 21st century Trail of Tears.” Housing availability does not mean housing affordability, these critics say; only subsidies and public housing can achieve that.

Wiener acknowledges that his bill is a “heavy lift and isn’t guaranteed to pass” in its current form. There will likely be revisions as it winds its way through committee, with added provisions addressing housing displacement and demolition. Observers believe that Governor Brown, in his final year in office, would likely sign such a bill if it reached his desk.  But whether it passes or not, SB 827 shifts the window of acceptable discourse dramatically in favor of market-oriented reforms of housing policy. On that basis alone, Scott Wiener has positioned himself as a visionary reformer of California’s housing crisis.

Innovative Incarceration Could Result in Lower Costs and Safer Citizens

PrisonThe average annual cost to house a prisoner in California is $71,000, and according to the California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office, the cost has risen 45% since just 2011. And as costs have soared, California’s policymakers have resorted to creative ways to release inmates from California’s overcrowded prisons. But what if that Californian creativity could be harnessed to lower the cost of incarceration?

This process began in 2011, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California must reduce its state prison population to no more than 137% of its design capacity within two years. In an attempt to comply, the state Legislature passed Assembly Bill 109, which required non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual offenders with sentences of longer than one year to be housed in county jail facilities rather than state prisons.

Because AB109, the so-called prison “realignment,” merely shifted costs for incarceration from the state to the counties, two additional measures of significance were passed in an attempt to reduce the overall inmate population. These were sold to voters as reform initiatives, and both of them passed with substantial majorities. Prop. 47, passed in 2014, reclassified several felonies as misdemeanors, which had the effect of reducing prison sentences in new cases, and earlier release for prisoners sentenced for crimes no longer classified as felonies. Prop. 57, passed in 2016, granted early release opportunities to inmates with good behavior who had committed non-violent crimes.

These measures resulted in the early release of tens of thousands of inmates onto California’s streets. Since enactment, violent crime has increased in California, although the data is mixed. For example, according to the FBI, while violent crime in California increased in 2015 and 2016, it increased across most of the U.S. in those years. As stated in a recent study by the Public Policy Institute of California, “California’s violent crime rate increased by 3.7% in 2016 to 444 per 100,000 residents. There have been other recent upticks in 2012 and 2015, but the statewide rate is still comparable to levels in the late 1960s.”

More recently – most crime statistics for 2017 are not yet available – the L.A. Times reports that in 2017 “in Los Angeles, homicides are down, but violent crime is up.” A big picture perspective on crime trends in California can be seen in this graphic produced by using data from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office:

California Crime Trends – Crime Rates per 100,000 Residents

California Crime Trends

As can be seen, rates of crime in California rose throughout the 60s and 70s, reaching a high plateau that lasted right up until around 1994, when California passed the three strikes law. After that, crime rates fell precipitously for years, reaching historic lows. Since 2014, rates of crime have been rising, even though they remain relatively low from a historical perspective.

But why should we be happy with a 0.4% rate of violent crime? Why should 4% of Californians be victimized by a violent criminal in any given decade? And who’s to say that crime rates would not have continued to decline, if it weren’t for the passage of Props. 47 and 57?

More to the point, whether or not Californians should or should not incarcerate more criminals, or impose longer sentences on criminals, Californians don’t have that option. Because it costs too much to house prisoners in California. How can California house more inmates without building more conventional prisons, which are staggeringly expensive?

An excellent resource prepared by shows the costs per prisoner in other states. Nevada, our neighbor to the east, only spends $17,851 per year per prisoner. Alabama has the lowest cost, at $14,780 per prisoner. Arizona, $25,397. Even Oregon and Washington, California’s left coast comrades in bloated inefficient government excess, manage to spend far less than California does, paying per prisoner costs of $44,021 and $37,841, respectively.


When you read up on costs per prisoner in other states, the results are somewhat amusing. Because in those states, the conventional wisdom is that costs are out of control. Alabama’s costs per prisoner have “doubled since 2003.” In Nevada, “overtime costs continue to mount.” Imagine that. But in all states, the same factors contribute to rising costs to house prisoners. California just spends more, in every category. Here is a table from California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office showing details of the cost per prisoner.

California’s Costs per Prisoner – Itemized Costs

Costs per prisoner

It’s likely these costs are understated. Does “Security” include the additional amounts that will be necessary to properly fund the pensions that are due our correctional officers? Does “Facility Operations” include the payments on the billions that have been borrowed by the state to construct California’s 34 state prisons?

In the recently approved California state budget for 2017-18, $11.4 billion is allocated to the Department of Corrections, up another $286 million (2.6%) from last year. But again, this doesn’t begin to represent the true cost to taxpayers. A recent UCLA study estimated the cost of incarceration for just the County of Los Angeles at nearly $1.0 billion last year.

It’s likely the total cost to California’s taxpayers to incarcerate criminals – taking into account state and local expenses – is easily twice the $11.4 billion budgeted by the state. And these inflated costs can be attributed to two causes. First, the excessive costs caused by unionized government – pensions in particular, and excessive costs to build state prisons, caused by a union controlled state legislature requiring needlessly expensive project labor agreements. Second, and arguably even more significant, the overall excessive cost-of-living in California – also a byproduct of policies enacted by California’s union controlled state legislature – which makes everything more expensive.

The burden of realignment – foisting responsibility for state prisoners back onto the counties where they were convicted – is also an opportunity. Because counties, like states in our federal system, are laboratories of democracy, laboratories of policy. Why can’t California’s counties experiment with new modes of incarceration. If inmates are sequestered to Cal Fire to work the fire lines, why can’t they do other tasks throughout the rural regions of California? Why not use inmates to improve rural access roads, remove dead trees from our drought-stressed forests, or even work in agriculture?

While many inmates may be too dangerous to do this sort of work, with new technologies to monitor and control prisoners, it is possible that prisoners who would not be viable candidates for these programs in the past would be qualified today. Electronic monitoring devices are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Why not use these devices to monitor not only location, but heart rate or, who knows, even brain waves or other physical indicators of imminent fight or flight? Wouldn’t adding additional capabilities to these devices allow more effective means to deter escape and even prevent violence? Why not use swarms of inexpensive drones to hover in the vicinity of inmates, reducing the number of guards required, and replacing some or all layers of expensive security fencing? Why not equip these drones with nonlethal means to prevent escape or violence?

Law enforcement has stayed abreast of new technologies and that is one of the reasons rates of crime are down sharply across America. While the impact of new technologies must be constantly scrutinized, and some of them may be problematic, there is no reason not to extend these tools beyond law enforcement into the corrections industry. It’s reasonable to assume most inmates would prefer a virtual prison to the penitentiary. One that afforded them mobility, equal or greater safety, a mission, a chance to engage in a vocation, and fresh air. Such innovation might also bring welcome relief to taxpayers.

California Moves Hard Left

Gavin NewsomOur next election season is underway and unless something changes, Gavin Newsom will be our next governor. Even Gov. Jerry Brown is concerned about the “self labeled state of resistance” against Trump, Republicans and people of faith that is pushing California’s policies and political debate further left. Republicans, church pulpits that founded America or leading conservatives aren’t giving counterarguments or providing checks on unhinged spending and social policies that degrade families, single-family homes and middle class incomes. U.S. Senate races, statewide offices and Legislature races will be filled exclusively with Democrats – setting up races between the left and even harder left – foreshadowing the direction of the party in California and nationally. This younger generation of Godless, leftist Democrats who mock the values that built California will destroy our state the way Chavez ruined Venezuela.

Additionally, unhinged immigration that rewards chain migration, encourages a diversity visa lottery system and doesn’t deport every illegal alien in prison will turn this country deep blue the way California, New York, Illinois and increasingly former red state Virginia are now. Liberal magazine The Atlantic was prescient when it stated in early 2016 that America is moving left and unchecked immigration will destroy this country by importing people who bring leftist and communist values from China, Latin America and Islamic African nations.

To overly pious Christians, leading conservatives, #NeverTrumpers and the Republican establishment that hates Trump, his voters and what he stands for, let Joel Kotkin, a self-described Truman Democrat, be your guide on how he illustrates what the Democratic Party has become. Mr. Kotkin breaks down these “post-industrial information age Democrats” into three groups:

Corporate oligarchs exemplified by Google, Facebook, Silicon Valley, Causists obsessed with hot button issues (abortion on demand, gay marriage, global warming) the most critical to long-term Democratic ascendency, and Populists who bear much of the party’s ‘social democratic message and legacy’ (they are the least of the Democratic Party that gave America FDR, JFK, Pat Brown, Scoop Jackson).”

Each group exemplifies faux compassion while using the media, entertainment, education, government and the courts to intimidate and control any who oppose their policies to bow in serf-like fashion to their whims and desires. Foolish Republicans in California who believe that Democrats can be understood and worked with, instead of being fought against, don’t comprehend how systematically corrupt; evil and plain wrong are today’s Democratic Party.

Two examples illustrate this truth when leading Democrats attended a private dinner with the president of Iran and Louis Farrakhan in 2013 while former President Obama had a smiling picture taken in 2005 with the vile, anti-Semite Farrakhan when he was a Senator. The press, Congressional Black Caucus and Democratic leaders buried these secrets to further the cause of electing Democrats and warring against American values. Meanwhile, Trump has a better approval rating than Obama, despite the relentless attacks, at the same point in his presidency, which is simply amazing.

And what have decades of “phantasmagorical imbecility,” from feckless Republicans and leftist Democrats wrought California for my generation to clean up? The poorest business climate, some of the highest tax rates, and largest number of people living in poverty. Moreover, Los Angeles now ranks as having the worst traffic congestion in the world, California is possibly in another drought without any water capture infrastructure built in recent memory; and The Stanford Pension Institute says, “that CalPERS has a $1.4 trillion unfunded liability.” These could be some of the reasons why more people are migrating out of California. California could use economic growth since our GDP growth rate has slipped to 35th in the nation.

The irony is Trump’s economy has rescued California’s Unemployment Insurance Fund, which has been insolvent since 2009. It was bailed out by the federal government under the Obama administration but the “Trump bump” means California can pay back the $10.2 billion borrowed from the Treasury between 2008-2012. But California’s Democratic legislators never miss an opportunity to “trash President Trump.” Environmental policy and “settled science,” though, is where the Democratic Party isn’t willing to have a serious, reasoned debate to answer what if anything can be done; or if there even is man-made global warming since climates obviously change.

However, is that due to carbon emissions or the earth’s weather patterns that have taken place for millions of years? Two recent studies question the earth warming and the worst case scenarios touted by Al Gore and former President Obama being void of scientific validity. Billions keep flowing for Democratic politicians, interest groups and those vested financially to keep the science settled and the environmental shibboleth of global warming moving forward into the next election cycle while California will ban any crude oil coming from Trump’s offshore drilling plan that could provide billions in economic benefits.

So what can be done against this type of incompetent rule? Fight back. For starters here’s how to approach environmentalists with this statement and then question by Dr. Walter Williams:

“Sixty-Five million (65) years ago the Earth experienced one of the most rapid and extreme global climate changes recorded in geological history named the ‘Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum,’ when oceans were 18 to 27 degrees hotter than today and Antarctica was home to temperate forests, beech trees and ferns. The earth also had no permanent polar ice caps. In the past 65 million years, the Earth’s temperature has increased and decreased with no help from mankind. Therefore, can mankind really stop climate change and what is the correct earth temperature?”

Make no mistake we are in a fight the way the Marines were in an inch-by-inch fight for territory in the Pacific during World War II. Walk precincts, support candidates with your money and realize it will take numerous election cycles, but voters are realizing Trump’s economic strategies are working. It really is the economy stupid. Most importantly, WALK PRECINCTS and get the message to voters about Trump’s economy that is helping Republicans, why single-family homes aren’t being built causing prices to skyrocket (appointed agencies like the Southern California Association of Governments that has counterparts in San Diego and Northern California are the reasons) and why we are terribly vulnerable to the next recession due to some of the above-mentioned reasons.

Inform voters about unfunded pension obligations in the trillions, horrible inequality, sensible ways to protect children in our schools and Democratic leaders that don’t reflect their communities; but most of all, fight back. Run for office locally, regionally, statewide and federal offices but have your facts down, platform legitimized and reasons for running, because Democrats are on the hegemonic march to crush your lives, kill off families and destroy anything that gets in their path by any means possible.

Todd Royal is a geopolitical risk and energy consultant based in Los Angeles.

Teachers’ union leaders grandstand about evil corporations while drawing fat salaries

School union protestAmerican Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten recently pilloried President Trump’s health plan in the Huffington Post: “GOP Rewards The Rich, Rips Off The Rest Of Us,” she declared. Is Weingarten among “the rest of us?” The union leader hauled in $472,197 last year.

Weingarten is hardly the only fat-cat teachers’ union leader. According to the Department of Labor, National Education Association executive director John Stocks bagged $355,721 last year, while NEA president Lily Eskelsen García scraped by on $317,826. At the 2017 California Democratic Party Convention, California Teachers Association president Eric Heins ranted about billionaires without acknowledging his own $317,000 total compensation package. CTA executive director Joe Nunez’s compensation is $460,000; associate ED Emma Leheny makes $480,000, and deputy ED Karen Kyhn gets by on $427,000 yearly. New York City’s United Federation of Teachers boss Michael Mulgrew is practically working class by comparison, making $288,000.

Teachers’ union bosses are obsessed with “corporate” bogeymen. The Janus v.AFSCME case, if decided in the plaintiffs’ favor, will free public employees in 22 states from having to pay any money to a union as a condition of employment. The NEA sees the case as a plot by corporate interests to weaken unions. Schools are “the centers of our communities, not corporate profit centers,” Heins says.

But no one is more willing to invoke the “c” word than United Teachers of Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl. The UTLA honcho is on a mission to kill Proposition 13 protections for corporations. In a state aptly called “Taxifornia,” Proposition 13 is a desperately needed lifeline, limiting property-tax increases for business and individuals. The UTLA has released a barrage of propaganda in an attempt to close the “corporate property-tax loophole” and “level the playing field.”

Funny how Caputo-Pearl and other union leaders neglect to point out that teachers’ unions are themselves de facto corporations, though with a difference: all their income — money they get from teachers, voluntarily or otherwise — is tax-free. No teachers’ union — or any union — pays a penny in taxes. The unions have oodles of spare cash on hand — and they park a good deal of it with corporations. As teachers’ union watchdog Mike Antonucci writes, the NEA sinks lots of money into mutual funds, which invest in big corporations, including “AT&T, Verizon, Target, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, IBM, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Comcast, Coca-Cola, Philip Morris, Microsoft, Boeing, JP Morgan Chase, Berkshire Hathaway, and Aramark.” The NEA “invests in 9 of the 10 richest corporations in the United States,” Antonucci says.

So union leaders howl about the rich and how corporations don’t pay their “fair share in taxes,” but they support the biggest corporations with their own untaxed income — income that puts many union leaders themselves into the 1 Percent Club.

Housing bill with $230 million cost estimated to save renters only $20 per month

Housing apartmentState Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and 16 co-sponsors have introduced legislation that sounds like a bold move to address the high cost of housing. Glazer’s Senate Bill 1182 would double the state tax credit for renters. But that turns out to only mean a maximum annual savings of $240.

The last time the rental tax credit was increased, in 1979, it set the credit at $10 per month for an individual filer and $20 a month for joint filers, with eligibility capped by total income. Senate Bill 1182 would increase the cap to $20 per month for individuals and $40 per month for joint filers. To be eligible, individuals have to have gross incomes of $40,078 or less and joint filers have to have incomes of $80,156 or less.

One-bedroom apartments routinely go for $1,700 or more per month in most metropolitan areas and the average home sale is above $500,000 in most of Southern California and over $1 million in the Bay Area. Glazer’s credit would mean that joint filers paying the average rent go from spending $20,160 in a year to spending $19,920 – a 1.2 percent savings. Individual filers paying the average rent would drop from $20,280 a year to $20,160 – a 0.6 percent savings. The percentage savings on a typical mortgage would be much lower.

In his news release announcing the legislation, Glazer noted attempts by the Legislature on many fronts to make it easier to build more housing, starting with streamlining regulations and giving qualified projects guaranteed approvals. He said these efforts could take years before they began helping Californians.

“None of those measures directed relief to the monthly budgets of struggling renters,” Glazer said. “The renter’s tax credit does.”

Three Republicans among co-sponsors

The news release listed these lawmakers, including three Republicans, as co-authors: Sens. Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Steve Bradford, D-Gardena: Bill Dodd, D-Napa; Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Ben Hueso, D-San Diego; Connie Leyva, D-Chino; Josh Newman, D-Fullerton; Janet Nguyen, R-Fountain Valley; Richard Pan, D-Sacramento; Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale; Richard Roth, D-Riverside; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita; and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale.

Glazer’s office said the higher renters’ tax credit would cost the state $230 million in annual revenue.

There are other restrictions on eligibility for the renters’ tax credit besides income caps, the Franchise Tax Board’s website notes. They include:

– Tax filers need to have paid rent for at least six months for shelter that served as their principal residence.

– The rented property was not on a parcel exempt from state property tax.

– The property was not shared for more than six months with a parent or a guardian or any individual who could claim the tax filer as a dependent.

– The tax filer was not a minor living with a legal guardian, parent or foster parent.

Glazer, 60, a former political and development consultant and aide to Gov. Jerry Brown, won a May 2015 special election to fill the final 19 months of Mark DeSaulnier’s state Senate seat after DeSaulnier was elected to Congress in 2014. He won a full four-year term in 2016.

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