The Great California Exodus to the Desert

The results of the 2020 Census are out, and they aren’t pretty for the Golden State, with California set to lose a House seat for the first time in history. While states like Texas and Florida boomed over the past decades, the population of California — along with struggling states like Illinois — has remained largely stagnant, growing at less than one percent per year.

But what can the 2020 Census tell us about Southern California specifically?

As with the state as a whole, the story of metropolitan Los Angeles is one of stagnation, with the City of Angels growing by a paltry 2.8 percent over the past decade. Many of the region’s wealthiest suburbs were similarly stagnant, with towns like La Cañada Flintridge and Ranchos Palos Verdes flatlining, as towns like Malibu and Beverly Hills actively shrank.

Further down along the coast, the situation is less bleak in San Diego, which grew by 6.1 percent. Yet as in metropolitan Los Angeles, virtually every suburb in metropolitan San Diego has basically stopped growing, with places like National City and Imperial Beach actively undergoing population loss.

To find any growth in Southern California, one needs to look to the exurban periphery: in metropolitan Los Angeles, this means far outer Orange County, Riverside County, and those portions of Los Angeles County beyond the San Gabriel Mountains. The former growth offers some basis for optimism, with Irvine — with its mild climate and easy access to jobs — growing by 45 percent.

Much of the growth hasn’t been nearly so ideally situated: Mojave Desert towns like Victorville and Desert Springs posted some of the highest growth rates in the region, at 16 and 25 percent, respectively. Where the growth wasn’t in the desert itself, it tended to be right next to it, with towns like Menifee, Beaumont, and Santa Clarita posting some of the highest growth rates in the region.

Indeed, this Southern California exodus to the desert seems to be part of a broader national trend: beyond merely departing for the outer fringes of metropolitan Los Angeles, it would seem that many Californians are decamping much deeper into the desert for cities like St. George, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, which grew at rates of 30.5, 16.1, and 15.6 percent, respectively.

These figures should serve as a wake-up call for state and local policymakers. Among those Californians who have stayed in the state, the unbearable cost of living in Southern California’s coastal communities — principally a function of high and rising housing costs — has banished hundreds of thousands out to the periphery, where their commutes will be long and their energy bills high.

And they are likely the lucky ones: for many more Californians, the solution has simply been to leave behind friends, family, and communities, seeking a better, more affordable life in the booming metropolises of neighboring states. What clearer sign could there be that — for most working- and middle-class California families — the much-vaunted California Dream is dead?

The takeaways of the 2020 Census for Southern California are, in equal measure, clear and tragic: Where once Americans flocked to the region in droves, seeking economic opportunity and a paradisiacal climate, today they do the opposite, driven in no small part by a desperate search for affordable housing. If Southern California was once seen as the promised land, today we are witnessing the exodus to the desert.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

California’s Green Conundrum

In 2006, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the landmark AB 32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act.” Determined to leave a legacy that would ensure he remained welcome among the glitterati of Hollywood and Manhattan, Schwarzenegger may not have fully comprehended the forces he unleashed.

Under AB 32, California was required to “reduce its [greenhouse gas] emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.” Now, according to the “scoping plan” updated in 2017, California must “further reduce its GHG emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.”

The problem with such an ambitious plan is that achieving it will preclude ordinary Californians ever enjoying the lifestyle that people living in developed nations have earned and have come to expect. It will condemn Californians to chronic scarcity of energy, with repercussions that remain poorly understood by voters.

It isn’t merely that Californians will experience unreliable energy, as the percentage of energy generated from “renewable” sources continues to increase. That will eventually get sorted out, although at a stupendous cost. Battery farms will replace natural gas plants to fill in those times of day when there is no sun and insufficient wind, and over time, the entire solar, wind, battery, and “smart grid” infrastructure will get overbuilt enough to cope even with those months in the year when days are short and there isn’t much wind. It will cost trillions and despoil thousands of square miles of supposedly sacred open space, but it will get done.

The bigger problem is that this whole scheme is too space-intensive and too expensive to ever be scaled up to the level of abundance. To close the loop, “negawatts” will be required. That is, extreme conservation of energy solutions will become mandatory. This will affect every household, imposing LED lights, “smart” thermostats, “energy sipping” appliances, lights that turn themselves off when the sensors determine a room is empty. Every manner of intrusive, surveilled, algorithmic management of our lives will become mandatory. But it doesn’t end there.

Energy isn’t just required to run a household. It’s also necessary to run an economy. This is immediately obvious with respect to the future of California’s water infrastructure. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, “overall, water use accounts for about 20 percent of California’s electricity use and 30 percent of natural gas used by businesses and homes. This energy is used to supply, convey, treat, and heat water.”

Meanwhile, a rarely acknowledged fact about California is that, despite “green” ideology dominating public policy for decades, over 80 percent of California’s total energy consumption relies on fossil fuel.

This is the conundrum. California’s policymakers know that in order to fulfill their climate goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act, they cannot permit the growth of industry or infrastructure that may consume more energy.

The effect on water use is profound. Want to increase interbasin transfers, to deliver water from regions where water is abundant to regions where water is scarce? That, after all, was the realized intent of the California Water Project, one of the civil engineering marvels of the world. But why fix the collapsing aqueducts, or build additional pipelines and aqueducts, when that would require more pumping, and more pumping requires more energy? Why build desalination plants, when it takes a megawatt-year of electricity to desalinate every 2,000 acre feet of seawater? Why upgrade water treatment plants, when treating wastewater requires energy?

California’s green solution is to ration water consumption instead of generating more energy to produce more water. This priority is felt everywhere. Neglect the agricultural canals and let more runoff flow into the ocean. Decimate California’s once legendary agricultural sector. Squeeze the small farming operations into insolvency, and allow hedge funds to buy their land for pennies on the dollar. Replace a farming economy that delivers a diversity of row crops to the entire world with a few commodity monocrops that don’t require as much water, or turn the farmland into solar farms and nature preserves.

The impact on household water consumption is set to become equally severe. The state wants to reduce indoor water consumption to 55 gallons per person per day, then to 50 gallons per person per day, and eventually to 40 gallons per person per day. Ban virtually all use of outdoor water for landscaping. Promote, then mandate, “xeriscaping”—because it’s fun and responsible to send children out to play in the rocks. And hold on, anyway, isn’t having a private home with a private yard exclusionary and unsustainable and racist? Don’t laugh. They’re coming for you.

Californians, even during prolonged droughts, could invest in water infrastructure and maintain an abundant supply of water for farms and cities. But abundant water policies collide with the conundrum. To supply more water requires more energy. To supply more anything requires more energy. It won’t happen.

To implement California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, the state has raised an army of “carbon accountants.” They are charged with determining the carbon impact of everything. Want to bring back the timber industry in California? After all, there’s no better way to sequester carbon than to cut down trees and mill lumber. But wait. First the carbon accountants will have to calculate the net benefit. How much energy will the lumber trucks and the chainsaws require? What about the mills? What about the carbon absorption potential of the trees if they’re left standing? Blah blah blah. To be sure, this level of analysis can’t be done on a spreadsheet. Bring out the parametric database. Bring out the black box. Make sure you include a plethora of regression analyses. To do the “work,” hire PhDs by the dozens. Spend millions. Spend years.

Or never mind.

With a Sierra Club litigator looking over their shoulder, don’t expect carbon accountants to ever greenlight an industrial endeavor in California, unless it’s a solar farm, a wind farm, or a battery farm. And never mind the collateral damage of those projects. So let the forests burn. God forbid the timber companies might come in and clear out around the power lines, maintain the fire roads and fire breaks, and thin the undergrowth, all for free in exchange for the right to log again. That’s what they did up until the 1990s. Today? Not a chance. So burn baby, burn.

One way to address California’s green conundrum would be to embrace nuclear and hydroelectric sources of energy. After all, these power sources do not create any emissions. Keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open. Raise the height of the Shasta Dam and immediately have more water and more electricity. But these solutions are anathema to California’s green elite. But why? Is there a “climate crisis” or isn’t there?

Of course, if the goal of green policy in California is to reduce the standard of living of normal residents, implement draconian controls over their lives, and move people out of spacious detached homes and into energy efficient apartments, this is not a conundrum at all.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Recognize that fossil fuel cannot be phased out precipitously and set an example to the world of how to, for example, use clean natural gas in a manner that is as efficient and sustainable as possible. Pioneer new designs for nuclear power stations. Build water infrastructure that guarantees more water for everything—not only the farms and cities, but the streams and rivers. Stop using visions of an apocalypse to limit our lives and line the pockets of environmentalist litigants. Proclaim abundance in all things to be achievable and desirable, and refuse to compromise. There is no conundrum. It is a self-inflicted lie.

As America’s dissident reformers focus on confirming election integrity, maintaining medical freedom, and countering the woke mob—as if that weren’t enough—the agenda of the environmentalist extremists moves relentlessly forward. What’s happening in California is moving East, crossing the Sierras and the Rockies, traversing the plains, and infiltrating every state house and county seat and city council in the nation. Propelled by fantasy and panic in equal measure, and manipulated by fanatics and shameful opportunists, the extreme green agenda must be recognized for what it is: a highly contagious misanthropic pathology that afflicts the young, the impressionable, the uninformed, the well-intentioned but misguided, the profiteers and the tyrants. Beware of them all.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Progressives Have Ruined California

The very idea of a recall vote seemed absurd at first in California, this bluest of US states. Yet Californians’ surprisingly strong support for the removal of Democratic governor Gavin Newsom has resulted in precisely that, with the vote scheduled for 14 September. This reflects a stunning rejection of modern progressivism in a state thought to epitomise its promise.

Some, like the University of California’s Laura Tyson and former Newsom adviser Lenny Mendonca, may see California as creating ‘the way forward’ for a more enlightened ‘market capitalism’, but that reality is hard to see on the ground. Even before the pandemic, California already had the highest poverty rate and the widest gap between middle and upper-middle income earners of any state in the US. It now suffers from the second-highest unemployment rate in the US after Nevada.

Today, class drives Californian politics, and Newsom is peculiarly ill-suited to deal with it. He is financed by what the Los Angeles Times describes as ‘a coterie of San Francisco’s wealthiest families’. Newsom’s backers have aided his business ventures and helped him live in luxury – first in his native Marin, where he just sold his estate for over $6million, and now in Sacramento.

California’s well-connected rich are predictably rallying to Newsom’s side. At least 19 billionaires, mainly from the tech sector, have contributed to his extraordinarily well-funded recall campaign, which is outspending the opposition by roughly nine to one.

There is little hiding the elitism that Newsom epitomises. In the midst of a severe lockdown, he was caught violating his own pandemic orders at the ultra-expensive, ultra-chic French Laundry restaurant in Napa.

Newsom insists California is ‘doing pretty damn well’, citing record profits in Silicon Valley from both the major tech firms and a host of IPOs. He seems to be unaware that California’s middle- and working-class incomes have been heading downwards for a decade, while only the top five percent of taxpayers have done well. As one progressive Democratic activist put it in Salon, the recall reflects a rebellion against ‘corporate-friendly elitism and tone-deaf egotism at the top of the California Democratic Party’.

Much of this can be traced back to regulatory policies tied to climate change (along with high taxes). These policies have driven out major companies – in energy, home construction, manufacturing and civil engineering – that traditionally employed middle-skilled workers. Instead, job growth has been concentrated in generally low-pay sectors, like hospitality. Over the past decade, 80 percent of Californian jobs, notes one academic, have paid under the median wage. Half of these paid less than $40,000. …

Click here to read the full article from Spiked Online.

America’s Automotive Future

Joe Biden, emulating trendsetting blue state governors like California’s Gavin Newsom and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, recently has declared that by 2030, new car sales must be 50 percent zero-emission electric vehicles.

The problem with this decree is that it violates the proverbial rule against the government picking winners and losers. It’s one thing for the government to subsidize energy research, or, for that matter, any pure research. Libertarian purists might object to that, but sometimes these public-private research partnerships can accelerate innovation and help keep American manufacturers competitive. It’s quite another thing, however, for the government to restrict what sort of technology powers our vehicles, because there’s no way we can predict how technology will evolve between now and 2030.

Without any help from the government, electric motors already look very good as a competitor for the next generation default automotive power plant. Their horsepower-to-weight ratio is better than the finest internal combustion engines. Electric motors are simpler in design and require less maintenance than internal combustion engines, and they last longer. And as anyone driving a high performance sports car has learned to their possible chagrin, the extraordinary torque delivered by electric motors means a mid-range Tesla almost always beats them in a zero-to-60 challenge.

But if electric motors are highly competitive candidates to replace internal combustion engines, the technologies available to generate electricity and store it on board an EV still have a long way to go. As legislators in California and New York ought to know, mandating a “zero-emission vehicle” is fraught with consequences they have yet to address. The electric age is coming, but it’s still a long way off.

The challenge of moving to zero emission electric vehicles underscores the bigger challenge, moving to a zero emissions industrial economy. According to conventional establishment wisdom, this is necessary to avoid a catastrophic collapse of planetary ecosystems. But unacknowledged in this establishment wisdom is that while moving to a zero emissions industrial economy may or may not prevent a global environmental catastrophe, making such a move prematurely guarantees a global economic catastrophe.

These numbers are so well documented it’s tiresome to have to repeat them, but here goes: According to the most authoritative source in the world, the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, in 2020 worldwide, oil provided 31 percent of all global energy, natural gas provided 25 percent, and coal provided 27 percent, for a total of 83 percent. Then the “zero emission” fuels, which are out of favor with environmentalists, were nuclear, providing 4.1 percent, and hydroelectricity, providing another 6.8 percent. Renewables, which would include wind, solar, and “carbon neutral” biofuel, all combined, only provided 5.7 percent of all energy produced worldwide in 2020.

Another easily verified and incontrovertible statistic concerns what ought to be realistic energy production goals worldwide. There are 332 million Americans, who in 2020 consumed 16 percent of all worldwide energy, despite representing only 4 percent of the total population on Earth. If everyone on Earth were to consume half as much energy per capita as Americans currently consume, which seems minimally reasonable, global energy production would have to double.

This is the implacable backdrop against which politicians like Biden, Cuomo, and Newsom crow about their brave and forward thinking electric vehicle mandates. Electricity is energy, but it has to be generated using some other type of fuel. And the “renewables” contribution to the global fuel supply remains insignificant, at the same time as there is an urgent need to rapidly increase global energy production.

This is why a political decision to lock personal transportation into all-electric modes, to the point of banning anything that is not “zero-emission” is ridiculous. Where will all this electricity come from? Never mind the challenges of zero emission power storage, either in the form of batteries, or fuel cells running on emissions-free hydrogen. And never mind the environmental footprint inherent in the manufacture and eventual reprocessing of these vehicle components. Those technologies are coming along, but they’re not here yet. Despite the inspired rhetoric from their proponents, they’re not abundant, they’re not cheap, and they’re not even very green. But what about the entire challenge of generating the emissions-free electricity that charges the batteries, or through electrolysis converted into hydrogen? Where will it come from?

When 83 percent of global energy still comes from combustibles, and only 5.7 percent of global energy comes from sources that environmentalists consider acceptable—as if the cradle-to-grave ecological footprint of solar, wind, and biofuel energy is actually “green”—it is a mistake to mandate zero emission vehicles. A recent example of this mistake is found in the fate of the Chevy Volt, one of the most innovative automotive designs ever to hit the road. The concept was simple enough, build a car with an all-electric drive train, and have an on-board gasoline engine that is only used to turn an electricity generator. Install a smaller battery and design the car to operate using battery power, or gasoline power via the generator, or in a combination of the two. For most duty cycles, Volt drivers would never use their gas engine since the battery gave the car a range of 70 miles. But with a full tank of gas, the car had a range of over 400 miles.

The Volt design, unlike more complex hybrids that have electric and internal combustion engines both delivering traction to the wheels, allowed the gasoline engine to spin at a constant RPM, since all it ever did was turn a generator. This allowed extraordinary fuel efficiency. The Volt concept could be extended to vehicle designs where the engine turning the generator runs on natural gas, or ethanol, or other carbon neutral biofuels, or even emissions free hydrogen. But by disqualifying any onboard internal combustion engine through a zero-emission mandate, not just the Volt, but all hybrids have been condemned to oblivion.

This is incredibly shortsighted. What if combustible biofuels can be produced in factories using algae? What if batteries at scale develop unacceptable safety records, or never achieve quick-charge capability, or there are global shortages of battery components, or the process to recycle batteries never becomes cost-effective? What if hydrogen fuel cells and hydrogen storage never quite achieves the cost and performance standards consumers expect?

The automotive world in 2021 is experiencing a proliferation of technologies. It is similar to the dawn of the automotive age, over a century ago, when early vehicles were powered by electricity, gasoline, and steam. Today, if the government gets out of the way, personal transportation appliances may find themselves in an intoxicating ferment of new ideas and technologies reminiscent of the early days.

Over the next few decades, car designs are destined to proliferate beyond recognition. They will often be modular, with detachable passenger compartments that can either drive on roads with a wheeled “skateboard” power unit sitting underneath, or they can be hauled through the air with an aerial drone unit attached to the top. On demand, they will drive themselves, allowing occupants to engage in activities no different from what people might do in any stationary room. Some of them will convoy in special lanes at speeds approaching that of high speed rail. And they may utilize fuels and power plants that we cannot yet imagine.

Without first resolving the global energy challenges that currently make increased use of fossil fuel inevitable, it is mere posturing to limit the choice of vehicle technologies to emissions-free EVs. Adaptation and innovation, in all forms and in all sectors, without the limitations of mandated solutions, is the quickest path towards a new and sustainable energy and transportation future.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

RFK and the California Death Penalty

One of history’s most infamous assassins could soon be released from a California prison, just as debates about crime and punishment take on a larger role in the state’s gubernatorial recall election.

Tom Jackman reports for the Washington Post:

Sirhan B. Sirhan, convicted of the 1968 assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, will face a California parole board for the 16th time Friday in a prison outside San Diego. But unlike the first 15 times, no prosecutor will stand to oppose the release of Sirhan, who is now 77.

Sirhan was arrested at the scene of Kennedy’s shooting in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death for the assassination of a U.S. senator who appeared headed for the Democratic presidential nomination. The assassination, along with that of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. two months earlier, created a turning point in American history with the sudden elimination of the charismatic leaders of the American civil rights movement and the Democratic Party.

When California abolished the death penalty, Sirhan’s sentence was reduced to life with the possibility of parole. And now Sirhan, who has been incarcerated for 53 years, may benefit from a new push among progressive prosecutors to seek the release, or not oppose the release, of convicts who have served decades behind bars, no longer pose a threat to society and will be costly to treat medically in their later years.

But has California really abolished the death penalty? Sirhan’s sentence was reduced in 1972 when the state’s supreme court ruled capital punishment unconstitutional. But within months California voters amended the state constitution to maintain the death penalty. Several iterations later, capital punishment is still on the books.

Yet Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democrat now facing a recall election, claimed to have the authority to impose a moratorium on the death penalty when he issued an order in 2019. Many of the state’s voters still don’t think the order was lawful. …

Click here to read the full article from the Wall Street Journal

Tinseltown Ignores the Taliban

The precipitous pullout of American troops from Afghanistan has created an unmitigated disaster. What many are describing as a “Saigon Moment” for this administration, exhibited a tragic display of inept leadership from Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Jake Sullivan, Anthony Blinken, Mark Milley and company. Even the establishment media and Democratic operatives over at CNN have been surprisingly harsh on the Biden administration as the mess in Kabul continues to intensify. However, the actorvists in Hollywood who spent the last four years building their popularity on criticizing former President Donald Trump have remained largely quiet in the wake of death, destruction and loss being experienced by Americans and our allies in Afghanistan.

Before addressing the silence, there is one star who deserves praise for condemning this situation. Angelina Jolie joined Instagram for the sole purpose of posting a heartbreaking letter from an Afghan girl who described her fear in the wake of the Taliban taking over the country again. In her description of the post, while not condemning Biden outright, Jolie made her sentiments clear – “To spend so much time and money, to have bloodshed and lives lost only to come to this, is a failure almost impossible to understand.” Jolie’s frank description is honorable.

Unfortunately, Jolie’s sentiments are not worth the time of those who made a career out of smearing Trump. I’m talking to you, Robert DeNiro, Madonna, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Chrissy Teigen, George Clooney, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Lady Gaga and many, many more.

While some simpletons want to again lay this problem at the feet of the former president arguing that he was the one who made the deal to pull out of Afghanistan, they consistently neglect to mention that this agreement was contingency-based and not scheduled during the Taliban’s fighting season, something the Biden administration changed in totality. President Biden left Afghanistan with no contingencies on the ground and at the peak of their fighting season. Way to go, Joe.

The issues raised from the disastrous pullout range from a dejected military, loss of respect on the international stage (it was shocking to see even the New York Times harshly criticize Biden for the way his foolishness has rattled Europe), the arming of terrorists with American military equipment, a human rights catastrophe that is worsening by the day and the potential to enrich countries like China that will seek to make deals with the Taliban for geopolitical influence. The British Parliament has already condemned the Biden Administration and German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the situation, as well.

So where is Hollywood’s outcry? As America is being humiliated on the world stage they are busy with the following: pushing vaccination, tweeting about (but not actually supporting) Gavin Newsom’s attempt to survive a recall, passing the infrastructure bill, and promoting their albums or tv shows… and still tweeting about Trump. Nine months ago, these stars required psychological counseling after Trump tweeted something they did not like. Today, they are magically cured of the need to weigh in on presidential miscalculation.

Perhaps the most outspoken critic of the former President, Robert De Niro, has said nothing regarding the situation unfolding in Afghanistan nor offered any criticism of Biden’s failed leadership. This is a man who went on countless talk shows and gave multiple profanity-laced award show acceptance speeches. Less than a year ago the star commented, “We would survive [if Trump is re-elected] but it would be irreparable damage. In some ways now there’s irreparable damage, because the world looks at us like we’re crazy.” Now, as Afghanistan has been overtaken by terrorists and the irreparable damage has occurred while our allies in Europe are looking at us with disdain, Mr. Taxi Driver stays quiet.

Where’s the Material Girl?

The humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan is particularly ominous for women. While the media tend to frame the crisis as women simply not being able to go to school and being forced to marry, it’s important that this politically correct framing is dispelled. These women, some as young as 12, are being subjugated into a life of perpetual rape and objectification. That is the reality.

Yet, celebrities are almost unanimously silent on this human rights disaster. The stars who triumphantly donned “pussyhats” rabidly opposed Trump for his supposed deficits on Women’s Rights. Suddenly, they are unconcerned with the actual oppression being suffered by Afghan women.

Consider Madonna. During the Women’s Rights march shortly after the 2016 election, the pop goddess declared “Welcome to the revolution of love. To the rebellion. To our refusal as women to accept this new age of tyranny.” While women in America enjoyed the lowest unemployment rate, the highest business ownership and one of the largest income gains during Trump’s “tyrannical reign,” it makes one wonder if the “Vogue” vocalist was merely “striking a pose” when she lamented Trump while refusing to criticize Biden’s blunders.

Reese Witherspoon was quick criticize the former president for his indelicate comments on war veterans. Somehow, the lack of respect from the Biden Administration to the troops in Afghanistan has gone unnoticed by the Legally Blonde legend. While fewer than 2,500 troops remained before this debacle, an estimated 7,000 are now there attempting to clean up Joe Biden’s mess. Less than a year ago Reese retweeted a thread with the line: “As a person who grew up in a military family, traveling the world as my father, my uncle & my aunt served in the USAirForce and USNavy, I found this post and thread very powerful. No one should ever disrespect the Vets who served. Especially the US President.” She has yet to criticize President Biden for his reckless disrespect in his mishandling of Afghanistan which is now putting more troops at risk.

Hollywood’s silence is again their sin. Its brightest stars’ refusal to stay consistent and “speak truth to power” as Afghanistan burns and Joe Biden vacations has resulted in exposing them for the political operatives they are.

In the 1st century B.C.E., the ancient Greeks coined the word for actors when they went on stage to perform –  “hyypokrites.” Over 2,000 years later and the word still applies.

Joel Brizzee covers the Hollywood Hypocrisy beat for California Globe. He is a former financial services director and lives in Santa Monica. He graduated from the University of Oregon as a Religious Studies major with an emphasis in Christian theology.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Another Big Company Leaves California. What Will It Take for State Officials to Change Course?

Forgive us if we sound like a broken record, but the exodus of California businesses out of the state to more affordable and competitive economic climates grew worse last week.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the latest corporate headquarters to announce their departure is AECOM, the global engineering and construction firm.

According to the times, “a company spokesperson said AECOM is moving because ‘Dallas has emerged as a U.S. hub for corporate headquarters and a compelling corporate talent magnet, particularly among our peers and public companies in the engineering and consulting sectors.’”

Though 2,500 employees will remain at AECOM’s California locations across the state, the CEO and C-Suite will relocate to Texas on October 1. The company has 47,000 employees worldwide.

Just last week, Kerry Jackson wrote on Right by the Bay that, “excessive taxation, smothering regulations, a legal system overly accommodative to plaintiffs’ lawyers who eye businesses as treasure chests to plunder, and a briar patch of bureaucracy don’t exactly feed the fires of innovation and dynamism.”

So, what are state officials doing to try and keep companies like AECOM headquartered in California?  If you listen to Gov. Newsom’s recent comments, it’s to deny the reality of what’s happening.

In a question-and-answer session with editorial board members from the McClatchy newspapers chain, Newsom called California “the tentpole of the American economy” and noted the state had created 559,000 jobs in recent months.

“Eat your heart out, Texas and Florida,” he said.

But as Chapman University fellow in urban studies Joel Kotkin writes in PRI’s new Saving California book, “most of the new jobs pay poorly.”

“A remarkable 86 percent of all new jobs paid below the median income while almost half paid under $40,000,” he writes.  “Even Silicon Valley has created fewer high-paying positions than the national average, and far fewer than prime competitors in places such as Salt Lake City, Seattle or Austin.”

What can be done to turn things around and make California a more attractive place to retain jobs – let alone create new ones?

Among his suggested reforms, Kotkin says that state lawmakers should use some of the current record $75.7 billion budget surplus to make investments in “downtrodden areas” of the state.  He notes that states like Ohio and South Carolina “have lured private investments by providing not just reduced taxes and infrastructure, but state-supported skills training.”  Prioritizing job training for blue-collar skills is one of the prime reasons companies locate there, he notes.

If local and state leaders are interested in learning what they can do to stem the tide and keep these companies in California – and the good-paying jobs and tax revenue that come with them – they would be wise to read Saving California and pay attention to Kotkin’s chapter.

P.S. PRI’s Kerry Jackson and Wayne Winegarden have a new study coming out soon exploring the reasons why California continues to lose jobs and opportunity to states like Texas and Tennessee. Stay tuned.

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.

To Defeat the Recall, Must Kids Die?

“I’d die to be on the football team!” Well, kid, you may get both wishes this year, with football resuming, a recall looming and the Delta variant booming.

With only three weeks to go before California’s voters will decide the fate of Governor Gavin Newsom, the momentum is with the pro-recall forces. The next four weeks will be even tougher on Newsom as he faces some unbearable choices in his fight against the Delta variant of Covid-19. If he repeats the decisions he made early on in the fight against the virus, he will surely encourage voters to support the recall and will have removed himself from office before the end of his first term.

The difficult choices that Newsom must make now are two-fold. First, he must once again ban youth sports, as he did a year ago, canceling the football season which started in early August, with some games already canceled because of positive Covid tests. Scrubbing football could by itself seal his fate.

“Let Them Play,” an organization primarily of parents of high school athletes, mounted such an enormous protest earlier this year that the governor and the state health officials were forced to remove almost entirely the ban on youth sports. We don’t have statistics on who signed the recall petition, but it’s reasonable to assume that thousands of parents of football players and other athletes found the recall movement to their liking in the face of Newsom’s sports ban.

Newsom and state health officials relented in a series of actions in February and March of this year, essentially re-instating all sports. But that came only after “Let Them Play” rallied at the state capitol in great numbers and turned in thousands of letters from parents in which they condemned the ban.

At the moment, the “Let Them Play” crowd may be with the governor, though not enthusiastically. But what if the Delta variant brings forth another ban?

A ban on high school sports is the logical action to take. If California residents must wear masks when in close contact with each other, and may even be banned from some facilities if they are not vaccinated, then how can the governor and health officials allow football players to practice and play in a sport that involves more close contact than any other except wrestling?

The governor has a difficult choice to make. Will he ban sports and probably lose the recall? Or will he hold off announcing the ban until after the September election, increasing his chances of winning but at the same time risking the lives of all those kids who are so eager to play that they won’t protect themselves from the virus?

While the sports ban is enough to cost Newsom his office, he has a second, equally hard choice to make. The Delta variant is, at the moment, about in the same degree of a threat to the state’s residents that Covid-19 was a year ago when the governor essentially locked down the state, closing numerous businesses and forcing many others to undertake drastic measures to stay open.

There is as much reason for a state lockdown today as there was back then. What will Newsom do?

He is not likely to issue a lockdown order. To do so would certainly end his term at Sacramento. But just as failure to ban sports will mean illness and death to kids, a refusal to enact even a partial lockdown will find the virus in an uncontrollable surge once again. The governor may stay in office, but the cost will be enormous.

In the next few days, Newsom will have to decide whether his obligation to the people of California can best be met by standing firm against the Delta variant or if the defeat of the recall is more important in the long run. Most Californians, even his fellow Democrats, know what the decision ought to be.

——

Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona. 

Gross Misuse Of Taxpayer Money Draws Needed Attention

As Governor Newsom stares down the barrel of the pending recall, we wonder if he has given any thought to what he might have done to forestall or, at least, lessen the odds of being bounced.

Probably he has not. To all appearances, the governor seems genuinely to believe that the recall is a “Trump inspired” assault on what he calls “California values.” Judging from his record, the values he holds dear are high taxes, a high cost of living, a high poverty rate, a high unemployment rate, water shortages severe enough to require mandatory rationing, and regular power outages on hot or windy days.

The reality is that anger is running deep in California and not just among the roughly 6 million state residents who voted for Donald Trump. A recent poll found that 54% of Hispanic voters were in favor of the recall.

That must have shocked the governor and thrown his campaign team’s “get out the vote” strategy into chaos. “What if,” they must have been thinking, “we turn out the vote and it turns us out?”

Among the long list of taxpayer frustrations with this governor and, indeed, the state in general, are the huge lost opportunities of what could have been done during the year of the pandemic but was not. For example, the governor claimed credit for what was, in his calculation, a $70 billion budget surplus. (The Legislative Analyst’s Office checked his math and pointed out that the surplus was only $35 billion, but that’s still a big number). Regrettably, those tens of billions of dollars have been frittered away.

Newsom played Santa Claus, or maybe Chicago ward boss, by showering new $600 stimulus checks on much of the population. We’re generally in favor of returning excess tax funds to the taxpayers, but these weren’t tax refunds. They were one-time payouts to income-eligible people that, coincidentally, were timed to be mailed very close to the date that ballots in the recall election would be mailed. That bit of political stimulus soaked up $8 billion.

And speaking of soaked, that’s what taxpayers have been when it comes to water storage projects. In 2014, California voters approved Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion bond that preauthorized $2.7 billion for water storage projects that have still not been built. The California Water Commission determined funding eligibility for seven projects back in July 2018, and paperwork is ongoing. The first facility is scheduled to be operational in 2027. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register.

A Recall Alone Won’t Fix Golden-State Governance

I know something about recall elections in California. I was an advisor to Arnold Schwarzenegger during the 2003 campaign to recall then-governor Gray Davis. I also know something about the state’s executive branch. After Schwarzenegger was elected governor, I was appointed as his special advisor for jobs and economic growth and, later, to the boards of the State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), the Regents of the University of California, and the California High Speed Rail Authority. Finally, I also know something about the California legislature, which removed me from the CalSTRS board and refused me a full term as a regent but embraced public–private partnerships and low-carbon standards that I had led. Advocating responsible legislation has been the focus of the political action committee that I have run since 2011 because I know, even when all the attention is on the governor’s mansion, that more than one person governs the Golden State.

The public, taking cues from journalists who should know better, often associates governance in California with a single figure: the governor. That’s a big mistake. Governors are a necessary but insufficient ingredient for successful governance. The other ingredient is the state legislature, which comprises 80 members of the assembly and 40 state senators. This isn’t to say that a governor cannot perform his or her specific duties well—or poorly. But the state’s residents cannot thrive without both a good governor and a good legislature.

The governor is no ordinary executive. CEOs generally have authority to take action without seeking prior approval from the board of directors. The president of the United States often takes action without approval from Congress, especially in foreign affairs. But since legislation affecting domestic affairs in California requires the approval of both branches of government, a California governor dealing with the state legislature is in the same position as a U.S. president dealing with Congress on domestic matters: he is dependent on them to advance his agenda.

What, then, of the current effort to recall Gavin Newsom? Statewide elections in California cost a lot of money. The incumbent under attack tends to be less popular, and therefore less likely to generate interest from new campaign funders, than he was when initially elected. As a result, and unfortunately for residents, recall elections tend to force their targets into the hands of special interests—the California Building Industries Association, say, or the California Prison Guards Union—that stand to benefit if they improve their relationship with an incumbent who stays in office.

Providing support to an incumbent under fire is not a high-risk investment for special interests. Such spenders are merely making a bet that the incumbent would be grateful to those who helped him should he prevail. If he loses, the spenders know that the opponents will either be favorable to their interests or amenable to future support. With another election coming up just 14 months later, whoever prevails will immediately be on the hunt for even more money, which the usual suspects will be ready to provide, and keen to show progress, which requires legislative consent.

For that reason, no matter who prevails this September, the state’s governance cannot materially improve without a legislature dedicated to its improvement. Whatever the results of the latest California recall, residents and observers will learn once again that governors aren’t the only ones who govern.

David Crane is a lecturer in public policy at Stanford University and the president of Govern for California.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.