Newsletter: Putting the ‘Weird’ back in Weirdos

Welcome to your weekly roundup of news from the state that put the “weird” back in “weirdos.” If you like this, donate to and thank your friends at California Policy Center. If you hate it, please blame only me (your faithful scribe, Will Swaim) and check back in when our new communications director takes over in April. Until then . . . .

Attorney General representing California Teachers Association. The United States Senate has confirmed former California Attorney General Xavier Baccerra to the top post at the Health and Human Services agency – a decision so problematic on so many levels that it would beggar the nearly infinite capacity of the internet to document them all (start here). But fare thee well, Xavier. Beceerra’s departure left Gov. Gavin Newsom with another high-profile appointment with which to boost his flagging political ambitions. Instead of appointing to the state’s top law-enforcement job a thoughtful, principled adherent of the Constitution, Newsom has nominated Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). Few embody the legal corruption of government unions in California as does Bonta, a beneficiary — and therefore reliable ally – of every major government union leader. In the six months before Nov. 3, CPC was able to track $264,450 in direct union contributions to Bonta’s relection campaign. But you may know him best as author of California’s infamous “Wealth Tax,” a bill so bizarre — and so constitutionally illegitimate — that it was immediately endorsed by leaders of all major government unions, including the bill’s “co-sponsor,” the California Teachers Association. Bonta’s bill would raise taxes of 0.4 percent on assets above $30 million held by California households, and would impose that tax for a decade on wealthy Californians who decamp/peace-out/exit the state in order to preserve their wealth. That pursuit of former Californians into other states would seem to violate the Tenth Amendment, of course, and so headlines of his nomination perhaps ought to read, “Newsom nominates constitutional ignoramus to state’s top constitutional job.” Instead, we got such headlines as Politco’s “Newsom selects Asian American progressive Bonta for California AG” and the Los Angeles Times’ “Newsom picks an attorney general who embodies American dream, new California.” 

It appears likely that Gov. Gavin Newsom will face a recall, Part 1: As 1,000 California Policy Center-trained monkeys hammer away at 1,000 typewriters to produce either Shakespeare’s Hamlet or this weekly missive, the state’s signature verification effort turned up an interesting trend in L.A. County: of the 146,507 signers supporting the recall, 53% are registered Democrats, 25% are No Party Preference, and just 17% are Republicans. Translation: The governor has a problem with his own party.

Newsom Recall, Part 2: If there is a special election, voters will be asked to answer two ballot questions: “Do you support removing Gavin Newsom from office?” and “If voters remove Gavin Newsom from office, who would you like to replace him?” My colleague (and CPC cofounder) Ed Ring offers this bit of priceless but free consulting for gubernatorial candidates hoping to distinguish themselves among the mass of optimists hoping to replace the gov: “There is still a way that one candidate can excite the electorate, to stand out from the pack and beat the odds – that is not by attacking the other candidates, but by emphasizing solutions to the challenges Californians actually face.” Ed offers 10 simple questions for prospective candidates, the answers to which will determine whether the candidate represents real change or autopilot. Teachers unions, homelessness, water scarcity, forest management all made Ed’s list, but not the question George Clinton has been asking since 1986, “Do fries go with that shake?”

Bug-zapper: Gov. Gavin Newsom is drawn to cameras as moths to the proverbial flame — and in both interactions, the source of illumination always wins. On Monday, the governor announced that taxes paid by California’s richest pushed state tax revenue $14 billion above projections – “another sign” Newsom asserted, “of the growing light at the end of the tunnel as we recover and rebuild from the pandemic.” Will the governor go to Disneyland with the $14 billion surplus? He will not — because Disneyland remains closed by executive order for at least another month. He will instead make sure that “much of these revenue gains are providing immediate relief for individuals and families through the Golden State Stimulus, and for struggling small businesses.” He will, in short, spend the surplus. Buried in the last paragraph of the Sacramento Bee report on Newsom’s cock-a-doodle of fiscal victory was this grim down-note: the governor’s “office predicts that despite the unexpected windfall this year the state will face budget deficits as soon as next year.” To recap: The governor will spend money the state will need in just a few months.

Speaking of the Tragic Kingdom: The city of Anaheim’s public finances were a wreck long before Covid, but as in most California cities (and California itself), officials these days conveniently blame the pandemic for all bad news — in this case, news that Anaheim will borrow up to $210 million to cover a budget shortfall. Pre-pandemic Anaheim already ranked a miserable No. 40 on CPC’s list of worst city finances in California, and was widely cited as a city living on something like credit cards — including about $2 billion in outstanding bond debt and unpaid liabilities for public employee benefits. The governor’s closure of Disneyland didn’t help the city, which relies heavily on tourism taxes to fill in gaps created by its lousy financial management. Borrowing cash now will cost Anaheim $12.33 million in annual interest payments — which means charging future city taxpayers in order to pay government workers now. City Manager Jim Vanderpool read from the usual California script when he told Anaheim city council members that fixing the city’s fundamentally broken finances is impossible — “would require the layoff of dozens and dozens of police, dozens and dozens of fire personnel, closing most of our libraries, eliminating all public works street maintenance, senior centers, the list goes on and on. It would destroy our public services.” 

That’s Intel outside: We have it on very good authority that while he spends his winters in Phoenix, Satan escapes Arizona’s summer heat by sheltering in his house in hell. Arizona’s brain-cooking heat didn’t stop California-based Intel from announcing this week that it will build two new chip factories in Arizona. That’s right: California’s business climate is so horrible that Arizona’s actual climate looks good by comparison. The immediate investment loss to California of the Intel move: $20 billion in construction costs. But ongoing losses to California — in such multipliers as future Intel jobs and business spin-offs associated with this external expansion — would take a massive amount of computing power to determine, and California is quickly losing its capacity to carry out basic math. Follow the out-migration of California businesses and business leaders on CPC’s Book of Exodus.

CPC gets National Review review: Yes, that was CPC in the National Review spotlight, accepting plaudits for our work to liberate California’s government workers from the powerful unions playing rough with our fair state. Leveraging the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v AFSCME, CPC “defends workers’ First Amendment rights and produces a de facto result of drying up the cash sea that Big Government Labor unions took for granted and depended upon,” writes NR’s Jack Fowler. “The results are remarkable. So are the consequences.”

Parent teacher dis-association: Posts on the Instagram account of #UTLAuncensored — a group of Los Angeles parents protesting the teachers union lockdown of schools – are smart, cutting and (as you’d expect in L.A.) museum-quality in their design (recalling the work of 1980s L.A. artist Patrick Nagel). Consider the recent post in which they note that United Teachers of Los Angeles member Maya Suzuki Daniels is pushing a petition to demand that teachers get free (i.e., taxpayer-funded) childcare in exchange for returning to classrooms. This, UTLAuncensored observes, is the very same Suzuki Daniels who recently posted, “I’m tired of parents telling us to open schools so they can have childcare.”

Your tax dollars at work — on the border. On this week’s Radio Free California podcast, CPC board member David Bahnsen and I discuss the immigration catastrophe at the border, and Gov. Newsom’s $28 million bailout for migrants seeking asylum in San Diego County. In other news, we consider Stockton’s guaranteed basic income project, the Pac 12’s stunning success in NCAA men’s basketball, and repeated hacks of state computer systems. Find Radio Free California wherever you download top-quality podcasts and here at National Review.

The Four Rs of Education! CPC’s Lance Christensen published a stinging critique of state teachers union intransigence on reopening school despite all the data that shows the risks are minimal. Even as the federal government produced hundreds of billions of dollars in political ransom payments, the unions added “resist” to the three R’s – Resist science. Resist parents. Resist students. Resist teaching. Sabotaging school reopening plans isn’t based on science, epidemiology, or slowing a virus that will not be tamed. It is about power politics. They are hijacking some profoundly important coming of age experiences – moments our kids will never get back.

School’s outside for summer. Marc Joffe asks, “If restaurants and gyms have been able to serve customers outdoors under tents, why can’t public schools serve at least some of their students in the same manner?” Answer: They can. Citing examples from across the nation, Joffe, a senior research analyst at Reason, offers the side-by-side comparison of Golestan, a private school in El Cerrito, California, which reopened by implementing outdoor learning. “Ironically, Golestan’s location is within the West Contra Costa Unified School District, where public schools are on an especially slow track to reopening. So, children whose parents can afford Golestan’s $23,927 annual tuition (or qualify for sufficient financial aid) get the benefits of in-person education while less affluent kids in El Cerrito, Richmond and neighboring communities continue to struggle with distance learning.”

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