In his 2021 State of the State Address, Governor Newsom’s focus, to the exclusion of nearly everything else, was to defend his response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A quick review of the 3,634 word transcript indicates only 20 percent of his remarks had to do with anything else. It’s understandable that Newsom would focus on the pandemic. Regardless of how it might have been handled better, it is a historic disaster. But Newsom’s failures as a governor, and by extension the failures of California’s ruling progressives, preceded the pandemic and cannot be overlooked because of it.
Newsom and his fellow progressives are doing everything they can to destroy California. The inherent vitality that Newsom boasts about is in spite of him and his party, not because of it. Non-pandemic topics that Newsom spoke about, briefly, included infrastructure, economic policy, education, housing, homeless, and forestry. These are indeed the big issues, and on every one of them Newsom and his party are doing everything wrong.
Here are some of the ways Newsom – or the governor who replaces him – could earn some credibility and do some good.
With respect to infrastructure, Newsom can apologize to residents of the San Joaquin Valley for the “bullet train” fiasco, and cancel the project. He can then pledge to do everything in his power to create useful jobs down there with infrastructure projects that matter: Repair the Friant-Kern Canal. Resurface and add lanes to Highway 99 and Interstate 5. Build the Temperance Flat Reservoir.
Infrastructure is a big topic, encompassing, among other things, transportation, water, and energy. So Newsom could have spent a few words explaining that shutting down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant is a stupid, destructive, insane idea, promulgated by special interests and fanatics, and that he’s going to do everything in his power to keep it open.
Newsom could reiterate his support for the proposed ocean desalination plant in Huntington Beach, explaining the energy cost to import water into the Los Angeles Basin is equivalent to the energy cost to desalinate seawater. He could call for Californians to recycle 100 percent of its wastewater, noting that Los Angeles County still flushes over 1.0 million acre feet of imported water each year into the ocean instead of recycling it.
California’s alleged budget surplus was something Newsom touted as an accomplishment, whereas even his predecessor, Governor Brown, would have been savvy enough to express extreme caution. California’s general fund may have made it through another year, thanks more than anything else to the pandemic-driven tech stock bubble, but you don’t shut down an economy for a year and pretend there won’t be consequences.
The economic challenges California’s state and local governments face have been building for decades. Unsustainable pensions, the most generous welfare programs in the United States, an oversized, overpaid, unionized public sector, all dependent on tax revenues from residents and businesses that have been smashed economically. Many will never recover. So what does Newsom do?
He proudly declares the minimum wage will rise to $14 per hour, then to $15 per hour, which will kill what remains of small businesses. He doesn’t dare bring up AB 5, the law that now makes it illegal to do over-the-table work as an independent contractor. And of course he doesn’t bring up the root economic problem facing ordinary Californians, which is the punitive cost of living.
Instead Newsom calls for more government spending: “tripling the earned income tax credit and increasing child care subsidies, adding two more weeks of paid family leave… Providing first-ever health care subsidies for middle-class Californians so they can afford coverage. Increasing student financial aid and public assistance. Making community college free for two years.”
Which brings us to education. Why not fire all 50 percent of all public education bureaucrats, who are paid more than faculty, and use the savings to lower tuition? In just the last 20 years, the UC system has gone from faculty outnumbering administrators 3-2 to administrators outnumbering faculty by roughly 5-4. Similar administrative bloat has infected every public education institution in California from grade school through the universities.
Newsom and the progressives have failed California’s students in every imaginable facet of education policy. Why hasn’t Newsom ever stood up to the teachers’ union? This isn’t just about reopening schools, as if that weren’t enough of a catastrophe. Why did Newsom sign AB 1505, which makes it possible for school district boards, controlled by operatives elected with union money, to easily shut down charter schools? Why isn’t Newsom promoting genuine school choice? Why aren’t universal education savings accounts something Newsom fights for more than anything else? Doesn’t he want California’s children to have educational choices the way his own children do?
One can go on. Common core math, offensive, politically charged “gender” education, history classes that take the perspective of the “1619 project.” Limited teacher accountability. Limited ability to discipline or expel disruptive students. Policies relating to teacher layoff, dismissal, and tenure that have been proven to disproportionately harm low income students. Newsom and his party engineered all of this. Public education in California is a mess, the solutions are bipartisan, and Newsom is a coward to not try to change any of it.
And then there’s housing and the homeless. Why doesn’t Newsom tell the truth: If you have “navigation centers” instead of drunk tanks, then people will show up from all over America to shoot, snort, smoke, and then shit all over the place. And that’s exactly what they’re doing, by the tens of thousands. Another truth: When you decriminalize crime, criminals commit more crimes, not fewer. That’s reality.
In service to reality, Newsom should be talking about how to repeal Prop. 47 instead of talking about spending another $2 billion of state funds to build “supportive housing.” Make public intoxication and vagrancy and petty theft crimes again, and see how many of California’s homeless suddenly find homes. Then get those remaining homeless the help they need.
Instead, in service to a compassionate fantasy that obscures venality, Newsom wants to continue to pour money into the Homeless Industrial Complex, a network of special interests that have, at an average cost of over $500,000 per unit, built a boondoggle archipelago of “supportive housing” across the state. At that price, housing California’s 150,000 homeless would cost a mere $75 billion.
This is insanity. But incessantly pointing that out just desensitizes the numerate, and for the innumerate, it’s just noise anyway.
The solution to California’s housing “crisis,” which directly affects its homeless crisis, goes back to the greatest failure of Newsom and his party, which is California’s unaffordable cost of living. The biggest culprit? Housing. Why? Here’s where we must describe truly upper division scamming. Pay close attention.
Environmentalists demand regulations to protect the planet, which makes it impossible for unsubsidized developers to build homes that normal people can afford. But unaffordable homes means higher prices. This helps real estate investment portfolios, it increases property tax revenues to cash-strapped cities, and the prohibition on new suburbs on open land means public money that used to pay for roads, parks and utility conduits now can be used to increase pay and benefits to public employees. And stepping way back – still firmly in reality, however – the phony asset collateral creates an alluring home equity debt trap, so homeowners will borrow and spend. And spending spells more profit for American distributors and Chinese exporters.
And you thought it had to do with the environment?
Last but not least is Newsom’s response to the forest fires. He’s apparently proud that when the forests burned, he issued an executive order to require all electric vehicle sales by 2035. In his State of the State address Newsom blamed “climate change” for the fires, unaware, apparently, that when you suppress natural fires for a century, then allow pressure groups like the Sierra Club to limit California’s logging industry to an annual harvest of 1.5 billion board feet when as recently as 1990 they were harvesting four times that much, you get overgrown, unhealthy, tinder dry forests.
To his credit, Newsom claimed to have “forged a historic partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to radically ramp up forest management efforts,” and “We are reducing barriers on hundreds of fuel reduction projects and prescribed burns.”
Fat chance. Here’s an idea: In exchange for logging permits on public land for which they paid hefty fees, California’s timber industry used to maintain fire breaks on the ridges, fire access roads, and they cleared areas around the power lines. Why isn’t Newsom calling together all the “stakeholders” and demanding they work out a way to return to these practices? Would that make too much sense? Don’t ask.
Newsom’s speech came at almost the exact moment when the coalition of Californians who have had enough of him collected their two-millionth signature on a recall petition. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, possibly the most feckless embodiment of progressive inanity in the state, if not the nation, had this to say about Newsom recall supporters:
“We could find 10 percent of Californians to be against sunshine right now.”
Everyone likes sunshine, Mayor. Maybe this recall will cast some healthy California sunshine on Newsom’s entire body of work – before, during and after the pandemic. It’s no excuse for what he, and his party, are doing to this beautiful state.
This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor for the California Policy Center.