The real reasons Newsom has failed all Californians

Edward Ring

Director, Water and Energy Policy

Edward Ring
September 8, 2021

The real reasons Newsom has failed all Californians

While acknowledging that the outcome of the ongoing Newsom recall voting is anybody’s guess, it is worthwhile to imagine life in California if Newsom survives the recall and goes on to win reelection next year. Because the nonpartisan and growing opposition to Newsom and what he represents is not founded in “Trumpism,” nor is it the product of “out-of-state Republicans.”

The Newsom recall effort is a reaction, shared by independents and moderate Democrats, that California’s institutions are failing. Even life-long progressives are horrified by the appalling negligence and corruption that now defines governance in California. Examples of this are everywhere.

One may begin by imagining a future of endless fire seasons, where the air is so filthy that on any given summer day more than half the state’s residents can’t venture outdoors. Does anyone think announcing an electric car mandate will solve this problem, or that hiring state agencies to thin the forests will ever get the job done? There are solutions. Bring the timber industry back to the scale it operated at in the 1990s, and let them thin the forests and maintain the fire breaks, fire roads and transmission line corridors while supplying affordable lumber to Californians. That used to work fine, and with what we’ve since learned about forest management, would solve the problem and improve forest ecosystems.

Instead the policy, to be continued, is to make it impossible for property owners to ignite controlled burns or mechanically thin the undergrowth on their land, thanks to a tyrannical, Byzantine permit process that only the very wealthy and preternaturally patient applicant could ever navigate. Then once these residents are burned out of their homes, victims of the predictable cataclysms that are the result of thirty years of fire suppression, they’re subjected to a permit process to rebuild that is equally tyrannical, ensuring that very few of them ever get to return to the land they love.

And what of these electric cars that supposedly, as they proliferate, will suppress forest fires in lieu of responsible forest management? There’s nothing wrong with providing incentives to develop EV technology. But fossil fuel is still powering over 80 percent of California’s economy. Against that hard reality, the energy policies of the Newsom administration nonetheless intend to reduce CO2 emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. Californians need to confront what it’s going to take to achieve this goal.

To cut CO2 emissions this much in just 8 more years means absolutely nothing that consumes energy is going to get built. The state will mandate urban densification at all costs. Suburbs will be subject to “infill.” New homes will be located in “transit villages.” Housing will be permitted that doesn’t include space for parking. Codes will be written to mandate smaller windows so structures won’t require as much energy to heat or cool, and light switches that shut off if their motion sensors think you’ve left the room. Natural gas hookups will be forbidden in new housing as California’s natural gas infrastructure is slowly dismantled, and any sort of suburban expansion on open land will be prohibited. Does this sound inviting?

It isn’t as if any major emerging nation – from China to India to Indonesia to Pakistan to Brazil or Nigeria – is going to bother with any of this expensive, extremist impracticality. They need energy, and they’re going to generate it by any means necessary.

If California’s enlightened policymakers really intended to set an example to the world, they would pursue an all-of-the-above strategy with energy development, and do it in a manner that is as efficient and clean and cost-effective as possible. That would be genuine altruism. Don’t hold your breath. Instead, the political machine represented by Newsom is not only shutting down natural gas power plants, they’re shutting down California’s only nuclear power plant, and demolishing hydroelectric dams. Expect ongoing power outages and electric power that costs several times more than it could in a rational market. Expect mandated appliances that are so energy and water efficient that they are hard to operate, break down often, require software “updates,” are leased instead of owned, and do a poor job.

Where there’s not much affordable energy, don’t expect much more water, either. California’s water infrastructure has been neglected for the past forty years, and a system that was designed for 20 million people is strained to the breaking point to serve 40 million residents. But if you want to build desalination plants and waste water treatment plants, you’ll need energy to operate them. And if you want to build off-stream reservoirs or recharge aquifers during wet winters, in order to pump water through the aqueducts to farms and cities during the dry years, you’re going to need energy. A lot of it. You’ll need energy to build and upgrade the system, then you’ll need energy to run the pumps. And that will jeopardize achieving the 40 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. So it will not happen under a Newsom regime.

Instead expect water rationing at a level of draconian enforcement that will even surprise the fanatics. Californians could have more water, but not under the Newsom political machine. This isn’t just no more lawns, it’s no more trees or hedges. No more showers under a flow sufficient to wash the shampoo out of long hair. No more washing machines that effectively clean clothes without damaging them. As for farmers, kiss your land goodbye. Sell it while you still can to hedge funds that will build solar farms. Consumers? Kiss your affordable food goodbye. No more row crops, no more fruit. Expect to pay twice as much for vegetables. And as for California’s dairy industry? It depends on water guzzling alfalfa to feed the cows, so goodbye cows. No more affordable milk. No more affordable cheese.

Newsom’s California will cram down every public investment in infrastructure, whether it’s energy, water, or transportation. He’ll get cover from climate change activists whose passions are divorced from quantitative reality. He’ll also get cover from orthodox libertarians and even many anti-tax activists, who either disapprove of any government spending on infrastructure, or, somewhat more justifiably, distrust the government’s ability to complete any public works project at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable period of time. It’s not like they don’t have a point.

It used to be that public sector corruption, deplorable though it was, would at least get you something good in return. You might spend twice as much taxpayer money as might actually be necessary, but at the end of it all, there would be a tangible benefit to taxpayers. The much criticized “Big Dig” in Boston is a good example. It took years longer and cost billions more than promised, but when it was done, people could get from downtown Boston to Logan Intl. in 15 minutes, instead of an hour and a half. But we don’t even have that level of competence any more.

And then there are the homeless. If laws prohibiting vagrancy, petty theft, intoxication, and sale of hard drugs could be enforced again, the deterrent effect would mean, overnight, that half California’s homeless would suddenly find find shelter with friends and family. The rest of them could be housed in inexpensive barracks in inexpensive parts of California’s cities. The billions of dollars saved could be used to help them. But that would disrupt the profits of the Homeless Industrial Complex. So in Newsom’s California, expect to see more chaos on our streets, as countless lives are allowed to be destroyed under the pretext of “compassion” and “liberty.”

When it comes to the basic needs of Californians, water, energy, food, shelter, transportation, and safety, the Newsom machine has failed completely. A future with Newsom and his people in charge would mean soaking taxpayers for additional billions – ok, tens of billions – on “affordable housing” and “permanent supportive housing,” while the cost of housing would remain prohibitive. They’d continue to build these boondoggles at a cost, well documented, of over 500,000 per unit, along with “innovative tiny homes,” only 64 square feet in size, at a total project cost of over $200,000 per unit.

Step back a moment and think about this. Even in California, a crew of honest tradesmen could go buy a 120 square foot shed at Home Depot for around $5,000, and for another $20,000, if not much less, they could transport it, put it on a foundation, install plumbing, electric hookups, a bathroom and kitchenette, hook it up to the utility grid and someone could move in. But no. These “tiny homes,” half that size, cost ten times that much, and we’re supposed to be thrilled.

This is what out-of-control corruption looks like. This is the true face of California’s “progressive” movement. It is a movement whose public rhetoric comes from smarmy politicians like Gavin Newsom and passionate grassroots activists, but whose financial and political power rests in the hands of monopolistic corporations and entrenched government bureaucracies.

Why not deregulate housing, invest in enabling infrastructure, and allow more construction on raw land on the perimeter of existing cities and along freeway corridors? Why not reduce the excessive building fees and eliminate unnecessary, crippling delays in getting projects approved? Why not quarry aggregate, mine lithium, extract natural gas, and log and mill timber here in California? These steps would take hundreds of thousands of dollars off the price of a new home. But they would also undermine the power of the special interests that profit from scarcity.

This is life in Newsom’s California. This is the future he offers you. Anybody would be better. If you don’t like Republicans, vote for Paffrath, who is a Democrat with bold new ideas. At his political core, Gavin Newsom represents corporate corruption. A machine that spews progressive rhetoric on the topics of climate change, race, and gender while completely failing to meet the basic needs of every Californian regardless of where they come from or what they believe.

This article originally appeared on the website of the California Globe.

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Edward Ring is a contributing editor for the California Policy Center.

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