California’s politicians are hardly alone in their quest to destroy America’s rights, freedoms, prosperity, culture, traditions, and pride. They just happen to be more advanced in their quest. But since what happens in California often ends up happening later in the rest of the country, it’s vital to highlight just how bad it’s gotten in the Golden State.
Just as a theologian might argue there are more than seven deadly sins that are fatal to spiritual progress, there are more than seven policy areas where California’s political leadership have fatally undermined the aspirations of ordinary Californians. But in the interests of brevity and clarity, here are what might be the most damning seven deadly sins of California’s political establishment.
Law and Order: Californians have prided themselves on being trendsetters in human rights, but the pendulum has swung too far. Thanks to Proposition 47, the “Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative” which voters approved in 2014, it is nearly impossible to arrest and hold anyone for possession of hard drugs, so long as they claim the drugs are for personal use. Prop. 47 also downgraded the punishment for property crimes if the value of the stolen goods are under $950 per offense.
The consequence of these laws are public drug use and rampant theft to support these drug habits. Other ridiculous laws include Assembly Bill 953, the “Racial and Identity Profiling Act” (2015), which requires police to fill out an extensive questionnaire after every encounter with a member of the public, even if it doesn’t result in an arrest. The purpose of this is to prevent disproportionate encounters with members of disadvantaged groups, and the consequence of it is fewer stops, fewer arrests, and more crime.
Environment: It’s hard to know where to begin when it comes to environmentalist extremism that tyrannizes ordinary Californians. At the heart of California’s central planning state is AB 32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act” (2006), and follow-on legislation. These laws aim to reduce California’s net “greenhouse gas” emissions to zero by 2045.
To accomplish this, it is becoming almost impossible to develop land outside of existing cities, which is driving the price of land and housing to unaffordable levels. Next on the “climate change” agenda is to charge Californians for “vehicle miles traveled,” wherein everywhere people go in their cars will be monitored and taxed.
Well before AB 32 came along, though, California had already gone overboard with environmentalism. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), passed by the state legislature in 1971 and turned into the monster it is today via numerous follow on legislation, requires environmental impact reports to accompany any building permit. Since a separate report is required for every permit application, and since major building projects require approval from dozens of agencies, in California the costs to file applications and pay fees often exceeds the actual cost of construction.
Then there’s forestry management, taken over by environmentalist zealots who prohibited logging, suppressed controlled burns with byzantine application gauntlets and endless litigation, and turned California’s forests into tinderboxes.
Energy and Water: Californians pay among the highest prices for gasoline, electricity and natural gas in the United States, despite the fact that California has abundant reserves of oil and gas.
But instead of approving new refineries, more connecting pipelines, oil and gas drilling, and clean natural gas power plants, California’s policymakers are shutting down conventional energy in favor of “renewables.” Even clean, emissions free nuclear power is forbidden, as California’s last nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, is scheduled to be shut down by 2025.
Not only does this leave Californians without affordable energy, as they’re herded to the nearest retailer to purchase “demand response” appliances that don’t work very well, but utilities investing in renewables don’t have money left over to upgrade their power lines to better manage wildfires.
As for water, instead of storing more storm runoff behind dams and within aquifers, and investing in reuse and desalination, California’s turned to rationing. Starting in 2020, Californians will be restricted to 55 gallons of indoor water use per person per day, with that amount being lowered in subsequent years.
Transportation: Freeways in California are among the most congested in the nation, but instead of widening roads and building new freeways, California’s policymakers have declared war on the car. Never mind that cars are the future of transportation, destined to be entirely clean, autonomous, capable of driving safely at high speeds while their occupants work, sleep, or entertain themselves.
Instead, California’s political leadership remains committed to a high-speed train that will never pay for itself, light rail when light rail ridership is in decline, and zoning that will make it impossible for people to park their cars where they live. California’s transportation policy is misanthropic and misguided. Meanwhile, ordinary Californians cope with super commutes on neglected roads.
Housing: Despite the fact that most young married couples, given a choice, would prefer to raise their children in a single-family home with a yard, California’s elite have decided that single-family homes and suburbs are “unsustainable.” Never mind that California spans over 160,000 square miles, of which only around 5 percent is urbanized.
Californians instead are expected to construct all new housing via high density “infill,” where there is minimal open space, parking is unavailable, and prices are sky high thanks to the artificially created shortage.
Again, the costs to prepare permit applications and pay fees often exceeds the construction costs, notwithstanding the fact that high rise and mid-rise construction always costs far more per square foot than what it costs to construct one or two story wood frame homes.
Homeless: In a state where you can’t build anything without paying fees that cost more than the construction costs, and where utility bills and other hidden taxes make the cost-of-living the highest in the nation, it should be no surprise that California has a homeless crisis.
Add to that the best weather on earth, and laws that permit public consumption of hard drugs and prevent detention of petty thieves, and you have a recipe for a homeless population explosion. Moreover, court rulings make it impossible to remove homeless encampments unless you can offer them “permanent supportive housing,” and rampant (totally legal) public sector and nonprofit corruption have driven the costs for such housing to exceed on average $500,000 per unit.
To top it off, state laws make it, for all practical purposes, impossible to incarcerate the mentally ill. If these laws and court settlements were overturned, overnight, half of California’s homeless would find shelter with relatives and friends, and the rest would get cost-effective help. But it’s a meal ticket for the corrupt public sector.
Education: To save the worst for last, this is perhaps the most unforgivable sin of all in California. Instead of teaching children to read and write, the public schools excel at indoctrination. Instead of being held accountable, incompetent teachers are protected by union labor laws. Disruptive students are kept in classes to fulfill quotas designed to prevent “discrimination.”
The University of California, which—under threat of lawsuits—is about to abandon using SAT scores entirely, has already engineered its admissions policies to circumvent state and federal prohibitions on affirmative action. From higher education down through the K-12 public schools, leftist propaganda and identity politics are the goal of California’s unionized public education system, instead of teaching children the skills they will need to become more productive graduates.
A Soft Fascism
This is the future that awaits America. It is a future abetted by a complicit media, an activist entertainment industry, a unionized public bureaucracy and public education system, and nearly every significant corporate and financial player. The political model it embraces is often labeled as socialist, but might more accurately be described as economic fascism—a merging of public and private, a partnership of corporations, oligarchs, and the public sector.
While people typically cringe at use of the term “fascist,” the fascism we’re seeing in California is not the hardcore fascism of World War II-era Germany, but rather a soft fascism as envisioned by Aldous Huxley in his novel Brave New World. California’s citizens are being channeled into high-density apartments, forced to use mass transit, and increasingly made dependent on government subsidies, in exchange for the illusory freedoms of legal drugs and anything-goes gender exploration.
At the same time, Californians are deluged with fearmongering propaganda—a classic fascist tactic—concerning the rise of the oceans thanks to “climate change” and the rise of “white nationalism” thanks to President Trump. Both of these threats are preposterously overstated, but when that’s the only message you ever hear, it feels very real.
This 21st-century fascism being pioneered in California touts itself as “anti-fascist” at every opportunity, but the system nonetheless fits the definition of fascism. It is corporate, collectivist, centralized, and autocratic. With an equally unhealthy and excessive fervor, it exalts the planet instead of the nation, and celebrates “diversity” instead of one culture. It punishes dissent, protects the oligarchy, and deludes the overtaxed, over-regulated, overpaying majority.
In a world where truth, justice, and the American Way still exist, an America that believes in God, or at least believes in good, evil, and some sort of ultimate accountability, what California’s elites are doing is literally sinful. Their path to redemption is simple:
Enforce common sense drug laws and punish thieves. Quit using environmentalism as a punitive religious faith and start logging the forests, building roads, drilling for oil and gas, and approving nuclear power plants instead of shutting them down. Stop extorting more money in permitting costs than it costs to construct homes, and start building them again on open land. Get vagrants off the streets, build cost-effective shelter for the truly needy, and put the mentally ill back into institutions. Fire incompetent teachers and hold our students to immutable, objective academic standards instead of filling their heads with divisive nonsense.
Americans would do well to look to California today, and whatever they’re doing, do the opposite. Before it’s too late.
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Edward Ring is a co-founder of the California Policy Center and served as its first president. This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.