June 11, 2019

Crisis in California

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

Last week, it was reported that “Los Angeles County’s homeless population has swelled by 12% during the past year as a shortage of affordable housing deepens in and around America’s second-largest city… the 12 percent homelessness rise in Los Angeles County was modest compared with corresponding increases in less populous neighboring counties - up 28 percent in Ventura, 43 percent in Orange and 50 percent in Kern.” Reuters

Here’s a look at how the left and the right have reacted to California’s troubles in recent months.

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that California’s policies are not liberal enough, and for liberalizing zoning laws to allow more housing.

“‘This is unregulated capitalism, unbridled capitalism, capitalism run amok. There are no guardrails,’ says Salesforce founder and chairman Marc Benioff, a fourth-generation San Franciscan who in a TV interview branded his city ‘a train wreck’… For decades, this coruscating city of hills, bordered by water on three sides, was a beloved haven for reinvention, a refuge for immigrants, bohemians, artists and outcasts. It was the great American romantic city, the Paris of the West. No longer. In a time of scarce consensus, everyone agrees that something has rotted in San Francisco.”
Karen Heller, Washington Post

“When the cost of living is taken into account, billionaire-brimming California ranks as the most poverty-stricken state, with a fifth of the population struggling to get by. Since 2010, migration out of California has surged… At every level of government, our representatives, nearly all of them Democrats, prove inadequate and unresponsive to the challenges at hand. Witness last [month]’s embarrassment, when California lawmakers used a sketchy parliamentary maneuver to knife Senate Bill 50, an ambitious effort to undo restrictive local zoning rules and increase the supply of housing…

“Where progressives argue for openness and inclusion as a cudgel against President Trump, they abandon it on Nob Hill and in Beverly Hills… Not-in-my-backyardism is a bipartisan sentiment, but because the largest American cities are populated and run by Democrats — many in states under complete Democratic control — this sort of nakedly exclusionary urban restrictionism is a particular shame of the left.”
Farhad Manjoo, New York Times

“Apartment bans are a case of rich vs. poor, longtime resident vs. newcomer, and, all too often, white vs. black, but they are something else too: generational warfare, a showdown in which older homeowners are telling younger renters that there’s no more room. Seen that way, the housing affordability crisis serves as a useful framework for understanding a handful of urgent American issues that have stalled out, particularly intraparty conflicts on the left like those over student debt and climate change… It doesn’t feel like an accident that the youngest woman ever elected to Congress has done more to advance climate change discourse in Washington in six months than Democrats have done in a decade… Young people in college, at planning meetings in Palo Alto, or protesting in Dianne Feinstein’s office, aren’t asking for anything radical—just for what their parents and grandparents already had.”
Henry Grabar, Slate

“If Democrats can ever achieve a consensus on housing policy, they can do as they wish at present, since the Donkey Party has supermajorities in both chambers in the legislature. But… suburbanites from both parties are wary of disturbing the status quo… the road to enactment of ‘upzoning’ legislation remains rocky and winding. If you’re homeless in California, or are struggling to afford a mortgage payment or rent, help is not quite yet on the way.”
Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right blames liberal policies for harming the quality of life of California’s residents.

From the Right

The right blames liberal policies for harming the quality of life of California’s residents.

“The top California income-tax rate is 13.3 percent (the nation’s highest). The state’s average sales tax is (conservatively) about 8.5 percent (ninth in the nation). California’s bewildering combined array of gasoline taxes are about 55 cents per gallon and rising (second-highest in the nation). In exchange, California public-school test scores rank between 44th and 46th in the nation. Its roads and infrastructure are rated in various surveys between 42nd and 45th. Driving from the state’s interior to the coast on roads mostly unchanged from 45 years ago takes about twice the time as in the past — if carefully planned at particular times and days of the week.”
Victor Davis Hanson, National Review

The quality of life in California is in free fall thanks to liberal policies exactly like those [Democratic presidential] candidates want to impose on the entire nation… California’s energy costs are already the second-highest in the nation; the renewables mandate may scratch an environmental itch, but it will surely mean residents soon pay more for gasoline, or heating oil and electricity…

“These are policies that lead to high prices for housing and energy, a laissez-faire approach to law and order that leads to tent cities and rising crime, rising spending that demands exorbitant taxes and big government programs that mean diminished personal freedoms.”
Liz Peek, The Hill

San Francisco is the nation’s leader in property crime. Burglary, larceny, shoplifting, and vandalism are included under this ugly umbrella. The rate of car break-ins is particularly striking: in 2017 over 30,000 reports were filed, and the current average is 51 per day… the poor bear the brunt of low-level and property crimes. ‘In the Tenderloin we have vulnerable populations—people of color, the most children, the second-highest concentration of elders, and they are held hostage by drug dealers and theft, and the city tells them these crimes are not that bad,’ says [former prosecutor Nancy] Tung. ‘We are failing to protect them. The police do a good job, because the criminals are caught, only to be released back on the streets over and over.’”
Erica Sandberg, City Journal

California “has the worst ranking for homelessness, 8th worst for roads, and worst for teacher-to-student ratio. Its prisons are so crowded that the Supreme Court determined them to constitute cruel and unusual punishment, and it suffered the worst budget crisis of all the states during the Great Recession…

“Residents are so mesmerized by the amazing weather and beauty of the place that they tend to overlook the quality of the services. And as a result, management does not change. The state has been under the same Democratic Party management for years. Their monopoly on power is so safe that they now hold supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature despite California’s worsening condition. Management has no incentive to change when it keeps getting re-elected.”
Jim Breslo, Fox News

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

Spotted: a swarm of ladybugs so huge, it showed up on National Weather Service radar.

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