California’s policymakers have condemned Californians to endure contrived scarcity, unaffordability, and inconvenience in all of the basic necessities of life.
This is a crime, but it’s not a conspiracy. Rather, it is caused by a collection of powerful special interests whose political agendas align.
At the top of the pyramid are left-wing oligarchs, crony capitalists who want to protect their business interests. Whether it’s renewable energy, “connected” appliances, or homes built on those rare parcels of land that are entitled for development, California’s left-wing oligarchs benefit from artificial scarcity. But these direct beneficiaries are only a segment of California’s left-wing oligarchy.
The indirect financial benefits of artificial scarcity are even greater. As the prices of real estate assets ascend once again into bubble territory, as the earnings per share of public utilities swell on the strength of selling overpriced kilowatts, and as Silicon Valley firms see their stock values ascend into the stratosphere, wealthy individuals and investment funds, most assuredly including California’s public employee pension funds which manage over $800 billion in assets, see their portfolio values soar.
Which brings us to the final subcategory of left-wing oligarchs in California, the high-tech moguls of social media. These left-wing billionaires of Silicon Valley, along with their only slightly less well-heeled entertainment industry counterparts in Los Angeles, are the most influential opinion makers on earth. They shape values and behavior using tools that make the overwhelming mass propaganda breakthroughs achieved by radio in the 1930s appear as primitive as smoke signals by comparison. What is their agenda?
The communications kingpins of California have no allegiance to ordinary Californians—or ordinary Americans, for that matter. To them, ordinary people are Pavlovian proles, expendable parasites that pollute the environment. To the extent these kingpins have compassion, it is to profitably create for the expendable multitudes a benign zoo; smart cities of high rises, contained in areas as geographically minute as possible, so that only wild nature, corporate farms, and private estates of the super-rich exist outside the urban containment boundaries.
In these algorithmically managed metropolises, human values, including their voting behavior, will literally be programmed, using the most sophisticated and individualized techniques of manipulation ever devised. Borgcubes, aesthetically optimized by AI psychometricians, with soothing soft edges of gingerbread. Metaphorically speaking, Matrix-like cocoons. A Brave New World, complete with Sexophones and Soma. Get ready. Another innovation from California.
The Environmentalist Lobby
California’s socialist oligarchy probably can continue to consolidate their power without any help, but help is abundant. Most importantly, they have the help of the environmentalist movement.
Collecting legal fees and settlements thanks to a sympathetic judiciary, California’s environmentalist organizations have amassed immense financial power and political influence. And when all else fails, they now have the boogeyman of “climate change” to stop literally anything, anything that so much as scratches the earth, dead in its tracks.
Public Sector Unions
Enforcing the edicts of California’s socialist oligarchy are public sector unions; their full-time paid armies of lobbyists, operatives, political consultants, PR firms, and litigators. Their membership is both cowed and co-opted. California’s unionized public servants, while not entirely immune to the higher costs imposed on them by the oligarchy, are nonetheless exempted from its worst effects, because they are the most lavishly compensated public employees in America, if not the entire world.
The average total compensation (pay and benefits) for a full-time city, county or state worker in California in 2015 was $121,843. In that same year, the average full-time private sector worker in California made $62,475 (with benefits), which is 51 percent of what the public sector worker earned. That’s not all. This pampered class of public servants also enjoys, typically, 72 paid days off per year (no, that doesn’t include weekends).
How that breaks down is as follows: A veteran employee typically gets 20 vacation days, 12 designated holidays, two floating holidays, 12 “personal days,” and if they are on salary and they work eight hours a day for nine weekdays, through the very common “9/80” program, they get every 10th weekday off with pay. When they retire, if they work 30 years (most private sector workers put in 45 years), their average pension is nearly $70,000 per year, not including health benefits.
Public sector unions, which ought to be illegal, are squarely to blame for “negotiating” pay and benefit packages that threaten to force California’s cities and counties into bankruptcy despite sky-high taxes. California’s public sector unions are the most powerful in America, collecting and spending more than $800 million per year in dues and fees. These unions are, in most cases, avowedly socialistic, and in virtually all cases these unions have a political agenda in lockstep with the California’s left-wing oligarchy. As the most powerful permanent political organizations in the state, they are the brokers and enablers of corporate power.
In stunning irony, these unions also play a vital role in convincing ordinary Californians to vote contrary to their own best interests. There are two big reasons for this.
First, these unions proclaim themselves in solidarity with the working class, despite the fact that they represent workers who are much more likely to have financially transcended the challenges facing ordinary private sector workers. They conflate themselves with private sector unions, despite the fact that unlike private sector unions, they elect their own bosses, they are funded through compulsory taxes instead of through profits earned in a competitive market, and they operate the machinery of government allowing them to use that to intimidate their opponents.
Second, and equally insidious, these unions have taken over public education from kindergarten through graduate school, and they have now infected two generations of Californians with their left-wing ideology.
Thoroughly Indoctrinated Voters
While the elites represented in the above categories do represent millions of Californians, it is the influence they have on tens of millions of California’s voters that give them their political power. This starts with college educated liberals, often living in homes they’ve owned for so long that they aren’t adversely affected by property taxes (Proposition 13), and often living on the coast where they don’t have to spend thousands of dollars per year to heat and cool those homes.
These people live and work in educational, corporate, and media environments that are saturated with left-wing propaganda, and they don’t feel the harmful impacts of these policies enough to question them. Many of these liberals work in entertainment or high-tech, where their business model is primarily virtual, which prevents their exposure to the intrusive, stifling laws and regulations that affect businesses in the real world.
The other voting bloc that determines California’s political destiny, perhaps more than any other, are ethnic voters, or, to use a ridiculous, pretentious, obligatory phrase that makes normal people cringe every time they say it, “people of color.” The POC vote in California overwhelmingly favors Democratic candidates for public office. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, among California’s “likely voters,” more whites are registered as Republicans (39 percent), than Democrats (38 percent). But among Latinos, registered Democrats (62 percent) far outnumber Republicans (17 percent). Among blacks, the disparity is even greater: 82 percent Democrat versus a paltry 6 percent Republican. Among Asians, where the disparity is less, the Democrats still have a nearly two-to-one advantage, 45 percent to 24 percent. But can the Democratic grip on ethnic voters endure?
An Alternative Future for California
If you poke at the supposed unbreakable hold by Democrats on ethnic and racial minorities, you find cracks. Many Latino citizens actually favor immigration reform. Many Asian citizens fear affirmative action will rob their children of opportunities. Black voters in recent polls are supporting President Trump in percentages greater than any Republican in recent history. All “POC” are becoming increasingly incensed at the way the teachers unions have destroyed public education.
It wouldn’t take much to persuade California’s racial and ethnic minority voters that the Golden State’s artificial scarcity and high cost-of-living is something completely engineered by Democrats. California’s current Republican candidate for governor, John Cox, is doing a good job of educating voters on that subject.
And for that matter, what does “people of color” even mean, as greater and greater intermarriage occurs? Who is to say that a Mexican-American, with Christian European roots and a shared heritage of settling the American West, would not, does not, embrace American pride and American patriotism just as much as any other proud member of the American melting pot? Maybe all that California’s kaleidoscopic electorate needs is a coherent and unwavering pro-growth, pro-freedom vision, from a new coalition of patriots.
Something’s Got to Give
The biggest mistake that California’s socialist oligarchs can make is to assume they are unassailable. Their certainty could become their downfall.
It’s true that someday we will need to move beyond fossil fuel. It’s true that someday we will live in a world where borders slowly wither away and we are one global people. It’s true that eventually we will let machines do most of our work for us, and we will need to invent economic models that account for this new reality.
It’s even true that someday we may genetically engineer ourselves into transhuman beings. But those future days are not these present days, and for California’s socialist oligarchy to proclaim they have all the answers to trends this transformative displays stupefying arrogance.
While ordinary Californians are deciding between buying gasoline or paying rent, these elites are inventing new ways to make everything cost more. While immigrants from abroad and indigent Americans from east of the Sierras come to California to collect taxpayer funded benefits, these elites are prohibiting the types of economic and infrastructure development that might create the wealth to sustain them, along with those already here.
While commuters curse their way to work and back in clogged lanes on neglected freeways, these elites continue with their $100 billion bullet train project. While Californians pay more taxes than anyone else in America, California’s Democratic candidate for governor reaffirms his commitment to universal, single payer health care for everyone, free healthcare for non-citizen immigrants, free public pre-schools, and free community college education.
Something’s going to give. Preventing broader private sector participation in competitive development of housing, energy, water and transportation guarantees eventual failure of California’s existing socialist schemes, much less the new ones they’re promising. But so far, California’s elites benefit from and promote these financially unsustainable policies. It cannot stand. Rebellion is brewing. Resistance is not futile. New alignments and alliances are forming. One economic hiccup could be all it takes.
California’s extraordinary potential is diminished by this ruling class of socialist oligarchs, and their coercive utopian supporters. They think they have all the answers when in reality they are flirting with economic and cultural disaster. Republicans, or some new movement, need to offer Californians a vision of abundance instead of scarcity, through competitive development of natural resources, market-driven urban and suburban growth, realistic immigration policies, and a proud, assimilative message to its residents to join together as a united and prosperous people. Concurrent with an agenda of growth that is as pragmatic as it is optimistic, California’s socialist oligarchs need to be exposed for their hypocrisy, their hubris, their venality.
Be warned, America. Democrats do know what they want. They’ve been building it for years in California.
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Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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