How to Realign California Politics
The working class, which still constitutes a supermajority of California’s voters, is being destroyed by the policies enacted by the Democratic party. This is why political realignment in California can happen fast.
In three fundamental areas, public education, land use, and energy infrastructure, California’s current policies are destroying lives, livelihoods, and land. And in all three of these areas, the solutions that will work challenge core premises that California’s Democrats have relied on to claim the moral high ground. But these premises must be defied, because Democrats do not hold the moral high ground. They are ruining everything, from our cities to our forests. How can that be moral?
Dismantling the Public School Monopoly
The obvious example, where a realignment tipping point has already almost been reached, is the moral imperative to nurture the next generation. Everyone agrees: Teach the children well, that they might all have a chance at a bright future. But California’s public schools are failing their students, and the problem is the worst in low income neighborhoods where the importance of a good public education is the greatest.
The solution is equally obvious: Public schools need to experience competition. Parents need to be able to choose from an assortment of accredited K-12 schools; public, public charter, virtual, parochial, private, homeschool, and micro-schools.
To implement school choice, education advocates need to stop trying to push whatever baby step their consultants and donors claim is politically possible, and do what is right. They need to demand school vouchers that parents can redeem at whatever school they wish. Voters have had enough. They’re ready to vote for vouchers.
The biggest barrier to vouchers are the teachers’ unions, whose state and local chapters combined collect nearly a half-billion in dues each year. These unions use hefty portions of that money to buy politicians and lobbyists, impacting legislation that protects their monopolies.
But they are not doing this “for the children.” The do not hold the moral high ground. They oppose school choice because as a monopoly they can perpetually acquire more members, more dues, and more power. And the parallel moral dimension, at least for the leadership of these teachers’ unions, is they can use their control over the public schools to indoctrinate California’s children.
Dismantling the Density Delusion
If there is any area where years of indoctrination have turned ideologically driven opinions into supposed facts beyond dispute, it is in the area of environmentalism. And one of the most fundamental premises of environmentalism, often overlooked, is the delusion that higher density urban areas is necessary to protect the planet. The moral imperative is to save the earth, with “climate change” as the most urgent threat. But no matter what your opinion is about climate change, cramming California’s population into the footprint of existing cities will not have any impact whatsoever on the climate. All it will do is guarantee that housing is unaffordable forever.
If school vouchers is the revolutionary concept that will rescue K-12 education in California, more suburbs on open land is the revolutionary concept that will restore home affordability in California. Almost every premise of the “anti-sprawl” lobby is ridiculous and must be challenged. Single family homes of one or two stories are far less expensive per square foot than multi-story buildings. Building utility infrastructure for new suburbs is less expensive than tearing up streets and easements to retrofit utility conduits to accommodate higher density in cities.
The claim that expanding suburbs contributes to climate change is also ridiculous. Jobs will follow workers to new suburbs. People telecommute. Cars are becoming greener every year.
The idea that land is scarce is equally ridiculous. Using data drawn from 2017 USDA data, only 5.1 percent of California’s whopping 164,000 square mile area is given over to residential, commercial, and industrial use. California’s total urbanized land, 8,280 square miles, is insignificant compared to its 42,498 square miles of grassland, with about half of that used for cattle ranching and dryland farming. To develop a mere 20 percent of this grassland would allow California’s urban footprint to double.
The array of legislation and executive orders designed to prevent new suburban development in California is overwhelming. These laws and executive orders must be overturned, possibly through a constitutional amendment put before voters in the form of a ballot initiative. There is no environmentally compelling reason to block development of new towns and suburbs along California’s major freeways, 101, I-5, and 99, especially if these developments are on rangeland which is of marginal agricultural value and of which only a fraction would be developed anyway.
Expressed as a percentage of California’s vast area, the amount of land necessary to unlock suburban development again on open space is trivial. If ten million Californians moved into homes on spacious quarter-acre lots, four per household, with an equal amount of space developed for new roads and commercial development, it would only consume 1,953 square miles – this would be a 24 percent expansion of California’s urban footprint, i.e., from 5.1 percent to 6.2 percent of all land in the state.
To deny this opportunity to make home ownership affordable to California’s hard working low and middle income residents is based on misanthropic, cruel lies. Allowing suburban development on open land is a moral choice. Until it is again permitted, housing in California will never be affordable.
Dismantling the Renewable Energy Delusion
California’s ruling elite has decided that its citizens will bear the brunt of being the bleeding edge of a global transition to “renewable” energy. But by forcing this advance via government decree, they risk impoverishing a generation merely to leave a legacy of obsolete technologies.
A perfect example is Governor Newsom’s recent decree that new gasoline powered cars cannot be sold in the state after 2035, a mere 14 years from today. What if technologies are found to make gasoline powered cars even cleaner? Or what about natural gas powered cars? What about cars like the Chevy Volt, an extraordinary engineering accomplishment that allows all-electric driving for short commutes, but also delivers 50 MPG in city or freeway driving when in gasoline mode? The Volt died an unwarranted death because California’s green despots did not consider it sufficiently green.
And if California’s energy future is to be exclusively electric, why isn’t nuclear power an option? Why is Diablo Canyon, which could run for several more decades, being decommissioned? Why is California suing the federal government to stop them from increasing the height of Shasta Dam, which would increase hydroelectric capacity?
The selective use of facts to promote “renewables” in California is epic. What sort of analysis has been done as to how much of California’s solar panels, wind turbines and batteries have to be imported? What about lithium and cobalt, imported from nations where the environmental abuse and labor conditions are hideously worse than anything in the U.S.? Why aren’t mining concerns allowed to exploit the abundant lithium deposits in California’s Mojave Desert?
Then there is the question of what happens to all these “renewable” installations when they degrade and have to be replaced. How long will these solar panels and batteries last, and how will they be reprocessed? Even if California achieves a 100 percent renewable electric energy infrastructure, how can it ever be scaled to be applied worldwide, given the raw materials required and the fact that today solar and wind only supply 3.8 percent of global energy? What about new technologies that may come along and render this massive sacrifice obsolete?
Californians deserve reliable and cheap energy. This means nuclear power, hydroelectric power, and clean natural gas. Doing this makes life affordable for working families, and also makes it easier for manufacturers to come back to California, bringing with them well paying jobs.
Destroy the Premises of Misery that Masquerade as Morality
Much more can be said about policies in California that harm people and the environment, but these three are foundational. If you fix the schools you reduce crime and enable upward mobility. If you deregulate so you can build new suburbs on open land you make housing affordable, reduce the overall cost-of-living, and reduce homelessness. If you back off these extreme renewable energy mandates you reduce the cost-of-living and stimulate economic growth.
The premises that must be challenged and destroyed, because they are utterly false, are the following:
(1) More money to feed the teachers union monopoly does not help children learn.
(2) Packing people within the footprint of existing cities does not help people or the environment.
(3) “Renewable” energy is not cheap or reliable, and it is not helping the environment.
The policies that must be promoted without reservations or apology, because they are moral choices that will make California livable again, are the following:
(1) School vouchers must be implemented, so parents can choose whatever school they want for their children.
(2) The regulatory barriers to suburban land development must be all but scrapped, so housing that people want will be affordable.
(3) Hydroelectric, natural gas, and nuclear power must be expanded in California, and renewables mandates must be reduced, so energy will be affordable and reliable.
California’s voters need to understand that these failed policies are pushed by special interests that benefit from misery. The teachers union has a monopoly on education, and the worse things get, the more money they demand. The major corporations, the investment banks, and the pension funds are all in a position to benefit from artificial scarcity of land, because it pumps up the value of their real estate portfolios. The tech giants and the public utilities love renewable energy, because it drives a much larger percentage of consumer spending into paying for overpriced electricity, along with creating a mandatory market for the “internet of things” to manage energy consumption.
Politicians that advocate for school vouchers, suburban expansion, and conventional energy will be viciously attacked by self-righteous zealots, backed up by self-serving billionaires. But the politicians with the courage to stick to this revolutionary agenda will win, because it serves the people instead of the bureaucracy and the billionaires.
This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.
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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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