In a recent Facebook post, one of the many Republican candidates hoping to replace Governor Newsom had this to say:
“Californians can’t afford to make ends meet because Gavin Newsom and his allies keep raising taxes. We need to make our state more affordable for our middle class. I spoke to @EvieFordham [Fox Digital Reporter] about lowering the tax burden in our state.” Rah rah. This was a consultant approved message.
The problem with “lowering taxes” is that high taxes, and they are horrendously high, isn’t the biggest reason California has a punitive cost-of-living. Saying you’ll “lower taxes” is the irresponsible trope that Republicans and their billionaire backers (who, by the way, have now largely abandoned them) have been saying for decades. With Republicans, all we end up with is taxes increasing at a slower rate, while deficits increase at a faster rate. That’s our choice. It’s a false choice.
The biggest problem is not taxes, it’s regulations. Excessive regulations are the reason housing costs so much. Excessive regulations are the reason utility rates are so high. Excessive regulations are the reason good jobs are leaving California.
This actually does connect back to taxes, but taxes are the cart. Overbuilt government, seeking to justify its existence and feed for its prodigious mass, is the horse.
This is where California’s politicians could do something, if they had the will. And it’s what California’s insurgent candidates could at least make the focal point of their social media posts and public statements, if they had the courage.
Just imagine California with a governor bent on shrinking the state bureaucracy and reducing the size of the state government. The governor could issue an executive order to gut CEQA, since there’s plenty of Federal regulation already in place to protect the environment. An executive order could be used to reduce fees for all types of housing, not just the “low income housing” boondoggles that are nothing more than a giveaway to politically connected developers. An executive order could gut the provisions of AB 32 and SB 375 (etc.) that make it impossible to develop housing on open land. Don’t say this can’t be done. Newsom proved it can.
A governor with grit would instruct the California National Guard to construct homeless camps in the interior of California. One camp could go in North Los Angeles County, another camp could go east of the San Francisco Bay Area in San Joaquin County. They could be constructed using the same blueprint that governs refugee camp construction all over the world, and they could be sited on state or federally owned land. Homeless individuals could be moved into these camps within weeks instead of years, for millions instead of billions, with priority going to the drunks, the druggies, the crooks, and the crazies.
A governor with grit would explain that it’s not compassionate at all to leave these troubled people on the street. They would explain that heroin addiction is not a “lifestyle” and stealing is not a “poverty crime,” it’s a “crime.” Some of the billions that would be saved could be used to treat and train the people brought to these mass shelters. A governor with grit would fight every lawsuit and injunction that came their way, and would stay the course. Tens of thousands of people would get their lives back.
A persuasive governor with the support of the people could cajole California’s spendthrift legislature into spending money on infrastructure that matters. If California is destined to cope with another prolonged drought, then, for example, fix the Friant Kern Canal, and build the Temperance Flat and Sites reservoirs. Complete these projects in one term instead of taking three decades. The San Luis Reservoir, a twin to the proposed Sites project, was built back in the 1960s, and went from concept to being fully operational in six years. For that matter, the Golden Gate Bridge got built in three years. Three years.
A governor serious about developing resilience to “climate change” would talk about reviving the timber industry in order to thin the forests, create jobs, and instantly deploy crews (working for the timber companies, free of charge to the state and the PUC) to clear the fire roads and the powerline corridors, like they used to.
California’s gubernatorial candidates need to quit being a creation of consultants, focus groups and polling. They need to display an authentic edge, and match that to a comprehensive, controversial, and – most important of all – practical agenda. They need to promote this agenda without apology. Extreme environmentalists, sanctimonious tech moguls, and Hollywood celebrities are wrong. They’re wrong on the issues and their ideas are destroying the state. They are the reason nobody can afford to live here unless they’re either destitute and dependent, or independently wealthy.
Politicians that are serious about rescuing, reforming, fixing, or “compassionately disrupting” California need to prove they believe in ideas that have sharp edges. Build desalination plants. Call for more nuclear power plants. Approve safe fracking to tap California’s abundant and clean natural gas reserves. That will enrage the glitterati and the digerati. Too bad. It’s the right thing to do. There are millions of Californians that just need to hear this simple truth: If we shrink government and reduce regulations, the cost-of-living in California will become affordable again.
Abundance in all things cannot be achieved when a cabal of special interests have tied all development and enterprise up in knots. Similarly, practical infrastructure cannot be cost-effectively funded when literally dozens of government agencies and well funded litigators are able to delay projects for decades. Stand up to these special interests. Call them out. Recognize that their condemnation is the confirmation of your credibility. Lean in. Own it.
Last but hardly least, California’s gubernatorial candidates need to tell the teachers union that they will, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, fight them on the beaches, they will fight them in the streets, they will fight them in the hills, and they will never, ever quit. To offer just one of countless examples, proclaim loudly and often that AB 1316 issues from the pit of hell. And, of course, explain that the race and gender victim/oppressor model, the currency of the Left in general and the teachers union in particular, is both a profoundly destructive message and a conniving distraction from the true issue which is California’s punitive cost-of-living.
Aspirants to the governor’s office have been given a rare opportunity, thanks to an army of grassroots volunteers that collected over two million recall signatures. Respect this army, which speaks for tens of millions of Californians. Get serious. This isn’t business as usual. Show voters some grit. Words aren’t cheap when they trample on the pieties that are the instruments of genuine oppression. So let’s hear them.
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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