Friday, February 12, 2021

Progressive Policies Fail in California

I am not sure why this counts as a big think piece. Ezra Klein’s New York Times article about how progressive policies are failing in California merely echoes points made by Joel Kotkin, over and over again.

Klein is not offering any news, except perhaps to New York Times readers.

His conclusion seems perfectly clear. California is a failed state. If progressive policies do not work in California why should they work anywhere else. I do not need to tell you, but Klein is going to suggest that the citizens of California are suffering from an ingrained conservative bias-- and that said bias is sabotaging the well laid plans of progressive activists.

Seriously, if you are incapable of seeing that the dopey policies you favor have produced calamities you should hand in your thinking cap. You have failed the first exam in pragmatic thinking.

California, as the biggest state in the nation, and one where Democrats hold total control of the government, carries a special burden. If progressivism cannot work here, why should the country believe it can work anywhere else?

In truth, California does not carry a special burden. California is a laboratory for certain democratic reforms. As Klein makes clear, they have failed, on a grand scale. The state is now being run by idiots. 

Witness his report about education in San Francisco:

You may have heard that San Francisco’s Board of Education voted 6 to 1 to rename 44 schools, stripping ancient racists of their laurels, but also Abraham Lincoln and Senator Dianne Feinstein. The history upon which these decisions were made was dodgy, and the results occasionally bizarre. Paul Revere, for instance, was canceled for participating in a raid on Indigenous Americans that was actually a raid on a British fort.

If you know nothing about American history, you are ill-placed to impose your ignorance on the rest of the city. And yet, isn’t diversity our strength. Don’t we believe in fighting systemic racism. When you put these dopey ideas into practice you tear down statues and ensure, by the by, that students are not in school. That is, children are not allowed to go to public schools, but private schools are up and running.

San Francisco is about 48 percent white, but that falls to 15 percent for children enrolled in its public schools. For all the city’s vaunted progressivism, it has some of the highest private school enrollment numbers in the country — and many of those private schools have remained open.

As is happening in New York and Chicago, this state of affairs derives from an unholy alliance between teachers’ unions and local government. And of course the Biden administration is siding with the teachers’ unions. When it comes to progressive values, ignorance must be high on the list. Ignorance makes it easier to manipulate your mind.

In principle, California is a rich state. It has a lot of very rich people. These very rich people run tech firms and control social media. They have done everything in their power to shut down opposing viewpoints. They exercise monopoly power over the marketplace of ideas. They have walled themselves off from the rest of the population, but if you dare mention the chance of building a wall they will shut down your social media accounts.

As it happens, there is no longer a middle class in California. The state has been hollowed out. There are the very rich and the very poor. There are a lot more poor than rich:

California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, when you factor in housing costs, and vies for the top spot in income inequality, too. There are bright spots in recent years — electric grid modernization, a deeply progressive plan to tax the wealthy to fund poor school districts, a prison population at a 30-year low — but there’s a reason 130,000 more people leave than enter each year. California is dominated by Democrats, but many of the people Democrats claim to care about most can’t afford to live there.

Of course, the notion that Democrats actually care about the impoverished many is rank dishonesty. Democrats care about enhancing the power of government to care for the needy. In order to justify allowing the government to run the economy and to replace the market in distributing goods and services, Democrats need an increasing supply of poor people. Ergo-- open borders.

Klein neglects to mention that California has been importing poor people in droves. It’s the state immigration policy.

Anyway, Californians are all-in with the right moral sentiments, but they also have zoning laws. Perish the thought. They do not want to see their property values decline and do not want these poor immigrants to move into their neighborhoods:

In much of San Francisco, you can’t walk 20 feet without seeing a multicolored sign declaring that Black lives matter, kindness is everything and no human being is illegal. Those signs sit in yards zoned for single families, in communities that organize against efforts to add the new homes that would bring those values closer to reality. Poorer families — disproportionately nonwhite and immigrant — are pushed into long commutes, overcrowded housing and homelessness. Those inequalities have turned deadly during the pandemic.

And, of course, California is full of true believers who believe in the gospel of climate change. And yet, they are incapable of building a high speed railroad. You recall that New York Times columnist Tom Friedman recently had the temerity to note that whereas you can take a train from Beijing to Shanghai in four hours, if you want to take a train from New York to Chicago you would be in it for twenty hours.

Cue the outrage. Stand up for the Uighurs. Unfortunately, it was true. Friedman was right. He might have asked about the Democratic politicians, the labor union leaders and the environmentalists who have made it more difficult to build anything, but he did not. Anyone who does not believe me should take ride on the New York subways. And then, try the subways in a place where they do not persecute Uighurs-- as in Paris, France. You will start thinking that the USA is becoming a third world country.

Mark Andreessen made the same point about America's failure to build, a long time ago, and got suitably excoriated.

Klein notices it too:

California talks a big game on climate change, but even with billions of dollars in federal funding, it couldn’t build high-speed rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The project was choked by pricey consultants, private land negotiations, endless environmental reviews, county governments suing the state government. It has been shrunk to a line connecting the midsize cities of Bakersfield and Merced, and even that is horribly over budget and behind schedule.

He continues to remark on the simple fact that environmental regulations stymie building. As though this is news:

Smaller projects are also herculean lifts. In San Francisco, for example, it took 10 years to get two rapid bus transit lines through environmental review. It’s become common in the state to see legislation like the California Environmental Quality Act wielded against projects that would curb sprawl. Groups with no record of green advocacy use it to force onerous environmental analyses that have been used to block everything from bike lanes to affordable housing developments to homeless shelters.

And of course the state response to the coronavirus pandemic was seriously impacted by the good intentions of the notably incompetent government bureaucracy. I cannot judge whether Gov. Newsom is as incompetent as New York’s own Gov. Cuomo, but surely the two are leading the field:

The vaccine rollout in California was marred by overly complex eligibility criteria that slowed the pace of vaccinations terribly in the early days. Those regulations were written with good intentions, as California politicians worried over how to balance speed and equity. The result, however, wasn’t fairness, but sluggishness, and California lagged behind the rest of the nation for the first weeks of the effort. Eventually, the state reversed course and simplified eligibility


urbane legend said...

Electric grid modernization.

At least it won't be overloaded by all that green energy production.

Sam L. said...

The STUPID is STRONG in California. In '80, I was reassigned to a base in Riverside. Bought a house up the hill to the east for $72K. I have to wonder what it would cost now... I'll never go back.

ErisGuy said...

Mark Andreessen made the same point about America's failure to build,

Trillions wasted on worthless social programs.