Bring common sense back to California: Doug Ose

Sacramento is broken — fractured by years of mismanagement by career politicians who are detached from the real-life challenges facing everyday Californians.

I was born and raised in California. I’ve raised my family and built my business here. For most of our lives, California was the land of opportunity. That hope has been eclipsed by a rising tide of crises and inept politicians.

The Golden State has more homelessness and poverty than any other state in the country. Housing costs and health care are becoming more costly and difficult to access. Crime is rising, energy costs are spiraling up, and operating a business has become nearly impossible.

These crises are man-made disasters stemming from years of bad policies and poor governance.

Chiefly responsible is Gavin Newsom. His zig-zagging lockdowns and over-regulations have crushed jobs and small businesses, and inflicted long-term harm on our children.

Newsom bowed to unions and delayed fully re-opening schools long after the science and data told us it was safe to open. All the while, his kids received in-person instruction at their private school.

Newsom and his wife partied maskless with elite Sacramento lobbyists at a swanky Napa Valley restaurant, swilling more than $10,000 in wine — while ordering small businesses to close and all of us to shelter in place.

On Newsom’s watch, $31 billion in unemployment benefits vanished into the pockets of thieves, after he ignored four warnings that this would happen.

Now is the time to reclaim the future of this great state for our children’s future.

I’m an independent businessman. I ran for Congress in 1998 on a promise to serve three terms and then go home. And I kept that promise.

Now I am running for governor to fix what is broken in our great state — and then I will go home.

As your governor:

• I’ll make sure our schools are re-opened to full-time, in-person instruction. I will stand with students and parents, not the teachers union, and I’ll institute school choice.

• I will end the reckless policy of releasing thousands of dangerous criminals into our communities.

• I’ll address the homelessness issue by focusing on the mental illness and drug addiction at the heart of this problem. While respecting constitutional rights, we need to be able to compel treatment when necessary.

• I will clear the red tape that’s fueling rising housing costs so supply can meet demand.

• Californians pay roughly 75% more than the rest of the nation for energy that is less reliable. We can lower costs and increase reliability by broadening energy generation and expanding consumer choice.

• I will modernize our water system by increasing surface storage, rationalizing our water delivery system and ensuring our agriculture economy has the water it needs.

I’m running for governor to provide independent, common-sense leadership for the sake of our children and to restore California as the land of opportunity.

Doug Ose previously represented California’s 3rd Congressional District.

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Could the crime surge give Newsom recall a push?

Those who want voters to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom joined crime victim advocates at the state Capitol last Tuesday to accuse the governor of being too lenient on lawbreakers as the state experiences a new wave of crime.

They castigated him for unilaterally suspending executions of murderers and making it easier for felons to win release from state prisons.

“The thing that really alarms me about what the governor did, is that it’s a continuation of policies to undermine the criminal justice system, and to put dangerous people back out onto the streets,” said Marc Klaas, whose daughter, Polly, was murdered 25 years ago by a recently released felon. The killer, Richard Allen Davis, is one of 737 murderers benefiting from Newsom’s death penalty suspension.

A few hours later, Newsom’s office announced that he would hold a press conference in Los Angeles Wednesday “on state action to address crime and reduce retail theft in communities across California.”

Newsom devoted much of the event to signing Assembly Bill 331, which extends an effort to crack down on organized shoplifting that has plagued California retailers in recent months. But he attributed the sharp increase in violent crime, particularly murders, to “a proliferation of guns on our streets” and noted that “There is not a state that’s been spared.”

The back-to-back events imply that crime may be a new front in the recall campaign and that Newsom feels the need to defend himself.

“In 2020, California saw a troubling rise of more than 500 homicides, the largest jump in state history since record-keeping began in 1960,” the Public Policy Institute of California says in a recent report. “Victims were predominantly Black and Latino, male, and killed by guns on our streets, parking lots, or in vehicles.”

Newsom’s comments about “a proliferation of guns on our streets” echoes declarations by gun control advocates that California’s surge of homicides results from a big jump in gun ownership. Californians legally bought a record 686,435 handguns in 2020 — a nearly 66% increase from the year before — and sales of rifles and shotguns also shot upward.

However, Newsom and other gun control advocates offer no proof of the connection. In fact, a new study by University of California-Davis researchers found no evidence that increases in legal gun sales resulted in more violent crime, seemingly refuting Newsom’s assertion.

“Nationwide, firearm purchasing and firearm violence increased substantially during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic,” the study by UCD’s Violence Prevention Research Program, concluded. “At the state level, the magnitude of the increase in purchasing was not associated with the magnitude of the increase in firearm violence.”

“Results suggest much of the rise in firearm violence during our study period was attributable to other factors, indicating a need for additional research,” the researchers added.

A more likely scenario is that Californians are buying more guns because their fears of becoming violent crime victims have increased. In recent weeks, the residents of three Northern California homes, one in Solano County and two in Stanislaus County, have shot and killed violent home invaders.

The surge in crime, both violent assaults and thefts, is real. The videos of brazen daylight raids on pharmacies and other stores, particularly in San Francisco, by thieves unafraid of either arrest or prosecution, have become cable television and YouTube staples.

While rising crime might not sink Newsom in the recall election a few weeks hence, if it continues to rise, he could feel the backlash when he runs for re-election in 2022.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to

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Good reason to be critical of a politicized race theory

SACRAMENTO – Americans can’t get enough of their knock-down, drag-out culture wars, as epitomized by the latest national battle over “critical race theory,” or CRT. Not many ordinary people could even provide a succinct definition of it, which is a 40-year-old academic notion that places race at the center of almost every national debate.

The theory – increasingly taught at the K-12 level, in universities and in corporate training seminars – postulates that America’s legal, economic and political systems are inextricably racist. It claims that such structural factors are permanent – and explain why minorities lag behind white Americans in their overall wellbeing, from wealth accumulation to rates of incarceration.

In recent weeks, Republican legislators have proposed a variety of laws that would ban its teaching in the classroom and discussion at governmental agencies. The GOP proposals are so imprecise and reactive that they won’t achieve the desired result and will threaten academic freedom and limit legitimate classroom discussions.

Nevertheless, CRT’s critics are right to excoriate its advocates. Frankly, the race theory’s defenders are being coy about their goals by claiming that it simply teaches Americans about the nation’s racial past. That’s disingenuous. They know that CRT is about advancing a controversial political and social agenda.

For instance, UCLA’s law school deans last year blasted the Office of Management and Budget’s decision to ban CRT training for federal workers. The theory doesn’t teach that America is inherently racist, they argued, but merely “invites us to confront with unflinching honesty how race has operated in our history and our present.”

If that were so, I’d defend it. I was pleased that schools and the media this year recognized the anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, where mobs of white citizens – backed by police and city officials – destroyed that city’s “Black Wall Street” neighborhood.

But highlighting neglected history is not what CRT is about, as any perusal of its literature will reveal. The theory is about advocating a set of controversial political objectives and social attitudes that would undermine our system’s foundation of constitutional rights, a market-based economy and equality before the law.

Like many pernicious ideas, it is rooted in some truths. One need only read about the slave ships, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement to understand the role of race in America. CRT starts with the idea that race has never been a neutral concept in our history, which sounds fine until one digs deeper.

“Working from this assumption, adherents of critical race theory tend toward a kind of progressive activism that views post-Enlightenment classical liberalism and its notions of equal opportunity, the prioritization of individual rights over group rights, and colorblindness with hostility,” Reason’s Robby Soave recently explained.

It’s one thing to teach history as accurately as possible, to seek out important lessons and examine the way common policies that were rooted in racial animus. But it’s far different to say, “American society is so plagued by racism that we must construct a legal system that is based on group rights or throw out traditional concepts of merit.”

It’s not hard to find CRT advocates making some loopy arguments. “’Ethnomathematics’ is being adopted or considered in many schools, particularly on the West Coast,” notes Hoover Institution’s Lee Ohanian. “Oregon’s Department of Education is promoting training using the ‘Equitable Math’ toolkit, which argues that, ‘White supremacy manifests itself in the focus on finding the right answer.’”

It also leads us toward an oddly Stalinist form of self-criticism, whereby Americans confess their “white privilege” or stamp out “microaggressions” –  “seemingly minute, often unconscious, quotidian instances of prejudice that collective contribute to racism and the subordination of racialized individuals by dominant culture,” according to a Purdue University fact sheet.

In 2015, the University of California was widely mocked for holding a seminar that taught faculty members that saying such benign phrases as, “America is the land of opportunity,” or expressing reasonable opinions (such as opposition to racial quotas) are “slights, snubs or insults” that amount to hostility against “marginalized” groups.

It’s not hard to see where this ideology leads: toward hypersensitivity, social-media shaming and self-censorship. Instead of broadening conversation, it leaves everyone at the mercy of the easily offended and most ideologically strident. Let’s at least not pretend that this theory has anything to do with a more fulsome teaching of U.S. history. And why should any curriculum be so overtly political?

Even when race theorists get a position right – e.g., the disastrous effect of the War on Drugs on African American communities – their fixation on racial animus leads them to ridiculous assumptions. Hoover’s Ohanian pointed to a California-approved CRT curriculum arguing that the drug war “was a racist tool to put non-whites behind bars.”

Americans should learn about our entire history, warts and all. But we shouldn’t put up with a political agenda dressed up like a history lesson.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute and a member of the Southern California News Group editorial board. Write to him at

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Prosperity and innovation require rule breakers

America has so many regulations that today, often the only way to do something new, to create something great, to prosper is to ignore rules.

Minutes before SpaceX launched a rocket, the government told the company that the launch would violate its license.

SpaceX launched anyway.

CEO Elon Musk says that the Federal Aviation Administration has “a broken regulatory structure” and that “there is simply no way that humanity can become a spacefaring civilization without major regulatory reform.”

But reform isn’t likely.

While businesses must constantly adjust to survive, once bureaucrats create regulations, they have no incentive to repeal them, ever. Instead, they add hundreds of new ones every year.

Musk complains that government “can overregulate industries to the point where innovation becomes very difficult. The auto industry used to be a great hotbed of innovation … but now there’s so many regulations that are intended to protect consumers. … Regulation for cars could fill this room.”

So, Musk broke rules to make Tesla the success it is. He knew he couldn’t innovate if he obeyed all of them. He’s flaunted the rules of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, even tweeting that SEC stands for “Suck Elon’s … “

So far, he’s gotten away with it.

So have a few others.

Adam Thierer, author of “Evasive Entrepreneurs and the Future of Governance,” explains why rule breakers are the best hope for innovation.

“When 23andMe came out with genetic testing by mail,” he says, “They didn’t get a permission slip from the Food and Drug Administration. They just started providing that service.”

Once the bureaucrats noticed, they ordered 23andMe to stop offering health insights based on genes.

“The product was off the market for over a year. That stopped genetic testing by other companies, too,” says Thierer. “Smaller players saw what the government did and said, ‘I don’t want that to happen to me.’” This delayed innovation for years.

“Maybe the only way to succeed today is to break the rules,” I suggest.

“Yes,” says Thierer. “Just to go out and try doing it.”

A group of parents whose children have diabetes did that. They developed software that helps people track blood sugar levels.

“Their hashtag is, ‘#WeAreNotWaiting,’” says Thierer. “What are they not waiting for? For the Food and Drug Administration to approve new insulin monitoring devices. Instead, they built them themselves. These devices were better than regulatory approved devices.”

But it only happened because they had the courage to do it without permission.

“Innovations come out of nowhere,” Thierer points out. “The problem is law sometimes blocks all of that and says, thou shall not until you get a permission slip. That’s the death of entrepreneurialism.”

Ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft prospered only because they didn’t ask for permission; they just created ride-sharing apps. By the time sleepy bureaucrats noticed and took steps to regulate Uber and Lyft to death, the company had so many satisfied customers that politicians were afraid to crush them.

Some regulation is useful. The alternative isn’t zero rules. “If a product is dangerous,” says Thierer, “it can be recalled. You can be sued. But don’t treat innovators as guilty until proven innocent.”

It’s easier to see how absurd regulators can be when you look at old regulations.

In 1982, after Sony’s Walkman came out, a New Jersey town banned wearing them while walking. “You couldn’t wear headphones because they would be a danger to yourself!” laughs Thierer. “Sometimes, laws stop making sense. Governments need to adapt.”

COVID-19 persuaded some governments.

Suddenly, it was OK if private companies made virus tests, if nurses and doctors practiced in other states, if doctors used telemedicine without obsessing about stupid privacy rules, if liquor companies made hand sanitizer, etc.

“All sorts of people started doing really interesting entrepreneurial things to try to just help each other out,” says Thierer.

“Those laws needed to change,” Thierer concludes, “But most changed only because people evaded the system.”

John Stossel is author of “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media.”

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The FBI’s unjustified targeting of Concerned Women for America

Forget Tucker Carlson and his fact-free ranting about NSA spying on him. I want to know why the FBI considered targeting the venerable Concerned Women for America for an “Embezzlement of Non-Profit Organizations/Corporate Fraud” investigation with no criminal predicate. First, some background.

For more than two years, the Cato Institute has been conducting a form of “citizens investigation” of the FBI and other federal agencies and departments that in the past were known to have engaged in domestic surveillance and related political repression operations. The most infamous of those FBI activities was its Counterintelligence Program, more commonly known by its acronym, COINTELPRO.

When COINTELPRO and related domestic spying activities conducted by the FBI, CIA, and NSA were exposed by the Church Committee in 1975, various laws and congressional oversight mechanisms were enacted that were designed to prevent a recurrence of those abuses. But there was a catch.

Instead of passing legislation to explicitly bar the FBI from engaging in politically-tinged surveillance (or worse), then-Ford administration Attorney General Ed Levi effectively pre-empted legislative action by promulgating what became known as the Attorney General’s Guidelines for Domestic FBI Operations. Sold as a way to prevent a return COINTELPRO-like activities, the AG Guidelines, as they became known, were a failure almost from the outset.

During the Reagan administration, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) was targeted by the FBI on a nationwide scale for surveillance and related activities. In the early 1990s, it only took one zealous FBI agent in Chicago to start one of the largest, and worst predicated, “international terrorism” investigations targeting Chicago area Muslims in the ironically named Operation VULGAR BETRAYAL. In the years after the 9/11 attacks, even the relatively weak and ineffectual internal safeguards ostensibly provided by the AG Guidelines effectively disappeared.

In December 2008, then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey modified the AG Guidelines by creating an entirely new class of FBI proto-investigation known as an “Assessment”. Unlike a normal FBI investigation, an Assessment requires no criminal basis to be opened—just the broad and nebulous formulation of an “authorized purpose.” And while FBI agents can’t—in theory, at least—utilize wiretaps when conducting Assessments on people or organizations, they can still conduct physical surveillance of Assessment targets, scour public and classified databases for information on them, and run confidential informants against them.

It’s a prescription for abuse. Which brings us to Concerned Women for America (CWA).

Earlier this month in response to a Cato Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the FBI provided a redacted but still very illuminating—and alarming—FBI Washington Field Office (WFO) “Charity Assessment” on CWA conducted in July 2016. The Assessment was opened “to determine the possibility of fraudulent activity.” Not “report of fraudulent activity”—just the “possibility.”

It was a pure FBI domestic surveillance “fishing expedition” for the digital age, with the agent focused on CWA’s alleged “two-star rating” from Charity Navigator, as well as searches of other commercial and government databases (all conveniently redacted by the FBI). I note here that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), responsible for approving FBI electronic surveillance under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, has repeatedly chastised—but not punished—the FBI for unwarranted digital database searches involving American citizens.

Despite alleged “red flags of fraudulent activity” (also redacted), the agent concluded, on the basis of “no derogatory information” in the many databases consulted, that opening a full investigation of CWA was not warranted.

The FBI should never have opened an Assessment on CWA in the first place.

At no time was there an allegation of actual fraud or embezzlement—just an FBI agent looking to meet a quota for how many Assessments they had opened during the reporting period. This is exactly what happens when fundamental constitutional standards for obtaining warrants or conducting searches and seizures are ignored, or, in the case of the AG Guidelines, effectively subverted as a matter of official policy.

Congress can fix this problem by passing legislation that bans quasi-investigations like Assessments, as well as reassert the requirement to establish probable cause that a crime has been committed in order to open an investigation on an individual or civil society organization. It should also investigate the current scale of the FBI’s misuse of Assessments to determine how many other domestic groups have been subjected to similar unwarranted investigations like the one on CWA.

Engaging in public debate and advocacy should not be a trigger for the FBI to investigate law abiding Americans.

Patrick Eddington is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He previously worked as a senior policy advisor and CIA analyst.

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Unions clash over UC outsourcing provision

“The pot calling the kettle black” is an old saying about hypocrisy, applied to someone who does something while criticizing someone else for doing the same thing.

The Capitol saw a classic political example of the syndrome last week during a long and otherwise tedious committee hearing on a lengthy and complicated state budget “trailer bill.”

We should all know by now that such trailer bills, which receive fast track approval because of their supposed connection to the state budget, have morphed into political Christmas trees with ornaments of special favors to those with political pull.

The measure in question, Senate Bill 132, is this year’s higher education omnibus bill containing dozens of provisions affecting the state’s colleges and universities and Section 67 is a favor to the unions that represent tens of thousands of non-faculty employees of the University of California.

It would, in essence, block all construction at UC campuses until an ad hoc assortment of union-friendly state officials had certified that the university had maximized its employment of unionized non-faculty workers and minimized – in fact virtually eliminated – outside contractors for support activities.

The issue has been percolating for years and the unions, principally AFSCME Local 3299, have obtained other favorable legislative decrees, but imposing mandates on the constitutionally independent UC system is legally difficult.

“For the past six years, we have worked with the Legislature on three bills, three budget language provisions and the constitutional amendment,” Local 3299 Kathryn Lybarger told the Assembly Budget Committee last week. “We’ve gone through policy and fiscal committees dozens of times and earned hundreds of yes votes. And yet, you see still insists on outsourcing, janitors who clean their toilets, groundskeepers who mow their grass, and cooks who prepare their food.”

Section 67 is the unions’ neutron bomb. They hope a threat to shut down construction will finally compel UC to end outsourcing.

UC officials obviously oppose it, saying that it would seriously impede campus improvements, including those affecting health and safety, while simultaneously declaring that they are honoring the previous decrees from the Legislature.

However, the threat of halting billions of dollars in construction work has drawn sharp opposition from another group of unions with oodles of political clout, led by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, whose members’ jobs would be affected.

Dozens of union representatives expressed their implacable opposition to Section 67 during the hearing, complaining that it was unfair that one union bloc would pursue its goals at the expense of another.

The hypocritical aspect of the construction unions’ opposition to the UC unions’ efforts to legislate job security for their members is that the “the trades,” as they are called in the Capitol, have been doing exactly the same thing.

They have insisted that virtually every legislative bill to increase the supply of housing contain language that, in effect, requires the use of union construction workers, even though it sharply increases costs. The boilerplate language that the trades insist be included refers to a “skilled and trained” workforce that includes apprenticeship training administered by the unions.

“You cannot address poverty and housing by driving construction workers and our families into poverty,” said Robbie Hunter, the Trades Council president, told CalMatters recently. “It just doesn’t work.”

Whether UC unions or construction unions should rely on legislative mandates to bolster their memberships is certainly debatable.

However, there’s no uncertainty that the political infighting over Senate Bill 132 and Section 67 is hypocrisy in its rankest form.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to Commentary.

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Actually, more COVID restrictions resulted in greater economic harm

At our recent forecast update conference, we reported that the COVID-19 recession slammed California’s economy leading to a 9% loss in jobs in 2020 versus a milder loss of 6.7% in the U.S.

In a recent article of mine published in COVID Economics, I showed that California suffered more job losses because of its aggressive COVID-19 lockdown policies. As measured by the Oxford University index, California’s 2020 annual average daily stringency score was 60.4 versus 50.2 for the U.S. That stringency score of 60.4 ranked California as the 6th highest of all 50 states.

The close relationship between higher stringency scores and higher job losses can be seen by dividing the 50 states into five groups of 10 states each in order of stringency. For example, the ten states with the lowest Oxford University stringency scores (18.4 – 36.1) experienced an average job loss of 5.1%. The next highest stringency group of states (36.5 – 40.0) had an average job loss of 6.0%; followed by states (40 – 43) with an average job loss of 8.1%; followed by states (44 – 48) with an average job loss of 8.3 percent; followed by states (49 – 61) with an average job loss of 10.4%.

These findings provide strong statistical support that California’s higher job losses than the nation in 2020 were caused by its more restrictive mandates. Rigorous support of this conclusion is provided by using more sophisticated statistical procedures (multiple regression analyses) that show the exact relationship between stringency scores and jobs. Specifically, my findings show that as states become more restrictive as measured by their Oxford stringency scores, job losses in those more restrictive states increase. Not only that, but the degree of job losses increases at an increasing rate.

This statistical finding suggests that as states like California become increasingly aggressive in imposing mandates (like closing K-12 schools), the economic loss for those states is exponentially greater than those states that followed a more moderate policy. Texas, for example, had a stringency score of 50.5 (close to the national average of 50.2) and, as a result, experienced an average job loss of 4.8% versus California’s 9%.

If California’s stringency were closer to the national average of 50.2, my empirical findings suggest that California would have saved about 370,000 jobs, a total similar to the population of Anaheim, California’s 10th largest city.

These job losses in California did not occur only in low-paying job sectors like leisure and hospitality. Our recent update of the Chapman-UCI innovation index through the third quarter of 2020 shows that just as COVID-19 hit California harder in overall job losses, it also led to lower job growth in innovation industries in California as compared to the U.S.

California’s aggressive strategy in mandating harsher stringency regulations is reflected not only in lost jobs but also in lower real gross state product – the most comprehensive measure of a state’s economic output. My empirical findings show that real gross state product was about a half percent lower because California’s stringency score was 10 points higher than the average score for all states. That translates to a loss of $87 billion in real gross state product.

Even more startling are my findings that reveal the economic cost per life saved associated with California’s more aggressive policies. After holding all other explanatory factors constant, the economic cost per life saved in California was $1.4 million, about 30% higher than the $1.1 million average cost per life saved for the nation.

It should be noted that my research showed that increasing stringency saved lives. No doubt, higher stringency scores are associated with lower COVID-19 death rates. But unlike jobs and gross state product, where the economic costs increased exponentially with higher scores, the COVID-19 death rate decreased at a diminishing rate.

By pushing past the average stringency score of 50, California’s job and income losses rose rapidly while the number of lives saved diminished. That, in turn, suggests that the sweet spot in terms of optimal stringency strategy is to stay closer to the national average rather than push the boundaries.

James L. Doti is president emeritus and professor of economics at Chapman University.

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Why did tougher COVID restrictions help state economies?

In April 2020, with the pandemic in full swing, the Economist published: “A Grim Calculus: COVID-19 presents stark choices between life, death and the economy.” Soon Americans were blaming the lockdowns for recession and, in the words of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, “the destruction of millions of lives across America… without any corresponding benefit in COVID mortality.” Before the end of the year, some states, notably Texas, were ending COVID restrictions with the goal of improving their economic activity.

Now that 2020 is mercifully in the past, we have data (from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis) to evaluate the “grim calculus” in each state. And looking at that data—especially for large states, which have more diversified economies—the results may surprise. It’s hard to find any real trade-off between COVID lockdowns and decreased economic activity.

If anything, we find the opposite.

First, let’s step back and look at larger state data. Of those states that performed better economically than the U.S. as a whole in 2020, the state of Washington, with greater than average COVID restrictions, took first place. Then came three less COVID-stringent states—Arizona, Colorado and Georgia—followed by three more stringent states—North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia.

Then, in eighth place, came California, one of the most stringent states. After California, only three other states outperformed the country economically—Texas, Indiana, and Florida, all less stringent. Across these 11 states it is hard to find a trade-off; states with more COVID restrictions did well economically and those with fewer restrictions also did well.

And if we look beyond those 11 states to all states, we find a striking pattern: States with more stringent interventions had on average better economic outcomes and better health outcomes.

Is this just a statistical anomaly? The answer seems to be no. One reason to be confident of the result is to look at other countries. Consider, for example, Sweden, well-known for having few stringent COVID measures. In 2020, Sweden had worse health outcomes than the similar Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Finland. At the same time, its economic outcomes during the pandemic were no better than any of its healthier neighbors.

The finding also fits with history. A 2008 Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis survey of the 1918 influenza pandemic found that St. Louis, which took the flu more seriously and opened up later, had better economic and health outcomes than Philadelphia, a city that opened up sooner.

Similarly, 2020 research into the 1918 pandemic found that cities with more stringent interventions had better employment gains and better health outcomes.

What explains this seemingly strange but persistent result? The power of government signaling.

When a state indicates through policy and pronouncements that it takes the pandemic seriously enough to impose measures (sometimes extreme) to control the spread of the disease and protect public health, it is sending a message to its citizens. Part of that message is about businesses. The state is saying that there are protocols in place to make open businesses as safe as possible, and were that not possible, the businesses would be closed.

But when a state indicates through policy, as Sweden did, that individuals should make a choice as to what they do during a pandemic and that the government will not choose for them, it sends a different signal. It is saying, “Citizens, you are on your own, choose wisely.” So, while an open business will be busier than a closed one, the open businesses are likely to do better in a place with more stringent restrictions.

Does this show up in data? Yes, in some ways. Using OpenTable’s data for the pandemic, a decline in the number of diners was more dramatic for restaurants and bars in California than Texas. However, for those individual businesses were open, hours worked by employees fell by only 1.5 percent in California versus an 8.9 percent decline in Texas. But this is simply cherry picking two states. The decline in the number of diners in Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Ohio was comparable to that in Florida, Georgia, and Missouri even though the former were closer to California in restrictions and the latter closer to the Swedish approach.

The retail sector data paint a similar picture. For the same large states mentioned above, there is no significant correlation between changes in retail sales and the stringency of COVID interventions. A similar analysis of retail purchases by type of store also shows no correlation between interventions and the volume of sales. And, for the smallest 10 states, the same result holds true. People headed to online platforms to purchase goods at about the same rate regardless of the stringency of interventions.

The bottom line is that people respond to the information they have and the signals they receive from their government. Clearly, business closures increase unemployment in affected sectors. But there is no evidence to suggest that closures and other public health interventions have led to worse economic outcomes. So, the trade-off, such as it is, must be between sectors directly impacted by interventions and, in states and countries with fewer interventions, voluntary lower demand and more work absenteeism due to higher overall infection rates.

Knowing all this, you might still believe that the freedom to choose is valuable enough to pay the societal and health costs of that freedom. But empirically it is not a trade-off between health and economic outcomes. It is a trade-off between the freedom to choose and public health.

Jerry Nickelsburg is faculty director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast and a former columnist for Zócalo Public Square.

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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ironic warning over climate change rhetoric

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently that people have “tuned out” the climate change activism movement because it is “stuck in despair and confusion.”

The activists are “wearing the public out” with their apocalyptic warnings of an “existential threat” to life on earth, Schwarzenegger warned in a speech at a climate summit he co-hosted in Austria. He said the focus should be on pollution from fossil fuels, “because that kills people.”

Schwarzenegger knows storytelling. He made the point that audiences need hope. He cited one of his films, “Predator,” to illustrate the positive reaction that people had to the line, “if it bleeds, we can kill it.”

“If pollution is created by humans, it can be solved by humans,” he said, “We can kill it.”

What he was talking about was the importance of volition in storytelling, the idea that people can take action to effect changes in their situation. It’s the opposite of the gloomier philosophy that we’re all just playthings of fate awaiting our doom.

Climate activists have succeeded in persuading many people that we’re on our way to human extinction and picking up speed. Schwarzenegger warned that this has created “constant alarm which cannot be sustained.”

Another hint that pollsters are picking up signs of trouble for climate alarmism can be seen in a recent fundraising email from a climate activist group, It quotes a leaked draft of the latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that purportedly warns of “irreversible climate impacts,” and “much sooner than originally expected, causing even more extreme weather patterns, unlivable heat, widespread disease, ecosystem collapse… the list goes on.”

Then it asks for money, because “this crisis is so very urgent.” Apparently sending them $3.50 cents will help to “prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis.”

That’s followed by this: “The last thing I want, Susan, is for you to read this email and come away from it feeling hopeless or discouraged.”

We’ve left the action movie and we’re in a comedy. The world is coming to an end, but gosh, chin up!

If anyone in Hollywood still had a sense of humor, the climate movement would make a great setting for a farce.

The wild exaggerations of climate doomsayers have been called out by longtime environmental activist Michael Shellenberger in a 2020 book titled, “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All.” In the introduction, he describes himself as “fed up with the exaggeration, alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of a positive, humanistic, and rational environmentalism.”

Some of the chapter titles: “It’s Not the End of the World,” “Enough with the Plastic Straws,” and “All About the Green.”

Let’s just say there’s a lot of money to be made in “grassroots” fundraising for causes that align with the business interests of various players in the energy sector of the economy. On all sides.

Fundraising in the climate movement isn’t limited to voluntary donations from people on a mailing list. In 2014, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. taxpayers would contribute $3 billion to a new international fund to help the world’s poorest nations address the effects of climate change.

Who gets that money and on what is it spent? These are questions that are rarely asked and even more rarely answered. Climate alarmism facilitates the movement of billions of dollars from one set of pockets to another, and there is no evidence anywhere that this policy of wealth transfer is doing anything to affect the climate.

Yet it’s all sold to the public as “doing something” to stop climate change.

In 2006, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, which committed the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The law put the California Air Resources Board in charge of figuring out how to do this, and CARB came up with a cap-and-trade program that essentially requires utilities, refineries and manufacturers to pay an extra fee for operating. The cap-and-trade program operates like a tax. It increases the cost of gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity and heat, and it raises the price of everything that’s made or moved in California, where the high cost of living has contributed to the highest poverty rate in the nation, according to the Census Bureau.

What has it done for the climate?


Meanwhile, the mandate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California has affected decision-making on everything from road repair to housing construction. Driving is considered an “impact” that increases GHG emissions, so your gas taxes are being used to build bike lanes, and new housing construction in outlying areas, where homes would be more affordable, is virtually banned. That’s why state lawmakers are attempting to force high-density housing into existing single-family neighborhoods; the old pattern of expanding the suburbs to new areas where young families can happily buy homes is considered bad for the climate. So young people are told the world is ending, and then they can’t afford to live anyway.

That’s very depressing, very discouraging, and very unnecessary.

With his signature on AB 32 and his advocacy of useless climate policies, Arnold Schwarzenegger did more than anyone to cause California’s housing crisis, high energy costs and high poverty rate.

Now he says it’s time to stop depressing the public.

Maybe it’s time to stop manipulating public opinion and open up a new debate about the cost, effectiveness and unintended consequences of the policies he has promoted.

Susan Shelley is an editorial writer and columnist for the Southern California News Group. Twitter: @Susan_Shelley

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Progressives pushing regressive taxes in California

Why do progressives love regressive taxes?

The news that, as of July 1, several cities in very liberal Alameda County have increased their sales tax rate to a staggering 10.75%, got us thinking about how many of California’s recent tax hikes have been regressive. In fact, despite the claim that progressives like to “tax the rich,” many of the big tax hikes seen in the state — both at the state and local level — fall disproportionately on the working poor and lower middle class.

Here, it is important to define the terms. According to the Tax Foundation, a regressive tax is one where the average tax burden decreases as income increases. Low-income taxpayers pay a disproportionately high portion of their income in taxes, while middle- and high-income taxpayers pay a relatively low one. A progressive tax, on the other hand, is one where the average tax burden increases with income. High-income families pay a disproportionate share of the tax burden, while low- and middle-income taxpayers shoulder a relatively small tax burden.

Sales taxes are particularly regressive.

Matthew Gardner, executive director of the left-leaning Institute of Tax and Economic Policy agrees that sales tax hurts the poor most, noting that they end up taking a bigger chunk of change from people that have smaller sums of money and slower income growth.

A major factor in this is that a higher percentage of spending by the poor is spent on taxable consumer goods.

So here is a question for progressives: If sales taxes disproportionately hurt the poor and working class, why does California have the highest state sales tax rate in America? The base rate of 7.25% is bad enough but when all the local add-ons are included, it’s not just Bay area cities that are well over 10%. So much for looking out for the little guy.

Another example of a highly regressive tax is the gas tax. Not only are most excise taxes regressive, but the gas tax is particularly so in that the poor and middle class are less likely to drive fuel efficient cars — and certainly not Teslas. Moreover, it’s not the wealthy who rely on pickup trucks and commute long distances to job sites, it’s more likely people who work in the construction trades.

Adding insult to injury, California has an even more harmful feature of the gas tax. Because the state’s sales tax is imposed on the total cost of a gallon of gas which includes the gas tax, we not only have a double tax on gas in California, we have a regressive tax imposed on another regressive tax.

The third example of a regressive tax is a creature called “parcel taxes,” an added tax on top of the ad valorem (based on value) property tax that homeowners already pay. Parcel taxes are usually flat-rate taxes imposed on property irrespective of value. Therefore, the retired couple living on a fixed income in a modest bungalow pays the same amount as the owner of a multi-million dollar mansion in Beverly Hills. In short, parcel taxes represent one of the most regressive forms of taxation imaginable.

Returning to the question posed at the top as to why progressives love regressive taxes, the answer is that regressive taxes are more broad-based and stable as opposed to, say, income taxes.

True, California’s income tax is progressive, taxing the very wealthy at the highest rate in the nation — 13.3% — but as those high-wealth taxpayers engage in tax avoidance strategies — such as leaving the state — our progressive political class will increasingly feast on the working poor and middle class with even higher regressive taxes. That is, until they move out too.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

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