Citizen Bannon

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Citizen Bannon came to California last week to address the Republican State Convention.  Bannon is the Republican Party’s answer to Maximilien Francois de Robespierre, the “citizen” revolutionary who in 1790 brought the Reign of Terror to the French Revolution. Having destroyed the French establishment by guillotine without trial, Citizen Robespierre was himself guillotined without trial in 1794.  Bannon wants to impose a similar reign of terror on the nation’s Republican establishment, and will probably suffer a similar fate, although it may take a while.

It is not odd that Bannon would come to California to attack the political establishment, but what is odd is who invited him: the California Republican Party.  As recently as two decades ago, the GOP was the political establishment in California, having elected three successful Republican governors over 25 years.

But no more; there is very little likelihood that there will even be a Republican in the runoff for governor next year, and there is no chance there will be a Republican candidate for US Senate.  The party’s share of California registration will fall below No Party Preference in 2018, and its donor class will continue shifting its funding to elect business friendly Democrats.

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Top 3 Surprises at Forum of Democratic Candidates for Governor

Laurel Rosenhall
Reporter, CALmatters

Four Democrats vying to become the next governor of California faced off for the first time Sunday at a forum in Anaheim hosted by a union for health care workers. The discussion focused largely on health care and labor issues—but it also gave the public the first glimpse at the intra-party dynamic that may shape next year’s campaign for the state’s highest office.

It’s early in the 2018 campaign. Other candidates may still step in. But for now,

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Treasurer John Chiang, former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa and former Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin are the most prominent Democrats running in this deep blue state. All voiced support for California’s new sanctuary law, which limits the circumstances when police can cooperate with federal immigration agents. And addressing an audience of union members, all four candidates predictably touted their support for, and experience with, organized labor.

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Is California’s Tax Burden “Fair”? 

David Kersten
Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy

A recent report by the highly regarded found that the State of California has been on a “taxing binge” over the past few years, having enacted a whole slew of recent tax increases such as the “gas tax,” the “cap and tax” energy taxation scheme.

The analysis found that the recent state tax increases “plus a slew of new local government levies and hikes in personal income and taxable retail sales, will raise total tax collections to just under $300 billion, or $50 billion more than they were just two years ago,” according to the report.

“Nearly $200 billion will go to the state and more than $100 billion to schools and local governments,” states the report, which concludes that California likely has the “highest” tax burden in the nation.   (Note:  As good as the original revenue analysis is, there appears to be several major revenue sources excluded such as “fee” revenue, county revenue sources, and “special district” revenue to name a few.  Based on my rough estimations the total state and local burden is likely closer to $400 billion, possibly more, if “all” revenue sources are included) 

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While LA Sleeps

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

California’s wine country fires delivered a vivid demonstration of the critical importance of governments being able to assemble armies of public safety workers when needed. Citizens expect their governments to provide public safety — but they also expect parks, animal shelters, transportation, road, sidewalk and tree maintenance, housing for the homeless, libraries and much more. What citizens don’t know is that some of their elected officials are systematically reducing the ability of their governments to both field adequate numbers of public safety personnel and fund other services. That’s because those officials refuse to acknowledge or address the explosive growth in pension and other retirement costs crushing their budgets.

Take Los Angeles. According to former First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner, retirement costs now claim 20 percent of LA’s budget, up 4x in just a decade. Because public safety comes first, that means less for streets and sidewalks, libraries and parks, housing the homeless and other services. Yet despite retirement costs now consuming one-fifth of LA’s budget and the city’s most recent Annual Report disclosing that retirement spending jumped 18 percent in just one year, the press release accompanying the mayor’s signing of LA’s latest budget said nothing about retirement costs. Not a single word.

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Wine Country Triumph

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

The deaths and damage of this year’s Wine County wildfires are a historic disaster. They are also the product of an epic California success.

That triumph is the growth of the wine industry, which has come to dominate our state’s land, culture and image. Indeed, it’s now outdated to refer to the burning stretches of Napa and Sonoma Counties as California’s Wine Country. The truth is that the whole state is Wine County. And these awful fires—and the hotter fires that are to come as the climate changes heats up—will only make it more so.

Californians frequently fight over water, but we famously connect through wine. It’s a passion and pursuit that binds together rural and urban, business and labor, Hollywood and Silicon Valley (both of whose stars dabble in it), and rich and poor (we produce both $3,499.97 Screaming Eagle varietals and the $2.99 Charles Shaw wines they sell at Trader Joe’s). Wine is at once an export that defines us to the world (only three nations on earth—France, Italy and Spain—produce more wine than we do), and our leading home remedy, the best available balm for a state that dramatically inspires the sweetest of dreams and the most bitter of disappointments.

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Spreading the California Gospel—Enlightenment or Plague?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

California has long been considered a bellwether state. What happens here often trends across the country. Is the same true with the Golden State’s turn to progressive politics?

Some hope the state’s positions on social, cultural and political issues are a vanguard to change attitudes and ultimately change policies across the country. That is part of the thinking for those who supported moving up California’s presidential primary to March to influence the agendas of Democratic candidates running for president with California sensibilities.

However, others think Californians going forth to spread a California progressive gospel around the country are carrying a plague.

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Divestment: A Dangerous Move for San Francisco

Carlos Solorzano
Chief Executive Officer of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco

If Californian billionaire Tom Steyer has his way, the San Francisco Employee Retirement System will soon dump its fossil fuel investments – $470 million in total – in a move known as divestment. Such a move would make the SFERS the first major pension fund in the nation to take this drastic action. Steyer pleaded his case for just that in an August 8th piece in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Unfortunately for working people in the state, divestment holds zero promise for attacking the issues that most Californians care about: making a liveable wage, obtaining quality healthcare, and saving for retirement. Neither does divestment do any good for the environment. The reality is that divestment by the SFERS won’t do anything to reduce the use of fossil fuels. As the late Joseph Dear, CalPERS’ former chief investment officer, once said, divestment is simply “a noble way to lose money.”

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Ring true or be silent

Andy Caldwell
COLAB Executive Director, guest editorialist, and radio talk show host

For whom the bells toll? Nobody. That is because UCSB, which has an annual budget of $760 million, can’t find $5,000 to maintain its Carillon studio, i.e., the 61 bells in Storke Tower that can be played like a piano.

Despite the fact that the campus spends $73 million per year on maintenance, UCSB claims it can’t afford to maintain the bells. So what to do? The university turned to crowd-sourcing. In other words, our UC system, with a $30 billion budget, is now officially a charity case.

Perhaps, the bells should go silent. This has to do with the quotes and dedications inscribed on the bells, which speaks volumes about how far the university has fallen. For instance, the largest bell carries the university seal and motto “Let there be light.” The truth is, the UC system now generates more heat than light, as it concerns freedom of thought, speech and assembly.

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Where America’s Highest Earners Live

Joel Kotkin
Editor of and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

The mainstream media commonly assumes that affluent Americans like to cluster in the dense cores of cities. This impression has been heightened by some eye-catching recent announcements by big companies of plans to move their headquarters from the ‘burbs to big cities, like General Electric to Boston and McDonald’s to Chicago.

Yet a thorough examination of Census data shows something quite different. In our 53 largest metro areas, barely 3% of full-time employed high earners (over $75,000 a year) live downtown, according to Wendell Cox’s City Sector Model, while another 11.4% live in inner ring neighborhoods around the core. In contrast, about as many (14.1%) live in exurbs while suburbs, both older and new ones, are home to 71.5% of such high earners.

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Chatter at the Chamber: Political Insights at CalChamber’s Public Affairs Conference

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Do Republicans have a chance in California? Seems a pointless question given California’s dramatic political turn to those left, all constitutional offices in the hands of the Democrats and a two-thirds supermajority of Democratic legislators.

Still, at the California Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Conference panel looking ahead to the 2018 elections, possibilities for the Republicans found some hope, if slim.

A poll done for the Chamber by PSB Research found under the generic question: Would you support a Democrat or a Republican for governor? the result was astoundingly close: 41% Democrat, 38% Republican.

What could account for such a result?

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