Concentrated Wealth or Democracy, but Not Both

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

In many uncomfortable ways, American politics now resemble those that arose late in the Roman Republic. As wealth and land ownership concentrated in few hands, a state built on the discipline of soldiers who tended their own farms became ever more dominated by fractious oligarchs. As property consolidated into huge slave-owning estates, more citizens became landless and ever more dependent on the patronage of the rich generals and landowners who increasingly seized control of politics.

In much the same way, as the wealth has concentrated in America, so, too, has the power exercised by those with money. The wealthy have always played an outsized role in our politics, but today, emboldened by Supreme Court rulings easing controls on contributions, oligarchs are dominating the electoral map in ways that have not been seen at least since the abuses of the Nixon years.

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Opposition Swarms Against Splitting California

John Seiler
John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 19 years, is a reporter and analyst for

Like hornets rising from a disturbed nest, opposition is swarming against venture capitalist Tim Draper’s proposed initiative to split dysfunctional California into six states, a couple of which might turn out functional. The Chronicle reports:

“Steven Maviglio, a Democratic consultant, and Joe Rodota, a fixture in GOP politics, have formed OneCalifornia, a committee that will oppose Draper’s “Six Californias” plan if and when the constitutional amendment gets on the ballot.”

And you thought there was a two-party system?

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Assembly Votes Against Free Competition in Delivering Public Services

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

Public unions demonstrated once again their hold over the majority Democrats when the Assembly passed a resolution to oppose out-sourcing of public services. The position taken by the Assembly throws out the notion that the goal of government is to deliver services in the most effective way. A secondary goal is to be frugal with taxpayers’ money. Those goals are subsumed by a resolution that clearly indicates that local governments must not consider alternatives to delivering services.

Free competition for government contracts likely would produce the best results in delivering services and controlling costs for local governments. While the non-binding resolution carries no force of law it sets up a scenario for legislators to pass anti-outsourcing measures as they come up.

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Why the New York Times’ Sentencing Commission Won’t Work

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 New York Times editorial page gave California some free advice recently, and it was worth every penny: establish a sentencing commission to fix your criminal justice system.

The paper’s argument was understandable. Our prison and justice systems are a total mess, with the prisons constitutionally overcrowded and the chief justice of the State Supreme Court saying that our courts are in crisis. And over the past few decades, the federal government and a number of other states have had sentencing commissions that produced significant reforms.

But things won’t be so easy in California.

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Reforming Campaign Finance-Let the Sunshine in

Alan M. Schwartz
President of Asset Management Solutions, headquartered in Torrance, California

The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down another campaign limitation—the cumulative amount an individual can give to campaigns.  So what else is new?

Money and politics go together like the birds and the bees.  Despite the almost universal disgust at the way campaign money distorts the democratic process, the reality is that it would be easier to repeal the law of gravity than to get money out of politics.  What we can and should do is get it all out in the open.

For those who wonder how millions of dollars can be spent on campaigns for political offices that barely pay six figures, you only have to look at what is at stake–budgets adding up into the billions and trillions, decisions that  shape the economic climate and make or break companies, policies that impact the pocketbooks and quality of life for all of us.  With so much at stake,  it is no wonder that political spending  has grown by leaps and bounds with no end in sight. Money goes to power and power goes to money.

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Up For The Count

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

Among the most-cited statistics by L.A. business leaders is this: We have fewer jobs right now in Los Angeles County than we did in 1990, even though the population has grown by 1 million people since then.

But they may not be able to trot out that line at local luncheon speeches much longer. That’s because the number of jobs locally has taken a big jump.

There were 4,155,300 non-farm jobs in Los Angeles County in February, according to the state’s Employment Development Department. That’s close to the all-time high of 4,196,700, set in February 1990.

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Donnelly’s Impact On Republican Candidates

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

With Democrats reeling from the criminal conduct of their own State Senators you’d think Republicans would be poised to take advantage of this embarrassment.  But that is not the case; recent polling shows that Republicans are about to embrace as their candidate for governor a legislator with his own problems with criminal conduct.

That would be Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernardino) who in 2012 was arrested for bringing a loaded gun onto an airplane at the Ontario airport.  Donnelly later brushed this off and was given probation as he pled no contest to violating the nation’s anti-terrorism laws, but since September 11, 2001, law enforcement has had little patience for those who endanger airline passengers with guns.

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California and Leland Yee: Proof One Party Rule Corrupts

Tom Del Beccaro
Former Chairman of the California Republican Party

Well over a century ago, British Lord Acton said that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Less remembered is the second part of Acton’s warning: “Great men are almost always bad men.” Acton came to his view as part of his deep concern about the centralization of power in government.

One party rule is a form of the centralization of power.  In California, there has essentially been one party rule in the legislature for two decades.  Part of that is the fault of Republicans, for not providing a vibrant enough alternative and reaching enough voters.  The Democrat lock on the legislature, however, reflects to a greater degree on the voters of California and the California Media.

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Lights, Camera and Action Now

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Last week, in the first step of what will be a long legislative journey, Assembly Bill 1839, which will retain movie and TV production jobs in California, passed its first committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote. We applaud the members of the Assembly Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism, and Internet Media Committee for their vision, but none of us can stop for even one television commercial to rest on this initial victory.

The expansion of California’s Film and Television Tax Credit program via AB 1839 is a response to a state of emergency. As the Los Angeles 2020 Commission pointed out at the end of last year, 183,783 people in L.A. County were employed in motion pictures and video industries in 1993 and by 2013 that number had dropped to 101,127. We are losing the leading role which California has held for 100 years. This is an emergency and it’s time for action.

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Does California Hate Marriage?

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)

This weekend, The Accident gets hitched.

The Accident is my term of endearment (really!) for my baby sister Katie, who arrived, unexpectedly, 11 ½ years after me and seven years after my brother. She is scheduled to exchange vows late Saturday afternoon in L.A.’s San Gabriel Valley with her longtime boyfriend, Matt, in a big family wedding that (my mother would like you to know) is costing a fortune.

I thought this family milestone was a totally unremarkable story—hardly worthy of a column—until I came across some data on California and its families. In our state, a seemingly conventional marriage is now exceptional. And Katie and Matt—who, if encountered on the street, would appear to be fairly conventional millennial professionals—just might be radicals.

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