President Trump’s declaration during the State of the Union address that the United States will never be a socialist country set off rounds of debate and articles dealing with proposals from a number of Democrats that would move the country solidly to the left. While some Democratic presidential candidates will carry those ideas into the political marketplace, California could test moves of government takeover of responsibilities well before the 2020 election.
In a Wall Street Journal editorial last week, which listed an agenda that “sure looks like government control over production,” proposals from Democratic politicians include, Medicare for All; the Green Deal requiring the U.S. to be carbon neutral in 10 years; guaranteed government jobs; a new system for corporate control; and vastly higher taxes to pay for it all.
In California, like proposals have been put forth. The debate will center around the cost and big government’s effectiveness in taking a larger role in citizen’s lives.
The single payer issue for health care made it through one house of the state legislature in the last session and the issue has not gone away. Governor Newsom embraced the idea during the campaign, although he put on the brakes to slow the process since then. It is still an issue that finds support among Democrats in the legislature and friendly interest groups. Californians may hear a full debate on this issue before the presidential candidates are in full campaign mode.
In her CNN Town Hall, California’s Kamala Harris suggested eliminating insurance business as a by-product of Medicare for All. That would happen in California if single payer is implemented.
California continues to pass laws to promote renewable energy and proposals to punish the production of fossil fuels, including a new tax proposal on oil and gas production, AB 246, that will further hamper production. The South Coast Air Management District is toying with the idea of a sales tax increase to fund zero emission transportation vehicles among other clean air projects.
In a direct effort by government to possibly take over industry, strong consideration is being made by local governments to take energy delivery responsibility from PG&E in light of the company’s financial difficulties and fire related liabilities.
No job guarantee has come forth in California, but there is talk of guaranteed income supported by some Silicon Valley high-tech gurus and a test set for universal basic income in the city of Stockton.
While California legislators have not gone as far as Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to change corporate governance with mandated board seats for employees, the state did pass a new law mandating female positions on corporate boards. Could that foreshadow more meddling with corporate governance?
Then there is the tax issue. Despite a $15 billion state surplus, tax talk has not gone away in Sacramento.
If single payer comes to pass many taxes will have to be raised. The oil and gas tax proposal is already on the table as is the property tax increase on commercial property via the initiative process. There was a –so far—aborted effort to tax texting; a water tax proposed by the governor; and the afore mentioned sales tax for air quality, to name a few.
Of course all these taxes and more would not be enough to cover some of the proposed moves for governments to take over more responsibilities and in some cases, businesses like utilities or wiping away insurers with a single payer plan funded by taxpayers.
Where California rank-and-file Democrats are on these issues will be a test for any bills that trend socialistic. California Democratic voters backed Hillary Clinton over Democratic-Socialist Bernie Sanders in the state’s 2016 primary.
None other than prime political observer and strategist Willie Brown, the former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco mayor, had this to say in his Sunday San Francisco Chronicle column: “If he carefully picks his fights, Trump can turn the light back on Democrats and force us to defend our progressive wing’s “socialist” positions like health care for all, housing for all and guaranteed income.
Our candidates will have to pull further and further to the left to satisfy the party’s activist constituency, much like Republicans did in response to the rise of the Tea Party, and probably with the same results.”
The debate over socialism that has begun will certainly get an early hearing in California.