Predicting California’s Economic Health

Dean Bonner and Eric McGhee
Dean Bonner is a research fellow at the Public Policy Insititute of California and Eric McGhee is a senior fellow at the Public Policy Insititute of California.

After a record expansion, recent signs suggest the nation’s economy may be softening. Unusual patterns in the bond market, signs of slower growth overseas, and the uncertainty of the ongoing trade conflict with China have all raised fears that a downturn may be on the horizon. Yet it is still unclear whether the country is actually headed for a recession. Moreover, all these signs focus on the United States as a whole (or even the whole world). It would be helpful to have more signs for the California economy in particular.

The PPIC Statewide Survey can offer one such sign. The survey has amassed an enormous amount of data on Californians’ views of the economy. For more than 20 years, it has asked survey participants whether they think California will have good or bad economic times in the next 12 months. This question was adapted from the University of Michigan Index of Consumer Sentiment and has been asked of everyone: rich and poor, politically engaged and disaffected, citizen and non-citizen.

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Legislature: Beat Up Trump if You Must, but Fix SB 1

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

In the California legislature, standing up for the environment while taking a shot at the Trump Administration is business as usual. But when business as usual casts a wide net that comes with consequences that can interfere with the state’s agriculture and the state’s economy then legislators should have second thoughts. Such is the situation with Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ SB1

The bill is intended to protect the environment against measures put forth by the Trump Administration to weaken current environmental laws. While the law has good features, freezing environmental law at its 2017 status could restrict advancements in water management. Water to agriculture is like blood in the human body—if it doesn’t keep pumping through the system things die.

Secondly, SB 1 continues a dangerous trend the legislature places on California businesses by opening another door for private attorneys to sue businesses for not living up to the rules without a chance to fix any problems.

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Newsom’s No Good, Very Bad Late Summer

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)

How do you know when a politician is having a bad stretch? When he’s coming down in favor of measles outbreaks and utility bailouts, and against community newspapers.

That’s where Gov. Gavin Newsom finds himself at the end of the legislative session. 

First, he has foolishly demanded last-minute changes in a well-crafted pro-vaccine bill that state lawmakers passed in the face of harassment and death threats. That has begged questions about Newsom’s honesty—since he previously made a deal with the bill’s author—and more so about his judgment, since we’re in the middle of a measles outbreak (and since he’s met with anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr).

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Newsom wheels and deals

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Gavin Newsom wasn’t born when the TV game show “Let’s Make a Deal” began its run but he’s channeling its host, Monty Hall, during the final days of his first legislative session as governor.

Every few days, it seems, Newsom announces that he and legislative leaders have agreed on one of the session’s major issues, most prominently — so far — rent control and charter school oversight.

Additionally, Labor Day saw a Newsom declaration that he supports Assembly Bill 5, arguably this year’s most controversial bill. It would place in state law, with some modifications, a state Supreme Court ruling that tightens up the legal definition of employment, striking a blow at widespread use of contract workers.

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Shocked! at Goings-on at LA City Hall

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

“I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here.”

Like Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) in the 1942 classic movie, Casablanca, City Council President Herb Wesson and his fellow members of the City Council were shocked, shocked when the FBI raided the offices and home of Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar in November looking for evidence of bribery, kickbacks, extortion, and money laundering.  

Our City’s Elected Elite were further shocked in January when the Los Angeles Times revealed that other City Hall insiders were also subjects of the FBI search warrant: Councilman Curren Price, Deron Williams (Chief of Staff to Herb Wesson), and Ray Chan (the former General Manager for the Department of Building and Safety and a former Deputy Mayor for Eric Garcetti).  Also named were individuals associated with four Chinese real estate companies that are developing megaprojects in DTLA.  

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On SB 276, What Will Gavin Newsom Do? Maybe he should Consult Cotton Mather

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

Now that SB 276, which tightened the law to prevent children from avoiding vaccinations, has passed the question is: What Will Gavin Do? Gov. Newsom seems to have been moved by arguments made by opponents of the bill, twice raising objections that would need to be alleviated, even though he indicated he would sign the bill after earlier changes were made. 

Yet, the governor also occupies that space in which he must decide the government’s responsibility to head off catastrophic situations or government overreach that interferes with individual rights.

The debate over the dangers, benefits and side effects of immunizations is an age-old one. Perhaps the first battle over inoculations on this continent was fought out in Boston nearly 200 years ago, yet here we are again. More on that later. 

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SB 600 Will End Insurer Denials of Fertility Preservation

Brianna Womick
Fox and Hounds Contributor.

I was on my honeymoon when a sharp pain in my back began, and it continued to worsen. Nine months later – ironically, the length of a pregnancy – my spine fractured. While temporarily paralyzed from the waist down, I learned the stage 2 breast cancer I had previously battled had metastasized to my bones.

But for my husband and me, worse news was to come. My cancer cells were growing in response to my body’s hormones, and chemically-induced menopause was necessary to stop their production. While promising therapies were available, unfortunately they would also permanently prevent me from getting pregnant. As we considered our options before I started chemotherapy, we also learned that our insurance company would not cover infertility treatments that would allow us to store our embryos and use a surrogate.

Our dream of starting a family, it appeared, was over.

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The American Working Class Dilemma

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

For the past 125 years, Labor Day has been a time to celebrate the relevance, and political power, of the American working class. As recently as the 1990s, organized labor’s big day was an important milestone on the political calendar, particularly for Democrats.

But in recent decades, America’s working class has had precious little celebrate. In contrast to the conditions that prevailed in the aftermath of the Second World War, when the incomes of lower quintiles surged by roughly 40%, five times faster than the top echelon during the past four decades, those in the bottom 80% have enjoyed no consistent gains. Meanwhile union membership — the key to working class political power — has plunged from 28% in 1954 to 11% today.

The devastation extends beyond economics. A detailed 2017 study, “When work disappears:  manufacturing decline and the falling marriage-market value of men,” shows that when towns and counties lose manufacturing jobs, fertility and marriage rates decline while unmarried births and the share of children living in single-parent homes rise. More of the working class, both white and minority, are also experiencing elevated rates of obesity, and rising incidents of what the Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton call “deaths of despair.”

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The follies and excesses of Proposition 65

Will Swaim
President of the California Policy Center

It’s been a bad summer for Proposition 65, which is a good thing for California’s small businesses and consumers.

Prop. 65 is the California law responsible for the cancer-warning signs so ubiquitous that most Californians know it’s better just to ignore them.

In bars and restaurants, on playground equipment, shoes, umbrellas, and golf club covers, even around Disneyland, consumers are warned that product — even the place itself — “is known to the state of California to cause cancer or reproductive harm.”

While most Californians treat these with bemusement, they are no laughing matter. They mislead consumers and expose small businesses to ruinous lawsuits. And because California is the world’s fifth-largest economy (that’s the United Kingdom riding our bumper), decisions made in Sacramento can have disastrous national effects.

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Future of Work Commission and the Shadow of AB 5

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

Gov. Gavin Newsom created a crystal ball commission to look into the future of how the nature of work will change in California. There will be agendas at work on the commission, with union organizations heavily represented.  Can the commission fairly focus on how the future of work will develop and should develop, or will it be held back by old ideas? All this as the legislature moves toward passing AB 5, a law codifying the California Supreme Court’s Dynamex decision to determine if workers are employees or independent contractors. 

The new commission is made up of 14 Democrats, 6 No Party Preference voters, and 1 Republican. Not exactly a fair representation of the California electorate.

One member of the newly named commission, Art Pulaski, chief officer of the California Labor Federation, made clear in a CALmatters op-ed that a 20th century model should be revitalized in the 21st century. “In these uncertain times, more and more people are recognizing that labor unions aren’t a thing of the past. In fact, we have a critical role to play in the future.”  

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