The unhinged capitalism of California’s “progressives”

With the governor’s signature on SB 9 and SB 10 last week, California Democrats have made trickle down economics their core economic platform — 50-year transition from warriors of the working class to guardians of the gilded class

They’ve shed even the pretext of concern for low income Californians, except as (highly profitable) pawns in the homeless and poverty industries

History’s greatest political satirists couldn’t come up with this stuff

Here’s a funny joke: Have a political party spend a half century as the avowed “slow growth” environmental party, the party that creates regimes of coastal, air, water, soil, wildlife, and other protections in the name of planetary emergencies both real and imagined, bureaucratic ecosystems consuming hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars annually and employing hundreds of thousands. For fifty years have that party impose height, density, and other land use controls at the local and county levels so that both the supply of multifamily homes and the infrastructure that sustains it max out by the early 2000s. Simultaneously, have this party quietly loosen many of those same kinds of land use and environmental controls in suburbs and exurbs where an ever-increasing portion of its base resides, even as it publicly decries the alleged environmental depredations of those places.

Meanwhile, at the macro level make sure the party imposes policies that create more low-paying jobs and fewer good-paying jobs than the national average, somehow managing this feat even though California ranks as the world’s fifth largest economy and is a global center of innovation in everything from aerospace and technology to entertainment and finance. Just as this confluence of wage stagnation, regulatory stasis, and below-average housing production collide with one of the worst recessions in recent history and – as always happens – lower income and impoverished people are the first to start looking for help, have that party dismantle the agencies responsible for distributing block grants for affordable housing, business improvement districts (BIDs) and replace them with — nothing.

For good measure, have that party turn once thriving inner city school systems into unionized institutions of mass produced failure, hopelessness, and dependency that overwhelmingly hurt black and brown children, crippling entire generations, while middle and upper class white families with more money flee to the better school systems of the (publicly hated but secretly coddled) suburbs. Last but not least, have that party oppose even the most moderate efforts at wildfire control and preparation measures until fuel loads build to the point that a cubic foot of mountain deadwood can have the same BTU potential as a cubic foot of crude oil.

To top things off, have this party support so-called “criminal justice reform” that unleashes heretofore unimaginable postmodern hellholes in dozens of cities, releasing criminals by the hundreds of thousands to both become and prey upon the homeless population and terrorize law-abiding citizens, then impose a series of draconian, life-crushing, scientifically laughable COVID-19 health orders that further decimate urban cores and send people fleeing to the suburbs and exurbs by the million. As the cherry on top, ensure that party brahmins enforce those rules on others while themselves enjoying a carefree, mask-free, debt-free life of wine country fundraisers and late night dance club parties.

The punchline and the 1% payoff

The punchline: When the inevitable consequences of this half-century experiment start playing out in the form of unaffordable housing, living, food, and other basic expenses for tens of millions of ordinary Californians, pushing the state to the brink of economic collapse, have this party take measure of the situation and declare without reservation that it has all been caused not by decades of misguided, often contradictory, frequently corrupt, and ultimately counter-productive legislative meddling but…..racism.

You may have thought that single family houses were inanimate objects. Intimate, emotionally essential inanimate objects, but inanimate just the same. In this joke you’re wrong. Single family homes are racists, products of decades, centuries, even millennia of injustice. You might as well drape a white hood over your chimney (California pretty much won’t let you use it for actual fires anymore anyway).

This punchline gives this political party – let’s call them “Democrats” – free reign to pass hundreds of laws and thousands of pages of new regulations that all but ensure future generations of Californians will live in cramped, low-quality-but-still-hideously-expensive shoe boxes with all the charm, character, and soul of Soviet row blocks. Because, again, houses racist.

Lost in the political hullabaloo is the fact that this joke is being played by elected and appointed politicians entirely bought and paid for by the 1% — in many cases by the 0.01%. By effectively eliminating local control over development, housing, and land use those hundreds of new laws and thousands of new regulations amount to open season on every single family neighborhood in California. Urban, suburban, exurban, rural, agricultural, mountain, every kind of zone you can think of is about to be opened up to the highest bidders. That’s because, with apologies to the late Senator John McCain the Democrats’ new core philosophy amounts to “Build, baby, build.”

The first few years will be very good for a very small number of very well-connected people. The headlines below are from across the political spectrum. As the real economy and the Wall Street economy continue to diverge there is enormous, albeit artificial, pent-up demand in the form of inflated stock portfolios. Hedge funds, venture capital firms, pension funds, and other institutional grade investors have accumulated hundreds of billions just in the last two years. All that money is looking for somewhere to go — and California’s “progressives” just completed a housing policy superhighway for them.

Make no mistake: These opportunities will not be available to average families. Anyone who thinks mom and pop homeowners will have the wherewithal, much less the expertise and time, to develop duplexes, fourplexes, and up to 10 or more units on their single family properties — there’s a bullet train in Fresno for sale. No, it will be investors with zero connection to or concern for the neighborhoods where they’ll be hoovering up single family homes, demolishing them, and building more of those shoe boxes for other investors with zero connection to or concern for the neighborhoods to then purchase and rent (or, more likely, hold for a decade or two while the chaos plays out).

Mark the date: On September 17, 2021 California Democrats completed their journey to the dark side. In the midst of a global pandemic and economic crisis, given a choice between millions of working and middle class Californians and the party’s benefactors in the 1% of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Wall Street, the party have chosen the latter. Resoundingly. Unequivocally. And unlike World War II, it wasn’t even close.

Senate Bills 9 and 10, better known as SB 9 and SB 10, are the penultimate nails in the coffin of California’s urban and suburban single family and smaller multifamily neighborhoods. They are further proof that the dream of home ownership for millions of people of all demographics is effectively dead.

Make no mistake: California Democrats have set the stage – down to the minutest local details – for a new California gold rush. Only this time prospectors and speculators won’t be digging into the ground in far-off mountains, they’ll be coming for your neighborhood.

None of this is opinion. State legislators have openly — one might say gleefully — declared war on single family neighborhoods and openly, eagerly embracing Reaganomics, the Democrat housing policy that dare not speak its name. The tell is that they’ve unleashed the same bag of tricks they deploy on issues from immigration to education: Create a crisis, then set up a system that richly rewards politicians, bureaucrats, nonprofits, and parasitic phalanxes of lawyers, consultants, advisors, experts, academics, and bean counters, all supported by even larger armies of administrators, support staff, IT staff, and inscrutable contractors. Fortify this new branch of the Establishment by howling racism at the most pedestrian critique, the most anodyne questioning of the political class’s authority and expertise. Claim you are on the side of the downtrodden and historically marginalized even as your policies manifestly drag them even further to the margins.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Education. Environment. Business regulation. And, now, inevitably, the very ways in which we live, work, and get around. It’s the biggest gold strike yet for the new gilded class and their political enablers. And it’s just getting warmed up.

It’s time for Californians to reckon with this new reality. The party that gained a supermajority on issues including civil rights, environmental protection, and racial equality has failed spectacularly on all three. As Leonard Cohen sang, The poor stay poor, the rich get rich. That’s how it goes.

The only question is whether it was the plan all along. Was California’s progressive Utopia a lie from the start?

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