On September 14, the people of California will have the chance—in a recall election—to oust Governor Gavin Newsom. His record over his more than two and a half years in power is checkered.
Nowhere is that clearer than on health policy. Early in the pandemic, Newsom instituted some of America’s most draconian policies: shutting down schools, shuttering business, and essentially locking people in their homes. What good did that do the people of California?
The state has experienced over 4 million cases of COVID-19 and 64,000 deaths. The fatalities were far from evenly distributed. More than half of all cases were among Latinos, even though they make up less than 40% of the population. Latinos accounted for nearly one in two deaths in California.
What happened when a solution finally came to the fore? He bungled again. Newsom admitted himself that he mishandled vaccine rollouts, leaving vulnerable populations behind while those less in need got vaccinated.
The economic devastation caused in part by his lockdowns has scarred the state. Between 2019 and 2020, California saw a 6.8% increase in homelessness, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. At the time of the study, more than half of the homeless population of the United States lived in California.
Newsom’s policies put people on the street without alleviating the impact of the pandemic. And judging by his own behavior, his precautions were purely performative.
As the scale of the pandemic escalated before Thanksgiving, Newsom reinstated lockdown orders in California. He stated that California was “experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet—faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic or even this summer.”
Just after this announcement, photos of Newsom eating indoors at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Napa Valley, unmasked, with a large group of people made national news.
The governor has tried to distract from his own hypocrisy and maladministration by resorting to that favorite tactic of progressives—spending more taxpayer money.
On July 27 this year, Newsom signed into law a bill that extended full Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) coverage to low-income adults over the age of 50 regardless of immigration status. This follows his expansion of Medi-Cal to low-income undocumented immigrants aged 26 and younger. The program was estimated to cost the state $22.5 billion in 2020-2021. Federal taxpayers kicked in nearly $100 billion.
Newsom’s continuous expansion of Medi-Cal is paving the way for his ultimate goal: single-payer health care. During his 2018 campaign for the governor’s mansion, he supported a bill that proposed a $400 billion per annum single-payer system. Among the ideas for paying for it? A 15% payroll tax.
Late in 2019, Newsom set up the Healthy California for All Commission, a group of liberal healthcare providers and policy people tasked to research how to implement a state-level single-payer system. The Commission was meant to deliver its final report in February 2021. It was delayed because of the pandemic. That month, a group of Assembly Democrats introduced AB 1400, but it was shelved because of a clear funding source.
These vastly unpopular taxes would fund a system that would yield the same terrible results we see in single-payer systems in other countries.
The pandemic has left the United Kingdom, for instance, deep underwater. According to new research from professors at Essex University, nearly two-thirds of people in Great Britain with life-threatening conditions could not get regular care from the NHS during the pandemic. Seven in 10 people with diabetes could not receive care from doctors. As of July 2021, 5.3 million British residents were on waiting lists to receive care.
If Newsom had his way, the Golden State would be in similar straits. Not that he would notice from his crowded table at a fancy dinner party.
Gavin Newsom’s days in office may be numbered. If voters give him the boot, his misguided healthcare policy will be a big reason why.
Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO, and Thomas W. Smith Fellow in Health Care Policy at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is False Premise, False Promise: The Disastrous Reality of Medicare for All, Encounter Books, January 2020. Follow her on Twitter @sallypipes.