Sacramento: America’s No-Think Zone
Gov. Gavin Newsom and his staff have dreamed up a “health equity metric” to determine who can emerge from the pandemic lockdowns and who can’t based on racial and ethnic quotas. Identity politics, the shallowest, crudest, and most divisive of all politics, are raging in California.
The health equity metrics, part of the governor’s “reopening safely for all communities” plan, says that in the state’s 35 largest counties, “test positivity rates in its most disadvantaged neighborhoods” cannot “significantly lag behind its overall county test positivity rate.” As long as they do, the county remains in pandemic prison and cannot move forward into a less-restrictive tier on the governor’s chart that determines how much business activity is permitted.
Counties must also submit a plan which “defines its disproportionately impacted populations,” and “specifies the percent of its COVID-19 cases in these populations.” They must show, as well, “plans to invest Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Prevention and Control of Emerging Infectious Diseases grant funds at least at that percentage to interrupt disease transmission in these populations.”
In more everyday terms, all this means that “counties must reduce ‘disparities in levels of transmission’ in ‘low-income, Black, Latino, [and] Pacific Islander’ communities before they can move forward with reopening. In effect, local businesses must remain closed until local bureaucrats are satisfied that ill-defined racial quotas have been met,” says Pacific Research Institute fellow Chris Rufo.
Did no one in Sacramento think that maybe many of those in “the most impoverished census tracts” wouldn’t benefit more from businesses reopening now rather than waiting on an arbitrary standard to be met, because those businesses are where they work and earn their livelihoods?
Or wonder out loud how the Newsom administration would explain to nervous business owners on the edge of collapse and stressed workers facing financial ruin that they have no choice but to make sacrifices that help no one?
While the metrics were being cooked up, why didn’t someone just say, “hey, we swore we’d follow the science on reopening the economy, yet this looks more like politics”?
Clearly, the health equity metric, effective Oct. 6, was hatched by the Rahm Emanuel School of Politics because it’s using a crisis to further an agenda it could not otherwise carry out.
Further evidence of the deficit of thought in the Capitol is Newsom’s justification statement that “if you believe in growth and you don’t believe in inclusion, then we’re going to leave a lot of people behind.” How is one related to the other? There’s no link there at all. An expanding economy increases opportunities for all. A sclerotic economy, however, disproportionately hurts those at the bottom.
Sacramento, yet again legislating without thinking, has also passed a bill, signed Sept. 30 by Newsom, that sets up a nine-member task force to “study and develop reparation proposals for African Americans,” with “special consideration for African Americans who are descendants of persons enslaved in the United States.” Was no thought given at all to how divisive this sort of policy is? Did anyone who had a chance to stop it warn, as Brookings Institution fellow Jonathan Rauch did two decades ago, that “reparations would be fundamentally illiberal, and therefore unjust,” because “people who have enslaved no one (and most of whose ancestors enslaved no one)” would be obligated to “pay damages to people who were never slaves.”
When there is thinking in Sacramento, it’s almost always without exception about schemes that increase the authority and reach of politicians and bureaucrats while marginalizing the economic and social liberties the California Constitution says we are to be “grateful to Almighty God for.”
Assembly Bill 979, for instance, “requires each publicly held corporation whose principal executive offices are located in California to have a minimum number of directors from underrepresented communities on its board of directors,” beginning with one member at the end of next year. By the end of 2022 for companies with nine or more on their boards must have at least three from underrepresented communities. It’s a companion to invasive Senate Bill 826, enacted in 2018, which requires female representation on corporate boards. Both laws increase the reach and heft of government while handcuffing the private sector.
Senate Bill 852, meanwhile, essentially sets up the state in the pharmaceutical manufacturing business. It’s yet another counterproductive intervention into the marketplace from politicians who want to make private matters their domain.
California is not without thoughtful policymakers. We know some personally. There just aren’t enough of them to make a difference.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.