The left-wing agenda of Newsom’s reopening task force


With huddled masses of Californians yearning to be free, Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced the launch of a task force to oversee the reopening of the economy by fostering business and job recovery. Yet it more closely resembles a central committee charged with installing some variant of Cold War-era Bulgarian industrial policy.

Appointed as Newsom’s chief adviser and task force co-chair is uber-wealthy activist Tom Steyer. Yes, the same Tom Steyer who would bankrupt the fossil fuel industry in a state that ranks fifth in the country in crude reserves, seventh in oil production, second in energy consumption, and employs 400,000 in the old and gas sector. He would ruin businesses by forcing them to pay a $22 an hour minimum wage; believes in the fantasy of government investment in the economy; and has adopted anti-business positions after he made his billions.

The free-market faithful would say Steyer is the worst appointment imaginable. But he is the perfect choice to manage the costly green energy fantasy schemes the task force is sure to concoct.

Also on board are former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, a Keynesian who trusts government regulation over free markets; former Gov. Gray Davis, who was recalled in part because he knew the market would solve the state’s early 2000s energy crisis but wouldn’t allow it; a collection of virtue-signaling CEOs; and several union presidents, whose interest will be in securing political favors and advantages for organized labor rather than helping small businesses, and the middle and working classes reach their economic potential.

Steyer’s co-chair is Newsom Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary, not a free market economist, nor a business owner who knows how the regulatory state handcuffs enterprise, but a former policy adviser to Hillary Clinton, who believes it takes a village of government bureaucrats to run an economy. She previously worked with Steyer through his Next Generation organization.

Newsom drew particular attention to the inclusion of two former Republican governors, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as GOP members of the Legislature.  But their presence is purely ceremonial. That was made clear by the torrent of progressive words and phrases from Newsom and task force members. They spoke in the coded terms of “inclusion,” “equitable” recovery, “shared prosperity,” “economic justice,” “environmental sustainability,” “diversity,” “social justice warriors,” and a “fair, green and prosperous future.”

It’s not a plan to lift the lockdown’s restrictions but is an exploitation of circumstances to further left-wing aspirations.

Like many other politicians around the country, the governor is treating the “path forward” as if it were a plan to charge the beaches of Normandy. But economies don’t need task forces, or government administrators, or to be managed in any way to thrive. Free economies, that is to say economies that work, develop through spontaneous order. They are, as George Mason University professor David Rehr writes, “the result of human action but not of human design.”

Business owners and consumers should be telling the governor thanks, but they can resurrect the economy on their own the same way they built it. Just as Rehr notes “tyranny results from government’s attempts to plan the workings of daily life,” the enterprise of economies is subjugated by public policies that serve political agendas.

Of course the task force is not there to reopen the California economy as much as it is to remake it. The governor himself said the pandemic is an “opportunity for reimagining a progressive era as it pertains to capitalism.”

“Absolutely we see this as an opportunity to reshape the way we do business and how we govern,” he said at a previous news conference when asked if the circumstances might bring “a new progressive era and opportunity for additional progressive steps.”

Newsom followed that up by reaffirming his commitment to “partnering and strengthening relationships with the Legislature, which will be fundamental to and foundational in moving us forward.”

This is the Legislature that imposed on California the job-killing, union-written Assembly Bill 5; is willing to sacrifice the middle class to a needless climate agenda; refuses to allow a functioning housing market to emerge; is dedicated to ever-burdensome taxation; works feverishly to limit transportation choices; blocked access to credit for consumers who need small-dollar, short-term loans; and spends billions of other people’s money with no regard for the consequences.

There will be no room, not even a small crack, for small-government principles that would allow the economy to recover and fully flourish.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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