California’s Socialist Oligarchy: Who They Are and How to Take Them Down

California’s policymakers have condemned Californians to endure contrived scarcity, unaffordability and inconvenience in all of the basic necessities of life.

This is a crime, but it’s not a conspiracy. Rather, it is caused by a collection of powerful special interests whose political agendas align.

Left-wing Oligarchs

At the top of the pyramid are left-wing oligarchs, crony capitalists who want to protect their business interests. Whether it’s renewable energy, “connected” appliances, or homes built on those rare parcels of land that are entitled for development, California’s left-wing oligarchs benefit from artificial scarcity. But these direct beneficiaries are only a segment of California’s left-wing oligarchy.

The indirect financial benefits of artificial scarcity are even greater. As the prices of real estate assets ascend once again into bubble territory, as the earnings per share of public utilities swell on the strength of selling overpriced kilowatts, and as Silicon Valley firms see their stock values ascend into the stratosphere, wealthy individuals and investment funds, most assuredly including California’s public employee pension funds which manage over $800 billion in assets, see their portfolio values soar.

Silicon ValleyWhich brings us to the final subcategory of left-wing oligarchs in California, the high-tech moguls of social media. These left-wing billionaires of Silicon Valley, along with their only slightly less well-heeled entertainment industry counterparts in Los Angeles, are the most influential opinion makers on earth. They shape values and behavior using tools that make the overwhelming mass propaganda breakthroughs achieved by radio in the 1930s appear as primitive as smoke signals by comparison. What is their agenda?

Social Media and Entertainment Complex

The communications kingpins of California have no allegiance to ordinary Californians — or ordinary Americans, for that matter. To them, ordinary people are Pavlovian proles, expendable parasites that pollute the environment. To the extent these kingpins have compassion, it is to profitably create for the expendable multitudes a benign zoo; smart cities of high rises, contained in areas as geographically minute as possible, so that only wild nature, corporate farms, and private estates of the super-rich exist outside the urban containment boundaries.

In these algorithmically managed metropolises, human values, including their voting behavior, will literally be programmed, using the most sophisticated and individualized techniques of manipulation ever devised. Borgcubes, aesthetically optimized by AI psychometricians, with soothing soft edges of gingerbread. Metaphorically speaking, Matrix-like cocoons. A Brave New World, complete with Sexophones and Soma. Get ready. Another innovation from California.

The Environmentalist Lobby

California’s socialist oligarchy probably can continue to consolidate their power without any help, but help is abundant. Most importantly, they have the help of the environmentalist movement.

The power behind this movement, apart from the oligarchs who financially benefit from scarcity, are the trial lawyers who populate and and control the boards of major environmentalist nonprofits. Leaving sensible, and vital, environmentalist causes far behind, these misanthropic organizations prevent any significant infrastructure investment or private development of land and other resources.

Collecting legal fees and settlements thanks to a sympathetic judiciary, California’s environmentalist organizations have amassed immense financial power and political influence. And when all else fails, they now have the boogeyman of “climate change” to stop literally anything, anything that so much as scratches the earth, dead in its tracks.

Public Sector Unions
Enforcing the edicts of California’s socialist oligarchy are public sector unions; their full-time paid armies of lobbyists, operatives, political consultants, PR firms, and litigators. Their membership is both cowed and co-opted. California’s unionized public servants, while not entirely immune to the higher costs imposed on them by the oligarchy, are nonetheless exempted from its worst effects, because they are the most lavishly compensated public employees in America, if not the entire world.

The average total compensation (pay and benefits) for a full-time city, county or state worker in California in 2015 was $121,843. In that same year, the average full-time private sector worker in California made $62,475 (with benefits), which is 51 percent of what the public sector worker earned. That’s not all. This pampered class of public servants also enjoys, typically, 72 paid days off per year (no, that doesn’t include weekends).

How that breaks down is as follows: A veteran employee typically gets 20 vacation days, 12 designated holidays, two floating holidays, 12 “personal days,” and if they are on salary and they work eight hours a day for nine weekdays, through the very common “9/80” program, they get every 10th weekday off with pay. When they retire, if they work 30 years (most private sector workers put in 45 years), their average pension is nearly $70,000 per year, not including health benefits.

Public sector unions, which ought to be illegal, are squarely to blame for “negotiating” pay and benefit packages that threaten to force California’s cities and counties into bankruptcy despite sky-high taxes. California’s public sector unions are the most powerful in America, collecting and spending more than $800 million per year in dues and fees. These unions are, in most cases, avowedly socialistic, and in virtually all cases these unions have a political agenda in lockstep with the California’s left-wing oligarchy. As the most powerful permanent political organizations in the state, they are the brokers and enablers of corporate power.

In stunning irony, these unions also play a vital role in convincing ordinary Californians to vote contrary to their own best interests. There are two big reasons for this.

First, these unions proclaim themselves in solidarity with the working class, despite the fact that they represent workers who are much more likely to have financially transcended the challenges facing ordinary private sector workers. They conflate themselves with private sector unions, despite the fact that unlike private sector unions, they elect their own bosses, they are funded through compulsory taxes instead of through profits earned in a competitive market, and they operate the machinery of government allowing them to use that to intimidate their opponents.

Second, and equally insidious, these unions have taken over public education from kindergarten through graduate school, and they have now infected two generations of Californians with their left-wing ideology.

Thoroughly Indoctrinated Voters

While the elites represented in the above categories do represent millions of Californians, it is the influence they have on tens of millions of California’s voters that give them their political power. This starts with college educated liberals, often living in homes they’ve owned for so long that they aren’t adversely affected by property taxes (Proposition 13), and often living on the coast where they don’t have to spend thousands of dollars per year to heat and cool those homes.

These people live and work in educational, corporate, and media environments that are saturated with left-wing propaganda, and they don’t feel the harmful impacts of these policies enough to question them. Many of these liberals work in entertainment or high-tech, where their business model is primarily virtual, which prevents their exposure to the intrusive, stifling laws and regulations that affect businesses in the real world.

The other voting bloc that determines California’s political destiny, perhaps more than any other, are ethnic voters, or, to use a ridiculous, pretentious, obligatory phrase that makes normal people cringe every time they say it, “people of color.” The POC vote in California overwhelmingly favors Democratic candidates for public office. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, among California’s “likely voters,” more whites are registered as Republicans (39 percent), than Democrats (38 percent). But among Latinos, registered Democrats (62 percent) far outnumber Republicans (17 percent). Among blacks, the disparity is even greater: 82 percent Democrat versus a paltry 6 percent Republican. Among Asians, where the disparity is less, the Democrats still have a nearly two-to-one advantage, 45 percent to 24 percent. But can the Democratic grip on ethnic voters endure?

An Alternative Future for California

If you poke at the supposed unbreakable hold by Democrats on ethnic and racial minorities, you find cracks. Many Latino citizens actually favor immigration reform. Many Asian citizens fear affirmative action will rob their children of opportunities. Black voters in recent polls are supporting President Trump in percentages greater than any Republican in recent history. All “POC” are becoming increasingly incensed at the way the teachers unions have destroyed public education.

It wouldn’t take much to persuade California’s racial and ethnic minority voters that the Golden State’s artificial scarcity and high cost-of-living is something completely engineered by Democrats. California’s current Republican candidate for governor, John Cox, is doing a good job of educating voters on that subject.

And for that matter, what does “people of color” even mean, as greater and greater intermarriage occurs? Who is to say that a Mexican-American, with Christian European roots and a shared heritage of settling the American West, would not, does not, embrace American pride and American patriotism just as much as any other proud member of the American melting pot? Maybe all that California’s kaleidoscopic electorate needs is a coherent and unwavering pro-growth, pro-freedom vision, from a new coalition of patriots.

Something’s Got to Give

The biggest mistake that California’s socialist oligarchs can make is to assume they are unassailable. Their certainty could become their downfall.

It’s true that someday we will need to move beyond fossil fuel. It’s true that someday we will live in a world where borders slowly wither away and we are one global people. It’s true that eventually we will let machines do most of our work for us, and we will need to invent economic models that account for this new reality.

It’s even true that someday we may genetically engineer ourselves into transhuman beings. But those future days are not these present days, and for California’s socialist oligarchy to proclaim they have all the answers to trends this transformative displays stupefying arrogance.

While ordinary Californians are deciding between buying gasoline or paying rent, these elites are inventing new ways to make everything cost more. While immigrants from abroad and indigent Americans from east of the Sierras come to California to collect taxpayer funded benefits, these elites are prohibiting the types of economic and infrastructure development that might create the wealth to sustain them, along with those already here.

While commuters curse their way to work and back in clogged lanes on neglected freeways, these elites continue with their $100 billion bullet train project. While Californians pay more taxes than anyone else in America, California’s Democratic candidate for governor reaffirms his commitment to universal, single payer health care for everyone, free healthcare for non-citizen immigrantsfree public pre-schools, and free community college education.

Something’s going to give. Preventing broader private sector participation in competitive development of housing, energy, water and transportation guarantees eventual failure of California’s existing socialist schemes, much less the new ones they’re promising. But so far, California’s elites benefit from and promote these financially unsustainable policies. It cannot stand. Rebellion is brewing. Resistance is not futile. New alignments and alliances are forming. One economic hiccup could be all it takes.

California’s extraordinary potential is diminished by this ruling class of socialist oligarchs, and their coercive utopian supporters. They think they have all the answers when in reality they are flirting with economic and cultural disaster. Republicans, or some new movement, need to offer Californians a vision of abundance instead of scarcity, through competitive development of natural resources, market-driven urban and suburban growth, realistic immigration policies, and a proud, assimilative message to its residents to join together as a united and prosperous people. Concurrent with an agenda of growth that is as pragmatic as it is optimistic, California’s socialist oligarchs need to be exposed for their hypocrisy, their hubris, their venality.

Be warned, America. Democrats do know what they want. They’ve been building it for years in California.

Silicon Valley’s Political Perils

FacebookLast week’s news underscored growing concerns over the politicization of tech companies. With his inimitable style, President Trump claimed on Twitter that Google shows political bias by skewing the news found in online searches. Relatedly, a group of some 100 conservative-leaning Facebook employees formed an online community to escape the strictures of a “political monoculture” and provide themselves a “safe” place for “ideological diversity” among their 25,000 co-workers.

It’s a truism that Silicon Valley leans left, but the average tech millionaire is not easy to pigeonhole ideologically. A revealing, if little-noted, 2017 study from Stanford University compared more than 600 “elite technology company leaders and founders,” 80 percent of them millionaires, with more than “1,100 elite partisan donors” of both political persuasions. The distinctions are revelatory for anyone interested in mapping the future of American politics. “Increasingly, technology entrepreneurs are using their personal wealth and firms’ power to exercise political influence,” the survey’s authors observe. “For example, recent federal candidates have referred to Silicon Valley as a ‘political ATM’.” The study found that 80 percent of tech millionaires overwhelmingly donate to Democrats over Republicans; hardly a surprising finding.

But the key reveal of the Stanford analysis is not about party alignment in donations: it’s in what can only be called a kind of political schizophrenia around the core ideologies associated with each party. On one hand, the study showed that Silicon Valley’s titans are firmly aligned with Democrats on social issues, what the survey calls “liberal redistributive, social, and globalistic policies.”  But on the other hand, the survey shows that the ideologies—if not the financial support—of tech millionaires solidly align with Republicans on issues relating to the regulatory environment, specifically around such topics as drones, data storage, self-driving cars, and employee policies.

This ideological rift prompted the Stanford researchers to conclude that tech’s business elites are donating politically against their “self-interest.” For analysts and political operatives, the question is whether that’s an immutable or malleable political reality. After all, it’s not just Republicans like President Trump attacking Silicon Valley; Senator Bernie Sanders, the standard-bearer of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, is one of many in that caucus taking on the tech giants on “fairness” issues surrounding income inequality in general and Amazon CEO’s Jeff Bezos’s uber-wealth in particular.

It’s risky for companies to become identified with a specific political orientation. The recent evidence of a political tilt at numerous Silicon Valley firms—or at least among their leaders—has ignited controversy, not just in Washington but also in the tech community itself. At least one Valley executive worries that “political correctness” could hurt innovation, the mother’s milk of the tech sector. Google’s firing of engineer James Damore for raising questions about gender differences on an internal discussion board showed the willingness of tech companies to police political expression.

There is a real existential risk for tech companies to be found in the historical propensity of governments to declare new tech enterprises, especially new means of communication, as inherently monopolistic—and thus inherently unfair. Back in 1949, on the theory that radio broadcast companies had monopolistic control of that medium, Congress ordered broadcasters to “afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of public importance.” The Fairness Doctrine would survive for nearly four decades, before it was revoked in 1987.

Some Democrats sought to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine a decade or so ago, in response to the rise of talk radio, which became overwhelmingly conservative after 1987. Now, some Republicans (and Democrats, too) are looking again at the notion of “fairness” in the context of the dominant market share enjoyed by the likes of Facebook or Google. Google’s global share of “search” has reached 90percent, and Senator Orrin Hatch has already sent a letter to the FTC to request an investigation of anti-competitive practices at the company.

When it comes to issues surrounding access to accurate and “fair” news and information in particular, the challenging question is whether anyone can easily see if there is (or isn’t) an algorithmic finger on the scale of fairness. In the history of the news business, this is an unprecedented concern. The designers and coders of the algorithms respond that the Web’s interstices are arcane and not easy for the layman to understand. In effect, the experts are saying: it’s complicated, so trust us. From a technical perspective, it would indeed be difficult to come up with a “user interface” that provided credible transparency about how news and information are curated or accessed on Web platforms. But one could have said the same thing, circa 1990, about converting the Arpanet’s technically arcane TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) into a Web system so simple that preschool children can use it now.

As Steve Jobs famously said two decades ago, “simple can be harder than complex.” But conquering complexity used to be what animated Silicon Valley. That is, in fact, how Google got started. It’s time to revive that zeitgeist, and make the power of news on the Internet not just easy to use, but easy to trust.

Silicon Valley’s Leftists and the Night of the Slap Drones

internetSome of them, the big ones, will intrude the old fashioned way, beating down the door. Maybe others will look like insects, crawling innocuously across your property to come inside through your drains and A/C ducts. Or they’ll find an open window.

Across America, they’ll come by the millions, having manufactured themselves. They’ll be several generations smarter than the smartest smart phone in existence today. They’ll know everything about you, and at 4:30 a.m., on a hot night in late June, all at once they’ll come for you and everyone like you. Some of you will die, deemed to dangerous to live, but most of you will just be humanely incapacitated. Against all this technology, your AR 15 rifles are pathetically inadequate. Remember that. When it comes to protecting yourself from a tyrannical government, your guns are obsolete.

This may be a hypothetical scenario, but it isn’t a fantasy. It’s less than a decade from being technically feasible, if it isn’t already.

The Virtual Panopticon is Already Here

High technology has already transformed our military and law enforcement. Autonomous warfare is a new reality, relegating inhabited ships and planes to irrelevance in a transformation of stupefying velocity and consequences. Robots now patrol shopping malls and parking lots. Police drones watch us from above. Cameras (with blinking lights) now surveil even residential neighborhoodsNetworked cameras are using AI to monitor license plates, identify individuals via facial recognition, and respond to “suspicious anomalies.” Applying the concept of “crime prevention via environmental design,” police camera surveillance is being augmented by “directly linking into residential and business cameras.”

So what, right? We want to be safe. We’re not doing anything wrong.

Hold that thought. Let’s continue.

Do you use the internet? Of course you do. This means the government is able to (1) monitor your phone records, (2) mandate ISPs to turn over records of your online activity, (3) hack your mobile and wireless devices, (4) utilize “back doors” into your encrypted apps, (5) track your location at any time via your cell phone, (6) tap into any internet line, (7) monitor all your financial transactions, and (8) read your email.

Big deal. My life is boring. Have a look. Knock yourself out. I don’t care. Ok, here are a few more reminders of just how far big tech has intruded into our lives.

Do you use a washer, a dryer, a dishwasher, a refrigerator, an air conditioner, and, of course, a television? What about a coffee maker, an oven, an air purifier, or a clock or a radio? Do you have a swimming pool? Do you water your lawn?  Well guess what, the “internet of things” means all of that is being remotely monitored. And if none of your appliances are “connected,” it doesn’t necessarily matter. If you use electricity, there is now software that “profiles” anything that’s plugged into an electrical outlet, then generates a database of unique appliance signatures to “train an artificial neural network that is employed to recognize appliance activities.”

And then there are our new and omnipresent digital helpmates, SiriAlexaGoogle Assistant, and all the rest of those devices who talk to you and listen to you.

It’s all wondrous. Bring it on. The fun has just begun. Wait till the androids arrive; we’ll marry themgive them rightslet them vote and own property. Because they aren’t going to be remotely monitored, and they won’t adhere to programs written by human beings with an agenda. Of course not. Relax. But someday soon, try to tell an atheist who married his android that it’s just a toaster, and that apart from big brother watching from afar, nobody’s home inside.

If you think the millions are brainwashed today, imagine tomorrow.

The Owners of the Panopticon are Leftist Oligarchs

Which brings us to the big tech giants who have created near monopolies on how we communicate online, how we learn, how our opinions are shaped, and what we believe in. We have seen how, in order to influence elections and mass political sentiments, Google manipulates search results, Facebook meticulously curates fantastically detailed profiles of its billions of users at the same time as it suppresses politically incorrect views, YouTube selectively demonetizes or restricts videos, and Twitter “shadowbans.” And we know they coordinate their efforts. Where’s this headed?

If you want to know where high technology is taking us, go to the Silicon Valley, in sunny California. In this epicenter of high tech, Santa Clara County, 45% of working age residents (25-45) are foreign born. These foreigners tend to be either wealthy, highly educated Asians who own and work in high tech companies, or relatively poor, uneducated Latin Americans who do menial service jobs. That dichotomy is reflected in the price of housing, bid upwards by Asian immigrants who bring with them suitcases full of cash, and the poverty rate, pushed up by hard working, low wage Latino immigrants who can’t afford the cost of living. Santa Clara’s median home price is $925,000 and the poverty rate is 9.4%. But how are these demographics represented in Silicon Valley’s politics?

The White liberal elite, who love to hire Asian programmers on H-1 visas (thousands of whom are foreign agents), and love to hire Mexicans and Central Americans to cook, clean, landscape, and drive down wages for service workers across the board, have concocted a winning political message. It is cynical and dishonest, but devastatingly effective. They posture and bellow as loud and as often as they can how much they care about “people of color” and “diversity,” at the same time as they enact draconian restrictions on land development, conventional energy use, or any sort of infrastructure investment that might actually help lower the cost of living. For them, it doesn’t matter. They’re rich.

And now they have Donald Trump, the most convenient boogeyman in the history of American liberalism.

Leftists Want to Turn America into California

One recent and very representative expression of the liberal arrogance that informs the Silicon Valley elite is an influential article written early in 2018 by Peter Leyden, a journalist and entrepreneur who calls Silicon Valley home. Entitled “The Great Lesson of California in America’s New Civil War,” the article claims “there’s no bipartisan way forward at this juncture in our history — one side must win.” Perhaps, sadly, that is the only thing in this frighteningly arrogant manifesto where everyone might find agreement.

Leyden’s partisan certainty is only matched by his astounding failure to recognize the cold reality of his state’s supposedly enlightened policies. He writes “Since 1980, their [Republican] policies have engorged the rich while flatlining the incomes of the majority of Americans. But California has the fourth highest rate of income inequality in the U.S., eclipsed among major states only by the equally Democrat-controlled New York. Leyden is invited to take a walk through the barrio in East San Jose, or the ‘hood up in San Francisco’s Hunters Point. He should ask the residents how they feel they’re being served by the politicians running California. He should ask them how they like watching millions of wealthy Asian immigrants buy up all the homes and drive up the prices, while poor Latino immigrant workers drive down all the wages.

When it comes to “climate change,” Leyden’s pronouncements are also representative of California’s liberal elite. In between his despicable use of the term “Deniers,” which equates climate skeptics with holocaust deniers, Leyden writes “California is leading the world in technological innovation and creative policies to counter climate change.” But what if Leyden and all his alarmist cohorts are dead wrong? What if the debate over climate change should not be silenced? Because what if including clean fossil fuel and safe nuclear power is the only possible way humanity can rapidly and effectively empower aspiring billions of people in the developing world, delivering the energy-driven prosperity to their cultures that is absolutely correlated to lower birthrates? What if renewable power is actually less sustainable? More immediately, what if creating this artificial scarcity of energy is making it impossible for low-income Californians to pay their bills? But the elite don’t care about that. They’re rich.

By the way, try to search for balanced material on clean energy on Google – you pretty much can’t find it. And if you can still find robust links to credible information produced by climate contrarians on your Facebook feeds, know that you are only seeing them because Facebook has put you into a “silo.” Those with online activity patterns that indicate they aren’t already receptive to climate contrarianism will NOT see those links. They won’t know. They will view monolithically packaged information spreading one message – the debate is over, fossil fuel and nuclear power are bad for humanity and the earth. Case closed. Ditto for every other important, politically incorrect premise of conservatism.

The War for America’s Future is Happening Now, and Later will be too Late

There’s nothing wrong with some immigration; there’s nothing wrong with investing in renewable energy. But to brand the skeptics as “racists” and “deniers,” and to suppress their arguments in the electronic public square – that is where the Silicon Valley abuses their power. And it has just begun.

The most chilling part of Leyden’s discussion on the virtues of California’s “one party state” is when he asserts “America today does exhibit some of the core elements that move a society from what normally is the process of working out political differences toward the slippery slope of civil war.” He goes on to write “two different political cultures already at odds through different political ideologies, philosophies, and worldviews can get trapped in a polarizing process that increasingly undermines compromise. They see the world through different lenses, consume different media, and literally live in different places. They start to misunderstand the other side, then start to misrepresent them, and eventually make them the enemy. The opportunity for compromise is then lost. This is where America is today. At some point, one side or the other must win – and win big. The side resisting change, usually the one most rooted in the past systems and incumbent interests, must be thoroughly defeated — not just for a political cycle or two, but for a generation or two.”

Leyden’s remarks epitomize the implacable resolve of the left wing in America. He should be taken seriously. “One side or the other must win – and win big.”

The problem here, of course, is that we “deplorables” don’t want to be “thoroughly defeated.” We don’t want to live in a nation where we can’t afford homes, we can’t find good jobs, we can’t afford heating or cooling, and our transgressions are perpetually monitored inside and outside our rented apartments. We don’t want to live in “smart growth” communities where the only places we can afford to live are in high rises and the only transportation we can afford to use are trains and buses. We don’t want our culture destroyed by mass immigration nor do we want our economic ambitions crushed by unfair trade and punitive environmental mandates. We don’t like what the Democrats have done to California. We’re not going to accept their way of life.

Silicon Valley is the origin of modern high technology. It has offered innovations, most of them desirable if not the stuff of dreams. It is transforming the world. But it is easy to imagine how so much power can be misused. And Silicon Valley today is controlled by leftists. These high-tech titans form the most powerful group in a leftist coalition that includes academia, entertainment, mainstream media, and the HR departments in every major corporation in America. If you don’t think this coalition is powerful enough to take over the federal government and turn America into California, you’re dreaming.

Which brings us back to the Night of the Slap Drones. Back in June, 1934, another virulent pack of leftist utopian fascists decided that the “side resisting change” had to be “thoroughly defeated.” Within hours, on this “Night of the Long Knives,” hundreds of people identified as the resistance were silenced forever – shot in their beds at 4:30 in the morning, or arrested and hung within days. And if it happens this time, it won’t be knives and guns that do the killing. It will be robots and drones, controlled by the left-wing oligarchs and their minions of “anti-fascist” true believers, the elite of the Silicon Valley.

Stop them now. Because if and when they take power, resistance will be futile.

Ed Ring is a fifth-generation Californian with more than 20 years experience in business and politics, primarily with start-up and early-stage organizations. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development. Ring has an undergraduate degree in political science from UC Davis, and an MBA in finance from the University of Southern California.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

Silicon Valley Doesn’t Know Best

FacebookSilicon Valley has had a rough year. For the first time since the start of the social media revolution, the American public has begun to question the tech sector’s integrity and intentions. Many brand-name Internet-based companies have worked hard over the years to obscure the true nature of their business models, which typically involve harvesting and selling user data to advertisers. Google, Apple, Facebook, and others have tried to insulate themselves from criticism by cultivating a benign image as post-partisan problem-solvers and pure-hearted community builders. In the first half of 2018, however, giant cracks began to appear in this carefully constructed façade. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was hauled before Congress in April to explain his $500 billion company’s apparently lax attitude toward data privacy. Now the company’s stock price is tumbling, due in part to investor concerns over the run of bad publicity. Silicon Valley realizes the magnitude of the crisis at hand. Tech-industry executives have spent the last six months scrambling to assure users that their data are safe and that the bond of trust between the public and the new engine of American economic growth and innovation should never be broken.

It’s a tough sell. The game all along has been to distract us with shiny electronic toys while converting our most personal information into cold cash (or, lately, cryptocurrency). The mountains of money being made off our browsing habits and purchasing history go to funding ever-more extravagant and utopian projects that, by their very nature, would corrode the foundations of free society, leaving us practically enslaved to an elite coterie of tech geniuses.

The vision of the future that Silicon Valley has in mind is not the one you probably imagined for yourself when you were a teenager, unless you grew up with a dream of living out your adult years on the Starship Enterprise. In fact, the self-sustaining, self-explaining world of Star Trek makes a good analogy for the tech future that the Silicon Valley overlords envision. On the Enterprise, a handful of superbly qualified specialists assigned themselves the lion’s share of responsibility for running the ship, carrying out the “prime directive,” and boldly going where no man had gone before. To viewers, the Enterprise seemed like a large vessel, but almost everyone apart from the show’s stars existed out of sight. You didn’t see much of them unless they became a necessary (and usually disposable) plot device. What was everyone else on the ship doing while Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Bones, Scotty, Chekov, Sulu, and Uhura were getting into and out of interstellar scrapes? No one knows for sure, but they functioned as a kind of disposable service class, rarely noticed by the officers on the bridge.

Futurists and sci-fi fans drooled over the Enterprise’s omniscient, disembodied voice known as “computer” that could be called on at any time to answer questions. It wasn’t just an eerily prescient version of the new breed of countertop digital assistants, like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. It was also artificial intelligence with the capability of doing complex, sometimes abstract, computation on the fly. It could engage in hypotheticals and had a physical dimension as well. It was not just the ship’s brain; it was the ship itself.

In its conception and presentation, the Enterprise’s computer was close to what WIRED magazine founder Kevin Kelly has called “the technium”—a discreet “superorganism of computation.” In books and interviews, Kelly has described the emergence of a global cloud, a computer of computers. The technium is a summa of the world’s computing power: all its desktops, laptops, mainframes, servers, cell phones, tablets, and land lines rolled into one. Throw in the cars and the ovens and the baby monitors and the wireless printers from the Internet of Things, too. Sometimes Kelly calls it the One Machine, the sum total of all the hardware and software working, humming, and resonating in an ever-closer harmony of artificial intelligence. “It has its own force that it exerts,” Kelly has said. “That force is part cultural (influenced by and influencing of humans), but it’s also partly non-human, partly indigenous to the physics of technology itself. That’s the part that is scary and interesting.”

The scary parts are easy to see.

The visionaries of Silicon Valley seem, at best, ambivalent about the social implications of calling into existence an omniscient, self-aware technium; at worst, they are so eager to see it happen that they can barely contain themselves. Call it delusions of grandeur, the God complex, or plain-old ordinary lust for power, but the celebrated geniuses of tech seem to have one thing in common: they think that they know better than the rest of us how society should run. They envision a pyramid-shaped political economy, with themselves and the super-productive Silicon Valley workforce at the top and the rest of us spanning out below in a massive, obedient—and grateful—base. The bad news is that they have the means to try to make this happen, and the implicit support of many of the soon-to-be governed, which derives from more than a decade of supplying everyone with things that we didn’t know we wanted until we got them.

The “techdaddies”—Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin—just know that the fulfillment of the technium’s promise will be great for everyone. But it will benefit them most of all, because it will give them—and their smart, talented, productive ilk—a place of undeniable privilege at the top of the pyramid. Why shouldn’t it be thus? They’ve already proved their worth.

The tech visionaries also know that far-out ideas sometimes become reality. In the Think Different world of Silicon Valley, this has translated into an attitude of “the whackier, the better”—if you can dream it, it can be done; if it can be done, it should be done. “Make it so,” in the words of Kirk’s successor as captain of the Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard, is the order of the day.

The list of Google’s extravagant ideas is too long to print here, but they range from the achievable—scanning every book ever published—to the far-fetched—a “space elevator” connected to an orbiting satellite. In the near future, expect Google to offer you the computing power and Internet connectivity of a smartphone in the form of a contact lens or the windshield of a self-driving car. Captains Kirk and Picard would be envious. Google’s futurists have also bandied about impossible dreams that they call “moonshots”—wildest-imagination stuff, such as mining asteroids for rare minerals. In 2013, Google launched the California Life Company, or Calico, a mysterious “longevity lab” with a goal to extend human lifespans. The venture prompted Time to ask, “Can Google Solve Death?”

Among Mark Zuckerberg’s big dreams is to engineer a way for us to send our innermost thoughts directly to one another via instant-message telepathy. Call it thought mail. “One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full, rich thoughts to each other directly using technology,” he said during a 2015 question-and-answer session. “You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it, too, if you’d like.” This idea is no doubt borne of a charitable impulse to assist those who cannot speak for one reason or another, or to eliminate the problem of texting while driving, but it is patently ridiculous. I can think of few things that I would desire less than having other people’s thoughts—complete with emojis and a soundtrack?—beamed into my head. The plan has pitfalls for sender and receiver alike. As Nicholas Carr quips, “That’s really going to require some incredible impulse control.” Then again, maybe it won’t, since many of us have already given up on being able to control ourselves around technology.

And there is a more urgent concern. As we have learned from the hacking, data dumps, privacy breaches, and security failures of recent years, nothing on the Internet is private, or if it is, it won’t be for long. The Internet and everything wired into it is public, or potentially public. That means your e-mails, direct messages, texts, online purchases, reading habits, and social-media comments will become easy fodder for the Peeping Toms and digital historians of the future. Connecting your home, office, and car to the Internet means anything that happens inside those formerly private spaces is similarly at risk of exposure to the wider world. Inviting a technology company into your living room is bad enough, but inviting one into your mind? You’d have to be crazy.

Not if you’re a Silicon Valley overlord, though. “This plan is so crazy, it just might work” was a classic plot convention of late-Baby Boomer, early Gen-X television culture, and tech visionaries seem to have internalized it. Bezos had the idea to start Amazon while driving alone across the country. He was evidently inspired by all those hours spent in solitary contemplation, because one of the wildest-dream projects that he supports is the 10,000-Year Clock. A 200-foot tall timekeeper built into the side of a mountain in West Texas, the clock has so far cost the multibillionaire north of $40 million. As Bezos told the Wall Street Journal in 2012: “The reason I’m doing it is that it is a symbol of long-term thinking . . . . We humans have become so technologically sophisticated that in certain ways we’re dangerous to ourselves. It’s going to be increasingly important over time for humanity to take a longer-term view of its future.” How ironic: Bezos, who has made several fortunes by selling the world a technologically sophisticated lifestyle of spiritual ease, material comfort, and high-touch customer service, now warns us that too much technological sophistication can be dangerous.

Elon Musk has used his billions to seed a range of companies with moonshots in mind. Tesla Inc. makes $90,000 electric cars and gigantic batteries (all highly subsidized by taxpayers). SpaceX is a private exploration firm that would love to give you a ride to Mars someday. (Musk thinks that we ought to colonize other planets.) Musk’s Boring Company is trying to convince state and local governments to let him dig tunnels throughout the U.S. so that another of his companies, Hyperloop, can solve the country’s traffic problems. Tech investor Peter Thiel poured money into the Seasteading Institute, which seeks to create sustainable floating cities on the earth’s vast oceans—another moonshot.

Silicon Valley’s billionaire CEOs understand that their wild plans will likely unleash reactionary social forces opposed to their disruptions. They know perfectly well that their gadgets, apps, self-driving cars, brain-mail programs, back-flipping robots, algorithm ads, surveillance toys, space elevators, floating cities, outer-space colonies, and all the rest will push humanity into an ever-more complete reliance on “smart machines” to do the kinds of low- or no-skill jobs that once provided satisfying livelihoods to millions. The Silicon Valley economy, as incredibly productive as it is, can’t provide jobs for every American who wants one. The techdaddies know that not everybody is cut out to be a Google engineer or a Facebook programmer—or even an Apple store Genius Bar service professional. One by one, the lower rungs of the economic and employment ladders could be lopped off by high-performance cyborgs that can cook and serve a meal, clean a house, fix a car, or teach a child to read, at almost no marginal cost. That’s going to cause a lot of disruption. Silicon Valley’s big brains could find themselves staring down the barrel of some serious social unrest. It’s not unreasonable to expect economic upheaval and potential resistance.

Naturally, visionaries that they are, the tech bosses aren’t stumbling blindly forward into this potentially chaotic future. They have already settled on a remedy: the universal basic income, a guaranteed minimum-welfare payment to everyone, regardless of income level, ability to work, or employment status. “A lot of exciting new innovations are going to be created, which will generate a lot of opportunities and wealth, but there is a real danger it could also reduce the amount of jobs,” wrote billionaire Virgin CEO Richard Branson in an August 2017 blog post. “This will make experimenting with ideas like basic income even more important in the years to come.”

The idea is simple: removing the need to fend for yourself in the ultra-sophisticated economy of the technium will free you to pursue your dreams of writing a novel, staying home with your kids, or starting that online business for which you could never quite find the time. The universal basic income will ensure that you never find yourself worrying about paying for, well, the basics. Food, clothing, and shelter will be well within your reach. Beyond that, how you pursue happiness will be up to you.

“We should make it so that no one is worried about how they’re going to pay for a place to live, no one has to worry about how they’re going to have enough to eat,” says Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator, the influential Mountain View, California, “accelerator” fund that invests in tech startups. “Just give people enough money to have a reasonable quality of life.” It’s a nice theory, if paternalistic, but there are some obvious flaws. First, we don’t all agree on what level of income constitutes a “reasonable quality of life,” so someone will have to decide what that level is—probably someone with a tech leader’s proven talent for seeing around corners.

Here’s another problem: the techdaddies think that you won’t mind losing your old livelihood, since it was probably unfulfilling work and you probably hated pulling your tired, undereducated carcass out of bed in the morning, only to be insulted all day by your junior college-trained business-major boss who insisted on looking over your shoulder while you performed mindless manual labor for a few bucks more than minimum wage. If for some strange reason it turns out that you found satisfaction in providing for yourself and your family by driving a cab or working at the widget factory or waiting tables or cleaning motel rooms, they think you’ll be willing to accept the basic-income payoff as compensation for the disruption to your livelihood. It’s a win-win, as they see it: you get some free money and they don’t need to worry about you and your old pals from the shop floor coming after them with torches and pitchforks.

The universal basic income is a bribe, plain and simple—and Silicon Valley’s biggest names have lined up behind it. Musk says “it’s going to be necessary.” Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, views it as a tool for combating income inequality. Gates says we’re not ready for it yet, but we will be soon. Zuckerberg thinks of it as a “cushion” that allows you to “try new things.” After returning from a 2017 campaign-style trip to Alaska, a state that pays every resident an annual average oil-income dividend of $1,000, Zuckerberg said: “When you’re losing money, your mentality is largely about survival. But when you’re profitable, you’re confident about your future and you look for opportunities to invest and grow further. Alaska’s economy has historically created this winning mentality, which has led to this basic income.”

One of the selling points that Zuckerberg and his peers have seized on is that the universal basic income supposedly transcends the liberal/conservative ideological trap. It may seem like a dream cooked up in the liberal big-government kitchen, but universal basic income actually has roots in conservative economics. Free marketeers like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman supported the idea of what they called a “negative income tax,” under which anyone making below a certain annual income receives a cash payment from the government at tax time, rather than the other way around. Conservative intellectual Charles Murray has endorsed the idea of a $10,000 annual payment to everyone over 21. The Friedman approach, which lives on today in the American tax code as the Earned Income Tax Credit for families with children, has the virtue of rewarding work—the amount of the credit rises with each dollar of earned income. But often left out of the story are Friedman and Murray’s caveats, the prime one being that any guaranteed-income program should be offered in lieu of other welfare programs, not in addition to them.

“The proposal for a negative income tax is a proposal to help poor people by giving them money, which is what they need,” Friedman told William F. Buckley on a 1968 episode of Firing Line. “Rather than, as now, by requiring them to come before a governmental official, detail all their assets and their liabilities, and be told that you may spend X dollars on rent, Y dollars on food, et cetera, and then be given a handout.” When the tech leaders extol the “bipartisan” nature of the universal basic income, it’s not clear that they fully appreciate that they’re allying themselves with free-market conservatives who seek to empower individuals, promote personal responsibility, and dismantle the infrastructure of the welfare state that liberal Democrats have spent the last 80 years constructing.

Many on the left have an entirely different view of the universal basic income. To them, it seems like just the latest government safety-net program on the road to what they like to call Democratic socialism. That’s the happy kind of socialism, the kind that obtains in much of Europe, where a handful of national-champion businesses produce geysers of cash that the state then redistributes to the less productive and less educated members of society. Democratic socialism is the capitalist alternative where nobody can ever be fired, so nobody ever gets hired. Bill Gross, founder of the $1 trillion Newport Beach-based investment firm PIMCO, says that if a universal basic income “strikes you as a form of socialism, I would suggest we get used to it.”

Maybe it never occurs to the tech overlords that the industry their ingenuity has built, and the titanic wealth and prosperity they’ve personally enjoyed as a result of their success, has only been historically possible in a country like the United States, where a vibrant private economy is governed by relatively light regulation and relatively low taxes, robust property-rights protections and the rule of law, and an entrepreneurial culture that rewards risk-taking. Are they under the impression that Silicon Valley is the last industry that the world will ever know or need, so that we can safely shut down the 250-year-old American experiment, an experiment based not only in ordered liberty and limited government but also in work-based opportunity?

There are other, more practical issues to consider before signing over America’s economic future to the universal basic income. As urbanist and City Journalcontributing editor Aaron Renn points out, such a program would require far more restrictive immigration controls than many on the left would probably tolerate. Basic-income boosters, writes Renn, frequently gloss over the thornier ethical issues that the idea presents, including a vision that he calls “morally problematic, even perverse: individuals are entitled to a share of social prosperity but have no obligation to contribute anything to it.”

Yet this has always been the ethic governing almost every Silicon Valley innovation. “Information wants to be free,” partisans of the early Internet used to insist. From Napster to YouTube, the digital ethos has been to fling open the gates and invite all comers; to drive established industries into the proverbial ditch by offering the products they once sold at no cost—or below cost; to undermine America’s bourgeois values and hollow out its mediating institutions; to boldly go where no man has gone before. To the tech leaders and their followers, the past is a vast wasteland of ugly ideas, simple machines, hot wars, and petty political squabbles. Nothing truly creative ever happened there until Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft. The world had little purpose, and almost no beauty, until Steve Jobs and Jony Ive gave it the iPhone.

In part, this relentless focus on the glorious future derives from the entrepreneurial culture of risk that permeates Silicon Valley, where past failures are merely prerequisites for future success. But it also derives from the riddle that all successful people must grapple with: am I successful because I’m superior, or am I superior because I’m successful? Almost all of the techdaddies appear to have concluded that their own superiority is what drove their success. Perhaps the most successful moneymakers of every age similarly succumb to such hubris. But unlike yesteryear’s robber barons, the tech overlords have achieved almost unimaginable levels of wealth and accomplishment at alarmingly young ages—some are still in their late thirties. Their success has given them the means to remake society, their sense of superiority has given them the inherent right to do so, and their youth has given them the time.

Beware of the ‘Woke’ Tech Oligarchs

Mark ZuckerbergOnce the rich protected themselves by aligning with Republicans who would protect their property from high taxes and their firms from regulation.

Some still do — notably the Koch brothers — but this breed of right-winger is gradually losing out to more progressive tilted plutocrats. In 2016, according to Open Secrets, three of the four largest billionaire political donors — hedge fund manager James Simon and his wife Marilyn, Michael Bloomberg, and currency speculator George Soros — titled progressive. This reflects a broader social trend.

Overall the GOP continues to slightly outpace Democrats among the ultra rich, but most of the big conservative donors such as Charles and David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, Rupert Murdoch, and Irvine Chairman Don Bren are well into their seventies or in their eighties. The trend belongs, clearly, to the progressives. Between 1980 to 2016, support for Democrats from the 0.1 percent has tripled, and donors in the nation’s wealthiest ZIP codes overall now give more to Democrats than Republicans.

Take Michael Bloomberg, the former Republican of convenience who last week announced he would invest $80 million into Democratic campaigns this fall before teasing, yet again, a possible presidential run of his own. Bloomberg’s usual causes are not those of traditional social democracy — after all this is the guy who proclaimed what New York really needed was more billionaires, and who beta-tested in New York City the businessman-as-better-political-leader pitch he then watched with dismay Donald Trump take all the way to the White House — but issues less threatening to the plutocracy, such as climate change and gun control.

The buyout of mainstream progressivism has changed its nature. Big donor-driven candidates — who still dominate the party’s leadership ranks, even as small-donor powered insurgents like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez test that arrangement, at least in low-turnout elections — are less concerned with the fate of auto or communication workers than they are with issues of environmental regulation, identity, and culture.

Facebook President Sean Parker, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Salesforce.com Chairman Marc Benioff, Mark Zuckerberg, and the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, are all relatively young men devoted to the progressive cause — at least those parts of it that don’t threaten their bottom lines.

The Trump Effect

With his horrendous comments and awful actions, Trump has accelerated wokeism among the wealthy and their minions. This oligarchic drift has been building for years, as wealth has shifted from traditional resource and manufacturing industries to software, media, finance, and entertainment. In sharp contrast to energy firms, home-builders, and farmers, the regulatory state does not threaten the bottom lines of these industries, as long as it refrains from breaking up their virtual monopolies.

Indeed, as researcher Greg Ferenstein suggests, the new oligarchs favor an active state that will subsidize worker housing or even a guaranteed minimum income, and keep their businesses off the hook for providing decent benefits to their ever expanding cadre of gig-economy serfs. He points out that the former head of Uber, Travis Kalanick, was a strong supporter of Obamacare and that many top tech executives — including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk — favor a government-provided guaranteed annual wage to help, in part, allay fears about what happens to most of the workforce as their industries and jobs are “disrupted.”

Geography plays a role here as well. With the biggest concentrations of wealth now in the most “progressive” regions — the Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Seattle — moguls must operate in an environment dominated by fervent anti-Trump social-justice and green advocacy. Many big tech employees — nearly 40 percent in the Bay Area, by some estimates — are noncitizens, with little reason to be concerned about how the wealth in these corners is, or is not, spread across the nation.

So it’s no surprise that woke employees at Microsoft, horrified by the brutalism of Trump’s immigration policies, have decided not to cooperate with ICE. Not to be outdone, Amazon workers compare their company’s cooperation with immigration authorities to IBM’s collaboration with Nazi Germany. Similarly Google workers are refusing to help with drones used to combat terrorists, while Apple is actively working to make it difficult for police to break into phones used in committing crimes, including in the aftermath of the San Bernardino terrorist massacre.

So powerful, and self-referential, are these companies — and their highly compensated workers — that they are increasingly willing to deny even the idea of national interest when that does not suit their political notions. Unlike businesses that worry about competition or mass opinion, these oligarchic companies can demonize half of the country with impunity. At the end of the day, even Trumpians depend on these systems unless they want to look at Chinese alternatives.

The New Controllers

Since Trump’s election, many progressives have pushed the idea that we are on the cusp of a return to traditional authoritarianism, as portrayed in books like George Orwell’s 1984 or Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Yet the real model for future tyranny may be more that of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which portrays a society run by a biologically conditioned scientific and technological elite.

In Brave New World, the masters are not hoary Stalinoids or angry right-wing fundamentalists, but gentle, reasoned executives. The Controllers preside over a society where social classes are well-defined, and only those at the top — the Alphas — live in comfort. Families have been abolished except on reservations for misfits, and people widely enjoy access to pleasurable pharmaceuticals and unconstrained, commitment-free sex in the city.

Huxley’s future eerily resembles the one favored by the oligarchs, who are now paying women workers to freeze their eggs as they aim to create an elite Alpha class without children or property, to be serviced by the low-wage Deltas, Gammas, and Epsilons of Huxley’s world — bused in from the suburban fringes.

The Controller’s power, first and foremost, depends on implanting information. In Brave New World contrary ideas are dismissed not as breaking the party line but as simply absurd or even pornographic. Today’s woke oligarchs do much the same by controlling both information and culture. Bloomberg is a prime example but he’s a pauper compared to Bezos, the world’s richest man owning one of the nation’s most influential newspapers.

Tech sofa change in recent years also helped Mark Zuckerberg’s college roommate buy The New Republic, and run it into the ground before selling it. More recently Laurene Powell, the left-leaning widow of the late Steve Jobs (net worth $20 billion), scooped up The Atlantic for a nonprofit that will compete with more traditional competitors who still, sadly, have to make money.

Meanwhile, Google is promoting journalism by robots while also planning to invest $300 million in favored outlets. What could go wrong?

The Agenda

In the emerging regime, here’s what’s not important: personal autonomy and privacy. A controlled and woke society starts with access to people’s thoughts, something critical to the advertising-driven businesses of Google and Facebook and, increasingly, also to Apple and Microsoft. It’s important to remember what Google’s former Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt once told CNBC: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

The digital revolution, which had so much promise for democratizing information, appears to be hyper-concentrating media both geographically, on the coasts, and through pipelines controlled overwhelmingly by firms like Facebook, so that a change in policy there can undermine even established media, and Google, which controls over a thirdof all on-line advertising and a remarkable 90 percent of global search. As The Guardian recently put it: “If ExxonMobil attempted to insert itself into every element of our lives like this, there might be a concerted grassroots movement to curb its influence.”

These patterns are reinforced by students shaped by our ideologically homogeneous education system. The censorious instinct now intrinsic to universities, particularly the elite ones, shapes the thoughts of the highly educated workers critical to these companies. Controllers like those at Facebook increasingly seek to “curate” views, largely conservative, they don’t like, according to former employees. Often this censorship is being carried out under guidance developed by largely progressive groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has too often labeled anyone outside its ideological “safe space” as racist bigots. Over 70 percent of Americans, notes a recent Pew study, believe social media platforms “censor political views.”

Ultimately the oligarchs, reacting to their woke workers and constituency, seek a control over basic behavior in ways even the snoop-crazy Chinese would admire. Facebook already admits to having patented technology that would allow them to snoop on their users, although they deny using it. Netflix, the oligarchical company that by some estimates is now worth more than any of the movie studios, recently imposed controls over what people do on sets of movies they finance. That includes rules that ban asking for phone numbers of co-workers or even looking at people for more than five seconds, an innovation even more intrusive than those of Huxley’s Controllers.

Hypocritical Oaths

Stanley Bing’s recently released Immortal Life gives a riveting version of a near-future society shaped by our tech oligarchs. In his not-so-distant future, government has largely been replaced by a cabal of superannuated tech moguls — effectively Global Controllers — who shape societal views, implant devices in human brains, and dominate every aspect of the economy. Democracy hasn’t just been constrained; it’s been excised.

Right now the rising power of the Controllers has been obscured by the Trumpian counterrevolution, a peasant rebellion supported by a less than charming alliance of old economy moguls, angry white males, and more than few xenophobic racists. But over the long term, history is bending toward the woke oligarchy—particularly as the old generation conveniently dies off.

If these well-heeled progressives have a vulnerability, it’s their extreme hypocrisy. In California, the epicenter of the resistance and elite wokefulness, Silicon Valley oligarchs and their shrieky Hollywood counterparts are fervent in their embrace of progressive values. But, as a new report from Chapman University shows, the prevailing oligarch-friendly California economic agenda — hostile to suburbs, fossil-fuel energy, and manufacturing — has proven unequal and particularly damaging to minorities.

Not without reason has the maverick environmentalist Mike Shellenberger called California “the most racist” state in the union. Far from Malibu and swanky haunts of the cultural elites, the bulk of Los Angeles suffers among the highest poverty rates of any metropolitan areas. Cost-adjusted wages for middle-class workers, Latinos, and African Americans in Silicon Valley have actually dropped during the recent economic boom there.

Perhaps there’s no better illustration of hypocrisy than the Disney company. The once conservative bastion-turned-promoter of woke values has been led by Robert Iger, a fantastically well-compensated self-defined “progressive,” who has made much of denouncing President Trump’s immigration policy as “cruel and misguided ” and taking standard progressive positions on guns and the Paris accords. Yet, as Bernie Sanders has pointed out recently, Disney workers are generally poorly paid, many on the verge of poverty. Even middle-class workers have been given the shiv: The company infamously replaced its IT workers with outside contractors shipped in from India.

Against the Oligarchs

This unprecedented agglomeration of wealth and power needs to be opposed both by conservatives and traditional progressives. It won’t be easy. In the presidential run, The Washington Post took hard aim at Bernie Sanders before turning, albeit less successfully, against Trump. More recently Amazon and its minions forced Seattle’s progressives to back down from a plan to make the company pay more taxes. Majority Leader Charles Schumer opposes higher capital-gains rates, warming the cockles of venture capitalists and the new economic royalists, some of whom are his contributors.

Even on green issues, the famously pious oligarchs demonstrate remarkable levels of hypocrisy. These firms have bought enough allowances and built solar or wind facilities to claim “carbon neutrality.” But such offsets, as the new Chapman report reveals, mostly shuffle greenhouse gases around and don’t actually reduce global emissions. Apple keeps its California carbon footprint down by making all its products abroad, mostly in China — which ends up spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than if they built them here.

Ultimately the only way to stop the new Controllers and challenge their hypocrisy will be to meet them head on. Companies like Google need to be broken up, as many on both right and left agree. This position has even been adopted by the generally liberal Boston Globe which warned that, “Never ever in the history of the world has a single company had so much control over what people know and think.”

But it’s not just Google — which spends more on lobbying than any other private company—or Amazon, which has quadrupled its government spending since 2014. This relatively new focus on inside Washington influence-peddling, combined with their oversized influence on critical technologies, our media, and overall economic system makes these firms a threat to the pluralism essential to democracy, unlike any we have seen in the last century. Their vision presages a society where few work and a handful control the nation’s riches. To avoid a rebellion, the “redundant” are supposed to be paid off with some sort of government allowance.

Americans need to oppose this evolution and fight for the flourishing of a grassroots and more dispersed economy now, before the oligarchs brave new world is fully and finally here.

ditor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

This piece originally appeared on The Daily Beast.

Cross-posted at New Geography.

Report: Silicon Valley Giants Enjoy Billions in Government Subsidies

Silicon ValleyThe latest Subsidy Tracker reveals that some of the most prominent Silicon Valley tech corporations enjoy billions in government subsidies.

“Good Jobs First” is a not-for-profit organization that reviews state and municipal financial reports to track the size and justifications given by government entities to issue corporate tax abatements and direct subsidies that since 2015 have been required accounting disclosures under GASB Statement No. 77.

Most Americans are supportive of government providing defense, public safety, roads, schools, and public health. But the “Subsidy Tracker 2” reveals that governments are issuing record amounts of subsidies to the richest and powerful tech companies, many headquartered in Silicon Valley.

Supposedly entrepreneurial Silicon Valley has been America’s biggest winner in the corporate welfare game. Tesla has been by far the United States’ leader by collecting $2.4 billion in direct subsidies and over $1 billion in tax abatements since 2007. In addition, its SolarCity subsidiary picked up $1 billion in grants and tax abatements from the State of New York and another $497.5 million in U.S. Treasury Department cash grants.

Other Silicon Valley tech taxpayers miners include Google, the second-most valuable company in the galaxy with a market capitalization of $770 billion. It has enjoyed government largess of $766 million since 2000. Apple, the most valuable company in the universe with a market capitalization of $904 billion, banked $693 million in government handouts since 2011. And Facebook, the fifth most valuable company on the planet with a market capitalization of $558 billion, pocketed $549 million, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

But Silicon Valley is about to be displaced as America’s biggest corporate welfare hub by Seattle-based Amazon. According to the Subsidy Tracker, Amazon built its distribution and data centers network with up to $613 million in government grants and tax holidays.

Amazon is now holding the equivalent of a municipal subsidy auction for the right to host its $5 billion second North American corporate headquarters, HQ2.

In a bidding process that generated hundreds of proposals, Amazon named 20 municipal finalists in January. The subsidy packages for the nine locations that made public bids include 1) Raleigh, North Carolina with $50 million; 2) Denver, Colorado with $100 million; 3) Los Angeles, California with between $300 million to $1 billion; 4) Atlanta, Georgia with $1 billion; 5) Chicago, Illinois with at least $1.7 billion; 6) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with between $2 billion to $3 billion; 7) Columbus, Ohio with $2.3 billion; 8) Newark, New Jersey with $7 billion; and Montgomery County, Maryland with $8.5 billion in tax abatements and infrastructure incentives.

Mercatus Center at George Mason University warns that elected officials, even with the best of intentions, “do not possess the proper incentives to manage taxpayers’ money prudently” when it comes to passing out corporate taxpayer subsidies.

When private investors act in markets they experience price signals, but government decision makers have no way to account for the value or costs of their decisions. When private investors fail they lose money, but it is taxpayers that lose when government fails.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Despite Glowing Media Coverage, California Faces a Future Loaded With Problems

california budget la la laJerry Brown’s long political career will likely end in January 2019, when the 80-year-old’s second stint as California governor concludes. In the media’s eyes — and in his own mind — Brown’s gubernatorial encore has been a rousing success. His backers say that he has brought the state back, economically and fiscally, from the depths of the Great Recession, which hit California harder than it did the rest of the country. Brown has enacted an array of left-liberal policies, to the delight of progressives, and positioned California as a blue-state role model for the American future. A decade of phenomenal growth among Silicon Valley’s landmark companies has boosted the state’s image and helped restore its overall economy. Democrats hope that California will provide a template for reestablishing their appeal to voters nationwide.

But the state’s boom shows signs of leveling off: after growing much faster than the national average for several years, the economy, notes a recent report by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, has now fallen to around the national average; the state is no longer generating income faster than its prime rivals such as Texas, Washington State, Oregon, or Utah. California Lutheran University forecaster Matthew Fienup suggests that the state’s economic growth could fall below national norms if current trends continue.

The growth that so impressed over the past five years has masked a multitude of policy sins, and as California’s economic engine slows down, the underlying problems are becoming harder to deny. People are moving out in greater numbers than they’re moving in. Rates of job creation — and the types of jobs being created — vary widely according to geography. The high-tech hubs of San Francisco and Silicon Valley have added tens of thousands of well-paying jobs during Brown’s tenure, but the rest of the state hasn’t done nearly as well.

Brown has put California on a fiscally unsustainable path. A disproportionate share of the funds paying for his ever-expanding progressive agenda derive from Silicon Valley’s capital-gains tax revenues and inflation of the state’s coastal real-estate prices. Any slowdown in the tech money machine or drop-off in property values could prove disastrous for Sacramento’s budget — California gets half its revenue from its top 1 percent of earners. According to Pew, this makes it the major American state with the most volatile finances. Both U.S. News & World Report and the Mercatus Center ranked California 43rd among the states in fiscal health. And that was during an economic boom.

Brown’s departure will also remove the last (if only partial) restraint on progressives in the state legislature, who largely do the bidding of California’s powerful public-employee unions and the green lobby. These forces will pressure the next governor to ram through even stricter environmental laws, more onerous labor regulations, and a single-payer health-care system. California’s teachers are even pushing for an exemption from state income taxes.

California was once ground zero for upward mobility. No more. During the new millennium, the Golden State has become increasingly bifurcated between a small but growing cadre of elite workers and a far larger pool of poorer families barely scraping by. Wide disparities have opened up between the ultrarich and a fading middle class. The Brown administration has largely ignored the state’s poor and struggling rural areas as it pursues its agenda of remaking California into a progressive paradise. The bill — socially, economically, and fiscally — is coming due.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, California was a population magnet, growing ever more economically vibrant as it attracted the ambitious and the entrepreneurial from other American states and from around the world. Now the state’s long-running population growth is leveling off. During the last decade, high taxes, rising housing costs, and constrained economic opportunity have sent many California residents in search of greener pastures. Domestic economic migrants are pursuing their American dreams in low-tax, pro-growth states like Arizona, Nevada, and Texas.

With fertility rates already below replacement, the state’s population growth fell below the national average for the first time last year. Only four states—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Illinois—are attracting fewer newcomers per capita. Immigration won’t solve that problem—new arrivals from foreign countries have trended down over the past decade. Since 2010, Florida attracted international immigrants at a per-capita rate nearly 70 percent greater than California’s. Net domestic out-migration, which declined in the early years of the Great Recession, tripled between 2014 and 2017. Worse, according to a recent UC Berkeley study, more than a quarter of Californians are considering picking up stakes, with the strongest proclivity found among people under 50.

California is aging, too. The state’s crude birthrate (live births per 1,000 population) is at its lowest since 1907. Los Angeles and San Francisco ranked among the bottom ten in birthrates among the 53 major metropolitan areas in 2015. Between 2000 and 2016, San Francisco–Oakland and San Jose ranked 34th and 47th in terms of millennial growth among the country’s 53 largest metro areas. A dearth of young people would pose particular problems for an economy like California’s, long dependent on innovation, traditionally the province of younger workers and entrepreneurs. Seventy-four percent of Bay Area millennials are considering a move out of the region in the next five years. Since 2000, Los Angeles – Orange County has seen some of the nation’s slowest growth of 25- to 34-year-old residents; since 2010, it has remained substantially below the national average on this measure. The progressive narrative suggests that those leaving California are poor, poorly educated, or both. Yet according to the Internal Revenue Service, out-migrant households had a higher average income than those households that stayed or moved in; even the Bay Area is experiencing growing out-migration from increasingly affluent people. Though the new federal tax changes, which will limit state tax deductions, will likely not affect the wealthiest oligarchs and landowners, they could further accelerate the departure of the merely somewhat affluent.

The current climate contrasts sharply with the 1950s and 1960s, when Jerry Brown’s father, the late Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, pursued dynamic pro-development policies as California’s governor. During those decades, the state constructed new infrastructure that sparked growth in fields as diverse as high-tech, aerospace, fashion, agriculture, basic manufacturing, and entertainment. What was then a model freeway system connected California’s cities to new middle-income communities in the San Fernando Valley, the South Bay of San Francisco, Orange County, and along the spine of the San Francisco Peninsula, which morphed into what we now call Silicon Valley. Pat Brown’s administrations modernized and extended the state’s water-supply system and crafted a public university system that was the envy of the nation, if not the world. Describing Brown’s leadership in transformational terms, biographer Ethan Rarick called the twentieth century the “California century.”

These reforms sparked a long economic boom not only on the California coast but also in the state’s massive interior. In those days, the region had political clout, as Republicans and Democrats competed for votes in Fresno, San Bernardino, and Kern Counties. Today, the California heartland tilts Republican but has lost its influence, as political and economic power has consolidated around deep-blue Silicon Valley and San Francisco.

Like his father, Jerry Brown is a liberal Democrat, yet he has worked overtime to undermine much of Pat Brown’s pro-growth legacy. With the cooperation of a compliant state legislature dominated by liberals, Brown has increased taxes, instituted polices making energy much more expensive in California than in neighboring states, pursued regulations causing housing costs to rise to unprecedented levels, and positioned California as a safe space for illegal immigrants. Brown’s policies embrace the values not of aspirational California but those of its wealthy coastline residents. From water and energy regulations to a $15 minimum hourly wage, Brown’s agenda reflects the ultraliberal political predilections of the Bay Area. That’s where Brown himself lives, as do many of the state’s political elite, including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and U.S. senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. The rest of the state has been pushed to the political margins and keenly feels its powerlessness. “We don’t have seats at the table,” laments Richard Chapman, president and CEO of the Kern County Economic Development Corporation. “We are a flyover state within a state.”

Though widely praised by left-wing think tanks and progressive foreign governments, Jerry Brown’s policies have unquestionably exacerbated income inequality in California. According to the Social Science Research Council, California now has the highest levels of income inequality in the United States. In the last decade, according to the Brookings Institution, inequality grew more rapidly in San Francisco than in any other large American city; Sacramento ranked fourth on this measure. California is home to a disproportionate share of the nation’s wealthiest people, including four of the 15 richest on the planet. Yet more than 20 percent of Californians are considered poor, adjusted for housing costs. That’s the highest percentage of any state, including Mississippi. According to a recent United Way study, close to one in three California families is barely able to pay its bills. Los Angeles, by far the state’s largest metropolitan area, has the highest poverty rate of any large region in the country. In the 4 million–strong Inland Empire, a population nearly as large as metropolitan Boston suffers one of the highest poverty rates among the nation’s 25 largest metro areas.

Graphs by Alberto Mena
Graphs by Alberto Mena

Between 2007 and 2016, according to an analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the Bay Area created 200,000 jobs paying better than $70,000 annually, but high-wage jobs dropped both in Southern California and statewide. The number of blue-collar jobs, some of which pay well, has dropped by 500,000 since 2000 and by more than 300,000 since the Great Recession. Minimum-wage or near-minimum-wage jobs accounted in 2015–16 for almost two-thirds of the state’s new job growth, according to the California Business Roundtable—and the new $15 minimum-wage law, set to phase in over the next half-decade, will hurt such entry-level employment, research suggests.

The number of high-paying business- and professional-services jobs is now growing at a rate considerably lower in Silicon Valley and San Francisco, moreover, than it is in rising boomtowns such as Nashville, Dallas–Fort Worth, Austin, Orlando, San Antonio, Salt Lake City, and Charlotte. Most other California metro areas, including Los Angeles, are doing far worse when it comes to job growth in this area. The Inland Empire saw a 7 percent loss of such jobs between 2015 and 2016. As for tech jobs, between 2015 and 2017, San Francisco and San Jose added 23,000 jobs in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, for a growth rate of 4 percent and 7 percent, respectively. But the greater Los Angeles area, by far the state’s largest urban center, gained only 6,500 STEM jobs, for a growth rate of just 2 percent, well below the national average. Even worse, the Riverside–San Bernardino area added barely 900 STEM jobs, for a growth rate of about 2 percent.

Blame some of this weakness on the Brown administration, for putting the squeeze on the state’s business community. Brown’s aggressive stance on energy and climate issues—unrealistic renewable-energy mandates and reduction targets for fossil-fuel emissions—has placed California at war with industries such as home building, agriculture, and manufacturing, says economist John Husing. California’s industrial electricity rates are, as a consequence, twice as high as those in Nevada, Arizona, and Texas—the states that have emerged as California’s main competitors for business and residents.

Much of California’s overall job growth—40 percent—during the last decade has been concentrated in the prosperous Silicon Valley and Bay Area, which account for about 20 percent of the state’s population. The majority of the state’s population lives outside the Bay Area and, generally speaking, the farther you go from there, particularly inland, the worse the economic situation gets. Among the nation’s 381 metropolitan areas, notes a recent Pew study, four of the ten with the lowest share of middle-class residents are Fresno, Bakersfield, Visalia–Porterville, and El Centro. Three of the ten regions with the highest proportion of poor people were also in California’s interior. Southern California has lagged its northern rivals, too, leaving whole swaths of the region in poverty.

Many Californians living in the inland areas had hoped that the coastal boom would spill eastward, as skilled workers headed out in search of more affordable living. That’s how it had always worked before. In the 1980s and 1990s, middle-class Californians flooded out of the costly coastal urban centers and into the interior counties, running from Riverside to the Central Valley adjacent to the Bay Area. That flood, though, has slowed to a trickle. Prior to the 2008 housing crash, the Inland Empire annually gained as many as 90,000 domestic migrants, largely from the coast; in 2017, a mere 15,000 relocated.

Housing costs are a likely cause of this slowdown in domestic migration. Since 2009, Inland Empire house prices have increased at a higher rate than that of Orange County, according to data from the California Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. Not that housing is remotely affordable on the coast: a median-priced house in Atlanta, Dallas–Fort Worth, or Houston is between one-half and one-third the cost in the Bay Area or Los Angeles.

Indeed, at their current rate of savings, many young Californians will take 28 years to qualify for a median-priced house in the San Francisco area—but only five years in Charlotte, or three years in Atlanta. And California millennials can’t look to higher salaries to relieve the housing pressure, since, on average, they earn about the same as their counterparts in far less expensive states such as Texas, Minnesota, and Washington. Small wonder that, for every two home buyers who came to the state in 2017, five homeowners left, notes research firm Core Logic.

The unaffordability of homes has had an impact on businesses. Many of California’s biggest non-tech employers have moved their headquarters out of the state in the last five years or are in the process of doing so. In 2014, for example, Toyota announced that it would move its North American headquarters from Torrance to Plano, Texas, just north of Dallas–Fort Worth. The main reason, according to economist Albert Niemi, Jr., of the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business, was housing costs for 6,500 Toyota workers. Pasadena’s Jacobs Engineering also shipped 700 headquarters jobs to less expensive Dallas–Fort Worth. Occidental Petroleum left Los Angeles for Houston in 2014. Glendale-based Nestlé decamped for Rosslyn, Virginia, in 2017. Amgen, the world’s largest biotech firm, will shift much of its workforce from pricey Ventura County to cheaper Tampa, Florida.

A reduction in the supply of new housing has driven prices upward. New single-family construction in the Inland Empire has dropped to one-third of prerecession levels. California’s statewide rate of issuing building permits—for both single- and multifamily housing—remains well below the national average, particularly compared with prime competitor states, such as Texas. Los Angeles is the nation’s second-largest metropolitan area but ranked sixth largest in new home construction in 2017, building fewer than half the number of new homes built in Dallas–Fort Worth and lagging behind even smaller Austin and Denver.

What’s causing California’s housing crunch? Misguided progressive policies that have slowed housing construction are at least partly to blame. Construction firms, for example, must pay “prevailing wages” when undertaking some new housing projects, raising building costs by as much as 37 percent. Recent new subsidized “affordable” units in the Bay Area cost upward of $700,000 to complete. Urban theorists and planners promote government-enforced “density” requirements on new developments, ignoring data that show high-density construction to be as much as five times as costly per square foot as low-density construction. Those costs make it harder for developers to profit from housing construction, and hence less likely to build, and when they do build, the higher price tag gets passed on to residents. Rent control now enjoys widespread support, but it, too, discourages new housing construction.

California’s dramatic demographic shift has added its own problems to the housing crisis. Since 2010, California’s white population has dropped by 270,000, while its Hispanic population has grown by more than 1.5 million. Hispanics and African-Americans now constitute 45 percent of California’s total population. Almost a third of the state’s Hispanics and a fifth of its African-Americans live on the edge of poverty. Incomes have declined for the largely working-class Latino and African-American population during the economic boom, as factory and other regular employment has shifted elsewhere.

Many minorities in proudly multicultural California live in deplorable housing conditions, with a rate of overcrowding roughly twice the national average. Los Angeles County, with a population more than 50 percent Latino or African-American, has the highest level of households with “severe overcrowding”—defined as at least 1.5 persons per room—of any major metropolitan area in the U.S. Some 25 percent of Los Angelinos, according to a recent UCLA study, spend half their income on rent—another unfortunate metric in which the city comes out on top. And things aren’t looking as though they will improve for many young blacks and Hispanics anytime soon; the state’s poor education system has not served them well, with California’s eighth-grade reading scores ranking among the nation’s worst.

At least those in overcrowded dwellings have a place to live. Even as homelessness has been reduced in much of the country, roughly one-quarter of all homeless people in the nation live in the Golden State, and the numbers are rising. California’s homelessness problem is in part a product of a benign climate, but soaring housing costs are doubtless playing a role as well. Los Angeles County has roughly 55,000 homeless people, up 23 percent since last year. San Francisco, the darling of the tech economy, now has 7,500 homeless people, essentially 160 per square mile. The problem is spreading to traditionally affluent areas like Orange County and Silicon Valley, now site of some of the nation’s largest homeless encampments.

The only way to ensure a just and sustainable California future lies not in giving Sacramento more power but in reducing regulations, allowing localities to control their own fates, building more housing along the periphery, and embracing reasonable standards on environmental controls. According to the Energy Information Agency, since 2007 California has reduced emissions by 10 percent, below the national average of 12 percent; for all its ambitious green laws, the state ranks a measly 35th in emissions reduction. Tougher environmental regulations simply push people’s carbon footprint to other states, where, because of harsher climates, per-capita emissions tend to be higher. Rather than trying to vamp as the leader of a visionary nation-state, as Brown has done recently on trips to Western Europe, Russia, and China, California’s next governor can meet the still-ambitious environmental goals of the Obama administration without doing too much additional damage to the state’s beleaguered middle class.

Last year saw the first signs of a middle-class pushback. A handful of largely Latino and inland Democrats—some backed by the state’s residual energy industry—killed Brown’s attempt to force a 50 percent reduction in fossil-fuel use by 2030, a measure that, opponents alleged, would have necessitated gas rationing. Millennials—faced with diminishing prospects for good jobs and homeownership—could break with progressives and demand a change. They might begin to ask the uncomfortable questions that Californians must answer if they are to avoid bankruptcy: Do we update our water systems, pave our roads, fix our bridges, hire cops, and improve schools—or continue to pay for some of the country’s most lavish green incentives and other costly progressive measures? One recent survey suggests that young people are less likely to identify as “environmentalist” than previous generations. They could conceivably turn to an unconventional figure, like independent gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger, a maverick who threatens to disrupt the status quo by removing barriers to middle-class growth and reviving the Pat Brown legacy.

California needs to recapture the dynamics of upward mobility in a state that once epitomized it. Those of us concerned about a better future for the next generation have reason to be discouraged. But with all California’s resources and its culture of innovation, a way can be found to restore the state’s once-proud reputation as incubator of aspirations and fulfiller of dreams.

Tech backlash roils San Francisco politics

San Francisco, CA, USAThe Seattle City Council’s interest in imposing an unusual “head tax” on large employers based on their number of employees won international headlines this month after giant online retailer Amazon protested by freezing a plan to add 1 million square feet in office space in the city. After proponents associated with Seattle unions and progressive groups agreed to cut the levy from $500 per employee to $275, the measure won unanimous council approval, and Amazon – which has about 45,000 employees in the Seattle area – resumed planning for its expansion. But business groups remain upset about the levy, which may be the target of a signature-gathering campaign for a ballot measure rolling back the fee.

While it hasn’t got nearly the attention, the same tensions between wealthy tech employers and local interest groups – which see the employers as hurting quality of life by increasing congestion and by making housing costlier – are playing out in the June 5 San Francisco mayor’s race. It’s being held to fill the vacancy created by Mayor Ed Lee’s death from a heart attack on Dec. 12. Lee’s death was lamented by tech executives who called him a key to San Francisco’s emergence as a world tech capital.

That sentiment is far from universal. A May 15 Business Insider analysis by Melia Robinson that was featured on the San Francisco Chronicle website was headlined “San Francisco is fed up with Big Tech, and residents are begging the next mayor to do something about it.”

Leading mayoral candidates critical of tech’s effects

It’s difficult to be confident who’s leading the mayor’s race since San Francisco is one of a handful of cities to use a top-three ranked voting system in which a candidate who doesn’t get a majority in the initial tally can still win based on her or his second- and third-place votes. But the consensus top three are all liberal to very liberal Democrats by national, if not San Francisco, standards. They are Board of Supervisors Chairwoman London Breed, who would be the city’s first African-American woman mayor and has the support of former Mayor Willie Brown’s business-friendly coalition; Supervisor Jane Kim, who would be the city’s first Korean-American mayor and is a mostly beloved figure among local progressives; and former state Sen. Mark Leno, who would be the city’s first openly gay mayor and who also runs well to Breed’s left.

Breed, who was deposed as acting mayor by progressive supervisors earlier this year, seems to want the most limited policy changes aimed at tech workers. She has backed limits on short-term rentals by companies like Airbnb and wants to cap the number of ride-hailing vehicles at any given time, and perhaps put restrictions on food deliveries as well.

Kim wants tech companies to improve pay and benefits for lower-rung workers so they can live in the city. She says companies subcontract services for janitorial and cafeteria work so they can avoid responsibility for the poor quality of life for those hired. She has expressed interest in requiring Uber and Lyft to pay a per-rider fee.

Leno wants to impose hiring rules on city tech companies to force them to hire city residents. He says this hiring shouldn’t just be for blue-collar positions but for administrative and sales jobs. He has also called for tech firms and their employers to “invest” in the city by committing to improving its lifestyle for those beyond the wealthy.

Some warn tech firms shouldn’t be taken for granted

The only Republican in the race – business consultant Richie Greenberg – and business groups say that mayoral candidates shouldn’t take tech companies for granted. They note that the city’s tech boom may have peaked in 2016, with exploding housing costs hurting San Francisco more than the broader Bay Area-Silicon Valley tech region in general.

But this point of view is a tough sell going into June 5’s voting. Perhaps the best example of this is a deal orchestrated in 2011 by then-Mayor Lee with the support of Supervisor Kim to revitalize the rough Tenderloin and Mid-Market districts west of downtown by giving a six-year break on city payroll taxes to companies located there. This was meant to keep Twitter’s headquarters from moving out of the city and to attract new tech firms to the area.

The proposal was widely seen as a smart way to maintain San Francisco’s tech momentum in 2011. In 2014, business groups hailed the agreement for keeping Twitter and for creating 13,000 jobs and generating much more revenue for the city than the sums lost because of the tax break.

But that same year, a San Francisco Chronicle analysis noted that the deal was seen by many residents as a sign of the city caving to business pressure – and it has emerged as a reason for progressives to question Kim’s bona fides.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Tech Oligarchs and the California Housing Crisis

Silicon ValleyLet them pay.

Silicon Valley tech oligarchs are concerned about housing in California.

Let them pay.

Housing prices in the areas of their shiny new tech campuses are skyrocketing to unaffordability for many of the longer term residents and are raising the price of housing for their employees.  As the pro-developer LA Times had to admit, “The housing crunch, particularly acute in Bay Area cities such as San Francisco and San Jose, is a problem that the tech industry helped create by attracting well-paid new workers who can outbid longtime residents.”

So let them pay.

The tech oligarchs are not interested in rent control or rent stabilization ordinances to protect the longtime residents.  They’re not funding efforts to repeal the Costa Hawkins and Ellis Acts, which restrict the ability of cities to rent-stabilize apartments.  They want the housing crisis to be solved by taking zoning control away from cities and by allowing developers to run riot without any municipal controls, under the misguided notion that by building enough luxury housing, affordability will “trickle-down” to the peons.

And so the tech oligarchs are funding “Yimby” (“Yes in my back yard”) pro-developer groups which support Sacramento-mandated levels of density, engineered to maximize profits, overriding the individually crafted General Plans of distinctive communities throughout the state.  Those who see through the true nature of these AstroTurf groups have perceptively tweaked “Yimby” to “Wimby” (“Wall St. in my back yard”).  Not surprisingly, these tech oligarchs and their Wimby/Yimby puppets are the loudest voices in support of Sen. Scott Wiener’s SB827, which would allow indiscriminate densification throughout the state, using “mass transit” as an alibi.  (“Mass transit” as defined by Wiener is a bus four times an hour during rush hour.)

One of the tech CEO’s who is a major donor to one of Yimby groups recently said, “Technology companies have such insane margins that they’re one of the few sectors that can continue to be viable in this environment.”

Of course, tech employees outbidding existing residents, who are priced out of the market, is a major cause of displacement.  Despite some cosmetic changes to the bill as an afterthought to blunt criticism, SB827 cannot avoid all the impacts of gentrification and displacement in its mission to address the needs and desires of the tech oligarchs.

Let them pay.

While one might expect Ayn Rand toting, latte quaffing tech masters-of-the-universe to thumb their noses at concepts like “Community” and “Livability,” especially if they stand in the way of their G-d given rights to profiteer, this position is not as easy to reconcile with the self-styled persona of Sen. Scott Wiener, representing some of the most liberal parts of San Francisco.  It’s downright odd that someone who by rights should be thumbing his nose at the 1% (or in this case, the 1% of the 1%) is freely regurgitating Reaganomic trickle-down talking points; but Wiener, whose largest donor base comes from developers and the real estate lobby, seems to be going the extra mile in making a fair bid to be known as Sacramento’s patron saint of crony capitalism.

Wiener and his cabal of self-styled progressives act as if the “law of supply and demand” is not a variable and disputable economic or sociological principle – or as if induced demand doesn’t exist in a flexible market – but is some kind of immutable natural law, which would put Newton and Kepler to shame.  To have those closer to Marx suddenly embracing Mundell and Laffer is the kind of cognitive dissonance which ordinarily causes heads to explode, and, quite frankly, I’m not sure that hasn’t been the case here.

And yet, considering the tech corporations’ “insane margins” and considering Sen. Wiener’s proven lack of squeamishness when it comes to taxing ordinary Californians (gas tax, anyone?), he should have no problem looking to corporations for major funding to solve the housing crisis which they, in no small part, helped to create.

But then again, the key phrase about Sen. Wiener’s lack of squeamishness when it comes to imposing taxes seems to be “ordinary Californians.”  He has demonstrated he doesn’t have a problem with that, but taxing the “insane margins” of the tech corporations is probably not regressive enough for him.  Ordinary Californians simply can’t spread money around Sacramento the way the oligarchs can.  So when Wiener says, “It’s about damn time that the tech sector started to engage in housing policy,” it sounds perforce like he’s looking towards future campaign donations rather than actual housing solutions.

It also looks like Wiener is less concerned with the implications of increasing income inequality, which plays a major role in the housing crisis.  Rather than try to deal with the problem of income inequality which the tech oligarchs are creating, Wiener and his Yimby cronies attempt to deal with a symptom of income inequality instead of its actual cause.  Let’s tackle housing, not the income inequality creating the housing crisis; and let’s put a target on single-family housing, which can generate untold profits if we upzone it, by labelling it as “racist.”

One would hope that Wiener, whatever wing of whatever party he belongs to, would be interested in dealing with the issue of income inequality, but this is the same guy who said: “I could care less how much money developers make.”  Of course not.  Should we really be surprised that the by-right upzoning of his bill represents one of the single largest wealth transfers from the public to the private sector in California history?  Should we be shocked that Wiener and his self-righteous cronies are doing nothing to address the growing income disparity of ordinary Californians with the tech oligarchs and their “insane margins”?  Is it really surprising that he won’t even begin to think about how all that money he is gifting to developers could be used to help build subsidized affordable housing, for example?

Let the developers pay, too.

One of the many built in fallacies and policy errors within SB827 is its attempt to use mass transit as an alibi to densify.  Public transportation should serve the needs of urban planning, not the other way around.  If Wiener wants to look for causes of the housing crisis to fix, then he should – as the LA Times did – draw the nexus between massive job creation and increased housing demands.  And policy should be determined accordingly.

Consequently, in addition to doing a better job taxing the “insane margins” of tech companies, no massive projects should be approved under CEQA until and unless a concurrent solution for the accompanying housing impacts are dealt with.  This would mean eliminating statements of “overriding considerations” which allow agencies to effectively not have to deal with housing impacts.  It would also mean that the tech corporations would be asked to step up and take responsibility for the problems they are creating, as they create them.

Let them pay.

If, as a result, tech companies threaten to move to Merced or Modesto or Fresno or Victorville – or out of state, for that matter – let them. Economic justice demands not caving to all the demands of the corporate oligarchs.  Economic development needs to be spread throughout the state and throughout the country and encouraging economic development in struggling areas is a good thing.  If the jobs magnet is creating the housing crisis, then part of the solution should lie in job creation in areas in which housing is abundant and affordable.  Instead of trying to cram everyone into a few megalopolises, while the tech oligarchs live in their dachas on massive landed estates, we should literally be working to spread the wealth and share in the “insane margins.”  As much as I love California, I’d also love to see new life breathed into Detroit and other rust belt cities, for example.

At some point we’re also going to have to consider the ultimate implications of the spirals of growth that Wiener and the oligarchs are assuming should be the natural state of things.  Now is as good a time as ever.  The notion of never-ending growth is the very definition of unsustainability.

My guess is that not bending over backwards to kiss the collective tochuses of the oligarchs would be bad for the collective treasuries of the reelection campaigns of a good number of Sacramento politicians, but standing up to the tech corporations and demanding a fair share of their “insane margins” is good policy which would actually make a difference in providing real solutions to our state’s housing crisis.  This is just another reason why we need to embrace the principles of subsidiarity and devolve power from the special interest puppets in Sacramento.

Additional measures to solve the housing crisis include:

  • Repealing the Costa-Hawkins and Ellis Acts, thereby untying cities’ hands and allowing them to implement more effective rent stabilization measures.
  • Bringing back redevelopment agencies, which Sacramento abolished in a massive money-grab, in order to focus on creating affordable housing.
  • Giving cities more leverage in negotiating with corporations for fair-share public benefits, including housing.
  • Empowering cities and local agencies through subsidies to create more subsidized affordable housing; solving the pension crisis (as well as wasteful Sacramento spending) and devoting the resources created in the process to housing.
  • Acknowledging that top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates are not suitable for a state as diverse and wide-ranging as California, instead encouraging regional cooperation and individualized solutions which respect the unique DNAs of California’s diverse communities.

The tech oligarchs’ dystopian vision has been brilliantly exposed by urban scholar Joel Kotkin, who has discussed the implications of densified urban living for workers and plebeians, who are regarded by the tech corporations and the politicians who serve them at best as modern-day serfs.  In attempting to deny the importance of quality-of-life issues (except for themselves) or any concept of living in a community with real community character (because they are believers in profit über alles), the oligarchs and their politicians are dehumanizing the very people they are supposed to serve and who have made them rich.  To them we are only widgets, stats or marks.

Let them pay.

Even if they’re not so good at logic or policy, Yimby groups seem to be talented at chanting.

So here’s a new one for them.  In the spirit of the classic scene in “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training,” the Yimbys who are truly interested in real housing solutions might want to consider a new chant, directed at the developers, the tech corporations and their “insane margins”: “Let them pay!  Let them pay!  Let them pay!”

ice-mayor of Beverly Hills

Tim Draper says he has signatures needed for third try to break up California

Billionaire venture investor Tim Draper on Thursday said he has the signatures he needs to put his initiative to break up California into three states before the state’s voters.

Draper said in a press release that he has gathered about 600,000 signatures for his “Cal 3” initiative that would divide the country’s most populous state into three new ones: Northern California, Southern California and California.

Los Angeles would be in the new California. The farmland and forested areas, along with San Francisco and the Silicon Valley technology hub, would be turned into the two other states.

The signatures on the Cal 3 petition have yet to be certified, so it isn’t officially on the ballot yet.

This is Draper third attempt to split California into multiple states: His earlier efforts to split the state into six new ones failed in 2014 and 2016. …

Click here to read the full article from the Silicon Valley Business Journal