Left and Lefter in California

Yet as California Democrats exult in what they see as a glowing future, they are turning away from the models that once drove their party’s (and the state’s) success—a commitment to growth, upward mobility, and dispersed property ownership. California’s current prosperity is largely due to the legacy of Governor Pat Brown, who, a half-century ago, […]

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Judgment Day for Public Unions

When it hears Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, the Supreme Court will decide whether public-sector unionism violates the First Amendment rights of workers who refuse to join unions. The case will be one of America’s most consequential for government labor–management relations. If the Court rules for the plaintiffs, […]

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Playgrounds for Elites

The revival of America’s core cities is one of the most celebrated narratives of our time—yet, perhaps paradoxically, urban progress has also created a growing problem of increasing inequality and middle-class flight. Once exemplars of middle-class advancement, most major American cities are now typified by a “barbell economy,” divided between well-paid professionals and lower-paid service workers. As early as the 1970s, notes the Brookings Institution, middle-income neighborhoods began to shrink more dramatically in inner cities than anywhere else—and the phenomenon has continued. Today, in virtually all U.S. metro areas, the inner cores are more unequal than their corresponding suburbs, observes geographer Daniel Herz.

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A Scratch Card in Every Pot

Stockton, California, announced last week that it will try out a new anti-poverty program that provides $500 per month for a small subset of eligible residents. Earlier this month, the province of Ontario mailed its first monthly checks to 400 lucky Canadians. Advocates for a “universal basic income” (UBI) call these programs “experiments,” or “pilots,” and they hope that positive results will build support for their proposals. But these governments are not testing a UBI; they are running a free lottery. No one should be impressed or persuaded if its winners prove to be fans.

. . . Treating this program as a useful test of the UBI, however, is a marketing gimmick that borders on fraud. The experiments ignore the UBI’s disquieting aspects. It’s generally accepted that people in need should receive short-term support. But limited, means-tested government support is not the same thing as rearranging cultural expectations and economic incentives by making self-reliance optional, which would devalue work, weaken families and communities, discourage young people from launching their adult lives, and subsidize an expanding and idle underclass.

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California Squashes Its Young

In this era of anti-Trump resistance, many progressives see California as a model of enlightenment. The Golden State’s post-2010 recovery has won plaudits in the progressive press from the New York Times’s Paul Krugman, among others. Yet if one looks at the effects of the state’s policies on key Democratic constituencies— millennials, minorities, and the poor—the picture is dismal. A recent United Way study found that close to one-third of state residents can barely pay their bills, largely due to housing costs. When adjusted for these costs, California leads all states—even historically poor Mississippi—in the percentage of its people living in poverty.

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Take My Tax—Please!

Still, Bauman is deadly serious (sort of) about Washington State Initiative 732, which will appear on the ballot this November, thanks to the efforts of a group that he helped assemble. If it passes, it will impose a carbon tax on fossil fuels in Washington but reduce general taxes by about the same amount. It’s designed to cut consumption of carbon-based fuels in a revenue-neutral way without putting any additional financial burden on state residents. Behind the proposal is Bauman’s notion that our current approach to taxation doesn’t make sense. We tax things that we want more of, like profits and income, and wind up getting less of those things because taxation tends to make them scarcer. Instead, we should tax things that we want less of—and, for Bauman, that means taxing fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse emissions.

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The War on Work—and How to End It

Along with up-skilling workers, we should lower the regulatory barriers to entrepreneurship. It’s a sad fact that America tends to regulate the entrepreneurship of the poor much more stringently than it does that of the rich. You can begin an Internet company in Silicon Valley with little regulatory oversight; you need more than ten permits to open a grocery store in the Bronx.

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Los Angeles has fallen far behind the Bay Area—perhaps permanently

In 1970, both cities boasted powerful industry clusters, similar concentrations of manufacturing firms, and highly educated and technically oriented workforces employed by innovative companies (Amgen in L.A., Genentech in the Bay Area). Prior to the 1990s, Los Angeles actually produced more patents than the Bay Area.

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Boy Trouble

When I started following the research on child well-being about two decades ago, the focus was almost always girls’ problems—their low self-esteem, lax ambitions, eating disorders, and, most alarming, high rates of teen pregnancy. Now, though, with teen births down more than 50 percent from their 1991 peak and girls dominating classrooms and graduation ceremonies, boys and men are increasingly the ones under examination. Their high school grades and college attendance rates have remained stalled for decades. Among poor and working-class boys, the chances of climbing out of the low-end labor market—and of becoming reliable husbands and fathers—are looking worse and worse.

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