California's Tribal Politics


To my fellow residents, and particularly fellow taxpayers of California, I have a special message: Your concerns don’t matter much anymore. Rather than a functioning democracy, California has become a one-party state dominated by a series of tribes whose special priorities are sacrosanct, however much they might hurt the rest of us.

In Gov. Jerry Brown’s California, the ruling tribes include the unions, the greens, the racial warlords and urban land speculators. All of these have flourished under Brown’s rule, and, as he and his occasional bouts with reality leave the scene, the tribes will only be further emboldened.

The steady erosion of the Republican Party has eliminated the need for Democrats to even feign moderation. Over time, moderate Democrats get purged, even in the interior of the state, as gentry liberals like Tom Steyer work to assure that the San Francisco agenda is imposed on Fresno.

Unions uber alles

Even by the standards of California politics, the California Teachers Association wields enormous power, and uses its massive political war chest to prevent serious reform of our low-functioning education system, which just received an impressive C-minus from a recent Education Week survey. Our system may have failed many of our young people, particularly in minority districts, but the union has done well by its members, guaranteeing them the maximum time off, virtual protection from being fired, and, of course, lavish pensions.

Now the teachers, aided by their “Mini-Me” legislators, have their eyes on a virtual exemption from paying income taxes. One rationale is to make up for high housing prices, although many of the “veteran educators” targeted by this legislation bought their homes long before the recent inflation of real estate prices. And, if teachers are special, why not firemen, policemen, sanitation workers or, for that matter, people who work in restaurants and hotels?

It seems odd that people who earn higher salaries — and have far better pensions — than the ordinary Californian, would be privileged in a move likely to worsen the state’s declining finances. Yet, the teachers are not alone in this ravenous feeding at the trough. Now we have legislation proposed in the form of Assembly Bill 199 that would force builders, even on small projects on private property, to hire only workers paid based on union wage levels, increasing labor costs for housing by an additional 30 percent, or something like $90,000 for a 2,000-square-foot home.

Read the entire piece at The Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, was published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.

Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, CC License.


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OT but from an important new

OT but from an important new essay by Chris Caldwell:

"His perspective on political change will remind City Journal readers of Joel Kotkin, in that he is more interested in how people act (where they move, the jobs they take, the way they form families) than in the opinions they spout."

Luke Lea