“Crime drops to new lows,” read Tuesday’s San Francisco Chronicle headline for a story about historic lows in crime statistics, nationally as well as in the Bay Area. I hope you enjoyed that headline, because it could be the last time you will read it for at least a decade. Though violent crime rates dropped in California in 2014, some property crime is rising. Some fear that changes in California law that have led to increases in property crime eventually could result in a rise in more serious offenses.
The Public Policy
Nowhere has there been so much hand-wringing over a lack of “affordable housing,” as among politicians and others in coastal California. And nobody has done more to make housing unaffordable than those same politicians and their supporters.
A recent survey showed that the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco was just over $3,500. Some people are paying $1,800 a month just to rent a bunk bed in a San Francisco apartment.
It is not just in San Francisco that putting a roof over your head can take a big chunk out of your pay check. The whole Bay Area is like that. Thirty miles away, Palo Alto home prices are similarly unbelievable.
One house in Palo Alto, built more than 70 years ago, and just over one thousand square feet in size, was offered for sale at $1.5 million. And most asking prices are bid up further in such places.
Another city in the Bay Area with astronomical housing prices, San Mateo, recently held a public meeting and appointed a task force to look into the issue of “affordable housing.”
The Obama administration rewarded its union allies last month with a decision that threatens millions of jobs and thousands of businesses, from staffing agencies to cleaning services and auto-repair shops to construction companies. In a case involving Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decided to unilaterally redefine the concept of joint employment—when more than one business is responsible for an employee or group of employees—and made it easier to unionize large corporations. This ruling could have a devastating effect on small businesses, job creation, and the U.S. economy.
A hostile review of my new book — Wealth, Poverty and Politics — said, “there is apparently no level of inequality of income or opportunity that Thomas Sowell would consider unacceptable.”
Ordinarily, reviewers who miss the whole point of a book they are reviewing can be ignored. But this particular confusion about what opportunity means is far too widespread, far beyond a particular reviewer of a particular book. That makes it a confusion worth clearing up, because it affects so many other discussions of very serious issues.
Wealth, Poverty and Politics does not accept inequality of opportunity. Instead, it reports such things as children raised in low-income families usually not being spoken to nearly as often as children raised in high-income families. The conclusion: “It is painful to contemplate what that means cumulatively over the years, as poor children are handicapped from their earliest childhood.”
Everyone has a story: The time an unlicensed driver rear-ended me. The time an unlicensed driver ran a red light and killed a co-worker’s dog as her husband was walking the dog in a crosswalk. It seems as if there are so many unlicensed drivers in California that authorities are not capable of deterring the unlicensed from getting behind the wheel.
In fact, according to a report by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, 17 percent of licensed California drivers have suspended driver’s licenses — not for dangerous driving but for failing to pay off citations for minor traffic offenses. In March, the U.S. Department of Justice faulted authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, for engaging in a toxic pattern of burying African-American residents in fines and penalties for minor offenses with the goal of serving “revenue rather than public safety needs.” It turns out California has been dishing out the same dirty treatment to its diverse commuting class.
Many states, counties, and cities are in a budget vise caused by funds they are required to set aside to pay pensions for retired public employees. California may be in the worst shape.
Ever since Jerry Brown—in his first incarnation as Governor (1975-79) —approved collective bargaining by public employee unions they have used the union dues the state deducts from public employee paychecks to fund legislators’ election campaigns.
Over the last 40 years the legislature has been dominated by Democrats in all but a few years. It is not much of a stretch to say it is more-or-less owned by the public employee unions, on the one hand, and the environmental lobby, on the other.
Baltimore is now paying the price for irresponsible words and actions, not only by young thugs in the streets, but also by its mayor and the state prosecutor, both of whom threw the police to the wolves, in order to curry favor with local voters.
Now murders in Baltimore in May have been more than double what they were in May last year, and higher than in any May in the past 15 years. Meanwhile, the number of arrests is down by more than 50 percent.
Various other communities across the country are experiencing very similar explosions of crime and reductions of arrests, in the wake of anti-police mob rampages from coast to coast that the media sanitize as “protests.”
None of this should be surprising. In her carefully researched 2010 book, Are Cops Racist? Heather Mac Donald pointed out that, after anti-police campaigns, cops tended to do less policing and criminals tended to commit more crimes.
If all this has been known for years, why do the same mistakes keep getting made?
It’s hard to live in America and ignore the stories of police brutality… some undoubtedly exaggerated, some tragically true. But here’s what’s undeniable: government employees enjoy immunity from gross and tragic incompetence in ways never would be allowed in the private sector.
Meet UC San Diego student Daniel Chong. Three years ago he was at a friend’s house smoking pot on April 20, known as “Weed Day” — a day pot smokers set aside to indulge in their favorite pastime. (In the 1970s, “420” was the California police code for “marijuana smoking in progress.” 420 became slang for smoking pot and 4/20 became their “holiday.”) When the police arrived, they took the college student to the Drug Enforcement Administration office where he was questioned. After a conversation, they told him he could go home, but first he was put into a temporary holding cell.
(Editor’s Note: Debra J. Saunders is off. The following column is by Veronique de Rugy.)
Have you noticed that everyone in the top tier of Republican presidential candidates — Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush — has gone on record against a small New Deal-era crony agency called the Export-Import Bank of the United States? In fact, Sen. Rubio recently came out with all guns blazing against the bank, arguing that it picks winners and losers and shouldn’t be reauthorized once its charter expires June 30. Maybe their commitment to end Ex-Im cronyism and corruption will rub off on their colleagues.
There are several reasons one might want to let the bank expire. First, the Ex-Im Bank exemplifies the kind of government program that benefits well-connected companies by harming unseen victims. Over 60 percent of its activities benefit 10 large and politically connected companies — including Boeing, General Electric, and Caterpillar.
The libertarian-leaning me believes an American employer should be able to hire pretty much anyone he or she wants to hire. But the taxpaying me believes that if the federal government limits immigration yet creates a special visa program for highly skilled foreign workers with the assurance that the program will not cut into the wages or jobs of American workers, then Washington ought to keep its promise.