Too often progressive politicians implement bad economic policies for the sake of justice or equality or equity or whatever is the buzzword of the week, yet they simply end up hurting those they claim to help while advancing their own political careers.
Here are three cases in point.
When Democrats in the California Legislature passed a farmworker-overtime bill in 2016, they argued it was a matter of equality, that money wasn’t everything.
Yet today, that undoubtedly comes as little comfort to the farmworkers who are now making less money thanks to these progressive economics.
Why shouldn’t farmworkers be paid overtime wages? They were, but just with a higher threshold than other workers because the seasonal, feast-or-famine nature of farm work made the industry unique and required some flexibility for employers.
Opponents predicted the additional labor costs would actually force farmers to cut hours to make expenses. In 2016, the Western Growers Association released a survey of growers which found that 80% of farms expected to have to cut back on hours as a result of the overtime law and the $15 minimum wage.
California’s progressives were having none of it.
“There may be situations where people may believe that they will lose something in terms of economics, but my father taught me that it was more than about the money, it was about who he was as a man and it was about him being respected by everyone else like everyone else,” said then-Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, according to the Associated Press.
“Sometimes, for that reason, you make that economic sacrifice,” Weber added.
As The Sacramento Bee reported this week, not only has the wave of overtime failed to materialize, but hours have been slashed as a result. Many farmworkers are in a worse position than before.
“I have a family to feed,” farmworker Marco Mendoza told The Bee. “Honestly, we can hardly make it through.” Though it hurt workers, Weber got a promotion with an appointment to California secretary of state.
Well that showed ‘em!
Then there’s Gov. Gavin Newsom’s war on oil and gas. He and his progressive colleagues in the Legislature have for years attempted to tax and regulate oil and gas out of California.
The progressives are chasing ideological visions of a green future, but their goals are decades away and unrealistic and families are stuck paying more for everything.
The energy industry is not entirely gone, but the state has become increasingly reliant upon out-of-state and even out-of-country products that are subject to volatile prices and are produced often with little concern for the environment and with sometimes abhorrent treatment of employees.
All of these factors conspire against consumers, especially lower-income consumers who can’t afford the higher costs, which is why Southern California homeowners will be forced to pay significantly higher prices to heat their homes this year as energy producers try to adapt to progressive lawmaking.
“California depends on other states for 90% of its natural gas, most of it from New Mexico, Wyoming, Texas and Alberta, Canada. Natural gas production in California continues to dwindle,” the Los Angeles Times reported this week. “Natural gas and oil production are tightly related, and oil production in California is about two-thirds of what it was in 1985.”
Newsom blames the higher prices on a “price gouging mentality,” and has even called for a tax on energy producer profits — whaddaya think that’ll do to prices? — but it’s actually pretty straightforward.
The more you tax something and the more you regulate something, the more it’ll cost to consumers. In other instances, this would drive down consumption, except consumers have few alternatives when it comes to energy. And one other thing we learned this week: Despite the state being soaked in rain, the lack of water storage is causing millions of gallons of water to run off into the ocean.
But wait a minute, you say. Didn’t voters pass a $7.5 billion water bond in 2014 to pay for a half dozen water storage projects?
Yes, but California’s progressives can’t agree on what kind of storage they’ll allow so we end up with nothing.
Substantial water storage projects, like Sites Reservoir, are held up because of bureaucratic concerns about fish or other relatively insignificant issues, like whether or not water projects include enough recreational value. Sites, in Northern California, has been getting more traction recently, but it’s also been in the works for 60 years, so don’t hold your breath.
We hear so much about equity, about the existential threat posed by climate change, about the consequences of drought. Yet decisions in Sacramento continually work against providing solutions to these things. And worse yet, we’re running out of water when it’s unnecessary and threatening families with water restrictions.
So much for progress!
Follow Matt Fleming on Twitter @FlemingWords