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Yearly Archives: 2019

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California Here I Come (Policy-wise)

When most people think of California, they think of Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills.  Yet, California is actually tied with Louisiana for the nation’s highest poverty rate.  Clearly, the “California model” is failing to address the needs of all the Golden State’s residents.

My most recent book, The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor, examined the causes and solutions for poverty on a national scale, pointing to government policies from criminal justice to education to over regulation that trap people in poverty.  Now, I’m going to look specifically at California’s failure to help its poorest citizens.

The Cato Institute is launching a Project on Poverty and Inequality in California.  I will be directing this two-year project that will look at ways in which California government policies have burdened those most in need, and will suggest specific reforms designed to help poor Californians become part of the economic mainstream.  An analysis of what works and what doesn’t in California will provide important information to California policy makers, as well as valuable insights for other states as they work to address similar problems.

The Project on Poverty and Inequality in California will investigate the impact that the state’s policies have had in five critical areas:

  • Criminal Justice: Over-criminalization, sentencing disparities, treatment of ex-offenders, and pervasive bias against People of Color are problems for all levels of society, but have a disproportionate impact on the poor.  Despite recent progress, California has lagged behind many other states in reforming its policing and criminal justice system.
  • Education: While California has some of the highest per-student spending in the nation, student performance continues to lag behind other states.  Despite this, the state rigidly restricts charter schools and blocks other forms of school choice.
  • Housing: The poor spend a disproportionate share of their income on housing. California has some of the nation’s most costly and restrictive zoning and land use laws, which further drive up the cost of housing.
  • Welfare reform: Asset tests for welfare programs encourage consumption and discourage savings. California eligibility requirements for a variety of welfare programs need to be examined in light of the incentives they create.
  • Regressive regulation: Regulatory barriers to getting a job or starting a business can block people from fully participating in the economy. Occupational licensing, zoning, environmental regulation, and high minimum wage requirements can inhibit small business development and growth and leave those wanting to work locked out of the labor force.

As part of this project, I will be undertaking extensive visits to California to meet with stakeholders, including state-level elected officials, interest groups, and individuals who are affected by current policy.   My first trip will be to Sacramento for a community roundtable discussion on June 26. If you would like to attend, you can register here:  https://register.cato.org/stakeholder-roundtable-sacramento-2019.

I am very excited at this opportunity to continue providing positive solutions to one of the most important problems of our time.

 

 

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After Mueller

The Mueller Report is now in, and, while we should obviously want to see as much of the actual report and underlying evidence as possible, a few things are pretty clear.

First, the “Russia collusion” narrative is dead. As annoying as it was to hear President Trump intone “no collusion” endlessly, he was right. I say this as one who has never hid my dislike for many aspects of the Trump presidency. There clearly was, Trump’s equivocation notwithstanding, a concerted Russian campaign to influence the 2016 election to favor Donald Trump. But Mueller made clear that neither Trump nor anyone associated with his campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian efforts. I would note that I have previously written that I was skeptical of the collusion narrative since it implied a level of competence and planning that the Trump administration has not demonstrated anywhere else. Essentially a campaign that was run by amateurs, and was unfamiliar with everything from campaign finance law to Russian intelligence tactics, made a number of questionable decisions, but ultimately did nothing criminal.

Second, it is also clear that Democrats and the media got way to far out over their skis on this one. How many times did we see Adam Schiff and others on TV telling us that they had seen clear evidence of collusion, predicting Trump’s immediate impeachment or even his arrest. Breathless conspiracy theories were advanced on a near daily basis. They now find themselves in the unenviable position of the boy who cried wolf. They continue their mistake if they give in to further conspiracy theories or refuse to accept the report’s conclusion. Democrats should take a deep breath…and keep Schiff far away from the TV cameras.

Trump supporters, on the other hand, are entitled to a victory lap or two. They were right, and a lot of Trump’s opponents were wrong. But they should be careful about getting too carried away. The report is much less clear on the question of obstruction of justice, specifically noting that the investigation “does not exonerate” the president. That doesn’t mean that there was obstruction, but it does mean that some of Trump’s conduct was less than scrupulously honest.

Moreover, the Mueller investigation also makes it clear that Trump surrounded himself with a rogue’s gallery of knaves, scoundrels and liars. That should tell us a great deal about the man who once told us he “only hires the best people.” And, lest we forget, there are still ongoing investigations of Trump’s inaugural committee, business relationships, and payoffs to mistresses. It remains tawdry at best and potentially criminal at worst.

Judging from my social media feeds, it seems unlikely that either Trump opponents or supporters will be taking my advice. Still, there is some hope that this chapter will eventually draw to a close and we can return to debating public policy. There are still important issues facing this country. Maybe we can stop talking about collusion and start talking about them.