There are indeed two Californias.
It’s is not the north versus the south.
Nor is it the heavily urbanized coast as opposed to the interior.
The pandemic has chopped both of those theories to pieces as brutally as a politically correct “green” windmill on the Altamont Pass can take apart a hawk.
Actually, that is not correct. It is the measures to control the pandemic that have clearly torn the state into two separate realities.
California — home to the world’s fifth mightiest economy — has seen pandemic restrictions create two classes of people. People with higher incomes have been able to keep their jobs by working from home. Those with lower incomes who toil in retail, restaurants, and the service sector such as hairstylists have lost their employment or have been placed on unpaid furloughs.
Most of us should agree Gov. Gavin Newsom has a thankless job.
Even if you disagree with his pandemic edicts many would agree that he doesn’t have the luxury of looking in the rear-view mirror when he has made many of his decisions.
And he never sounded tone deaf as he acknowledged the economic pain he was creating as he navigated uncharted waters in a bid to contain the pandemic.
That, however, was before it was made clear Tuesday that politicians like Newsom develop a different view of reality dining at swanky places like the French Laundry instead of rubbing elbows with people who dine at places where $375 is not the minimum cost to dine but could cover two days’ worth of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a family of five along with a generous tip.
Tuesday is when Newsom unveiled his $4 billion state spending lifeline, he intends to toss to struggling small businesses devastated by his lockdown orders so they can survive in 2021 and keep workers employed.
Thais makes a lot of sense on the surface. Based on Small Businesses Administration data, in 2018 small businesses accounted for 48.8 percent or 7.1 million of California’s private sector jobs. Small businesses are the ones that have been hardest by pandemic lockdowns. Meanwhile most large concerns have not only flourished but have grown.
So, what does Newsom want to do with roughly 40 percent of the $4 billion in tax dollars he has to play with?
He wants to provide either tax credits or rebates to help people purchase electric cars. Some of the $1.5 billion will help construct charging stations that will allow for-profit utilities such as confessed corporate killers such as PG&E to pad their bottom line even more without having to invest in such infrastructure on their own.
I may be mistaken but I seriously doubt a single mom with two kids who can’t wait tables at Mabel’s Country Kitchen during the current stage of the lockdown will be able to afford to take advantage of a tax credit or rebate to knock $5,000 or so off of a $35,000 to $75,000 electric vehicle.
The hardworking people I know who pile on buses each day to head to Fremont to assemble vehicles or work in the Lathrop Tesla component factory aren’t in a world of financial hurt at the moment.
And that certainly is not the case for Elon Musk who is now shaking down Texas for tax credits like he did California.
Assuming the rebate or tax credit is $5,000 and $1 billion goes toward electric vehicle purchases that will “help” 250,000 Californians.
And those 250,000 Californians are among those that have been able to work from home, haven’t suffered an economic hit, and are well positioned to buy a $50,000 vehicle without any help.
Then there is the little detail that the vast majority of the $1 billion or so would likely go toward buying electric vehicles that not a single California-based worker made possible.
Is there something wrong with the state using $1.5 billion to subsidized electric vehicles? It’s a legitimate question although the state has done it before. The odds are they are going to have to do it for a long time to come in order for electric vehicles to pencil out so that California’s newly created second class of citizens from the pandemic can afford to buy them.
It also dovetails well into the governor’s decree that it will be illegal to sell new vehicles powered by fossil fuel in California starting in 2035.
What is wrong is for the governor to try and pawn off a skunk as a black cat by spray painting its stripe black.
It’s almost morally bankrupt to toss $1.5 billion into an economic spending package and claiming it will help struggling small businesses. The benefactors which are Tesla and other electric car manufacturers aren’t struggling nor are their workers whether they are in Fremont, Korea, Ohio, or China in unpaid furloughs.
Call it what it’s is — a $1.5 billion kick-start or subsidy of the state’s plan to be rid of all new gas-powered vehicles by 2035. Practice a bit of honesty instead of chicanery and say you have come up with a $2.5 billion plan instead of a $4 billion plan to help those in 2021 struggling with the economic impacts of pandemic lockdowns. Pitch a separate program for electric vehicle subsidies.
Instead of being honest and forthright, Newsom has given those struggling with not just the economic fallout of pandemic lockdowns but those being displaced by the wake of wealthy tech companies more reasons to be cynical about governance these days from Sacramento.
Perhaps Newsom really believes that somehow pumping up electric car sales will be able to keep a hairstylist afloat during 2021, help a laid off store clerk keep a roof over their heads, or a small restaurant at be able to keep their doors open so what work they can offer their employees will keep them from having to couch surf to stay off the streets.
But as things stand now Newsom looks like an opportunist who is using the guise of helping those forced to make economic sacrifices to implement the state’s pandemic game plan to provide cover for a politically correct initiative.
As Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel once said when he was a Washington insider, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”