Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Coming California Dust Bowl

The whole state of California is in drought with predictions of megadrought on the horizon.  Just how bad the situation is can be seen in a display comparing the current level of water storage in the main reservoirs with historical averages.  

Type into your browser water.ca.gov.  Click on, in succession, Current Conditions in the toolbar, then Reservoir Conditions, and finally, Daily Reservoir Storage Summary, and then gasp at what you see.

The last major dam, the New Melones Dam, was completed in 1979, although it had been authorized by Congress in 1944.  In 2014 voters approved a $7.1 billion water bond issue, but none of the funds could be used for new dam construction.  Six consecutive governors have done nothing to increase water storage

Between 1980 and 2020, the population increased 66.3%, from 23.67 million to 39.37% million.

Conserving water makes sense, but only if there is water to conserve. The environmental lobby has been successful at blocking new dams. But even the most rabid environmentalists will find life difficult when the Central Valley has turned into a vast dustbowl and the cities and towns are strictly rationed. Wells will dry up and new wells will be banned to prevent further decline in the underground water level.

Lots of measures can be taken to better allocate existing water supplies.  It makes no sense to use so much of the state’s water to grow rice and alfalfa.  But historical water rights stand in the way of sensible solutions.

The Oklahoma Dust Bowl of the 1930s, 90 years later, will occur in California.  How ironic that the  great grandchildren of the Oklahoma migrants will be returning to Oklahoma to escape the California Dust Bowl.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Will Biden’s Plan To Increase The Corporate Tax Rate From 21% To 28% Improve Tax Fairness?

In 1985, the Wall Street Journal asked me to interview a panel of tax experts to determine who really pays corporate taxes.  Is it investors in lower returns? Is it workers in lower wages and fewer jobs?  Is it consumers in higher prices?

I published the results of my survey in the Wall Street Journal issue of April 15, 1985.  You can read it on my website at alvinrabushka.com

Click on Articles and Essays on the toolbar.  It is the third article under the subhead Wall Street Journal.

What’s new in the past 36 years?  Not much. The answers are the same, depending on who you ask.  What’s different is that economists today use more complex mathematics and statistics to make their answer.  Left-leaning economists try to show that an increase in corporate taxes will fall on owners of capital, thereby making the tax system fairer. Right-leaning do the same for labor, thereby worsening fairness. Others aren’t sure, especially in the current climate of massive monetary expansion.

Economists who say they know are putting politics first. It boils down to whose side you’re on.

Do read my 1985 article, please.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Even Liberal Silicon Valley Rejects Stanford’s Politics

Several readers have asked how Stanford voters compare with California voters overall on two key ballot measures.  To this I’ve added Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley.

One is Proposition 16, an effort to overturn Proposition 209 that banned affirmative action and giving preference on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, and other defining characteristics.  Here are the results.

Stanford.  71.3% Yes

Santa Clara County.  51.8% No

California.  56.5%. No

Both Silicon Valley and California voted for merit.  Stanford voted for positive discrimination.

Another ballot measure is Proposition 22, which treats app-based drivers as independent contractors, not employees.  If voted down, many drivers would lose the ability to work part time to earn extra money.  Here are the results.

Stanford. 70.5%. No

Santa Clara County.  52.1%. Yes

California. 58.6%. Yes

From their secure tenured jobs, Stanford voters want to impose onerous conditions on the freedom of Californians to work part time to earn extra money.  This is shameful. It’s reason alone to abolish academic tenure.

Stanford is not just out of touch with America and California, it is even out of touch with Silicon Valley.

Will real, true political diversity ever appear at Stanford?  The honest answer is no.  The best that can be hoped for is that Stanford’s Presidents will continue to support academic freedom.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Politics On The Farm (Stanford), November 3, 2020

Several thousand faculty, staff, and students who live in Stanford Campus Housing are registered to vote in Stanford’s exclusive 94305 zip code.  Stanford includes eight precincts.  For reporting purposes, Santa Clara County combines them into two super-precincts.  In the data that follow, I further combine them into one comprehensive result for 94305.

 

Here are the results:

 

                      Biden               Trump          Others

 

Stanford     1,860 (94.7%)    68 (3.5%)    37 (1.8%)

 

California     (65.3%)            (32.9 %)       (1.6%)

 

The most important ballot measure in my view was Proposition 15, which was an attempt to change a key provision in Proposition 13.  Approved in 1976, Proposition 13 taxed all property at 1% of its sales price and limited annual increases in assessments to a maximum of 2% a year.  Proposition 15 would create a split roll by removing commercial and industrial property from the 2% annual limit, replacing it with an assessment based on market value.  This change would amount to an estimated statewide tax increase of between $6-11 billion on commercial and industrial property.  Proposition 15 leaves the annual 2% property tax Increase limit on residential property unchanged .

 

                              Yes                            No

 

Stanford          1,664  (86.4%)          262  (13.4%)

 

California             (48.3%)                   (51.7%)

 

Several brief comments.

 

First, there is barely a twinge of political diversity at Stanford.  There was one Trump vote for every 27 Biden votes.  Blink and you might miss the Trump votes. 

 

Second, Stanford faculty and students are much further left on the political spectrum than the state itself.

 

Third, California voters rejected an increase in property tax assessments on commercial and industrial property, while Stanford faculty, staff, and students voted overwhelmingly for it.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Will More Diversity And Inclusion End Systemic Racism On Campus?

Universities have been at the forefront of diversity for the past 40 years. Yet, after the unfortunate death of George Floyd, they have rushed to declare that their campuses are replete with systemic, institutional racism.

To end racism and achieve “racial justice” on campus, and by extension in the wider community, universities have announced initiatives on teaching, research, and governance. A letter of September 23, 2020, from Stanford Provost Persis Drell to the Stanford Community typifies these measures. They include:

Hire more distinguished Black (and other underrepresented minority) professors to study the impact of race in America. 

Hire more junior Black scholars to study race/ethnic relations.

Train more black graduate students in race/ethnic relations to create a pipeline for future academic appointments.

Create departments of race/ethnic studies.

Require students to take one or more courses with a rigorous diversity experience. 

Train faculty, staff, and students on explicit and implicit racial basis.

Greatly increase Black inclusion across all units of university governance.

Will these measures reduce and ultimately end racism, especially anti-Black racism, on campus?

The short answer is No. Let me explain.

Inclusion does not mean Inclusive. All of the new hires, courses, research programs, and training sessions will not include all points of view, especially any criticism of the racial justice orthodoxy that prevails among university administrations, deans, and faculties.

Here are some prominent Conservative Black Intellectuals who have written extensively on race/ethnic relations. Many have argued, with evidence, that affirmative action does not largely help its intended beneficiaries, and that statistical disparities do not imply discrimination.

Thomas Sowell

Walter E. Williams

Shelby Steele

Jason Riley

Candace Owens

Clarence Thomas

Ben Carson

John McWhorter

Larry Elder

Star Parker 

Will any of their books and articles be included in the enhanced efforts to study and reduce "racial injustice?" Probably not.

Here are some Conservative White Intellectuals who have written extensively on race/ethnic relations. 

Gary Becker

Clifford Geertz

William Hutt

Pierre L. van den Berghe

Alvin Rabushka

Will any of their research be included in the efforts to improve race relations? Certainly not.

But what if some of their arguments are correct, that more focus on diversity, inclusion, and the pursuit of racial justice will worsen race relations? I will be shocked if a single book by any of the above-mentioned authors is required reading in any of the new initiatives in leading universities.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Abraham Accords. Peace Between Israel and the United Emirates and Bahrain

First Egypt in 1979, then Jordan in 1994, and now the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have signed peace agreements with Israel, establishing normal diplomatic relations, and launching cooperative economic and other arrangements. Saudi Arabia permitted a commercial El Al flight over its air space, from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi. More Arab countries are in the queue to sign peace agreements with Israel. All of this in addition to the Serbia-Kosovo deal.

Trump has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a member of the Norwegian Parliament, for the Abraham Accords, and Magnus Jacobsson, a member of the Swedish Parliament, for the Kosovo-Serbia resolution. Peace prize nominations from Scandinavians are high praise.

Accolades have poured in, even from some anti-Trumpers.

Peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors has been one of the goals of every Secretary of State. Some spent days shuttling back and forth between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. The rise of Iran and the recalcitrance of the Palestinian leadership to accept any offer has rendered the Palestinians irrelevant. As Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban famously said, the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Now they are on the outside looking in. Maybe young Palestinians will instigate an orange revolution of their own and move to make peace with Israel and concentrate on bettering the lives of their people.

The Abraham Accords were signed at 1:00 PM EDT on September 15, 2020. As I post this comment, 48 hours have passed. I looked to see what all the former living Secretaries of State have said about this historic agreement. 

There are seven living Secretaries of State, or rather, the great George Shultz and six others, three Democrats and three Republicans, who served in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations. All six all have Facebook and twitter pages, some more up-to-date than others. Shultz only has an inactive Facebook page.

To my surprise, none of the six posted or tweeted any comments on the Abraham Accords. Perhaps none of them wanted to acknowledge Trump’s foreign policy achievement. Maybe one or more will issue statements later. Still, rather disappointing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Blacks Prefer Police To Social Workers

A recent poll revealed that 81% of Blacks wanted the same level or more police protection; only 19% wanted less.

This is not surprising.  In 1971, The Department of Housing and Urban Development solicited proposals from Local (Public) Housing Authorities (LHAs) for grants to improve their housing management systems and cut costs.  This was part of HUD’s Management Improvement Program (MIP).

The MIP added special funding to the normal operating budget of the LHA.  But a condition of the grant was that the management changes were to be planned and implemented with the participation of public housing residents.

Thirteen large LHAs (1,250 or more units under management) were selected from the 72 applicants.  One was the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) in Delaware, which had nearly 2,000 tenant families and elderly residents.

TransCentury Corporation, founded by the deputy director of the Peace Corps Warren W. Wiggins, was selected to assist with the design of the program and evaluate its success or failure.  I was retained as a consultant.

In early 1973, we set out to interview the nearly 2,000 largely Black residents about their problems, not to find out if they had problems.  Our task was to identify and count them in pursuit of a well-designed information and referral program.  To our surprise the tenants would not own up to all the problems they were supposed to have based on prior research of the “crisis” literature in public housing.

We had anticipation that tenants would cite problems with obtaining much needed social services such as day care, urgent need for food, jobs, and money, that they felt trapped in public housing, and that they were contemptuous of the WHA’s management.  Because one study team member had interviewed in Watts, we rather incidentally also asked about crime and the police.

Only a handful of the nearly 2,000 residents we interviewed cited difficulties with obtaining social services.  Moreover, most liked their housing.  Most rated the management in positive terms.  But they wanted police protection.  More than anything else, they wanted security for themselves and their possessions.

In response, the WHA set up a housing security force, hiring off-duty Wilmington police, largely White, to provide after-hours security for the tenants.  When a panel of the same residents was interviewed a year after the initial set of baseline interviews, it testified overwhelmingly in favor of the new security force.  Though it had been in operation only a few months, a majority of respondents knew of the force and wanted it continued or expanded.

Because the survey showed that almost nobody had problems obtaining needed social services, the management reduced by three-quarters the resident social services staff during the same period.  Tenants reported that satisfaction with social services actually increased during the project period.

Interviews were conducted with a sample of tenants in each of the three succeeding years.  Tenants continued to speak highly of the benefits of management decisions designed on the basis of tenant preferences.

Tenants were disappointed that the security force was disbanded after the money for the MIP was exhausted.  As is all too common in government programs, policies change with changes in administrations and political objectives.  It was back to business as usual with social welfare workers, not police, despite the reduction in crime and drug dealing in the community.

The study is reported in detail in my coauthored (with William G. Weissert) book, Caseworkers or Police (free download).

Please take some time to look at the data in this book, rather than draw inferences of Black preferences from observing urban street riots.