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California Economic Summit: Equity and Economic Blindness

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California Economic Summit: Equity and Economic Blindness

Crews work to disassemble a Controlled Thermal Resources drilling rig to mine lithium and produce geothermal energy in Calipatria, Calif., on Dec. 15, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

John Seiler

John Seiler

10/21/2023

Updated: 10/22/2023

Commentary
You can tell a meeting is going to throw a lot of word salad at you when the title is “Summit Day Two: Not Just Recovery But Re-Imagination.” Especially if it’s part of the 2023 California Economic Summit held in Indian Wells Oct. 11–13.
No “re-imagination” is needed. The keys to sensible government are simple: sound money (no inflation), balanced budgets, strong property rights, low taxation and regulation, and free trade. Governments don’t have to be perfect, and they certainly aren’t. But they must tend in the direction of the policies indicated.
Let’s look just at the California state government. A $100 billion budget surplus for fiscal year 2022–23, which ended June 30, was turned into a $31.5 billion deficit for the current year, 2023–24. The state’s Annual Comprehensive Financial Report (ACFR) for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, still has not been filed by Controller Malia Cohen, so it’s unclear what the state’s true financial status is. But the ACFR for the previous year, filed very late, on March 23 this year, showed an unrestricted net deficit of $174 billion.

Regional California and Lithium Valley

Summit Day 2 brought up regions, with an emphasis on the Inland Empire where the summit was held. Speaking there, Ms. Cohen unfortunately did not announce the release of the tardy 2022 CAFR. But she said, “In the face of high poverty and unemployment in this region, the (Lithium Valley) industry can really be transformational, and I want you to know that I genuinely support this region’s efforts to capitalize on this new industry and support this great new growing economic opportunity.”
According to the California Energy Commission’s Lithium Valley Commission, it develops “lithium from geothermal brine in the Salton Sea Known Geothermal Resource Area.” If done right, this actually could be valuable. Wired magazine reported in June, “China dominates the global supply chain for lithium-ion batteries. Now rival countries are scrambling for more control over ‘white oil.’ …
A Controlled Thermal Resources drilling rig is seen in Calipatria, Calif., on Dec. 15, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

A Controlled Thermal Resources drilling rig is seen in Calipatria, Calif., on Dec. 15, 2021. (Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

“China’s share of the market for lithium-ion batteries could be as high as 80 percent, according to estimates from BloombergNEF. Six of the 10 biggest EV battery producers are based in China—one of them, CATL, makes three out of every 10 EV batteries globally. That dominance extends through the supply chain. Chinese companies have signed preferential deals with lithium-rich nations and benefited from huge government investment in the complex steps between mining and manufacturing. That’s made the rest of the world nervous, and the United States and Europe are now scrambling to wean themselves off Chinese lithium before it’s too late.”

Equity Obsession

Unfortunately, competing with Communist China in this and other areas is going to require ditching such nonsense as DEI—Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion—and returning to good old American fierce competition at every level. That’s a theme I’ve advanced in many of my Epoch Times articles. In particular, equity is just another word for socialist central planning and manipulation.
By contrast, equality traditionally means giving everyone an equal chance. It’s Martin Luther King’s plea from 1963, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
At the summit, a report on the Equity Research Institute (ERI) was given by Manuel Pastor, professor of sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. The ERI’s website reads, “Data and Analysis to Power Social Change”—that is, socialist manipulation of society. “At ERI, we ask the hard questions about equity and deliver accurate and credible numbers with narratives. We lead with optimism and provide data and analysis to support social, racial, economic, and environmental equity. Our work is grounded in research to create new narratives, systems change, and a more equitable approach to power and justice.”
People seeking to control you life always are talking about “narratives”—that is, ways to bamboozle you into giving them more power over our lives. And notice “equity” is in every sentence: “[Equity]RI ... equity ... equity ... equitable.” More accurately that should have been: socialism ... socialism ... socialism ... socialism.
Democratic Socialists of America march in downtown Berkeley, Calif., on Aug. 5, 2018. (Amy Osborne/AFP/Getty Images)

Democratic Socialists of America march in downtown Berkeley, Calif., on Aug. 5, 2018. (Amy Osborne/AFP/Getty Images)

Mr. Pastor said at the summit, “It’s important to think about your role as stewards of the state—not just clusters but community, not just recovery but re-imagination, not just jobs but justice.” Stewards of the state means socialist state functionaries.
This DEI nonsense has to stop if California and all of America are going to get back into the high-tech competition with China.

Empowering Bureaucracy

The “narrative” continued with a panel on “Empowering Communities.” Empowering in government-speak always means empowering the government against the people. The CA FWD summary read, “As California focuses on regional economic development through California Jobs First (formerly CERF), those working in communities traditionally left behind want to ensure that equity is embedded in any plan moving forward.” More shifting acronyms for sclerotic bureaucracies.
“Inequality costs money,” said Luis Olmedo, Executive Director of Comite Civico del Valle, Inc. “But inequality is not willing to pay.” Just jargon laughed at in China.
Sergio Carranza of the Sacramento Area of Governments said, “It’s really important that before we start thinking about what kind of economic approaches or strategies, we need to implement to improve opportunities for everyone, we really need to understand the culture of the families and the people that we serve.”
Actually, the “economic approaches or strategies” are simple: stop the nonsense, restore a competitive system with no DEI nonsense, and beat China.

Housing Illusions

The high cost of housing naturally was discussed on a panel. Yet more equity nonsense. Omar Cobian of the Southwest Mountain States Regional Council of Carpenters said wages in the construction industry need to be higher “so that the workers that are working and building these homes can actually afford the live in the homes they’re building—we have a wage problem in the industry.”
Actually, they have a regulation and tax problem. The main need is reform of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to make it easier to build all kinds of housing. But his union is impeding that. Newport Beach Councilman Erik Weigand wrote in 2021 about this union using CEQA for “an absurd attack” to impede the construction of low-income housing. “The union often perpetrates such obstructionism” to force construction companies to hire union workers.
Housing units in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Housing units in Huntington Beach, Calif., on March 17, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

A new program the state launched in the Sacramento area is Green Means Go. At the summit, Evan Schmidt, CEO of Valley Vision Inc. in Sacramento, talked about it. In the CA FWD summary, “It addresses the housing shortage, the need to address greenhouse gas emissions and advances inclusive and equitable economic growth.” The same jargon, including “equitable.”

Conclusion: We’re In Trouble

The CA FWD summit showed California’s ruling elites are clueless about the competitive global environment California and America face. China isn’t going to slow down so DEI programs can be instituted on the other side of the Pacific Ocean.
India, a democracy unlike China, also isn’t going to pause its quest for continued fast growth and advancing many more hundreds of millions into the middle class. In both countries, as I have reported several times in the Epoch Times, coal power plants are sprouting up like mushrooms. Greenhouse gas emission are problem for the future once they enjoy the levels of prosperity enjoyed in California—or once enjoyed.
At this point, only a major economic depression or geopolitical shock can shake the ruling elites of California and America out of their delusions. Right now, as the CA FWD summit shows, they’re driving the state and country off a cliff at 150 mph in an electric car.
John Seiler

John Seiler

Author

John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at JohnSeiler.Substack.com and his email is writejohnseiler@gmail.com

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