The Physics of Policy

America’s public schools remain largely closed, without any effort towards advancing a plan to have all these schools accept our kids back in the classroom anytime soon, because of teachers who fear returning to classrooms during the tail end of this pandemic.

Yet the strongest evidence we have suggests school openings do not pose major risks when proper precautions are followed, and their continued closure does terrible and irreparable harm to students, with the worst consequences falling on the poorest, neediest and often times hungry and homeless children of America.

And this is a reflection of a far deeper problem.

San Francisco is about 48 percent white, but that falls to 15 percent for children enrolled in its public schools. For all the city’s vaunted progressivism, it has some of the highest private school enrollment numbers in the country — and most of those private schools have remained open during this pandemic without any appreciable negative effects.

Slowly and in most places, like Chicago and New York, but not the West Coast — it looks, finally, like a deal with the teachers’ union in the near future could bring kids back to the classroom — provided coronavirus cases continuing to fall across the country, but much damage has already been done.

This is why the school teacher’s resistance to return to the classrooms seems so galling to so many parents, and students, because it feels like a betrayal of public trust, and seems to be an attack on the very function that Society expects from its civil servants, like teachers and all of the good people that make our lives and those of our children workable.

America’s public school system — although troubled and largely underfunded — is still the greatest public system in the world and especially that of our university system, always reflecting America’s innovation, pioneering spirit, inclusiveness, diversity and genius.

Indeed America’s educational system is a remarkable cauldron of everyday ordinary genius, alongside extraordinary students, professors and academics, where tomorrow’s leaders, educators, scientists and all others vie to learn, teach and solve problems by looking at tomorrow’s solutions that drive the technologies, culture and ideas that shape the entire world.

Yet it is for that very reason, that our failure of taking stock of our responsibility as Teachers to get off the couch and get back to educating our youth is hugely disconcerting…

And although there are huge differences between states — the overall country is suffering this lack of schooling greatly and in many pronounced ways. Take for example California which although the wealthiest state in America, still has the highest poverty rate in the nation. This is reflected truly in the national statistics of public health and demographics, when you factor-in the housing costs, and food costs as well as the labor statistics for hourly, daily and monthly wages for all undocumented people working everywhere in this vastly unequal state. Because of this disparity of wealth distribution, California claims the top spot in income inequality, all across America North & South and not just within the United States.

Imagine that…

Surely there are bright spots in recent years — if you look hard enough — but they are all in technological advances and all other non essential things for the poor people affected by this continued school closure of all public schools.

When you ask the Governor, he will tell you that California’s electric grid modernization is a win. He also counts his slightly regressive plan to further tax the middle class “wealthy” in order to fund the poor school districts (A non starter due to the famous California NIMBYs and tax base nativists), and many other slow cooking initiatives and inconclusive statistics that seem to entertain Gavin Newsom’s “French Laundry” fancy dinner popular program.

All that is good but the real numbers matter because they tell the TRUTH of physics and life, hiding behind the numbers of Statistical analysis that are mostly manipulated to produce whatever outcomes you want to project…

You can bask in the glory all you want — but there’s a reason why a couple of hundred thousand more people leave California permanently, than those who dare to move to that state each year, since 2015.

Indeed California Dreamin’ is dominated by people who claim to care about the poor — regardless of the fact that the disenfranchised, the diverse and the poor, cannot afford to live there.

Maybe California’s malaise is attenuated because overall Americans are generally liberal and still seem like conservatives and independents, while the West Coast folks, talk like liberals but want to be governed like conservatives. Indeed thought America we are often found to be operationally ultra conservative, while in any non-consequential conversation and Facebook social media personality — we are all ultra liberal…

A bit of Freudian psychiatry is required here…

The median price for a home in California is more than $700,000. As Bloomberg reported in 2019, the state has four of the nation’s five most expensive housing markets and a quarter of the nation’s homeless residents. The root of the crisis is simple: It’s very, very hard to build homes in California. When he ran for governor in 2018, Gavin Newsom promised the construction of 3.5 million housing units by 2025. Newsom won, but California has built fewer than 100,000 homes each year since. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti persuaded Angelenos to pass a new sales tax to address the city’s homelessness crisis, but the program has fallen far behind schedule, in part because homeowners fought the placing of shelters in their communities.

Some of this reflects the difficulty of wielding power in a state where authority is often fractured and decentralized. But that does not explain all of it. Watching SB50, State Senator Scott Wiener’s ambitious bill to allow dense construction near mass transit, fail has become an annual political ritual. Last year, Toni Atkins, the Democratic State Senate leader, sponsored a modest bill to allow duplexes on single-family lots. It passed the Senate, and then passed the Assembly in slightly amended form, and then died because it was sent back to the Senate with only three minutes left in the legislative session. All this in a state racked by a history — and a present — of housing racism.

This is a crisis that reveals California’s and Washington state’s conservativism — not the political conservatism that privatizes Medicare, but the temperamental conservatism that stands like sticks in-the-mud and thwarts change and yells “Stop!” because in much of San Francisco, and Seattle, you can’t walk 20 feet without seeing a multicolored sign declaring that Black lives matter, kindness is everything and no human being is illegal. Those signs sit in yards zoned for single families, in communities that organize against efforts to add the new homes that would bring those values closer to reality. Poorer families — disproportionately nonwhite, black, latino and immigrant — are pushed into the slums, into the ghettos (still exist), and into long commutes, overcrowded housing and homelessness.

And as expected all of those inequalities, have turned into deadly injustices and vast unfairness during this pandemic, because if you’re living eight or 10 people to a home, or in the homeless shelter, or in a homeless encampment — it is really hard to protect yourself from the virus, from the elements, from the incessant rains and floods of Seattle and the terribly cold weather, snow and storms that this year have manifested.

Yet besides all that human misery — what we see is people with a Biden/Harris or a Bernie Sanders sign and a ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign or that daft “Science is science” sign placed firmly in their environmentally deadly green grass lawns, while the owners of said homes are opposing any homeless encampments, any affordable housing project, or any multifamily apartment complex permit down the street.

And indeed there is no more fascist organization within any city’s governance than the Building department and the Mayor’s office that deals with those issues of Building permits and enforcement, as I can attest personally by knowing and investigating the racist anti-semitic City of Seattle building department headed by the notable white supremacist Nathan Torgeldson, under the protection of the equally white minded Mayor Jenny Durkan that allows and encourages her racist minions inside the Seattle Building department to extract bribes from residents and to red-line whole districts and neighborhoods simply because her building code enforcers have the power of God to terrorize citizens, homeowners and renters and to deny them basic human rights such as access to water & electricity during these difficult times of the pandemic.

Once you start looking for this pattern, you see it everywhere. Take for example California again, because my friend Gavin and his erudite predecessor Mr Brown, although both talking a big game on climate change — even with tens of billions of dollars in federal funding, they couldn’t start, let alone build, the high-speed rail connection between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the two biggest metropolises of this great and overlong state. Trying to connect North Cali with the Southern Cali, might have been a success if the project was not placed under a choke-hold by ultra liberal NIMBYs, by special interests rerouting the planned railways, by the various Cities’ transportation departments bickering, by private land negotiations, by endless environmental reviews, by county governments suing the state government, and by all manner of roadblocks, that have made the project un-attainable, unaffordable and in short, they have sunk the whole thing further down the drain than the Titanic boondoggle that has always been parodied in the Media as being.

Smaller projects are also herculean lifts. In San Francisco, for example, it took 10 years to get two rapid bus transit lines through environmental review. It’s become common in the state to see legislation like the California Environmental Quality Act wielded against projects that would curb sprawl. Groups with no record of green advocacy use it to force onerous environmental analyses that have been used to block everything from bike lanes to affordable housing developments to homeless shelters.

The vaccine rollout in California was marred by overly complex eligibility criteria that slowed the pace of vaccinations terribly in the early days. Those regulations were written with good intentions, as California politicians worried over how to balance speed and equity. The result, however, wasn’t fairness, but sluggishness, and California lagged behind the rest of the nation for the first weeks of the effort. Eventually, the state reversed course and simplified eligibility.

Some conservative outcomes are intended; California’s voters blocked the 2020 ballot initiative restoring affirmative action on purpose. But some reflect old processes and laws that interest groups or existing communities have perverted for their own ends. The California Environmental Quality Act wasn’t passed to stop mass transit — a fact California finally acknowledged when it recently passed legislation carving out exemptions. The profusion of councils and public hearings that let NIMBYs block new homes are a legacy of a progressivism that wanted to stop big developers from slicing communities up with highways, not help wealthy homeowners fight affordable apartments. California wants to be the future, but its governing institutions are stuck in the past. Its structures of decision making too often privilege incumbents who like things the way they are over those who need them to change.

Because indeed, the central argument here is, that it is policy outcomes matter greatly, and it is not the personal appearance, the social posturing and the superficial intent that matter.

And because liberal racist policies are defined as any policy that leads to racial inequity — racial language in the policy doesn’t matter, the intent of the policymaker doesn’t matter, even the consciousness of the policymaker that it’s going lead to inequity, doesn’t matter — because at the end of the day, the truth test is all that matters and that is ONLY about the outcome of our political actions as demonstrated in intended and unintended effects and consequences of our POLICIES IN ACTION.

Those are the PHYSICS of applied policy and not just the advertisement and self aggrandizement of policy advocacy for our supporters, and you don’t need to be an Einstein to grog that simple equation…

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In California, taking that standard seriously might mean worrying less about the name on the school than whether there are children inside learning, being fed, kept warm and supported during these difficult times.

And it might mean worrying less about the sign in your home’s front yard than the median home price on the block.

And yes, it might mean worrying less about a cumbersome process that claims to be about environmental protection, and instead let us start working and thinking more on how to speed along renewable energy projects and ecosystem solutions that will lead towards environmental justice.

And indeed we need to start moving again in the proper direction of effective policies because there is a clear danger today all over America, and not just in California — but everywhere, because our politics has become a simple aesthetic make-up, a privileged sign, and a foundational overlay of outward looking progressivism and virtue signaling, rather than a real program for change.

In other words — we have been engaging in abundant white-washing, green-washing and virtue washing, but not in any meaningful cleaning of our dirty laundry.

Now I hope that all those eating out at the “French Laundry” regularly and unmasked, are listening, because there is indeed a real danger for America that we are all about the “Flash” but not about the “Bang” and that’s not just on the right, where Donald Trump modeled his presidency as if he cared more about retweets than bills, but it is also a grave danger on the liberal democratic left, where the symbols of progressivism and our virtue signaling are most often preferred to the sacrifices and the risks that those truly significant social programs, ideals and issues demand of us — if we are to lead the World forward and not backwards.

Yours,

Dr Churchill

PS:

The West and California in particular, as the biggest state in the nation, and one where ultra liberal Democrats hold total control of the government for many decades now, same as in Washington state and most all western states — carry a special burden.

If progressivism cannot work out here in the liberal democratic West — why should the country believe it can work anywhere else?

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