A response to a response from Republican non-billionaire John Cox.
Before I begin allow me to say quite sincerely, “Thank you.” And I mean that earnestly. Thank you for taking the time to respond and reach out to me. I have never before earned the attention of a gubernatorial candidate from a major party. I will you grant you, as a brief forward, that it takes some magnanimity on your part to directly respond. But it also opens up a whole bunch of new doors for attack, perhaps this was a tactical mistake.
To your first point. Yes, I guess *technically* you are not a billionaire, your estimated net worth is just north of $200,000,000. But I’m going to go ahead and still classify you as “billionaire” in the sense that you are the expression of extreme wealth inequality in the US. Right now there are between 60,000 and 100,000 Angelenos living without permanent housing. They are there because of the practices of your industry. The endless pursuit of profit at the expense of workers makes California the state hardest hit by our national housing crisis.You have built a fortune extracting value from the real economy, using complicated financing to engage in a “pattern of self-dealing [that] has caused economic damage.”
There is an analogy that I like to use: imagine if every dollar of your net worth is a second. 200,000,000 seconds is 24 days. The average net worth of a millennial is 2.9 hours. Your extreme wealth is not a signifier of success, but of vampirism.
You did not work $200,000,000 worth of minimum wage hours (which would take 9,090 years at $11/hr full time 50 weeks a year with no expenses). You did not earn that fantastical wealth. You instead saw exponential jumps in your net worth directly related to the valuation of the capital that you control. Median income in California is $67,739. A family of 4 should be bringing in $150,000 a year to live comfortably, a wage that is unattainable because our productive output, which has generated record profits for corporations, is funneled into the pockets of shareholders and executives. When housing, education and health care costs make it impossible to save it is laughable that someone of your wealth could imagine the struggle.
California has a Gini coefficient of .471, putting it 44 out of 50 states in terms of wealth equality, and far above the US at .410. 60% of Angelenos are rent burdened as housing costs race skywards year over year. At the same time we see a quarter million housing units left vacant across LA County because renting them isn’t profitable enough to investors like yourself. As luxury skyscrapers bring in wealthy buyers LAUSD is continuing to see drops in enrollment as families are pushed out of their neighborhoods. Put simply: California is unsustainable for Californians. There is no way to untangle this race from the extreme wealth inequality that you literally embody.
Perhaps nothing else belies your disconnection from actual working families here in California more than your stance against the gas tax. I am reminded of Governor Schwarzenegger’s term. While campaigning Arnold promised to take a stand against higher state fees and specifically targeted vehicle registration fees. He pledged to cancel the coming increases and this incredibly shortsighted campaign promise helped bankrupt the state years later. In an act of true American politics Governor Schwarzenegger finished his term by raising vehicle registration fees, literally undoing the very thing that got him elected. We need not go back much further than 2008 to see how very real material conditions are exacerbated by the very policies that are the core of your campaign. The hard truth of the matter is the California needs the gas tax, even though it is one of the worst solutions available.
Of course the gas tax is regressive, but it is not more regressive or destructive than Proposition 13, the infamous ballot measure that has brought California to the brink many times. You would have us further wealth transference to the wealthiest Californians through Proposition 5, a tax giveaway estimated to cost $1 billion a year. You try to claim cover by saying that Prop 13 is politically untouchable, but a 2020 ballot measure to amend it will put that to the test. Despite your feint that you really wish you could fix Prop 13, it is clear that you would rather see it expanded to make sure that the wealthy can upgrade to a bigger house while continuing to starve our cities and counties. Even without going over the edge the state is constantly forced to make do with less money for schools, fire fighters and hospitals. Sapping these necessary parts of society ripples through the entire economy; potential earnings are lower, life expectancy is lower, health costs are higher, retirement is out of reach.
To your credit you correctly identify these trends, to your nature you miss the point completely. What is hurting the average Californian is the lack of protection from predatory capital and the capitulation of the state to that capital. It is mind boggling that California is home to two of the most valuable corporations in the world and yet struggles year over year to provide basic services to children. It is not that there isn’t enough economic activity, Apple is literally worth more than $1 trillion, or that there isn’t the will to do better, our universities are ranked among the best in the world, or the energy to create a better future, millennials are the largest cohort in California and the most educated generation ever; what is missing from California is the political will to equitably and decisively deliver on the value created.
What you are proposing is nothing less than the eventual return of a great recession. Across the world we see the signs that the recovery has not been robust. I mean for people like you it has been incredibly robust, 95% of wealth gained in the last decade has gone to the top 1% of Americans; your stratospheric wealth level. In true billionaire fashion you have won the backing of Donald Trump, but then again he’s never seen a bad deal he didn’t want to exploit. It is fitting that this week the Congressional Budget Office announced that Trump’s tax cuts have resulted in a $779 billion annual deficit. It is a perfect case study in where the state would head under a John Cox administration: lower taxes for the wealthy, higher costs for working families, decimated services and broken infrastructure. Can we expect a handout to farmers from you as well? Should we let the Golden Gate Bridge collapse so that almond farmers don’t suffer from their decision to gamble on an unsustainable cash crop?
The race for California’s governor is an ideological battle, just not between the two contestants. There is not nearly as much daylight between you and Gavin Newsom as either of you want us to believe. It is working families fighting the overwhelming wealth of 1%ers like yourself. Perhaps the best that I can say about Newsom is that we will suffer slightly less under his administration than under yours. While you speak about local control and caring about communities we know that it’s empty bluster. Your Neighborhood Legislature proposal is not an attempt to restore local control but to bring the wheels of government to a grinding halt. Here in Los Angeles we do have a representation problem, we have only 5 County Board seats for 10.2 million people, only 15 City Council seats for 4 million people.
What our cities, our communities, our neighborhoods need is a real substantive voice in our government. You will not give us that voice. You can not give us that voice. We feel the weight of Trump’s policies everyday, a John Cox administration will only drag us deeper into stagnation.