California’s propositions are so confusing and tricky that it’s not worth wasting time on the convolution that is each initiative’s Title. The label is a distraction from figuring out the measure’s true interest, which hides behind the smoke screen of political campaigning.
Choose to vote on California’s 11 propositions not according to the reductionist label or content-renderings of complex initiatives (Figures 1 and 2), but according to who is spending, in which direction, and how much.
The ebb and flow of campaign monies is tracked online by the California Secretary of State website calaccess. It reveals tight, incestuous circles of influence-peddling weaving the fabric of our latter-day elections. The rovings are hard to follow: shot through with individual’s contributions, there are also gifts to “Committees” that re-gift those funds to other Committees in a vortex of Political Action mirrors. Among a certain class of folk the imperative of political spending is more automatic and faithful than tax paying itself; those who don’t know of this routine, don’t know what they don’t know. Political contributions are the killing fields of class warfare.
There are three initiatives on November’s election that address housing. The first two, Propositions 1 & 2, are bond issues to fund construction for “affordable” housing projects including for low-income and mentally ill residents as well as veterans and farmworkers. The first of these would support manufactured and mobile homes, “infill” and “transit-oriented” developments.
Up for bid in California’s November elections is a spigot of public funds resolutely directed at the vast yawn of income disparity furthered elsewhere by our “winner-take-all” public policy. We have indulged supply-side economics at the expense of humanistic governance for so long that we are compelled to address the damage among the lives of our people with the same mantra: the Public-Private Partnership of late-stage neoliberalism.
Over five million dollars has been forwarded to lobby, uncontested, for these public-dollar/private-company partnerships. The entrenchment of a construction-industrial complex may advance good works toward a good end, but propping up the private sector with the public, is an involuted use of tax dollars.
Table 1 lists the contributions and contributors to the effort of convincing you to vote for Propositions 1 & 2. These entities are quantifying how important these bill’s passage are to their bottom line, which could be understood to be not exclusively monetary but ideological as well. Contributors are classified in three ways, as a “Committee” taking money from numerous entities, some of which are individuals appearing among the other two donor groups, categorized as “Major” or not. The name of the contributor is followed, where relevant, by their employer. Some (most?) employers are very large concerns, employing numerous, occasionally bounteous employees:
The effort to convince the public to publicly fund housing projects is not counterbalanced by any opposition. This is an up or down vote to tax ourselves out of a situation that is incontrovertibly terrible. Opposition to the incontrovertible would not be tenable, so there is little discussion of the larger circumstances governing how and why we got where we are, who is swooping in to save the day and how, or the benefits they will reap from the incontrovertible.
The five million dollars represents, then, the worth of convincing the public of this solution, to those who will benefit from it. But it is more than an order of magnitude less money than is being invested in the conversation about the pricing of rental units already built (Figure 3).
An eye-popping amount of money has been invested by landlords, land holding companies and real estate professionals to block repeal of the Costa Hawkins Act, which quenched the California rent control movement of the 70’s and 80’s. The history of California can be written as a history of real estate interests, briefly summarized in this excellent history.
Table 2 shows the strength of the interests arrayed against Proposition 10. The list is long, with 2,454 individual entities contributing over $62 million as of October 17, 2018. One entity has alone contributed $5m to oppose Proposition 10 and individuals have contributed millions. Real Estate “communities” (developments), are contributing mightily to the cause of non-regulation. The list is poorly partitioned by ‘employer’, but most contributors are individual entities and many individuals have not listed their ‘employer-affiliation’, so they will not be categorized accurately. The list is best scanned without packaging.
The interests arrayed in support of enabling local rent control, while outspent 2.5:1 are not without funds. However most of this comes from a single healthcare and social service entity, itself a collector of many small individual contributors. The other 150 individual contributors are mostly small, individual donors. Though their names are in the public record, only a small representation of them is shown Table 3; most are identified by employer only. These are not, by and large, business interests or of the donor-class. The strength of their conviction may be disproportionately large compared with their net worth, but these are an army of small combatants, and they are being out-classed. This is a lopsided-fight because Real Estate is a really, really big interest.
This imbalance will broaden as the election draws closer. While small individuals are tapped out, Big Real Estate is unlikely to be. The number of contributions of various amounts (of unequally sized categories, please note), is compared in Figure 4 among those in favor of the status quo (opposition to Proposition 10 = no rent control) and opposed to it (support of Proposition 10 = allow local jurisdictions to regulate rent).
The contributors in favor of enabling local jurisdictions to control the rent, are an order of magnitude fewer in number overall, and heavily skewed to relatively many, and small, contributions. The organized effort to halt rent control expresses the interests of a lot of contributors with very deep pockets.
Stay tuned for further discussion of the propositions not on the essence of the regulation, but instead on who is backing it, and how much.
Red Queen in LA