California Governor Gavin Newsom appears to have survived a recall effort led by Republicans and conservatives critical of policies largely related to COVID-19. Tuesday’s special election was conceded by front-runner and talk show host Larry Elder late in the evening as exit polls show Newsom with a substantial lead. Calls for Newsom, the nephew of U.S Senator Nancy Pelosi, to be recalled began long before the coronavirus pandemic, but policies his office put in place and his own willingness to violate the rules brought the issue to the forefront.
While the policies Newsom authorized through executive order that shuttered hundreds of thousands of businesses have been made to seem like the biggest issues, Newsom has governed over a string of unmitigated disasters since his election in 2019 and during his service as Lieutenant Governor from 2011 under former Gov. Jerry Brown.
California was famously the first state in the nation to issue a mandate preventing residents from leaving their homes as COVID-19 numbers grew. Newsom issued the executive order on March 19, 55 days after the first known case of COVID-19 was detected.
While hundreds of thousands of business owners watched as meager savings slipped away during the unending closures of businesses, churches, and schools, Newsom was photographed on Nov. 6 attending a birthday party for wealthy political donors including the CEO of the California Medical Association — none of whom wore face masks as required by law in the state. The $350-per-plate restaurant they met at was allowed to open despite no other businesses being allowed to do the same unless they could provide drive-through service.
Ten days later, Newsom ordered nearly all businesses that had been allowed to stay open to close.
This simple “lack of judgment” as Newsom called it may have been enough to fuel a recall in any state that isn’t as deep-blue as California. In December 2020, Newsom used his executive powers to extend the stay-at-home orders for Californians indefinitely, setting off calls for his removal from office over concerns that he was abusing power. Newsom lifted the stay-at-home order amidst significant political pressure from Democrats and Republicans on Jan. 25, 2021.
Newsom’s handling of the pandemic has often been referred to as “draconian” and the similarity in case numbers and deaths recorded by the state to those of Texas and Florida are often cited as indicative of the overreach his office used to handle the crisis. Business closures, stay-at-home orders, and school closures were shorter or non-existent in these states. However, several other issues that seemed to be pushed under the rug in favor of splashy covid-19 headlines may lead to an increase in Californians and major businesses leaving the state.
California ranks #1 in homelessness in the United States, with more than twice as many homeless than any other state. Democrats led by Newsom have promised voters for years to clean up the homelessness problem in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, but have instead instituted policies that allow public defecation and intravenous drug use in public parks.
California has struggled to contain wildfires in recent years, including the two largest and deadliest fires in the history of the state occurring in the last three years. Democrats and environmentalists in the state have said the fires are “the new normal” as a result of climate change, however almost every major fire was sparked by improperly maintained electrical equipment including the Dixie Fire in 2021 that began July 13 and is only 75% contained at the time of this writing.
The state’s largest electrical provider, PG&E, was allowed to file bankruptcy following the 2018 Camp Fire that killed more than 80 people and wiped the town of Paradise off the map. PG&E was found criminally responsible for more than 25 wildfires over the last several years.
The birthday party Newsom attended in September 2020 was held for a lobbyist that oversaw the settlement for PG&E. Victims were paid in company stock rather than cash payments after voting for a settlement. Victims were told that the vote was “either for a settlement or for nothing.” To date, not one victim of PG&E fires has been paid in full and the company has said that victims “will never be made whole.” Value of PG&E stock has since collapsed, leaving victims with little more than useless paper.
Between backroom deals that support corporations over people, failed policies to address the nation’s worst homeless problem, and an inability to regulate electrical providers who are responsible for killing more than 100 residents, the recall against Newsom was anticipated long before coronavirus policies led to the failure of thousands of small businesses. With Newsom remaining in office and Democrats holding supermajorities in all three branches of government in the state, many businesses will continue to seek a new home.
In 2020, California reported its first-ever decline in population. Middle-class families made up the bulk of the exodus as tax policies and poorly managed cities led to massive declines in the quality of life in the Golden State. Famously, dozens of mega-corporations have left the state since 2018, including tech companies like Oracle, Palantir, and Hewlett-Packard that have relocated to Texas. Apple, one of the stalwarts of California’s fabled Silicon Valley, moved its US headquarters to Austin, Texas last year. Nestle also left the Golden State for a better business climate in Virginia.
Legislators point to “historic droughts” that have led to the failure of tens of thousands of acres of the most productive farmland in the nation. In 2017, several of the state’ largest reservoirs were at or above capacity and held enough water for the state to weather seven to eight years of drought. Today, those reservoirs are empty as legislators elected to release water into the Pacific Ocean rather than retain it for future use.
Despite environmentalist claims that the majority of the state’s water reserves are wasted by agriculture and urban use, state law requires that 50% of reserves are released yearly to attempt to resurrect Chinook salmon populations that have been on the brink of extinction for more than 30 years. No improvement in fish populations has been observed in recent decades despite the massive water allowance. Delta smelt, a key food source for larger fish and a protected species in California, have not been found on any of the more than 200 attempts in recent years to locate the tiny food fish.
Legislators in California continue to push for higher taxes on high-income earners, seeking to raise the nation’s highest tax rate from 13.3% to 14.3% for earnings over $1 million during the Covid-19 pandemic. Individuals in the state earning more than $5 million could see a state tax rate of 16.8% that would be retroactive to January of this year. Coupled with the newest federal proposal, high-income earners could see tax rates climb to 53%. The state receives about 50% of total tax revenues from approximately 150,000 individuals in a state with a population of 40 million.
The news that Newsom has held onto his office over a conservative who is frequently panned by Democrats as “a black Donald Trump” could lead even more corporations to pack up and leave the state for better financial futures in Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and other business-friendly states. As state Democrats led by Newsom continue to push radical environmental policies, rising taxes, and a climate that punishes business success will continue to erode the state, even places like West Texas that not many people look to as a destination will increasingly become popular for corporations and families seeking a better way of life.