Welfare, housing: Clinton pragmatism still ignored by CA’s dim paleo Dems

Welfare, housing: Clinton pragmatism still ignored by CA’s dim paleo Dems

SAN-DIEGOIn the late 1980s, after three straight Republican presidential wins in which GOP candidates won 133 of 150 states, the Democratic Leadership Council seized prominence in Democratic policy circles with its centrist reform agenda.

Founded in 1985 by strategist Al From, the DLC thought the bad image of liberalism in the 1980s was well-earned. From’s goal was results-based government activism that understood incentives drove behavior.

Rule No. 1 was that throwing money at problems didn’t have a great history after a quarter-century of Great Society domestic liberalism. If this wasn’t working to solve a problem, try another approach.

Rule No. 2 was to accept the idea that government-centric efforts to address societal issues were not always best — that even Americans who weren’t Reaganites had a skepticism about what government could accomplish, and for good reason.

The DLC approach — touted by such folks as Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn and the then-very-powerful New Republic magazine — eventually got a tryout when Clinton was elected president in 1992 after an amazing Democratic primary without a single serious liberal candidate.

Clinton had his hard-left moments. But after 1994, he “triangulated” against liberal lawmakers over and over again, including going along with sweeping GOP welfare reform in 1996. And Clinton never gets nearly enough credit from non-wonks for how he successfully tinkered with the Earned Income Tax Credit in a way that helped the working poor without disincentivizing work.

The DLC way never made it to California

gray-davisBut in California, the pragmatic DLC approach has no such substantive record. Its principles won lip service from Gov. Gray Davis briefly after his 1998 election when he fought for education reforms. But then Davis lost his spine and sold his soul with a series of concessions to public employee unions, and since then the DLC theories that results matter most and that throwing money at problems isn’t always smart have been abandoned by nearly all elected California Democrats.

If we have parsimonious budgets, it’s because state legislators don’t have money to spare; it’s not because they don’t still want to throw money at problems and ignore history.

This dynamic has played out in education, where Clintonian programs to force teachers to meet standards have gone nowhere.

It’s also evident on welfare reform. As Chuck Devore has chronicled, California never got around to implementing the sort of tough, mandatory welfare changes that in most of America proved to be the greatest anti-poverty program in U.S. history.

And as we’re seeing now in San Diego, the DLC approach on affordable housing — which would value results first and foremost — is considered bizarre and exotic.

Failed policy? Let’s pump it full of new funds

toddGloria_0I dealt with the insanity of what the San Diego City Council’s Democratic majority is doing in an editorial Sunday on the six months that Council President Todd Gloria served as interim mayor:

“During his time as mayor, he provided the fifth vote on the City Council for a gigantic public policy mistake.

“That mistake was to sharply increase the ‘linkage’ fees on commercial and industrial development projects in the name of promoting affordable housing. If the program that council Democrats were funding had a history of working well, that’s one thing. But it doesn’t. It has a 24-year history of minimal results at high cost.

“Doubling-down on an approach that isn’t working is in keeping with the Golden State’s obtuse history on affordable housing. As the Public Policy Institute of California noted in 2003, local governments have a history of focusing on process — adopting programs that show their good intentions — instead of results.”

This is insane. In this “Moneyball” era — in which statistical analysis is able to readily quantify what works and what doesn’t work — the second-largest city in California and the eighth-largest city in America has embraced a failed policy in a way that will hurt the city’s economy in direct and obvious ways.

Is Ron Burgundy running City Hall? Stay stupid, San Diego.


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  1. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 24 February, 2014, 08:05

    Rule No. 1 was that throwing money at problems didn’t have a great history after a quarter-century of Great Society domestic liberalism. If this wasn’t working to solve a problem, try another approach.
    YES! Try a different approach. Rex’s approach to is simple. Government social programs, while meaning well by those who develop, implement and support them, are almost ALWAYS an unmitigated disaster b/c the government simply cannot run them efficiently or cost effectively (nor can government run anything else efficiently or cost effectively for that matter (oh dear Lord, please kill the BB gun train)). And that is where the problem lies IMO.

    My solution is pretty simple, keep GOV OUT of these programs, but give the poor and lower middle class a way to get ahead, on THEIR OWN, and that would be to not tax them. No income tax below $15K ($15K is an arbitrary number I cam up with, might be too high, but a start), NO SALES TAX which is by far the MOST REGRESSIVE tax there is, the one that harms the poor the MOST ad the tax that is ALWAYS THE GO-TO TAX for politicians-without regard to the harm it causes the poor. American citizens would MUCH RATHER HAVE A JOB and EARN their OWN WAY, than having to rely on government welfare and workfare, where they become DEPENDANT on the government, when they don’t want or need to (although government employees LOVE their “workfare” job, always in a non-competitive and closed market where their wages arer 3-20 times market).

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  2. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 24 February, 2014, 08:11

    Just MHO, but it is a good one, a place to start, and before Teddy “The Dork” Steals rags on it with his one liner, throw away, antagonistic comments, I CHALLENGE the Idiot Teddy Steals to post a better plan, better solution, better path for the poor and middle class (who are currently being killed by government taxes to support the Teddy Steals workfare guys/gals).

    OK Teddy, no garbage comments, post up a BETTER solution. Heck post up anything of merit. My bet is we will see another dumb, no substance, “Teddy Knows It All” post, the kind Teddy Steals is so famous (infamous) for 🙂

    Reply this comment
  3. Donkey
    Donkey 24 February, 2014, 08:12

    All of the bureaucracies of government are filled with RAGWUS feeders seeking ways to spend other peoples wealth through taxation/confiscation.

    You have the LE side that uses fines or asset forfeiture, the building and planning bureaucracy that tells you what how you can use your property how, what, where, when you can build, but takes no responsibility for the finished product.

    What is all comes down to is that if the state, county, or city is not getting their cut then a dozen costume clad state armed praetorians are going to show up at your residence, putting the life of anyone at the residence in danger. 🙂

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