Thursday, September 23, 2010




Just in case anyone needs new evidence that California politicians worry far more about their own survival than that of the people they allegedly serve, check out the contributions for September to the Yes on Proposition 27 campaign.

Early September was when California legislators adjourned their session without passing a budget, likely meaning there will be none at least until after the November election. It was also when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that in his view, there was no need to call a special legislative session to pass a spending plan – and took off for six days in China.

Essentially, these politicians were giving many Californians the same message Queen Marie Antoinette conveyed to impoverished Frenchmen who could not afford to buy bread on the eve of that country’s 18th Century revolution: “Let them eat cake.”

For the lack of a budget will likely see the state once again issuing vouchers instead of checks within a month. Payments to schools and counties have been deferred, some health clinics are struggling to get by. And thousands of state contractors, large and small, won’t get paid for an indefinite time.

Here’s what one of them, a child care provider in the Northern California town of Shasta Lake, said in a letter on the day the lawmakers adjourned: “I am on the verge of losing my house as well as my business license because of the lack of a state budget…the state is holding from me three quarters of my income. I have three kids of my own, my husband works, but his income combined with what is left of mine doesn’t cover what the bank wants, let alone the utilities, food, insurance, etc. I wonder, does the governor really realize to what extent the lack of a state budget is hurting people?”

Apparently not. He was off to the Far East with no budget in place. Not to worry, the $180,000 Bentley he drives now that Hummers are passé is not threatened.

Legislators show similar disinterest. But they are plenty interested in their own survival.

They made this plain by donating more than $500,000 from their campaign war chests to the drive for Proposition 27, which would eliminate the 14-person citizens redistricting commission set up under a 2008 ballot initiative. Proposition 27 would throw the once-a-decade reapportionment of legislative seats back into the hands of the same lawmakers whose fate can depend on how district lines are drawn.

The contributions all came from Democrats, including Assembly Speaker John Perez and fellow pols like Mike Eng, Charles Calderon, Bob Blumenfield and Alex Padilla, each of whom had previously given $10,000 or more to the campaign for 27. Meanwhile, Republican billionaire Charles Munger Jr., whose daddy partners with investor Warren Buffett, kicked in $3.3 million to defeat it.

Republicans clearly hope lines drawn by the citizens commission will be better for them than anything the Democratic-dominated Legislature might come up with. But demographics dictate there will likely be little change in the Legislature’s makeup no matter who draws the lines. No commission can change the way people of similar background, outlook and economic status tend to cluster.

The same Democrats fighting to pass 27 are also focused on beating back Proposition 20, a Munger-financed initiative aiming to expand the citizens commission’s power and let it draw congressional district lines in addition to those for the state Assembly and Senate.

Republican politicians are staying out of this fight, too, but not Democrats. So far, the roster of pols whose committees have plunked down $10,000 or more to pass 27 and defeat 20 includes prospective Congresswoman and former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass ($50,000) and congress members Judy Chu ($500,000), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Anna Eshoo, Lois Capps, Diane Watson, Linda Sanchez, Laura Richardson, Doris Matsui, Zoe Lofgren, Howard Berman, Sam Farr and Mike Honda. All but Chu and Bass are in for $10,000 apiece. They fear district lines drawn by anyone but their party mates in the Legislature. Biggest donor to their cause is movie producer Haim Saban, who popped for $2 million, while labor unions have put up more than $1.5 million.

All of which means the airwaves will be filled with ads on these arcane-seeming propositions long before California has a budget and can resume paying many of the people and companies who do the state’s work.

Chalk it up to venal politicians acting in their own self interest while paying little heed to the real needs of the people they supposedly serve.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




Some call them nuances. To others, they’re “weasel words.” But there’s no doubt this fall’s California political campaigns have more of them than usual. Which may be one reason both major races in this state are close, with unusually large numbers of undecided voters for this time of the political season.

Normally, the closer an election draws, the more committed voters are to the people for whom they will eventually vote. But not this year. That's because voters can waffle when they feel the people they’ve supported are not really true to things they’ve espoused.

One prominent example is Republican Carly Fiorina, the fired former Hewlett-Packard corporate boss who seeks to unseat three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

In a speech at the 2008 Republican National Convention, Fiorina – then an advisor to presidential candidate John McCain – praised the Arizona senator for his sponsorship of a cap-and-trade system to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, saying it would “create jobs and lower the cost of energy.”

Just two years later, now in her own campaign, Fiorina blasts Boxer for backing precisely the same cap-and-trade proposal, while also lambasting the landmark 2006 California greenhouse gas-cutting law known as AB32 as a “job killer” because it would create a state system for capping emissions and allow companies to trade or sell credits they get for producing fewer gases than they’re allowed.

Fiorina also declared in June and early July that she would never vote to extend unemployment benefits unless federal spending was cut to pay for it. But later that month, she said on a San Francisco radio show that she would have voted for the extension bill that eventually passed – without compensating spending cuts.

These sorts of contradictions may explain why even though Boxer’s approval rate remains below 50 percent, Fiorina has been unable to make significant gains against her since the primary election.

It’s much the same in the run for governor, where Republican Meg Whitman calls Democratic rival Jerry Brown “frugal with the truth.”

Whitman aides delight in going back decades to deride Brown for first opposing the Proposition 13 property tax cuts of 1978 and then enforcing them wholeheartedly. Another Brown inconsistency: While governor he twice vetoed bills with pay raises for state employees, but wound up backing and signing other measures giving them big pay raises and union negotiating rights.

But Whitman may have the largest consistency problems of any candidate now running.

One example is her statement that while she opposed the controversial Arizona anti-illegal immigrant law known as SB1070, she “would let the Arizona law stand for Arizona.”

Huh? She explained this almost unintelligible remark by saying “You gotta let the states do what they gotta do,” adding that “We have a much bigger state with much bigger geography.” The question: What does size have to do with whether police should demand documents from anyone with whom they come in contact that looks to them like a possible illegal immigrant?

There are plenty of other Whitman inconsistencies. During the primary election season, when she was trying furiously to win support from conservative Republicans, she called AB32, the greenhouse gas law, a “dangerous job killer” and urged a suspension.

But later she said she would “probably” vote against the November Proposition 23, whose aim is just such a suspension. Why? Her campaign said that was because she “supports the goals of the bill.”

In the primary, Whitman laced into former opponent Steve Poizner, the state insurance commissioner, for not imposing “cost-saving furloughs” on the Department of Insurance staff. More recently, she’s come out against furloughing state workers.

These contradictions caused Poizner – who ended up endorsing Whitman in an act of party loyalty – to observe that Whitman “needs to crystallize her thinking. She can’t have it both ways on all these issues that are very controversial.”

That may be what many voters feel, too. It probably goes a long way toward explaining why despite spending well over $100 million during the spring and summer, while Brown spent almost nothing, Whitman had not attained much of a lead over him heading into the autumn homestretch.

The big question for all these candidates is where the significant numbers of undecided, independent voters will eventually land. Generally, when a voter switches from the supporting one candidate to being undecided, it’s a step along the path to eventually supporting the competing candidate. But the summertime phenomenon of drift from all sides into the undecideds, likely driven in part by the frequent inconsistencies of the candidates, makes this one of the least predictable elections in recent times.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Friday, September 17, 2010




It’s high season for political polls, and if you listen to the people who run the surveys, television’s Dr. House is wrong when he says everyone lies at least some of the time. The pollsters contend few voters ever lie to any of them.

“I believe they tell us their opinions honestly,” says Mark DiCamillo, director of the prestigious Field Poll. “But they sometimes change their opinions.”

Adds longtime pollster Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, “People don’t lie to us.”

And yet…California political history is replete with examples of polls being wrong. There was the 1982 race for governor, won by Republican George Deukmejian after polls indicated a last-week surge toward Democratic rival Tom Bradley, then the mayor of Los Angeles. There was 1994, when most polls showed voters split virtually 50-50 just before the vote on the anti-illegal immigrant Proposition 187. Only the automated Survey USA, then a rookie outfit, showed 187 winning big just before the vote.

It carried by a 59-41 percent margin. There are more such cases, but those two illustrate the problem this year’s Proposition 19 poses for the polls, as it aims to legalize the use and growing of marijuana.

Polling results have been consistently inconsistent on this measure, as they were with 187.

Early on, it seemed legalizing pot would pass in a cakewalk. The two major polls measuring initial sentiment on it, Field and the automated Survey USA (which polls for TV stations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Fresno) showed it winning handily. But then a midsummer Field survey indicated a major shift. Suddenly, Proposition 19 trailed by 48-44 percent, looking like bad news for proponents since few initiatives ever pass when their support dips beneath the 50 percent level at that point in a campaign.

But just a few days later, here came Survey USA with the pot proposition up by 50-40 percent. Exactly one month later, another robopoll by the same company got the same result. Then, more recently, Survey USA had Proposition 19 up by only four points.

Why such differences, when the major polls generally are pretty close together, even if a couple – Survey USA and Rasmussen Reports, which is also automated – often tend to show Republicans running slightly stronger than other surveys?

One possible explanation is that some voters lie to live pollsters, as they apparently did in the Deukmejian-Bradley contest and about Proposition 187.

“It’s not that people consciously lie,” said Jay Levy, president of New Jersey-based Survey USA. “What happens sometimes is that people think they will behave in a certain way, and then they don’t.”

This can happen, Levy suggests, in contests where voters feel they ought to vote one way, but find they can’t do it at crunch time.

“On 187,” he said, “people were asked if they would vote to throw children of illegal immigrants out of schools and deny them health care. Who would say ‘yes’ to another person on that? But in the end, that’s what they did.”

It only takes 10 or 15 people doing this in a polling sample of a few hundred to make things come up wrong.

In the Deukmejian-Bradley contest, with Bradley the first African American ever to win a major-party nomination for governor, it’s apparent that inaccuracy followed when enough of those polled didn’t want to admit they would vote against a black man – but still did it.

When campaigns involve issues where shame might be involved, it may be easier for some voters to reveal their true intentions by simply punching a button than confiding in a cold-calling stranger.

“It might be a matter of not ‘confessing,’” Levy said. “If you tell a live person you’re voting ‘yes’ to legalize marijuana, some voters might believe they’d be seen as admitting they use it.”

There’s also the matter of how questions are asked and who answers them. The live polls read voters the full ballot title and summary just as they’ll see it in the voting booth; Survey USA and other robopolls use tighter summations of propositions.

“We know the ballot title and summary language mean a lot,” says Baldassare. “There’s also the question of who’s pushing the buttons on the phone with automated polls. It could be a teenage kid. We don’t really know. But I don’t believe shame or fear of exposure ever play into our results.”

Adds DeCamillo, “Nobody is asking if a voter smokes pot when we poll on Proposition 19. If we asked that, a live interviewer could understate its support, but we don’t.”

But it’s possible the issue itself implies such a question, just as asking about 187 or Tom Bradley also bore obvious but unspoken implications.

There’s also the fact that the live-operator surveys reach the 30 percent of Californians who have only mobile phones and no land lines, while robopolls don’t.

It adds up to a lot of question marks about which polls and which kinds of polls are most likely to be accurate.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




It is beyond doubt that Californians need a capable CEO to navigate the state out of the thickets into which we have stumbled, be they the budget wilderness, the unemployment mess or eternal bickering over water supplies.

Should that CEO be a traditional chief executive in the corporate mold (Meg Whitman) or a conciliator in chief (as Jerry Brown says he would be)? Should this state’s spending priorities be decided by a small management group or should they involve masses of people? Should we have the ultimate in ballot box budgeting?

Those are some questions facing voters as they get set to choose this fall between the Republican former eBay chief Whitman, who rarely voted or displayed much interest in public affairs for most of her life, and Democrat Jerry Brown, a former two-term governor who won his first elective office at 31 and is still at it 41 years later.

Whitman makes very clear what she wants to do: Get rid of 40,000 state employees (she doesn’t say who) and weed out waste and fraud, essentially telling state legislators what to do along the way. Other governors, both Democrat and Republican have tried this approach. The ousted ex-Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, once observed that the Legislature exists to “implement my vision.” The current governor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, began his tenure by issuing orders to the independently elected state attorney general. Both men were quickly disabused of their arrogant presumptions, and their ability to govern suffered.

Whitman thus far has not publicly insulted legislators or other statewide officers. But her plumping for a part-time Legislature has not made many friends among lawmakers whose votes she’d need to implement her vision.

Brown, who could be contemptuous at times while governor and often battled state lawmakers 30 years ago, insists he’s well beyond that, acknowledging often that he made mistakes in the past.

“I won’t be contemptuous any more. For sure,” he said in an interview. And he appears to have matured in the half a lifetime since he last was governor.

Rather than try to dictate to lawmakers – which he often tried when younger – Brown now says the only way anyone can solve California’s problems is to involve them all, regardless of party. His days of arrogance, he says, are over. He talks about this as one result of his eight years as mayor of Oakland; it might also have something to do with the time he spent working beside Mother Teresa in India while out of office in the mid-1980s.

Whatever the reason, the emphasis Whitman’s campaign often puts on Brown’s long-ago style seems outdated.

“My vision is to engage every single legislator and the people who have given them the most support,” he said. “I will also appeal directly and honestly to the voters.” He pledges to start meeting lawmakers and interests that supported them within a week of the November election and expects to have a budget plan – or alternate plans – ready for a popular vote in a special election next spring or early summer.

“We will have detailed budget proposals and we’ll aim to push many decisions down to the local level,” he said. “The differences between, say, Bakersfield and San Francisco, are so wide we need more local choices and we need the authorities in the local cities and counties to be part of the whole process. We need to explore everything.”

That could mean cuts in prisons, with releases for some convicts. It could mean big changes for public employee pensions. It could mean cuts in roads or schools or care for the elderly. Brown proposes to let voters make the ultimate choices, just as he promises not to raise taxes without a voter OK.

“It’s very different from Meg’s approach,” Brown says. “Her plan to eliminate the capital gains tax alone would add $5 billion to the deficit and where would we make that up?”

Brown promises to “take the entire process on the road. We will be in Los Angeles and San Diego and Fresno and everywhere else so the people become involved.” He claims Whitman “wants to do this in a vacuum.”

And he suggested that some programs might be “dismantled.” “If the people don’t vote for them, they might go,” he said. This ultimate form of ballot box budgeting could see voters presented with full-fledged alternative budgets to choose among, or merely asked for a thumbs-up or thumbs-down on individual programs.

Why does Brown, in his early 70s, want this job again when he’s already been there and done that? “Because I know this state, all of it, very well and I love it. It’s a fabulous place and we have to make it well.”

Which sets up the autumn choice: an attempt at corporate executive-style leadership or the possibility of the most inclusive approach ever tried in this country. The vote comes Nov. 2.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Friday, September 10, 2010




Ask the majority of California’s registered voters why they often don’t turn out at election time, and you’ll frequently get a stock answer: “There’s no real difference between the two big parties, so it won’t make any difference who gets elected.”

When it comes to foreign and defense policy, there’s some limited truth to that. Though it has brought a change in approach to the war in Iraq, electing Democrat Barack Obama to follow Republican ex-President George W. Bush brought little or no change to the war in Afghanistan or the way America props up some corrupt governments. Even though Obama has not been as warm as Bush to Israel, fundamental policy there also has not changed.

But there’s plenty of difference between Republicans and Democrats in bunches of other areas, and no political race in recent memory has brought these contrasts to the surface more than the tight ongoing contest between three-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer and her GOP challenger Carly Fiorina.

Never mind that this is the first time California has seen an all-female race for a top-of-the-ticket post. Skip over Fiorina’s claim that she could do more for California than Boxer. That’s a completely unlikely proposition under a Democratic president. Not only would Fiorina take office with zero seniority in the Senate, but it’s absurd to think Obama would do her any favors after she spent much of her campaign trashing him and his policies, almost all supported by Boxer.

Most potential voters will likely be less interested in all that than what Fiorina might support and what Boxer has backed. That’s where the differences become huge. They became extremely obvious early this month in the pair’s lone debate of the campaign.

Start with abortion, where a summertime Field Poll found about 70 percent of Californians still solidly believe in a woman’s right to choose. Boxer and Fiorina could not be farther apart.

“Carly is pro-life,” her Web site flatly says, without qualification. “Carly believes that life begins at conception. She earned an A rating from the National Right to Life Committee.”

Boxer’s Web site: “Senator Boxer is recognized as the Senate’s leader in the fight to protect a woman’s right to choose – so that reproductive decisions stay out of the hands of government and remain between a woman and her doctor.” Boxer led the Senate fight to end a Bush-imposed “global gag rule” that prohibited any international aid organization getting federal money from using even privately-raised funds to provide abortions or birth control information.

Then there’s illegal immigration. Fiorina has consistently dodged answering questions about whether illegal immigrants should ever get a path to U.S. citizenship. “First, we have to secure the border,” she said at one Sacramento town hall. Next, America needs “a temporary worker program that works.” Her Web site says much the same, with nary a word about amnesty in its immigration section.

Boxer, meanwhile, supports “comprehensive immigration reform that includes both a path to citizenship and tougher border security.” She also opposes temporary worker programs because they’ve always been “designed to create a permanent pool of low-paid workers and may actually…increase illegal immigration.”

And there’s same-sex marriage. Boxer is for, Fiorina against.

“Marriage is between a man and a woman,” the Republican said, adding that she supported the 2008 Proposition 8 which aimed to ban gay marriages in California.

Boxer: “I support marriage equality.” She opposed Proposition 8 and was one of only 14 senators voting against the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, which allows any state the right to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. In short, if two California women went to Massachusetts and got hitched, California would not have to recognize that marriage as legal when they returned home.

The contrasts go on and on, through offshore oil drilling (Boxer against, Fiorina formerly for but wishy-washy since the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico), the death penalty (Fiorina unequivocally for it, Boxer saying little or nothing) and allowing children of illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition at California colleges (Fiorina against, Boxer for).

There’s little uncertainty here. On almost every major issue, no one need have much doubt about how either of these women would vote. Fiorina bills herself as a solid conservative on both fiscal and social issues; Boxer has long been one of the Senate’s leading liberals.

So let’s not pretend these two are a modern pairing of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. For any voter who cares about today’s most significant and emotional issues, this contest offers a clear choice and no excuse for not voting.

Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated soft cover edition. Email him at




On the surface, this fall’s campaign for governor seemed to begin in earnest almost exactly one year ago, when Republican Meg Whitman opened the radio ad campaign that turned into a key part of her successful drive for the Republican nomination to be California’s next governor.

About that time, Democratic state Attorney General Jerry Brown was making fund-raising pitches in the conference rooms of law firms and the parlors of homes all around the state.

In the year since, onetime eBay chief executive Whitman has spent almost $150 million, the great bulk from her own checkbook. Brown, who spent nothing while beating back onetime Democratic hopefuls like San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, had spent less than $1 million as of Labor Day, while union-financed committees put out about $9 million on his behalf.

Even though one poll (the Rasmussen Reports automated survey which canvasses via robotic phone calls) in late August showed Whitman leading by eight points, the finding was unique and questionable. The bottom line is that this race is still wide open and has yet to become truly serious.

How can it not yet be serious when so much cash and energy has been expended on it?

That’s easy. Neither candidate has yet shown Californians a credible way out of their perpetual budget crises and neither has demonstrated that the unemployment nostrums they offer are worth as much as the paper they’re printed on.

Recent Whitman ads, for instance, call for setting up a statewide grand jury to go after waste and fraud in government spending, citing existing government reports that pointed out specific instances of fraud or profligacy. She never says how much that might cost. So no one knows if the bureaucracy needed to support her grand jury would cost more than any savings it might spur.

Whitman ads also call for investing an additional $1 billion in the state’s public university and college systems, a fine idea. But she says she’d finance this by cutting back welfare fraud and requiring work for welfare. Three problems: no one has ever found as much as $1 billion per year in welfare fraud anywhere, including California. And the workfare program set up under ex-Gov. George Deukmejian in the 1980s has been decimated by budget cuts over the last two years. Plus, it turns out if California cuts $1 billion in welfare costs, it will lose about that much in federal refunds. How would this help the budget?

Brown, meanwhile, has yet to offer any specific budget solutions, saying only that if elected, he will start meeting immediately with all state legislators regardless of party to work out solutions. How will those meetings create more state funds, especially since Brown often pledges never to raise taxes without a full vote of the people – who roundly rejected a tax increase in a special election last year?

No wonder this race is virtually even in most polls. Neither candidate has given voters much reason for loyalty.

That may explain some of the polling oddities in this race. At midsummer, two surveys showed both candidates with support substantially below where it was just after the June primary election. Onetime supporters of both Brown and Whitman had drifted away into the undecided column at least for awhile.

Later surveys show most of that support coming back to both candidates, but the later polls are questionable enough that Whitman campaign manager Mike Murphy called all the summertime surveys “wet cement.”

Wet cement is a good phrase for the entire campaign at this point. It awaits one candidate putting firm footprints on it, something neither will accomplish by blasting the other, as ads aired by and for both campaigns have done so far.

Brown says he will do that. But he’ll have to move fast. With about $40 million to spend between now and Election Day, he would be wise to spend much of his war chest before mid-October, when many voters start casting absentee ballots. It’s a short time span to capture voters’ attention and make the compelling case that he has not yet presented.

Meanwhile, billionaire Whitman will surely match or exceed whatever Brown spends, just as she outspent primary election rival Steve Poizner, a rival self-funded candidate, by about a 3-1 margin.

Those ad campaigns are likely to cancel each other out, which might let the matter be decided in the two, maybe three, debates the candidates have agreed to.

For sure, voters will see snippets of the late September and early October encounters the rest of this fall even if they don’t watch the actual debates.

The hope is that Whitman and Brown don’t waste their debate time calling each other liars and flops, as their commercials so often have. For Californians want real answers, not the flawed nostrums they’ve been offered so far. Whoever presents solid solutions first just might be the eventual winner.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Sunday, September 5, 2010




The biggest losers in the state budget deficit battles that have raged for more than three years are only now becoming clear, and they are not necessarily the causes and people who have drawn the biggest headlines.

Sure, some prison guards will lose their jobs as inmates are released. Yes, some highway construction projects will be delayed or shelved. True, welfare-to-work and public health programs are now severely curtailed. So are the operating hours of state parks and local libraries, and in-home supportive services is taking cuts.

The people who long benefited from all these programs, from crime victims to drivers, hikers, readers and the poor will all lose some of what they’ve long had.

But it’s California’s children – from kindergarten up through college age – who will suffer the most, and the effects they will feel became obvious as school started over the last few weeks.

The most visible items: Starting now, there will be thousands fewer students on the many campuses of the University of California and the California State University system. Those who are there will struggle more than ever to get into required classes. And nearly half the public school districts around California will shorten their school year from 180 days to 175 or 176.

Not much of a difference, you might say. But listen to state Schools Supt. Jack O’Connell, a former schoolteacher who will be termed out next winter and has no more political axes to grind:

“This is a major setback,” he said. “We’re reducing learning opportunities for our students, which puts California kids at a disadvantage relative to other states.” And not just other American states, either. Numerous countries, from Britain to Japan and South Korea, already had far longer school years than California even before these cuts.

California’s school districts have long been allowed to reduce school days to help balance budgets, but only a few actually did it last year, and they were mostly small districts, so the effects were not as noticeable as they will be this fall, when the gigantic Los Angeles Unified district cuts five days from its calendar and San Francisco lops two, just to name a couple of cash-strapped districts whose students will lose out.

But it’s not only elementary and high schools that will be affected. Hundreds of thousands of parents will suddenly face new child care needs. Universities and the students who had a right to expect to attend them will also suffer.

With enrollments cut by more than 100,000 qualified students this fall, the state’s two big public university systems last spring began using waiting lists for the first time ever. The reason: The campuses would like to accept every single student whose education can be funded with the reduced money coming from the state.

When students who once would have been routinely admitted opt for a waiting list rather than outright rejection, the campuses can control their admissions more precisely, letting in some from the waiting list as they learn of admitted students who won’t be enrolling in the fall. This makes for efficient management, but doesn’t help a sad situation that departs radically from the state’s 50-year-old master plan for higher education, which promised enrollment on a four-year campus to all who qualify.

That’s bad, but because many students denied slots at public universities can still complete work at community colleges, the elementary and high school slashes are worse.

Those cuts might make some kids happy in the short term, giving them more time off. But in the long run they and the entire state will be harmed. That’s because a well-educated populace has been the cornerstone of California’s economic and social growth since the 1940s. Without such a workforce, it would have been impossible for either the electronics or the film industries to become successful.

Study after study has shown that the more class time students get, the more face time they spend with teachers, the more they learn. If this year’s cuts continue, they will mean the average Los Angeles student will miss more than a full month of school through a high school career. And three months over the 12 years from first grade through the end of high school.

Universities have to teach remedial English and math today; just imagine what they’ll face under this schedule.

Today’s children will be the biggest losers in all this, with diminished lifetime prospects. And California, too, will lose on many levels. There will be a less capable workforce, less educated voters, lower incomes and resulting lower tax receipts. It’s a disaster in the making, and one that can be prevented only by either a strong economic recovery (not likely soon) or an increased willingness by citizens and legislators to make sure schools don’t have to sustain any more cuts like this year’s.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




The Texas oil companies behind Proposition 23 don’t call it an attempt to deny the existence of worldwide climate change. They just call the landmark 2006 California law they’re essentially trying to repeal a “job killer.”

But this proposition, which would put AB 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, in abeyance until unemployment levels drop to 5.5 percent or lower for a full year, amounts to getting rid of the world’s strongest effort to do something about climate change.

If you don’t believe there’s such a thing as global warming, go to Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park. You’ll have a stunning view over Half Dome, the Yosemite Valley and much of the Sierra Nevada. But you will see not a single one of the many glaciers that gave the overlook its name in the 19th Century, most of which were still dozens of yards thick when Ansel Adams photographed them about 80 years ago.

You could also go to the Scottish highlands, where some botanical gardens now feature large philodendrons and other tropical plants normally associated with places like Hawaii, Costa Rica and the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. This, at latitudes similar to those of Helsinki or Moscow. Or look out the window of an airplane flying between California and Europe as it passes over Greenland, which is much greener and far less icy than it was as recently as 15 years ago.

Or read recent studies from state hydrologists that forecast a future of steadily reduced flow in many California waterways as warming continues.

It’s common among deniers to say no one has proven all this has anything to do with modern civilization and its production of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2). But even if there were really no proof -- and the vast majority of the world’s leading climate scientists has repeatedly said evidence abounds -- doing what we can to avoid making things worse would still be the responsible thing to do.

That’s the aim of AB32, which mandates rolling back California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels within the next 10 years.

Proposition 23 would stop that effort in its tracks. For unemployment levels of 5.5 percent or below are unusual even in times of great prosperity.

No matter, say opponents of AB32. The measure is a “job killer,” they contend, and the regulations it will spawn – including a cap-and-trade system to let emitting companies buy “pollution credits” from other firms that are cleaner than required – will cause businesses to leave California in droves.

They present no evidence for this, relying instead on a single "study" from Sacramento State University whose methodology and ethics have been roundly discredited in the months since it was issued. Even Assemblyman Juan Arambula, the Fresno Independent whose legislation paid for that study, has called it worthless.

Another report by the state legislative analyst warns of higher energy costs and resulting job losses if California goes it alone on global warming, but that one confined itself to potential costs and did not even look at potential benefits of using renewable energy sources or the jobs created by the fight against global warming. Nor did it examine the likelihood that other nearby states will imitate California on AB32 if it sticks, as they have most of this state’s other environmental laws.

Meanwhile, it was money from two Texas-based oil refiners, Valero and Tesoro (which sells its gasoline in California under the Shell and USA brands) that put Proposition 23 on the ballot and fuels its campaign. The measure can be seen as a continuation of oil company resistance to clean air measures of all types. Refiners and automakers have fought every anti-smog law California ever passed.

Their claim that AB32 has already cost jobs in California and will remove many more is disputed hotly by the California Business Alliance for a Green Economy, which noted that in May of this year alone, its member companies had active online postings for 7,500 new job offerings.

“AB32 provides the market certainty the clean energy industries need to invest in a strong workforce in California,” the group says, adding that California leads the nation in hiring for “green” jobs, a phenomenon that could end abruptly if Proposition 23 passes.

The anti-23 campaign, which will likely spend almost as much as the yes side, has one big advantage in this contest: In order to vote no on AB32, voters will need to vote yes on 23. That kind of confusion usually leads to defeat for ballot propositions.

If it does this time, California will once again assert itself as the world leader in the search for both clean air and renewable energy.

Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit