Monday, November 26, 2018




          For quite awhile this year, it seemed like open season on kidney dialysis patients, the more than 66,000 Californians who depend for life after kidney failure on getting their blood cleansed during sessions of three or more hours three times a week.

          The most serious threat came from Proposition 8, which lost at the polls by a 62–38 percent margin, but not before it became the year’s most expensive issue-oriented campaign in America, more than $120 million being spent on both sides.

          There was also a threat this year from the Legislature, whose strong Democratic majorities are so much under the sway of labor unions which provide much of their campaign funding that they easily passed a measure  threatening to throw dialysis patients off their health insurance plans if they accept third-party aid in paying their premiums.

          Bear in mind, many dialysis patients are so exhausted and weakened by the constant blood exchanges they undergo that they cannot work, living on fixed disability payments and other forms of welfare. For many, premium assistance is the key to staying alive.

          Fortunately for them, outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed this ill-advised measure sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Connie Leyva, whose Inland Empire district spans many miles between Pomona and San Bernardino.

          “This bill goes too far as it would permit health plans and insurers to refuse premium assistance payments and to choose which patients they will cover,” Brown’s veto message said.

          Spreading the alarm as the measure sped through committee after committee was the American Kidney Fund (AKF), largely funded by big dialysis companies which stood to lose under the measure. The AKF uses donations to give premium help for 74,000 dialysis patients in all 50 states, including almost 4,000 Californians.

         Noting that the bill was largely backed by health insurance companies, a statement from the AKF called the Leyva bill “a thinly veiled attempt by insurers to prevent kidney patients from being able to choose their own insurance plan if they accept charitable premium assistance.”

          The fund claimed the bill’s aim was to let insurance companies rid themselves of “sicker and more costly patients.” And make no mistake, dialysis is costly, often running more than $6,000 per month and sometimes more than $50,000.

          That high cost was also the ostensible motivating factor behind Proposition 8, primarily sponsored by the Service Employees International Union, which would dearly like to recruit thousands of technicians and nurses working in California’s 550 dialysis clinics.

          The measure claimed it would hold costs down by forbidding clinics from charging insurance companies for the work of physician medical directors vital to maintaining quality care. It also would not have allowed clinics to charge for the work of facility administrators, security personnel and professional services like accounting, payroll and legal expenses, all normally considered ordinary costs of doing business.

          Cut those costs, the sponsors argued, and everyone’s health insurance premiums would drop. But the two largest owners of dialysis clinics in California, the German-based Fresenius Medical Care and Denver-based DaVita Corp. responded by saying the cuts would force them to close many clinics.

          No one knows how many they would really have shuttered, but if they closed any significant number, the long rides many dialysis patients now endure several times a week before and after treatment would grow even longer and tax their depleted strength much more.

          Fresenius and DaVita put their money where their mouths were by becoming the prime funders of the seemingly ubiquitous campaign against Proposition 8.

          Had either of these proposals become state law, the lives of thousands of patients figured to become even more difficult.

          So there was relief in the clinics when both measures ultimately failed. But there is no guarantee either won’t be back, especially with a new governor taking office Jan. 3 and nobody quite sure how he might deal with similar measures if the Legislature puts them on his desk.

          This means dialysis patients who are fit enough to track these developments – and many are not – cannot afford to relax completely even though the two immediate threats were not realized. They must remain wary and ready to respond again if and when similar dangers arise.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          From across California, the obituaries for the California Republican Party have come thick and fast ever since the November election. After all, the GOP’s onetime national stronghold in Orange County now lacks even a single Republican in Congress.

          All statewide officeholders also are Democrats, from the governor right through the nominally nonpartisan state school superintendent. Democrats hold majorities of more than two-thirds in both houses of the Legislature, allowing them to pass any tax increase they like.

          So the eulogies now being read over the seemingly dead body of the onetime Grand Old Party amount to piling on after Republicans’ worst defeat ever in California.

          One veteran conservative commentator suggests the GOP should stop calling itself Republican and adopt some other label because the present one was poisonous for so many candidates. The party’s former leader in the state Assembly, Kristin Olson, opined in print that her party “is dead.”

          But it doesn’t have to be that way. And a major Democratic operative has now outlined just how Republicans can recover in this state. A potential GOP recovery, though, would probably require its candidates to divorce themselves as much as possible from President Trump and his brand of government by insult, belittlement, braggadocio, whim and tweet.

          If Republicans in California do as the Democrats did after their 2016 losses, they have a shot at making a significant comeback. But so far, the GOP is so enmeshed in feeling sorry for itself that there is little sign it will make the kind of effort Democrats did starting at the end of 2016 and carrying right through this fall’s election.

          The first thing Democrats did then was select the Republican congressional seats they had a chance of winning. In the end, they took virtually all of those.

          Their chief criterion was simple: Target districts where Hillary Clinton beat Trump, but which elected Republicans to Congress. Those included all the Orange County areas they flipped this fall, and three in the Central Valley. They also made a strong, successful effort to ensure they didn’t lose any of the 39 congressional seats they already held in California.

          Republicans have plenty of potential targets for 2020, if they take even a cursory look. They might go after districts where GOP candidates led in Election Night counts, but lost when late mail and provisional ballots were counted.

          Those include three Orange County districts that went Democratic this year after decades of Republican representation. The GOP also could examine districts like those of Democrats Ami Bera and Jerry McNerney, perpetual targets for them in the northern San Joaquin Valley where the incumbent Democrats rarely pull more than 53 percent of the vote, even in big Democratic years like 2018.

          There is definite potential for Republican recovery. But only if the GOP adopts some of the tactics outlined in a post-election memo sent to reporters by Drew Godinich, regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

          The DCCC, Godinich reported, started by making sure it had solid candidates. It then spent big money on primary campaigns to get those candidates into the fall runoff. Democrats also put local organizers into target districts just two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, while he was embroiled in feckless and false arguments over whether his inauguration crowd matched Barack Obama’s.

          The DCCC then invested $30 million to register and turn out new voters from diverse ethnicities, women and younger voters known as millennials. It hired 11 full-time organizers to expand Latino and African-American voting, one reason those groups came out in larger numbers than almost any prior mid-term election.

          And it made sure each target voter heard from Democrats more than 100 times in the 60 days prior to Nov. 6.

          Still, it’s likely none of those things would have won for the Democrats if not for the negative presence of Trump, who loomed over the entire election.

          So far, Republicans aren’t following up on any of this and show no signs of learning from the Democrats, while Trump appears unready to go away.

          All of which means recovery is possible for the GOP. But only if it cleans up its act, and very soon.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit

Monday, November 19, 2018




          About a month from today, a new governor will sit in the state Capitol’s “horseshoe” suite and face some problems that not even the hyper-active and often contemptuous soon-to-be-ex-Gov. Jerry Brown could solve.

          Those problems will obscure neither Brown’s achievements nor his failures.

 When Brown took office in early 2011 for the first term of his second go-‘round as California’s chief, the state faced a huge budget deficit of $27 billion, which he turned into both a positive and a large rainy-day fund via a combination of parsimony and the political courage needed to run a major tax-increase ballot initiative, one that now forms part of state government’s financial base.

He also inherited from predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger an over-budget High Speed Rail project that faced numerous legal challenges over items as basic as acquiring the land for laying tracks. The so-called “bullet train” has not exactly proceeded with bullet-like speed and today is even more over-budget and behind schedule than when Brown took over, while still facing most of the same legal problems.

Mark that one as a problem not solved, which Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom will inherit.

          Brown helped appoint former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, also a former Homeland Security Secretary, president of the University of California and did little while she and her aides accumulated a $175 million slush fund at the same time students were assessed roughly the same amount in tuition increases.

          He’s been a leader in the global movement against climate change and last fall even dared the world to revive the “Gov. Moonbeam” tag once applied to him by the late Chicago columnist Mike Royko, promising California will “launch our own damn satellite” to track global warming. Royko coined the nickname in the late 1970s, when Brown previously advocated a state satellite.

          Brown sees the putative new space project as one part of California’s resistance to climate change reluctance from President Trump, who ordered federal agencies like NASA and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency not to track worldwide temperature changes. Newsom said in October he likes the satellite idea.

          If there’s a large negative in how Brown is remembered, it likely will come over the corruption his appointees spawned at the state Public Utilities and Energy commissions.

          The PUC consistently favors utilities over their customers and never penalized any commissioners who helped orchestrate a settlement between the Southern California Edison Co. and its customers on the costs of closing the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Stations. That deal was illegally reached in a secret meeting involving former PUC President Michael Peevey. Peevey has supposedly been under investigation for his role, but that alleged probe is now more than four years old, with no result. Meanwhile, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, a Brown appointee just elected in his own right, won’t say where it stands.

          Similar collusion by Peevey and other PUC members with Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has also gone unpunished, while costing consumers billions of dollars.

          At the Energy Commission, highly questionable multi-million-dollar “hydrogen highway” grants favoring automakers and big producers of industrial fuel were first pulled back by commissioners after this column exposed the cronyism behind them. Most were re-instituted to the same recipients after the commission changed its rules a short time later. Brown did and said nothing about this scandal, then reappointed the commission chairman who oversaw it.

          Brown also went along with almost all demands of public employee unions and signed every bill reaching his desk that eliminated delays under the California Environmental Quality Act and promoted large building projects like the Golden State Warriors’ under-construction new arena in San Francisco. Similar bills boosted the Los Angeles Rams/Chargers coming new stadium in Inglewood, the Los Angeles Clippers’ nascent arena also in Inglewood and the Sacramento Kings’ already completed new home.

          And he did nothing to prevent the “motor voter” debacle at the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has mis-registered thousands of voters.

          So how will Brown be remembered? Most likely as a governor who solved some problems he inherited and worked hard against climate change. But his legacy will also include doing little about corruption and virtually ignoring the state’s biggest financial problem: Its massive public pension deficit.
    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          More than a year before he won election as California’s next governor, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom did not hesitate for a moment when asked what’s California’s biggest problem. “Income inequality,” he said in an interview then. He repeated that evaluation in subsequent sit-downs during the campaign.

          “Take Los Angeles,” he said. “It’s America’s richest city, with Bel Air, Brentwood, Beverly Hills. But it’s also America’s poorest city, with South Central and more. The remarkable thing is they are only a few miles apart.”

          Then he added that “You can’t live a good life in an unjust society.” And went on to quote the ancient Greek statesman and orator Pericles, who said, “The issue of wealth and income distribution is the oldest and most fatal of all issues in a republic.”

          Newsom left no doubt about his deep conviction on this, despite his longstanding friendships with plutocrats like Gordon Getty. He offered some immediate ideas on how to ease situations where families with annual incomes barely topping $20,000 per year live not far from others whose incomes are more than 100 times that.

          During his campaign, Newsom pledged to hire a statewide director to coordinate services he hopes will treat each homeless person from a “whole person care” perspective. He promised to push for more affordable housing aiming to take homeless off the streets, but – mindful of controversies in places like Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco – will leave it up to local authorities to decide where that housing should go.

          Newsom isn’t the first to note the inequality problem. California’s tax-collecting Franchise Tax Board has reported that in 2016, the top 1 percent in overall wealth received 23 percent of all income in the state, while the bottom 90 percent received 49.6 percent. White families on average earned more than 1.5 times what Latino and black families got. Even more startling are net-worth figures reported by the U.S. Census, which found white families in California had a net worth (assets minus debt and other liabilities) of $171,000, more than eight times the $20,700 belonging to the average Latino family and nearly 10 times the $17,600 of African-American families. Those numbers include home equity, value of vehicles, furniture and almost every other type of material goods.

          There will be no immediate help from the federal government, either, on evening things out: President Trump’s tax “reform” bill of last year will benefit whites far more than Latinos or blacks, and the richer you already are, the more you stand to benefit.

          So what can a new California governor do about this inequality, which grew more imbalanced than ever during Jerry Brown’s latest two terms as governor?

          The California Budget Project (CBP) suggests starting with an estate tax (sometimes called a “death tax”), saying that “serves as a curb on dynastic wealth.” In short, if you’ve built a valuable business, you’d better pass it on to your kids before you die, if estate taxes rise precipitously, as they might with two-thirds Democratic majorities in both houses of the Legislature. But the Legislature and governor couldn’t act alone on this: It would need to be okayed by voters because the 1982 Proposition 6 repealed state inheritance taxes. It can only be reversed via another popular vote.

          The CBP also suggests eliminating or cutting tax deductions that primarily benefit well-off homeowners, including deductions for mortgage interest and property taxes. Do that, of course, and the value of much California real estate would immediately fall, which would tend to even out the wealth held by whites, Latinos and blacks.

          But that would surely spur a massive political backlash, so don’t bet on it happening soon.

          Another way to boost low-wealth families is to expand child care and renters’ tax credits, which help the poor while not harming others. This one is the most likely of the CBP recommendations to become reality.

          But one thing is for sure: Newsom will evaluate many proposed new laws that land on his desk from the perspective of what they’ll do to help alleviate income inequality and boost low-income families. Which will be a very different perspective than any recent governor has brought to the office.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

Monday, November 12, 2018




          Ever since the 2010 passage of Proposition 14, Libertarians and members of other small but sometimes significant California political parties have griped about the lack of choices presented to voters in the state’s biennial November general elections.

          Advocates of the “Top Two” primary election system set up by that eight-year-old initiative respond that it actually does provide runoff election choices, even if they’re often between different wings of the same political party.

          Voters had just such a choice this fall in the contest between longtime incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former state Senate President Kevin de Leon. Feinstein represented moderate Democrats, de Leon the party’s more extreme leftist Young Turks.

          This race ended up tossing a monkey wrench into Top Two, the first time the system has not worked as planned.

          Top Two, known to some as the “jungle primary,” puts the two leading vote-getters in California primaries into the finals, regardless of political party. The major parties despise this system because it cuts their organizational influence, as it did last spring when the state’s Democratic Party apparatus leaned to de Leon, but 70 percent of Democratic primary voters went instead for Feinstein.

          Top Two supporters enjoyed the fact that their rules reduced party influence. They don’t mind that dozens of district elections for Congress and the Legislature have been one-party affairs since 2010, some involving two Democrats and others matching two Republicans, depending on which major party was dominant in any particular district.

          They have rejoiced in the fact that voters of the minority party, whose smaller numbers previously gave them little or no voice in district elections and a few statewide races, could moderate the way their representatives behaved once in office in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.

          But then came the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings for now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, where Feinstein played a key role in getting #MeToo movement-style complaints about Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misbehavior as a young man before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she is the ranking Democrat.

          Feinstein’s role infuriated many Republicans, who saw the claims about Kavanaugh as trumped-up falsehoods.

          Rather than going for the more moderate Feinstein, who beat de Leon by a margin of more than 3-1 in the primary, Republicans by a margin of about 2-1 voted for de Leon. This was a real head-scratcher, as de Leon during the campaign often blasted Feinstein for her friendliness with some Republicans. De Leon is also the prime author of California’s “sanctuary state” law and his stances on everything from health care to climate change run diametrically counter to standard GOP positions.

          Still, many Republicans came to detest Feinstein last fall, and decided to vote for anyone over her. De Leon became their only possible fallback, allowing him to improve greatly on his primary performance, only losing by an eventual margin of about 9 percent.

          Their sentiments were expressed by the editor of one small Central Valley newspaper, who wrote in his pre-election endorsements column, where he also blasted Democrats for their “often stupid ideas”: “Vote for Kevin de Leon. Incumbent Dianne Feinstein embarrassed herself and California by carrying the water on the phony and vicious campaign against…Kavanaugh. Her days in the Senate should be brought to a close.”

          That did not happen, but GOP voters became strange bedfellows for the Democratic left and gave Feinstein some anxious moments.

          Had de Leon won, he would have voted consistently for six years against almost everything favored by the Republican voters who so avidly helped him out.

          That’s not how former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his fellow Republican sidekick, ex-Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, planned it when they helped create Top Two. Under their predicted scenario, the ultra-conservative voters who backed de Leon this fall were supposed to vote for the more moderate Feinstein.

          If they were being rational, they would have done that. But they were governed by emotion, as many voters often are. So GOP-dominated counties like Shasta, Butte, Madera and Merced went big for de Leon.

          If more monkey wrenches like this ever get tossed into Top Two, there’s a chance the same voters who opted into it will someday opt out.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to




          Californians already know about the wildfire crisis that’s been afflicting this state for the last few years, highlighted by a rash of huge blazes and the evacuations of at least 250,000 persons. It’s caused by a combination of climate change, forestry practices and the seemingly endless human drive to build more and more houses in increasingly remote and fire-prone areas.

          But many may not realize that a fire insurance crisis is also almost upon us.

          Sure, state legislators led by incoming state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara worked much of the year to protect victims of the huge 2017 fires that hit the Wine Country, Ventura County and parts of San Diego County.

Homeowners burned out in this year’s firestorms in Shasta, Butte, Ventura, Los Angeles and rural parts of Mendocino, Lake, Orange and Riverside counties, could also benefit from what they’ve done – essentially expanding from one year to two the time when insurance companies cannot cancel fire coverage in burned-out areas or their nearby peripheries. The clock starts running on that time when the governor declares a state of emergency in a fire area.

          But…there’s nothing to prevent insurance companies from lowering their risks by canceling policies on homes and other buildings in fire-prone areas that have not yet burned.

          There’s little doubt insurance companies want to minimize their risks. They were the leading lobbyists against a legislative bill letting big utility companies off the hook for damages caused by fires their equipment starts. That could have upped liabilities by hundreds of millions of dollars for insurers, who would then raise premiums everywhere, not just in wildfire-prone areas. A fall-back bill that eventually passed could end up causing those very things.

          Insurance lobbyists also fought a bill requiring living expense insurance to include all reasonable costs of fire victims seeking to maintain their pre-conflagration living standards.

          These were among the biggest battles of the last legislative year, and they are not yet settled, with a special commission now attempting to hash out solutions designed to keep the utilities out of bankruptcy without dunning the average homeowner large new sums.

          With utilities already facing liabilities in the multiple billions of dollars, it may be hard to find such a formula, especially in a state increasingly fed up with large corporations fobbing the costs of their mistakes and negligence onto their customers.

          Which means that what outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown said last year about wildfires and climate change – “All hell is breaking loose” – applies now to more than the actual fires. Things always get more contentious as monetary stakes rise.

          But the threat to fire insurance isn’t completely new. Outgoing state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones saw it coming a year ago. “The companies must renew policies for a time on homes in fire disaster areas,” he said then. “But they don’t have to renew policies in non-disaster areas when they expire and they don’t have to renew homes in disaster areas beyond the time limits.”

          So crisis is here. But it won’t be like what happened after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, when property insurance companies refused to renew most policies and stopped writing new home and business property coverage anywhere in California. That impasse – it amounted to blackmail – ended in 1996 with creation of the California Earthquake Authority and elimination of an old rule forcing companies that write property insurance also to offer quake insurance. The state-run CEA now writes the vast majority of earthquake policies.

          That’s because there is a safety net of sorts for homeowners whose coverage is not renewed. It’s called the Fair Plan, roughly equivalent to the CEA in that it must insure anyone who applies. But Fair Plan rates are much higher than other fire policies, although by law prices cannot be excessive, whatever that means.

          Before last year’s blazes, the number of Fair Plan policies was rising by about 1,000 per year. The figure was up in 2017 and likely will climb substantially over the next two years. So the fire insurance crisis will be less about scarce insurance than it is about money.

          That won’t make it any less painful for those who are forced to foot much higher bills than ever before.

     Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, go to

Tuesday, November 6, 2018




          Things were slightly bittersweet at Dianne Feinstein’s Election Night celebration in San Francisco, which marked her easy reelection to a fifth full term in the U.S. Senate, where she has been arguably the most influential Democratic member for the last few years.

          Her power was most publicly obvious this fall during the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearings, when she led off questioning as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Shortly after, she threw the proceedings into chaos when she revealed accusations of highly questionable sexual behavior by President Trump’s nominee.

          So there are few doubts about Feinstein’s effectiveness at age 85, the oldest current senator. But all fall, as her aggressive reelection opponent Kevin de Leon hammered at her cautious and always civil approach, one question loomed over her campaign: Would Feinstein serve out her full new term?

          For sure, if Republican John Cox had pulled off a massive upset and won the governor’s office, that question would have been answered in the negative. With the conservative Cox in charge at California’s Capitol and ready to appoint a GOP replacement if Feinstein’s seat ever became vacant, there’s no way she ever would leave her office so long as she has breath.

          But the creatively liberal Democrat Gavin Newsom will now hold that office, so Feinstein’s retirement option remains open. For Newsom, like Feinstein a former San Francisco mayor, could be counted on to name a replacement who would vote pretty much as Feinstein does: backing abortion rights, gun controls and free trade policies.

          Potential appointees might include outgoing state Treasurer John Chiang and Pasadena-area Congressman Adam Schiff, to name just two. The Democratic bench is deep, but de Leon’s often aggressive attacks on Feinstein may have eliminated him from future consideration.

          Of course, Feinstein never commented during the campaign on the possibility of retiring before her term is up. In fact, she did little in-person campaigning around California, in part because the Kavanaugh hearings kept her anchored to hearing rooms and her office through most of the election season.

          But her top campaign aide, longtime consultant Bill Carrick made it clear she was not contemplating that. “The thought of retirement never crosses her mind,” Carrick said.

          And yet… There are all those red-eye flights to Washington, D.C. which every West Coast senator must make, arriving exhausted in the early morning and still having to do a full day’s business. There’s the somewhat dicey health situation of her husband, financier Richard Blum, whose lung cancer treatments in 2016 caused her to miss the Democratic National Convention.

          So there may be reasons for her to want to retire. But there is also incentive for Feinstein to serve out her term. For one thing, she was obviously frustrated the last few years as Republican Charles Grassley of Iowa chaired the Judiciary Committee, presiding over Supreme Court confirmation hearings that Feinstein would have guided if there had been just two more Democratic senators.

          With Democrats looking like a strong possibility to take control of the Senate in two years, Feinstein could look forward to most likely being in charge soon.

          There’s also the Intelligence Committee, which deals with America’s most sensitive national security issues. Feinstein would be its senior member with Democrats in charge.

          But the question of age remains. For many persons who reach advanced years, 90 can be a benchmark time when they grow more fragile and less energetic. Feinstein has never shown signs of fading strength or endurance, but all it takes is one or two transient ischemic attacks (small strokes) to change anyone’s health self-evaluation.

          Feinstein has shown no signs of ever experiencing anything like that, and plainly feels she still has important work to do. Her major cause of protecting the California deserts from development is threatened by Trump administration policies. So are abortion rights and gun controls, which have been vital to her since she witnessed the 1978 assassinations of former San Francisco Mayor George Moscone.

          The upshot is that Feinstein won’t leave of her own accord unless she feels she’s losing some of her abilities. That plainly is nowhere near reality today, but how might she feel in two or four years?

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It," is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit




          Looking for a big difference between incoming California Gov. Gavin Newsom and current incumbent Jerry Brown, who will be termed out with the advent of the new year after 24 years in statewide offices?

          Look no farther than preschool. The need for better, more universal preschool was a constant theme for the two years Newsom spent campaigning for the office he has long coveted. “This is when brains develop the most,” he said in an interview early in his drive for office. “If we want to develop people optimally, we need to start paying attention to children long before they reach kindergarten.”

          Newsom sounded a lot like the father of young children as he spoke, and he is – his four kids with actress and second wife Jennifer Siebel are aged 2 to 9. His feelings on brain development may also be influenced by his own dyslexia, which he discusses openly and has made a pet cause.

          So devoted is he to the cause of universal preschool that the governor-elect made it the theme of his first TV commercial this fall, the vehicle he knew would form his introduction to many voters who had not paid much attention to state politics until Election Day grew near.

          It’s not just preschool that Newsom says he’ll stress. His vision begins before birth and reaches through high school and college. Some have called his approach “cradle to career,” a phrase he relishes.

          It’s hard to argue with the notion of making prenatal care and preschool high priorities, especially after this fall’s compilation of dozens of studies, an analysis done by researchers at Stanford University and the Palo Alto-based Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE).

          “California’s lag in academic achievement arises before children enter the schoolhouse door,” wrote the research group. It referred in large part to the fact this state trails others in closing the achievement gap between white and Asian children and those who are black or Latino – the two fastest growing ethnic groups.

          Newsom appeared to intuit this long before that report emerged. Newsom told the Oakland-based EdSource lobbying group California and the nation need “a new way of thinking about education as a lifetime pursuit. Our role begins when babies are still in the womb and doesn’t end until we’ve done all we can to prepare them for a quality job and successful career.”

          So far, Newsom has not proposed any specific programs to make his vision real, but it’s clear government spending on education can change outcomes. The Stanford-PACE report found that spending $1,000 more per student at the high school level produced “significant increases in high school graduation rates and academic achievement, particularly among poor and minority students.”

          As a candidate, Newsom proposed a data system tracking Californians from early childhood through college, aiming to get school districts and college systems to work together. Newsom also embraces community schools involving health care and social services in addition to the usual academics.

          To meet his aims, Newsom might seek a major reorganization of California’s educational establishment, with school districts and even preschools somehow combining into one system along with university and community college systems. It’s possible this could result in an “education czar,” but Newsom has not proposed that and likely would have a tough time getting that notion through the Legislature.

          Newsom will surely have to become more specific as his transition staff works on the next budget, due in preliminary form just over two months from now.

          But his first commercial laid out a central mission he sees as the key to this state’s future. “To renew the California dream, we need to renew our promise to our children, the promise that every single baby will have prenatal care, every toddler can attend preschool, every student has access to high quality after school programs, every graduate has meaningful job training and work opportunities,” he intoned.

          That will not only take reorganization of the education establishment, but also a lot of money. Look to that first budget for clues about how the Newsom ideas might look in the real world.

    Email Thomas Elias at His book, "The Burzynski Breakthrough, The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government’s Campaign to Squelch It" is now available in a soft cover fourth edition. For more Elias columns, visit