Monday, August 29, 2022







        Democrats have long known one of the major realities of California politics: Far more voters turn out for November general elections every two years than in primary elections.


        The main reason: November ballots always feature either a race for president or governor. This realization was the big reason most ballot propositions disappeared from primary election ballots almost 10 years ago. The Democrats in firm control of Sacramento figured liberal-oriented initiatives they back would likely fare better in the fall, amid the higher turnout, with more young voters and minorities marking ballots than during the springtime preliminaries.


        Control of Congress starting in December might actually hinge on the accuracy of this truism, on which Democrats have staked much of their future.


        Why? Because of gerrymandering in several Republican-controlled states, Democrats need to hold all their California seats in the House this fall, plus take away a few slots from Republicans, or lose their majority. Only a fall Democratic vote far larger than the party’s June primary turnout can accomplish this.


        Take one of the seats that – improbably – now is on the national wish list of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: The newly drawn 3rd Congressional District, covering much of Placer County and several neighboring areas.


        Here, Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (winner of 3.5 percent of the vote in the Gavin Newsom recall election one year ago) got 40 percent of primary votes in this nearly lily white district, barely beating out Democrat Kermit Jones, a physician. But altogether, the GOP took 56 percent of the district’s votes, ending up with a majority of almost 32,000.


        For Jones to overcome that deficit and make this seat Democratic in an area most of which previously voted steadfastly for the arch-conservative Tom McClintock (who switched to a new, safer district this year) would take a massive increase in turnout that goes almost 100 percent Democratic.


        That’s not very likely, so Democrats had better not be figuring on finding this wish-list item in their Christmas stockings.


        Democrats’ motive for pouring money into races likely to go Republican, even if the district lines are newly redrawn, is clear: They will lose ground in states like Florida and Louisiana, where newly-drawn districts are designed to favor Republicans while concentrating Democrats in a very few districts, barring enormous upsets. They plainly hope the Supreme Court’s reversing it’s almost 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights will push droves of young women to the polls while trying to get those rights restored.


        Another unlikely seat Democrats hope to turn blue now belongs to Young Kim, covering parts of Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.


        Yes, in that 40th District, Democrat Asif Mahmood took 40 percent of the primary vote, while Republican Kim got just 35 percent of all ballots. But GOP candidates combined to win 59 percent of the total vote, and barring a major shift, Kim figures to get about that much in the runoff.


        Democrats do have a shot at winning in other longtime Republican areas. In the new 22nd District covering much of Kern, Kings and Tulare counties, Democratic state Assemblyman Rudy Salas took 45 percent of the primary vote, while Republican incumbent David Valadao drew 55 percent. A significantly larger total vote driven by the anti-abortion decision could push Salas into the House.


        Yet, national Democrats are leaving Salas mostly to his own devices, perhaps because Valadao is one of the few Republicans in Congress who have displayed some independence. He was one of only 10 GOPers who voted to impeach ex-President Donald Trump in early 2021 and voted for an abortion rights bill at midsummer. That may have been enough to keep the Democrats’ campaign committee from dropping millions into this part of Central California.


        But Valadao has a prior history as an abortion opponent, which might have more impact now than it did in June.


        The bottom line: It’s highly possible Democrats could knock off two or three current House Republicans, but unlikely this by itself would be enough to retain control of the House. But the Supreme Court’s ruling has upset enough Americans that almost any outcome is possible.



    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









      If you’re a gambling man or woman (and two of this fall’s seven California ballot propositions are about gaming), don’t bet the house against either November’s Prop. 26 or Prop. 27.


          Both these competing initiatives aim to legalize what once was criminal in this state. Legalizing onetime vices seems to have become a ballot-box favorite.


          The recent history of marijuana laws makes this clear, as voters first approved medical marijuana and later okayed full recreational use of the weed, to the point where it’s now hard to find a city or town without at least one cannabis dispensary.


      The history of legal gambling in California is only slightly less telling, voters in 2000 approving Indian gambling on once poor and desolate Native American reservations by an overwhelming 65-35 percent margin. They later drew a line and in 2004 refused to allow slot machines in urban card rooms and horse race tracks.


          But in 2008 tribal compacts vastly expanding the number of slot machines on some reservations were approved easily.


          Now come Props. 26 and 27, both aiming to legalize sports betting, a huge passtime from which Californians have been formally excluded. This still sends many thousands to Nevada for live betting and onto illicit offshore websites for online wagers.


          It’s still unclear what would happen if both initiatives pass. If there’s a precedent here, it might be the 1978 battle between the Proposition 13 property tax limits and milder limits in the rival Proposition 10. In that case, both passed, with 13 getting more votes and standing as untouchable law ever since.


The betting initiatives differ widely: Prop. 26 allows sports betting, but in person only at casinos on semi-sovereign reservations and at four horse race tracks – but not online. It would also allow casino tribes to sue cardrooms over some games they offer, while okaying dice games and roulette at Native American casinos.


      Meanwhile, Prop. 27, backed by online giants like FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, legalizes online and other mobile sports betting, but would see the big operators each partner with Indian tribes. Fully 85 percent of tax revenue produced from this would be earmarked for housing and to help solve homelessness.


     Both measures provide avenues for almost unlimited growth of the interest groups behind them. It’s hard to see how they could co-exist, so the strong likelihood is for drawn-out legal battles over which one will govern, if both pass.


     So far, more than five dozen casino tribes are backing Prop. 26, which they see as their ticket to even more prosperity than they now enjoy. Most likely, more Native Americans would gain wealth under 26 than with 27, where the bulk of the money would go to the big gaming companies and a relative pittance to aid the unhoused.


     The measures promise to make new money for many tribes that already rake in plenty; there’s precious little to protect gambling addicts from losing whatever savings they may have.


     Today’s Indian gambling, confined for the most part to reservations, also does little to protect gamblers from addiction. But at least now they usually must go to tribal lands to activate their habit.


     Cardroom operators, longtime exploiters of loopholes in restrictive state laws, whine that if 26 passes, it will prevent them from ever getting into games they now cannot run, but which remain potential sources of riches.


      Their committee, with the pious-sounding name “Taxpayers against Special Interest Monopolies,” says 26 would “guarantee tribal casinos a near monopoly on all gaming in California, adding roulette, craps and sports wagering to their current monopoly on slot machines.”


      All this leaves little doubt we are seeing a contest between heavily monied interests over who will become the most wealthy. That’s why, having raised more than $300 million before the Fourth of July, this campaign figures to become the most expensive state electoral contest ever, of any type.


     The healthiest response from voters would be to reject both measures, but given the pent-up demand for sports betting in California and voters’ prior approval of things long considered vices, that’s not likely to happen. Which means big-time sports betting will soon arrive here, with a corps of lawyers likely to decide its eventual shape and scope.



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

Tuesday, August 23, 2022







        California voters will be blinking and experiencing a sense of déjà vu when they see Proposition 29 on their fall ballots, a third attempt by a powerful labor union to meddle in the operation of dialysis clinics.


        This is actually the seventh time in the current young century that interest groups of various kinds have tried to create new laws state legislators previously refused to pass.


        Tobacco companies went first, trying twice to get local smoking restrictions removed. Anti-abortion activists made two attempts to pass an initiative requiring teenagers to get parental permission before having an abortion.


        Those attempts failed as badly on their second tries as on their first attempts. There’s no reason to believe fiddling around with dialysis clinics will fare better.


        One reason is the life-saving nature of dialysis, where clinics treat folks whose kidneys have failed. All their blood is removed, cleansed and reinjected three times weekly for more than two hours per session. Patients do this for their entire remaining lifespans, unless they obtain a transplant. Some of the 80,000-plus Californians who endure this have been on dialysis 25 years or longer.


        Most California dialysis is done at 550 centers, about three-fourths of them chain-owned by either the Fresenius or DaVita corporations, DaVita headquartered in Denver, Fresenius in Germany.


        All clinics operate under the supervision of doctors, who make rounds at varying intervals. At most times, a registered nurse is in charge; patients also can be visited regularly by their own kidney specialists, known as nephrologists.


        Into this picture steps the Service Employees International Union for another attempt at forcing each clinic to be supervised in person at all times by physicians or nurse practitioners. This could add exponentially to the cost of dialysis, most of which is covered by Medicare.


        One problem with this is that there is no demonstrated need to keep a doctor on site at every clinic all the time, especially with many clinics operating 16 hours per day.


        But Proposition 29’s effects could be directly harmful to California as a whole, a state with such a shortage of doctors and nurse practitioners that new medical schools have recently opened in several locations, two in the growing Inland Empire area around Riverside and San Bernardino.


        With some dialysis clinics running ‘round the clock every day of the year, this proposition would take upwards of 1,000 doctors and nurse practitioners away from patients who might urgently need them, placing them instead in clinic offices where they would treat patients only occasionally.


        Plus, reality at most dialysis clinics is that charge nurses – already present at all times – often become more expert at solving dialysis problems like clotting blood and sudden chills than the doctors who are nominally their supervisors.


        (Full disclosure: Columnist Elias has had a kidney transplant for more than 24 years. Prior to that, he underwent dialysis three times weekly for many months.)


        Nonpartisan analysis of the requirements of Proposition 29 and its failed predecessors has indicated the newly-required staffing would cost each clinic hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, to be paid by Medicare, Medi-Cal and private insurance companies. In short, taxpayers and insurance customers would foot the bills for this.


        Yet, there’s no evidence any of it would save or improve lives, as sponsors claim. For many dialysis clinics are located within hospital complexes; those that aren’t actually in medical buildings are usually very near them, especially in big cities. If there’s urgent need for a physician, most clinics can get one within minutes.


        As they have each time they’ve put their dialysis wish list before the voters, union leaders have added a few enticing improvements, this time seeking to require better reporting of clinic performance in preventing infections and more transparency in reporting infection rates.


        But rules like that can be set administratively or by the Legislature, no ballot measure needed. All of which makes the new measure as wasteful and destructive as its two predecessors.



    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






        The cheating, price-gouging refiners who produce most California gasoline have won another round. Average prices per gallon have fallen below $5.50 and there’s less anger at the pumps now than a few months ago, when the tab leaped almost $2 per gallon overnight. Now if you hear any talk while parked at the pump, it’s mostly grousing, not outright fury.


        This is the same tactic the oil companies have used repeatedly since the first gasoline crunch hit America in the 1970s, when Arab and other oil producing countries embargoed oil coming here, supplies were rationed and prices soared above $2 for the first time.


        They fell back a bit when the embargo was lifted, and consumers eventually accepted the new, higher levels as normal.


        Pleased with that outcome, oil companies used the tactic over and over in the ensuing decades, claiming supply shortages or refinery outages or natural disasters forced them to lift prices. After each rise, pump prices fell back a bit and drivers came to accept the new levels.


        That’s been the sequence this time, too, with the cartel-like oil companies followed their script to new extremes, using America’s boycott of Russian oil (less than 3 percent of U.S. supplies) as an excuse.


        How can we tell we are being gouged? Just look at the record profit increase of $14 billion piled up by this state’s five major refiners – Chevron, Marathon, Valero, PBF Energy and Phillips 66 – in the first and second quarters of this year. Their overall profits are at all-time highs, so they must also be setting records in per-gallon profits even though refiners never willingly reveal those margins.


        That’s why it’s vital now for state legislators to pass and Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign a pending bill from Democratic state Sen. Ben Allen of Santa Monica that forces refiners to report monthly to the state Energy Commission how much profit they make on each gallon of gas.


        “To protect consumers, more information about California refinery operations needs to be made public so that (we can) monitor and hold the market accountable,” said Jamie Court, president of the Consumer Watchdog advocacy group.


        In short, if this bill (SB 1322) passes, consumers could tell when they’re being gouged and cheated, rather than being mere victims of circumstance.


        The logic of this is clear: Each time a wildfire or other natural disaster strikes in this state, the attorney general warns merchants in affected areas it is illegal to gouge by raising prices much over normal levels even when supplies of various goods might be hard to find or deliver.


        If that’s sound public policy in fire zones, why wouldn’t it be just as solid California-wide in other unusual circumstances like the current war in Ukraine?


        If and when refiners begin reporting their profits per gallon regularly, the Legislature should next define what is an excess profit on gasoline and then tax the difference between excess profits and acceptable levels.


        Anything less would amount to sanctioning price gouging and favoritism of oil companies over their customers, and far more visibly than, for example, utility companies are now favored over their customers.


        In both cases, consumers must pay the going rate, however high, or suffer extreme consequences. That’s really no different from a tax.


        Many Californians habitually blame gasoline taxes for the fact that pump prices here are nearly the highest in the nation. But the oil companies’ hugely increased profits as the price of gasoline rose this year suggest it’s a lot more than that. In fact, California taxes differ from the national norm by about 60 cents per gallon, while prices here are usually about $1.30 higher than elsewhere. So taxes account for less than half the difference between California costs and those in other states.


        This has all persisted far longer than a generation and it’s high time someone did something to curtail it. The Allen bill is a small step in the right direction, but one that must be taken before Californians stand any chance of getting price relief.


    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, August 15, 2022







        As we head into September, it seems like the presidential campaign is seriously getting underway.


        Oops! Looks like that statement is two years early. Or is it?


        Gov. Gavin Newsom, who won 56 percent of the June primary vote, still needs one more ratification at the polls, where he won election in 2018 and easily beat back a recall almost exactly one year ago.


        But his Republican opponent this fall took just under 18 percent of the primary vote, so Newsom does not exactly have a fight on his hands. That’s why he was able to head out of state for a week over the July 4 holiday and take other family vacations in places like Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and some Central American points.


        That’s also why he was able to spend well over $100,000 in campaign funds donated to his gubernatorial fund on television commercials and newspaper ads in Florida and Texas, essentially bagging on those states’ GOP governors, Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott, for things like banning some books from public schools, making it hard for elementary school teachers to discuss gender roles and doing what they can to make abortions as illegal as possible.


        “Freedom,” said Newsom, hair slicked back as usual and wearing an open-necked Western-style shirt as he faced the TV camera in his spots, “it’s under attack in your state. Republican leaders, they’re banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors. I urge all of you…to join the fight. Or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom – freedom of speech, freedom to choose, freedom from hate and the freedom to love.”


        This was Newsom using his campaign war chest, which topped $23 million at midsummer, with no need to spend much at home, in a campaign to become the de facto leader of the national Democratic Party.


        Sure, he drew derision from Republicans, including DeSantis, who correctly took Newsom’s ad as an attack on him. The Florida governor, who has targeted California’s Walt Disney Co., whose Disney World resort outside Orlando is Florida’s largest employer with more than 62,000 workers, for extra taxes ever since the firm opposed his restrictions on talking to schoolchildren about gays.


        DeSantis lashed back at Newsom, blasting “soul-crushing COVID lockdowns that lasted years in California” and calling California “the most over-regulated, overbearing, overtaxed state in the Union.”


        Of course, the COVID lockdowns he excoriated spared at least 40,000 California lives during the first two years of the pandemic, compared to what the death toll here would have been if Newsom had used a “keep everything open” approach like Florida’s.


        The question is whether saving businesses and employees some great inconvenience would have been worth all those lost lives.


        Newsom’s ad was actually a continuation of his effort last spring to fire up national Democrats, who he portrayed as lethargic after the early release of a draft of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to end federal abortion rights.


        Newsom pushed hard for a state constitutional amendment guaranteeing abortion rights in California, on the ballot this fall as Proposition 1, and lambasted his own party almost as strongly as he criticized Republicans for rubber-stamping the three Donald Trump high court appointees behind that ruling.


        Given the low approval poll ratings for President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, he might be all his party has if it wants to avoid a second term of Trump or a Trumpist figure like DeSantis in the White House. He stands a chance of towering over the Democratic field after this year’s mid-term elections.


        Going after DeSantis let him promote himself while still denying he’s running for president. It’s clear one of his pitches in any presidential run would be that Republicans are “pro-government-mandated birth, not pro-life.” He notes they consistently oppose funding for pre-natal care, early education and the Affordable Care Act – better known as “Obamacare.”


        “They’re pro-birth, and then you’re on your own,” he said, adding that “I can’t take any more of this. Why aren’t we standing up more firmly, calling this out? Where’s the counteroffensive?”


        Newsom’s own counteroffensive, and his 2024 campaign, may have begun with his summertime ads.



    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







        It’s taken years to happen. But polls, tea leaf readings, constituent complaints and recall petitions at long last have this state’s dominant liberal Democrats realizing they must listen to the voters rather than trying to impose their will exclusively.


        This comes after repeated resistance. Only when voters by large margins in the last two years cancelled laws passed in Sacramento to institute statewide rent control and eliminate cash bail did signs appear that elected Democrats were beginning to realize the mass of California voters is not quite as “progressive” as they once thought.


        It’s true, the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom went nowhere, in large part because of the hopeless list of candidates who sought to replace him.


        But even the ousted District Attorney Chesa Boudin of San Francisco, long an advocate of soft-on-crime tactics like attempts at rehabilitation over punishment for major crimes and a presumption that no one is truly evil, changed his tune a little before the June 7 vote that threw him out of office.


        Staring at that recall in the wake of last fall’s spate of “smash-and-grab” flash mob burglaries and robberies, Boudin declared that “We want everyone to feel safe” and announced plans to charge the perpetrators with felonies, not misdemeanors.


        That was a huge change from his stances during and after his 2019 election. Boudin began running very scared after his city’s voters recalled three ultra-liberal, “woke” school board members who wanted to remove the names of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Dianne Feinstein from local schools.


        Things are looking the same in Los Angeles, where Boudin predecessor George Gascon is now district attorney and watching the count of signatures in an effort to recall him.


        One of Gascon’s first acts after moving south from San Francisco and getting elected D.A. in 2020 was to forbid his almost 1,000 deputies ever to try juveniles as adults, no matter how serious their crimes. But now Gascon says prosecutors can apply to him or his top assistant to do just that. The new policy applies to current juvenile suspects and also to adults who allegedly committed significant crimes while under 18.


        This followed outrage when a transgender woman, formerly a male, received a mere two-year sentence for child molesting and then was taped gloating about it to his/her father.


        Gascon said he was revolted by the tape, but line

prosecutors said the recording was widely known in his office

for a month before he altered his policy. So they wonder if his switch came after polls revealed crime and homelessness as the new the top issues for California voters even as Gascon recall signatures piled up.


        Meanwhile, appointed state Attorney General Rob Bonta, long a supporter of the 2014 Proposition 47 (which turned many former felonies into mere misdemeanors and has seen thousands of perpetrators freed soon after their arrests) and of ending cash bail, has traveled the state talking tough on crime ever since the actually tough-on-crime Sacramento D.A. Anne Marie Schubert ran an independent campaign to unseat him.


        Schubert failed, but plainly had an impact on Bonta.


        Then there’s Newsom. Although his reelection could not be much safer after he decisively beat back last September’s recall, the governor reads the polls, too, including private surveys taken for his campaign.


        He has made the fight against homelessness a staple for the last six months, traveling to most parts of the state and handing out billions of dollars to build shelters and other new housing for the homeless, plus buying up hotels and motels and converting them to permanent housing for people living in parks and on sidewalks.


        Public reaction to the homeless scene and the criminal element among this population caused Newsom’s job approval rating to fall below 50 percent last winter in one major poll for the first time since his 2018 election.


        That seemed to spur him to new tough-on-crime rhetoric.


        These changed approaches by Democrats show a willingness to adjust when political survival is at stake.


        Perhaps this state’s impotent Republican Party, which never seems to adjust to political reality, could learn something from that.



    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, August 8, 2022






        There is no doubt that a local measure on the Los Angeles County ballot this fall would make future sheriffs there fully answerable to county supervisors.


        Sheriffs would continue to be elected independently, but if the proposal passes, they could be fired with four votes on the five-member county board. If this idea succeeds in the first vote of its kind in California, it will very likely spawn a series of similar measures in other counties, probably very soon.


        That’s because, while current Los Angeles Sheriff Alex Villanueva is the unquestioned leader of scofflaw sheriffs in this state, he has plenty of company in that category.


        The most obvious recent misconduct by multiple sheriffs came at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, before vaccines were widely available and before powerful anti-viral drugs like Pfizer’s Paxlovid were common.


        At the end of 2020, the list of California law enforcement agencies refusing to enforce stay-at-home, crowd-size and masking orders from state and county health officials numbered at least two dozen. Of the five counties with the highest seven-day average COVID-19 cases in the week leading up to Christmas 2020, only one had taken strong enforcement measures to protect public health.


        Wherever those measures were enforced, they proved extremely effective: Statistics show that if California had followed the laissez faire, everything-stays-open approach used in Florida and some other states, more than 40,000 additional Californians would have died atop the already severe COVID death toll, which now approaches 93,000.


        None of that moved Villanueva to enforce anything, even such a basic protective tactic as indoor masking. The same for sheriffs in nearby Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.


        But nothing happened to Villanueva, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes, then-San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner John McMahon or Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco.


        Other sheriffs also defied their county boards on various issues, but Villanueva – considered an underdog in his current reelection bid – did it most often, even ignoring subpoenas to appear before the county’s Civilian Oversight Commission.


        Said the Los Angeles County supervisors in a statement that accompanied the motion to place their new measure on the fall ballot, “The current sheriff has been openly hostile to oversight and transparency and (resisted) oversight structures by consistently obstructing those systems of checks and balances.”


        Aside from refusing to enforce public health orders, Villanueva also has been criticized for failure to investigate alleged gangs among his deputies and for threatening to arrest a reporter who leaked a video of a deputy kneeling (a la George Floyd) for several minutes on the head of a handcuffed prisoner who had just violently resisted that deputy.


        If Villanueva’s behavior subjects him or his successors to possible removal by county officials who have never before bossed the sheriff’s department, expect similar attempts at control over sometimes scofflaw sheriffs from Sacramento to Riverside to Del Norte county.


        Villanueva, as expected, through a spokesperson calls the ballot proposal, which takes the form of a charter amendment, an “illegal motion that would allow corrupt supervisors to intimidate sheriffs from carrying out their official duties to investigate crime. Creating a pathway for politicians to remove a duly elected sheriff is a recipe for corruption (that) suits their political agenda.”


        But the proposal allows removal of a sheriff only for specified shortcomings, including flagrant or repeated neglect of duties, misappropriation of public funds, falsification of official statements or documents or obstruction of investigations into the sheriff’s conduct by the inspector general or the county Civilian Oversight Commission.


        Several current Los Angeles supervisors accuse Villanueva of most of those offenses, including a midsummer refusal to testify before the oversight commission’s public hearings on deputy gangs.


        So far, Villanueva’s main defense has been to call the supervisors pushing the ballot measure “hacks” bent on turning the sheriff into a “hand-puppet.”


        But name-calling probably won’t resolve this issue, which could end up with voters rejecting the “reform” proposal, while also ousting Villanueva. That, of course, would send a thoroughly mixed signal to other parts of the state whose sheriffs also defy laws and public health orders they don’t like.


    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








        California’s economic Jeremiahs regularly predict an imminent major economic downturn, some saying it has already begun. The reality, though, is that while a dip is likely, it will not do a fraction of the damage inflicted by the last similar hit to this state.


        That one came in the late spring of 2020 and saw unemployment here leap from 4.1 percent to 15.9 percent in just two months as businesses by the thousands shut down amid hordes of layoffs in the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic.


        But California rebounded swiftly once vaccines became available and both hospitalizations and deaths from the virus dropped considerably. As the state heads into what might be a new downturn, unemployment levels are back to just about the same as pre-pandemic and California seems well situated to make this a fairly brief decline, far short of a major disaster – unless it’s your business that’s hurting as the perpetual economic roller coaster heads downward for a bit.


        For sure, even though the state budget has a rainy day fund in the tens of billions of dollars at the ready, there are signs of trouble, although that could be eased if President Biden’s compromise recovery plan gets through Congress.


        Oracle Corp., whose headquarters moved to the tax haven of Austin, Tex. when its founder Larry Ellison relocated fulltime to the Hawaiian island of Lanai, has already laid off hundreds of workers in Silicon Valley, its former headquarters and still home to most of the gigantic software company. Oracle will reportedly lay off more droves in Texas, Canada, India and Europe amid a $1 billion-plus cut in expenses.


        If that weren’t enough of a sign that Silicon Valley is not immune from national and international economic crises, Google paused hiring in late July and Facebook parent Meta reported its first-ever yearly revenue downturn. Plus, many high-tech startups recently stopped hiring or made layoffs.


        At the same time, the year seems to be seeing a drop in capital gains for Californians invested in stocks. Hints of this can be found in a report from the nonpartisan state legislative analyst’s office, which reports California may collect as much as $25 billion less in capital gains taxes than expected when the current $308 billion budget was adopted in June.


        Rising inflation and higher interest rates, along with supply chain issues, are identified by state budgeteers as the major current bugaboos.


        Said Gov. Gavin Newsom, in opposing Proposition 30, a November ballot initiative seeking to raise taxes on anyone with income over $2 million per year, “California’s tax revenues are famously volatile, and this measure would make our state’s finances more unstable.”


        Another sign of a likely downturn: Inflation has led to rising rents here and nationally; while real estate sales prices are down slightly this summer, rents are not dropping.


        This is not only a California problem: Yahoo Finance predicts there will be no letup in rent increases nationally until at least 2024. That’s partly because most home and condominium owners who paid high prices in recent years are so far not inclined to sell at today’s slightly lower levels. That has led to a drop in available housing stock – from here to New York to Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida – which in turn means more demand for rentals. That makes widespread rent decreases extremely unlikely.


        At the same time, the national Consumer Price Index – the most watched indicator of inflation – reached a 43-year-high this summer, almost matching levels of the late 1970s, when Jimmy Carter was president.


        The good news is that most Californians have also seen their earnings rise, especially because of increases in the minimum wage. That baseline figure will reach $15.50 per hour in January. The new cash flowing to even the least skilled workers makes Californians better equipped than ever to cope with inflation.


        All theserealities explain why there has been no great drop in retail sales even as inflation and other indicators of a downturn appeared. All of which points to a dip, but nowhere near as severe as what this state endured just over two years ago.



    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