Nightmare of the Woking Dead

Politically-correct wokeness moves closer to causing deaths.

It's long been a longstanding trope that old folks complain about the general ignorance and laziness of the younger generation.  These days, however, there's a disturbing mount of proof of this thesis - though in large part, it isn't their fault.

Recently, we explored the deliberate destruction of our education system and its horrendous effects on our national culture and politics, by showing how Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez' (D, NY) immensely popular Green New Deal is based on unrealistic notions she was taught in our fraud-based public schools.  AOC herself is not stupid, far from it - it's just that so much of what she's been taught simply isn't so, or is so fundamentally divorced from reality as to be otherworldly.  Yet she accurately and fairly represents the desires, knowledge, and lack thereof of those who elected her.

The decline in our education system is truly remarkable.  Historynet asserts that

As recently as 20 years ago, the United States was ranked No.1 in high school and college education. ...

In 2009, the United States was ranked 18th out of 36 industrialized nations.

These rankings are based on standard tests which are administered to large samples of students in nations all across the world.  Part of the reason for our relative decline is that other nations revamped their school systems along with their factories as they recovered from WW II.  We also revamped ours throughout the 1950s and 1960s, but while other nations emphasized academic achievement, ours zeroed in on self-esteem, political correctness, social promotion, and "No Child Left Behind" - with the results we see around us every day.

On top of that, until they introduced market-based reforms in the 1980s, the Chinese communist government had kept the billion-plus Chinese people isolated from the world economy.  Along with India liberalizing their restrictive trade policies in the 1990s at about the same time the Chinese economic reforms began to boost their economy, today's young Americans face more than two billion more competitors than the previous generation.

Where Are the Jobs?

Our trillion-dollar levels of student debt wouldn't be much of a problem if new college graduates were able to earn substantial sums of money, but they aren't.  Although the Trump economy has boomed to the point that there are more job openings than applicants, all too many of the jobs require skills which even most college graduates lack.

It used to be possible for a high-school dropout to go directly to work in a factory and learn the job over time.  That no longer works.  Although American manufacturing generates more and more economic value, there are fewer and fewer jobs in manufacturing because so much of the work is done by machines which are tended by a few highly-skilled workers.

We've pointed out that there are no more manufacturing jobs that can be learned from scratch while working, so to get even that very first job other than fast food, kids need skills our schools don't teach.

Civilization Requires Competence

Being woke means that you criticize high status people - or at least, people who are members of groups which have historically been assumed to have high status, whether or not that particular individual actually does.  Our Social Justice Warriors compete with each other to illustrate their wokeness by criticizing anyone who accomplishes anything of value.  Wokeness doesn't value competence, criticizing anyone who values competent people over the incompetent as being guilty of "abelism" or relying on "privilege."

The problem with this approach to societal functioning is that a great deal of competence is needed to maintain our high-tech civilization - most especially in heavily urban places such as New York or Los Angeles, which just so happen to also be the places where wokeness is most endemic.

Densely-populated cities have always drawn people because of the range of activities and skills that can be found in them.  This generally leads to innovation which makes society as a whole richer.

However, as we've explained, for a city to function, it's essential to bring in vast quantities of fresh water and get rid of a somewhat larger amount of defiled water.  If you don't have enough clean drinking water or don't get rid of sewage, your city can't grow.  In the late 17th century, London needed 6,000 incoming migrants per year to replace all the people who'd died.

By the early 1900's, however, most American cities had well-functioning water and sewer systems and urban populations could really take off.

The Death of Competence

Wokeness has so devalued competence that our progressive-ruled cities can no longer maintain the infrastructure their ancestors built. When the city of Flint, Michigan was found to have lead in the water, the resulting hullabaloo could be heard the length and breadth of the fruited plain.  Yet to this day, repairs are not complete.  A search for Republicans to blame found nobody closer to the problem than the governor of the entire state.  Since when is a state governor responsible for a city water system?

Flint isn't the only progressive-ruled city which can't keep the lead out.  The levels of lead in Newark, New Jersey’s drinking water are some of the highest recently recorded by a large water system in the United States.  The New York City Housing Authority, known as NYCHA, houses at least 1,160 lead-affected children as opposed to 300-600 in the city of Flint.

Both these incidents are due entirely to laziness and incompetence.  The chemicals needed to keep lead from leaching into water have been known for a century but the Flint and Newark water system managers ignored this knowledge.  NYCHA officials knew about their lead problem, but falsified inspection records to cover it up instead of fixing the problems.  None of the unionized, Democrat city employees who falsified records or ignored basic chemistry got into trouble.

The fruits of incompetence are there for all to see, but nobody wants to discuss the root cause of diminished respect for competence and effectiveness.

Personal Pooper Scoopers

The situation in Los Angeles isn't as dire, at least not yet.  The water department has been able to keep the sewers working, but for sewers to be effective in disposing of waste, people have to use toilets.  In Los Angeles, it's become common for homeless people to defecate and urinate in the streets.

The LA Times reports:

Typhus, in particular, is spread by fleas that live on rats and then bite humans, something that could become more common as more people live on the streets.

Thirteen people in the state were diagnosed with typhus in 2008, compared with 167 last year. More than 95% of the people falling sick in California are in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to state health data.

The Daily Wire warns that the bubonic plague may make a comeback due to the generally unsanitary conditions in the city:

"We have a complete breakdown of the basic needs of civilization in Los Angeles right now," [Dr.] Pinsky told Fox New host Laura Ingraham. "We have the three prongs of airborne disease, tuberculosis is exploding, rodent-borne. We are one of the only cities in the country that doesn't have a rodent control program, and sanitation has broken down."

Pinsky said bubonic plague - also known as the "Black Death," a pandemic that killed off millions in the 14th century - is "likely" already present in Los Angeles. The plague is spread by infected fleas and exposure to bodily fluids from a dead plague-infected animal, with the bacteria entering through the skin and traveling to lymph nodes.

Competence in managing the water infrastructure is of no avail unless people use toilers, but wokeness affirms that diversity is the greatest possible public good.  Does this mean that public defecation customs among the homeless, illiterate illegal immigrants, and the mentally ill are as valid as our longstanding American custom of using toilets?  Can't get a lot more diverse than that....

Solve Problems?  Or Just Spend Money?

The LA Times has been covering the California homeless situation:

After a modest but encouraging decrease last year in the number of homeless people in Los Angeles County, it is extraordinarily frustrating that the progress has now been reversed, with homelessness climbing a grim 12% this year in the county and an even more alarming 16% in the city of Los Angeles. That means 58,936 people in the county were living on sidewalks, in cars and vans, in shelters or in parks when the 2019 count was carried out over three nights in January. The number of homeless people in both the city and the county is now higher than it was in 2017.

How can that be? Over the last decade, parts of Los Angeles have become a dystopian landscape of tent encampments, populated by the regions most destitute, afflicted and addicted people, along with those who are merely down on their luck. But since the passage of Measure HHH in 2016 and Measure H in 2017, the city and county have been spending billions of dollars to create new homeless housing and to provide services for those who need them. So why are the numbers still going up? Is the money being misspent? Are our policies faulty? Are we addressing the right problems?

How can it be that Angelenos voted in November 2016 to create a $1.2-billion fund to finance as many as 10,000 units of housing for chronically homeless people in the city of L.A., yet not one unit of housing has come online[emphasis added]

Consider the $1.2 billion fund to create 10,000 housing units.  That's $122,000 per unit.  It sounds like a plenty of money, but 10,000 units would house fewer than 1/5 of the current homeless population.  Does the city plan to come up with $5 billion more?  And that calculation assumes that something useful had actually been done with the money, which it wasn't.

The second measure passed in 2017, but not one unit of housing has been built.  California has some of the most restrictive environmental regulations and building codes in the world.  It may not be possible for California to house an increasing non-millionaire population at all.  After all, legalization has brought so much costly regulation to formerly illegal marijuana growers that many of the smaller growers are going out of business.

The Times summarized the problem, "too many [city] council members have been slow to find sites or reluctant to proceed in the face of NIMBY opposition."  In this case, our sympathies lie with the NIMBYs - who would want a homeless housing unit nearby full of carriers of typhus or bubonic plague?  Los Angeles isn't particularly small and has vast swaths of light-industrial parks where nobody currently lives.  There aren't any NIMBYs to object to homeless housing being dropped there - but stashing filthy, stinking, addicted bums far from voters' nostrils and eyes where they can be ignored and forgotten would be un-woke.

San Fransisco sanitation isn't much better.  The San Francisco Chronicle calls the situation "A civic disgrace":

That a city can spend $241 million a year on programs and still confront such human misery suggests those dollars are not being spent with anything close to optimal effectiveness. Eight city departments and 76 private and nonprofit organizations draw from those funds in 400 contracts, yet the degree of accountability is highly suspect. There is no system in place to rigorously determine which of those endeavors might be duplicative or less effective. ...

San Francisco has an entrenched Homeless Industrial Complex that is as difficult to track and control as it is to count people living on the streets[emphasis added]

Have you ever heard of a publicly-funded entity actually solving a problem?  No money in that...

The Homeless Industrial Complex does a magnificent job of spending money without solving the problem.

Some 1,500 chronically homeless people cost the city about $80,000 a year each; the figure rises to $150,000 for the 338 considered the most needy in the city’s public-health database.

The Chronicle bemoans lack of accountability, but all government actors strive to escape accountability.  Shining light into dark places is the Chronicle's job!  Why haven't they enumerated these 76 organizations and their 800 contracts?  Isn't that what investigative journalists are supposed to do?  Why haven't they done it?

The Times and the Chronicle ask appropriate questions, but don't answer them because answers would necessarily point fingers at Democrats - that's all there are in power in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and largely in California as a whole.  Woke Democrats can do no wrong, of course, so assigning blame would be non-woke.

To sum up: we're seeing that our big blue cities can't house people safely, or even keep poop off the streets.  If the bubonic plague breaks out in LA, there will be many deaths.  No doubt a large number of them would be of the poopers themselves, which might go a certain distance to solving the problem; but no disease ever confines itself to its initial source.

Are we so far gone that we have no choice but to allow a medieval plague to wreak havoc in what once were modern Western cities, and which still have apparently billions of dollars available for the public good?

Woke-driven incompetence and lack of accountability leads to illness, epidemics, and death. California, prepare yourself for an invasion of the woking dead!

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

Los Angeles has had a number of disease outbreaks that can be traced to the homelessness problem,such as cases of typhus and hepatitis. and of course these are serious problems. We are now also hearing of outbreaks of bubonic plague in Los Angeles, and in other locations in the world as well.

I submit for the readers' consideration that this is not only a serious problem, but also a significantly different problem from the other outbreaks. The historical record of massive bubonic plague epidemics, particularly the Plague of Justinian in the 6th Century and the Black Death in the 14th Century, suggests that they are connected to periods of global cooling. Yes, you read that right: global cooling. They were followed closely by massive barbarian invasions (i.e.invasions of northern peoples) of civilized areas of Europe and China. This was because global cooling made northern areas less habitable

If there are indeed growing outbreaks of bubonic plague, they will be difficult to deal with because society in general has a bias against recognizing the outbreaks' causes.

June 10, 2019 12:07 PM

And they just keep voting Democrat.

June 16, 2019 7:34 PM

A CA city not mentioned was San Diego. They have a Republican ( officially unaffiliated) mayor and the biggest “ industry” is the U S Navy. Military folks tend to look at things differently than entertainers (LA) and techies ( SF). Be interesting to see how it compares to the 2 big cities to the north. Do kids go to school for 12 years and learn nothing ? Are the 3rd world diseases spreading ? Is there a Homeless Industrial Complex..? I’m sure San Diego is not perfect, but it would seem that it’s omission maybe provide a clue on how to fix this mess.

June 17, 2019 3:17 PM

I'm not a Californian, but I'm not so sure San Diego is a poster child for good governance. Seems like it's nearly as corrupt as Chicago.

https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/visuals/story/sdut-da-south-county-corruption-pay-to-play-tally-2014jul02-photogallery.html

http://www.capoliticalreview.com/capoliticalnewsandviews/san-diego-corruption-a-readers-guide-to-the-sandag-scandal/

https://www.nbcsandiego.com/investigations/School-Corruption-Scandal-214416281.html

June 17, 2019 5:18 PM

you guys were out in front again. Others are catching on...

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/06/california-third-world-state-corruption-crime-infrastructure/

Rather, the current modifier “Third World” has come to transcend geography, politics, and ethnicity. It simply denotes poor failed states all over the globe of all races and religions.

Third World symptomologies are predictably corrupt government, unequal or nonexistent applicability of the law, two rather than three classes, and the return of medieval diseases. Third World nations suffer from high taxes and poor social services, premodern infrastructure and utilities, poor transportation, tribalism, gangs, and lack of security.

Another chief characteristic of a Third World society is the official denial of all of the above, and a vindictive, almost hysterical state response to anyone who points out those obvious tragedies. Another is massive out-migration. Residents prefer almost any country other than their own. Think Somalia, Venezuela, Cuba, Libya, or Guatemala.

Does 21st-century California increasingly fit that definition — despite having the nation’s most amenable climate and most beautiful and diverse geography, with major natural ports facing the dynamic Asian economies, and being naturally rich in timber, agriculture, mining, and energy, and blessed with a prior century’s inheritance of effective local and state government?

By many criteria, 21st-century California is both the poorest and the richest state in the union. Almost a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Another fifth is categorized as near the poverty level — facts not true during the latter 20th century. A third of the nation’s welfare recipients now live in California. The state has the highest homeless population in the nation (135,000). About 22 percent of the nation’s total homeless population reside in the state — whose economy is the largest in the U.S., fueling the greatest numbers of American billionaires and high-income zip codes.

But by some indicators, the California middle class is shrinking — because of massive regulation, high taxation, green zoning, and accompanying high housing prices. Out-migration from the state remains largely a phenomenon of the middle and upper-middle classes. Millions have left California in the past 30 years, replaced by indigent and often illegal immigrants, often along with the young, affluent, and single

June 18, 2019 2:21 PM

Homelessness isn't the only issue in San Fransisco, they're also over-regulated. Sales taxes are DOWN in spite of the booming economy - too many vacant store fronts....

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/San-Francisco-s-North-Beach-is-littered-with-13972898.php

Shuttered stores:
North Beach’s crisis
The historic San Francisco neighborhood is suddenly littered with empty storefronts. What’s the reason?
By Shwanika Narayan and Roland Li | June 13, 2019

The cafe site is far from the only empty space in the neighborhood. The number of vacant retail properties in North Beach has jumped, alarming residents, business owners and City Hall. Spaces stay empty even after they find tenants. Mattia Cosmi and his wife, Alice Romagnoli, the owners of the nearby Italian Homemade Co., are eager to reopen the former cafe as a restaurant, but have been stymied by bureaucracy, they say.

...

Census Bureau data show that physical retail revenue is still growing, albeit slowly. Something deeper seems at play in North Beach, where the vacancy rate grew from 13% in 2017 to 21% in 2018, the sharpest increase in any San Francisco retail district. North Beach now ranks fourth among the city’s 24 recognized neighborhood commercial districts by vacancy rate; the citywide average is 12%.

...

Vacancies rose from 28 out of 221 storefronts in 2017 to 45 out of 219 at the end of 2018, according to a city survey. Sales tax collections for the North Beach neighborhood commercial district — a close barometer of the health of retailers — were $1.4 million in 2018, a drop of nearly 5% from 2017.

...

From January 2015 to March 2018, 308 applications for restaurants, stores and offices in San Francisco commercial districts required additional city reviews that took eight months on average to complete, the city’s Budget & Legislative Analyst office found in a study.
For North Beach over a similar time period, the average was slightly higher at 8½ months, according to a more recent analysis by the Planning Department.
Real estate professionals in other big cities say San Francisco’s approval process stands out, and not for good reasons.
“When out-of-town retailers come to New York City for the first time, they’re usually pleasantly shocked by the speed,” said Jeffrey Roseman, a New York retail broker with Newmark Knight Frank. San Francisco’s eight-month delay for planning reviews is “horrible,” he said.

In most San Francisco retail districts, standard retail spaces cannot become restaurants, unless more approvals are secured. Food businesses permitted as “limited” restaurants, such as cafes and coffee shops, cannot convert to a full-service restaurant with a kitchen without additional permits. North Beach has additional restrictions.
Kevin Bohlin, owner of Saint Frank Coffee, said he considered the neighborhood for two years when he first set out to open his business.
“I love the character of North Beach and its history. I certainly felt there was plenty of room to have a different expression of coffee,” Bohlin said. “North Beach’s restrictions were not worth it.”
He chose Russian Hill for his first shop instead.

...

So you sign a lease, start paying rent, and it takes more than 8 months to get permission to START high-cost construction?

June 20, 2019 10:34 AM

This is the best column I have ever read about the dumbing down of our youth. And I also enjoyed reading the segments on the Flint water quality problems, and the homeless "industrial complex."

Super job Will Offensicht.

June 30, 2019 12:42 AM

What an astute commentary. Really food for thought. I feel as if thank goodness someone else sees this and so aptly delineates. I remember being on the subway about a decade or more ago. I was horrified that NOTHING had been done to the station since I had last been there in 1976 a period of about thirty years. What was more horrifying was that no-one else including my traveling companion seemed to see it or agree with me when I so vocally expressed this fact. Like Rome before the fall.

July 4, 2019 12:53 AM

The writer of this article States:
Wokeness doesn't value competence, criticizing anyone who values competent people over the incompetent as being guilty of "abelism" or relying on "privilege."
The auther seems to suggest that wokeness is a new ideology. It is not. It is simply a copy of socialism. And what do we know about socialism?
Well, let us refer to a sentence by legendary Statesman Winston Churchill: “Socialism is the philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.” 
So there you have it!

July 5, 2019 8:06 AM

They can't even start paying homeless people to pick up trash due to turn wars and union objections to non-union workers picking up THEIR trash:

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/editorials/la-ed-homeless-trash-pilot-program-20190712-story.html

At a time when the sidewalks of Los Angeles are teeming with homeless encampments and too many of its streets are choked with trash, wouldn’t it be great if there were a program that would put homeless people to work cleaning up the refuse? It would be a win-win: Homeless people would get jobs. Trash would get cleared.
Yet a proposed year-long pilot program to do just that has been entangled in bureaucracy and politics for nearly two years. As it slogged through four hearings in three City Council committees, it lost its place in line for a blushingly modest grant of $2.9 million, even as the city was allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to homelessness programs. That’s absurd. In the panorama of ways to reduce homelessness and trash in the city, this program is the epitome of low-hanging fruit.
The program is intended to be a small but important effort to bring homeless people into the workforce and to help the city’s Bureau of Sanitation with basic litter cleanup. Meanwhile, the bureau could attend to higher-priority problems such as collecting bulky items and stemming the burgeoning tide of detritus left in part by encampments, in part by brazen illegal dumpers. In the pilot program, the city would partner with Chrysalis, a nonprofit that trains homeless and other low-income people to reenter the workforce they fell out of or never got into in the first place.

...

But the proposal, which was introduced by Buscaino and Councilman Bob Blumenfield, got bogged down in questions about which city department it should be run out of and whether its costs could be cut here or there. (The budget was eventually trimmed to less than $2.6 million.)
Then late last year, labor representatives told city officials they didn’t like the fact that the pilot program would bring people in on a part-time basis. Instead, they suggested filling vacant Bureau of Sanitation positions through the city’s Targeted Local Hire program, which tries to place formerly incarcerated people, foster youths, veterans and other underserved residents (including formerly homeless people) in full-time city jobs. That’s a good objective, but it shouldn’t stand in the way of the pilot program and its mission to focus on getting homeless people training and jobs; nor does the pilot program prevent the city from filling vacant, full-time sanitation positions.
The funds for the pilot would come not out of the Sanitation budget, but from city or state funds set aside for homeless services. And if unions are worried that the city might eventually hire an army of low-paid homeless people to take over Sanitation Department jobs, that wouldn’t be the fault of the pilot program, which would stop after a year and be evaluated before being reauthorized and funded again.

July 23, 2019 5:27 PM

"Are we so far gone that we have no choice but to allow a medieval plague to wreak havoc in what once were modern Western cities, and which still have apparently billions of dollars available for the public good?"

Yeah, pretty much.

July 31, 2019 12:02 AM

ONE DAY, ONE CITY, NO RELIEF

24 hours inside San Francisco’s homelessness crisis

https://projects.sfchronicle.com/sf-homeless/24-hours-homelessness/?utm_source=digg&utm_medium=email

Published July 31, 2019
About this project:


For the fourth year, The San Francisco Chronicle is leading the SF Homeless Project, a consortium of media organizations focusing on the seemingly intractable problem of homelessness. The Chronicle's ongoing coverage, including stories, videos and interactive graphics, can be found at SFChronicle.com/homelessness.

Supported by


San Francisco spends more than $300 million a year fighting homelessness. Yet it’s not working – at least not enough. Amid a housing shortage, rampant drug addiction and a failing mental health care system, the everyday crisis on our streets has intensified.

On June 18, 36 Chronicle journalists spread across the city to document a typical 24-hour period in this epidemic, witnessing an unrelenting cycle of striving and suffering, of some people finding their footing and others falling through.

...

8,011
Homeless people in San Francisco, as estimated in January and listed as the city’s official count. Advocates and officials say the number is undoubtedly higher.

9,784
Homeless people in San Francisco including in jails, hospitals and rehab centers. To be consistent with other counties, the extra categories were dropped from the official tally in 2019.

The gates open with a clang at Civic Center Station. BART is in “blitz” mode.

Cops and yellow-vested employees watch the entrances. Since April, the agency has sent extra workers downtown every day to bust fare evaders and discourage transients from using trains as quasi-homes, a problem that’s frustrated riders for years and prompted some to shun the system. The effort, politically fraught, casts BART in a second role: social service provider.

The crackdown is working, at least for now: Speakers play classical music over a walkway that used to be a hangout for slumped-over drug users and now has an antiseptic sheen.

An hour later, two BART police officers snap cuffs on their first fare evader of the day — a man with a bag of stuff slung around a wrist and a syringe in his pocket. He speaks no English, has no ID.

“Hey, do we have anyone who speaks Cantonese?” an officer asks.

Twenty-five minutes later, the cops release him with a citation for fare evasion, though they know such fines are rarely collected. Flustered, he spills the contents of his bag: an empty takeout box, crumpled napkins, a few dollar bills.

“Sir, you have to move on,” Officer Rodney Barrera says, as the man shields his face with a forearm and whimpers.

“Sir, do you need medical attention?”

Charie Pittman walks over. The 45-year-old security guard for a nearby building grew up blocks away in the Tenderloin and was once homeless herself. The problem is cyclical in Pittman’s family: Her mother lives in a tent in Berkeley.

August 1, 2019 9:00 PM

Their electricity policies are just as nonsensical as their homeless policies.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/do-californias-blackouts-make-sense-11570832232

Do California’s Blackouts Make Sense?
Some 90% of wildfires are not caused by power lines. How does cutting power help fight them?

As a last resort, some two million people were without power in the past few days to prevent accidental sparks from causing wildfires. Yet the real issue behind these cutoffs isn’t fire risk, which exists and is a fact of California life, but who pays.

Listen to many California homeowners quoted in the media: They would rather live with the fire hazard (for each homeowner, relatively small) than with blackouts of unpredictable duration and frequency. They are not necessarily irrational to think so. But the choice is out of their hands. The blackouts are aimed at helping the state’s poorly regulated power companies, not making the best trade-off for customers.

The current crisis, in fact, has more than circumstantial echoes of California’s last blackout crisis, in the early 2000s. Then as now, there was no actual shortage of power, only a financial snafu at the utilities that the state allowed to be assuaged with rolling power cuts.

Voters may never really have understood what was going on, but they turned the state’s politics upside down, even briefly resurrecting the Republican Party. Arnold Schwarzenegger surfed a wave of resentment into the governor’s office.

The big difference this time: There’s no trigger the state can quickly pull to escape its now-commitment to cut power to large swaths of the public every time the fire-warning “red flag” is raised.

Gov. Gavin Newsom played to the confused Thursday, even letting global warming off the hook for a change. The blackouts, he explained, are not a “climate-change story so much as a story of greed and neglect.”

He’s partly right. Weather is variable. California is prone to dry spells, Santa Ana winds and fires. The restless expansion of housing into areas the state designates as “very high fire risk” is a bigger factor by far than climate change.

But blaming the utilities, even the widely reviled and now bankrupt Pacific Gas & Electric, is a bit of a dodge. Public utilities are largely socialist enterprises, and California particularly socializes development in fire-prone areas by making its utilities responsible for fires related to their equipment even if they weren’t negligent. The state did so, it’s now apparent, without setting rates high enough to cover these risks or reduce them.

Though PG&E’s estimates might be taken with a grain of salt, it told its bankruptcy judge that eliminating trees and vegetation from around its power lines would cost up to $150 billion and require 650,000 employees. PG&E’s customers already pay twice the national average for electricity. An alternative plan would be to radically decentralize its system so power cutoffs could be more “surgical.” This would also be expensive and, in PG&E’s sprawling territory, would still mean widespread blackouts.

But the least rational outcome is also the most likely. Households will continue to be sheltered from the financial consequences of building in wildfire areas.

In fact, missing is any data showing that today’s blackouts meaningfully or cost effectively reduce the public’s risks.

After all, 90% of fires, according to the California Public Utilities Commission, are caused by something other than power lines.

Whether the cure is worse than the disease is a question not asked because the answer is irrelevant to the real problem: California’s utilities cannot financially withstand the obligation imposed on them to subsidize development in fire-prone areas. The blackouts are to protect the power companies and their regulators, not the public.

October 12, 2019 6:21 PM
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