Subgroup Strife in the Golden State

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It wasn’t supposed to end like this.  We were all going to “get along” in a diverse, multicultural paradise, led by our brilliant universities.  But in a pattern sure to spread across America, the ethnic strife in California is increasing, not decreasing, as the state becomes even more diverse.  And public universities are at the center of it.

In 1996, voters approved Proposition 209, which banned discrimination against, or preferences for, “any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.”  That is, it banned affirmative action for state and local governments.

State and federal courts upheld Prop. 209, and similar initiatives were later passed by eight more states.  Michigan’s 2006 ban was upheld in April of this year by the U.S. Supreme Court, putting an end to challenges in federal courts.

That outcome is unacceptable for California’s racial activists.  Now they’re trying to overturn not only Prop. 209 but two other initiatives passed in the 1990’s: Proposition 227 (1998), which banned most bilingual education; and Proposition 187 (1994), which cut funding to illegal immigrants for state welfare and other programs.  (Although Prop. 187 was gutted by a federal court, today’s activists see its very presence in the record as a “stain” on the state and want the initiative entirely removed from the books.)

Reported the Los Angeles Times, “Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Latino Legislative Caucus, said there is a satisfying ‘full circle’ feel in revisiting these formative struggles with Latinos now empowered.”

But California has changed since the 1990’s in ways beyond the further dwindling of the white voting population.  New fault lines are being drawn and redrawn almost yearly.  The most powerful groups by far remain the state’s two teachers’ unions—the larger, with 325,000 members, California Teachers Association, an affiliate of the radical left-wing National Education Association, and the smaller California Federation of Teachers (120,000 members), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Also flexing their muscles are the Asian-American communities, whose numbers and power are increasing.  As an ethnic group, Asians now possess the highest education levels and incomes, not only in California, but across America.  And their yearly number of immigrants now exceeds that of Hispanics.  Asians are especially powerful in such wealthy university towns as Irvine and Berkeley.

The once-powerful black caucus is now in decline, as its constituents are squeezed out of the state’s coastal cities to make room for the continuous flow of new immigrants from Latin America and Asia.  Blacks have moved inland to such areas as Moreno Valley in Riverside County (now 18-percent black), Victorville in San Bernardino County (17-percent black), and to the American South of their ancestors.  Blacks once boasted as their leader Willie Brown, the strongest California State Assembly speaker in history after the legendary Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh in the 1960’s.  Brown later became mayor of San Francisco.

According to U.S. Census numbers, the state’s black population has been declining, from 7.4 percent in 1990 to 6.2 percent in 2010.

The whole mix of contending parties can be seen in the tussle over whether to repeal Prop. 209 and bring back affirmative action at the state and local levels.  Senate Constitutional Amendment 5, by State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), would put before voters a repeal of Prop. 209 authority with regard to state universities and the public-education system, but not for other parts of state and local governments.

“We have nearly 20 years of history showing our campuses have become less diverse, and qualified high school graduates are being overlooked and ignored as a result of the failed experiment that is Prop. 209,” said Hernandez.  “SCA 5 will give voters the opportunity to have a new discussion about how we best ensure our colleges and universities reflect the diversity of our state.”

SCA 5 passed 27-9 in the state senate.  But two funny things happened on SCA 5’s way to the assembly.  First, Asian-American legislators, a key part of the Democratic majorities in both houses, rebelled.  In March, Asians rallied against the amendment.  As reported in the Pasadena Star-News, “Olivia Liao, president of the Joint Chinese University Alumni Association, said Senate Constitutional Amendment No. 5 is racist because it allows public education institutions to give preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.”  She was echoing Prop. 209’s language.

In April, when numbers for the incoming freshman class of the University of California for fall 2014 were announced, Asians remained at the top, at 36 percent.  But for the first time, Hispanics were in second place, at 29 percent; while non-Hispanic whites were in third place, at just 27 percent; and blacks were 4 percent.  It’s pretty hard to maintain, as Hernandez did, that “our campuses have become less diverse, and qualified high school graduates are being overlooked and ignored,” when your alleged oppressors are in third place with a quarter of the slots.

The new freshman tally still didn’t please everybody.  Audrey Dow of the Campaign for College Opportunity griped to the Huffington Post,

When one in two children under the age of 18 is Latino and only 11 percent of Latino adults in California have a bachelor’s degree, the state of California and its public colleges and universities must be doing more to ensure more Latinos go to college and graduate.  If we are going to meet California’s need for an additional 1 million baccalaureate degrees by 2025, the state must work diligently to increase the number of Latinos going to and graduating from college.

At this point, most conservative commentators would point out that Hispanics’ public K-12 schools are subpar, despite lavish expenditures of more than $12,000 per student; that many of these degrees strap tens of thousands of dollars of debt onto graduates’ backs in return for worthless degrees in psychology and sociology; and that even students with STEM degrees (science, technology, engineering, and math) face competition from the H-1B visa immigrants Silicon Valley imports to keep costs down and profits up.

All that is true.  But more significant is the developing power struggle between Hispanics and Asians, with whites relegated to the back of the bus.  The areas where whites remain dominant in the state are those still populated by older Americans, mainly baby boomers, who grew to prominence before the stream of immigrants became a flood beginning in the 1980’s.

That includes the top ranks of the universities that still are held by whites: Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system and the former head of President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security; Nicholas B. Dirks, the chancellor of U.C. Berkeley, still by some measures the country’s top public university; and Timothy B. White, the chancellor of the California State University system.

Indeed, despite the rise of Hispanics and Asians in the Democratic Party, its leaders remain Gov. Jerry Brown, cruising to a win for his fourth term as governor; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of hyperwealthy San Francisco; and Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of exclusive Marin County on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  All are independently wealthy, septuagenarian whites refusing to step aside for younger candidates of color.

California’s public schools, which prepare the students (or attempt to) for the universities, are also dominated by whites.  State Schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson, walking to reelection in November, is a white Democrat.  So is California Teachers Association President Dean E. Vogel.

At this point, the major concern for both university and K-12 educators is preserving the pensions of those already or about to be retired—both groups still overwhelmingly white.  In April, the California State Teachers Retirement System warned that its unfunded liabilities had increased by $2.7 billion in the past year, to $73.7 billion.  The system needs five billion dollars more per year to remain solvent.

At Governor Brown’s behest, the new state budget enacted on June 15 pushed a seven-year plan that eventually would pay for the shortfall with $1.3 billion more from the state general fund and $3.7 billion from local school districts.  Full pension funding would arrive in 2047—a long way from now and a time when the state will be even more dominated by Hispanics.  If that funding scheme lasts, it would mean more money going to white retirees and less for teachers in classrooms where, statewide, Hispanics now form a majority.

The University of California Retirement Plan has a shortfall of $25 billion, affecting not just professors but administrators whose numbers actually are higher than those of the profs.  For example, UC Berkeley boasts Vice Chancellor of Equity & Inclusion Gibor Basri, who has 19 members on his staff.  They help with Berkeley’s Systemwide Intolerance Report Form, which helps advance the school’s double-talk mission: “We strive for a campus and a world free of discrimination, intolerance and hate.  We are equally committed to freedom of expression, critical inquiry, civil dialogue and mutual respect.”

As in the other systems, U.C. pensions can be lavish.  At the top, UCLA’s Marvin Marcus pulls down $337,346 per year in retirement; UC Irvine’s Nosratola D. Vaziri gets $308,320; Joe W. Gray of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory gets $303,856.  All are white; Vaziri is from Iran.

California State University pensions are part of the California Public Employee Retirement System, by far the world’s largest pension system.  Most state and local government employees also belong to CalPERS.  Its current assets are valued at $297 billion, which seems like a lot—except that, in April, CalPERS admitted it was 52-percent underfunded.  According to Breitbart, “To adequately [sic] fund pensions, the state and local governments need to more than [sic] quadruple annual taxpayer-funded contributions by $11.3 billion.”  In addition to costs to local taxpayers, the state general fund’s contribution to the pensions already will hit a staggering five billion dollars in 2016.  Again, the money will go largely to retired white professors and administrators instead of to Hispanics and Asians in the classrooms and labs.

These struggles over the university and other pensions will set up an intergenerational, interracial battle within the Democratic Party itself, between the older white retirees and the younger Hispanic and Asian employees and taxpayers.  There isn’t enough money for everybody.

The budget struggles already are beginning to fray the long-standing alliance between Hispanic activists and the liberal “Anglo” Democratic left along the coasts, including Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and the teachers-union leadership.

A major reason for the decline of whites is their birthrate since the baby boom ended in 1965.  A June Sacramento Bee story recalled an America many of us knew in California or in other states:

Winifred Hertzen raised her five kids in a world that seemed overrun by children: California of the 1950s and 1960s, during the height of the baby boom years.  New suburbs seemed to pop up overnight to accommodate growing families.  Businesses flourished.  School districts added schools and more schools.  The world seemed young and noisy, and filled with promise.

Now 89, Hertzen herself recounted that “So many of my friends back then had three, four or five kids.  Now I’m flabbergasted at the number of people I know who have no grandchildren at all and no great-grandchildren.”

It’s a pattern that is going to repeat itself in the universities and elsewhere: Aging, fading, white baby boomers versus younger immigrants.

This is another Golden State harbinger for the rest of America.  There will be endless squabbles among numerous subgroups.  The Big Enchiladas on the plate are the Social Security and Medicare systems, likely to go broke about the time the baby boomers fade into an Alzheimer’s purple haze but before the large numbers of new ethnic groups get to cash in on the money they paid into the entitlements’ promised but nonexistent “lock box.”