YouTuber And Investor Turned CA Gov Candidate Talks ‘Future Schools,’ Solving Homelessness Crisis, And More


As Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom faces a likely recall election, numerous figures have jumped into the race, including transgender activist and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner.

One person who recently announced his run for governor comes from a place many would consider unlikely for a politician — YouTube.You can listen to the entire interview via the SoundCloud embed below, or read the transcript underneath.

DW: So what made you decide to jump into the California governor’s race?

PAFFRATH: Absolutely. Frustration over how the state has been handled and what’s falling apart around us. People leaving our state for decades now when you take out births, which is a ridiculous way of propping up the population anyway, we need human capital in our state. Homelessness is going up dramatically despite us spending more and more money on it. Housing is unaffordable, and the red tape, the amount of regulation that we have is ridiculous — it’s not surprising we have a housing shortage. For me, frustration over the last three years as a business owner, and seeing, well, what could actually make a difference? The governor could, but our current governor doesn’t, so I decided to take charge and run for office.

DW: In your plan, you propose eliminating state income taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year, then taxing anything above that amount an approximately 5-7%. What was the rationale for making 250,000 the floor for taxation?

PAFFRATH: Really, what we’re trying to do is, first of all, we want to make the government much more efficient and stop the wasteful spending — and we can talk more about exactly how to cover that — but there are many things that we can do without actually costing jobs. And so what we want to do is create jobs and build our economy, but we don’t want to lose people. We’ve got to be competitive with other states, and that’s the problem. California is extremely uncompetitive right now with states like Texas, Nevada, Florida, Idaho, Tennessee really just giving folks the open-door opportunity to start businesses, to live more freely, to live with less government intervention, and less government fees at every part of their lives, and the most visible form of that is every year when we file our state income taxes we feel — “Wow! We pay this much money, and what do we get to show for it?” Then we look around and we go, “Wait a minute. This is broken.”

DW: You mentioned numerous proposals in your very detailed plan, including the tax cuts, but you don’t mention any specific spending cuts that I could see, which are often sort of a third rail in politics on both sides. Do you plan on proposing any spending cuts?

PAFFRATH: What’s going to happen is specifically on day one is something like the high-speed rail is getting killed right away. We’re not doing high-speed rail. We’re not going to spend $125 million-per-mile of railway that connects two places in our state. What we need to do is, we first of all don’t need to be getting ripped off. Right now, we’re paying $125 million-a-mile, we’re spending 12 and a half times what we should be spending for things like tunnels. We can build tunnels for $10 million-a-mile, and even if they cost us more because we did shorter stretches, they’re not going to cost us 12 and a half X what the government is currently spending — but that’s because the government is really good at getting ripped off. What we want to do is we want to make our state more efficient first, and we’re going to do that not by cutting, we’re going to do that by adding.

That’s why we’re going to have a California transition bond to make sure that all Californians can participate in this transition. We want to make our schools better, our roads better. We’re not going to do that with less people; we need more people to make these transitions happen.

But specifically, we’re also, in addition to ending things like the high-speed rail, we have plans that we believe will dramatically save on costs over the long run, over the next five to ten year period. For example, future schools combining colleges and high schools and introducing more technology with a focus on financial education and business vocational training. These are things and opportunities that can dramatically cut down on costs in our school system without having to cut down on what we pay teachers. We might even take our schools down to a three or four day work week because we’re focused on educating, on business and career-focused aspects, and a focus on financial education rather than silly things that really we shouldn’t be focused on in high school. We want people working or being able to have a career by 18 without debt, and these are things that are going to blow up our GDP in terms of massive growth coming to our state.

A lot of our proposals, they start by making very, very large changes, working with the private sector much more, especially in transportation, virtual IDs, maybe even privatizing registration or ticketing. Whatever we can do to simplify and streamline what the state does is what we’re going to be doing without kicking people out of a job.

DW: One of your most audacious ideas, and one of the most interesting, out of the box ideas was future schools. You did a bit of explaining just now, but could you explain your future schools idea more broadly?

PAFFRATH: Yeah. Basically right now, when somebody graduates at 18, they have an issue getting a job, a real-paying job. There’s no way somebody can survive on minimum wage, and that’s pretty much all you can get out of high school. And that’s an issue because that leads to much more reliance on the State of California. A third of Californians are on Medi-Cal. The states spends $16 billion a year on welfare. And my goal isn’t to say, “Let’s just cut these programs.” Not at all. My vision is, let’s give folks the tools so that by 18 they can get a career, not have to go into hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt just to try to get ahead in this world; learn about becoming investors and building wealth, and all of a sudden maybe what we have are — we have a state of California where people aren’t just electrical engineers for Tesla at 18. They’re engineer investors; they’re plumber investors; they’re electrician investors; they’re computer programmer investors.

And that, to us, is an opportunity not only to consolidate costs that we have in schooling, which saves our state money, which again reduces our reliance on the state income tax. But what also happens as a by-product of that, over time, less people on welfare, less people are on Medi-Cal which — there we go, more cost savings for the state. So it all works together. We can’t have one of these plans without the other, but we’ve got a lot of work to do — even housing is a complete disaster. We’ve got a massive housing affordability problem and a massive homeless issue. A lot of these things all relate to each other. Homelessness relates to mental health. It relates to future schools and education and the lack of wealth-building education we get. We’ve got a lot of problems to fix in this state.

DW: Could you talk about your plans to end the homelessness crisis?

PAFFRATH: Absolutely. The first thing that the state needs to do is provide compassion. We don’t do that as a state, and quite frankly as a society, we’ve become very uncompassionate. And partly, some of the additional violence that we see televised so regularly, which is so devastating, it really feels like it’s potentially a side effect of a lack of compassion that we have in society. We’re so hyper-competitive, so focused on building our own income streams that we kind of don’t talk to our neighbors anymore. We don’t care about other people anymore like society used to — even just in recent decades. And so this has led to this explosion, or at least in part led to this explosion in homelessness being looked at as really just a nasty problem that should just be hidden away.

And people spite homeless folks on the street, there’s no compassion. The plan specifically starts there. We use the National Guard to provide three meals a day to every homeless person wherever they are throughout the state. We provide them access to clean showers, hygiene products, the opportunity to feel safe and secure to where they’re not getting beaten and raped on the streets — and it also makes our public feel more safe and secure. At the same time, we’re going to build 80 emergency facilities throughout the state, each to house about 2,000 individuals who are homeless.

So that once we actually show compassion, we show, no this government is different. We care, which is something that nobody has believed about the government, and it makes sense, look around. But when we actually prove that, we can invite folks to come, get help, get shelter, get mental health access, all centralized in one facility. Mental health, psychiatric health, substance abuse health, shelter — these are basic human needs, and this is a state of emergency. The fact that our governor is talking about, “Let’s throw another $12 billion on top of the funnel and maybe things will get better in five years,” it’s a joke.

DW: On your website you say, “No one lives on the streets anymore within 60 days.” And you just mentioned you’d use the National Guard and declare a state of emergency. Do you have any plans for homeless individuals who don’t want to leave their encampments, who don’t want to leave the streets? Will they be taken by force? What will happen with that?

PAFFRATH: We believe that the folks who are homeless, after they see us with them working with them for 24 hours a day, 30 days straight, and even the next 30 day period, more and more are going to realize, wait a minute, this is different. And what happens is homelessness is very community-based, and when some folks start leaving, others start coming as well. What homeless folks are concerned about is overbearing — just like us as Californians, they’re worried about overbearing government. Like 7:00 p.m. curfews and no key to their own door. We’re going to [inaudible]. We’re going to give folks who are capable — if somebody is obviously in need of substantial mental health support, they will be provided for, but for those who are capable, they’ll have the right of coming and going whenever they want. We believe by inviting them to the various different facilities we’ll have throughout the state, they’re going to be very excited to come and actually have a bed and actually sleep in a way that’s not dangerous and it’s not cold and there’s actually climate control so they can build their dignity back. And so we have no concerns about people not wanting to seek help, especially once their community starts going and we show what we’re doing.

DW: Can you talk about your housing proposals? And this kind of goes into my next question, which is with the housing emergency, do you see the issue as one primarily driven by red tape, and will creating one agency be beneficial?

PAFFRATH: Both questions, the answer is yes. What we’re doing is we’ll declare a state of emergency on day one for housing, and every single building and safety department will come under the purview of the state. Now that doesn’t mean we want cities and towns to lose their design opportunities. We don’t want people to think we’re getting one cookie-cutter house for the entire state. But what we are going to do is we’re going to streamline building and safety substantially. First of all, 95% of permits can or will be able to be issued and signed off on with public records, so we know exactly who is responsible, who’s liability is on the hook, by licensed contractors, engineers, and architects. Now when it comes to — this means kitchen remodels. “Hey, we’re putting in a window here. Hey, we’re doing a minor little change to the floor plan here.” If licensed architects and engineers are certifying it with their liability contractors, we get [triple certs]. Fine, go ahead and approve your projects. All of these will be subject to state audit, but the state’s going to get massively out of the way of building and safety.

And we’re still going to have building inspections, but we’re going to spend way less time with the manpower that we have and women power in actual offices just doing homework for architects and engineers. That’s their job; that’s not our job. We spend, as a state, 90% of the building approval timeframe reviewing paperwork, and the amount of time that building inspectors spend actually making sure the right hardware is used, the right nails are used, the right beams are used, is a fraction of the paperwork side, which the actual product is more important, so that’s what we’re going to focus on.

Building and safety is going to be focused on streamlining approvals through licensed contractors, the state is licensing anyway. Now 95% of projects are able to be approved immediately, subject to the city coming whenever they want to check out projects that are ongoing. Very non-punitive relationship, but it’s all going to be focused on positive building and safety. And then for the other 5% of larger tracts, developments, guest-units, we’re going to work with businesses and developers to make sure that we can have streamlined, state-wide approval. If somebody says, “Hey look, we want to build 20 developments throughout the state of California and we want to partner with you. We want to use these five floor plans and we’ll use different designs for the various different areas. Can we get approval on that?” Absolutely. Let’s go. And then let’s make the modifications for designs per city specs and individual areas, but it’ll all be done statewide under one statewide authority, and then with individual minor review periods for design, again, to make sure we maintain that character.

But we’re actually going to free up California to build. We build 80,000 homes a year. We need to be building, just to keep pace with how unaffordable things are, we need to build 100,000 homes a year, but under my administration, my goal would be building 500,000 homes a year so we can actually get out of this affordability crisis.

DW: Do you anticipate any potential layoffs as departments, the 400-odd departments that you talk about in your proposal, sort of consolidate into one?

PAFFRATH: I don’t because we want more folks out and about working with our community. We want everybody to have the opportunity in the state to participate, and really what’s a revolution of taking the state back to the people. I’ll tell you, the people in planning and safety and the building safety department, they don’t want to have people coming into their office crying because of all the red tape in the six to 36 months people have to wait to get their dream home approved. It’s a disaster. It’s a nightmare. The people in the departments themselves, they’re not happy either with all the red tape, but it’s not their fault, it’s just their jobs, so you can’t blame them. We’re going to empower them to actually be a part of this change.

DW: In your energy proposal, you note that you would authorize “improvements to existing natural gas infrastructure to help transition us to a fully-green grid within the next 20 years,” with specific mentioning of wind and solar. Is there room for nuclear in your plan? It’s safe, efficient, and nearly carbon neutral. As it stands right now, multiple nations (including states in the United States) get large portions of their energy from nuclear — the most prominent being France at 71%, Belgium at 48%, Finland at 35%. And with the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which provides about 10% of California energy, going offline in 2024, why not consider building more nuclear plants?

PAFFRATH: I think it’s a very valid consideration. I do know that Germany went from a nuclear power to zero after Fukushima and it’s — I think the merits of nuclear deserve more research and investigation, and that would be a priority of ours because what we want is we want to go green. We want to see utility-scale batteries that are actually cost-effective next to fossil fuels so we aren’t relying on fossil fuels anymore, but we’re not also going to stand in the way and say, “Hey, the 1970s fossil fuel architecture you have, we’re not going to let you fix that up a little bit and improve it to make it 10, 15, 20 times more efficient” because that doesn’t make sense.

We can’t snap our fingers and go 100% green tomorrow. Just like even if we said, “Let’s go build new wind farms,” or if California was for it and the research made sense, and we found locations for it, and we found ways to store nuclear waste. Hey, if it made sense, let’s do it, but it’s not going to happen overnight. And so I think what we need is a very reasonable approach to this green transition, and our carbon tax proposal, which will be very moderate, is going to help us get there by not taxing workers and people’s incomes or their wealth when they’re investing, but instead by having minor taxes on things that have large carbon footprints. And by doing that, we inherently encourage companies to go more green.

DW: You said in your proposal that you want California to be the first state to institute a carbon tax. The Competitive Enterprise Institute writes of carbon taxes: “A carbon tax is a market-rigging policy, not a free market one. A carbon tax by design raises the cost of energy, making energy less affordable, diminishes economic growth, household income, and consumer purchasing power.” Are you concerned that what you’re seeing as incentivizing would not only increase energy prices for middle- and low-income individuals and act as sort of a regressive tax, but handicap the free market by picking winners and losers?

PAFFRATH: No, we don’t believe that at all. And the reason we don’t believe that is the research actually shows that if we get some of the ridiculous regulation out of the way that we do have, at least temporarily while we work toward our transition, we can actually substantially lower costs of energy while having a carbon tax.

Here’s just a quick example. Why is it that California gas is so expensive? It’s because we have no pipeline in California. It’s all truck. Now, I’m not proposing we build a pipeline throughout California, but there are many things we can do. We only have 11 oil refineries in California, and a lot of them are old and not as efficient as they could be — and this is oversimplifying — but many of them could use simple overhauls, simple remodels that would let them be more efficient for the next 10, 15 years as we go through our transition that would actually help us lower the cost of gasoline or even natural gas, for example, and help us prevent blackouts. But because we don’t have a common sense approach in California now and the approach of California now is, it’s all or nothing. It’s either, you’re all green or you don’t get to use anything, you can just use the crap you have now — what happens? No surprise. Gasoline costs are high, fossil fuel costs are very high, and so we can fix a lot of that at the same time as taxing it appropriately to encourage the proper change.

DW: We’ve seen a major spike in violent crime in the last year, and it’s been going on for the last several years, but the last year in particular has been particularly egregious. Can you walk me through what future policing looks like, and does it include sufficient funding for police to do their job?

PAFFRATH: Absolutely. Here’s the thing. Policing is — there’s a big societal issue around policing right now, and the way we want to start handling this issue is by encouraging much more community policing and mandating it in many cases. For example, we have many non-violent offenders in jails and prisons, and many of these are very capable folks that we can negotiate — probably not negotiate is the wrong word, but we can — what I’m trying to say is we can pick the proper folks who would be capable and not a flight risk to work in our community policing programs where maybe — just as an example, if we could take 30% of our jail and prison population that is non-violent and have them, during specific hours, do community service supervised, so it’s not release, it’s supervised community service. Now, all of a sudden what we’re doing is we’re taking officers who would be in jail and prisoners who would be in jail doing nothing except basically babysitting or being babysat, we can take them and bring them to our communities. We now [have a] police presence without weapons, we just need a presence, and we can provide by cleaning streets, by removing graffiti, by making sure areas are safer just by being there. Even just the presence of a mobile command unit and police vehicles or police vans and people cleaning, that helps reduce crime.

And so this is how we’re going to start, by making our communities better by making them cleaner, nicer, while being present, and now we integrate with the community again rather than this us-versus-them that we have now. That’s going to be our first step with community policing.

DW: On guns, you mentioned in your plan that you will have a tiered license plan, and it would be the first expansion of gun rights California has seen in decades. Do you have any plans to follow other pro-gun states by eventually enacting something like constitutional carry or something similar?

PAFFRATH: Here’s the thing. California is essentially — when you look at the states and the United States in general, California is basically at zero in terms of gun rights. And then way on the other end of the spectrum you have the Second Amendment.

California is not going to go from zero to Second Amendment tomorrow, and it’s not something any one person would even have the power to do. But what I will do is that on day one, we will introduce legislation to make sure that folks who do have legally-owned firearms have the opportunity through training certifications — or potentially even for lower income communities, some sort of free services from the government where we can certify weapons training — we will give folks the opportunity to actually get concealed carry licenses so that if they are rightful gun owners and they’re capable and they’re trained and they have minimum hours of training, they have the right to carry.

Now the good news is concealed carry is not associated with any increase in crime or even weapons violence, and that’s very, very important. But what we do have in California is a massive, massive issue with regard to what actually causes violent crime and oftentimes this comes from — again, when we talk about this with homelessness — lack of compassion for our fellow neighbors; lack of education. Poverty leads to despair; loneliness causes problems. We have a massive mental health crisis in the state. Mental health is stigmatized, and that stigma of mental health is reiterated in gun violence debates. We have many, many, many, many issues, but a priority that is going to be associated with gun rights in my administration will be better mental health services where insurance companies are actually mandated to pay market rates for normal therapy sessions.

And we want to normalize and teach in our future schools that therapy is not something that means you’re broken. It means you’re getting a professional service that should be just as normal as exercising or learning about nutrition. And so you can see with my gun plan, it all connects. It connects back to future school; it connects back to compassion. It’s an overarching theme, and all the pieces build upon each other.

DW: As for immigration, you mentioned legal immigration in your plan, but there’s no mention of what would happen to the approximately 2 – 2.6 million illegal immigrants living in California. Do you have any plans for how to handle the border and illegal immigration crises?

PAFFRATH: The disaster of our border and illegal immigration is really a symptom of how broken immigration is in our country. And it’s easy to point to the federal government and say it’s their problem because technically it is their problem, but we also have a lot of folks in our state who are here not legally. And so my vision is that California — if the federal government isn’t going to help us — that California needs to have its own way of providing a California-style path to legal immigration that’s fast. I’m talking a two week process. And see, when we have that, then we can actually invite people to California since we do a flight of people.

We can invite people to California who have skills, who have careers, and who have licenses in other countries because here’s what happens: because our immigration system is so broken right now, the only folks who end up coming to our border tend to be folks with no other opportunity and in utter despair, sometimes with — or sometimes potentially even often with no skills or abilities. This is a problem, so we get a lot of essentially refugees, but we don’t get skilled workers because there’s no easy way to immigrate. There are limitations on how many people can come, and so if we had a cleaner process for legal California immigration — we’ve got potential constitutional kinks to work out there — but if we can create a legal way for folks to come to California who can prove that they don’t need government aid, government assistance, we want to be able to open the door and let people move to California and contribute to our society, especially since we’re going to be working on expanding our school systems and our economy substantially. We’re definitely working on releasing a plan for that as well.

DW: Do you have any plans on expanding — in addition to future schools — expanding school choice for parents to either send their kids to charter schools or religious schools, or even for them to homeschool?

PAFFRATH: School choice is — the biggest school choice that we want to give folks is the choice of a future school; that’s going to be the top priority. A lot of our energy initially is going to be focused on our future schools because we want folks to have that opportunity. Regarding school choice and being able to move funding from potentially the government’s opportunities to charter schools or private schools, we don’t have an answer on that yet. That is something we’re working on and we’ll have more answers on that when we have our economic white paper since we are going to be eliminating so many taxes, we’ll have to circle back on that one when we actually have the data.

DW: Your plans are, without question, incredibly ambitious. Whether or not people will agree with every aspect of them, they are ambitious, and you seem to be genuinely seeking actual answers to problems that California’s facing — but you can’t do everything in your agenda without the cooperation of the legislature. Many of your ideas will be difficult for the California machine to endorse. It’s mostly Democrats, although there are a few Republicans. How would you work with the legislature to enact your agenda?

PAFFRATH: I believe the legislature is a group of very reasonable folks that haven’t had the proper leadership to come together and find out where we can actually make good happen. California has a super-majority of Democrats. It should be so easy to get things done in California, but it’s not because we’re torn in so many different directions because we get isolated into these national [inaudible] mix-up. You’re either this or you’re that, and that’s even within the Democratic Party. You’re either far-Left or you’re a moderate and it’s almost like we have parties within the parties.

And so my belief is that many of the problems we seek to solve are separated from partisanship. Homelessness, housing, schooling — these are very reasonable proposals. And we think with a reasonable Congress, which we know we have … reasonable people who just need leadership and somebody who’s willing to sit down with each and every single one of them to find the best solutions for the state and their districts, I’m very confident we’re going to get some amazing change done very quickly in California.

DW: And my last question: Is there something that we haven’t touched on in this interview that you think our readers/listeners should know about your candidacy and California in general?

PAFFRATH: Something that I think is very unique about this election is you’re really only selecting a governor in the recall election. If you vote yes on recall and yes on “Meet Kevin Paffrath for governor,” you’re only selecting a governor for one year. It’s almost like you’re getting a one-year free trial on a governor, which I think is so wonderful because usually you elect a politician for four years and then you’re stuck with them for four years, at least for governor. And so by having this one-year free trial, to me, I look at this as, why not? Why don’t we elect “Meet Kevin Paffrath” as governor, and let’s see what happens. Let me prove that in the first 60 days, we can make dramatic changes [with] homelessness. That we can actually change housing and traffic and begin the process of change.

A lot of these things won’t be overnight, but we’re going to see massive progress more than we’ve ever seen before in government. And I’ve got to get a lot done within a year to prove to voters that they should re-elect me for the 2022 cycle, which would give me another four years — and I’d be done at five years because you get a two-term limit in California. But anyway, to me, I think this is one of the best opportunities for change and it’s the best timing, market timing to make this happen because we have a business cycle that is giving us a wind at our back to make some beautiful changes for the better of California.

DW: Kevin Paffrath, thank you for taking the time to talk to me.

PAFFRATH: Thank you so much.

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