By Inez Feltscher Stepman • The Federalist
The latest in Facebook-policed “fake news” is a claim echoing through the conservative Twittersphere, including from my own account, that two bills outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown signed impose such draconian water use standards that fines could be imposed for taking a shower and running laundry on the same day. Snopes rated these assertions as “mostly false,” and Facebook flagged stories about them as fake news.
But Snopes, Facebook, and others purporting to “fact check” conservative frustrations with the law are the ones misleading about its effects. The way these allegedly neutral fact-checkers present repackaged liberal assumptions as hard fact is a great illustration of how the Left pulls off the kind of logical ju-jitsu that allows them to label conservative arguments as fake news in order to dismiss them.
In this particular case, none of these “debunking” articles actually dispute the three most crucial facts: there is a daily per-person 55-gallon limit ratcheting down to 50 gallons over the course of a decade, fines will be imposed upon violation, and, for at least some users, a reasonable-length shower and running the wash will put them over. In fact, most of the articles in question actually confirm these three vital points, usually squashed into a final paragraph that contradicts the headline. Nevertheless, they conclude that conservatives are spreading false information.
Fines On Providers Are Fines on Consumers
For starters, they point out that the $1,000 per day ($10,000 a day during drought) fines are levied on water providers, not directly on individuals. The first liberal assumption embedded in the narrative is that those fines will not be passed on to consumers.
If you think water companies will eat thousands of dollars of overuse fines without passing them on to consumers in the form of higher water costs, company fines for violators, or hard-usage cutoff caps, I have an infrastructure project to sell you in Brooklyn. But regardless of where you fall on economic theory questions, this is an arguable assumption, not an indisputable fact.
Secondly, the Snopes article assures California citizens that the 55-gallon standard is quite relaxed, and that most will easily be able to take a shower and do laundry while staying under the limit. The outlet buttresses its math by calculating that the average shower uses about 17 gallons of water, while high-efficiency washing machines use 15-30 gallons per load. Second liberal assumption: most people take extremely short showers and own super-efficient, expensive appliances.
The reality, of course, is that these numbers need a fact check. The U.S. Geological Survey—that well-known purveyor of right-wing fake news—says a ten-minute shower can run about 50 gallons of use without special water-saving showerheads, while washing machines vary from 25 to 40 gallons per cycle, depending on efficiency.
Again, the claim that a shower and laundry don’t run over the legally imposed limit is not based on hard facts ignored by ideological opponents, but on ideological (and fantastical) assumptions: that everyone has or wants a brand-new efficient washer and shower head, or that people take very brief showers to save water.
Terrible Management Caused California’s Water Woes
Fact-check wars aside, few conservatives would complain about strict water restrictions if California’s drought woes were truly unavoidable. But the state’s chronic water troubles are the result of decades of leftist mismanagement.
California is among the highest-tax states in the nation and boasts a booming tax base of large industries, from the Silicon Valley technology hub and Hollywood to enormous agriculture and viticulture sectors. Yet the state, the arid southern half of which is naturally short on water, has not authorized new reservoir construction for 20 years.
Brown’s administration not only failed to build a single reservoir for the droughts that are sure to plague the state’s future, it is actively fighting a federal project to enlarge the capacity of the Shasta reservoir by adding to its dam, citing environmental protection. In the midst of record droughts several years ago, the state actually flushed millions of acre-feet of lifesaving reservoir water to help boost the population of a three-inch bait fish living in the Sacramento River Delta.
If the most basic duty of a state government is to keep its citizens safe, close behind is the fundamental obligation to build and maintain basic infrastructure such as roads, schools, and, in the case of a desert state, ensuring that enough water remains in reserves to operate through a drought. It’s hard to argue that California’s natural water problems outstrip those of a true desert state like Arizona, yet Arizona has a reservoir system that can keep the state operating through even intense and prolonged drought.
Instead, the California legislature spends billions on social leveling schemes that have, if not produced, than at least failed to alleviate the growing gap between rich and poor and skyrocketing homeless rates in the state. Then when the 2015 droughts finally forced the legislature to confront the issue, its solution has been to impose draconian water use restrictions on individual use, even though that makes up just 10 percent of the state’s overall water use (50 percent is environmental, 40 percent agricultural).
Because the Left has stranglehold over the mainstream media narrative, and now over many of the social media platforms we use to communicate, the unspoken premises that underlie their “fact checking” rarely get brought to light. In the case of the California water wars, Brown and the Left are hoping citizens will focus on ideologically contingent claims of fake news and miss their decades of irresponsible mismanagement in the Golden State.