A Little Hope?

The latest Field Poll tells us a plurality of California voters – 45 percent of ‘em – now have had it up to here with public employee unions.

Before you go too crazy over this remarkably good news, I should tell you 40 percent of California voters still think the greedy, destructive unions that represent government employees are just fine.

Still, it was a big swing, and the first time the unions ended up on the losing end.

And if voters weren’t ticked off already, we found out today that some people in Sacramento are actually thinking of giving a half-billion of our tax dollars each year for the next few years to the teachers’ union pension fund. If we don’t, they reason, the whole thing will go belly-up because the all-powerful California Teachers Association has exacted far more in teacher benefits that the stock market can fund.

I for one don’t think many Californians who don’t work for government will take too kindly to this.

The Californian political pendulum has been swinging farther and farther left since 1905. It’s got to turn back the other direction sometime … maybe sometime sooner than we all fear.

2013′s 13 Most Dangerous Californians

There are so many dangerous, powerful and just flat wrong Californians … how can I pick just 13? That’s easy … by starting at #13 and counting down.

#13 – Mary Nichols, Director, California Air Resources Board

Mary NicholsAs the chief enforcer of AB32, California’s Quixotic crusade to single-handedly stop global warming, Nichols has led the charge to tax industry on carbon emissions, force us into less-safe cars, and shower today’s generation of Robber Barron capitalists with piles of our tax dollars as “incentives” for green energy. Her efforts to set truck diesel emission levels low enough to force most truckers out of business was so corrupted – with her full knowledge and consent – that it is tied up in lawsuits.

#12 – Matthew Rodriguez, Sec. for Environmental Protection/CalEPA

RodriquezCalEPA – which you can thank for women’s false fears about a link between passive smoke and breast cancer – has long thrown its weight behind unproven (unprovable?) science. Especially if it increases the power of the state. Rodriguez has globe-hopped this year promoting California’s carbon tax scheme to other countries. He says he’s doing no such thing, as he’s “loathe to get involved in the international discussions” about carbon credits. Yeah, but he said that at a UN carbon credits conference … in Poland.

#11 – Ron Calderon, D-Montebello

ron-calderonHis state senate district includes the jaw-droppingly corrupt city of Bell, and Calderon can match that city’s cesspool of corruption dollar-for-dollar. Calderon isn’t just a player in Sacramento’s pay-for-play underbelly, he’s its poster boy, waving around expensive cigars after more expensive meals at even more expensive posh resorts, all paid for by lobbyists and favor-seekers. His political empire is crashing now in an FBI investigation, so if there’s any  justice at all for us taxpayers, he’ll soon be sharing a very un-posh jail cell with disgraced Bell city manager Robert Rizzo.

#10 – Pam O’Connor, Santa Monica Councilmember and Statist

Pam O'ConnorThere are, unfortunately, hundreds of big-government power-grabbers in California, but O’Connor takes the Gov Girls Gone Wild thing to a higher level. The former mayor of the People’s Republic of Santa Monica is a big player at the appropriately named SCAG (SoCal Area Governments). There she chairs its Regional Comprehensive Plan Task Force, whose goal it is to tell us how they know we should live – crowded into urban flats our forefathers had the wisdom to flee, taking mass transit (she also chairs LA’s money-losing Transit Authority) to green jobs so we can pay more and more taxes.

#9 – Dan Richard, Chair, California High Speed Rail Authority

Dan RichardIt was a bad year for the CHSRA this year, and for reasons much worse than its lack of a cool acronym like CARB or SCAG. It seems that judges want to hold Richard’s agency to the promises made in the ballot initiative that created it, and if that weren’t bad enough, the feds insist on treating it like any other rail agency. The nerve. Still, Richard soldiers on, convinced that if he can bamboozle Californians into letting him build just one forlorn stretch of track in the hinterlands, the money machine won’t shut off until the entire money-losing monstrosity is completed.

#8 Roxanne Sanchez, President, SEIU Local 1021

Roxanne  SanchezSanchez heads one of two Bay Area Rapid Transit unions whose strikes subjected 400,000 Bay Area commuters to chaos earlier this year. She became the face of public employee hubris as she articulated the arguments why workers whose average salary is over $70,000 a year plus $11,000 in overtime – and who contribute nothing toward their lucrative retirement packages – should get a raise of 23 percent. As if that weren’t enough, after a deal was struck, she sued BART over a fine point in the new contract to get even more money.

#7 – Carlos Ramos, California’s Chief Information Officer

Carlos RamosCalifornia is home to Google, Apple, Facebook and legions of other competent, successful tech companies, but all the brainpower of the Silicon Valley is powerless against the computing black hole that is Sacramento. This year, it was the 124,000 Californians who didn’t get their unemployment checks because a simple programming update brought a decrepit, 30-year-old state computer system to its knees. That was nothing compared to the big California computer tragedies like the Oracle Scandal and the California Courts Case Management System. And the buck for all this stops at Ramos’ desk.

#6 – Mary Shallenberger, Chair, California Coastal Commission

ShallenbergerIn Crazifornia, I call the California Coastal Commission the Star Chamber of the Coast because it’s a nest of religious radicals with a predilection for torturing those who offend their goddess, Mother Earth. And Shallenberger is the demi-goddess of the Commission. When she’s not advocating abortion on demand for the Guttmacher Institute, she is taking the most radical environmentalist position on Coastal’s board of radical environmentalists. Yes, she actually believes it’s perfectly fine to suck a human embryo out of a mother’s body, but a mortal sin to suck a fish egg into a power or desalination plant.

#5 – Mark Berndt, Former Member, California Teachers Association

Mark BerndtBerndt, you may be unfortunate enough to recall, is the LA-area elementary school teacher accused of feeding his semen to children in his class. As if that weren’t obscene enough, LA Unified soon discovered that the teachers’ union’s hold on schools was so tight that they couldn’t get rid of Berndt unless they paid him off with $40,000. Why? Because he filed a complaint that he had been wrongly fired. The California Teachers’ Association is the most powerful union in Sacramento – and never forget it represents teachers, not students.

#4 – Mark Leno, D-San Francisco

Mark LenoAs San Francisco’s state senator, it’s no surprise Leno has written or backed every recent bill calling for liberalizing drug laws and giving greater rights to everyone but heterosexuals. What should concern us more is, first, the bill he sponsored this year to advance the Progressives’ all-out attack on Proposition 13, second, the two bills he sponsored to restrict our Second Amendment freedoms, and third, that he just might our Attorney General or even Governor before too long.

#3 – Tom Steyer, Billionaire Environmentalist

steyer2Steyer, a ridiculously wealthy San Francisco wealth manager, first entered our consciousness when he pumped $30 million of his own money to pass Prop 39. (Hat-tip to Christopher Cadelago and Kevin Dayton for your sharp eyes on my previous error, now corrected.0 That’s the 2012 ballot initiative that increased taxes on out-of-state corporations and sprinkled the largess on alternative energy companies like those his company, Farallon Capital Management, owns pieces of. This year, he was the Big Spender that got Terry McCaullife, a politician so slimy he taught Bill and Hillary dirty tricks, elected governor of Virginia. If your money is in OneCalifornia Bank, move it, because Steyer owns it.

#2 – Jerry  Brown, Governor

jerry-brownBrown, the master of political deceit, once said his politics is like canoeing: He paddles some on the left, then some on the right. But he’s a left-handed canoeist and his course ultimately pulls to the left. He was definitely paddling left this year when he signed SB7, a bill that stripped Charter Cities of their constitutional right to set wages on construction jobs – a big victory for the unions that put him in power. Like most Progressives, Brown has inherited wealth – in fact, he inherited an oil fortune – and he salves the resulting guilt by sticking Californians with the fat bill for “government generosity.”

#1 – Kamala Harris, Attorney General

kamalaObamaPicI can say with near-certainty that our next governor will be younger and more attractive (physically, anyway) than our current one. Harris, who cut her political teeth out-liberaling every other attorney in the San Francisco DA office, has her eyes set on the governorship … and her agenda set firmly in the Progressive camp. The liberal magazine The Nation tells us, “When she was a child in Berkeley, her parents took her and her sister, Maya, to protests and nudged them to view the world through a social justice lens.” Count on her to continue to use her office to kill ballot initiatives that would help California, while continuing to build her political bank account with public employee unions and trial lawyers.

Compounding the Confounding

"Huh?"

                    “Huh?”

The average California public employee who’s in the CalPERS program now receives a pension of $36,486 a year. There are two interesting things to note about that number:

  • Half of the dollars fall below that level, along with more than half the employees. The dollars going out above the $36,486 level go to a lot fewer people – since the numbers are skewed by those who are getting $100,000 a year or more in retirement pay and benefits from the state.
  • Just a few years ago, the average was about $10,000 less than it is today. That’s because the poor sops who were too dumb to be born later, after the whole public employee pension thing turned into a scam on the people, are dying off and the lucky, more lucrative ones are joining the retired ranks.

But that’s just the beginning of this confounding mess. Let’s do some math. Last year, 33,330 CalPERS covered public employees retired. So:

33,330 X $36,486 = $1,216,078, 380

In other words, a combination of less-than-hoped-for investment returns and taxpayer dollars will combine to dole out $1.2 billion to these folks in their first year of retirement. But that’s just the beginning. These folks, on the whole, are retiring in their 50s and early 60s, so let’s assume they will live on average another 25 years. Here’s the math for that:

$1,216,078,380 X 25 = $30,401,959,500

Woman Counting Money. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.I’m sure the actuaries can shoot that number out of the water, but so what? So what if it’s $26.8 billion instead of $30.4 billion – it’s a lot of money, and it’s just for one year’s retirees.

Back in 1999, there were 16,701 retiring employees. See how much bigger government has gotten? From 16,701 retirees per year to 33,330, or more than doubling, in just 14 years! The class of ’99 got an average benefit that was about half of today’s: $20,532 vs. $36,486. It took $330 million to pay their first year benefits – versus $1.2 billion today, which even the actuaries will agree is almost four times more.

Compounding the confounding, indeed.

So finally, I added up all the big numbers – the annual payout for an average 25-year lifespan for each graduating class of new retirees, from 1999 to 2012, and came up with $270.8 billion dollars, or over a quarter trillion dollars.

Question my math if you like, but if anything, it’s low. Even the unions speak of a quarter-trillion dollar unfunded liability – and that’s just the unfunded portion, above what CalPERS can pay from its pool. Others peg the unfunded liability at a half-trillion. But who’s counting? It’s easier to whistle in the wind, like Jerry Brown does, and keep approving new public employee contracts with retirement benefit increases.

 

Raisin Cain

Often the federal government is just as crazy as California’s – especially the stuff that happens when a Progressive president is in power. Here’s a case in point.

Back in 1937, during FDR’s Progressive presidency, government manipulation of everything was robust, to put it mildly. One of the experiments of the day was to create the National Raisin Reserve, out of a belief that government planning led to healthier markets than the free market could ever hope to achieve. The Reserve’s “business” was to tax, or confiscate, a percentage of each raisin farmer’s crop every year and keep those raisins off the U.S. market in order to ensure that stupid, greedy farmers wouldn’t flood the market, thereby voluntarily lowering their income.

(As a not-to-curious aside, the Washington Post, which very curiously broke this story, attributed the National Raisin Reserve to Pres. Truman, but in 1937, FDR was president.)

Marvin HorneEnter Fresno raisin farmer Marvin Horne, the frightened looking fellow there on the right.  Until 2002, Horne dutifully put up with this authoritarian silliness, then stopped rendering his raisins unto Caesar as a protest. Here’s how the Washington Post put it:

In the world of dried fruit, America has no greater outlaw than Marvin Horne, 68.

Horne, a raisin farmer, has been breaking the law for 11 solid years. He now owes the U.S. government at least $650,000 in unpaid fines. And 1.2 million pounds of unpaid raisins, roughly equal to his entire harvest for four years.

His crime? Horne defied one of the strangest arms of the federal bureaucracy — a farm program created to solve a problem during the Truman administration, and never turned off.

He said no to the national raisin reserve.

“I believe in America. And I believe in our Constitution. And I believe that eventually we will be proved right,” Horne said recently, sitting in an office next to 20 acres of ripening Thompson grapes. “They took our raisins and didn’t pay us for them.”

The U.S. Supreme Court recently sided partially with Horne, sending his case back down the ladder for reconsideration. If he wins, it’s a great victory for America. If he loses,

“If we lose, we’re bankrupt. We won’t have a pot to piss in,” Horne said. He thinks he would be liable for about $3 million, including fines and the cash value of those raisins. “No. I don’t want to even think about it. Would you?”

I agree. If Horne loses, I don’t even want to think about it. It would just be one more piece of evidence that America, like California, is still going full-bore towards oblivion.

(I’ve simplified the story somewhat, leaving out details about how the National Raisin Reserve has morphed over the years. Read the Post story if you want the whole picture – but that’s really just footnote stuff, and doesn’t change the basic story one iota.)

Thanks to Crazifornia fan and long-time friend Lou Franson for the tip!

$1,126,200,000,000.00

Jerry Brown says California’s finances are rosy once again.

Jerry Cagel, MSNBC

Daryl Cagel, MSNBC.com

I say rose is just another shade of red, and say that by ignoring the state’s growing debt and unsustainable pension obligations, Jerry and the Dems are ignoring two very large elephants in the room.

Today, my not-so-rosy view got additional support as the California Public Policy Center announced that it has tabulated all the government debt in California – the state, cities, counties, school districts, the whole government complex – and when they hit the total button, here’s what they got: $1,126,200,000,000.00. Hint: When reading that number, start with “One trillion ….”

That translates as an $80,000 debt burden on the shoulders of every household in the state.But actually, since one percent of California households pay 80 percent of the state’s taxes, your true burden is probably just a wee tiny bit smaller. Of course, when the one percent get hold of this info, they may be calling the moving vans, and your burden will go back up.

If you want more detail on this, read Ed Ring’s excellent piece in today’s CalWatchdog.

 

Here Comes Another Awful Proposition

government-wasteA new proposition just cleared for signature gathering proposes to ruin the best thing the California economy has going for it – huge oil and reserves – while wasting even more money on that perpetual fiscal sinkhole, the education system.

The as-yet unnumbered proposition would impose a 9.5 percent tax on the value of all oil and natural gas extracted in the state, which would raise an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year.

The windfall would be spent as follows: 60% on education (designated for classroom instruction – how that will get by the teachers and administrators is a mystery to me – and split equally between UC, CSU, community colleges, and K-12 schools); 22% to clean energy projects and research (think Solyndra and Fisker); 15% to counties for infrastructure and public health and safety services, and the last 3% to state parks, where massive secret piles of cash have been squirreled away.

After 10 years, the revenue split would be 80% to education, 15% to counties, and 5% to state parks.

I know what you’re thinking. Opponents will point out that this will lead to a 9.5% increase in California’s energy prices, which are already among the highest in the nation, leading to the quick death of this new tax and spend scheme.

Not so fast. The sponsors of this bit of demented direct democracy have that covered, writing this into the Proposition:

Prohibits passing tax on to consumers through higher fuel prices.

Until the proposition language is released, it’s anyone’s guess how that can be constitutional – and if it is, how fuel producers can stay in business if they can’t pass the tax through to consumers.

Education is already California’s #1 expenditure, consuming well over 40 percent of general fund revenues. For all that, our K-12 schools are perpetually in the near-cellar of schools nationwide. Only a tax and spend addict would ignore the need for systemic reform and come up with a scheme to put even more money into the broken system.

Who would think that way? How about UC Berkeley students? They’re the ones who wrote the act, which is officially sponsored by Harrison “Jack” Tibbetts, who now carries the lofty title of Campaign Manager, Californians for Responsible (i.e., “No”) Economic Development, but whose only other job was being an intern at the World Forum on the Future of Sport Shooting Activities.

If you’d like to share your thoughts about taxing oil and spending it on schools, you can call Jack at (707) 495-7438.

 

Brown Gives Up, Returns to Zen

April 1, 2013 – Crazifornia heard today from credible sources that Jerry Brown will soon resign as governor and return to his earlier pursuit of Nirvana somewhere other than Sacramento.

“If I can’t push California at least a little bit in the right direction – and Lord knows, I haven’t – then no one can,” Brown told our source, who ran into the soon-to-be-ex-governor Saturday at a coffee shop in Williams, California, near the governor’s Colusa ranch .

Jerry Brown meditating at his Colusa ranch.

Jerry Brown meditating at his Colusa ranch.

We’re told Brown continued, “The very thought that I considered myself capable of fixing California is an indication that I am lost in my ego. It’s time to move my inner being out of Sacramento and back to a simpler way, so it’s bye-bye bogus budgets and last-minute legislation and hello mediation mat.”

We called two prominent California politicos with the news and found them shocked, but respectful of Brown’s ability to at least appear he’s doing more than most recent governors toward improving California’s desperate condition.

“Sure, he promoted the high speed rail fiasco in spite of all logic and his attack on public employee pensions was more of an ‘excuse me’ than the needed frontal assault, but he was better than Gray Davis,” said state GOP leader Jim Brulte in one of the best examples of damning by faint praise we’ve heard recently.

Senate president pro tem (and likely candidate to replace Brown) Darryl Steinberg told us, “I had to fight Jerry from time to time because he kept trying to look too much like he was actually trying to do something to slow down our union, trial lawyer and trust fund baby benefactors, but even so, he was better than Schwarzenegger.”  Wow – faint praise seems to be the new trend in Sacramento!

We expect Steinberg, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsome and two or three hundred other hangers on, goof balls and wannabes will run for the vacant seat in a special election currently scheduled for October 31.

Right Direction? Wrong Direction?

What’s up with Californians?

A new Field Poll of California registered voters reveals that 48% of them say the state is heading in on the right track. That’s not a majority, but it’s a plurality, as just 44% believe the state is going in the wrong direction. (That’s my bunch, in case you were wondering.) The usual six percent is too stupid to know which way anything is going.

wrong wayIt wasn’t that long ago, May 2011, when two thirds of Californians felt the state was headed in the wrong direction, according to PPIC. Have things really gotten that better?

It may look that way. There was no big budget fight this year. A lot thought that was a real breakthrough for the better. But it was just because the Democrats had more than enough votes to pass it, given the newly passed 50 percent (instead of 2/3) threshold for that vote. And lately the Gov has been crowing about all the new money that’s coming in since the voters passed the Prop 30 tax hikes in November.

I make the case that the Field Poll number is an indication things are actually getting worse. Think about it. In the November election Barack Obama got over 60 percent of the California vote compared to Mitt Romney’s 37 percent, and in 2010 Jerry Brown beat Republican Meg Whitman by almost 13 points. So it’s clear: California has a ton of Democrats. And the Dems own the governor’s office, the State Senate and the State Assembly.

And what do we know about those hoards of Democrats? They’re the ones responsible for California’s high taxes, deep debt, anti-business policies, expensive over-regulation and unsustainable kowtowing to public employee labor unions. All of that has been, and will continue to, send California off in the wrong direction.

And really, since the Democrats so dominate the state’s demographics and politics, 60 percent of the people should think the state is headed in the right direction.  The fact that it’s just 48 percent tells us a lot of Democrats are smarter than the state’s Democrat Party.

Like I said, I’m with the 44 percent on this one. So is CalWatchdog, which sums up the reasons very well:

Brown’s promised that, if voters approved the Prop. 30 tax increases and he cut spending, his 2013-14 state budget would achieve a budget surplus of $851 million – the first surplus in a decade.  …

But yesterday, Brown began negotiations for new contracts with the public-worker unions that represent 350,000 state workers — engineers, administrative staff, librarians, corrections officers and more. The contracts are due to expire this summer.

Even though the average state worker’s salary in California is $70,777, nearly $16,000 higher than the national average, these unions expect a big pay raise for providing the millions of dollars for campaign ads and thousands of campaign foot soldiers that caused the passage Prop. 30.  Brown has already promised to “restore” $817.6 million in pay in the current budget, offer $502.1 million of 2 percent to 5 percent pay raises next year and add coverage for higher health care costs.

He indicated executive branch salaries also will increase nearly 10 percent, to $15.7 billion.  None of these increases includes the $10 billion increase I estimate that is required to keep the current state pension system solvent.

The state of California is now facing an even bigger crisis than before the passage of Prop. 30.  It’s now feeling the economic impacts of the highest state sales tax at 7.5 (even higher in come counties), top income tax rate of 13.3 percent and second-highest gasoline tax at $.67 per gallon.

As those higher taxes kick in, expect tax receipts to drop as capital moves out of state to seek lower tax rates elsewhere. (The Laffer Curve)  Brown & Co. will have spent the temporary largess instead of putting it away for the inevitable rainy day, and we’ll be worse off than before the tax hikes.

I really hate being a pessimist. I’m really a very positive guy. It’s just hard to keep smiling and whistling cheerily when you write about California.

The Crazifornia Propositions Voter Guide

Uglies, Goodies and Don’t Bother Me’s make the Crazifornia Proposition Voter Guide a Must!

When I was interviewed by The Weekly Standard for an upcoming article about this November’s flock of Crazifornia ballot initiatives, that’s how I categorized them: “Five uglies, four goodies and two don’t bother me’s.” (I’m still not sure how to spell that last one!) Coming up with that summary took hours of research, which you can save yourself with The Crazifornia Propositions Voter Guide.

Here are my recommendations, in ballot order, with those in red being the most critical:

Prop 30 – Ugly

It’s hard to even get by the name of this one – Temporary  Taxes to Fund Education, Guaranteed Local Public Safety Funding – without uttering that most common of election season bromides, “How stupid do they think we are?”

This proposition’s position at the top of the ballot is the result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s strong-arming of the system to gain advantage, and that pretty much sums up this initiative. Its advertising campaign is basically strong-arming, too; picture an image of a sweet classroom teacher with a gun to her head and the slogan, “Pay up or the teacher dies!” Brown could have linked passage of his tax  hike to the jobs of bureaucrats, regulators and tax-collectors instead of teachers, but we know how that would turn out.

If Proposition 30 passes, California will have the highest income taxes of all 50 states, and its already secure ranking as the state with the highest sales tax will become more secure.  California spends three times more per capita on social welfare programs than it should, based on national per capita averages. It doesn’t need more revenue, it needs more disciplined spending. Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Closing steadily at 50.8 yes, 39.9 no. We might still defeat this one!

Prop 31 -  Goodie

If the LA Times is against it, we must be for it. This latest effort from California Forward would create a two-year budget cycle for the state in order to reduce end-of-the-session craziness (I doubt the craziness would disappear, but still like the idea of taking more time with budgeting), require the legislature to find off-setting cuts for any new expenditure of $25 million or more, require performance reviews of all state programs, plus a few other good ideas.

The LA Times doesn’t like it because “it could only be revised by another vote of the people.” Exactly! Leave it to the legislature and they’ll be back to their old tricks in no time.  Vote YES, but note that OC Supervisor John Moorlach, a leader in the fight for fiscal responsibility let me know he’s voting no because it “forecloses on the Laffer curve” by limiting the legislature’s ability to enact tax decreases. Like all things from California Forward, 31 is a mixed bag.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: About one-third are still undecided so this one could still flip. Yes: 30.7, no 37.8

Prop 32: Goodie

Here’s another run at “paycheck protection” or curtailing the power of unions (and corporations) to mandate paycheck deductions used for campaigning and lobbying. Of course, corporations don’t do mandatory payroll deductions for lobbying, so clarity demands saying that this is an effort to curtail union power.

And it needs to be curtailed if California is every going to gain the fiscal sensibility it must gain to become healthy once again. Public employee unions own Sacramento now, as just the two biggest public union funders of lobbying in Sacramento spend more than the pharmaceutical industry, PG&E, Chevron and ATT&T combined.

The unions are spending really big to stop Prop 32, contributing nearly $60 million thus far. Until Charles Munger responded with a $23 million contribution in support, opponents had outraised supporters five to one. They’re still up by about $13 million.Vote YES

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: A long-running dead heat, with 44.4% yes and 43.8% no.  The 11.5% undecided are going to be barraged with ads from both sides.

Prop 33: Don’t bother me

This is Mercury Insurance CEO George Joseph’s second run at insurance regulation tweaking via the ballot box. Last time around (Prop. 17, 2010), Mercury spent about what they’ve spent this time – $17 million – trying to accomplish the same thing, which is to blah, blah, blah, zzzzz.  I figure they figure they’ll make more than $17 million off higher premiums if it passes.

One reason to vote for it is that Harvey Rosenfield is against it. This is a guy who has milked propositions for millions in personal gain, so I lean toward supporting what he opposes. But this kind of junk shouldn’t be clogging our ballots, so Don’t Vote.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Holding at 54.8% yes, 33.6% no.

Prop 34: Ugly

Propositions, as you’ll learn in Chapter 1 of Crazifornia, were the Progressive’s wet dream of the early 1900s. Prop 34 shows why, as it would take capital punishment off the table in California, thereby moving the state closer to Europe.

Arguments fly on both sides of this longstanding and controversial issue, but here’s one that works for me: If the death penalty is no longer in a prosecutor’s bag of tricks, the number of plea bargains and confessions will drop dramatically. Even with delays that are far too long before sentencing and execution, the chance of taking up residence on death row remains the penultimate bargaining chip. I don’t want it taken away, and neither should anyone else who puts victims and justice ahead of criminals and legal technicalities. Vote No.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Steady and unbelievably tight at 43.9 yes, 44.9 no.

Prop. 35: Don’t bother me

Don’t bother me, but don’t get me wrong. I’m no fan of human trafficking, a subject I wrote passionately about quite frequently in my Cheat-Seeking Missiles days. It’s the sinful side of the human nature played large and its perpetrators will need Christ’s forgiveness; they’re certainly not getting mine.

But why is it on the ballot? Even the inept California legislature has done enough law-passing to discourage the practice and incarcerate the perpetrators. Since it won’t make any difference in the results, Don’t Vote.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 79.7%, no 12.3%.

Prop. 36: Goodie

I was all for the first three-strikes proposition, but it turns out that it had unintended consequences, as so many propositions do. Prop 36 corrects this while keeping the intent of the original proposition intact.

Basically, it separates truly heinous offenders from run of the mill bad guys, with the former still subject to life in prison without parole on their third strike and the others not. California spends way too much on prisons for a lot of reasons, one of which is that we simply have too many prisoners. Let’s save some money by letting some bad but not too bad guys do their crime and serve their time. Vote Yes.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 71.5%, no 17.3%. It looks like even Californians can agree on this one.

Prop. 37: Ugly

If California’s recent voting trend holds, Prop. 37 will pass because it has a lot of corporate money against it. Yes, a big majority of Californians are anti-business and it shows on proposition votes (and when rich Republicans run for state office, right Meg?). And this one has a lot of corporate money flooding the opposition.

But the current Around the Capital Polling Average indicates that might not happen this time. The yes vote is strong at 56.2%, but the no vote is climbing at 32.7%, and a lot of money will be spent on NO ads in the next two weeks.

It made my ugly list because Prop. 37 is the new Prop. 65.  In other words, it was written by trial lawyers for trial lawyers. Like 1986′s Prop. 65, it has a seed of a good idea. Then it was that people shouldn’t be exposed to carcinogenic chemicals without knowing it; now it’s that they shouldn’t be exposed to genetically engineered foods without knowing it. But like 65 was an elaborate ploy to funnel millions of dollars to trial lawyers (almost $500 million to date, in fact), so is Prop 37.

Don’t be fooled. Prop 37 is not about informative labels for you. It’s about label regulations that are so complex that farmers, processors, manufacturers and retailers are bound to make mistakes. And when they do, they’ll be sued by a pack of legal mutants. Vote NO.

Prop. 38: Ugly

Prop. 38 is another tax increase, but with this one the money is earmarked for schools. Why, if 1988′s Prop. 98 guarantees they’ll get over 40% of the general fund anyway? And why, since all that money has done nothing to lift our schools out of the cellar?

Well, it turns out the state legislature routinely steals Prop. 98 money from schools and rarely pays it back. In Crazifornia, I put the current IOU at $3.6 billion. Surprised?

But what good would even $3.6 billion do? At a luncheon yesterday, political mastermind Dan  Schnur quoted a Harvard study that found it would take $1 trillion a year to raise California schools to mere mediocrity if nothing is done beyond money to improve the system.

So let’s force the schools and the legislature to fix education by not giving the schools more money. Let’s force Sacramento to drop regulations that cost school districts $400 million a year to keep up with. Let’s let classrooms get bigger again because we’ve learned that all we’ve gotten from small classrooms is more mediocre teachers. Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: Yes 42.1%, No 47.0%

Prop. 39: Ugly

This one will pass for sure because it taxes the other guy, and Californians don’t mind taxing the other guy, as they do regularly with smokers, drinkers and millionaires. (Hm, strange company there!)

Be that as it may, there are two things wrong with Prop. 39 that definitely make it ugly. First, it taxes business. Yes, they’re out of state businesses, but Californians are more addicted to taxing business than smokers are to cigarettes, drinkers are to booze and millionaires are to … success. They’ve hit bottom. It’s time for an intervention, not another hit.

Second, about half the money raised – a stunning $500 million a year – will go to “create energy efficiency and green energy jobs” in California. Haven’t we had enough Solyndras and A123′s? Vote NO.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: No surprise at 54.2% yes and 30.7% no.

Prop. 40: Goodie

Here’s something more rare than a California gnatcatcher eating an elderberry beetle: A GOP-sponsored proposition that’s polling very favorably. But that may be because it’s just the precursor to the really big vote that will follow.

Prop. 40 would subject the California senate district lines drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission to a vote of the people, with interim boundaries for the next state-wide election set by court-appointed officials. California Democrats smartly and unethically took over the Citizens Redistricting Commission so the boundaries need to be redrawn. This proposition will make that vote possible. Vote YES.

Current Around the Capital Polling Average: 44.2% yes and 25.8% no. It should win, but with 30% undecided, it could still go south.

Crazifornia – Better than California’s Weather?

John Seiler, who was an editorial writer for the libertarian-leaning Orange County Register before taking a gig as managing editor of CalWatchdog, had good things to say about Crazifornia in his recent Amazon review:

I’ve been writing about California for 25 years — for the Orange County Register and for CalWatchDog.com, where I’m now managing editor. This is by far the best description of how California, the Golden State, became Crazifornia — a place only the insane would live in if it weren’t for the incredible weather.

Maybe that explains why there are so many insane politicians here doing so many insane things!