California’s Obamacare Fail

obamacare-computers

California was one of the first states to jump on the Obamacare bandwagon – no surprise there. Why wouldn’t California jump into a huge, untested, expensive new big government scheme? That’s what it does best.

As a result, our version of Obamacare, Covered California, got an early head start. We had more time than most. And the state has more computer brain power than most.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let the OC Register explain:

Covered California is back online this week after software problems caused the state’s health exchange website to go dark for five days. Meanwhile, the site’s directory of participating health care providers remains offline indefinitely.

The five-day outage came at a rather inopportune time as the state had just began a marketing blitz to get un-covered residents to sign up for health insurance by the March 31 deadline to avoid paying a penalty.

Complicating matters is that the online directory of physicians accepting patients through CoveredCA.com was inaccurate to the point of uselessness. Indeed, many of those who relied on the directory enrolled in health care networks thinking they would be keeping their doctor – as President Obama promised – only to find out they were misinformed.

Add Covered California to the long, long list of California’s computer fails. I wrote extensively about them in Crazifornia, and many readers have told me that section of the book was one of the most entertaining … and maddening!

3rd Most Dangerous Californian Makes Bid for #1

Now-retired San Francisco financier Tom Steyer’s flashy entry into Progressive campaign financing earned him Crazifornia’s designation as the third most dangerous Californian. Here’s what we wrote then:

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. 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.

According to a New York Times report, Steyer’s gunning for #1 in this year’s ranking of most dangerous Californians.

A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers. …

In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.

That’s some big money – and Steyer told the NY Times it might be a low-ball estimate compared to what he would spend to influence climate policy. By comparison, the long-established League of Conservation Voters spent about $15 million on campaigns in 2012.

Steyer’s San Francisco-based Next Gen Climate Action political machine is said to be targeting campaigns for Florida governor (GOP incumbent Rick Scott is … gasp! … a climate change skeptic) and Iowa’s Senate race because “a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.”

No word on what Steyer plans to spend in California. But since the state is already certifiably climate-crazed, he just might spend all his money elsewhere.

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.

Special Election Bad News for Dems

FaulconerIn San Diego, Republican Kevin Faulconer trounced his Democrat competition in the special election to replace the corrupt, sex-crazed Democrat former mayor. He’s more than 20 points ahead of his nearest Dem competitor, with ballots left to count. But thus far, he’s secured the vote of just 43.58% of the electorate, so in the runoff, if all the Dems un-splinter themselves from this election’s back-stabbing and show up in equal numbers, they could knock  him off.

That’s some big if’s, so I think  Faulconer will survive to become San Diego’s new mayor. And it’s just great to see Nathan Fletcher, who switched from GOP to Independent to Democrat, apparently coming in third and out of the runoff. If David Alvarez holds on to second, the election will pivot on the state’s tipping point: public employee union power and privilege (Alvarez) vs. conservative efforts to save the state from fiscal ruin (Faulconer).

Susan ShelleyReceiving much less coverage than the San Diego race was a special election in Assembly District 45 – the Democrat-controlled western San Fernando Valley. For this, I’ll turn to a Democrat commentator, Scott Lay, who compiles the daily Nooner summary of State political news:

AD45 (W. San Fernando Valley): Matt Dababneh (D) is holding on to a precarious lead over Susan Shelley (R) in the west San Fernando Assembly seat vacated by now-LA councilmember Bob Blumenfield. Several political observers are spitting out their coffee this morning as they wake up to these results:

MATT DABABNEH (D)

13,258

50.42

SUSAN SHELLEY (R)

13,038

49.58

Democrats have a near 2-to-1 margin in this district, and even if every independent voter joined the Republican party, they still would fall short of Democratic registration. Dababneh had far more resources and virtually all the endorsements. Shelley’s entire campaign down the stretch was about “protecting Prop. 13,” arguing that if Dababneh went to Sacramento he would be part of a two-thirds Democratic majority that might ask the voters to consider changes to the voter threshhold for special taxes or to create a split roll for corporations. …

Nobody knows what is going to happen in AD45. Our standard forecasting would project that late absentees and provisionals reflect election day, although that formula has always given the edge to the more liberal candidate. If we use that formula and ignore that recent tradition, Shelley wins. But, honestly, nobody knows at this point.

Well, I know something: This ain’t the same California it was a few months ago!

Unions’ Assault on Reason Continues

Last month, San Jose’s Democrat mayor Chuck Reed filed paperwork for a statewide ballot measure that would bring some sense and fairness to California’s crazy public employee pension disaster-in-the-making. His idea, co-endorsed by a half dozen other mayors of large California cities (five of them Democrats), is a simple one: Treat public employee unions like private employee unions.

Cities on the brinkSpecifically, his measure, if approved, would lock in benefits already received but would open the door to negotiate changes moving forward. What we’re stuck with may be enough to sink us – about a half trillion dollars of unfunded liability by some accounts – but Reed’s measure could keep us from heaping more and more debt onto our state’s perilous financial condition.

In a bit of diplomacy, Reed asked the unions to meet to discuss the measure. Maybe he thought they would spare California voters the trouble of petition signing and the pain of listening to millions of dollars worth of distorted union commercials opposing the measure. If he thought for a moment public employee unions were ready to start acting responsibly, he couldn’t have been more wrong. In response to his offer, a letter signed by representatives of 17 public employee unions said:

Meaningful dialog can only occur in an environment of trust and sincerity. Your choice, to first introduce this draconian and flawed measure and then invite dialogue, shows a lack of both.

In other words, “Drop dead, Reed!”

What is so flawed about the measure? Well, let’s see what the unions have to say:

As you are well aware, there is a retirement crisis in California.

Yes, we knew that. Over-generous public pensions and benefits are indeed a crisis. A big,  hairy, no-end-in-sight crisis. But that’s not the crisis the unions see.

A study released just this week noted that 42 percent of Americans say that saving money for retirement and paying their bills is not possible; 37 percent say they will never be able to retire, continuing to work until they are sick and die.

Rest assured that not one of those respondents had a CalPERS or CalSTERS pension coming his or her way. No, our public servants masters will be able to retire at 55 or 60 (younger if they’re cops or fire fighters) with a pension that averages over $60,000 a year. The rest of us may work until we get sick and die, but not public employees. Nearly all of them will work until the day they’re fully vested and not a day more.

The unions’ response to reasonable and much-needed curtailment of their gold-plated gravy train is to say they’d like to see all society as loony as they are. They have no plan for attaining this goal, and they are not likely to present a plan anytime soon. they figure all they need, given their history of being able to dupe California’s millions of low-information voters, is a mere flimsy puff of smokescreen just thick enough to divert attention from their greed.

Hopefully even low-information voters are getting smart enough to understand destructive self-interest when they see it. If you know any who aren’t, please send them a copy of Crazifornia.

 

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.

 

The GASB Shoe Falls on California Pension Plans

Pension Crisis StatesFor years, pension hawks like Orange County supervisor John Moorlach have been warning that California’s already toxic public employee pension plan deficits will get much worse once Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) rules take effect. Among other things, the rules will require the big pension plans like CalPERS and the teachers’ plan CalSTERS to use more realistic projections for the returns they will earn on their investments. Now we know how much more toxic:

New government accounting rules will more than double the pension debt reported by CalSTRS, boosting an “unfunded liability” that is now about $71 billion to a newly calculated “Net Pension Liability” of $166.9 billion.

The CalSTRS board was told last week that it’s unclear whether the new liability figure will be reported by the state or spread among school districts, where more than doubling current debt might lower credit ratings and drive up borrowing costs.

If the “Net Pension Liability” is distributed among employers, the reported total debt of a typical small-enrollment school district might jump from $21 million to $49 million and the debt of a typical large district from $280 million to $728 million.

Neither the state nor the school districts have been including CalSTRS debt in their financial statements. The new accounting rules call for pension debt to be added to employer balance sheets. [CalPensions]

GASB exists to end of the sort of accounting shenanigans described here, including projecting investment returns well above those earned by Warren Buffett and this: “Neither the state  nor the school districts have been including CalSTRS debt in their financial statements.” This practice is, to use an accounting term, insane. The state and the school districts know they will be hit with hugely higher pension costs unless the current pension debt isn’t zeroed out by either (1) most retirees dying tomorrow or (2) the market routinely returning more than 8 percent on all investments, all the time.

The big public employee pension plans are required to switch to GASB rules in this year’s financial reporting, and employers whose employees are covered by the plans – your city, your county, your school district – must make the switch in their 2014 reports.

Look for two things: First, the unions will blame it all on “just a change in accounting rules,” even if those rules exist to create more accurate reports, and second, government at all levels will be coming at you with tax  hike proposals.

Abominations Dodged, Abominations Passed

Photo: Josh Arason

Photo: Josh Arason

The Legislature has wrapped up its work, passing on a passel of truly bad bills to Gov. Brown, who will sign most of them. A few truly abominable bills didn’t pass, thankfully. Here’s the rundown:

Abominations Passed

California is on its way to once again having the most onerous gun control laws in the nation, as these bills passed:

  • SB 374 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento — would add all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines to the state’s list of banned assault weapons.
  • SB 475 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco — would ban gun shows at the Cow Palace exhibition hall for all intents and purposes, since its requires approval from San Francisco and San Mateo supervisors for such shows.
  • SB 683 by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego — would require owners of long guns to earn safety certificates like those already required of handgun owners.
  • AB 48 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — would ban conversion kits that allow people to turn regular magazines into high-capacity magazines.
  • AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland — would give Oakland an exemption from state pre-emption so it can pass its own stricter gun registration or licensing statutes.
  • AB 711 by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate — would ban use of lead ammunition in hunting. One of my clients, Tejon Ranch, jumped the gun on this one (pardon the pun), banning lead ammo a number of years ago in order to protect condors from lead poisoning they were getting from consuming lead shot in carrion they were eating. That’s great, truly, but I worry that anti-gun forces now have an easy lift to find reasons to ban copper and other types of ammo as well.

Other abominations:

  • Planned Parenthood-sponsored AB 154, would allow nurses, midwives and other non-doctor medical professionals to perform abortions in Planned Parenthood clinics – saving the big abortion group big bucks – and elsewhere.
  • AB 10 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville — would hike the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $9 next July and to $10 in January 2016. Gov. Brown has signaled enthusiasm for this bill, which (natch) will give California the highest minimum wage in the land,. And that will make California less competitive. Fortunately, an indexing provision that would have resulted in automatic increases was dropped.
  • SB 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas — would impose regulations on fracking and other alternative means of extracting oil and gas. Most fracking in California occurs 1,000 feet or so below aquifers, so the risk of damage by fracking is tiny compared to the economic benefits fracking will bring. Greens opposed this bill because they thought it didn’t go far enough, but they needn’t  worry: This is California where regulations just get tougher and tougher, until they go far beyond what logic and science would dictate.
  • AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco — the TRUST Act, would partially withdraw California’s cooperation in the federal Secure Communities deportation program. The California Immigrant Policy Center, which would like to see illegal immigrants treated as citizens (at a minimum), loves the bill: “The TRUST Act limits cruel and costly requests from immigration authorities to detain people in local jails for extra time, and local expense, just for deprotation [sic] purposes.” In other words, lawful jailing of illegal immigrants pending deportation is now unlawful in California.
  • More notoriously on the immigration front, AB 60 by Alejo would let illegal immigrants living in California obtain driver’s licenses. Brown has signaled he will sign it, which would break his campaign pledge to fight drivers licenses for illegals. Another slide down the slippery slope to no borders.

Abominations on Ice

Before popping open the champagne, remember that any of these bills not passed by the Legislature could come back next year – and several likely will:

These gun control bills didn’t make it on their first try:

  • SB 47 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco — would have banned “bullet buttons” that allow fast swapping of rifle magazines.
  • SB 53 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles — would have required background checks for ammunition purchases.
  • SB 396 by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley — would have forced Californians to give up all ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, no matter when they were bought. Its a short step from being forced to turn in your gun components to being forced to turn in your guns.

Also on ice:

  • One of the worst bills of the session, SB 323 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, didn’t make it this year. It would have revoked the tax-exempt status of any “public charity youth organization,” such as the Boy Scouts, that discriminates on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality or religion.
  • Some may think I’m out of my gourd saying SB 135 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys  is an abomination, since it would require that the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services develop a comprehensive earthquake early-warning system. What could be wrong with that? Well, for starters, there currently is no feasible earthquake early-warning system to install. It would be smarter to watch China and Japan, which are dumping billions into developing a system, to see if they come up with something that works. If they do, we can copy it and save the billions California would waste on overwrought systems that don’t work, as is our tradition.
  • AB 976 by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego — would have allowed the California Coastal Commission to impose fines. The Commission is, as I wrote in Crazifornia, already the Star Chamber of the coast. More power is something it does not need.

The Democrats and their friends in the media insist on calling this session a moderate one, saying they restrained themselves from charting too Progressive a course in order to protect their chances in 2014′s elections. So, this mess is moderate, Crazifornia style.

 

[source]

 

The “California Miracle” Media Frenzy

Rolling Stone BomberRolling Stone, the music magazine with a longstanding hard-left view of politics (infamously evidenced by the accompanying cover), has gone mainstream.

Like dozens of mainstream media before it, it is hero-worshiping Jerry Brown, praising him for the “miraculous” economic rebound California is enjoying. Before we question how miraculous it may be, let’s let Tim Dickenson, the author of “Jerry’ Brown’s Tough-Love Miracle” in the current issue of Rolling Stone, explain just what Jerry’s pulled off:

America’s shrewdest elder statesmen blazed a best-worst way out of California’s economic morass. With a stiff cocktail of budget cuts and hard-won new taxes, Brown has not only zeroed out the deficit, he’s also begun paying down the debt. “Jerry Brown’s leadership is a rebuttal to the failed policies of Republicans in Washington,” says Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress. “California is proving you can have sane tax systems, raise revenues, eliminate structural deficits and have economic growth.”

Fed up with the state’s own obstructionist Republicans, California voters have even given Brown a Democratic supermajority in the state legislature. As a result, the Golden State is now reasserting itself as a proving ground for the kind of bold ideas that Republicans have roadblocked in Washington – including a cap-and-trade carbon market, high-speed rail and education-funding reform.

Nobody moveAs an obstructionist Republican myself, I understand the courage it takes – and ridicule it engenders – to stand in front of a run-away train like California, hold up your measly skin-and-bone hand against the juggernaut, and scream “Halt!” I get the motivation behind trying to stop giving the state more money to spend when it has such a robust history of blowing through every penny it’s got and having less to show for it than a sailor waking up with a crippling hangover and a budding case of the clap.

Be that as it may, Dickenson is right. California voters did give the Democrats a super-majority, which in turn gives Brown everything he needs to create his legacy. Republican-weary journalists around the nation responded joyfully to last November’s election results, heralding a turn-around in California with stories that, like Dickenson’s are designed to mute small government, anti-tax Republicans everywhere.

I’m not grumbling about a better California economy – far from it. When the unemployment rate falls from 12.5 percent to 8.7 percent, as California’s has, it means formerly desperate people are getting by again, children are eating better, and businesses are getting back customers they lost. (It also means a lot of Californians gave up on the state and left for more job-friendly places, of course, but why bother pointing that out?) What I’m grumbling about is how rose-tinted Dickenson’s glasses are.

He praises Brown on the environment while ignoring how California’s toughest-in-the-nation environmental regulations, along with its Progressive tax structure, drive businesses out of state.

He loves how California is leading the way to Obamacare, while ignoring the fact that major insurers are bailing from the state’s plan, raising questions about its viability.

He gives Brown good marks on education because spending is up, but ignores the fact that California’s schools continue to slide. Eighty-six percent of schools in the state fell short of No Child Left Behind goals this year.

And worst in the world of objective reporting, he fails to mention any of the many troubles that threaten California’s future economic vitality.  The voter-approved 2012 tax hike Brown championed isn’t permanent, so the current bump in revenues will drop in just over three years when the sales tax increase ends, and peter out the following year when the sales tax increase ends.

Meanwhile, Brown is not attending to the state’s fundamental fiscal instability. He isn’t proposing changes to the state’s over-reliance on income taxes on the wealthy. His lifelong fondness of public employee unions is keeping him from addressing the unfunded liabilities the state, its counties and cities carry in their employee pension plans. And his long-running, red-hot love affair with Mother Nature doesn’t bode well for any meaningful effort to make the state less regulated and therefore more business-friendly. In fact, the state’s renewable energy goals and carbon taxes are going to drive up energy costs (we’re already $3.90/kilowatt hour more expensive than the national average) and make electricity less reliable. That will force even more businesses to leave.

Rolling Stone can have its fun and write happily about all the cool stuff that happens when Republicans are minimized to irrelevance. Let’s see how well they cover the impending, inevitable consequences of having too many Democrats in the wheelhouse.