“The Escape Artists,” the new book about the Obama administration’s economic policy-making, has an amazing story about who’s responsible for the decision to dump tens of billions of dollars in federal stimulus money into bullet-train debacles. One Chris Reed, writing at Cal Watchdog, has all the details.
Here we go again. As frenzied as the tax-hike obsessives have been in recent months and years, Jerry Brown’s weekend warning that the 2012-13 budget is $16 billion short is sure to ramp up their intensity. So get ready for the media/Dem onslaught, folks, and prepare to be reviled.
Will Jerry Brown get lots of blame for his $4-billion-in-extra-revenue fantasy that he concocted last June? It’s made a dire situation much worse.
After Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher got national attention for self-righteously quitting the GOP to pursue the San Diego mayor’s seat as an independent, it was inevitable that Arnold Schwarzenegger would write an L.A. Times op-ed patting himself on the back for being a constructive non-Neanderthal maverick Republican. Years before he was fine-tuning the constructive maverick narrative for Fletcher, political guru Matt David was doing it for John McCain, Arnold and Jon Huntsman. But the problem for Schwarzenegger is what he leaves out of his op-ed — his assault on the Sacramento establishment from 2003-2005 — and what he leaves in — implied championing of three of the left’s biggest boondoggles: Obamacare, green jobs and the bullet train. If I were Fletcher, I’m not sure I’d want to be linked to Arnold.
Some 225 years ago, when empress Catherine the Great visited the Crimea region, legend has it that a Russian public official named Potemkin ordered construction of “villages” that looked great from afar but were actually just facades. Think the fake small town the good guys built in “Blazing Saddles.” Now many California school districts are beginning their Potemkin village-ization. To cover compensation costs that top 90 percent or more of operating budgets, everything must go until there are just facades of schools left. Everything must go, that is, but pay and pensions for veteran and retired teachers.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s offbeat request last week on his Facebook page for the public to tell him what to write about in his pending memoirs got the result he wanted: lots of attention. “More than 2,000 people responded: Talk about bodybuilding, your childhood and your time on movie sets, they wrote,” said an account in the Sacramento Bee. “Talk about politics. And sex.” But the former governor’s upcoming book is unlikely to truthfully detail perhaps the most profound and far-reaching action of Schwarzenegger’s life: his decision to betray Californians and saddle their economy with a permanent burden because of his determination to be remembered as a green icon.
A credible media figure (i.e., not George Skelton) has emerged to defend Democratic lawmakers’ “pensions for all” proposal. SB 1234 would require private sector employees to pay 3 percent of their wages into a low-risk pension fund in return for a small guaranteed retirement benefit. In Prop Zero, Joe Mathews took issue with my description of the plan as “baked.” I think the first reaction of most people would be fury over the fact they were being forced to take a 3 percent pay cut to fund a novel, untested state program they had no reason to trust. Joe said my reaction and those of other critics was understandable but “completely backward.” Yo, Joe, say it ain’t so. Yo, Joe, when it comes to SB 1234, I like my side’s odds.
Ed Mendel continues to break more juicy stories about CalPERS than the rest of the state media combined. Along with the Dans (Weintraub and Borenstein), he will be a first-ballot inductee in the Golden State Pension Coverage Hall of Fame. His latest scoop shows CalPERS officials being more honest than they’ve ever been, worrying that a big economic downturn could drive the giant pension agency down to just 40 percent of necessary funding. So why does CalPERS keep cranking out the happy talk and disinformation on its calpersresponds.com website? This, as the kids say, is wack.
The national media have devoted plenty of skeptical attention to California’s bullet-train boondoggle—from the ballooning cost of the California High-Speed Rail Authority project to its shoddy management to the baffling decision to build the first segment in the lightly populated Central Valley. But the press has yet to focus on a crucial fact: the bullet train isn’t just some quirky Left Coast fiasco; it’s also a grotesque waste of federal money. The project serves as a powerful reminder of the Obama administration’s mishandling of the $787 billion stimulus that Congress passed in February 2009 with solemn assurances of prudence and accountability. The bullet-train project, in fact, can be thought of as “Solyndra times seven”—that’s how far its costs outstrip those of the much-touted Bay Area solar panel manufacturer that burned through $528 million in federal loans before declaring bankruptcy and folding last September.
This Sacramento Bee story pointing out that local governments in its region spent more propping up failing public employee pension plans than it would cost to build the Kings a new arena is interesting because it points to a part of the pension debacle that never gets enough attention. A central argument against public spending on sports facilities is that they’re simply not necessities and that they amount to giveaways to the politically connected. The exact same thing is true of ludicrously generous pensions. With the possible exception of police, they’re just not necessary to attract and retain public employees.
After Jerry Brown mocked Senate President Darrell Steinberg last fall for pushing the latest “siren song of school reform,” the gov went on to tout local control as a better way than the current emphasis on student testing and teacher accountability. Here and elsewhere, I’ve pointed out the obvious — in effect, if not in words, what Brown wants is tantamount to a return to the old days of how public education operated. Yo, Jerry: K-12 schools way back when were so dysfunctional that it triggered the broad education reform movement that you now consider a trendy failure, including the misfire that is No Child Left Behind. I’ve been waiting …. and waiting … and waiting … for someone else in the media to figure this out. Now someone has, and lordy lordy, it’s former Sac Bee editorial page editor Peter Schrag, one of the most respected establishment voices on education.