For a sharp and historically informed analysis of the pension follies of state Democratic lawmakers, no one is going to top Jerry Roberts’ and Phil Trounstine’s piece on Calbuzz.
Let’s be blunt. Democrats, whose political livelihoods have steadily and increasingly become dependent on union money since Jerry Brown in his first term signed the legislation that gave state employees collective bargaining rights, are terrified of moving an inch on pensions without permission and marching orders from the labor groups that finance their campaigns.
For years, I whined on my old blog about the lazy way that most Sacramento reporters covered the state budget — specifically, all the stories that accepted the union/Democratic establishment premise that state spending had to go up 6 percent or 8 percent a year, or else spending was being “cut.” It wasn’t the George Skeltons of the world who tried to take me to the woodshed for my stupidity. It was Dan Walters, who is infinitely less predictable than Skelton or his colleague Dan Morain. He wrote a Feb. 26, 2009, column that basically said I was a dolt serving up right-wing talking points. (I can’t find it online any more, alas.)
I sincerely admire Keith Olbermann as a sportscaster and baseball columnist/seamhead. But on and off over the years, I’ve sent him notes saying I can’t understand the contrast between his thoughtful analysis of baseball and his ridiculously predictable political analysis, which routinely beatifies all those who share his lefty views and Nazifies those with whom he disagrees. I’ve also bloggedabout him.
It was good to be back on the radio with Martha Montelongo of Gadfly Radio. Go here if you want to hear the podcast.
That link should be good until Tuesday morning.
For fans of my 2009-2011 show on KOGO 600 AM in San Diego, I have some news. I will have a weeknight show on the U-T TV cable channel in San Diego, probably an hour long, probably debuting in early summer. More info TK.
The people running CalPERS constantly pat themselves on the back even as they join in a dishonest effort to downplay the pension crisis with disinformation and shady accounting. This is just what their most powerful patrons — public employee unions — want them to do. But the “social justice” set of the political left, which nominally includes unions, is also a victim of CalPERS’ arrogance and incompetence. It turns out that CalPERS basically ignored directions from the Legislature that it divest its investments in firms involved in the Sudan genocide, one of the dearest causes of the celebrity and campus left. That’s my CalPERS!
The idea that unions are a bad influence on California is hardly just a conclusion of folks on the right. In 2005, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Prop. 75, saying barring the automatic deduction of union dues from public employees’ pay would lead to a fairer balance of power at the local and state government level. The Sacramento Bee editorial page has gone after unions for being unreasonable for years; here’s a recent example. Unions are so out of control that it barely raises eyebrows when union officials and allies like state Dem Party leader John Burton advocate a policy that would prevent giving anti-convulsion drugs to kids at risk of death if the person doing the giving isn’t a union nurse. But guess who completely absolves unions? The Calbuzz boys, whose writing style/shtick builds off the idea that they’re smarter than everybody, and the L.A. Times’ George Skelton, dean of Sacramento journos. Really, guys? Not a single mention of unions in your recent dissections of California’s dysfunction? Not one? Wow.
“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.
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.
Tuesday’s tentative court ruling that the Legislature had the sole authority to determine whether the budget it enacts is “balanced” is terrible news for California because it means Proposition 25 — the 2010 measure allowing state spending plans to pass on a simple majority of the Assembly and Senate — has no enforcement mechanism to prevent fake budgets from being treated as balanced. We’re likely to be on an even faster road to ruin as a result. But if you’re looking for a reason to smile, remember this: The guy who tried to rein in the Legislature and force it to produce more honest budgets is Controller John Chiang. So much for Chiang’s political future. The failure of his single major attempt to do right by California’s public — as opposed to its public employees — has a delicious double whammy effect. It’s now once again certain that the right (and taxpayers who follow the news) will never forgive his union duplicity. But unions will never forgive Chiang for his betrayal. Next stop for Chiang? May I be the first to quote the great Margita Thompson one-liner about Cruz Bustamante and suggest the union-defying Chiang has a future as a casino greeter.