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.)
“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.
The key passage from “Escape Artists” is here:
Here’s a sharp Cal Watchdog analysis by one “Chris Reed” of how Orange County’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy was so unique that it doesn’t offer much in the way of lessons for local governments now considering bankruptcy — but that the aftermath of Orange County’s quick recovery from bankruptcy offers painful lessons for voters dumb enough to believe their leaders have a learning curve:
How rich: George Skelton of the L.A. Times, the crafter and enforcer of Sacramento’s reliably wrong conventional wisdom, has some 2012 resolutions he wants California journalists to follow. George instructs his lessers about taking policy more seriously; about why the Democratic reactionaries who support policies that are objectively anti-minority are liberals, not progressives; and about journos’ need to adopt the CTA talking point that reform is a chimera, so let’s worship the broken K-12 status quo. Coming a week after an amazing Skelton column in which he said it was “hard to find anyone” who didn’t think tax hikes should be shoved down voters’ throats, this confirms the Golden State’s most influential print columnist is both 1) in the tank for the Democratic establishment, and 2) in a bubble surrounded by like-minded people who never point out obvious truths or inconvenient contrary facts.
For years, I’ve gotten emails from retired teachers who accuse me of making things up about CalSTRS being in poor shape financially. Why? Because the newsletters from the nation’s second-largest pension fund pretend all is well — and because the Sacramento media basically went along with this crock for years. Now the head of CalSTRS finally admits that disaster looms, with 30 years of pain the result. It’s time for Sacramento journalists who covered CalSTRS back in 2006 to make like Otter and admit the following to their California readers: “You f—-ed up. You trusted us.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech at the climate change conference last Thursday was overshadowed by Gov. Jerry Brown’s red-meat speech for green true believers, but it was a piece of work — 20 minutes or so of him telling the crowd how great he was because of AB 32 and how great they were for thinking he was great. In addressing climate change, the rest of the world doesn’t “have to have any debates — just follow California,” Arnold said. “Going green is great for the economy. It’s great for job creation.” Groan. Where are all the ballyhooed “fact check” journalists on junk like this? Shouldn’t the recent reports in The New York Times and The Washington Post finally embolden the rest of the media to hold greens to the same standards as other powerful groups?
I’ve whined for years about how poor a job California media have done in reporting on UC tuition issues. Every increase is depicted as an assault on students from low-income families. That’s bunk, at least if they sign up for an extremely generous program that is well-promoted on UC campuses, if not in the broader state media. Pretty much alone among state reporters in consistently mentioning this program is Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle. Her article today once again points out realities that just about no one else in the California print media ever brings up.
NOTE, 1 p.m.: Lockyer aide’s response is now posted at the end of this item. So Stanford professor Joe Nation — a former state lawmaker with impeccable liberal credentials — and Stanford researchers put out a report that looks at the unfunded liabilities for the state’s three-largest pension agencies — CalPERS, CalSTRS and the University of California Retirement Plan. So the Stanford team uses slightly less rosy scenarios on future returns than the pension agencies and comes up with an estimate of nearly $300 billion in underfunding. Then it uses a more conservative, safer estimate of future returns that puts the unfunded liability at $498 billion. This sort of analysis is prudent, given that CalPERS, CalSTRS and UC pension officials have proven they can’t be trusted. So how does state Treasurer Bill Lockyer respond? By quitting the Stanford research team’s advisory board in a huff. Yo, Bill, that’s so Maviglian. Yo, BIll, that’s so 2008. Yo, Bill, how is it helpful to pretend the pension tsunami’s not real?
When Rudy Bermudez served in the Assembly, the L.A. County politician was so dedicated to the interests of the prison guards union that some joked the usual description after his name in news stories should be “Bermudez, D-CCPOA,” not “Bermudez, D-Norwalk.” With his announcement this week that he would insist on another phony budget in 2012-13 based on future revenue that is iffy at best, Gov. Jerry Brown increasingly looks like a much-more powerful version of Bermudez – except his favored unions are the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers.
The pepper-spraying of the passive UC Davis students last month was a stomach-turning abuse of police authority, which I think is far more common than most Americans believe. Cellphone videos turn up daily showing people with authority acting badly, and the UC Davis cops deserve strong punishment. That said, the proliferation of investigations into an incident that was caught on tape and that involved a handful of officers and their bosses has become a self-parody of the labored, bureaucratic way that liberal institutions fall all over themselves to send out the loudest possible message: We care about this very very much and we’re just going to keep throwing money and resources at this until you understand we care about this very very much!