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.
The key passage from “Escape Artists” is here:
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.
The fifth anniversary of the massive Stanford-led studies of California public schools is upon us, and once again, the special interests are characterizing the report as focusing on a lack of resources. Unlike the reporters who are now writing about “Getting Down to Facts,” I actually read about a thousand pages of the reports. And as I wrote back in 2007, buried in all the multiple studies, here is the lead: A review of all California school districts shows “essentially no relationship between spending and student outcomes” and that spending more is futile until “extensive and systemic reforms” are in place. In other words, the problem is much more about the stupid way money is spent than the lack of money.
From 2001-2009, many people on the left and more than a few on the right and in libertarian circles warmed to the argument that one reason George W. Bush was such a disappointing president was because he lived in a bubble, surrounded by yes men. When is the rest of California going to figure out that almost all of Sacramento is in a bubble? Exit polls after the May 19, 2009, special election showed Dems, Republicans and independents alike hated the higher taxes pushed by the Sacramento media-political establishment. Yet inside the Sacramento bubble, the columnist for the most influential newspaper writes that it is “hard to find anyone” who doesn’t think tax hikes should now be shoved down voters’ throats. And the governor whose own tax hike power play would callously put schools at risk unless income and sales taxes are increased by a November ballot measure goes on national TV to suggest that only Republican “cult” members are opposed. Yo, George Skelton! Yo, Jerry Brown! Who says the public is on your side?
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.
In 1978, Howard Jarvis launched the U.S. anti-tax movement in California with Proposition 13, which capped annual increases in property taxes and kept people from being forced from their homes during real-estate bubbles. A generation later, the Golden State could be on the brink of launching another populist movement, one driven by anger over government compensation practices. A key battleground is San Diego. In June, voters will decide on Proposition B, the Comprehensive Pension Reform Initiative. It would end defined-benefit pensions for all new city hires except for police officers, instead providing pensions similar to 401(k)s. It would prevent pay sweeteners from being added to base salary when calculating pensions, and it would require city workers to pay a bigger share of their pension costs. Finally, Prop. B would mandate a five-year salary freeze.
The narrative that held the California High-Speed Rail Authority had finally figured out a smart path forward thanks to the stewardship of new board Chairman Dan Richard took a huge hit last week when the authority abruptly reversed course and said it would include Orange County after all in its first phase. So much for new realism and new austerity. This week, Richard’s rep took another hit with his bizarre likening of the bullet train fiasco to a Southern California Association of Governments’ long-term plan that has all kinds of dedicated funding sources. Yo, Dan: We’re paying attention. Acting confident and aggressively trying to cow journalists who pose tough questions can only take you so far. At some point, everyone will figure out you’re still putting lipstick on a pig.
Smart new essay in Cal Watchdog:
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.