Reports that Jerry Brown is receptive to a bill that would allow school districts to avoid state-mandated cuts in bus services means the issue may fade in the short term. But it appears that unions and California Democrats who want to punish Republican lawmakers for opposing tax hikes may have found a lever to do so going forward. Banning school districts from paying for bus service can amount to a nightmarish, life-changing ordeal for parents in rural, spread-out, mostly Republican districts, much more so than for families in urban Democratic areas. And it’s a punishment that they can get away with, unlike more broadly punitive ideas touted by Treasurer Bill Lockyer and Senate President Darrell Steinberg in April 2011.
Like 99.9 percent of the California media, I’m not keeping all that good tabs on the implementation of AB 32′s cap-and-trade system under which companies will buy and sell their pollution rights as part of the state’s forced shift to cleaner but costlier energy. I may have written about it Sunday partly to make fun of Jerry, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert. So what does California’s implementation look like to someone who understands the issues? It looks stalled — maybe permanently. This is from the respected SoberLook.com economics web site:
According to legendary psychoanalyst Erik Erikson, a crucial stage of individual development comes from ages 5 to 13, as kids begin to develop complex interpretive skills and moral values and learn the importance of being industrious and serious of purpose. They leave childish fantasy, stubbornness and denial behind, adjusting to the world as it really is. Which brings me to Senate President Darrell Steinberg: Was he locked in a pantry from age 5 to 13? In asserting that only the “far right” want profound changes to public employee pensions, Steinberg is displaying a level of fantasy and denial more appropriate to a kindergartner than a powerful political leader. Yo, Darrell: A December PPIC poll shows 68 percent of the public backs switching new public employees to 401(k)-type benefits — including 64 percent of public employees!
Three months ago, Jerry Brown was winning praise from state journos for naming savvy people to the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority who were much more honest about the numbers and the project in general, especially this guy. This had Sacramento speculating he was setting the stage for the bullet train’s demise, as this new honesty produced a jaw-dropping new $98 billion cost estimate for a statewide system that didn’t even reach San Diego or Sacramento. Now Jerry is mocking the cost estimate as too high and saying the proceeds from cap-and-trade will help pay for the bullet train. Has Jerry been smoking PCP? Is this a first sign that we’re about to witness our governor’s ugly public descent into senescence? One way or the other, this much it’s obvious: It’s time to revive Gov. Moonbeam as a nickname. Unless this is some sort of freaky iPhone 5 Zen triangulation, Jerry appears to have lost his mind.
Several times a year, reports evaluating the 50 states come out that consistently rate California near the bottom when it comes to business-friendliness, whereupon defenders of the status quo say, well, what do you expect from right-wing groups who don’t like the politics of the Golden State? The same scenario played out recently, when Gil Duran, Jerry Brown’s spokesman, dismissed a report by the Tax Foundation that ranked California 48th out of 50 states: “This is a partisan group funded by conservative foundations and its assertions must be taken with a grain of salt.” Groan. In a key way, this reflects the same stupidity of the birthers who insist that Barack Obama wasn’t born in Hawaii in August 1961 even if there was a birth announcement in the local papers just after it happened. Why? Because it requires a belief in truly idiotic conspiracy theories.
Lots of cities in America have problems, but is there one anywhere that has the combination of nightmares seen in this California burg? Its schools were declared insolvent in 2003 and the district will be under state oversight until 2023 — at least. Its streets are home to the most chaotic and anarchistic Occupy protests in America. Its unemployment rate was estimated at a staggering 16 percent last year. And now comes news that a judge tired of its police department’s years of misconduct and brutality is contemplating a federal takeover. One would think the guy who was mayor for eight years during this city’s descent into worst-in-the-U.S. status would be a pariah. Nope. Here in California, we call him governor.
Journalist/blogger/think tanker/author Joe Mathews has a piece up at Fox & Hounds Daily on Wednesday that purports to offer a way to revive the rapidly metastasizing bullet train project and shut up one of its whiniest critics. Sorry, Joe, even if the first segment is San Diego-to-Los Angeles, it still runs afoul of state law, federal rules and basic economics — and even if the bullet train were a convenient walk from my front door, I’d still loathe it for how it symbolizes the collective stupidity of the Sacramento media-political establishment.
I have never enjoyed reading a Capitol Alert more that Tuesday’s item about Darrell Steinberg and John Perez suing to prevent the state controller’s office from being able to make state lawmakers honor the clear intent of Proposition 25 and forfeit pay if they could pass a budget on a simple majority vote but didn’t do so by June 15. Why do I enjoy it so? Because it blows the lid off the phony media narrative that the Republicans in the Legislature are the bad guys for not agreeing to raise taxes to fund a broken status quo. This story shows the true bad guys are the ones in charge — the ones who hold taxpayers in contempt and whose main job is to serve as tax collectors for the union state, enablers of trial lawyers and enforcers for the green cultists in the Bay Area and West L.A.
The news that the alleged geniuses who run CalPERS had a poor investment record in 2011 drew a strikingly tone-deaf response from master Dem spinner Steve Maviglio, who Tweeted, “@CalPERS +1.1% in 2011. How’d your 40lk (or should I say, 201k) do (minus expenses to Wall St.)?” Boy, Steve, in an era where local govs across the state are threatened by insolvency because of pension costs, that’s really reassuring. Maviglio is playing with fire here — because the more one looks at CalPERS, the more it looks like a corrupt institution. No, I’m not talking about the fact that it’s now involved in a pay-to-play corruption scandal involving former top executives. I’m talking about how whether returns are good or bad, CalPERS showers its workers with bonuses — self-dealing of the most obvious sort. If this is legal, it shouldn’t be.
The second long piece by Fresno Bee reporter Tim Sheehan on the immense contrast between what we were told a state bullet-train system would be like and how a like effort is playing out in Spain was deeply enjoyable for many reasons, starting with how it confirms that the new media conventional wisdom is growing stronger by the day: This thing is a joke. Now here’s hoping that this leads to the undermining of another conventional wisdom: the idea that Jerry Brown is the smartest, most responsible guy in Sacramento. By emerging as the bullet train’s most ardent advocate and ripping skeptical journalists as “declinists,” Jerry is the opposite: dumb and irresponsible. Yo, gov: These two traits in combination with egomania aren’t exactly an attractive package.