2012 is the 200th anniversary of the peak of the Luddite movement in Britain. I think it’s time everyone figured out that we’re now in the early stages of what can be seen as the biggest manifestation of Luddite thinking in world history. No, it’s not as dramatic as British laborers trashing factories to protest mechanization. But there is a reason the information technology productivity revolution that has made the U.S. private sector so vastly more efficient the past two decades has largely bypassed the public sector. It’s not just because government is slow to adapt. I think eventually it will be realized that a crucial factor was that union types realized before the rest of us that the I.T. revolution could wipe out millions of bureaucratic jobs at the local, state and federal level.
The old theory was that any significant reform introduced by a Republican state lawmaker was DOA. So now a Democratic state lawmaker is proposing a freeze on the pay of state workers making more than $100,000, an audit of the Legislature’s spending, and an end to the practice of allowing current and retired state lawmakers to get vanity plates for free. So what is going to happen to these populist, sure-to-play-well-with-the-public proposals? They’re going to die without a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and not just because the lawmaker behind them, Anthony Portantino, is a thorn in Speaker John Perez’s side. They’re going to die because all the talk about spending and restraint and a new era in Sacramento are pure bunk. And because Appropriations Committee Chairman Felipe Fuentes, above, is yet another Los Angeles Latino Democrat who talks up social justice on the campaign trail but in office defines social justice as protecting a status quo devoted to helping public employees, especially teachers. If the safety net is shredded, so be it.
State Sen. Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, once told me that he would meet prominent people in Sacramento, not street-corner crazies, who were surprised to hear Wyland say the economy was in the dump or that unemployment was sky-high. I think today I figured out one of the people he was talking about. It’s Assemblyman Warren Furutani, left, who revealed his obliviousness in a Sac Bee story about Democratic legislative leaders and union officials touting “CalPERS for all,” a bill to force employers to set aside 3 percent of the pay of all private-sector employees to contribute on their behalf to a defined-benefit program that invests only in very safe but low-yield Treasury bills. Furutani noted pension reform was often fueled by resentment of big public employee pensions. Then the Gardena Dem said that giving private sector workers a tiny pension funded with mandatory paycheck deductions that are invested in a CalPERS-managed fund sure to have mediocre returns “turns that argument on its head.”
This writer is one savvy son of a gun:
The proposal of a Democratic assemblyman to keep students from eating at food trucks instead of school cafeterias is ostensibly about public health, obesity and food safety. But while nanny state motives may be in play, it’s also easy to see this as the latest conscience-free effort to keep as much money as possible coming to public schools by any means necessary. Districts statewide face a constant struggle to find enough money for the salaries and benefits of their adult employees.
In 2006, when the California Legislature was considering AB 32, Arnold was so worried that the bill forcing a shift to cleaner but costlier energy would harm the economy that he demanded it include a provision that would allow the governor to suspend the law during times of economic distress. Within three years, however, the lunatic idea began to spread from the green cultists to the regular media that AB 32 was actually a jobs program, not a dramatic government interference in the free market that would make energy much more expensive than in rival states and nations. The warning of U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu was ignored in favor of happy talk. Now, thankfully, someone is admitting that what was obvious to Arnold in 2006 and to Chu in 2009 is still true in 2012. Shockingly, it’s the California Air Resources Board. What are the odds of that?
The lead item overnight on Rough & Tumble is about Gov. Jerry Brown’s vague plans to consolidate regulation of Indian gaming in California. Be wary, here, Californians. The governor’s quirky reputation obscures the fact that he’s a conventional corner-cutting, favor-granting pol most of the time — as he very much displayed in dealing with Indian gaming back in 2008.
This is from what I wrote Sept. 10 of that year:
Jerry Brown can bully and bluster and name-call all he wants to revive the deranged assault on sanity that is the bullet-train project, but there are Senate Democrats who just disregard his propaganda and point to the basics. In a polarized Capitol full of partisan hacks, these people are — I’m going there, people, yes I am — taxpayer heroes. What a comment on modern politics that being honest is all you need to rise to hero status.
I giggled, I really did, when I went to Rough & Tumble on Thursday morning and saw this headline on an L.A. Times story: “CalPERS report undermines Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension overhaul plan.” Michael J. Mishak has only been with the Times a couple of years, but doesn’t he have access to archives? Doesn’t he have editors? Yo, Mike: CalPERS has less credibility on pension issues than Newt Gingrich does on family values. It largely created the crisis in 1999 with a series of lies that would have resulted in prison time if put forth by finance executives in the private sector. Ever since, it’s been trying to cover its tracks. For CalPERS to embrace pension reform now after 13 years of deceit and deception would be the institutional equivalent of waiving its Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Has a hallucination-inducing version of Legionnaire’s disease struck the heating/cooling system at the office building at 55 Water Street in Manhattan that is headquarters to Standard & Poor’s? Does Jerry Brown have embarrassing pictures of S&P analyst Gabriel Petek? What brings these questions to mind is the two upgrades in California’s credit outlook since last summer. What good news is S&P pivoting on that has somehow escaped those of us who live in California?
Now let me get this straight: In the 2012-13 federal budget unveiled Tuesday, when it comes to California, the Obama administration wants to cut programs helping devastated Central Valley farmers, to slash federal funding to deal with the huge state cost of jailed illegal immigrants, to reduce money for beach environmental programs and to scale back plans to upgrade national parks in California — at the same time it pushes to shower money on high-speed rail?