Pension Costs Are Not the Reason California’s Schools Fail the Disadvantaged

A recent guest editorial published by entitled “California’s defunding of public education” makes the case that a “pension contribution maneuver” has left school districts up and down the state with shrinking budgets.

The author, Shaohua Yang, gets many of his facts right. For example, he writes that “California 2019 per-capita income tax ranks the fifth highest in the U.S., and we also have high property, sales and business taxes. The lack of public school spending is not due to short revenue.” Yang is also right to observe that pension costs cannibalize funding for public services. But he’s only telling half the story.

The pension “maneuver” Yang refers to is the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013, known as “PEPRA,” and pushed through the state legislature by Democratic Governor Brown. PEPRA was a last ditch attempt to rescue California’s public employee pension systems from insolvency. It was a compromise, balancing necessary increases to employer contributions with modest reductions in pension benefits, reductions that only affected new hires.

The result of PEPRA was a plan that, if CalSTRS investments can earn on average 7 percent per year, will finally achieve full funding by 2046, over 30 years later. Meanwhile, CalSTRS is on thin ice. Its still most recent available actuarial valuation, scandalously out-of-date, shows that as of 6/30/2018 the “amount of assets on hand to pay for obligations” stood at 64 percent. But did PEPRA reduce pension benefits or increase the member contribution rates? Not much.

[…] Read More

How to Save California’s Forests

For about twenty million years, California’s forests endured countless droughts, some lasting over a century. Natural fires, started by lightening and very frequent in the Sierras, were essential to keep forest ecosystems healthy. In Yosemite, for example, meadows used to cover most of the valley floor, because while forests constantly encroached, fires would periodically wipe them out, allowing the meadows to return. Across millennia, fire driven successions of this sort played out in cycles throughout California’s ecosystems.

Also for the last twenty million years or so, climate change has been the norm. To put this century’s warming into some sort of context, Giant Sequoias once grew on the shores of Mono Lake. For at least the past few centuries, forest ecosystems have been marching into higher latitudes because of gradual warming. In the Sierra Foothills, oaks have invaded pine habitat, and pine have in-turn invaded the higher elevation stands of fir. Today, it is mismanagement, not climate change, that is the primary threat to California’s forests. This can be corrected.

In a speech before the U.S. Congress last September, Republican Tom McClintock summarized the series of policy mistakes that are destroying California’s forests. McClintock’s sprawling 4th Congressional District covers 12,800 square miles, and encompasses most of the Northern Sierra Nevada mountain range. His constituency bears the brunt of the misguided green tyranny emanating from Washington DC and Sacramento. Here’s an excerpt from that speech:

“Excess timber comes out of the forest in only two ways – it […] Read More

The Battle For California is the Battle for America

By now, this is a familiar story. California is a failed state. Thanks to years of progressive mismanagement and neglect, the cities are lawless and the forests are burning. Residents pay the highest prices in America for unreliable electricity. Water is rationed. Homes are unaffordable. The public schools are a joke. Freeways are congested and crumbling. And if they’re not still on lockdown or otherwise already destroyed by it, business owners contend with the most hostile regulatory climate in American history.

It is understandable that conservatives in the rest of the United States would be happy to write off California. But California is not writing off the rest of the United States, and therein lies grave danger to American prosperity and freedom.

What if California doesn’t implode, a victim of its own political mismanagement? What if California instead completes its transformation into a successful plutocracy, run by a clique of multi-billionaires in a partnership of convenience with environmentalist extremists and backed by the power of a unionized state bureaucracy?

What if the people who would resist this tyranny leave, and the remaining population peacefully accepts universal basic income and subsidized housing? What if all it takes to be a feudal overlord in progressive California is to proffer to the proletarians a pittance of alms, while reliably spouting incessant, blistering social justice and climate change rhetoric?

Why won’t that work? After all, it’s worked so far. California has the most progressive electorate in America.

Not because of California’s regulatory state, but […] Read More

There is No Moral Justification for the “Lincoln Project”

Speaking recently to a predictably sympathetic Lesley Stahl on CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” members of the “Lincoln Project” Super PAC claimed they were trying to rescue the integrity of the Republican Party and defeat “Trumpism.” These former Republican consultants claim that the party under Trump has betrayed what they believed were core Republican values.

Given everything the Lincoln Project is doing, however, it is clear they are not trying to “rescue” the Republican Party from anything. They are trying to destroy it.

Why else would they not only be targeting the president, but also, as The Hill reported in August, Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Cornyn (R-Texas) Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Steve Daines (R-Mt.), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)?

There are 23 Republican U.S. senators up for reelection next month. The Lincoln Project is spending heavily against 14 of them. The Washington Post recently identified the close races for U.S. Senate, naming eight Republicans as vulnerable: Gardner, McSally, Collins, Tillis, Ernst, Graham, Daines, and David Perdue of Georgia. Of these eight Republican senators, only Perdue is not on the Lincoln Project’s hit list. Perhaps that’s an oversight.

In close races, a few nudges this way or that can make all the difference, and if the 2020 election is anything like the 2016 election, nudges will matter. The Lincoln Project, which reportedly […] Read More

BART Faces Financial Reckoning

Of all the public agencies facing financial challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, public transit has taken the biggest initial hit. The reasons for this are obvious: when there’s a lockdown and businesses are closed, commuters stay home. And of those still fortunate enough to have places to go, few want to board busses and trains where they risk heightened exposure to contagions.

Northern California’s biggest transit system is the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, commonly referred to as BART, with operating expenses of nearly $1.0 billion per year. In good years, operating revenues – primarily fares and parking fees – never covered more than around 75 percent of operating costs. But that was back in 2016, when ridership peaked, at around 435,000 per weekday, whereas pre-COVID ridership in early 2020 was running around 405,000 per day. Weekend ridership had been dropping at a higher pace than weekday commuting because of board policies that tolerate homelessness, open use of hard drugs, panhandling and petty theft on the trains.

In addition, over the past four years, the BART board of directors has been giving away an increasing array of discounts at the same time as operating costs have steadily increased. There has also been increasing tolerance on the part of the board for fare evasion which lowers revenues by, depending on which expert you ask, between $25 and $50 million per year.

In April 2020, at the height of the pandemic shutdown, BART ridership fell to 6 percent of […] Read More

The Medical Slave State

“I’ll see you on the outside—68 days.” “That’s in jail. You still don’t know where you’re at?” “Yeah, where am I at?” “With us, baby, you’re with us. And you gonna stay with us until we let you go.” — Randle McMurphy and Attendant Washington, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

This scene from the film adaptation of Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest offered up a cautionary tale nearly five decades ago that has tremendous relevance today. Because in that moment, Randle McMurphy, played by the great Jack Nicholson, realized he was in a situation he hadn’t bargained for and couldn’t control.

Decent Americans have no reason to empathize with Randle McMurphy, a character who was at the very least an incorrigible sociopath and a menace. But Americans today are in a situation they hadn’t bargained for, and they are rapidly losing control of their destiny.

Once whatever challenges Americans face are declared medical emergencies, it now appears they have no constitutional rights. All individual actions can now be controlled by executive fiat. If behavior that runs contrary to the objectives of America’s most powerful establishment institutions can be declared a pathology, the inconvenience of due process can be discarded. They’ll just put you in an asylum and throw away the key. They’ll lock you down. They’ll tell you where you can go, who you can see, what products you can consume, and what content you can watch.

Anyone who doubts this […] Read More

Why is the Prison Guards Union Targeting Senator Moorlach?

In a tight race, incumbent Republican state senator John Moorlach has been targeted by the prison guards union. In a report filed on October 1, the California Correctional Peace Officers Association Independent Expenditure Committee disclosed spending $910,705 on cable television ads and mailers opposing Moorlach.

Running to unseat Senator Moorlach is Democrat David Min, whose campaign website leaves no doubt as to how he’s going to vote once he gets elected. His endorsements constitute a revealing list of who really runs California; public sector unions representing teachers, firefighters, nurses, AFSCME, the SEIU and dozens of others. While other special interests, in particular, powerful environmentalist pressure groups and high tech billionaires, exercise significant influence over California’s Democrats, the government employee unions are the senior partners.

It is nonetheless inexplicable why the CCPOA would oppose Moorlach in favor of an orthodox California Democrat who is much more likely to support Newsom’s intention to close two of California’s prisons. What could possibly override that very real threat to the interests of a union representing prison guards?

Understanding this apparent contradiction is key to understanding the priorities of public sector unions in California. Perhaps CCPOA is banking on public backlash to the anarchy overwhelming California’s cities to ultimately preclude prison closures. On the other hand, perhaps the CCPOA sees Moorlach’s ability to work with Democrats to enact pension reform as a genuine threat.

Senator John Moorlach is the most financially literate, articulate and outspoken champion of fiscal responsibility in […] Read More

Saving California Will Save America

As proven by the torrent of executive orders issued by King Newsom during this COVID-19 pandemic, during a public emergency, constitutional rights and due process go out the window. In the coming years, with California’s one-party state leading the way, expect climate emergencies, systemic racism emergencies, and new health related emergencies to shred what is left of democracy in America.

hese “emergencies” are enabling the onset of political tyranny in California, with Governor Gavin Newsom as the figurehead. His most significant overseers are the teachers’ unions and Big Tech billionaires. These two blocs spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on political campaigns and lobbyists, along with funding powerful nonprofit groups that agitate for politically useful agendas with respect to the environment, homelessness, social justice, and race and gender equity.

All this well-funded advocacy is framed as “for the people” and “for the planet,” but in reality, everything Newsom, his predecessors, and his puppeteers have done has failed ordinary Californians, while delivering more power and more profits to California’s ruling elite.

Instead of rounding up the homeless, sorting them according to their various problems or pathologies, and putting them in supervised tent encampments in low cost areas in the state, California’s homeless advocates and profiteering “nonprofit” developers build taxpayer funded “supportive housing” palaces that cost over a half-million per unit in the middle of expensive residential neighborhoods, solving nothing. Meanwhile, cities descend into filth and anarchy.

Instead of implementing school choice, the teachers union demands more funding for failed […] Read More

Dwayne Johnson Has Sold His Soul to China

The man Forbes Magazine lists as the world’s highest paid actor, Dwayne Johnson, has just endorsed Joe Biden for president. In a seven minute video pinned to his Facebook profile, Johnson, also known as “The Rock,” explained that “In this critical election, I believe Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the best to lead our country, and as my first ever (public) Presidential endorsement, I proudly endorse them for the presidential office of our United States.”

From reading through what are now over 100,000 comments in response to Johnson’s Facebook post, one can immediately conclude that Johnson’s endorsement backfired. There are almost no comments supporting his decision. Literally 99 percent of the comments are expressions of anger and feelings of being betrayed. Perhaps Johnson has really laid an egg. Perhaps he didn’t know his fans at all.

Or perhaps he didn’t care about his American fans.

There’s a truism in the world of finance, “past performance is no guarantee of future results,” but if you’re Dwayne Johnson, or Lebron James, or countless other luminaries of sports and screen, you’ve put that time tested wisdom aside in a mad dash into the Chinese market.

Never mind the slow but relentless inertia of history, and the inevitable clash it portends between America and China. If all you’re paying attention to is recent results and trends, the future for motion pictures, sort of like the future for professional basketball, is not in America, but China. A look at the most […] Read More

Two New U.S. States – Jefferson & Greater Idaho

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.” – Hosea chapter 8 verse 7, Old Testament

In June 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in favor of statehood for the District of Columbia. In response, a columnist for CNN at the time, Nicole Hemmer, wrote “should Joe Biden win the presidency and bring with him majorities in the House and Senate, he should make statehood for DC — and for Puerto Rico — a priority for his first 100 days in office.” Also in June, The New Republic published an opinion column stating “D.C. Statehood Is a Test of Biden’s Political Courage.”

The supposed moral rationale for adding two states to the Union has always been based on “providing representation” to these American citizens. But Puerto Rico ought to become an independent nation, and perhaps the outer portions of Washington DC can be trimmed, with the trimmings absorbed into Maryland and Virginia. And “representation” isn’t the real reason Democrats want to turn Puerto Rico and Washington DC into states, anyway. They want more Democratic senators, and they want more Democratic congressmen.

Now that President Trump is going to attempt to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, supposedly defying precedent because it is so late in his first term, Democrats in the U.S. Congress are claiming “all bets are off.” Among other things – like packing the U.S. Supreme Court – if Democrats gain control of the White House and […] Read More