Imminent Janus Court Ruling May Severely Impact Government Unions

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to rule on Janus vs AFSCME, a case that challenges the ability of public sector unions to force government workers to pay union dues. Depending on the scope of the ruling, this case could dramatically affect the political power of big labor in the United States.

The case hinges on the assertion by plaintiff Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, that everything a public sector does is inherently political. As a result, Janus argues, even the so-called “agency fees” the union charges – ostensibly to fund nonpolitical activities such as contract negotiations – are a violation of his right to free speech. He’s got a strong case, because nearly everything public sector unions negotiate have a direct impact on public policy.

When a public sector union negotiates for increased pension benefits, for example, every other budget item is affected. In states like California and Illinois, costs for public employee pensions are exceeding 10% of total tax revenuess in some cities and counties, crowding out other public services with no end in sight. And everywhere public sector unions are active, their impact on budgets, along with their negotiated work rules, significantly alter how our elected officials set policy priorities and how they manage our government agencies.

HIGH STAKES

The stakes in the Janus case are epic. Nearly half of all unionized workers in the United States are government workers. Public sector unions collect and spend nearly $6.0 billion per […] Read More

How to Revive California’s Republican Party Which is Currently Dead

Anyone taking a look at California’s June 2018 state primary ballot would have plenty of evidence to suggest the Republican Party in that state is dead. For starters, California’s GOP has two credible candidates for governor, businessman John Cox and State Assemblyman Travis Allen, which in a normal state might be a good thing. But California’s Republicans are a super-minority party in an open “top-two primary” that pits them against at least two well-funded Democratic candidates, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Although Cox is polling better than Allen, they’re both likely to be aced off the ticket in November.

Worse, California’s Republicans have no viable candidate for U.S. Senate. The most recognizable candidate—indelibly listed as “Republican” on the ballot despite being kicked out of the recent GOP state convention—is Patrick Little, whose campaign website’s home page includes a “learn more” button on the topic of “How We Will End Jewish Supremacism.”

There is not one higher state office in California where a Republican has a realistic chance of victory. Nearly every position—lieutenant governor, attorney general, treasurer, controller, and state superintendent of schools—Democratic candidates are likely to win. The lone exception is insurance commissioner, where the respected Steve Poizner, who has already held that office as a Republican from 2007 to 2011, is now running as an independent.

California’s GOP Party Organization Has Failed If you go […] Read More

California’s Climate Agenda Sets an Impossible Example

California has acted decisively and aggressively to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change, with a state goal to reduce emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. – Excerpt from Introduction, Governor’s Budget Summary, 2018-19

Indeed it has. Glowing tributes to Governor Brown’s legacy understate how long California has been proclaiming itself the leader in fighting “climate change.” It actually began with Brown’s immediate predecessor, Gov. Schwarzenegger, who pivoted left after failing to reform public employee unions in 2005. Schwarzenegger promoted, then signed, AB 32, in 2006. This so-called “Global Warming Solutions Act,” set the initial targets for greenhouse gas reduction, empowering the California Air Resources Board to monitor and enforce compliance with laws and regulations aimed at achieving these reductions.

Other significant legislation followed. SB 107, also passed in 2006, mandated a “renewable portfolio standard,” wherein by 2010 at least 20% of California’s electricity would come from renewable sources.

The legislation has been unrelenting. SB 1, 2006, mandated utilities pay rebates to homeowners that installed photovoltaic panels on their roofs. AB 118, 2007, funded the “Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program,” the first step towards mandating a minimum percentage of electric and hybrid vehicle sales. SB 375, 2008, the “Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act,” directed cities and counties to increase the housing density of their communities.

When Jerry Brown took over as Governor in 2010, legislation accelerated. SBX1-2, 2011, raised the renewable portfolio standard to 33% by […] Read More

Libertarians Will Turn America into a Socialist Hell

If you believe in limited government, then you need to know that Libertarians are the most dangerous people in America. Because thanks to Libertarians, Democrats – completely controlled by left-wing oligarchs and public sector unions – are going to extend government control into every facet of American life. If you doubt that, come to California, a one-party state where Democrats enforce everything from the trivial – outlawed plastic straws, to the tyrannical – water rationing, urban “densification,” confiscatory taxes.

Libertarians apparently believe their principles justify them running candidates that steal far more votes from Republicans than Democrats – for the obvious reason that people who favor limited government tend to vote Republican. But despite all their intellectualizing – go online and try not to puke as you read their high-brow badinage as they banter over Hayek and the Austrian School and “objectivism” – they can’t understand simple math: If you siphon votes away from Republicans, Democrats win.

Just this week, a Libertarian candidate in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District attracted 1,379 votes, which handed the election to a Democrat who won by 627 votes. Good job.

If the Libertarians, thank God, hadn’t ran a vapid stoner for President in 2016, Hillary Clinton would be our president today, falling down the White House stairs on her way to turning America into California, instead tripping while touring the Jahaz Mahal palace in India. Think about that.

And what of “libertarian” thought? On every political issue of significance to this nation, Libertarians are […] Read More

What Californians Could Build Using the $64 Billion Bullet Train Budget

California’s High-Speed Rail project fails to justify itself according to any set of rational criteria. Its ridership projections are absurdly inflated, its environmental benefits are overstated if not actually net detriments, and its cost, its staggering cost, $64 billion by the latest estimate, overwhelms anyone with even a remote sense of financial proportions. To make this final point clear, here is an assortment of California infrastructure projects that could be paid for with a $64 billion budget.

If these projects were built, instead of the bullet train, Californians would have abundant, cheap electricity, abundant fresh water, and upgraded roads and freeways capable of handling all the traffic a surging economy could possibly dish out.

(1) Build 10 natural gas power plants generating 6.2 gigawatts of electrical output for $5.7 billion.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a modern natural gas power plant generating 620 megawatts can be built at a capital cost of $568 million. Someday, when electricity storage technologies are inexpensive and safe, the solar age can ripen to maturity, but in the meantime, California’s private energy companies can tap abundant in-state natural gas reserves, enabling California’s public utilities to provide cheap electricity to the public.

Since California’s peak demand rarely exceeds 50 gigawatts, increasing capacity by 12% will drive the price for electricity way down, making California competitive again with other states. Cheap electricity will also obviate the need to force consumers to purchase extremely expensive “energy sipping” appliances that are internet enabled, monitor […] Read More

Christmas Cards 2012

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Martini 19.75″ x 27.5″, 2005

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Pinwheels 19″ x 24″, 2006

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Mandala 18″ x 18″, 2007

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Octopus 12″ x 12″, 2008

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Backgammon 16″ x 18.5″, 2009

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Yin Yang 18″ x 18″, 2010

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Andromeda 20″ x 34″, 2011

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Chromaticism 10.75″ x 13.5″, 2012

 

Defending Defined Benefits

Among pension reformers there is a spirited ongoing debate regarding what might constitute a financially sustainable yet equitable solution. On one side there is a call to do away with defined benefits entirely, replacing them with defined contribution plans. The argument is compelling; with defined contribution plans, when the participant retires, they survive on the assets they have invested, and the employer has no contingent liability whatsoever. This is an appealing scenario to anyone who fully appreciates just how close our public sector pension funds are to financial collapse. But some of the ways defined benefits are characterized by their detractors are inaccurate.

For example, defined benefit plans are often referred to as “Ponzi schemes,” based on the premise that pension funds depend on new participants making contributions in order to fund the distributions being made to retirees. But the scam used by Ponzi (and Madoff) was to let new investors fund interest payments to existing investors, while all the while making the promise that existing investors had a claim on their original principal investment and could have it back at any time. Defined benefits do not offer a return of principal. If incoming contributions, plus interest earned on assets under management, offer sufficient extra capital to fund distributions, a pension fund is sustainable. A Ponzi scheme by definition is not sustainable.

Slightly more apt, but still inaccurate, is to characterize defined benefit plans as “Pyramid schemes,” based on the same premise – that their solvency depends on new participants […] Read More

The Fate of the Mourning Dove

A few months ago my wife and I noticed a pair of doves were building a nest in a nook above the front door of our home. Atop a piller, beneath an eve, inaccessible to any creature who couldn’t either fly or use a ladder, the location for this nest was thoughtfully chosen. Through the rainy days and nights of February, the birds completed their nest and sat on the eggs.

For nearly a month the birds were always there, until sometime in early March when they abandoned the nest. My wife checked the nest and verified the eggs were still there – apparently not destined to hatch, the Doves had left them to scavengers. Within a few weeks the eggs were gone, with the parents away another winged creature had broken them open and consumed them. But the doves weren’t through with us.

In April the birds returned, the female lay a new pair of eggs, and through the lengthening days they sat atop them. This time we were skeptical as to whether or not the eggs would hatch, but we were starting to get attached to this persistent, quiet pair. The neighborhood cats were also paying close attention.

On the morning of May 12th we left our homes to go to work and noticed the eggs had hatched. Within a few days we could see them, huddled next to their mother, always quiet, always still. Often the mother would perch on a rooftop nearby but away from the […] Read More