ARCHIVE - 2014 - California Policy Center


Unaffordable California – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

December 2014 Update:  Here’s a documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is bad, and getting worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The state and local government policies that created an unaffordable California can be reversed. PERSONAL INCOME TAX:  Prior to Prop 30 […]

The Abundance Choice

The prevailing challenge facing humanity when confronted with resource constraints is not that we are running out of resources, but how we will adapt and create new and better solutions to meet the needs that currently are being met by what are arguably scarce or finite resources. If one accepts this premise, that we are […]

Economic Bubbles #2 – The Cruel Injustice of the Fed’s Bubbles in Housing

As the generational war heats up, we should all remember the source of all the bubbles and all the policies that could only result in generational poverty: the Federal Reserve. Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen recently treated the nation to an astonishing lecture on the solution to rising wealth inequality–according to Yellen, low-income households should […]

Economic Bubbles #1 – Why Living in a Post-Bubble World Is No Fun

What do we do when the bubble economy cannot be reflated? It is generally conceded that we are living in an era of Peak Everything: peak central bank omnipotence, peak powerless of the non-elites, peak wealth inequality, peak media-induced delusion, peak market-rigging, peak bogus official statistics, peak propaganda, peak bread and circuses, peak deception, peak distraction, […]

Liberals and Libertarians

Editor’s Note:  Earlier this year, inspired by media reports – accurate ones – of a guarded and growing rapprochement between Ralph Nader and Patrick Buchanan on issues where they share common values, we published an editorial entitled “A Left-Right Alliance Against Public Sector Unions?” Drawing from Nader and Buchanan’s recently published missives, we identified five areas […]

Bright Current Economic Signals Are Spurious

The market rejoiced on Dec. 5 when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 321,000 new U.S. jobs had been created. The general consensus is that the 3.9% third-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth is the harbinger of a brighter trend. The Economist’s team of forecasters has U.S. growth at 3% in 2015, up from […]

An Economic Win-Win For California – Lower the Cost of Living

A frequent and entirely valid point made by representatives of public sector unions is that their membership, government workers, need to be able to afford to live in the cities and communities they serve. The problem with that argument, however, is that nobody can afford to live in these cities and communities, especially in California. […]

Latest November 2014 Election Results – 113 Bonds for 108 California Educational Districts

The California Policy Center has now posted updated November 4, 2014 election results for the state’s 113 bond measures for K-12 and community college districts. These revised results incorporate almost a month of ballots counted and reviewed by county elections offices. The most significant change is that the largest of the 113 bond measures considered […]

Local Government Fiscal Early Warning Systems: A Good Idea Whose Time Has Come

Two years ago, Treasurer Bill Lockyer called for an early warning system to detect signs of financial trouble in California local governments before they faced bankruptcy. By proactively identifying at-risk cities, the system could create an opening for local experts and external advisors to intervene before any given situation spun out of control. As the California Policy […]

It’s The Economy, and They’re Not Stupid

The sharp rebuke to the Obama administration delivered by the mid-term elections should not be construed as an endorsement of the GOP, which remains as unpopular as ever. Rather, as has been the case in the last few election cycles, voter revolts have hinged on continued dissatisfaction with the strength of the economy and the […]

City of San Fernando Responds to CPC Study

Editor’s Note:  As stated in our recently released study “California’s Most Financially Stressed Cities and Counties, we used the most recent information that was readily available. It was beyond the scope of this study to contact every city individually – there are nearly 500 cities in California. We have confidence in the accuracy of our report […]

California’s 113 Educational Bond Measures – Preliminary Election Results

Based on preliminary reports from county elections offices as of November 5, 2014, this list of the 113 proposed bond measures on the November 4 ballot is ranked based on the percentage of voters (in the yellow column) who approved borrowing the indicated amount of money for school construction (in the green column) through bond […]

California’s Most Financially Stressed Cities and Counties

Introduction:  Due to the healthy response generated by this study, and justifiable expressions of concern by many whose cities we found to be financially stressed, we would like to state that the rankings developed herein are based on information contained in 2013 financial statements, that is, financial statements for the fiscal year ended June 30, […]

California Voters Asked for Approval to Borrow $156 Billion for School Construction Since 2002

California voters are generally unaware of how much money K-12 school districts and community college districts have borrowed in recent years to fund construction projects. Nor are they aware of the amount of principal and interest (debt service) these districts now owe to municipal bond investors. But a compilation of all local educational construction bond […]

Record Number of California School Districts Want to Borrow Up to $11.8 Billion

A record number of K-12 school and community college districts in California want voters to approve bond measures for construction in the November 4, 2014 election (see chart below). Here are some preliminary findings from an ongoing California Policy Center study on construction bonds for educational districts in California. The complete study will be released […]

The Critical Difference Between Rentier Wealth and Wealth Creation

If you want to understand why our economy is stagnating and wealth inequality is rising, look at the rise of rentier skims and the resulting decline in wealth creation. To understand why the real economy is stagnating, we have to understand the critical difference between rentier wealth and wealth creation. Rentier wealth is skimmed by […]

Why Has Classical Capitalism Devolved to Crony-Capitalism?

Here is the quote that perfectly captures our era: “People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.” (John Kenneth Galbraith) The trick, of course, is to mask the unspoken second half of of that statement: everybody else gets destroyed along with the Elites when the system implodes. […]

Where’s Genuine Economic Growth Going to Come From?

“We wanted flying cars, and they gave us 140 characters,” said venture capitalist Peter Thiel in 2011. He put his finger on a central dilemma of the New Economy: its innovations can make money (usually through redirecting advertising sales), but they add little or nothing to the overall stock of human knowledge or long-term happiness. […]

Affordable Housing Is a Symptom of Sound Urban Policy

Editor’s Note: These few paragraphs by “anti-planner” Randal O’Toole say everything that needs to be said about how flawed policies artificially inflate the price of housing, making it unaffordable to any middle class family. California provides perhaps the most egregious example of this misanthropic bias towards “smart growth,” and “urban service boundaries,” the practical effect […]

Estimating America’s Total Unfunded State and Local Government Pension Liability

Summary:  The total state and local government pensions in the United States at the end of 2013 had an estimated $3.6 trillion in assets. They were 74% funded, with liabilities totaling an estimated $4.86 trillion, and an unfunded liability of $1.26 trillion. These funds, in aggregate, project annual returns of 7.75%. If you apply a […]

America’s Opportunity City

David Wolff and David Hightower are driving down the partially completed Grand Parkway around Houston. The vast road, when completed, will add a third freeway loop around this booming, 600-square-mile Texas metropolis. Urban aesthetes on the ocean coasts tend to have a low opinion of the flat Texas landscape—and of Houston, in particular, which they […]

Let Them Drive Teslas

Once again, Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg has thumbed his nose at the working class and other Californians of modest means by blocking legislation that would have slightly delayed implementation of carbon emission fees charged to oil companies. The fees are part of the state’s “cap-and-trade” program, California’s one-of-a-kind effort to reduce wordwide carbon emissions. These […]

The Dead Billionaire’s Club That Runs the Environmental Movement

A new report from the minority staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works shows just how a handful of left-leaning foundations have taken control of the once-grassroots environmental movement. These foundations both shape the environmental agenda and help put people in power in the Environmental Protection Agency and other bureaucracies. Click image to download […]

How America’s Business Lobby Often Opposes Free Markets

Traditionally, business was the most important political backer of free markets, which made sense because business needs markets in order to exist at all. However, in the last generation, the views of business, as expressed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other outlets, have increasingly diverged from the free-market ideal. As crony capitalist ideas […]

We’re Relying on Phantom Wealth to Fund Our Retirement

Phantom wealth cannot possibly fund unprecedented retirement and healthcare promises. The narrative that Social Security, Medicare and pension funds invested in stocks and bonds can fund the retirement of 65 million people is a misleading fantasy. The sad reality is we can’t fund the enormous expense of retirement/healthcare for 20% of the populace out of our […]

Bubbles & Schemes

Editor’s Note: Consistent with our ongoing determination to publish in-depth analysis along with the more digestible tidbits that should never be an exclusive source of political and economic analysis and commentary, here is a 2,400 word piece that exposes and dissects the sources of instability and speculative excess in global financial markets. Anyone who has […]

Busses Offer Far Better Mass Transit Solution Than Light Rail

Los Angeles transit officials are eagerly contemplating the opportunity to spend money converting the Orange bus-rapid transit line into a light-rail line. To promote this idea, they are letting people know that light rail will be faster, more comfortable, and operate more frequently (so riders will be less likely to have to stand) than buses. These lanes […]

One Size Fits All: The War on Excellence in Public Education

Women’s garments labeled one size fits all, generally a dress or blouse, bear more resemblance to a tent on slender women than to a stylish frock. It’s an illustration that we are all not the same, but different and have different needs. The same principle applies to education. Prior to the unionization of the teaching […]

The Case for Adjustable Defined Benefits

Notwithstanding the fact that “adjustable defined benefits” might constitute an oxymoron, as a concept it represents the only way that defined benefit plans can be sustained. Rather than throwing new employees into individual 401K plans, while they effectively subsidize legacy defined benefits for veteran employees and retirees, why not adjust defined benefits down to a […]

Land Use Facts vs. Land Use Ideology

Editor’s Note:  The median price of a home in San Francisco has just topped $1.0 million. The median price for homes throughout California, measured at $466,000 in June 2014, edges close to a half-million. Nobody, apart from the very wealthy, can really afford homes at these prices. Yet these outrageous prices are entirely the result […]

Unaffordable California – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

July 2014 Update:  Here’s a documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is bad, and getting worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The state and local government policies that created an unaffordable California can be reversed: PERSONAL INCOME TAX:  Prior to Prop 30 passing in […]

Arrogance of the Political Elite Costs You at the Pump

It’s election season and finally there’s a bit of good news for California politicians seeking reelection. A recent Field poll shows that, for the first time in 7 years, there are more California voters that think they are financially better off than those who believe they are worse off. However, for the political elite, that […]

No Asset Bubble?

Earlier in the week BlackRock’s Larry Fink commented on CNBC: “A Bubble is predicated on leverage.” Fink was implying that he didn’t see the type of leverage that had fueled the previous Bubble. As part of my Bubble analysis framework, I have posited that the more conspicuous a Bubble the less likely it is to […]

Systemic Market Risk is Worse Now Than in 2008

Since the crash of 2008, huge attention has been paid by regulators to systemic risk, the risk that some event will cause the crash of the entire banking system, not just of an individual bank. Tens of thousands of pages of financial regulations have been written, and almost as many thousands of speeches have been […]

How to Create Affordable Abundance in California

California has one of the highest costs of living in the United States. California also is one of the most inhospitable places to run a business in the United States. And despite being blessed with abundant energy and an innovative tradition that ought to render the supply of all basic resources abundant and cheap, California […]

Is Inequality Caused by Capitalism or Statism?

The French economist Thomas Piketty has achieved worldwide fame by promoting a thesis that capitalism is the cause of growing economic inequality. Unfortunately, he is partially right. However, the important distinction missed by Piketty and all of his supporters is that state capitalism, not free market capitalism, has reigned supreme in recent decades in the world’s […]

The Generational Short, Part Two: Who Will Boomers Sell Their Stocks To?

Those who see the current era as the New Normal also have one logical action: sell now at the top and wait for the smoke to clear in 2016. In “The Generational Short, Part One,” I addressed how generational changes in values could affect the stock market. That values change over time is common sense, and […]

The Generational Short, Part One: How Generational Changes in Values Could Affect the Market

If Gen-Y cannot afford to buy Boomers’ houses at bubble-level prices, then what will keep housing prices at these elevated levels? Last month the Brookings Institution published a study by scholars Morley Winograd and Dr. Michael Hais on changing generational values: “How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America.” The gist of the report is that Gen-Y […]

America’s New Industrial Boomtowns

David Peebles works in a glass tower across from Houston’s Galleria mall, a cathedral of consumption, but his attention is focused on the city’s highly industrialized ship channel 30 miles away. “Houston is the Chicago of this era,” says Peebles, who runs the Texas office of Odebrecht, a $45 billion engineering firm based in Brazil. […]

The Divided States of America

A war against the financially privileged 1%. 47% of our fellow citizens on food stamps. 92 million of them out of work. [1] A real unemployment rate nearing 20%. [2] Have-nots protesting in city parks against Wall Street fat cats or in city streets for supersized wages to serve dollar burgers and tacos. The land of proverbial […]

Piketty’s Envy Problem

Editor’s Note:  While Thomas Piketty’s new book “Capital in the 21st Century” appears destined to be the 700 page book that will occupy a prestigious spot, usually unread, on every ardent leftist’s bookshelf, this 1,960 word essay by investment expert and financial commentator Peter Schiff should be required reading – especially by leftists. Because it […]

“Permissionless Innovation” Key to Economic Growth

Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5 percent annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated […]

Reversing American Decline

Across broad ideological lines, Americans now foresee a dismal, downwardly mobile future for the country’s middle and working classes. While previous generations generally did far better than their predecessors, those in the current one, outside the very rich, are locked in a struggle to carve out the economic opportunities and access to property that had […]

California Lawmakers Gone Wild

In January, California governor Jerry Brown, responding to one of the worst droughts in the state’s history, declared a state of emergency. The state legislature, though, didn’t get around to passing an emergency drought-relief bill until the end of February. But California’s lower house, the state assembly, did find time to pass a bill in […]

Mileage Tax Would Put Big Brother in Your Back Seat

California is known as the world capital of the car culture. The automobile played a central role in creating the California Dream, giving people the freedom to travel, to live where they choose and to experience the exhilaration of the open road. Now, if Senator Mark DeSaulnier gets his way, you’ll have to pay a […]

California’s Green Bantustans

One of the core barriers to economic prosperity in California is the price of housing. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Policies designed to stifle the ability to develop land are based on flawed premises. These policies prevail because they are backed by environmentalists, and, most importantly, because they have played into the […]

America’s Emerging Housing Crisis

From the earliest settlement of the country, Americans have looked at their homes and apartments as critical elements of their own aspirations for a better life. In good times, when construction is strong, the opportunities for better, more spacious and congenial housing—whether for buyers or renters—tends to increase. But in harsher conditions, when there has […]

California vs. Texas in one chart

As can be seen on the following chart, during the period from January 2011 to March 2014, there have been slightly more single-family housing starts in Houston (95,037) than in California for the entire state (94,993). In this single chart, we can understand the dynamism of the booming, expanding Texas economy and housing market compared […]

Charter Schools: Reinventing Public Education

The destiny of a nation lies in the education of its youth. Both Jesus and Hitler understood that society is shaped by its children, for better or worse. In this country, the commitment of public education to social indoctrination of our youth instead of education has helped determine the downward trajectory of the American Republic. […]

Why the “War on Poverty,” Now Entering its Fifth Decade, Has Failed

“Keep doing what yer doing and you’ll keep getting what you got.” Thus spoke Robert Woodson, explaining why the War on Poverty, now entering its fifth decade, has failed—and miserably so. As a front-row spectator, Bob should know. He has been an outspoken civil rights activist since the 1960s, directed the National Urban League’s Administration […]

Evaluating Total Unfunded Public Employee Retirement Liabilities in 20 California Counties

Summary:  Using officially reported figures from the most recent financial statements available, this report calculates the total unfunded employee retirement liabilities for the 20 California counties with their own independent retirement systems. This study is the first of its kind to compile for these counties not only reported pension fund assets and liabilities, but also retirement […]

Why Not Sustainability in a Spending Limit?

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown delivered the keynote address at a sustainability summit hosted by the Los Angeles Business Council. While the summit focused on California’s environmental, energy and water policy, we have to wonder whether the governor will exert the same effort in support of fiscal sustainability now that he has called a special […]

Homeschooling and Its Importance for the Survival of a Free Republic

What do George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington, Florence Nightingale, Susan B. Anthony, Thomas Edison, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Sandra Day O’Connor have in common? They were all homeschooled as were countless other famous statesmen, scholars and scientists. [1] Children traditionally were taught at their parents’ knees. In […]

Evaluating Public Safety Pensions in California

Summary: To accurately assess how much pension obligations for current workers are going to cost, it is necessary to calculate average pensions for retirees who retired after 1999 when pension benefits were enhanced. Because public safety employees represent about 15% of California’s total state and local government workforce [1], but an estimated 25% of the […]

California High Speed Rail’s Dubious Claims of Environmental Benefits

Editor’s Note: There are dozens of major infrastructure investments that would yield positive economic returns to Californians. Spending over $100 billion on high-speed rail is definitely not one of them. But as Kevin Dayton explains in this article, even the environmental benefits of high speed rail are questionable, if not a complete fabrication. This isn’t […]

Common Core Threatens Charter Schools Ability to Innovate

A battle is raging between those who would challenge our public school monopolies and those who wish to nationalize school curricula. There is much more at stake here than how Jane and Johnny learn to read. The success of the American experiment has always rested on a balance between opposing forces, between those seeking common […]

Cap and Trade Revenue to Fund High Speed Rail?

Liberals and good government advocates frequently decry citizens’ mistrust in government, especially in California. Over the last decade and a half, numerous surveys have confirmed that voters distrust government on several levels including waste, corruption and lack of responsiveness to legitimate public needs. The recent criminal exploits – both actual and alleged – of three […]

The City of Villages – Los Angeles

Los Angeles is unique among the big, world-class American cities. Unlike New York, Boston, or Chicago, L.A. lacks a clearly defined core. It is instead a sprawling region made up of numerous poly-ethnic neighborhoods, few exhibiting the style and grace of a Paris arrondissement, Greenwich Village, or southwest London. In the 1920s, the region’s huge […]

Unaffordable California – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

April 2014 Update:  Here’s a documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is bad, and getting worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The state and local government policies that created an unaffordable California can be reversed: PERSONAL INCOME TAX:  Prior to Prop 30 passing in […]

Common Core: A Trojan Horse?

The deceptively innocuous-sounding name belies the crippling effects a centralized K-12 education curriculum will have on the United States once it is allowed to take effect. Ze’ev Wurman, software architect, electrical engineer and longtime math advisory expert, feels Common Core is a federally-enforced “mediocre national benchmark” that “marks the cessation of educational standards improvement” and […]

The Geography of Inequality

Perhaps no issue looms over American politics more than worsening inequality and the stunting of the road to upward mobility. However, inequality varies widely across America. Scholars of the geography of American inequality have different theses but on certain issues there seems to be broad agreement. An extensive examination by University of Washington geographer Richard […]

The Best State Governors: Two Examples

Suppose you pick up your typical California newspaper and see headlines like, “State Unemployment Far Below the National Average” and “State Running Healthy Surplus; Gov. to Return Money to Taxpayers.” You just might find yourself paraphrasing Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “Sutter Brown, I’ve got a feeling were not in California anymore.” (For those […]

The Benefits and Costs of Oil and Gas Development in California

Summary: California is the nation’s third largest producer of crude oil and has considerable potential to expand production. This report assesses this potential by quantifying scenarios for crude oil and natural gas production both onshore and offshore and the associated economic and environmental impacts. The oil production possibilities of the Monterey Shale recently have attracted considerable […]

Is the Stock Market Over-Stimulated and Overpriced?

At the end of 2013 Wall Street appeared to be convinced that the markets were enjoying the best of all possible worlds. In an interview with CNBC on Dec. 31 famed finance professor Jeremy Siegel stated that stocks would build on the great gains of 2013 with an additional 27% increase this year. So far 2014 […]

The U.S. Cities Profiting the Most in the Stock Market and Housing Boom

If anything positive can be said for the current tepid economic recovery, it has been very good to those who invest in the stock market or own real estate. Property owners have been able to reap higher rents and sale prices, and the stock market has soared while the overall economy has registered only modest […]

American Public Education – At the Bottom of the Class

Prior to the focus on self-esteem rather than academics in the education curriculum, California always ranked highest in the nation on student achievement tests. Today, California ranks close to the bottom. In the words of a wag, so goes California, so goes the nation. His insightful admonition has come to pass. US 15-year old students […]

The Partisan War on “Income Inequality”; Law of Bad Ideas

Debate rages over “income inequality”. CEOs makes hundreds or thousands of times more than workers. That is one aspect of income inequality. And it’s easily explained: The Fed’s inflation policies, bank bailouts, Fractional Reserve Lending, and crony capitalism are to blame. That blame is nonpartisan. Rather than attack the problem, “progressive” partisans howl over minimum wages. […]

How Much Do CalSTRS Retirees Really Make?

Summary:  The California State Teacher’s Retirement System (CalSTRS) is California’s 2nd largest public employee pension fund, serving roughly 2% of California’s population. At present, its unfunded liability is officially estimated at $71 billion. While much of the discussion over pension reform focuses on projected rates of investment returns, which greatly affects the required annual contributions […]

Crony Capitalism – California Style

It’s good to be in with the “in” crowd, especially when the “in” crowd is made up of Sacramento politicians capable of doling out millions of dollars in tax credits. Those currently in with the “in” crowd include any industry or company that can somehow attach “green” to their credentials. This helps explain why the […]

Tesla’s Planned “Gigafactory” Will Not Be In California

California loves Tesla, the Los Angeles Times informs us, but the electric car company is ambivalent about the Golden State. In a blow to efforts to stem manufacturing job loss in California, the car company, based in Palo Alto, said it would definitely not build a new $5 billion “gigafactory” employing up to 6,500 workers in its […]

Ways To Dodge The Mess Baby Boomers Are Leaving The Millennials

The Greatest Generation bequeathed Baby Boomers a nation on the rise. After saving Western Civilization from fascism, they rebuilt a war-torn world, powered an economic renaissance, sent a man to the Moon, banished Jim Crow, cleaned up the environment, and won the Cold War. Of course, they made their share of mistakes. But every American […]

Not All State and Local Cronyism Involves Unions

Editor’s Note:  We add one caveat to this excellent perspective from Hunter Lewis: If you are a crony capitalist in California, and you are lobbying the politicians for government contracts and favorable legislation – then you are also lobbying the public sector unions who control these politicians. At a minimum, most of California’s major corporations […]

Comparing CalSTRS Pensions to Social Security Retirement Benefits

Summary:  This study compares Social Security retirement benefits to CalSTRS pension benefits and finds a significant disparity between the plans, despite the employee contributions being relatively similar. For example, the average CalSTRS participant retires at age 62, which is the current earliest age one may collect Social Security retirement benefits. At age 62, the average […]

Drone Transport Ships, Automation, and the Bubble Economy

Editor’s Note:  This article by Mike Shedlock leads off with a report on “drone transport ships,” but moves on to explore a provocative and very pertinent question:  Are policies that create the “bubble economy,” i.e., artificially inflated asset values, partly motivated by a desire to counter the deflationary pressures caused by automation? We have explored […]

The U.S. Middle Class is Turning Proletarian

The biggest issue facing the American economy, and our political system, is the gradual descent of the middle class into proletarian status. This process, which has been going on intermittently since the 1970s, has worsened considerably over the past five years, and threatens to turn this century into one marked by downward mobility. The decline […]

How Raising the Minimum Wage Destroys Small Businesses

Editor’s Note:  This article by “Against Crony Capitalism” co-founder Hunter Lewis emphasizes again the irony of trying to legislate private sector compensation. Because the sentiment behind these policies – wanting to elevate the economic status of lower income workers and their communities – is inherently in conflict with the outcome. When minimum wages are raised, […]

Ambitionless Nation

In colonial times, men and women were equal when it came to work. Both had chores and responsibilities from dawn to dusk. Women not only did housework, they milked cows, fed the pigs and chickens and helped tend the crops. Life was hard in colonial times. It made little difference whether the family lived in […]

How Much Do CalPERS Retirees Really Make?

INTRODUCTION The pay and benefits of public employees is a discussion of increasing relevance to taxpayers. As noted in a CPPC study published earlier this month “How Much Do California’s State, City and County Workers Really Make?,” in California, personnel costs are estimated to consume 40% of total city budgets, 41% of the state budget […]

Economic Policy Impacts: Comparing Illinois to Texas and Indiana

In the all important “Jobs Bowl”, far more important than the “Super Bowl” Illinois is losing out to Texas and Indiana. Via email from the Illinois Policy Institute: “The common refrain made against Texas by those who defend the status quo in Illinois is that the jobs being created in the Lone Star State are lower-paying […]

Crony Capitalism vs. Public Pensions

A new union-sponsored study lowballs today’s pension costs by around two-thirds and overstates the net costs of corporate welfare. The Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis recently reported on a new union-sponsored study from Good Jobs First that claims that corporate welfare payments from state governments dwarf the costs of public employee pensions. To begin, we shouldn’t take this corporate welfare/public […]

Blue-Collar Hot Spots: The Cities Creating The Most High-Paying Manufacturing Jobs

It’s a common notion nowadays that American blue-collar workers are doomed to live out their lives on the low-paid margins of the economy. They’ve been described as “bitter,” psychologically scarred and even an “endangered species.” Americans, noted one economist, suffered a “recession” but those with blue collars endured a “depression.” Yet in recent years, according to research by […]

Death Knell for Pell: A Taxpayer’s Justification for Pulling the Plug

Authorized by Lyndon Johnson in 1965 as the Higher Education Act to guarantee low-income minorities have the same opportunity for a college education as children in middle-class families, the program was renamed for Senator Claiborne Pell in 1980. Like most well-intentioned government programs, the projected costs for the new entitlement exploded and exceeded the funds […]

How Much Do California’s State, City and County Workers Really Make?

INTRODUCTION What level of public employee pay and benefits are affordable and appropriate is a difficult but necessary discussion. And missing too often from this discussion is good data on just how much, on average, public employees are currently making. In California, the State controller has made available a database of public employee compensation, organized […]

Income Equality Agenda Makes War On Progress

In his recent State of the Union Address, Mr. Obama emphasized his fight to equalize our incomes. Apparently, his advisors convinced him he can breathe fresh life into tax and welfare programs by hijacking the word “opportunity” from the other side of the aisle without bothering to understand what it means. The deeper the left […]

The Importance of Real Equality, and Why the Government Can’t Provide It

The subject of “equality” is the source of much political debate these days. Ever since the founding era, free market thinkers have argued for equality of opportunity in the economic order. Equality, in other words, is a framework, not a result. In modern terms, the goal is a level playing field. Government should be a […]

50th Anniversary of Federal Government’s Failed War on Poverty

Part 1 of 2: Fifty years after President Johnson launched his “war on poverty,” it is time to stop pretending and start doing something real for the poor. Mitt Romney said during the 2012 presidential campaign: “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix […]

Welfare, Illegitimacy and Academic Failure: America’s True “Race to the Bottom”

A great deal has been written about the cost of welfare, rise of illegitimacy, decline in public education and racial differences in academic achievement. Very little has been written about the link between welfare and those phenomena. They are all direct results. Welfare affects a process known as maternal-infant attachments that is the psychophysiologic foundation […]

Sonoma County’s Pension Crisis – Analysis and Recommendations

INTRODUCTION New Sonoma, a volunteer organization of financial experts and citizens concerned about the finances and governance of the County has just completed an extensive study of the County’s pension crisis. In addition to describing how the County has incurred over a billion dollars in unfunded pension and retiree health care liabilities, how the County […]

Unaffordable California – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

January 2014 Update:  Here’s a documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is bad, and getting worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The state and local government policies that created an unaffordable California can be reversed: PERSONAL INCOME TAX:  Prior to Prop 30 […]

NPR Misrepresents Danger of Fracking to Oil Workers

“On-The-Job Deaths Spiking As Oil Drilling Quickly Expands” screams a supposed National Public Radio exposé on the “terrible price” we’re paying for the fracking revolution that has transformed the U.S. energy industry. “Last year, 138 workers were killed on the job — an increase of more than 100 percent since 2009.” The story blends chilling […]

Exclusive Interview with Joel Kotkin

Joel Kotkin’s writing is not easily pigeonholed. Alienated from California’s Democrat and Republican parties, both of which he believes are dysfunctional, Kotkin focuses on the interests and aspirations of California’s disappearing middle class. With positions on energy and land development that challenge the conventional wisdom of Democrats, and positions on infrastructure development and other public […]

The Virtues of Catholic Schools

What do Nobel Laureates Elfreide Jelinek, Doris Lessing, Jane Addams, Emily Greene Balch, Nadine Gordimer, Mother Teresa and Aung San Suukyi, Heads of State Maria Lourdes de Pintasilgo, Hanna Suchocka, Yingluck Shinawatra, Mary Robinson, Mary McAlesse, Portia Simpson Miller, Dilma Rousseff and  Jerry Brown, Condoleezza Rice, Phyllis Schlafly, Matt Leinert, Matt Barkley, Bernard Parks, Kenneth […]

Who’s Looking Out for California’s Middle Class?

Thirty years of political engagement in California politics has led me to the realization that the middle class is woefully underrepresented in this state. Not only that, but this injustice seems amplified with every passing year. This column has covered the lack of meaningful representation for ordinary citizen taxpayers for more than a decade. Indeed, […]


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