Entries by Steven Greenhut

Can Californians Learn from Progressive Wisconsin and Confront Government Unions?

During recent travels to Madison and Milwaukee for some research about reform-minded Gov. Scott Walker’s survival of a union-backed recall in June, I found little residual anger among the friendly folks there, despite the campaign’s seemingly endless pitched political battles that divided families and led to angry water-cooler discussions. Perhaps the central issue – Walker’s […]

Bankruptcy Won’t Help Cities Unless Courts Permit Reduced Pension Benefits

Municipal bonds have long been among the safest investments, but a coming wave of municipal bankruptcies in California – and the disturbing way one of those cities is stiffing its bondholders – could change perceptions about the wisdom of lending money to cities. The struggling port city of Stockton has declared bankruptcy after a spending […]

Unions: It’s Just Pension Envy

Rhode Island’s Democratic state treasurer, Gina Raimondo, is fond of saying that pension reform is about math, not politics. Other blue-state politicians, ranging from New York governor Andrew Cuomo to Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, have moved toward fixing unsustainable pensions. But California’s top statewide political leaders have mostly shrugged at the problems caused by excessive […]

The Bankruptcy Dominoes Begin to Fall in California

First, Vallejo, in 2008. Next, Stockton, then Mammoth Lakes and, now, San Bernardino and soon, perhaps, Compton. As Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach told Bloomberg News, the bankruptcy dominoes are starting to fall. One California city after another – following a decade-long spree of ramping up public-employee pay and pension benefits, as well as redevelopment […]

The Bankruptcy Tsunami

First Vallejo, then Stockton, then Mammoth Lakes and now San Bernardino.  As Orange County Supervisor John Moorlach told Bloomberg News, the bankruptcy dominoes are starting to fall. One California city after another — following a decade-long spree of ramping up public-employee pay and pension benefits, as well as redevelopment debt — are becoming insolvent. Not […]

Fairness prevails in union-dues ruling

For people who truly are interested in a just and fair society, there’s one easy test for sorting through some seemingly complex issues: Turn the tables. For instance, while considering a controversial law affecting a particular group, it’s best to t getting back with an ex> hink about how fair it would seem if that […]

U.S. Supreme Court Rebukes Union Totalitarianism

For people who truly are interested in a just and fair society, there’s one easy way to sort through some seemingly complex issues: turn the tables. If, for instance, one is debating a controversial law affecting a particular group, it’s best to think about how fair it would seem if that law were applied in […]

The (Union) Empire Strikes Back

Following big victories for public-pension reform in California, the union empire takes to the courts. The nation’s public-sector unions have become so emboldened by years of political victories, and so insulated from voter concerns, that they apparently never considered the possibility that voters, given a clear choice, would turn against them. Last Tuesday was as […]

Surly Unions Make Wisconsin the Badgering State

Before Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker became a recall target for his efforts to reform collective bargaining in his state, I was a guest on a Madison radio show discussing the influence of public-sector unions and the significance of the state’s unfunded pension liabilities. Instead of “Wisconsin Nice” – a euphemism for the polite, conflict-avoiding nature […]

California Legislature Votes to Allow Government Workers to Hide Property Ownership from Public Records

Democrats and Republicans in the California Legislature once again have broadcast this troubling fact: They are far more concerned about the ever-expanding demands of a relatively small group of public-sector union members than they are about the welfare of the citizens of our state. On May 17, the Assembly voted 68-0 to support the most […]

Occupy Movement Should Focus On Unionized Government

Occupy Wall Street protesters are reminiscent of writer R. Emmett Tyrrell’s criticism of radical feminists: They don’t know what they want, but they want it very badly. On May Day, the protesters tied up the streets of Oakland, San Francisco and elsewhere. They are mad as hell, and they are not going to take it […]

San Jose’s Pension Initiative will be a National Bellweather

San Jose union officials are celebrating a decision last week by the Sixth District Court of Appeals, which struck some city-drafted language from a June ballot measure designed to reduce pension benefits for newly hired city workers and require existing workers either to pay more for their current pension plan or switch to a lower-benefit […]

California’s Broke Cities and Counties Consider Bankruptcy Option

Economist Allan Meltzer once quipped that “Capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work.” Americans have been witnessing this axiom on a broad scale, as government efforts to prop up industries, bail out the financial sector and protect select private businesses from failure have only caused a prolonged financial crisis. Without failure, […]

San Diego Public Employee Unions Go to Court to Fight Pension Initiative

In my last column, I documented how California’s pro-union Attorney General Kamala Harris provided an unfair and dishonest title and summary to a pair of pension reform initiatives submitted to her office, thus effectively killing the measures. Last week the unions tried—and almost succeeded—with an even nastier stunt designed to undermine democracy. In San Diego, […]

The Government Class Runs California

Years ago, after starting to report and editorialize on news events in an old factory city in Ohio, I was quickly dubbed a “negative” for pointing out the disastrous government spending, housing and tax policies embraced by city leaders — policies that were keeping a nice place wretched. Anyone who made similar criticisms was dismissed […]

How Government Unions Hijacked California’s Redistricting Reform

Over the summer, the website I edit, CalWatchdog, published a series of articles documenting the way that the political Left exploited the redistricting process in California to assure strong gains for the Democratic Party. The report included an exclusive interview with a redistricting commission member who alleged partisan behavior by his supposedly nonpartisan commission colleagues. […]

California Court Backs Government Union’s “Contract on California”

As the public employee pension and health care benefit crisis sweeps across the nation, some states are dealing seriously with these multibillion-dollar threats to public services and treasuries. And other states remain in deep denial. California, to no one’s surprise, is moving stridently in the wrong direction. The tiny state of Rhode Island, for instance, […]

The Politics of Public Sector Unions

To say that the unions have undue influence in the California Legislature, as many critics allege, is to understate the problem. The unions – and the public sector ones in particular – don’t just control the Legislature. They are the Legislature. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, previously worked as an attorney for a […]

San Francisco Political Establishment Fights Pension Reform

To outsiders, liberal San Francisco may seem preoccupied with leftist protesters occupying prime real estate in the Financial District or with debating proper restaurant etiquette for the city’s small but flagrant nudist population, or until recently, with arguing whether male circumcision should be outlawed. But the prospect of bankruptcy focuses the mind, even in a city so obsessed with leftist causes celebres. […]

Governor Brown Signs Last Minute Pro-Union Legislation

As the legislative session came to an end, some Capitol observers expressed a glimmer of hope that Gov. Jerry Brown would be the independent, reform-minded governor that he swore he would be when he ran for office. After the governor argued that not every problem deserves a government solution — when he vetoed a Nanny-ish […]