Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is America A Great Country or What?

This video is courtesy of the CBS affiliate WBZ-TV in Boston. It is presented here without comment. All I ask is that while you watch the videos that you consider our entitlement system, our immigration system, and our legal system. Does the system as practiced make sense and does it meet the goals for which is was designed? Do her views possibly explain the policies and practices of the current Administration?

In the President's defense, I fully understand deadbeat relatives. But, to the best of my knowledge, none is currently violating any laws. Likewise, the President is toughing it out having only declared only $5.5 MILLION in adjusted gross income and himself living in taxpayer-provided housing.

Favorite line: "If I come as an immigrant, you have the obligation to make me a citizen."

Part 1:

Part 2:

See also ...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

One of These Things Is Not Like the Others ...

Cookie Monster of Sesame Street fame teaches children how to spot important difference while singing his equally-famous "One of These Things Is Not Like the Others" song. Let's see if we can spot any differences in how most Californians think about redistricting.

There were two -- count 'em two! -- redistricting measures on the November 2010 ballot in California. One, Proposition 20, extended existing redistricting reforms by empowering the Citizens Redistrict Commission to draw U.S. Congressional districts. Proposition 20 passed with a 60% plus majority.

The second redistricting initiative on the ballot was Proposition 27. Proposition 27's aim was to eliminate the Citizens Redistricting Commission and to return redistricting control back to the California Legislature. Why was this a bad idea? First, the California Legislature is dominated by one party with nearly a 2-to-1 majority. Second, everybody remembers the horrible job that the Legislature did drawing the 2001 political district lines. Proposition 27 was funded by 25 self-serving incumbent politicians and their well-connected, big-money party donors--many from outside of California! No surprise, Californians rejected Proposition 27, also by nearly a 60% majority.

At the county level, both Proposition 20 and Proposition 27 were nearly universally approved or rejected statewide. Note the key word, "nearly." One county, and only one county, voted completely opposite of all the others. See if you can spot which one. Look carefully.
Spot the difference yet? Look along the West coast (the left edge) mid-way up the state.

San Francisco county was the only California county to oppose Proposition 20 and support Proposition 27.

Initial Reflection on California 2010 Election Results

As a fourth-generation Californian and a fiscal conservative, I am obviously disappointed by the 2010 election results. I have little respect for Jerry Brown and even lower expectations from his second Gubernatorial administration. I cannot fathom how Californians could re-elect Senator Boxer, but I do acknowledge their hesitation with Carly Fiorina (I supported Tom Campbell in the primary). Are these really the best leaders that California can produce?

Fortunately, there were a few positives from the election.

First and foremost, the naked power grab by the Democratic Party oligarchy in California, Proposition 27, failed at the ballot box by nearly a 60% majority. Proposition 27's aim was to disband the Citizens Redistricting Commission and to return redistricting decisions to the California Legislature, currently dominated by the Democrats with a nearly 2-to-1 majority. Proposition 27 was funded by many well-connected, big money donors to the Democratic Party, many from outside California! For more information, see ...

Proposition 27 Revealed!

Interestingly, the electorate not only defeated Proposition 27 but also passed Proposition 20 by a 60%+ majority. Proposition 20 increased the power and scope of the Citizens Redistricting Commission by expanding their redistricting responsibilities to include U.S. Congressional districts. This has big implications for future elections especially given the changes in the 2010 Census. As evidence that redistricting reform is needed, just look at how many California incumbents were re-elected in a year when other states removed long-standing incumbents from office. The poster boy for redistricting reform is 20-term Congressman Pete Stark, who received over 95% of his campaign contributions from out-of-state political action committees (PACs). Does he work for his constituents or for his benefactors?

Bill Lockyer was re-elected state Treasurer. Interestingly, in an 2009 address to the California Legislature he said, "Particularly I would say to the Democrats, in an era when we aren't going to have tax increases, give it up. Figure out how to be more efficient about spending the money we've got."

His words were prescient about other California 2010 election results.
  • Proposition 21 failed. There will be no additional car fees to pay for state parks (although I supported this one).
  • Proposition 22 passed. The state can no longer raid local governments for funds.
  • Proposition 24 failed. There will be no repeal of earlier corporate tax breaks.
  • Proposition 26 passed. Fee increases now require a 2/3rd majority vote, just like taxes.
California's future will be interesting, to say the least. Over the last decade, California's government spending increased both as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP, or the size of the economy) and per person, adjusted for inflation (shown here as constant 2005 dollars).

The state's taxpayers still face a massively underfunded state employee pension problem along with dwindling tax revenues. The pension problem was spawned by the California Legislature when it approved overly generous pension benefits with SB 400 passed in 1999. Ahhhh, yes. Remember 1999? We were all going to get rich selling dog food from our web site--and then the Internet bubble popped. Californians and California businesses long ago adjusted to that economic reality. California's state government and pension system has yet to confront either the economic reality of the 2000 Internet bubble or the 2008 sub-prime mortgage bubble.

It's impossible for this Legislature to reform the pension system and if we don't, we bankrupt the state.
And I don't think anybody can do it here because of who elected you. You're just captive of the current environment. I don't see any way out.
It really inspires confidence and provides hope for the future, doesn't it? What exactly did Bill Lockyer mean when he said, "I don't think anybody can do it here because of WHO elected you"? Who elected the California Legislators? Wasn't it the people? Or, was Bill Lockyer merely acknowledging the people that PAID to elect many of the California Legislature--namely public sector unions. After all, according to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the California State Council of Service Employees (a.k.a. SEIU) are the two largest spenders in California politics, attempting to influence voters and public officials. See the full list on page 10 in the following document.

Big Money Talks: California's Billion Dollar Club

After the 2010 election, California Democrats now have nearly unanimous control of the State of California, including the following offices.
  • Governor (Jerry Brown)
  • Lt. Governor (Gavin Newsom)
  • Secretary of State (Debra Bowen)
  • Controller (John Chiang)
  • Treasurer (Bill Lockyer)
  • Attorney General (likely at the time of this writing)
  • Insurance Commissioner (Dave Jones)
  • A nearly two-thirds majority in the California Senate
  • A nearly two-thirds majority in the California Assembly
California Democrats now OWN the government's response to success or failure of the California economy going forward. I hope and pray that they can show real leadership in addressing state's many daunting challenges. First and foremost, they must confront their traditional allies in California's public sector unions and adjust California's budget to reflect economic reality.

Personally, I expect conditions to deteriorate as more California taxpayers and businesses move to other states or at least leave California's taxation authority.

For a great read on how California arrived in this horrible situation, I recommend ...

The Golden State’s War on Itself: How politicians turned the California Dream into a nightmare