Monday, August 13, 2012

The Hollywood and Media Hypocrisy on California Proposition 30 and Possible Media Bias

Everybody loves higher taxes ... but only when someone else is stuck paying the bill.

Hollywood and media companies have ponied up big for Governor Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 tax hikes.  Here are the readily-identifiable contributions from various media companies to Californians To Protect Schools, Universities And Public Safety, A Ballot Measure Committee Supported By Governor Jerry Brown, which supports Proposition 30. That each media company contributed the same $100,000 makes it appear that this was part of an organized appeal campaign, organized either by the Governor's office or by the unions funding Proposition 30.
  • CBS Corporation: $100,000 (New York)
  • Disney Worldwide Services: $100,000 (California) (Disney owns ABC/ABC News)
  • NBCUniversal: $100,000 (California)
  • Sony Pictures: $100,000 (California)
  • Viacom International: $100,000 (New York)
  • Warner Brothers: $100,000 (California)
  • Dreamworks SKG: $100,000 via individual donations from founders Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Jeffery Katzenberg
  • Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix contributed $1 million in support of Proposition 30.  However, he is also a major donor to many activities of the California Democratic Party.

Of course, Hollywood and the media will say that they just want to be "responsible corporate citizens" and ensure that everybody pays their "fair share," especially in these "difficult times" for the California budget.  This could be true, but don't forget that the media companies are first and foremost for-profit businesses with large public-relations staffs.

In the midst of massive multi-billion dollar California budget deficit and proposed tax hikes by the Governor, a California Assembly committee approved a bill for another $100 MILLION in tax credits for Hollywood and California media.  Of course, the fact that Hollywood and media are major contributors to the Democratic Party had nothing to do with it.  Democrats hate corporate welfare (unless you happen to be a major party donor). You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours (wink, wink).

Similarly, these same media companies also own major advertising-driven TV networks.  More than $20 MILLION has been raised so far to support Governor Brown's tax hikes, mostly from public-sector and trade unions.  Naturally, a good amount of that money will find its way back to the media companies as TV  political advertising, and that's just for Proposition 30.  Some companies also have outdoor billboard advertising, like CBS Outdoor.  NBCUniversal also own Spanish-language Telemundo.  Interestingly, California Democratic Party heavyweight, Haim Saban is executive chairman for Spanish-language Univision.  Saban is a major donor to the Democratic Party and is listed as one of the 50 most-influential California Democrats.

The two biggest spenders in California politics are the taxpayer-funded, public-employee unions California Teachers Association (CTA) and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), according to a March 2010 report by the California Fair Political Practices Commission.  Other public-sector and trade unions, traditional allies of the Democratic Party, are also major contributors to Proposition 30.  The unions spend big on TV advertising during every election cycle.  I'm sure the studio bosses see it as just good business to toe the party line.  You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours (wink, wink).

Let's not also forget that at least three of this group have "independent" "impartial" news networks, ABC/Disney, CBS, and NBCUniversal.  NBCUniveral has a number of news outlets, including NBC News, MSNBC, and CNBC.  I wonder how "impartial" coverage of Proposition 30 will be.

In full disclosure, I am a shareholder of Disney, a company I generally admire. But lets also not forget that the California Legislature just approved the latest California High Speed Rail plan involving $7.9 billion in state and federal spending.  Why does that matter?  One of the eventual stops on the high-speed rail is in Anaheim, California.  Why there?  Because that's where Disney's Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks are located.  You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours (wink, wink).

Meanwhile, California ALREADY has some of the nation's highest taxes.  Our high taxes, high costs, and ineffectual government have damaged our already ailing business climate, ranked near the bottom nationally, The California Legislature has given its staff a raise, approved additional educational spending for non-US residents, avoided a spending limit like the plague, approved an expensive high-speed rail plan that not even train lovers like, and debates just about anything other than public pension reform.  The California Legislature needs to stop the scratching and winking and perform their constitutional duty.

One of those duties it to debate tax reform and rates.  In the Legislature, tax hikes requires a 2/3rd majority as a protection for the 1/3rd minority of voters that pays the bulk of California's income taxes.  Meanwhile, Governor Brown's, union-funded Proposition 30 is purposely "electioneered" to circumvent the 2/3rd requirement.  Proposition 30 is an abuse of the democratic initiative process.

Californians, stop the obvious corruption in our political system and Proposition 30.  Vote NO on Proposition 30 this November.  You can learn more about Proposition 30 here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Was the California Senate Censorship of Proposition 30 Intentional? You Decide!

UPDATE:  Pro Tem Steinberg has since apologized for cutting off the cameras.  Please read on to decide if there was more to the decision than he lets on.

As reported in the Sacramento Bee, the Democrat leader in the California Senate, Darrell Steinberg ordered that cameras to the public feed be turned off, just as they were about to discuss Proposition 30.  Proposition 30 is Governor Jerry Brown's tax hike initiative.  Was this such a big deal?  You decide.

  • One of the biggest funders supporting Proposition 30 is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  According to MapLight, a site that tracks campaign spending, SEIU has spent nearly $6.2 million as of 2-OCT-2012 in support of Proposition 30.  Public television station KCET has a bit more detail, showing contributions from SEIU Local 1000 and the California State Council of Service Employees Issues Committee.
  • According to his official biography, Darrell Steinberg was formerly an "attorney for the California State Employees Association for ten years."
  • SEIU Local 1000 is an affiliate of the California State Employees Association.
  • According to a March 2010 report by California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), SEIU is the second-largest spender in California politics.
  • According to his official biography, Darrell Steinberg was the author of 2004's Proposition 63, which asked a simply majority of California voters to impose a 1% surtax on those earning $1 million or more.  Many in California view Proposition 63 as an abuse of the democratic initiative process, and at least one lawsuit was filed claiming that Proposition 63 was an unconstitutional violation of state and federal equal protection clauses.  Some also see Proposition 30 as a similar violation.  To avoid such criticism, Proposition 30 has a FOUR-year sales tax increase that applies to ALL Californians.  The income tax increase only applies to the top 2-3% of California taxes but lasts for SEVEN years.
  • If Governor Brown's Proposition 30 passes, Steinberg's Proposition 63 adds another 1% on top.  Combined, Proposition 30 and Proposition 63 would give California the nation's 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 5th highest state income tax rates in the nation.
  • SEIU is a major contributor to Darrell Steinberg, Governor Brown, and to the California Democratic Party.  SEIU holds enough political power and sway to justify a private town hall meeting with Governor Jerry Brown.
Based on this evidence, does it appear that Darrell Steinberg has a conflict of interest over any public discussion of Proposition 30?  I think so.  Do I think that Darell Steinberg cut off the cameras to avoid publicly discussing Proposition 30?  Yes, because the more that voters learn about Proposition 30, the less they like it.

It's unlikely that I will ever make enough to be affected by the Proposition 30 tax hikes.  However, I'm smart enough to realize that they're unfair and will likely further poison California's ailing business environment.  My fellow Californians, please VOTE NO on PROPOSITION 30.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Testimony on California's High-Speed Rail that Most Voters Never Saw

Here is Joe Vranich's rarely-seen 2008 public testimony on California's high-speed rail plan. Mr. Vranich is a prominent advocate for high-speed rail and author of Supertrains: Solutions to America's Transportation Gridlock. In addition to his other accomplishments, he is AGAINST California's high-speed rail program.

His testimony is from 2008.  Although the plan has been reworked since then, his predictions are eerily accurate and he forecasts additional fiscal disaster for California.

See also ...

  • Democrat, high-speed rail advocate, Senator Simitian on why he will vote against current high-speed rail plan