Archive for the ‘Welfare State’ Category

Texas vs. California Update for March 26, 2015

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • Forget all those snide liberal cracks about Texas’ public education system, since we have some of the highest graduation rates in the country.

  • “San Bernardino has defaulted on nearly $10 million in payments on its privately placed pension bond debt since it declared bankruptcy in 2012.”

    The missed payments illustrate the trend among cities in bankruptcy to favor payments to pension funds over bondholder obligations, which has increased the hostility between creditors and municipalities.

    San Bernardino declared last year that it intends under its bankruptcy exit plan to fully pay Calpers, its biggest creditor and America’s largest public pension fund with assets of $300 billion.

    The city continues to pay its monthly dues to Calpers in full, but has paid nothing to its bondholders for nearly three years, according to the interest payment schedule on roughly $50 million of pension obligation bonds issued by San Bernardino in 2005.

    If you’re a bank, a retirement fund, or a hedge fund, why on earth would you buy California municipal debt when there are safer alternatives? (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ Doom roundup.)

  • So how’s that San Francisco minimum wage law working out? Exactly like everyone who understands economics expected. “Some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed after the city’s minimum wage was raised. Other small businesses there are not sure they are going to survive, since many depend on a thin profit margin and a high volume of sales.” Plus this: “Low-income minorities are often hardest hit by the unemployment that follows in the wake of minimum wage laws. The last year when the black unemployment rate was lower than the white unemployment rate was 1930, the last year before there was a federal minimum wage law.”
  • California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office suggests phasing out state health care for workers entirely.
  • California is dead last in spending transparency among the 50 states, with an F rating and a piddling score of 34. Texas ranks 13th with an A- and a score of 91. (Hat tip: Cal Watchdog.)
  • “North Texas gained an average of 360 net people per day from July 2013 to July 2014, a testament to the job-creating machine in the Lone Star state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau…North Texas and Houston were the only metropolitan areas to add more than 100,000 people during that one-year period.”
  • Just because California has some of the highest taxes in the nation doesn’t mean that the state’s Democratic legislature doesn’t want to add still more.
  • Meanwhile, the Texas Senate just passed a $4.6 billion tax cut.
  • California is rolling out more subsidies for Hollywood.
  • The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power not only has the highest employe costs in the country, it also ranks last in customer satisfaction. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • While Texas is certainly in much better shape than California on public employee pensions, things here are not entirely cloudless either. “The Texas Employee Retirement System is reporting unfunded liability of $14.5 billion in 2014, compared with liability of just $6.3 billion in 2013. By comparison, all of the state government’s general obligation debt as of 2013 was $15.3 billion. The Texas Law Enforcement and Custodial Officer Supplemental Retirement Plan is reporting unfunded liability of $673.1 million in 2014, compared with $306.7 million in 2013.”
  • Unlike California, Texas looks to get ahead of the curve on pension concerns with House Bill 2608, which restores control of pension funds to the local level by eliminating legislative approval for pension changes. I”nstead of locking up significant benefits in state statute, HB 2608 would allow city pension systems, like the Houston Firefighters’ Relief & Retirement Fund, to solve pension problems at the local level by changing benefit structures, if they so chose.”
  • “Support for the “bullet train” is ebbing across California, except, perhaps, in the Governor’s mansion.”
  • California raisin packer West Coast Growers files for Chapter 11.
  • American Spectrum Realty, a real estate investment management company that operates self-storage facilities under the 1st American Storage brand, has somehow managed to file for bankruptcy in both California and Texas. I think it’s safe to say that financial shenanigans are involved…
  • Lawsuit over misappropriated funds in a Napa Valley winery leads to a murder/suicide. It’s one of those stories that sounds too strange not to link to…
  • Eurocrat Summarizes Greek Problem

    Monday, March 23rd, 2015

    Sure, Jose Manuel Barroso, the former president of the European Commission, is a self-interested Eurocrat, but here he provides a nicely concise statement of the obvious concerning Greece’s problems

    Greece’s problems can be laid at its own door and the country needs to provide a clear commitment to reform to reach an agreement with its creditors, Jose Manuel Barroso, the former president of the European Commission, told investors in Hong Kong.

    “The Greek people went through extremely difficult moments, hardship. But these difficulties of Greece were not provoked by Europe,” Barroso said in an address at the Credit Suisse Asian Investment Conference in Hong Kong.

    “It was provoked by the irresponsible behavior of the Greek government.”

    “The situation of Greece is the result of unsustainable debt that was created by the Greek government, mismanagement of their public finances, huge problems with tax evasion and tax fraud [and] problems of the administration,” he said, noting that the country had also misled the European Union by filing false figures on its economy.

    A nice statement of the problem. To which I can only add: And Greece continues to compound the problem, because it refuses to reduce government spending to match receipts. And it refuses to do because it’s welfare state is unsustainable.

    All this talk of bailouts, relief, reparations, agreements and grexits is just filigree on the essential problem: Greece’s government spends more money than it takes in and refuses to change its ways.

    Texas vs. California Update for March 12, 2015

    Thursday, March 12th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • In a worst-case scenario, CalSTARS and CalPERS might need an additional $50 billion a year between them to stay solvent.
  • If you haven’t taken a look at my piece on Stockton’s latest boondoggle, you probably should.
  • A new ballot initiative to cut California public employee pensions is due out in May, lead by former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat.
  • Even Jerry Brown’s timid pension reforms are evidently too much for the Obama Administration, which is holding up funds over them.
  • A rare bit of good municipal news out of California, as Rancho Mirage declares that they’re debt free. (Hat tip: Pension Tunami.)
  • Prime Health Care pulls out of Daughters of Charity hospital acquisition. California Attorney general Kamala Harris may have just insured those hospitals will close instead.
  • Texas population to explode. (Hat tip: Push Junction.)
  • Land acquisition for California’s high speed rail boondoggle isn’t going swimmingly.
  • Malibu Golf Club files for Chapter 11. “An attorney for Malibu Associates said the company closed the golf club after defaulting on a $47-million loan from U.S. Bank, which has begun foreclosure proceedings.”
  • “In February, the Berkeley Health Center, a clinic that provided medical services to low-income patients, closed down in the wake of serious financial troubles, including allegations that it had mismanaged public funds.” They also left behind sensitive patient records…
  • Calfornia hikes water rates. Millions for the delta smelt, not one blue drop for you to drink…
  • Monolith Semiconductor relocates from Ithaca, New York to Round Rock.
  • Greece Snarls At The Hand That Feeds It

    Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

    Angela Merkel tamped down a party revolt to extend the Greek bailout terms by four months. And her reward for extending that lifeline? Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reviving demands that Germany pay World War II reparations to Greece.

    Before Syriza came to power, the rest of the EU and the Troika seemed content to play along with the Greece farce (extending further loans in exchange for yet more empty promises of reform) at least a little while longer. However, Syriza’s virulently anti-EU and anti-Germany rhetoric seem to have finally exhausted their patience with the show. It seems even Europeans have limits to the abuse they’re willing to take from perpetual welfare recipients. It’s bad enough to underwrite a freeloader, but evidently having to put up with constant insults from them was too much.

    At this point, everyone knows Greece will neither reform nor pay back their debts to the Troika (or anyone else). That’s why Europe has finally started taking a real hard line with them, insisting on inspectors on the ground to see reforms are actually implemented.

    Either Tsipras has severely overplayed his hand (quite possible), or he is deliberately preparing to use Germany as the theoretical scapegoat for exiting the Euro.

    To say that Tsipras and Syriza has no plan B to escape the crisis is misleading, since their cunning “insult our creditors into giving us more money” doesn’t even count as a plan A.

    A bailout from Russia? It’s not like Putin is rolling in dough following a fall in oil prices and his continuing isolation over his invasion of Ukraine. Let Putin subsidize Greece all he wants. (And I doubt a Greek navel base would give him any advantage over what he has in Sevastopol.)

    Greece could have avoided all this many years ago if their government had just stopped spending more money than they took in. Given their addiction to a bloated welfare state, this is the one thing they have proven singularly unwilling to do.

    I doubt Syriza has thought through just how nasty a divorce from the Eurozone might turn out. Never mind asking they repay their debts, I’m thinking a complete halt to all bank transfers between the Eurozone and Greece, and international foreign exchanges refusing to list a newly floated drachma. People hate having their welfare benefits cut, but they really, really hate being unable to buy food…

    Greece has finally reached the stage of socialism where they’re run out of other people’s money, and the results are not going to be pretty.

    Experience is a dear teacher, but fools will learn from no other…

    Previously Bankrupt Stockton Suddenly Has Enough Money for an Affordable Housing Development

    Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

    As part of my regular Texas vs. California updates, I’ve been keeping close tabs on the city of Stockton, which just emerged from bankruptcy proceedings last month.

    So what’s one of the first thing Stockton does after exiting bankruptcy? Would you believe spending $14 million for 40 units of affordable housing? For a city that owes $1.6 billion in pension debt to CalPERs, that’s like someone who can barely afford food deciding to buy spinning rims for his 19-year-old Civic.

    To my mind, this has all the hallmarks of a politic payoffs.

    The project would evidently entail “renovation of the 123-year-old Cal Weber Building and the 88-year-old McKeegan Building.”

    Who controls the Cal-Weber building? Dan Cort.

    Who controls the McKeegan building? Dan Cort.

    Who’s Don Cort? A Stockton commercial real estate developer and “urban renewal expert.” He was also Mayor of Pacific Grove (which is a good two and a half hours away from Stockton) until he resigned in advanced of a recall election in 2009. Pacific Grove, like many California cities, got in financial trouble due to outrageous public employee pension costs, and bond debt to cover same.

    Is Cort tied-in to Stockton’s City Council? Given that six of the seven members, including the Mayor and Vice Mayor, are among Cort’s Facebook friends, I’m going to answer “Yes.” (The seventh, Dan Wright, has only been in office since January.)

    None of this is conclusive proof that underhanded financial shenanigans and/or kickback are going on. But it is an indication that reporters, bloggers and Stockton taxpayers should be taking a good, hard look at this project.

    Also, I can’t imagine that Franklin Templeton, the mutual fund company and Stockton bondholder which was forced to take a haircut in bankruptcy hearings can be too happy about it either…

    LinkSwarm for February 27, 2015

    Friday, February 27th, 2015

    Welcome to the Friday LinkSwarm, where two themes are jihadis enjoying the benefits of the welfare state, and Hillary Clinton enjoying treating campaign finance laws as “optional suggestions.”

  • 96% of Australian jihadis who joined the Islamic State were on welfare.
  • Sweden’s national job agency fires its entire network of “immigrant resettlement assistants” because they were finding them jobs with the Islamic State.
  • And the hits keep coming: Swedish expert on “Islamophobia” now fighting for the Islamic State.
  • Another day, another 24 people murdered by jihad in Nigeria. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • “If it bleeds, it leads”? Not when it comes to gang rapes in Muslim countries.
  • What the hell? Terrorism trials come to a halt after the Obama Administration orders military judges to move to Guantanamo Bay until the trail is finished.
  • How one Nebraska woman lost her health care three times thanks to ObamaCare.
  • Dana Milbank is very, very upset that Scott Walker isn’t biting on liberal gotcha questions. Oddly enough, I don’t think this concern extends to Hillary Clinton ducking Benghazi questions…
  • Speaking of Hillary, blind Chinese activist Chen Guangcheng says that, despite her boasts to the contrary, Hillary didn’t do squat to help him. (Hat tip: Moe Lane.)
  • The Clinton Foundation took millions of dollars in donations from foreign donors while Hillary was Secretary of State. Maybe Hillary thinks every 3 AM call is a chance to ask for more money… (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Related tweet:

  • Hillary-linked firm: Campaign finance laws are for the little people.
  • “Barack Obama has a great, big, heaping dose of Holden Caulfield in him.” So he’s an annoying, whiny loser…
  • “Every Obama speech has a villain, and that villain is often other Americans who disagree with the president.”
  • So Turkey isn’t willing to lift a finger to save Kurds or Yazidis, but they’re willing to invade Syria to protect an Ottoman tomb.
  • Mike Rowe defends minimum wage jobs and says why there’s no such thing as a “bad job.” “Work is never the enemy, regardless of the wage. Because somewhere between the job and the paycheck, there’s still a thing called opportunity, and that’s what people need to pursue.”
  • The PLO and the Palestinian Authority have been found liable in terrorism jury trial. Does this mean funds can be garnished directly at the UN? (Hat tip: Legal Insurection.)
  • Did you know that there was a prison riot at a Texas illegal alien holding facility?
  • Allah: The worst communicator ever:

  • Liberals are shocked that college “study centers” designed to attack Republicans are being closed by Republican legislators. “Mr. Nichol said the center’s only agenda was to raise the profile of poverty in the state through research, teaching and advocacy.” One of these things is not like the others. Research and teaching are fine. Do your “advocacy” on your own time and dime, not the taxpayers.
  • Given the (obvious) news that the Justice Department wouldn’t be indicting George Zimmerman, Legal Insurrection took it upon themselves to review all the myths around the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin trial.
  • Chicago has it’s own secret black site prison. It’s almost like it’s a corrupt one-party police state…
  • Wikipedia: “Alexis Tsipras is a Greek politician who is the 186th Prime Minister of Greece since 26 January 2015.” By my calculations, that works out to about 5 Prime ministers a day…
  • UCLA strives to make its council Juden Frei.
  • Anti-antisemitism amidst the yobs:

  • Got to admit: That’s one hell of an effective personals photo:

  • Texas vs. California Update for February 26, 2015

    Thursday, February 26th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • CalPERS believes that it has police powers to seize property to sell to support public employee pensions. “It is hard to imagine a bigger or more blatant example of collusion between business interests and government employees at the expense of ordinary private citizens.” Plus the impossibility of maintaining the 7.5% returns necessary for the pension fund to remain solvent. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • CalPERS and CalSTARS want direct proxy access for candidates for corporate boards.
  • Speaking of CalSTARS, the cost of funding it going forward looms large on California’s horizon.
  • Stockton exits bankruptcy.
  • Daughters of Charity Health Systems sues the SEIU over interference in a merger deal.
  • Part of the demands from California’s liberal Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris to approve the merger include forcing currently Catholic hospitals to perform abortions.
  • It’s all but impossible for the Middle Class to live in Silicon Valley.
  • West coast port strike ends. Yet another reason to ship through Houston instead…
  • Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick files a bill for $4.6 billion in tax relief.
  • Texas Right to Work laws help keep the state prosperous, but more can be done.
  • Greece Suspends Soccer

    Thursday, February 26th, 2015

    Greece has suspended their top soccer league due to violence:

    The new Greek government suspended competition in the top-flight Super League indefinitely after violence at a weekend match between the top two football clubs in the country.

    Sunday’s game between bitter Athens city rivals Panathinaikos and away team Olympiakos was marred by a pitch invasion despite a heavy police presence.

    The players and officials of Super League leader Olympiakos were also pelted with various projectiles and flares amid ugly scenes.

    Good thing Europeans aren’t completely soccer crazy, or that Greeks aren’t already pissed off at the continuing economic crisis or successive governments telling them precisely the lies they want to hear.

    (An aside: This is an actual sentence on CNN.com: “Following these incidents, the ruling Syriza Party has made its decision to impose a suspension, which will be the third team [sic] this season that Greek football has been halted.” That’s some mighty fine proofreading, CNN…)

    I think this is footage from the scene:

    Evidently Greek government is as incompetent at maintaining a “heavy police presence” as it is at everything else except deficit spending.

    Soccer hooliganism is hardly a novel phenomena in Europe, but I suspect this incident gives us a glimpse of the widespread simmering anger in Greece over the perpetual debt crisis. Having been brought to power by that anger, it looks like Syriza is badly underestimating its depth and how to manage it. If they were smart, they’d be far wiser to let some of it boil off in soccer brawls rather than let it keep building without an outlet.

    In a country that can no longer afford bread, it’s deeply unwise to start banning circuses…

    Groundhog Day on the Aegean

    Monday, February 23rd, 2015

    Greece two weeks ago: “We will not negotiate this people’s pride and dignity.”

    Greece today: “Yes, Master! We’d love to grovel some more if you continue tossing pennies into our cup!”

    “As far as we can tell, the Greek government hasn’t achieved even a single one of its aims so far. The bailout was extended by four months, but in spite of a few cosmetic changes to the wording accompanying it (e.g. the ‘troika’ has been renamed ‘the institutions’), it is still precisely the same bailout agreement as before.”

    This is an event completely unforeseen by everyone except anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to previous installments of Greek Bailout Kabuki. For all the bluster, it’s not like Greece had many options other than to get down on all fours and really lick boot, since it was slated to run out of cash tomorrow.

    Naturally anyone who was foolish enough to believe Syriza’s promises (the technical term for such people is “rubes”) is hopping mad. “It’s as if [Greek PM Alexis] Tsipras, [Greek Finance Minister Yanis] Varoufakis and the others are telling me: ‘We believe that you are stupid…and you will believe whatever lie we tell you.’” The fact Syriza was elected at all is pretty much testament to the well-grounded accuracy that belief. That, and, oh, every single piece of news out of Greece since the Euro debt crisis struck, as long as that lie involved Greece continuing to spend money like drunken sailors with a stolen credit card and never having to pay their debts back.

    The open secret, of course, is that Greece will never repay its debt. “We have to be realistic here. Greek debt is now 175 percent of gross domestic product (GDP); it’s higher than it was when this whole business first started.” (Well, by one measure. Another puts Greek debt at 317% of GDP.) Yeah, that’s what happens when you continue to run huge deficits even under your “austerity” budgets.

    As I previously wrote:

    I’m sure Syriza would love to implement their pie-in-the-sky big spending socialism, but their real goal is to lie to the Greek people long enough for the EU to write at least one more check, and lie to the EU about implementing reform long enough to cash it. Since Syriza only recently came to power, they probably want keep the farce rolling long enough to feather their own nests with Euros before engineering a grexit. After all, center-right parties got their turns at the public graft trough; why not the far left?

    And back on December 29 I wrote:

    So we’ll see another election, and if Syriza wins we’ll see another round of demands for more bailouts and debt writedowns, with Greece threatening yet again to exit the Euro. We’ve seen this movie before. The most likely outcome is that another cabal of EU-phillic insiders in the Greek government will engineer a last-minute cave-in to demands from Brussels and Frankfurt, ram another toothless austerity measure through parliament in exchange for still more credit (and perhaps even a small symbolic measure of debt forgiveness), dissolve the government again following the inevitable public outrage, then have the Greek bureaucracy ignore even those woefully inadequate reforms, setting the stage for the farce to repeat itself in another 12-18 months, or until mean old Aunt Angela finally cuts up the credit card.

    Behold The Amazing Person’s uncanny powers of prophecy! Like Groundhog Day, it’s gotten remarkably easy to predict exactly what’s going to happen. Different people may occupy the Prime Minister’s office, but all them invariably wake up to the political equivalent of Sonny & Cher singing “I Got You Babe.”

    It looks like the only I thing I was off on was the piddling four month extension rather than twelve, and the fact that Syriza didn’t even get the tiny fig-leaf of symbolic debt reduction. I guess that request for reparations from Germany rubbed Angela Merkel the wrong way. Too bad Greek PM Alexis Tsipras failed to heed Basil Fawlty’s eminently sensible advice…

    Texas vs. California Update for February 19, 2015

    Thursday, February 19th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • U.S. bankruptcy judge presiding over the Stockton case says pensions are not sacred and can be cut in bankruptcy. “CalPERS has bullied its way about in this case with an iron fist insisting that it and the municipal pensions it services are inviolable. The bully may have an iron fist, but it also turns out to have a glass jaw.”
  • Public employee pensions: Stealing from the young and poor to give to the old and rich. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California’s entrepreneurs still think the business climate sucks. “In the 2014 survey, 63.5 percent called the small business climate poor, with just 10 saying it’s good. This year 60 percent still consider the business climate poor with 16.5 percent finding it good.”
  • By contrast, low oil prices won’t torpedo Texas’ economy. “Texas’ economy today is more resilient to oil price fluctuations thanks to industrial diversification and pro-growth policies.”
  • California’s combined capital gains tax rate is the third highest. Not third highest in the U.S., third highest in the world, lower only than Denmark and France.
  • How environmentalists made California’s drought worse.
  • Two unions are on different sides of a proposed sale of six struggling Catholic hospitals to a private company.
  • Defense contractor “Advantage SCI, LLC announced today that the company will relocate its headquarters to Alexandria, Virginia (Fairfax County in Old Town Alexandria) from El Segundo, California, after recognizing the high costs related to worker’s compensation, liability, and taxes that plague businesses in California.”
  • Coffee roaster Farmers Brothers is leaving California for either Oklahoma or Texas.
  • More on the Farmer Brothers relocation. “After surviving depressions, recessions, earthquakes and wars, Farmer Brothers is leaving California, finally driven out by high taxes and oppressive regulations.”
  • California Democrats file bills to force the state to get 50% of its energy from renewable energy by 2030. They’re basically putting up yet another big red sign to manufacturers: “We’ll make it impossibly expensive for you to do business here.”
  • Why health care in California is less affordable than elsewhere.
  • The mess that is California’s homeowner earthquake insurance.
  • California property owners aren’t wild about being forced to sell their land for the high speed rail boondoggle.
  • Arlene Wohlgemuth on why Texas should avoid the siren song of Medicare expansion. (Also, best wishes to her for a speedy recovery from her motorcycle accident.)
  • California’s top lifeguard pulls in a cool $236,859 in total compensation. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Lewd yoga dentist filed for bankruptcy.” A San Diego dentist, which is my pretext for including it here, but really, how could I not link a headline like that?