Today officially begins autumn, when leaves should be falling just like Hillary Clinton’s feeble body and poll numbers:
Archive for the ‘Waste and Fraud’ Category
Texas’s fiscal policy is very good. It is a fiscally decentralized state, with local taxes at about 4.5 percent of personal income, above the national average, and state taxes at about 3.6 percent of income, well below the national average. However, Texans don’t have much choice of local government, with only 0.36 jurisdictions per 100 square miles. State and local debt is above average (with the biggest problem being local debt burdens), at 23.1 percent of income, but it has come down slightly since FY 2011. Government subsidies are below average. Public employment has fallen significantly below average, at 11.8 percent of private employment.
Texas’s land-use freedom keeps housing prices down. It also has a regulatory taking compensation law, but it only applies to state government. The renewable portfolio standard has not been raised in years. Texas is our top state for labor-market freedom. Workers’ compensation coverage is optional for employers; most employees are covered, but not all. The state has a right-to-work law, no minimum wage, and a federally consistent anti-discrimination law. Cable and telecommunications have been liberalized. However, health insurance mandates were quite high as of 2010, the last available date. The extent of occupational licensing is high, but the state recently enacted a sunrise review requirement for new licensure proposals. Time will tell whether it is at all effective. Nurse practitioners enjoy no freedom of independent practice at all. Texas has few cronyist entry and price regulations, but it does have a price-gouging law, and Tesla’s direct sales model is still illegal. The civil liability system used to be terrible, but now it is merely below average. The state abolished joint and several liability in 2003, but it could do more to cap punitive damages and end parties’ role in judicial elections.
Although it has long been significantly freer on personal issues than the national average, California has also long been one of the lowest-scoring states on economic freedom.
Despite Proposition 13, California is one of the highest-taxed states in the country. Excluding severance and motor fuel taxes, California’s combined state and local tax collections were 10.8 percent of personal income. Moreover, because of the infamous Serrano decision on school funding, California is a fiscally centralized state. Local taxes are about average nationally, while state taxes are well above average. Government debt is high, at 22.8 percent of personal income. The state subsidizes business at a high rate (0.16 percent of the state economy). However, government employment is lower than the national average.
Regulatory policy is even more of a problem for the state than fiscal policy. California is one of the worst states on land-use freedom. Some cities have rent control, new housing supply is tightly restricted in the coastal areas, and eminent domain reform has been nugatory. Labor law is anti-employment, with no right-to-work law, high minimum wages, strict workers’ comp mandates, mandated short-term disability insurance, and a stricter-than-federal anti-discrimination law. Occupational licensing is extensive and strict, especially in construction trades. It is tied for worst in nursing practice freedom. The state’s mandatory cancer labeling law (Proposition 65) has significant economic costs. It is one of the worst states for consumer freedom of choice in homeowner’s and automobile insurance.
(Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
California has been bleeding people to other states for more than two decades. Even after the state’s “comeback,” net domestic out-migration since 2010 has exceeded 250,000. Moreover, the latest Internal Revenue Service migration data, for 2013-2014, does not support the view that those who leave are so dominated by the flight of younger and poorer people.
Of course, younger people tend to move more than older people, and people seeking better job opportunities are more likely to move than those who have made it. But, according to the IRS, nearly 60,000 more Californians left the state than moved in between 2013 and 2014. In each of the seven income categories and each of the five age categories, the IRS found that California lost net domestic migrants.
Nor, viewed over the long term, is California getting smarter than its rivals. Since 2000, California’s cache of 25- to 34-year-olds with college, postgraduate and professional degrees grew by 36 percent, below the national average of 42 percent, and Texas’ 47 percent. If we look at metropolitan regions, the growth of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees since 2000 has been more than 1.5 to nearly 3 times as fast in Houston and Austin as in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Even New York, with its high costs, is doing better.
(Hat tip: Instapundit, who also notes “I remember talking to the Investor’s Business Daily folks a few years ago — they were headquartered in Marina Del Rey, a lovely place but one where they were constantly visited by inspectors, tax people, etc., all posing problems. When they opened an office in Texas, the state and local government people were all ‘tell us if we can help you.’ Very different experience.”)
Seen as a national leader in the classroom during the 1950s and 1960s, the country’s largest state is today a laggard, competing with the likes of Mississippi and Washington, D.C., at the bottom of national rankings. The Golden State’s education tailspin has been blamed on everything from class sizes to the property-tax restrictions enforced by Proposition 13 to an influx of Spanish-speaking students. But no portrait of the system’s downfall would be complete without a depiction of the CTA, a political behemoth that blocks meaningful education reform, protects failing and even criminal educators, and inflates teacher pay and benefits to unsustainable levels.
According to figures from the California Fair Political Practices Commission (a public institution) in 2010, the CTA had spent more than $210 million over the previous decade on political campaigning—more than any other donor in the state. In fact, the CTA outspent the pharmaceutical industry, the oil industry, and the tobacco industry combined.
California concluded its most recent cap-and-trade program auction last week. Out of 44,268,323 metric tons of carbon dioxide credits offered for sale by the state Air Resources Board, only 660,560 were sold, 1.5 percent of the total, raising a paltry $8.4 million out of a hoped-for $620 million. Last May’s auction was almost as bad, raising $10 million out of an anticipated $500 million.
California’s carbon dioxide cap-and-trade auction program was expected to bring in more than $2 billion in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2017, a quarter of which is earmarked for the high-speed rail project narrowly approved by voters in a 2008 ballot initiative. As a hedge against uncertainty, a $500 million reserve was built into the cap-and-trade budget. But, with the August auction falling 98.5 percent short, the entire reserve was consumed in the first of four auctions for the fiscal year.
It gets better:
In the meantime, the High-Speed Rail project, currently promised to cost “only” $68 billion to run from the Bay Area some 400 miles south to Los Angeles may be looking at $50 billion in overruns. To fund the costly train, which was sold to voters as not costing a dime in new taxes, the expected revenue stream from cap-and-trade has been securitized, putting the state on the hook to Wall Street for billions in construction money advanced on the promise of future cap-and-trade revenue.
Time for another Texas vs. California update:
Here’s a potentially huge scandal that’s just unfolding now:
An unprecedented leak of more than 11 million documents, called the “Panama Papers”, has revealed the hidden financial dealings of some of the world’s wealthiest people, as well as 12 current and former world leaders and 128 more politicians and public officials around the world.
More than 200,000 companies, foundations and trusts are contained in the leak of information which came from a little-known but powerful law firm based in Panama called Mossack Fonseca, whose files include the offshore holdings of drug dealers, Mafia members, corrupt politicians and tax evaders – and wrongdoing galore.
The law firm is one of the world’s top creators of shell companies, which can be legally used to hide the ownership of assets. The data includes emails, contracts, bank records, property deeds, passport copies and other sensitive information dating from 1977 to as recently as December 2015.
It allows a never-before-seen view inside the offshore world — providing a day-to-day, decade-by-decade look at how dark money flows through the global financial system, breeding crime and stripping national treasuries of tax revenues.
There’s 2.6 terrabytes of data released, including Donald Trump’s favorite Russian dictator:
The most extraordinary allegations in the archive revolve around Putin’s closest associates, including Sergey Roldugin, a close friend since the late 1970s when Putin was a young KGB agent.
Roldugin is a cellist for the St Petersburg orchestra, yet his name appears as the owner of offshore companies that have rights to loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars. A Russian news service report in 2010 disclosed that he owned at least three per cent of Bank Rossiya, Russia’s most important bank.
When Mossack Fonseca helped open a bank account in Switzerland on behalf of Roldugin, the application form asked if he had “any relation to PEPs (politically exposed persons) or VIPs.”
The one-word answer was, “No.” Yet, Roldugin is godfather to Putin’s daughter Mariya.
“Roldugin is, by his proximity to a serving head of state, clearly an exposed person,” Mark Pieth, a former head of the Swiss justice ministry’s organized crime division, told the ICIJ team.
The documents show how in 2008 a company controlled by Roldugin had influence over Russia’s largest truck maker Kamaz, joining with several other offshore companies to help another Putin insider acquire majority control of the company. They wanted foreign investment, and German carmaker Daimler later that year bought a 10 per cent stake in Kamaz for $250 million.
The offshore company that connects many Putin loyalists is Sandalwood Continental Limited in the British Virgin Islands. Roldugin was a shareholder until 2012, as was Oleg Gordin, a little-known businessman whom incorporation documents describe as linked to “law enforcement agencies.”
The files also mention a company co-owned by Putin friend Yury Kovalchuk, the largest shareholder of Bank Rossiya. Kovalchuk was among those targeted by US sanctions in 2014 in retribution for Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Another friend, Arkady Rotenberg, Putin’s judo partner and a billionaire construction mogul, openly obtained companies through Mossack Fonseca. The US Treasury Department, when sanctioning him in 2014, suggested that the oligarch acted on behalf of “a senior official.”
That was widely believed to mean Putin, whose fingerprints were not on any offshore company.
The fact that Putin is lining the pockets of himself and his cronies is hardly shocking, but having concrete proof of it is a different thing altogether.
Strangely, the web page for the papers run by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, doesn’t seem to have any Americans fingered by the papers yet. There’s a good chance that could change.
Been a while since I did a Texas vs. California update, due to Reasons, so here’s one:
While all the numbers are constantly in flux, in 2014-15, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System saw its status fall from 76.3 percent funded to 73.3 percent, likely due to the fact that investment returns fell far below expectations. The long-neglected California State Teachers’ Retirement System, as of June 30, 2014, was 69 percent funded. Combined, the systems report unfunded pension promises of more than $160 billion.
The current budget shows steep and consistent increases in state funding to the two systems. Whereas CalPERS is set to receive $4.3 billion in state contributions in the 2015-16 fiscal year, which ends June 30, it could receive $4.8 billion the following year. CalSTRS is to receive $1.9 billion this year and about $2.47 billion next year.
In comparison, CalPERS and CalSTRS received $3.1 billion and $1.26 billion, respectively, in 2011-2012.
While it is perfectly reasonable for costs to rise over time, the rate that costs have risen for the two giant pension funds is mainly a consequence of California trying to play catch-up for years of inadequate forecasting and planning, aggravated by investment losses. But because the pension systems are run for public employees – CalPERS’ board is full of former public employee union leaders – the necessary changes and adjustments have been made far too late to avoid calamity.
(Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
California has given us three new truths about government.
One, the higher that taxes rise, the worse state services become.
Two, the worse a natural disaster hits, the more the state contributes to its havoc.
And three, the more existential the problem, the more the state ignores it.
California somehow has managed to have the fourth-highest gas taxes in the nation, yet its roads are rated 44th among the 50 states. Nearly 70 percent of California roads are considered to be in poor or mediocre condition by the state senate. In response, the state legislature naturally wants to raise gas taxes, with one proposal calling for an increase of 12 cents per gallon, which would give California the highest gas taxes in the nation.
In California, costs to run a business are higher than in other states and nations largely due to the states tax and regulatory policies and the business climate shows little chance of improving. It is understandable that from 2008 through 2015, at least 1,687 California disinvestment events occurred, a count that reflects only those that became public knowledge. Experts in site selection generally agree that at least five events fail to become public knowledge for every one that does. Thus it is reasonable to conclude that a minimum of 10,000 California disinvestment events have occurred during that period….For about 40 years California has been viewed as a state in which it is difficult to do business. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Administration’s less than candid approach regarding the business climate has misled the Legislature, the news media and the public about the flight of capital, facilities and jobs to other states and nations.
The study also shows that Texas had the most new facilities opening up in the nation in 2014, with 689. California, despite being the most populous state, tied for 12th with 170.
Finally, some news from California that doesn’t involve radical islamic jihadis killing innocent people…
The Census Bureau’s 2012 decision to begin releasing an alternative measure of poverty that included cost of living has appeared to have far-reaching effects in California as politicians, community leaders and residents react to the new measure’s depiction of the Golden State as the most impoverished place in America.
The fact that about 23 percent of state residents are barely getting by has helped fuel the push for a much higher minimum wage and prompted renewed interest in affordable housing programs. It’s also put the focus on regional economic disparities, especially the fact that Silicon Valley and San Francisco are the primary engine of state prosperity.
While the tech boom and the vast increase in housing prices it has triggered in the Bay Area are national news, prompting think pieces and thoughtful analyses, the poverty picture in the state’s largest population center isn’t covered nearly as fully. Although the fact is plain in Census Bureau data, it’s not commonly understood that Los Angeles County is the capital of U.S. poverty. A 2013 study by the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality based on 2011 data found 27 percent of the county’s 10 million residents were impoverished, the highest figure in the state and the highest of any large metro area in the U.S.
“Though Texas legislators did an excellent job by holding the total budget below population growth plus inflation during the last session, the state’s weak spending limit remains a primary cause of excessive budget growth during the last decade,” said Heflin. “Legislators can strengthen the limit by capping the total budget, basing the growth on the lowest of three metrics, and requiring a supermajority vote to exceed it. These reforms would have helped keep more money in Texans pockets where it belongs.”