Archive for the ‘Waste and Fraud’ Category

Ding Dong, the ExIm Bank is Dead!

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

One bit of good news this week: The charter for one of crony capitalism’s favorite boondoggles, the Export/Import Bank, expired at Midnight June 30.

Hopefully it will stay dead after congress returns from recess, despite attempts to revive it.

If you can’t kill corporate welfare giveaways to Fortune 100 companies, what can you cut?

Texas vs. California Update for June 24, 2015

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

It’s been a while since I did a Texas vs. California update, so this is going to be a meaty one:

  • The Texas Comptroller has released a 50 state overview of how Texas stacks up to other states. There’s a lot of information to mine there. A few nuggets”
    • Texas ranks first as the best state for business, while California ranks 50th.

    • Texas ranks as the best state for net migration; California ranks 49th.
    • There are area in need of improvement. Texas ranks 49th in states whose residents over 25 hold high school diplomas. California? 50th.
  • Texas has enjoyed 100 straight months of unemployment below the national average. (Now it’s 101 months, but I can’ find a link right at the moment.)
  • The previously mentioned California pension reform ballot initiative has been filed.
  • Can it help California voters avoid pension armageddon?
  • “Low Taxes And Economic Opportunity In Texas Lead To Youth Population Boom.”
  • I was unaware that CalPERS owns its own planned community in Mountain House, California, and which it’s invested more than $1 billion in. A community that in 2008 was the most underwater in terms of mortgages in the entire country, and which was estimated to be worth only $200 million at some point. And now their water is being cut off due to the drought. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Speaking of the drought, California is running on empty:

    We suffer in California from a particular form of progressive immorality predicated on insular selfishness. The water supplies of Los Angeles and the Bay Area are still for a year longer in good shape, despite the four-year drought. Neither area is self-sufficient in water; their aquifers are marginal and only supply a fraction of their daily needs. Instead these megalopolises depend on intricate and expensive water transfer systems — from Northern California, from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and from the Colorado River — that bring water and life to quite unnatural habitats and thereby allow a MGM or Facebook to thrive in an arid landscape that otherwise would not support such commerce and population. Without them, Atherton would look like Porterville.

    Quiet engineers in the shadows make it all work; the loud activists in the media seek to make it unwind. These transfers have sterling legal authority and first claims on mountain and northern state water. If Latinos in Lemon Cove are going without household water, Pyramid Lake on I-5 or Crystal Springs Reservoir on 280 are still full to the brim.

    Why then do those who have access to water delivered in a most unnatural way seek to curtail supplies to others? In a word, because they are either ignorant of where their own water comes from or they have not a shred of concern for others less blessed, or both. We will confirm this ethical schizophrenia should a fifth year of drought ensue. Then even the most sacrosanct rights of transferred water will not be sufficient to accommodate the San Francisco and Los Angeles basins. Mass panic and outrage will probably follow, and no one will care a bit about the delta smelt, or a few hundred salmon artificially planted into the San Joaquin River watershed, or a spotted toad that holds up construction of an urgently needed reservoir.

    The greens who pontificate about the need to return the San Joaquin watershed to its 19th-century ecosystem will become pariahs. When the taps run dry in Hillsborough and Bel-Air, very powerful people will demand water for their desert environs, which will in fact begin to return to the deserts that they always were as the thin veneer of civilization is scraped away.

    (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

  • Hey, remember how California’s are always saying “Sure, Texas has lower taxes, lower cost of living, and better job growth, but California’s awesomely moderate weather beats Texas’ summer heat hands down!”?

    Yeah, not so much this year… (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

  • California legislature votes to reinstate Kelo-like seizure of private property for private development use. Shamefully, 12 Republicans joined Democrats to vote for eminent domain abuse.
  • “Pension payments are starving basic city services.”
  • A Marin County grand jury wants more openness about government employee salaries and pensions. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Of the four “minority majority” states, minorities in Texas are doing best.
  • California farm workers are suing to get the United Farm Workers out of their lives and pockets.
  • Among cities with high prices and stagnant wage growth, California has the nine worst, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Jose.
  • Because California homes just didn’t cost enough already, new energy regulations are going to make them even more expensive.
  • The San Bernardino sheriff’s department has used a “stingray” to capture cell phone communication over 300 times in the past year or so without a warrant.
  • Apple continues expanding in Austin.
  • Texas is one of the states General Electric might leave Connecticut for.
  • California-based retailer Anna’s Linens files for Chapter 11.
  • California holding company Premier Ventures uses yet another bankruptcy filing to prevent an Akron, Ohio mall from being sold at auction. (Previously.)
  • Not news: California bankruptcy filing. Still not news: From a fraud judgment. News: For a lawsuit first filed in 1989.
  • Quick Pre-Default Greece Update

    Monday, June 15th, 2015

    It looks like the rest of Europe has finally wised up to the fact that Alexis Tsipras has been playing them for chumps. It should be obvious to everyone now that Tsipras and his far-left Syriza party have no intention of reforming Greece’s bloated welfare state, they just wanted to pretend to as long as the rest of Europe was willing to underwrite it in exchange for pretending to reform. But lately even the pretense of reform has become intolerable. They want debt forgiveness and Europe to continue paying their bills, and they’re not going to budge until they get it, or until they totally destroy the Greek economy. You know, whichever.

    Europe seems to finally have said “Enough!”

    Other Greek links:

  • Might the European Central Bank impose capital controls on Greece (ala Cyprus) to force a change in the Greek government? Since the Greek banking system only exists at the mercy of ECB-backstopping, this could very well be the easiest way out of the crisis for everyone (even, weirdly, Tsipras and Syriza, who will still be able to claim they never gave in to Troika demands…)
  • “The latest Greek negotiating strategy is to demand a ransom to desist threatening suicide. Such blackmail might work for a suicide bomber. But Greece is just holding a gun to its own head — and Europe does not need to care very much if it pulls the trigger.”
  • “For the creditors, the test of whether Mr. Tsipras really wants Greece to remain in the eurozone comes down to a simple question: Is Syriza willing or able to reform Greece’s public sector?” Syriza wants to reform Greece’s public sector the way O. J. Simpson wants to find the real killers.
  • Gameplanning Greek outcomes. (Warning: Autoplaying video. Up yours, Bloomberg.)
  • Kroll Report Whitewashed Low LSAT Scores at UT Law

    Friday, June 12th, 2015

    Remember the Kroll Report, the look into the University of Texas’ system of preferential admissions for unqualified friends and relatives of the well-connected? The one that showed UT Regent Wallace Hall was right and his critics were wrong?

    Now it turns out that the Kroll report whitewashed some aspects of the UT scandal, namely how low the LSAT scores were for some of those well-connected applicants:

    “Of 6,155 admitted applicants from 2010 to 2014, only four were admitted with an LSAT score below 150,” Kroll reported. Also, “During the time period reviewed, we found only two applicants who were admitted with both an undergraduate GPA below 3.0 and LSAT score below 155; however, both applicants belonged to an under-represented minority group and had valuable public sector experience before applying to law school.”

    Actually, Kroll found dozens of students with LSAT scores below 150, and even found three students admitted during the Powers years with scores in the 130s.

    Snip.

    It’s impossible to say now exactly how many underqualified students were admitted, as UT redacted the tallies. We can say that in 2004, UT Law admitted at least one person with each of the following scores: 137, 140, 141, 144, 147, 148 and 149.

    In 2005, UT Law admitted at least one person with each of the following scores: 137, 140, 141, 143, 144, 147, 148 and 149.

    In 2006, the low scores recorded were 137, 141, 143, 146, 147, 148 and 149.

    So who ordered the Kroll to spike its findings?

    “Vice Chancellor Dan Sharphorn oversaw the report. He reports directly to Chancellor Bill McRaven.”

    Ongoing lawsuits by Watchdog.org and a Dallas Morning News columnist may succeed in getting past UT’s stonewalling (“In response to a public records request, UT last week produced a key 24,536-page document from the Kroll files, with every last page redacted.”) to cast some light on the subject.

    (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

    Greece Debt Crisis Update for May 14, 2014

    Thursday, May 14th, 2015

    Greece managed to make its scheduled IMF loan repayment of around €750 million ($837 million) which “buys the country a few more weeks to reach a deal with creditors on fresh financing.”

    Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said “Greece must escape the ‘strictness trap’ of budget measures that might hurt the economy and so prevent the country from reducing its debt mountain to manageable levels.” In other words: “We absolutely refuse to stop spending other people’s money to prop up our welfare state.”

    So the farce will continue on a little longer, at least.

    In other Greek debt news:

  • Greece is “back” in recession. Assuming you believe it ever actually left it.
  • Europe wants €3 billion in budget cuts from Greece.
  • “The German Finance Ministry is supporting the idea of a vote by Greek citizens to either accept the economic reforms being sought by creditors to receive a payout from the country’s bailout program or ultimately opt to leave the euro.” Hmm, recognize economic reality or exit the Euro. Decisions…
  • And if you thought Greece had abandoned their stupid “German war reparations” idea, think again: “Archival video footage highlighting Nazi atrocities in Greece is being shown to commuters on the Athens subway as part of a campaign demanding war reparations from Germany.” I’m sure that will get them on Angela Merkel’s good side.
  • The Two Greeces: “Official Greece is dysfunctional; unofficial Greece works quite well. The official, theoretical Greece has checks and balances. The unofficial, reality-based Greece turns a blind eye when people break rules and dodge taxes.” I’m not nearly as positive as the author that the corrupt one can be swept away, or that Syriza wants to.
  • The Ghost Factories of Greece.
  • Texas vs. California Update for April 24, 2015

    Friday, April 24th, 2015

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • The Manhattan Institute has a new report out discussing how California’s pension spending is starting to crowd out essential services. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Austin is the number one city in the country for technology job creation.
  • Texas unemployment is down to 4.2%.
  • That’s the lowest unemployment rate since March of 2007.
  • Marin County Grand Jury:

    Unfunded pension liabilities are a concern for county and city governments throughout California. Reviewing this problem in Marin County, the Grand Jury examined four public employers that participate in the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association (MCERA): County of Marin, City of San Rafael, Novato Fire Protection District, and the Southern Marin Fire Protection District, hereafter collectively referred to as “Employer(s)”

    The Grand Jury interviewed representatives of the County of Marin, sponsors of MCERA administered retirement plans, representatives of MCERA, and members of the various Employer governing boards and staff. It also consulted with actuaries, various citizen groups, and the Grand Jury’s independent court-appointed lawyers.

    In so doing, the Grand Jury found that those Employers granted no less than thirty-eight pension enhancements from 2001- 2006, each of which appears to have violated disclosure requirements and fiscal responsibility requirements of the California Government Code.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • The Marin Country lawyer: Nothing to see in this Grand Jury Report! Critics: Hey, aren’t you pulling down a cool $434,000 by “triple dipping” the existing system? (Ditto.)
  • Why does the University of California system have to hike tuition 28%? Simple: Pensions.

    As with other areas of state and local budgets, a big factor is pension costs, which for UC have grown from $44 million in 2009-10 to $957 million in 2014-15. And the number of employees making more than $200,000 almost doubled from 2007-13, from 3,018 to 5,933.

    While total UC employees rose 11 percent from October 2007 to October 2014, the group labeled “Senior Management Group and Management and Senior Personnel” jumped 32 percent.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Los Angeles Teacher’s Union gets a 10% pay hike over two years.
  • Like everything else associated with ObamaCare, covered California is screwed up.
  • BART wants a tax increase. This is my shocked face. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • And by my count, there are 157 BART employees who make more than $200,000 a year in salary and benefits…
  • California state senate committee votes to raise California’s minimum wage to $13 by 2017. If I were Gov. Greg Abbott, I’d be ready to start sending Texas relocation information packets to large California employers the minute this gets signed into law.
  • California-based Frederick’s of Hollywood files for bankruptcy. The retail lingerie business just isn’t what it used to be…
  • Torrence, California newspaper wins Pulitzer Prize for reporting on local school district corruption.
  • Priorities: Carson, California approves $1.7 billion for an NFL stadium even though they don’t have an NFL team to put in it.
  • Dilbert’s Scott Adams weighs in on California’s drought:

  • Texas vs. California Update for April 15, 2015

    Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

    Hope you’ve finished your taxes already! Time for another Texas vs. California update:

  • Detroit and Stockton’s bankruptcies may signal further problems nationwide, says New York Fed President William Dudley. “While these particular bankruptcy filings have captured a considerable amount of attention, and rightly so, they may foreshadow more widespread problems than what might be implied by current bond ratings.”
  • The Texas senate approves a $211.4 billion biannual budget, which will need to be reconciled with the $209.8 billion House budget. Both budgets offer tax relief, but of different kinds.
  • The senate also zero funds two rogue agencies the Texas Racing Commission and the Travis County Public Integrity Unit. Expect Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, with deep ties to the gambling industry, to go to the mat to save the Racing Commission.
  • The Texas senate has also passed signifcant spending limit reform in Senate Bill 9.
  • CalPERS raises contribution rates by 6%.
  • California senate OKs yet another restrictive energy policy bill. Yet another in their continuing “Let’s send as much business to Texas as possible” acts…
  • Los Angeles Unified School District extends lavish employee benefits package another three years, despite existing underfunded liabilities. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • California sets aside $261 million for cost overruns on its already pricey high speed rail boondoggle.
  • California’s drought is something environmentalist liberal elites have brought on themselves: “Those who did the most to cancel water projects and divert reservoir water to pursue their reactionary nineteenth-century dreams of a scenic, depopulated, and fish-friendly environment enjoy lifestyles predicated entirely on the fragile early twentieth-century water projects of the sort they now condemn.”
  • More on the same theme.
  • San Diego builds a desalinization plant (Hat tip: Moe Lane.)
  • Central California is already starting to suffer water-related thefts.
  • In the wake of the Vergara ruling, California Republicans want to overhaul how teachers are hired and fired. Naturally teacher’s unions are opposed…
  • Judge rules that California must pay for sex change operations for prisoners on Eight Amendment grounds. “To contend that ‘forcing’ a prisoner to continue as a man violates the Constitution is absurd…It is nonsensical to grant imprisoned convicted felons health-care ‘entitlements’ that many law-abiding, hardworking taxpayers don’t enjoy.”
  • California prostitutes demand prostitution be legalized. You’d think they’d get a sympathetic hearing from California’s Democrat-controlled legislation, what with all they have in common… (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Stanford student council candidate grilled over Colleging While Jewish. This could go in the regular LinkSwarm, but I noticed that both of these recent incidents took place in California.
  • 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.
  • 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?