Posts Tagged ‘Dallas’

LinkSwarm for March 3, 2017

Friday, March 3rd, 2017

Welcome to another Friday LinkSwarm! (On a personal note, if you know of any technical writing positions here in the Austin area, please let me know.)

  • U.S. troops in Iraq finally get to enjoy sane rules of engagement. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • George Soros-funded group is providing scripts for those “spontaneous” town hall protests. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • For many Democrats, President Trump’s joint address was the first time they actual heard and saw him unfiltered. “He just crushed the Drive-By [Media] last night. He just crushed them. He just blew up every narrative they’ve established on the guy. And they don’t even realize it.”
  • “As one might imagine given the Democrats’ breathtaking electoral collapse, there is basically nothing but bad news for Democrats across the board. The data showed that the voting patterns of key demographic groups shifted dramatically downward from 2008 through 2016.” More: “Contrary to the emerging Democratic majority thesis, there does not seem to be any demographic category with which Democrats are progressively improving.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Maine: Want to work for a living? Welfare recipient: Nah! Maine: Well then, I guess you won’t be needing these food stamps.
  • Man arrested for making threats to Jewish groups is a Bernie Bro and former reporter for The Intercept. Bonus 1: His Twitter page calls capitalists “bloodsuckers.” Gee, that rhetoric seems familiar somehow… Bonus 2: This is hot on the heels of another Intercept writer poo-pooing the idea that Democrats might be targeting Jews.
  • “The Congressional Review Act of 1996 is a ‘sleeper statute’ (aka, a secret weapon) in that its practical application took 20 years to enter the realm of viable possibility. The CRA allows Congress to overturn executive regulations by a simple majority—and this is the moment it’s been waiting for.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • TBS guy at CPAC asks DA Tech Guy to help him make fake news.(Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • No. Just no. And how come SMONE ELSE isn’t running away with the race?
  • “Trump Was Right: Large Amounts of Actionable Intelligence Found in Yemen Raid.” (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Leading French Presidential candidate Francois Fillon investigated for paying his own family “€1m ($1.05m) of public money for allegedly fake jobs.”
  • Geert Wilders’ party is poised to win the most votes in Dutch elections March 15. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Members of an elite Baltimore Police Department squad charged with getting guns off the streets gets hit with federal racketeering charges and held for trial without bail. More: “In one case, four of the officers are alleged to have stolen $200,000 from a safe and bags and a watch valued at $4,000. In July 2016, three officers conspired to impersonate a federal officer in order to steal $20,000 in cash.” (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Apple Board Member Al Gore makes $29 million in profit selling Apple stock.
  • Authenticity is bunk. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Help me Watergate, you’re my only hope!

    The NYT and the Washington Post have a motivation to ally with the Democratic Party in its last-ditch effort to Watergatize Trump after Trump’s endless criticisms of them. And this anti-Trump approach may get them a spike in readership, even as it repels some readers like me.

    I’m missing the sense that I’m getting the normal news. It seems unfair and shoddy not to cover the President the way you’d cover any President. What looks like an effort to stigmatize Trump as not normal has — to my eyes — made the media abnormal.

    Snip.

    The more seemingly normal Trump becomes — as with his speech to Congress the other day — the more the anti-Trump approach of the news media feels like a hackish alliance with the Democratic Party in its sad, negative, backward-looking effort to disrupt the President the people elected.

  • Have any of my friends lost a gun transiting Austin Bergstrom Airport? If so, a baggage handler may have stole your gun to trade for pot.

    Austin police have charged Matthew Bartlett, 21, and Catronn Hewitt, 36, with felony possession of marijuana, police said in a news release.

    Ja’Quan Johnson, 25, was charged with federal charges in connection with the thefts. Johnson is a contract baggage handler at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and is believed to have been behind the thefts, according to police and the Justice Department.

    Buying pot? Likely misdemeanor charge. But stealing guns from airport luggage is likely an interstate federal gun trafficking felony. Also: Our airport security is in the best of hands!

  • Houston Chronicle to move its call center from the Philippines to Dallas. 1. Who thought it was a good idea to move it to the Philippines in the first place? 2. “The move will result in 130 new jobs for Texas.” Why does the Chronicle need 130 people in its call center? 3. Dallas? Really? Because it’s evidently impossible to locate a call center in the 4th largest city in America…
  • SEC charges against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton dismissed. A state felony trail is pending, but given that the state charges are based on the same issue as the SEC case just dismissed, chances of a conviction would appear to be very slim. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Trump Derangement Syndrome in La La Land.
  • How was I to know/She was with the Russians too?

  • Speaking of which:

  • Indeed, “Russia!” is now the go-to move for the media the same way a bad video game player will just use the same button combination over and over again:

  • More CNN fakery:

  • Happiest stinkiest place in the world. (Hat tip: Director Blue.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio flew eyebrow artist 7,500 miles to do his brows for the Oscars. (Hat tip: Ed Driscoll at Instapundit.)
  • Insecure Mongo DB run by toy company hit with ransomware.
  • Ever wanted Mickey Spillane’ typewriter or his World War II uniform? Now’s your chance. I already put in a bid on Spillane’s concealed gun permit…
  • Texas vs. California Update for February 15, 2017

    Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

    Welcome to another Texas vs. California Roundup!

  • California Governor Jerry Brown wants to hike gas taxes by 42% to bail out CalPERS.
  • Brown’s pension reforms have failed:

    Since 2012 passage of his much-heralded changes to state retirement laws for public employee, the pension debt foisted on California taxpayers has only grown larger.

    The shortfall for California’s three statewide retirement systems has increased about 36 percent. Add in local pension systems and the total debt has reached at least $374 billion. That works out to about $29,000 per household.

    It’s actually much worse than that. Those numbers are calculated using the pension systems’ overly optimistic assumptions about future investment earnings.

    Using more conservative assumptions, the debt could be more than $1 trillion.

  • And speaking of Brown: Math is hard.
  • Why California can’t repair its infrastructure: “California’s government, like the federal government and most other state and local governments, spends its money on salaries, benefits, pensions, and other forms of employee compensation. The numbers are contentious — for obvious political reasons — but it is estimated that something between half and 80 percent of California’s state and local spending ultimately goes to employee compensation.”
  • Put another way: “Governor Moonbeam and the other leftist kooks in charge are flushing a staggering $10 billion down an unneeded high-speed rail project, on top of the still more staggering $25.3 billion per year they spend on the illegal aliens they have gone out of their way to welcome.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • California can’t afford green energy:

    California has the highest taxes overall in the nation, worst roads, underperforming schools, and the recent budget has at least a $1.6 billion shortfall.

    Moreover, depending on how the numbers are analyzed California has either a $1.3 or a $2.8 trillion outstanding debt. This is before counting the maintenance work needed for infrastructure, particularly roads, bridges and water systems. Yet tax increases aren’t covering these obligations.

  • Three of the ten least affordable cities in the World are in California: Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose.
  • Austin named best city to live in the U.S. But wait! San Jose ranks third! I can only assume that “affordability” was not a significant criteria. Dallas/Ft. Worth ranks 15th (one ahead of San Francisco), Houston 20th, San Antonio 23rd (one behind San Diego).
  • “A sizzling residential real estate market fueled by incoming Californians, low supply, high demand, flat salaries, and local property taxes are pricing people out of homeownership in Austin.” More: “The Texas A&M Real Estate Center examined the Austin local market area (LMA) over five years. In January 2011, the Austin-Georgetown-Round Rock area median home prices were $199,700. By January 2015, that median hovered at $287,000. At the end of 2016, university real estate analysts found the home mid-price point at $332,000.” Of course, in my neck of the woods, $332,000 will buy you a 2,500 square foot house, while in San Francisco, you’d be lucky to find a 500 square foot condo…
  • “An IGS-UC Berkeley poll shows that 74 percent of Californians want sanctuary cities ended; 65 percent of Hispanics, 70 percent of independents, 73 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans.”
  • Of the top 20 cities for illegal aliens, five (Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Riverside) are in California, while three (Houston, Austin and Dallas/Ft. Worth) are in Texas. I’m actually a bit surprised to see that San Antonio isn’t on that list, while Seattle and Boston are. “American citizens who paid into the system don’t receive benefits like long-term medical care because — in part — we’re all subsidizing aliens.”
  • California pays $25.3 billion in illegal alien benefits, or $2,370 per household. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • By contrast, Texas pays $12.1 billion in illegal alien benefits, or $1,187 per household. (IBID)
  • “In testimony provided before the California Senate’s Public Safety Committee, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) decided to admit that “half of his family” is residing in the United States illegally and with the possession of falsified Social Security Cards and green cards.”
  • “California spent on high-speed rail and illegal immigrants, but ignored Oroville Dam.”
  • Pensions are breaking budgets across San Diego. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Despite California having some of the best recreation spots in the world, we have systematically reduced our business in California by 50%, and I have a moratorium in place on accepting new business (I won’t even look at RFP’s and proposals to avoid being tempted.)”
  • That same blogger on why his company pulled out of Ventura, California. Like this:

    It took years in Ventura County to make even the simplest modifications to the campground we ran. For example, it took 7 separate permits from the County (each requiring a substantial payment) just to remove a wooden deck that the County inspector had condemned. In order to allow us to temporarily park a small concession trailer in the parking lot, we had to (among other steps) take a soil sample of the dirt under the asphalt of the parking lot. It took 3 years to permit a simple 500 gallon fuel tank with CARB and the County equivalent. The entire campground desperately needed a major renovation but the smallest change would have triggered millions of dollars of new facility requirements from the County that we simply could not afford.

    And this:

    A local attorney held regular evening meetings with my employees to brainstorm new ways the could sue our company under arcane California law. For example, we went through three iterations of rules and procedures trying to comply with California break law and changing “safe” harbors supposedly provided by California court decisions. We only successfully stopped the suits by implementing a fingerprint timekeeping system and making it an automatic termination offense to work through lunch. This operation has about 25 employees vs. 400 for the rest of the company. 100% of our lawsuits from employees over our entire 10-year history came from this one site. At first we thought it was a manager issue, so we kept sending in our best managers from around the country to run the place, but the suits just continued.

  • California has some of the highest taxes in the nation, but can’t pay for road maintenance:

    Texas has no state income tax, yet excellent highways and schools that perform above average, way above California’s bottom-dwellers. Yet both states have similar demographics. For example, in the 2010 U.S. Census, Texas was 37% Hispanic, California 37.6%.

    Texas is a First World state with no state income tax that enjoys great roads and schools. California is a Third World state restrained from getting worse only by its umbilical-cord attachment to the other 49 states, a cord the Calexit movement wants to cut, but won’t get to.

    California is Venezuela on the Pacific, a Third World state and wannabe Third World country; a place with great natural beauty, talented people, natural resources – and a government run by oligarchs and functionaries who treat the rest of us as peons.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • “Texas Ends 2016 with 210,200 Jobs Added Over the Year.”
  • All Houston does economically is win.

    The Houston metropolitan area’s population now stands at 6.6 million with the city itself a shade under 2.3 million. At its current rate of growth, Houston could replace Chicago as the nation’s third-largest city by 2030.

    Why would anyone move to Houston? Start with the economic record.

    Since 2000, no major metro region in America except for archrival Dallas-Fort Worth has created more jobs and attracted more people. Houston’s job base has expanded 36.5%; in comparison, New York employment is up 16.6%, the Bay Area 11.8%, and Chicago a measly 5.1%. Since 2010 alone, a half million jobs have been added.

    Some like Paul Krugman have dismissed Texas’ economic expansion, much of it concentrated in its largest cities, as primarily involving low-wage jobs, but employment in the Houston area’s professional and service sector, the largest source of high-wage jobs, has grown 48% since 2000, a rate almost twice that of the San Francisco region, two and half times that of New York or Chicago, and more than four times Los Angeles. In terms of STEM jobs the Bay Area has done slightly better, but Houston, with 22% job growth in STEM fields since 2001, has easily surpassed New York (2%), Los Angeles (flat) and Chicago (-3%).

    More important still, Houston, like other Texas cities, has done well in creating middle-class jobs, those paying between 80% and 200% of the median wage. Since 2001 Houston has boosted its middle-class employment by 26% compared to a 6% expansion nationally, according to the forecasting firm EMSI. This easily surpasses the record for all the cities preferred by our media and financial hegemons, including Washington (11%) and San Francisco (6%), and it’s far ahead of Los Angeles (4%), New York (3%) and Chicago, which lost 3% of its middle-class employment.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Texas conservative budget overview vs. the 2018-2019 proposed budget.
  • On the same subject: how to reduce the footprint of Texas government.
  • “Berkeley funds the Division of Equity and Inclusion with a cool $20 million annually and staffs it with 150 full-time functionaries: it takes that much money and personnel to drum into students’ heads how horribly Berkeley treats its “othered” students.”
  • New LA housing initiative to undo previous housing initiative. Frankly all of them sound like market-distorting initiatives guaranteed to backfire…
  • “California’s bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more. And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
  • “For the past five months, BART has been staffing its yet-to-open Warm Springs Station full time with five $73,609-a-year station agents and an $89,806-a-year train dispatch supervisor — even though no trains will be running there for at least another two months.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “After studying “tens of thousands of restaurants in the San Francisco area,” researchers Michael Luca of Harvard Business School and Dara Lee Luca of Mathematica Policy Research found that many lower rated restaurants have a unique way of dealing with minimum wage hikes: they simply go out of business.”
  • Meet Gordon, the robot barista. How’s that $15 an hour minimum wage working out for you, San Francisco?
  • “Nestle USA announced today that it is moving 300 technical, production and supply chain jobs to the Solon [Ohio] plant as part of the company’s plan to relocate its headquarters to Arlington, Virginia, from Glendale, California.”
  • Auto dealer AutoAlert is moving it’s headquarters from Irvine, California to Kansas City.
  • Peter Thiel to run for governor of California?
  • The Oakland Raiders may not be moving to Las Vegas after all, because billionaire Sheldon Adelson backed out of the stadium deal, accusing Raider owner Mark Davis of trying to screw him.
  • Now there’s talk the Raiders may rexamine moving to San Antonio.
  • Or even Dan Diego.
  • Lawsuits are flying over the Dallas Police and Fire pension fund debacle. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • A Bucket of Texas News

    Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

    No theme linking all this stories, but crime, police and jihad all figure predominately:

  • The Islamic State has singled out the First Baptist Church in Dallas as a target for arson. If memory serves, the last time jihadis tried to carry out an attack in the DFW area, it didn’t work out too well for them.
  • FBI capture Top 10 fugitive Terry A.D. Strickland, wanted for a double homicide, in El Paso.
  • For the record, here’s the FBI’s current top ten list. Note that four of the top 10 (Alexis Flores, Yaser Abdel Said, Robert Francis Van Wisse and Eduardo Ravelo) are foreign born, while two (Said, wanted for honor killing his own daughters in Irving, and Van Wisse, wanted for murdering a woman in Austin in 1983) have ties to Texas.
  • Speaking of honor killings, there has been some news on the Montgomery County honor killings from 2014. Namely Nadia Irsan, the daughter of main defendant Ali Mohmood Awad Irsan (the still living one, not the one he (allegedly) murdered), is now out on bond, but his son, Nile Irsan, was “arrested for having a prohibited substance in a correctional facility.”
  • A Wendy’s employee refused service to a uniformed Fort Worth Police Officer. Sent a tweet asking for followup information on whether the employee was fired or not.
  • The Brownsville City Council rescinds a $1 plastic bag fee after attorney general Ken Paxton pointed out to them that it was illegal under Texas law.
  • Interview with TPPF’s James Quintero on the Texas Municipal Pension Debt Crisis

    Monday, January 2nd, 2017

    James Quintero, the Director of the Center for Local Governance at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, was kind enough to provide some detailed answers to questions I sent him about the municipal pension crisis in Dallas and other large Texas cities. My questions are in italics.


    The Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund issue is generally described as stemming from the fund manager’s risky real estate speculation. Are there any additional structural problems that helped hasten that fund’s crisis?

    When it comes to Texas’ public retirement systems, one of my greatest concerns is that there are other ticking time-bombs, like the DPFP, out there getting ready to explode. It’s not just Dallas’ pension plan that’s taken on excessive risk to chase high yield in a low-yield environment.

    Setting aside the issue of risk for a moment, the DPFP, like most other public retirement systems around the state, suffers from a fundamental design flaw. That is, it’s based on the defined benefit (DB) system, which guarantees retirees a lifetime of monthly income irrespective of whether the pension fund has the money to make good on its promises or not. This kind of system is akin to an entitlement program, warts and all, and is very much at the heart of pension crises brewing in Texas and across the country.

    One of the biggest problems with DB plans is that they rely on a lot of fuzzy math to make them work, or at least give the appearance of working. Take the issue of investment returns, for example. Many systems assume an overly optimistic rate of return when estimating a fund’s future earnings. Baking in these rosy projections is, among other things, a way to understate a plan’s pension debt. In an October 2016 study that I co-authored with the Mercatus Center’s Marc Joffe, I wrote the following to illustrate this very point:

    For example, the Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund (HFRRF) calculates its pension liability using a long-term expected rate of return on pension plan investments of 8.5%. During fiscal year 2015, the plan’s investments returned just 1.53%. Over a 7- and 10-year period the rates of return were 6.4% and 7.9%, respectively. Not achieving these investment returns year-after-year can have a dramatic fiscal impact.

    Even a small change in the actuarial assumptions can have major consequences for the fiscal health of a pension fund. According the HFRRF’s 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, a 1% decrease in the current assumed rate of return (8.5%) would almost double the fund’s pension liabilities, from $577.7 million to $989.5 million.

    So while risky real estate deals were certainly a catalyst in the current unraveling of the DPFP, I suspect that its refusal to move away from the defined benefit model and into a more sustainable alternative—much like the private sector has already done—would have ultimately led us to this same point of fiscal crisis.

    To what legal extent (if any) is Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund backstopped by the City of Dallas and/or Dallas County?

    Let me preface this by saying that I’m not a lawyer nor do I ever intend to be one. However, Article XVI, Section 66 of the Texas Constitution plainly states that non-statewide retirement systems, like DPFP, and political subdivisions, like the city of Dallas, “are jointly responsible for ensuring that benefits under this section are not reduced or otherwise impaired” for vested employees. Given that, it’s hard to see how the city of Dallas—or better yet, the Dallas taxpayer—isn’t obligated in some major way when their local retirement system reaches the point of no return, which may be a lot closer than people think given all the lump-sum withdrawals of late.

    Likewise, does the state of Texas have any statutory backstop to the Dallas police/fireman’s pension fund, or any other local pension funds?

    For non-statewide plans, I don’t believe so. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but the Texas Attorney General wrote something fairly interesting recently touching on aspects of this question.

    In September 2016, House Chairman Jim Murphy asked the AG to opine on “whether the State is required to assume liability when a local retirement system created pursuant to title 109 of the Texas Civil Statutes is unable to meet its financial obligations.” Title 109 refers to 13 local retirement systems in 7 major metropolitans that are a small-but-important group of plans that have embedded some of their provisions in state law (i.e. benefits, contribution rates, and composition of their boards) I’ve written a lot about this problem in the past (read more about it here).

    In response to Chairman Murphy’s question, the AG had this to say:

    In no instance does the constitution or the Legislature make the State liable for any shortfalls of a municipal retirement system regarding the system’s financial obligations under title 109. The Texas Constitution would in fact prohibit the State from assuming such liability without express authorization.

    …a court would likely conclude that the State is not required to assume liability when a municipal retirement system created under title 109 is unable to meet its financial obligations.

    So at least in the AG’s opinion, state taxpayers wouldn’t be required by law to bail out this subset of local retirement systems. But of course, the political calculus may be different than what’s required by law.

    Compared to the Dallas situation, how badly off are the Houston, Austin and San Antonio public employee pension funds?

    If you’re a taxpayer or property owner in one of Texas’ major cities, I’d be concerned. Moody’s, one of the largest credit rating agencies in the U.S., recently found that: “Rapid growth in unfunded liabilities over the past 10 years has transformed local governments’ balance sheet burdens to historically high levels,” and that Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio had a combined $22.6 billion in pension debt—and it’s growing worse!

    Using the Pension Review Board’s latest Actuarial Valuations Report for November 2016, we can parse the systems within each municipality to get a little bit better sense of where the trouble lies. Pension debt for the retirement systems in the big 4 looks like this:

  • Austin Employees’ Retirement System: $1.1 billion, Austin Police Retirement System: $346 M, and Austin Fire Fighters Relief and Retirement Fund: $93 M;
  • Dallas Employees’ Retirement Fund: $809 M, Dallas Police and Fire Pension System—Combined Plan: $3.3 B, and Dallas Police and Fire Pension System—Supplemental: $23 M;
  • Houston Municipal Employees Pension System: $2.2 B, Houston Firefighters’ Relief and Retirement Fund: $467 M, and Houston Police Officer’s Pension System: $1.2 B; and
  • San Antonio Fire and Police Pension Fund: $360 M.
  • Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the figures use some of the same fuzzy math as described above, so the actual extent of the problem may be worse than the PRB’s latest figures indicate.

    What similarities, if any, are there to current Texas municipal pension issues and those that forced California cities like San Bernardino, Stockton and Vallejo into bankruptcy? What differences?

    The common element in most, if not all, of these systemic failures is the defined benefit pension plan. Because of the political element as well as the inclusion of inaccurate investment assumptions in the DB model, these plans are almost destined to fail, threatening the taxpayers who support it and the retirees who rely on it. And sadly, that’s what we’re witnessing now across the nation.

    As far as the differences go, California’s municipal bankruptcies as well as Detroit’s were preceded by decades of poor fiscal policy and gross mismanagement. I don’t see that same thing here in Texas, but it’s also important that we don’t let it happen too.

    California pensions were notoriously generous (20 years and out, spiking, etc.). Do any Texas state or local pensions strike you as unrealistically generous?

    Any plan that’s making pension promises but has no plan on how to make good on those promises is being unrealistically generous. And unfortunately for taxpayers and retirees alike, a fair number of plans can be categorized as such.

    The Pension Review Board’s Actuarial Valuations Report for November 2016 reveals that of Texas’ 92 state and local retirement system, only 4 of them are fully-funded. At the other extreme, a whopping 19 of the 92 plans have amortization periods of more than 40 years. Six of those 19 plans have infinite amortization periods, which effectively means that they have no plan to keep their promises but are instead planning to fail.

    As far as specific plans go, there’s no question that the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System is the posterchild for the overly generous. The Dallas Morning News recently covered the surreal levels of deferred compensation offered, finding that:

    The lump-sum withdrawals come from the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, known as DROP. The plan allows veteran officers and firefighters to essentially retire in the eyes of the system and stay on the job.

    Their benefit checks then accrue in DROP accounts. For years, the fund guaranteed interest rates of at least 8 percent. DROP made hundreds of retired officers and firefighters millionaires. And once they stopped deferring the money, they received their monthly benefit checks in addition to their DROP balance. [emphasis mine]

    It’s probably fair to say that any public program that makes millionaires out of its participants is probably being too generous with its benefits.

    There seem to be only two recent local government bankruptcies in Texas, neither of which were by cities: Hardeman County Hospital District Bankruptcy and Grimes County MUD #1. Did either of these involve pension debt issues?

    I’m not familiar with those instances, but when it comes to the issue of soaring pension obligations, I can tell you that the system as a whole is moving in bad direction.

    In November 2016, Texas’ 92 state and local retirement systems had racked up over $63 billion dollars of unfunded liabilities, with more than half owed by the Teacher Retirement System. That’s a staggering amount of pension debt that’s not only big but growing fast. And worse yet, that’s in addition to Texas’ already supersized local government debt-load.

    How we’re going to make good on all of these unfunded pension promises is anyone’s guess. But I imagine that it’ll involve some combination of much higher taxes, benefit reductions, and fewer city services.

    What limits or constraints does Texas place on Chapter 9 bankruptcy?

    The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline has some good information on this, at least as far as municipal bankruptcy is concerned. A November 2011 report, Municipal Bankruptcy Explained: What it Means to File for Chapter 9, had this to say about the process:

    Who can file for Chapter 9? Only municipalities — not states — can file for Chapter 9. To be legally eligible, municipalities must be insolvent, have made a good-faith attempt to negotiate a settlement with their creditors and be willing to devise a plan to resolve their debts. 

They also need permission from their state government. Fifteen states have laws granting their municipalities the right to file for Chapter 9 protection on their own, according to James Spiotto, a bankruptcy specialist with the Chicago law firm of Chapman and Cutler. Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Washington. 

    Hopefully this is a process that can be avoided entirely, but given the fiscal condition of the DPFP and potentially a few other systems, I’m not sure that’ll be the case.

    Next to Dallas, which municipal pensions would you say are in the worst shape?

    I’m most concerned about the local retirement systems in Title 109. The reason, again, is that these 13 local retirement systems are effectively locked into state law and there’s little that taxpayers or retirees in those communities can do to affect good government changes without first going to Austin. These systems have basically taken a bad situation and made it worse by fossilizing everything that counts.

    In the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s 2017-18 Legislator’s Guide to the Issues, I cover this issue in a little more detail. In the article (see pgs. 122 – 124), I write of these plans’ fiscal issues which can be seen below, albeit with slightly older data.

    texaspensiondebtchart

    (Funded ratios marked in red denote systems that are below the 80% threshold, signifying a plan that may be considered actuarially unsound. Source: Texas Bond Review Board.)

    The fact that these systems either are in or are headed for fiscal muck is a big reason why the Texas Public Policy Foundation is helping to educate and engage on legislation that would restore local control of these state-governed pension plans. People on the ground-level should have some say over their local plans, and that’s what we’ll be fighting for next session. Encouragingly, a bill’s already been filed in the Senate (see SB 152) and there should be legislation filed shortly in the House to do just that.

    Should Texas government agencies switched over to defined contribution (i.e. 401K) plans over standard pension plan, and if so, how might this realistically be accomplished without endangering existing retirees?

    ABSOLUTELY. Ending the defined benefit model and transitioning new employees into something more sustainable and affordable, like a defined contribution system, is one of the best things that the state legislature can do. This is something I’ve long been an advocate of.

    In fact, in early 2011, I played a very minor role in the publication of some major research spearheaded by Dr. Arthur Laffer, President Ronald Reagan’s chief economist, that advanced this same reform idea (see Reforming Texas’ State & Local Pension Systems for the 21st Century). I’ve also written a lot about the need to make the DC-switch, making the case recently in Forbes that:

    DC-style plans resemble 401(k)s in the private sector and the optional retirement programs (ORP) available for higher education employees in Texas. These DC-style plans put the power of an individual’s future in their own hands instead of depending on the good fortune of government-directed DB-style plans. DC-style plans are portable and sustainable over the long term as they are based on the contributions of retirees and a defined government match.

    With DC-style plans, retirees will finally have the opportunity to determine how much risk they are willing to take. They also reduce the risk that the government will default on their retirement or fund those losses with dollars from taxpayers who never intended to use these pensions. By giving retirees more freedom on how to best provide for their family, they will be in a much better position to prosper.

    Because of their efficiency, simplicity and fully funded nature, the private sector moved primarily to DC-style plans long ago. For the sake of taxpayers and retirees dependent on government pensions, it’s time for all governments to move to these types of plans as well.

    As far as dealing with transition costs, some much smarter people than I have written on this issue and found that it’s not as big of a challenge as it’s made out to be. Dr. Josh McGee, a vice president with the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, and Chairman of the Pension Review Board, had this to say about the matter:

    Moving to a new system would have little to no effect on the current system. State and local pensions are pre-funded systems, and unlike Social Security, the contributions of workers today do not subsidize today’s retirees. Future normal cost contributions are used to fund new benefit accruals that workers earn on a go-forward basis and are not used to close funding gaps. Therefore, it matters little whether the normal cost payments are used to fund new benefits under the current system or a new system.

    (Source: The transition cost mirage—false arguments distract from real pension reform debates.)

    Another pension expert, Dr. Andrew Biggs with the American Enterprise Institute, published research that found that:

    In this study, I show that if a pension plan were closed to new hires, over time the duration of liabilities would shorten, and the portfolio used to fund those liabilities would become more conservative. However, the effects of these transition costs are so small as to be barely perceptible.

    (Source: Are there transition costs to closing a public-employee retirement plan?)

    I’m confident that with the right plan in place, Texas’ state and local retirement systems can make the switch to defined contribution and we’ll be all the better for it.


    Thanks to James Quintero for providing such a detailed analysis!

    And since we’re on the topic, here’s a roundup of news on the Dallas Police and Fireman’s pension fund crisis:

  • The Texas Rangers have launched a criminal probe into the shortfall.
  • City Journal offers details on the unreasonable generosity of the Dallas plan (which covers some of the same DROP issues Quintero mentions):

    Dallas created the police and fire plan in 1916. The system’s trustees eventually persuaded the state legislature to allow employees and pensioners to run the plan. Not surprisingly, the members have done so for their own benefit and sent the tab for unfunded promises—now estimated at perhaps $5 billion—to taxpayers. Among the features of the system is an annual, 4 percent cost-of-living adjustment that far exceeds the actual increase in inflation since 1989, when it was instituted. A Dallas employee with a $2,000 monthly pension in 1989 would receive $3,900 today if the system’s annual increases were pegged to the consumer price index. Under the generous Dallas formula, however, that same monthly pension could be worth more than $5,000. No wonder the ship is sinking.

    The system also features a lavish deferment option that lets employees collect pensions even as they continue to work and earn a salary. Moreover, the retirement money gets deposited into an account that earns guaranteed interest. Governments originally began creating these so-called DROP plans as an incentive to encourage experienced employees to keep working past retirement age, which in job categories like public safety can be as young as 50. In Dallas, the pension system gives workers in the DROP plan an 8 percent interest rate on their cash, at a time when yields on ten-year U.S. Treasury notes, a standard for guaranteed returns, are stuck at less than 2 percent. According to the city, some 500 employees working past retirement age have accumulated more than $1 million in these accounts—on top of the pensions that they will receive once they officially stop working.

  • The Dallas Morning News says that there’s plenty of blame to go around:

    Over the years, the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System fund has amassed $2 billion to $5 billion in unfunded liabilities, the result of bad real estate investments and blatant self-enrichment from prior management. Coupled with a possible setback in ongoing litigation over public safety salaries, Dallas is in the most financially precarious position in its history.

    City officials are openly uttering the word bankruptcy, not just of the pension fund but the city itself. As Mayor Mike Rawlings told the Texas Pension Review Board this month, “the city is potentially walking into the fan blades that might look like bankruptcy.”

    The state Legislature created this mess by not giving the city a meaningful voice in the fund’s operation and allowing the former board of the pension fund to unilaterally sweeten its membership’s promised benefits without concern to the overall fiscal damage being done. Now it must help the city clean up the mess.

    Dallas already provides nearly 60 percent of its budget to support public safety services and recently contributed $4.6 million to increase its share of pension contributions to 28.5 percent — the maximum allowed under state statute. However, if Dallas loses the lawsuit over salaries and no changes are made to the pension fund, the city could take an $8 billion hit. That is roughly equal to eight years of the city’s general fund budget.

  • That said, the bond market doesn’t seem to think Dallas is near bankruptcy.
  • And it’s not just Dallas:

    Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio collectively face $22.6 billion worth of pension fund shortfalls, according to a new report from credit rating and financial analysis firm Moody’s. That company analyzed the nation’s most debt-burdened local governments and ranked them based on how big the looming pension shortfalls are compared to the annual revenues on which each entity operates.

    “Rapid growth in unfunded pension liabilities over the past 10 years has transformed local governments’ balance sheet burdens to historically high levels,” the report says.

    Chicago had the most dire ratio on the national list. Dallas came in second. According to the report, the North Texas city has unfunded pension liabilities totaling $7.6 billion. That’s more than five times the size of the city’s 2015 operating revenues.

    Both those cities may turn to the public to partially shore up their shortfalls. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wants to use $1 billion in bonds to infuse that city’s funds. Dallas police officer and firefighter pension officials also want $1 billion from City Hall, an amount officials there say is too high.

    Meanwhile, Austin ranked 14th on the Moody’s list with unfunded pension liabilities of $2.7 billion. San Antonio ranked 22nd with a $2.3 billion shortfall.

  • LinkSwarm for December 9, 2016

    Friday, December 9th, 2016

    The Dallas police and fireman pension fund has halted withdrawals of money to stop a pension run in order to keep the system (temporarily) solvent. Texas municipal pension debt is a big story with a lot of different ramifications and angles, and I need to do some research before I post, hopefully sometime next week.

    In the meantime, enjoy a Friday LinkSwarm:

  • Why they voted for Trump:

    Working-class Americans have been mocked, maligned, and forgotten long enough. They are fed up and they went to the voting booth last week and said so.

    This election’s “red state” vote had little to do with racism or any phobias. The message we heard last week was, rather, a clear and simple plea from the average blue-collar, small-town mother and father for Washington and other big-city elites to stop belittling, disparaging and vilifying them and their families. It was their way of telling the “know-it-alls”; the politicians and pundits, to stop flying over and driving past their gutted factories and dying towns and pretending they don’t exist and do not matter. They simply wanted the “smarter and more educated” city folks to know that they are tired of insults and that the condescension needs to stop. They voted for Trump because someone finally appeared to care and listen.

    They voted for Trump because he seemed to get it. Finally, someone seemed to understand that the average guy: the plumber, the carpenter, the truck driver, the farmer — the good and decent family man from Dewey, Oklahoma, and from Hillsdale, Michigan — is the one who is now suffering from more cultural disrespect than perhaps anyone else in all the country.

    They voted for Trump because they’re sick and tired of being laughed at. They voted for Trump because they have, frankly, “had it” with being labeled intolerable by those who claim to be tolerant. They voted for Trump because they think it’s deplorable that they are the ones being called “deplorables.”They voted for Trump because they can’t turn on the TV, listen to the radio or read the news without some highbrow elitist in the mainstream media calling them “low-information,” “uneducated white males” who are too dumb to know what’s best for them and too stupid to see that Washington knows best. They voted for Trump because all they want is to have a job, get some respect, pick up a paycheck, go to church, raise their kids and be left alone.

    This is why. This is the explanation.

    Hate had nothing to do with it.

    (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • Kurt Schlichter: “The liberals are truly going nuts, and it’s beautiful.”

    They recently resurrected Nancy Pelosi for another glorious term winnowing away the House Democrat caucus. Pretty soon it’s just going to be her and some guy representing Berkeley who they recruited while he was shouting “Workers of the world unite!” at bored coeds on Telegraph Avenue. You know, if you want to reach out to the kind of hard-working, salt-of-the-earth, normal Americans who voted for the black guy then allegedly refused to vote for the woman because they are racist, you totally want an ancient, rich, snooty, San Francisco leftist and Botox after-picture like the Nanster.

    The only way you could further alienate these alienated voters is, I don’t know, making your DNC chairman some radical leftist, urban black Muslim who hates guns, loves Farrakhan and who parties with Middle Eastern scumbags who issue fatwas to kill those voters’ soldier sons and daughters. Now, that’s some real diversity, and the Dems should totally get right on it. But seriously, we could never dare to hope that the Democrats would be that stupid. Could we?

    And I had to laugh at this, even a little guiltily:

    Next up at bat is the hard-4 hedgehog that is anti-gun activist and alleged comedian Amy Schumer, another over-praised, over-hyped mediocrity who Tinseltown is trying to force down our throats like the fingers she clearly never forced down hers.

  • Speaking of liberals going nuts, this Washington Post piece about how Trump’s election stole one woman’s sexual desire is an exemplar of the “Middle Aged Feminist Talks About How She’s Very Upset With Politics While Narcissisticly Sharing The Tedious Minutia of Her Life” piece.
  • “Liberals have migrated beyond observable reality into fantasyland.” (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • Liberals prove once again how sane and generous they are by suggesting to let Tennessee wildfire victims burn because they voted for Trump.
  • The collapse of the political left:

    The rejection was apparent in the 2010 and subsequent House elections; Republicans have now won House majorities in ten of the last 12 elections, leaving 2006 and 2008 as temporary aberrations. You didn’t hear Hillary Clinton campaign on the glories of Obamacare or the Iran nuclear deal, and her attack on “Trumped-up, trickle-down economics” didn’t strike any chords in the modest-income Midwest.

    Republican success has been even greater in governor and state legislature elections, to the point that Democrats hold governorships and legislative control only in California, Hawaii, Delaware and Rhode Island. After eight years of the Obama presidency, Democrats hold fewer elective offices than at any time since the 1920s.

    (Hat tip: Director Blue.)

  • Hey, maybe liberals should use persuasion rather than automatically label everyone who disagrees with them racist. (Hat tip: Will Shetterly.)
  • Clintonistas are still bitching about Bernie Sanders, saying his challenge to their beloved Queen fatally wounded her. You know, the way Trump having a dozen primary challengers kept him from becoming President.
  • Piers Morgan (I know) on how Donald Trump pwns the media. “Every time they throw their high-minded journalistic toys out of their strollers at one of his tweets, Trump wins.” (Hat Tip: Borepatch.)
  • Trump is blessed by having weak opponents: “How influential did the press expect to be? It ran against Trump in the election and lost. Why should anybody inclined to support the president-elect — roughly half the country, you may recall — pay attention now to a press that has said the usual rules don’t apply? Again, the more the opposition was cranked up, the less effective it became.”
  • Outgoing Vice President Joe Biden says he’s running for President in 2020. It’s not like he would have done worse than Hillary did this year…
  • ObamaCare in one graphic. One big, depressing graphic…
  • Reminder: That “97% of scientists agree than man is causing climate change” factoid is false.
  • Ties between Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist government and the Islamic State.
  • Are NGOs smuggling illegal aliens into Europe with the help of the EU?
  • With her poll ratings dropping, Angela Merkel suggests a burka ban. Such actions would be unnecessary if Merkel hadn’t brought the “refugee” crisis on in the first place.
  • Five Afghan “refugees” charged with raping a 15-year old boy in Sweden. Strangely enough, I don’t remember gay gang rapes of children in Sweden being in the news before the current wave of Islamic immigration…
  • Speaking of Afghan “refugees,” an EU official’s daughter was murdered by one.
  • What Trump’s Taiwan phone call means:

    When evaluating this unorthodox and, yes, risky move, one has to remember that it is China, not the United States, that has been rewriting the rules of engagement in the East and South China Sea. It is China that has been unilaterally asserting territorial claims against its neighbors, China asserting jurisdiction over international waters and air space, China failing to rein in the increasingly serious North Korean nuclear program. The power that is challenging the status quo in Asia is not the United States.

    (Hat tip: The Corner.)

  • Italy’s PM: Hey, give me near absolute power, because that’s never backfired on Italy before! Italy: Get stuffed!
  • In related news, actress Paola Saulino, who promised blow jobs for those who voted against the referendum, says she’s making good on her promise. What? You want pictures of Paola Saulino? Well, if you insist:

    And here are the dates for her “thank you” tour:

    I get the feeling the adoring crowds will make Black Friday look tame by comparison… (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)

  • Now India is confiscating gold and jewelry from political enemies targets of corruption probes.
  • Canada wants to criminalize pronouns. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • If the New York Times wants to fight “fake news,” perhaps they should look in the mirror.
  • A guide to winning the media wars:

    We all know that independent websites taking Hillary to task on her very real and very deplorable track record of being a compulsive liar is what was truly decisive. The mainstream media knows this, which is why they haven’t actually been focusing on censoring provably fake news sites, but rather have been promoting an agenda to lump any non-establishment perspectives within the umbrella of “fake news” in order to destroy their competition and regain an upper hand in the national narrative. If those of us who value independent media want to thwart this nefarious plan, we need to fully understand what these cretins are up to.

  • 27-year male Clinton supporter hits 69 year old woman over the head with a chair. In his defense, he really does not look like the sharpest knife in the drawer:

    Or even the sharpest spoon…

  • More fake hate crimes.
  • The amnesty crowd is at it again.

    A DREAM Act 2.0 that addressed these problems — that prosecuted fraud, implemented enforcement, prevented downstream legal immigration, and focused much more narrowly on those who came very young — would possibly be something that even I, were I a congressman, might be able to vote for. But the lack of these elements is clear proof that the amnesty crowd isn’t interested in fixing the specific problem of a sympathetic but small group of people; rather, these young people are simply poster children who have been used for years to try to justify a general amnesty for all illegal aliens. And when the DREAM Act fails, as it will, Pedro Ramirez and his fellows will need to ask the pro-amnesty politicians and lobbying groups why they were sacrificed on the altar of “comprehensive immigration reform.”

  • Instapundit suggests downsizing imperial Washington:

    Donald Trump ran for president on the slogan “Make America Great Again!” And he’s also promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. But maybe the way to do that is to make Washington a little less great. Because as Washington has prospered over the last several decades — to the point where people are making Hunger Games comparisons — the rest of the country hasn’t done as well.

    So perhaps it’s time for a role-reversal. I propose that over the next several years, we transfer a lot of federal employees out of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, to parts of the country that aren’t doing so well economically. This would provide a boost to places like Buffalo, New York, or Quincy, Illinois, or Fresno, California, while getting federal bureaucrats out of the D.C. bubble.

  • Delusional liberal in Time suggests that people not pay their taxes while Trump is president. So he wants to: A.) Starve the federal government of money, and B.) Put liberals in prison where they can’t vote. OK, but what’s the downside?
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issues a stay of execution for an Alabama inmate. “Lawyers for Smith argue that although the jury rendered a verdict of life without parole, the trial court overrode the jury’s verdict and sentenced Smith to death.” Hmmm…
  • There’s a new cybersecurity commission report out. Guess what? It’s crap!
  • Black Workers’ Suit Accuses Job Agency of Favoring Hispanic Applicants.” Also: “He added that the staff of the MVP office in Cicero ‘was mainly Mexicans’ and that the employees were not welcoming toward African-American job seekers.” Also: “The vast majority of Hispanic job applicants served by MVP were in the United States illegally.” Note: The agency in question is not the Democratic Party, or the federal government… (Hat tip: Ann Althouse.)
  • Speaking of racial discrimination lawsuits in hiring, CNN is being sued for just that. (Hat tip: The Other McCain.)
  • Armor car robbery ringleader killed in Houston, accomplices arrested. (Hat tip: Dwight.)
  • Recovering from a devastating spinal injury via power lifting. (Ht tip: Instapundit.)
  • Marxist vegan diner closes. “Ultimately, the restaurant’s popularity among social justice warriors proved unable to sustain its rickety business model.”
  • Naval Base Bombed, Shinto Worshipers Fear Backlash – New York Times – December 8 1941.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Noted without comment: The @EvilMopacATX twitter feed.
  • LinkSwarm for December 2, 2016

    Friday, December 2nd, 2016

    Welcome to the last month of the year! (Insert standard “where has the time gone” lament here.)

    Enjoy the traditional Friday LinkSwarm:

  • Kevin D. Williamson brings the wood:

    The Democratic party is an odd apparatus in which most of the power is held by sanctimonious little old liberal white ladies with graduate degrees and very high incomes — Hillary Rodham Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Randi Weingarten — while the manpower, the vote-power, and the money-power (often in the form of union dues) comes from a disproportionately young and non-white base made up of people who, if they are doing well, might earn one-tenth of the half-million dollars a year Weingarten was paid as the boss of the teachers’ union. They are more likely to be cutting the grass in front of Elizabeth Warren’s multi-million-dollar mansion than moving into one of their own. They roll their eyes at Hillary Rodham Clinton’s risible “abuela” act, having actual abuelas of their own.

    As in the Republican party, the Democrats have a restive base that is more radical than its leadership, more aggressive, and in search of signs of tribal affiliation. The Democratic base is not made up of little old liberal white ladies with seven-, eight-, and nine-figure bank balances, but the party’s leadership is.

  • Alan Derschowitz is not a fan of Rep. Keith Ellison’s DNC Chairman bid:

    What should a political party that has just lost its white working-class, blue-collar base to a “make America great again” nationalist do to try to regain these voters? Why not appoint as the new head of the party a radical left-wing ideologue who has a long history of supporting an anti-American, anti-white, anti-Semitic Nation of Islam racist? Such an appointment will surely bring back rust-belt voters who have lost their jobs to globalization and free trade! Is this really the thinking of those Democratic leaders who are pushing for Keith Ellison to head the Democratic National Committee?

    Keith Ellison is, by all accounts, a decent guy, who is well liked by his congressional colleagues. But it is hard to imagine a worse candidate to take over the DNC at this time. Ellison represents the extreme left wing of the Democratic Party, just when the party — if it is to win again — must move to the center in order to bring back the voters it lost to Trump. The Democrats didn’t lose because their candidates weren’t left enough. They won the votes of liberals. The radical voters they lost to Jill Stein were small in number and are not likely to be influenced by the appointment of Ellison. The centrist voters they lost to Trump will only be further alienated by the appointment of a left-wing ideologue, who seems to care more about global issues than jobs in Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. Ellison’s selection certainly wouldn’t help among Jewish voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania or pro-Israel Christian voters around the country.

    Also, Derschowitz is not buying the “friend of Israel” blather put forth by Ellison defenders:

    Ellison’s voting record also does not support his claim that he has become a “friend” of Israel. He was one of only 8 Congressmen who voted against funding the Iron Dome program, developed jointly by the U.S. and Israel, which helps protect Israeli civilians from Hamas rockets. In 2009, Ellison was one of only two dozen Congressmen to vote “present” rather than vote for a non-binding resolution “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from, reaffirming the United States’ strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.” And in 2010, Ellison co‐authored a letter to President Obama, calling on him to pressure Israel into opening the border with Gaza. The letter describes the blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza strip as “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents.”

  • Five Thirty Eight asserts that education levels one of the primary determinants of which counties voted for Trump.
  • More electorate analysis: “This is a case where the simplest explanation is the correct one: Donald Trump won because he did exceptionally (indeed, historically) well with the white working class, a bloc that until 2016 was resistant north of the Mason-Dixon line to voting Republican en masse.”
  • Fidel Castro’s murders by the numbers. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Could Marine Le Pen be the leftmost candidate in France’s presidential election?
  • Your government in action: health inspectors deny the homeless a free BBQ meal.
  • Rotherham, post-truth and the “alt-right”:

    Some on the left in the West see certain ideas and even some easily verifiable truths, as plain dangerous, much like the totalitarian communists of yesteryear. Dangerous to public order. Dangerous to the ‘common good’.

    Whilst this section of the left has always existed, it now seems to have become more ‘mainstream’. It seethes and obsesses within carefully-policed ideological echo-chambers. It dominates in universities, trade unions and the public sector. And whereas it was once mainly prevalent in fringe far-left outfits, it has now effectively co-opted the Labour party through its membership and leadership.

    Anyone who has ever tried to engage with this section of the left will know that it doesn’t ‘do debate’ with conservatives on issues like immigration, multiculturalism and identity politics. For it, “the debate is settled”. Opposing views are intrinsically wicked. Such ideas are to be ignored. Muted. Blocked. Banned. Disrupted. Drowned out with fog-horns.

    It does not feel it needs to win the argument nor does it see any reason to engage in one. Where it can apply ‘No Platform’ or ‘Safe Space’ schemes to stymie debate, it will do so assiduously. Where it can’t, it’s adept at innovating campaigns such as #StopFundingHate to help promote the censorship it craves.

    (Hat tip: Instapundit.)

  • Still more on How Trump got elected:

    The privileged worked hard for Trump. Every time they described his people as uneducated white males, implicit dregs, they drove votes to Donald. And they so described the working class unceasingly.

    It made him President. Good, bad, or indifferent, it is how he got in.

    The privileged denigrated all whites unlike themselves. Then Hillary made her “deplorables” speech, confirming her contempt for half of America–those uneducated, shapeless, dull-witted proles in Flyover Land, obese, farting and belching, swilling Bud, watching NASCAR for god’s sake in awful trailers. And why not not sneer at them? Why did Hillary need their votes? Did not Rachel Maddow love her?

    For Trump it was gold, pure gold. If he had written her speech, he could not have come up with a better line to destroy her. It was the purest product of the establishment’s hubris. She did it to herself. Sweet.

    It made him President.

    Black Lives Matter also did yeoman work for the Donald. As they and snowflake Brown Shirts and excited millennials blocked highways and beat Trump’s supporters and shut down rallies, and vandalized cars, and of course looted, they presumably thought they were working against the Trump Monster. Not a chance. Out there in the uncharted barbarian lands between Manhattan and Hollywood, in dark primeval forests where Cro-Magnons are still a rarity, people were sick of lawlessness, and of an establishment that tolerated it. It produced more votes, perhaps not for Trump or even against Hillary but against the class that she represented.

    Immigration. Here Hillary and Obama did great work for Donald. As Obama frantically brought in as many “refugees” as possible from everywhere, anywhere that might not be compatible with the people upon whom he would force them, Hillary promised to import huge numbers of Muslims. It was luminously stupid politics, but politically she was luminously stupid, so it fit.

    It is why she is not President.

    She knew that the backward peoples of Flyover Land ought to want hundreds of thousands of Somalis and Pakistanis and who-knew-what to live with, and if they didn’t, she would force them and it didn’t matter because she had big donors and everybody in the media loved her.

    However incoherent and ignorant Trump was, the Establishment was determined to elect him. Elect him it did.

    (Hat tip: Borepatch.)

  • The end of identity politics? (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • You know those sacred medicare funds? Obama has raided them to help take care of illegal aliens.
  • Germany’s security agency infiltrated by a jihadist. (Hat tip: Ace.)
  • The pension fund for Dallas policeman and firefighters is teetering on insolvency thanks to risky investments.
  • Don’t agree with everything in this John Gray essay on the closing of the liberal mind, published right before Trump’s election, but there’s a lot to chew over concerning the post-liberal world order, and especially the Labour Party’s relation to it. “Labour has become unelectable in any foreseeable future.”
  • Banks in India run out of money thanks to the idiot currency ban:

    Many in north India who slept outside banks in freezing conditions woke up in the morning to be told only that no cash had arrived.

    “I have been doing the rounds of banks for the past 20 days and have been unable to withdraw my own money,” said Balbir Singh, a junior executive in a private firm in New Delhi. “Even on payday the story was the same: the bank said it simply had no money to disburse, even though I have ample credit in my account.”

  • Turkish Lira collapses.
  • Global warming: “Since 1940 the sea level off of northern Washington has dropped about 15 cm. (6 inches).”
  • How Gary Taubes overcame the severe backlash over his famous expose of how low fat diets fail compared to low carb diets like Atkins.
  • Chicago’s real estate market expect to rank dead last. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Will Wallace Hall have the last laugh on his UT records request? (Hat tip: Cahman’s Musings.)
  • Smoking marijuana inhibits blood flow to the brain.
  • The science of the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. (Hat tip: Ann Althouse.)
  • Nothing says “class” like wearing an ascot, sipping a glass of wine, and spray-painting “Fuck Trump” on a supermarket wall.
  • The wit and wisdom of Robert Stacy McCain.
  • A startling factoid:

  • Less startling, still interesting:

    (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)

  • A concise definition of the issue:

  • Dallas Pension Fund Near Insolvenacy Thanks To Risky Investments

    Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

    Dallas Police and Fire pension fund are near insolvency thanks to shady real estate deals:

    The Dallas Police & Fire Pension (DPFP), which covers nearly 10,000 police and firefighters, is on the verge of collapse as its board and the City of Dallas struggle to pitch benefit cuts to save the plan from complete failure. According the the National Real Estate Investor, DPFP was once applauded for it’s “diverse investment portfolio” but turns out it may have all been a fraud as the pension’s former real estate investment manager, CDK Realy Advisors, was raided by the FBI in April 2016 and the fund was subsequently forced to mark down their entire real estate book by 32%. Guess it’s pretty easy to generate good returns if you manage a book of illiquid assets that can be marked at your “discretion”.

    To provide a little background, per the Dallas Morning News, Richard Tettamant served as the DPFP’s administrator for a couple of decades right up until he was forced out in June 2014. Starting in 2005, Tettamant oversaw a plan to “diversify” the pension into “hard assets” and away from the “risky” stock market…because there’s no risk if you don’t have to mark your book every day. By the time the “diversification” was complete, Tettamant had invested half of the DPFP’s assets in, effectively, the housing bubble. Investments included a $200mm luxury apartment building in Dallas, luxury Hawaiian homes, a tract of undeveloped land in the Arizona desert, Uruguayan timber, the American Idol production company and a resort in Napa.

    Despite huge exposure to bubbly 2005/2006 vintage real estate investments, DPFP assets “performed” remarkably well throughout the “great recession.” But as it turns out, Tettamant’s “performance” was only as good as the illiquidity of his investments. We guess returns are easier to come by when you invest your whole book in illiquid, private assets and have “discretion” over how they’re valued.

    In 2015, after Tettamant’s ouster, $600mm of DPFP real estate assets were transferred to new managers away from the fund’s prior real estate manager, CDK Realty Advisors. Turns out the new managers were not “comfortable” with CDK’s asset valuations and the mark downs started. According to the Dallas Morning News, one such questionable real estate investment involved a piece of undeveloped land in the Arizona desert near Tucson which was purchased for $27mm in 2006 and subsequently sold in 2014 for $7.5mm.

    It gets better: “Then the plot thickened when, in April 2016, according the Dallas Morning News, FBI raided the offices of the pension’s former investment manager, CDK Realty Advisors.”

    Also: “And of course the typical pension ponzi, whereby in order to stay afloat the plan is paying out $2.11 for every $1.00 it collects from members and the City of Dallas effectively borrowing from assets reserved to cover future liabilities (which are likely impaired) to cover current claims in full.”

    Want to guess which political party Richard Tettamant was affiliated with?

    Go ahead. Guess.

    Tettament Donations

    (Hat tip: Jack Dean of Pension Tsunami.)

    Texas vs. California Update for August 10, 2016

    Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • How California screwed itself:

    Then-Gov. Gray Davis and the Legislature had quietly, virtually without notice, decreed a massive, retroactive increase in state employee pension benefits, which was quickly emulated by hundreds of local governments.

    At the time, CalPERS was ringing up big earnings from the 1990s’ bullish stock market — so big that it had reduced contributions from member governments to near zero. Public employee unions hankered for a share of the bounty and pressed for a benefit increase.

    The CalPERS board, dominated by public employees and union-friendly politicians, sponsored the increase, Senate Bill 400, with assurances that it would cost taxpayers nothing. A state Senate analysis of the bill said CalPERS “believes they will be able to mitigate this cost increase through continued excess returns of the CalPERS trust.”

    Years later, it emerged that the assurances reflected the most optimistic of several scenarios developed by the CalPERS staff. More pessimistic scenarios were kept secret — but they were the ones that came true. By the time Seeling delivered his dark appraisal in 2009, the state was being hammered by an ultra-severe recession, and the CalPERS trust fund was losing what turned out to be nearly $100 billion in value.

    Seven years later, CalPERS and other pension funds still haven’t fully recovered, and they’re sharply raising mandatory “contributions” from state and local governments to cover the gaps left by meager investment earnings.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • California is deluding itself if it thinks it’s “turned to corner” and is on the path for sustainable growth:

    Between 2000 and 2015, Austin has increased its jobs by 50 percent, while Raleigh, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Nashville, Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix and Salt Lake City – all in lower-tax, regulation-light states – have seen job growth of 24 percent or above. In contrast, since 2000, Los Angeles and San Francisco expanded jobs by barely 10 percent. San Jose, the home of Silicon Valley, has seen only a 6 percent expansion over that period.

    Obviously this runs counter to the notion of California being business friendly, since the ratio of jobs to workers is lower here than in Texas and the rest of the United States, and sometimes a lot lower.

    Snip.

    Gov. Brown has achieved bragging rights by suggestions of a vaunted return to fiscal health. True, California’s short-term budgetary issues have been somewhat relieved, largely due to soaring capital gains from the tech and high-end real estate booms. But the state inevitably will face a soaring deficit as those booms slow down. Brown is already forecasting budget deficits as high as $4 billion by the time he leaves office in 2019. As a recent Mercatus Center study notes, California is among the states most deeply dependent on debt.

    The state’s current budget surplus is entirely due to a temporary tax and booming asset markets. The top 1 percent of earners generates almost half of California’s income tax revenue, and accounts for 41 percent of the state’s general fund budget. These affluent people have incomes that are much more closely correlated to asset prices than economic activity, and asset prices are more volatile than economic activity generally. Brown’s own Department of Finance predicts that a recession of “average magnitude” would cut revenue by $55 billion.

    More critically, the state continues to increase spending, particularly on pensions. Outlays have grown dramatically since the 2011-2012 fiscal year, averaging 7.8 percent growth per year through FY 2015-2016. Seeing the writing on the wall, the state’s labor leaders now want to extend the “temporary” income tax, imposed in 2012, until 2030. This might not do much to spark growth, particularly in a weaker economy.

    During this recovery, California has made minimal effort to eliminate the state’s budget fragility. To use a recently popular term, this is gross negligence. It is, thus, no surprise that credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service ranked California second from the bottom in being able to withstand the next recession. Someday the bills will come due.

  • More on California’s business climate vs. Texas:

    Note that across the entire decade the unemployment rate in California was consistently greater than that in the United States, averaging 1.5 percentage points greater overall and maxing out at 2.9 percentage points in January and February of 2011. Except for the first six months of 2006, the same story holds true for California and Texas, although the differences here are more pronounced: an average of 2.5 percentage points greater and a maximum difference of 4.2 percentage points at various points in 2009 and 2010. Also note how long double-digit unemployment persisted in California (43 months) during this decade compared to the United States (1 month) and Texas (0 months).

    Also: “Texas outperformed California in 9 of the 10 years. And Texas had a CAGR of 3.1 percent, meaning its economy grew at more than twice the pace of California’s each year.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Texas’ economic, labor Market, and fiscal situation. “The Texas model leads comparable states and U.S> averages in most measures.”
  • “CalPERS has not met its expected 7.5% rate of return for the last 20 years.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Things in Texas are very different than they were in the 1980s:

    This is what Krugman and others really get wrong about the Texas miracle.

    The state had its last major recession from 1986 to 1987, after oil prices collapsed and the real estate and financial sectors crashed. Back then, the mining sector, dominated by oil and gas activity, was directly related to about 21 percent of the real private economy and roughly 5 percent of the labor force. Today, mining is 15 percent of the real private economy and less than half of the labor force share. As a result, the combination of more economic diversification and pro-growth policies has produced a much more resilient economy. Texas in 2016 looks a lot different than Texas in 1987.

  • “A major impediment to economic growth and a factor chasing people and businesses away from California is the state’s high tax rates and poorly structured tax code. California levies the highest top marginal income tax rate in the nation at 13.3% and has the country’s 6th highest overall tax burden. Such a hostile tax climate has consequences. During the last decade, from 2000 to 2010, California had a net outmigration of over 1.2 million residents move to other states. Those former Californians took over $29 billion in income with them.”

    Residents of San Diego, Newport Beach, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and many other cities and towns across California enjoy beautiful scenery and enviably pleasant weather year round; while folks in Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, and Houston ride out their hot and humid summers by staying indoors as much as possible. Yet Texas has been the number one recipient of California refugees. While the physical climates found in states that are the top recipients of California refugees don’t hold a candle to the Golden State’s, the business tax climates are far more hospitable.

    California imposes the nation’s highest income tax, while Texas is one of nine states with no income tax. While Texas has the 10th best business tax climate in the nation, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, California has the country’s third worst. During the last decade, over 225,000 people moved from California to Texas, bringing over $4.4 billion in income with them to the Lone Star State. After Texas, Nevada is the number two recipient of ex-Californians. Like Texas, Nevada can’t compete with California’s natural beauty and climate, but the Silver State makes up for it by having no state income tax and the nation’s 5th best business tax climate.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • The deregulated energy market is still working to lower costs for Texans.
  • California’s Democrat-dominated local governments are riddled with nepotism in their hiring practices. In San Diego, “Investigators uncovered an employee vetting process they allege was ‘abused’ — so that in a third of the cases reviewed, ‘friends and family members’ of city staff were hired ‘to the detriment of public job applicants.’” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Liberal complains about how San Francisco’s progressive policies killed affordable housing. “Instead of forming a pro-growth coalition with business and labor, most of the San Francisco Left made an enduring alliance with home-owning NIMBYs. It became one of the peculiar features of San Francisco that exclusionary housing politics got labeled “progressive.” Do note this piece is from a year ago. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Speaking of San Francisco, three of the city’s supervisors have decided that he would like to take the goose that laid the golden egg (i.e., the city’s high tech employers), smother it with locally source rosemary, thyme and organic butter, and broil it at 450° in the form of a payroll tax for those companies that earn $1 million or more in gross receipts.
  • “In 2014 there were 142,417 housing starts in the city of Tokyo (population 13.3m, no empty land), more than the 83,657 housing permits issued in the state of California (population 38.7m).” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • “California To Proclaim August “Muslim Appreciation And Awareness Month.” So when do we get Christian Appreciation Month?
  • “Relocation of Highway 99 in Fresno, a key part of the bullet train project, is over budget, behind schedule and will cost millions of dollars more to complete.” (Hat tip: Cal Watchdog.)
  • DAE Systems is relocating its headquarters to Catawba County and intends to create 46 new jobs and invest $6.8 million during the next three years, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office announced Monday. The California-based company, which is moving to Claremont, will receive a grant of up to $110,000 from the One North Carolina Fund that is dependent on the company meeting job-creation goals.”
  • Nothing says “adult oversight” quite like playing strip poker with teenage camp counselors. Take a bow, Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva! (Hat tip: Dwight, who also notes that Silva is a member of the criminal-ridden “Mayors Against illegal Guns.”)
  • Noted for the record: Mayor Silva comes up twice at the very top of Stockton real estate developer Dan Cort’s Facebook page. (Previously.)
  • LinkSwarm for July 22, 2016

    Friday, July 22nd, 2016

    Haven’t been covering the RNC because I have too much going on. So enjoy this LinkSwarm instead:

  • Full text of Donald Trump’s RNC speech. No I didn’t watch it.
  • “It’s telling that so many city leaders hate their state or national governments, but love supra-national governments like the EU. This shows that their real desire isn’t to go it alone in the marketplace, but to create replacement governance structures that are more amenable to their way of thinking, that constitutionally enshrine their preferences, and are insulated from democratic accountability.”
  • Jerry Pournelle on the real problems in the black community:

    An obvious observation, which hardly anyone seems to make, is that blacks suffer less from racism than from poor education. Harvard does not reject black applicants because it dislikes blacks but because they are badly prepared. Blacks do not fail the federal entrance examination because it is rigged to exclude them but because they don’t know the answers. Equality of opportunity without equality of education is a cruel joke: giving an illiterate the right to apply to Yale isn’t giving him much.

    The intelligent policy is to educate black children, something that the public schools of Washington manage, at great expense, not to do. In fact the prevailing (if unspoken) view seems to be that black children cannot be educated, an idea whose only defect is that it is wrong: the Catholic schools of Washington have been educating black children for years. The Catholic system has 12,170 students in the District, of whom 7,884, or 65 percent, are black.

  • Trump takes lead over Clinton according to that notorious right-wing propaganda organ, the Los Angeles Times. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ, who notes “it certainly looks bad for the Beefy Elderly Drunken Crazylady.”)
  • Wargaming the election in November. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Ten reasons Trump could win.
  • Borepatch plays Nostradamus: “Trump 366, Clinton 172”.
  • Michael Moore thinks Trump is going to win. I pay very little heed to Mr. Moore’s opinions, but I admit the possibility that he may have more insight into the day-to-day outlook of blue collar, rust belt Americans than I do.
  • Crony capitalism: “Lobbyists Are Behind the Rise in Corporate Profits.” (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Sexual violence in Germany has skyrocketed since Angela Merkel allowed more than one million mostly male migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East into the country. The crimes are being downplayed by the authorities, apparently to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.”
  • The Nice jihad truck attack wasn’t spontaneous, it had been planned for months. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • The EU will likely break its own rules to save Italian banks.
  • Massachusetts Attorney General decides she has the power to unilaterally rewrite the state’s gun laws.
  • How millennials are screwed. That will teach them to dress like idiots and listen to music that sucks…
  • Memphis newspaper forced to apologize over accurate headline on the Dallas police shootings, i.e. “Gunman targeted whites.”
  • Why does Elon Musk get to keep sucking up taxpayer subsidies? (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • “A talent for teaching simply does not factor into tenure decisions.” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • How the Finns kicked the Soviet Union’s ass in the Winter War.
  • Expose a fake Medal of Honor winner? Get fired.
  • The NBA’s Adam Silver goes full social justice warrior over North Carolina refusing to knuckle under over tranny bathroom demands.
  • Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant accuses Democratic State Senator Royce West of stealing endorsement money from him.
  • Welcome to Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s half-built ghost town of a “sustainable city.”
  • Anti-Trump protester sets self on fire while trying to burn flag. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • Remembering the glory of The Poor Man’s James Bond. What red-blooded American teenage boy wouldn’t want to make his own anti-tank missile? (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Important legal tip: If you’re going to get naked and drunk and hang out with pigs, make sure they’re your own pigs. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • It’s a bad idea to eat 75 pounds of cocaine. Even if you are a bear. Or Pam.

    With a bonus Waylon Jennings-in-Las Vegas connection.

  • LinkSwarm for July 11, 2016

    Monday, July 11th, 2016

    I was busy buying books this weekend, so I couldn’t keep up with all the horrific police shootings. So that dominates the top of today’s LinkSwarm:

  • Remember that #BlackLivesMatter is being funded by liberal billionaires George Soros and Tom Steyer.
  • Creating hatred against white people and against police has been the major accomplishing of Black Lives Matter since its inception in 2014.”
  • To that end, Heather McDonald’s new book The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe looks like it could be interesting.
  • 43% of America’s cop killers are black.
  • “Until blacks start changing these pathologies, the whole ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, with its insistence that everyone has to change except for blacks themselves is nothing more than Progressive kabuki theater aimed at diverting attention from the fact that Democrats are facilitating self-destructive behaviors in the black community and that blacks are using the Democrat propaganda machine as an excuse to avoid the terrible (but not insurmountable) challenges that really claim black lives.” (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • More on the same theme:

    Who, exactly, is in charge of these cities and city agencies about which African Americans do have many legitimate complaints? Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago: Not exactly famous enclaves of conservative Republican political dominance. Because Dallas is in Texas, people sometimes forget that it is a city like any other American city, and Democrat-dominated. In Dallas, as in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Detroit, that Democrat domination is due in great part to a black Democratic voting bloc.

    Eventually, someone is going to figure out that the black progressives protesting municipal arrangements in places such as Baltimore are protesting the municipal arrangements created by black progressives working for the interests of the Democratic party. Dallas’s racial politics aren’t as one-sided as Detroit’s, and neither are its party politics; it is Democratic, but not as lopsidedly Democratic as, say, Philadelphia. It even has had a Republican mayor (the office is technically nonpartisan) within living memory. No doubt somebody in Dallas already is trying to figure out a way to blame that mayor for the murder of those five police officers.

  • “Friends and family tell us that Alton Sterling was a great guy. That may well be the case, but he is also a convicted sex offender felon with a violent temper, who had six arrests for battery, two domestic violence charges, multiple illegal weapons charges, and who had fought with police over weapons before.”
  • The Curious Case of Philando Castile. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Majority of Americans disapprove of the decision not to charge Hillary Clinton over EmailGate. (Hat tip: Stephen Green at Instapundit.)
  • Maybe that’s why Trump is up two points over Clinton in the latest Rasmussen poll. (Hat tip: Director Blue.)
  • Czech President calls for EU, NATO referendums.
  • Fascinating story on a history of the mob in Houston.
  • Mickey Kaus examines who Trump should pick as VP.
  • “Quantitative easing only works when you’re the only country doing it.”
  • “More than 100 Nobel laureates have a message for Greenpeace: Quit the G.M.O.-bashing.”
  • Mass-shootings have declined so much that the left has had to redefine what a “mass shooting” is.
  • Important safety tip: Don’t breast-feed your children while doing cocaine. (Hat tip: Ace of Spades HQ.)
  • 12 die in Java gridlock during Ramadan.
  • Ted Cruz staffs up for a 2020 Presidential run.
  • Members of Donna ISD school board convicted of extortion. (Previously.)
  • SuperGenius tries to rob gas station, ends up shooting himself in the groin. I also wonder if he’s the towering intellect that managed to clip his own driver’s side mirror at the pump in the video…
  • There’s an anime series that follows the lives of teenage girls who are also assault rifles. Oh Japan, don’t ever change…