I attended the Austin Gun Show-Round Rock (to use the full appellation) on Sunday, and here are a few random observations:
I attended the Austin Gun Show-Round Rock (to use the full appellation) on Sunday, and here are a few random observations:
Time for another Texas vs. California update:
After descending into a deep valley during the recession, California’s economy has recently grown at a faster rate than in Texas, where the drop in oil prices and higher value of the dollar have negatively affected the mining and manufacturing sectors. However, during the last decade, the productive, real private sector growth has increased by 13.6 percent in California compared with a robust 29.1 percent in Texas.
This growth translates into output per person in Texas increasing almost four times more than in California in that period, meaning economic output has far outpaced population growth.
Although contemporary economic growth in California has led to a higher annual job creation rate than in Texas since April 2015, this only tells part of the story.
Since December 2007 when the last national recession started, total civilian employment increased in California by 1.2 million while it increased by 1.7 million in Texas, with a labor force two-thirds the size of California’s. This increase in employment in Texas constitutes about one-third of all jobs created nationwide — truly remarkable given recent headwinds!
This phenomenal job creation contributed to Texas’ unemployment rate (4.6 percent) being at or below California’s rate (5.5 percent) for 121 straight months, or since July 2006. But the official unemployment rate only accounts for those actually looking for work, a better gauge of labor force health would be the share of the population employed, which has been higher in Texas than in California since at least 2000.
More economic output and job creation over time in Texas has contributed to less poverty. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ supplemental poverty measure, which accounts for the local cost of living, shows that Texas’ rate matches the national average while California has the nation’s highest poverty rate
Income inequality has also been higher in California than in Texas for years. For example, the average of total income held by the top 10 percent of income earners from 2000 to 2012 was 49.9 percent in California compared with 48.8 percent in Texas.
The results are pretty clear that California’s progressive policies of having the highest marginal personal income tax rate, cumbersome regulations, huge unfunded pension obligations, an out of control lawsuit environment, and other policies reduce economic opportunity.
(Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
For generations, the Golden State developed a reputation as the ultimate destination of choice for millions of Americans. No longer. Since 2000 the state has lost 1.75 million net domestic migrants, according to Census Bureau estimates. And even amid an economic recovery, the pattern of outmigration continued in 2014, with a loss of 57,900 people and an attraction ratio of 88.5, placing the Golden State 13th from the bottom, well behind longtime people exporters Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Louisiana. California was a net loser of domestic migrants in all age categories.
Much of the discussion about millennial migration tends to focus on high-cost, dense urban regions such as those that dominate New York, Massachusetts and, of course, California. Yet the IRS data tells us a very different story about migrants aged 26 to 34. Here it’s Texas in the lead, and by a wide margin, followed by Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Florida and New Hampshire. Once again New York and Illinois stand out as the biggest losers in this age category.
Perhaps more important for the immediate future may be the migration of people at the peak of their careers, those aged 35 to 54. These are also the age cohorts most likely to be raising children. The top four are the same in both cohorts. Among the 35 to 44 age group, it’s Texas, followed by Florida, South Carolina and North Dakota. Among the 45 to 54 cohort, Texas, followed by South Carolina, Florida and North Dakota.
The Governor signed this ag overtime bill in the same year that minimum wage legislation was also passed that will take California to the highest minimum wage as well as legislation forcing California to adopt additional greenhouse gas regulations for businesses in California.
California is the only state in the country subject to such regulations. Today’s signing occurred despite numerous requests by the agricultural industry to meet with the Governor to discuss our concerns. The message is clear. California simply doesn’t care.
More than two-thirds (70 percent) of organizations in California indicated that they have had difficulty recruiting for full-time regular positions in the last 12 months, similar to 68 percent nationally. California organizations were more likely than organizations nationally to report competition from other employers (56 percent), qualified candidates rejecting compensation packages (28 percent), qualified candidates not being able to move to their local area (21 percent), or a relocation or a relocation package not being competitive or not being offered (12 percent) as top reasons for hiring difficulty.
BART officials want voters to trust them with another $3.5 billion of taxpayer money. But they’ve done nothing to earn that trust.
Instead, they have recklessly spent what they have, grossly understated how much their ballot proposal would raise property tax bills and devised plans to use money from the measure, intended for capital projects, to indirectly cover inflated labor costs.
Voters in Alameda County, Contra Costa and San Francisco should say no — hell no. They should reject Measure RR on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Despite the problems facing the transit agency, it makes no sense to approve five decades of extra taxes when Measure RR lacks a logical budget, a timeline for service improvements and provisions ensuring taxpayers and riders get what they’re promised.
The measure would authorize the district to borrow $3.5 billion through bond sales as part of a larger plan to upgrade BART’s infrastructure. The ballot wording conveniently omits that the district would tax property owners for 48 years to pay off the debt.
(Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
Here’s another link I’ve been meaning to add to the blogroll for a while: Empower Texans. Michael Quinn Sullivan’s group (a companion organization to Texans for Fiscal Responsibility) does a good job of covering Texas political news and drawing attention to government abuses.
Well worth checking out.
Here’s a rare thing: A union actually being held accountable for breaking the law:
A Harris County jury on Tuesday awarded a Houston commercial cleaning firm $5.3 million in damages, finding that a labor union’s aggressive organizing campaign went too far when it maligned the reputation of the company. It opens the door for more employers to sue unions over hardball tactics often used in membership drives and contract disputes.
The jury, by a 10-2 vote, found for Professional Janitorial Service in a suit the company brought nine years ago against the Service Employees International Union, which targeted the company as part of its “Justice for Janitors” organizing campaign and wrongly claimed Professional Janitorial Service had violated wage, overtime and other labor laws.
The case was the first time that a jury has found against a union in a business defamation or disparagement case, according to a search of legal records by the company’s law firm, AZA of Houston.
“The jury found what PJS and its employees have known for more than a decade,” Brent Southwell, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement. “The SEIU is a corrupt organization that is rotten to its core.”
The trial, which lasted four weeks, represented the first time the SEIU, which has nearly 2 million members nationwide, has had to defend its tactics in front to a jury. Other cases, including a federal racketeering lawsuit filed by the international food, maintenance and cleaning company Sodexo in 2011, were settled before they ever got before a jury.
Empower Texans has more background on SEIU tactics:
One of the tactics many unions use to access potential members is “salting,” and the SEIU is no exception. Salting is the tactic of sending a union-affiliate to a targeted employer to apply for, and then accept a position working for the company. Since unions are often prohibited from contacting employees at work, salts do it for them.
Two of the salts used against PJS were Adriana Menchu and Eleanor Parada; both have been reoccurring figures during the SEIU trial.
The union used Menchu’s name in various campaigns, lawsuits, and fliers. In one flier she was quoted saying, “They don’t give us gloves or masks to clean. I know a woman who brings her own cleaning supplies from home just so she can protect her health.” Which PJS refuted with their longstanding policy prohibiting the use of any outside cleaning agents unless supplied by the company.
SEIU fliers claimed that PJS failed to pay Menchu for hours worked, but internal union emails contradicted that statement saying that PJS was trying to “buy” Menchu off by giving her a raise. More evidence that they knew the information they were releasing was false.
One press release read, “Mostly immigrant janitors were instructed to work ‘off-the-clock’ and had pay withheld by the city’s largest locally-based cleaning company, Professional Janitorial Service (PJS), according to a new lawsuit filed today.”
Never revealing that SEIU was the party behind the lawsuit, or that the union planted the “janitors” they were referring to.
Parada was another salt frequently used in lawsuits, and was quoted in an SEIU press release about the unfair labor practice suit they filed saying, “We work hard, but PJS thinks they can treat us however they want…That’s why PJS janitors are taking a stand today – so we can have some basic protections.”
It’s worth noting that until the SEIU came to Houston to unionize janitors PJS had never faced labor violation allegations, had not been investigated by the Department of Labor or National Labor Relations Board, and had not had unfair labor practice lawsuits filed against them. Also, out of the 20 ULPs the union filed against PJS, 19 were dismissed with the last being rectified by simply having the employer post safety signs in the workplace.
Texas’s fiscal policy is very good. It is a fiscally decentralized state, with local taxes at about 4.5 percent of personal income, above the national average, and state taxes at about 3.6 percent of income, well below the national average. However, Texans don’t have much choice of local government, with only 0.36 jurisdictions per 100 square miles. State and local debt is above average (with the biggest problem being local debt burdens), at 23.1 percent of income, but it has come down slightly since FY 2011. Government subsidies are below average. Public employment has fallen significantly below average, at 11.8 percent of private employment.
Texas’s land-use freedom keeps housing prices down. It also has a regulatory taking compensation law, but it only applies to state government. The renewable portfolio standard has not been raised in years. Texas is our top state for labor-market freedom. Workers’ compensation coverage is optional for employers; most employees are covered, but not all. The state has a right-to-work law, no minimum wage, and a federally consistent anti-discrimination law. Cable and telecommunications have been liberalized. However, health insurance mandates were quite high as of 2010, the last available date. The extent of occupational licensing is high, but the state recently enacted a sunrise review requirement for new licensure proposals. Time will tell whether it is at all effective. Nurse practitioners enjoy no freedom of independent practice at all. Texas has few cronyist entry and price regulations, but it does have a price-gouging law, and Tesla’s direct sales model is still illegal. The civil liability system used to be terrible, but now it is merely below average. The state abolished joint and several liability in 2003, but it could do more to cap punitive damages and end parties’ role in judicial elections.
Although it has long been significantly freer on personal issues than the national average, California has also long been one of the lowest-scoring states on economic freedom.
Despite Proposition 13, California is one of the highest-taxed states in the country. Excluding severance and motor fuel taxes, California’s combined state and local tax collections were 10.8 percent of personal income. Moreover, because of the infamous Serrano decision on school funding, California is a fiscally centralized state. Local taxes are about average nationally, while state taxes are well above average. Government debt is high, at 22.8 percent of personal income. The state subsidizes business at a high rate (0.16 percent of the state economy). However, government employment is lower than the national average.
Regulatory policy is even more of a problem for the state than fiscal policy. California is one of the worst states on land-use freedom. Some cities have rent control, new housing supply is tightly restricted in the coastal areas, and eminent domain reform has been nugatory. Labor law is anti-employment, with no right-to-work law, high minimum wages, strict workers’ comp mandates, mandated short-term disability insurance, and a stricter-than-federal anti-discrimination law. Occupational licensing is extensive and strict, especially in construction trades. It is tied for worst in nursing practice freedom. The state’s mandatory cancer labeling law (Proposition 65) has significant economic costs. It is one of the worst states for consumer freedom of choice in homeowner’s and automobile insurance.
(Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
California has been bleeding people to other states for more than two decades. Even after the state’s “comeback,” net domestic out-migration since 2010 has exceeded 250,000. Moreover, the latest Internal Revenue Service migration data, for 2013-2014, does not support the view that those who leave are so dominated by the flight of younger and poorer people.
Of course, younger people tend to move more than older people, and people seeking better job opportunities are more likely to move than those who have made it. But, according to the IRS, nearly 60,000 more Californians left the state than moved in between 2013 and 2014. In each of the seven income categories and each of the five age categories, the IRS found that California lost net domestic migrants.
Nor, viewed over the long term, is California getting smarter than its rivals. Since 2000, California’s cache of 25- to 34-year-olds with college, postgraduate and professional degrees grew by 36 percent, below the national average of 42 percent, and Texas’ 47 percent. If we look at metropolitan regions, the growth of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees since 2000 has been more than 1.5 to nearly 3 times as fast in Houston and Austin as in Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. Even New York, with its high costs, is doing better.
(Hat tip: Instapundit, who also notes “I remember talking to the Investor’s Business Daily folks a few years ago — they were headquartered in Marina Del Rey, a lovely place but one where they were constantly visited by inspectors, tax people, etc., all posing problems. When they opened an office in Texas, the state and local government people were all ‘tell us if we can help you.’ Very different experience.”)
Seen as a national leader in the classroom during the 1950s and 1960s, the country’s largest state is today a laggard, competing with the likes of Mississippi and Washington, D.C., at the bottom of national rankings. The Golden State’s education tailspin has been blamed on everything from class sizes to the property-tax restrictions enforced by Proposition 13 to an influx of Spanish-speaking students. But no portrait of the system’s downfall would be complete without a depiction of the CTA, a political behemoth that blocks meaningful education reform, protects failing and even criminal educators, and inflates teacher pay and benefits to unsustainable levels.
According to figures from the California Fair Political Practices Commission (a public institution) in 2010, the CTA had spent more than $210 million over the previous decade on political campaigning—more than any other donor in the state. In fact, the CTA outspent the pharmaceutical industry, the oil industry, and the tobacco industry combined.
California concluded its most recent cap-and-trade program auction last week. Out of 44,268,323 metric tons of carbon dioxide credits offered for sale by the state Air Resources Board, only 660,560 were sold, 1.5 percent of the total, raising a paltry $8.4 million out of a hoped-for $620 million. Last May’s auction was almost as bad, raising $10 million out of an anticipated $500 million.
California’s carbon dioxide cap-and-trade auction program was expected to bring in more than $2 billion in the current fiscal year that ends June 30, 2017, a quarter of which is earmarked for the high-speed rail project narrowly approved by voters in a 2008 ballot initiative. As a hedge against uncertainty, a $500 million reserve was built into the cap-and-trade budget. But, with the August auction falling 98.5 percent short, the entire reserve was consumed in the first of four auctions for the fiscal year.
It gets better:
In the meantime, the High-Speed Rail project, currently promised to cost “only” $68 billion to run from the Bay Area some 400 miles south to Los Angeles may be looking at $50 billion in overruns. To fund the costly train, which was sold to voters as not costing a dime in new taxes, the expected revenue stream from cap-and-trade has been securitized, putting the state on the hook to Wall Street for billions in construction money advanced on the promise of future cap-and-trade revenue.
In case you missed it, a lawsuit attempting to block the implementation of campus carry has been rejected by a federal judge:
A federal judge has denied three University of Texas at Austin professors’ initial attempt to keep guns out of their classrooms under the state’s campus carry law.
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that the professors, who had sought a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the law, had failed to establish their likelihood for success. UT students resume classes on Wednesday, and the professors’ case will continue to work its way through the court while the law remains in effect.
The professors, Jennifer Lynn Glass, Lisa Moore and Mia Carter, filed their lawsuit against the university and the attorney general’s office. In the suit, the professors said the possibility of guns on campus could stifle class discussion in their courses, which touch on emotional issues like gay rights and abortion. They argued that was a violation of students’ First Amendment right to free speech.
From the text of the decision:
The court concludes at this stage in the proceedings that requiring public universities to allow licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns is a basis for the Campus Carry Law that bears a debatably rational relationship to the conceivable legitimate governmental end of enabling individuals to defend themselves.
It appears to the court that neither the Texas Legislature nor the Board of Regents has overstepped its legitimate power to determine where a licensed individual may carry a concealed handgun in an academic setting. The court concludes that Plaintiffs have failed to establish a substantial likelihood of success on their equal-protection claim under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Because Plaintiffs at this time have failed to establish a substantial likelihood of ultimate success on the merits of their asserted claims, their request for immediate relief must fail. The court therefore need not and does not reach the remaining requirements for granting a preliminary injunction. Bluefleld, 577 F.3d at 253 (“[A] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy which should not be granted unless the party seeking it has ‘clearly carried the burden of persuasion’ on all four requirements.”). Accordingly,
IT IS ORDERED that Plaintiffs’ Application for Preliminary Injunction (Clerk’s Doc. No. 20) is DENIED.
Score one for civil rights and the rule of law over irrational hopolophobia.
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.
(Hat tip: Jack Dean of Pension Tsunami.)