Posts Tagged ‘waste’

Ding Dong, the ExIm Bank is Dead!

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

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

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

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

Texas vs. California Update for April 24, 2015

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

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

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

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

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

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

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

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

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

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

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

  • Texas vs. California Update for April 15, 2015

    Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

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

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

    Monday, February 23rd, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As I previously wrote:

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

    And back on December 29 I wrote:

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

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

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

    “This is an Ex-EarthQuest!”

    Thursday, January 15th, 2015

    For those not up to speed on the EarthQuest saga, it was an attempt to build an “ecological theme park” northeast of Houston in Montgomery County. The fact that it was going to be built with a large dollop of taxpayer money via a special taxing district only enhanced the stench of Eu de Boondoggle EarthQuest gave off, as grandiose plans gave way to missed construction and funding dates, at least one bankruptcy filing and a complete halt to visible activity. It’s essentially been moribund since 2012.

    Now from dedicated EarthQuest watcher Sopboxmom comes news that the IRS has revoked Institute EarthQuest’s tax-exempt status:

    Exempt Organizations Select Check
    Automatic Revocation of Exemption Information

    The federal tax exemption of this organization was automatically revoked for its failure to file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years. The information listed below for each organization is historical; it is current as of the organization’s effective date of automatic revocation. The information is not necessarily current as of today’s date. Nor does this automatic revocation necessarily reflect the organization’s tax-exempt or non-exempt status. The organization may have applied to the IRS for recognition of exemption and been recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt after its effective date of automatic revocation. To check whether an organization is currently recognized by the IRS as tax-exempt, call Customer Account Services at (877) 829-5500 (toll-free number).
    Revocation Date (effective date on which organization’s tax exemption was automatically revoked):
    15-May-2014
    Employer Identification Number (EIN):
    26-2454184
    Legal Name:
    INSTITUTE EARTHQUEST
    Doing Business As:
    Mailing Address:
    21575 US HIGHWAY 59 NORTH
    NEW CANEY, TX 77357-8355
    United States
    Exemption Type:
    501(c)(3)
    Revocation Posting Date (date on which IRS posted notice of automatic revocation on IRS.gov):
    15-Oct-2014
    Exemption Reinstatement Date (effective date of tax exemption, determined by the IRS
    after the organization’s exemption was automatically revoked and the organization applied for reinstatement of exemption.):

    Finally, despite their zombie website, EarthQuest has ceased to be, and even nailing it back on the perch wouldn’t help.

    More information here.

    Texas vs. California Update for January 6, 2014

    Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

    Here’s your first Texas vs. California update of 2015:

  • Real personal income increased by 1.4% in Texas in Q3, the most of any state. And that with the oil bust just starting to bite, which I’m guessing helps explain why South Dakota’s personal income decline by .2%. (Well, that and getting six inches of global warming in September….)
  • Texas was the number one magnet state in the country for people moving here yet again.
  • “The real reason for the tuition increase is that the UC system needs funds to bail out the mismanaged pension system that covers retired employees of its ten campuses.”

    This is all the result of the regents’ irresponsible oversight. In 1990, UCRP had 137 percent of the assets it needed to meet its obligations, so regents suspended employer and employee contributions to the pension fund. State legislators also stopped allocating money to UCRP. This “pension contribution holiday” lasted 20 years. To top it off, during this period, university officials boosted pension benefits a half-dozen times. By 2012, more than 2,100 UC retirees were each collecting six-figure pensions for life.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Former Pasadena (California) employees arrested on 60 count, $6 million embezzling charges. (Hat tip: CalWatchdog.)
  • More on outrageous California pensions: “In 2013, an assistant fire chief in Southern California collected a $983,319 pension. A police captain in Los Angeles received nearly $753,861.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami).
  • California’s doomed high speed rail boondoggle breaks ground today.
  • More on the same theme from Twitter:

  • Opponents of California’s statewide plastic bag ban have gathered 800,000 signature for a referendum to overturn it, which will also keep the law from going into effect on July 1.
  • California charity hospitals to be sold to for-profit company to keep them open.
  • LinkSwarm for November 7, 2014

    Friday, November 7th, 2014

    A Friday LinkSwarm after a very eventful week…

  • So exactly when was it that the UK became the child rape capital of the Western world? First Rotherham, now Manchester.

  • Government of Burkina Faso falls. Evidently people there thought that 27 years of rule for President Blaise Compaore was more than enough…
  • Russia sends more tanks into Ukraine. Looks like we’ll dealing with the fallout of Obama’s “flexibility” for decades… (Hat tip: Jim Geraghty).
  • The Pakistani version of Axe Cop sounds a whole lot less entertaining than the American version.
  • DSCC head blames Obama for Senate loss.
  • The DSCC decides that they’ll stop pouring money down the rathole that is Mary Landrieu.
  • “Salon Writer Condemns Arithmetic As Racist.” Or how Jonathan Chait ruthlessly used his Mansplaining Male Math Privilege to oppress Jenny Kutner.
  • Because their attacks on Koch were so successful, Democrats double-down on stupid.
  • U.S. hits targets in Syria. Not ISIS, but “the Khorasan group.” For such a reportedly “small” group, we seem to be bombing them a lot…
  • Fatah and Hamas thoughtfully take a break from trying to kill Jews in order to blow each other up.
  • I’m shocked, shocked that there’s abuse and fraud in the “Obamaphone” program.
  • In addition to national and statewide outbreaks of sanity, there was even an outbreak in Austin, where voters defeated a proposal to expand Capitol Metro’s toy trains.

  • Texas vs. California Update for September 17, 2014

    Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • The Texas economy continues to hum along:

    During the second quarter, Texas employers added 148,200 net nonfarm jobs—an average of 49,400 per month. This amounts to an 18 percent share of all jobs created nationwide over this period in a state with only 8 percent of the country’s population and about 10 percent of total economic output. Over the last year, the addition of 382,200 net jobs in Texas was more new jobs than any other state. These employment gains increased the annual job growth rate to 3.4 percent, which is higher than those of the national average and other highly populated states.

  • The city of Los Angeles is at an impasse over police raises: the police union (naturally) wants raises, while the city says they can’t afford them. So what happens next? The issue goes before the Employee Relations Board, which just happens to be packed with union-approved appointees. In one-party Democratic cities and states, it’s always government together with unions against taxpayers. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “The ugly reality is that so long as the boards of CalPERS and CalSTRS are controlled by public employee union loyalists, pension reforms enacted by state lawmakers and signed by governors will never live up to their billing.”
  • Jerry Brown lies about pension spiking.
  • Why San Antonio’s public-private partnerships are better at dealing with drought than Los Angeles.
  • A FAQ on Costa Mesa’s pension situation. Including answers to such questions as “How could the $228 million in unfunded pension liabilities affect the city budget?”
  • Watsonville, California passes a sales tax hike solely to pay for additional union pension payments.
  • A judge rules that bankrupt San Bernardino can cut firefighter pension benefits in order to exit bankruptcy.
  • A union-sponsored bill tries to increase liabilities for companies that hire contractors.
  • California is evidently cooking up a whole new batch of unconstitutional gun laws.
  • A look at phony baloney jobs numbers for California’s high speed rail boondoggle.
  • Firefly Space Systems is relocating from California to Burnet County, Texas. “King said Firefly was attracted to Texas partly because of its business and regulatory climate.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out California offers a lousy climate for business. Or to put it another way: My days of underestimating California’s ability to improve its business climate are certainly coming to a middle…
  • Drone-maker Ashima is relocating to Reno, Nevada from California.
  • If you hadn’t heard, Tesla is building its battery factory in Nevada, not California.
  • An actual good law out of California: A law that prevents companies from suing customers for negative reviews.
  • North Carolina offered twice as much incentive money to Toyota but still lost out to Texas for relocating their HQ.
  • Your dedicated BART employee in action:

  • Ridiculous Bureaucratic Compensation in the UK

    Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

    It’s not just California. The bureaucratic apparatus has a way of feathering its own nests across the globe.

    Take the “town hall tycoons” in the UK, for example:

  • There were at least 2,181 council employees who received total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2012-13, a fall of 5 per cent on the previous year’s 2,295.

  • Despite this, 93 councils increased the number of staff who received remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2012-13.
  • Keep in mind that at current exchange rates, £100,000 is somewhere north of $180,000.

    Salon Writer Complains That Democrats Are Corporate Whores

    Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

    Well well well, what have we here?

    It’s a jeremiad by Democrat Bill Curry about how his party has abandoned its soul for the sweet smell of Wall Street crony capitalist dollars.

    Democrats hooked on corporate cash and consultants with long lists of corporate clients were less attuned to Nader’s issues.

    Democrats today defend the triage liberalism of social service spending but limit their populism to hollow phrase mongering (fighting for working families, Main Street not Wall Street). The rank and file seem oblivious to the party’s long Wall Street tryst. Obama’s economic appointees are the most conservative of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland but few Democrats seem to notice, or if they notice, to care.

    These days, says Curry, Democrats “don’t believe in ideas because they don’t believe in people” and calls for a Nader-esque populism. (Indeed, Nader’s latest book seems to provide the spine for his piece.)

    Curry actually sees the populist Tea Party energy on the right and laments its absence on his side of the aisle. “If there’s a true populist revolt on the left it is as yet invisible to the naked eye.” (Though I note one very hot populist issue, widespread opposition to the Democratic Party’s push for illegal alien amnesty, is conspicuous by its absence from his piece.)

    “Democratic elites are always up for compromise, but on the wrong issues. Rather than back GOP culture wars, as some do, or foreign wars, as many do, or big business, as nearly all do, they should back libertarians on privacy, small business on credit and middle-class families on taxes.”

    This advice is far from the worst Democrats have received, but they are congenitally unable to follow it for numerous reasons:

  • As a party, Democrats are all in on Big Government. Access to the Gravy Train and charging a transaction fee on robbing Peter to pay Paul are the only thing that holds their coalition together. Likewise, to say Democrats are unenthusiastic about cutting taxes is to vastly understate the case.
  • Democrats can’t embrace populism because both the political and cultural soul of the party is rooted in elitism. The people who run the party in D.C. are absolutely certain that they and their brethren can run peoples’ lives better than they can run their own. And the party’s biggest supporters in blue bastions like New York City, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco are convinced that they are manifestly smarter, more moral, and above all more sophisticated than those gun-toting redneck freaks of JesusLand. Asking them to embrace real populism (as opposed to candidates making meaningless promises every 2 or 4 years) is almost certainly futile.
  • A significant fraction of their supporters in those blue bastions benefit directly from the crony capitalism Currey decries.
  • There are also numerous areas where Curry appears unable to shed his blue-colored glasses:

  • When he says “Oddly, the one system working relatively well, public education, is the object of our only sustained reform effort,” he’s ignoring the huge problems in teacher union controlled schools and curricula as documented everywhere from Waiting for Superman to Vergara vs. California. And in his conclusion, the very first member of his potential future coalition mentioned is “unions,” pointedly ignoring the populist revolt against fat cat public sector unions that have helped bankrupt Detroit and numerous California cities.
  • The plight of American workers pushed out of jobs by illegal aliens, and the popular revolt against busing them to communities across the country and amnesty? No mention.
  • He seems equally enthused about small business and fighting “global warming,” with nary a mention about how the EPA’s power grab thanks to the latter is crushing small business left and right, nor how many “green” firms are riding the crony capitalist gravy train.
  • Other populist “small ball” issues that never get mentioned: cheap light bulbs that work and toilets that flush. Though Shalt Not Question Washington’s Mandates.
  • Agribusiness subsidies, crony capitalism in almost its purest form? Not mentioned.
  • The Democratic Party faithful are never, ever, ever going to reengage with Nader, because their hatred for George W. Bush is far stronger and more visceral than their theoretical attachment to populist economic policies.
  • Of course, since it’s Salon, the piece has more than one inside-the-blue-bubble howler:

  • “Nader’s belief in convergence isn’t the same as Obama’s naïve pursuit of the holy grail of bipartisanship.” Obama has pursued “bipartisanship” with much the same fervor the late Amy Winehouse pursued “sobriety.”
  • “Republicans can talk values even while defending a corrupt status quo because, recent Tea Party convulsions aside, defending the status quo is their job. The Democrats’ job is to challenge the status quo; when they don’t do it, nothing they say sounds sincere. ” Republicans certainly defend many cultural status quos, but it is the Democratic Party that has consistently defended the status quo of the lumbering monstrosity that is Big Government.
  • When he says that until 1996, congress “had not enacted any major social or economic reforms since the historic environmental laws of the early ’70s,” he’s flat out lying. (Kemp-Roth was certainly reform.) What he actual means is “No reforms that far left economic populists like myself approve of.”
  • In the next paragraph he decries the deregulation of the airline, trucking and phone industries, missing the point that these were not only reforms, but populist reforms that ended monopoly profits by entrenched special interests, and ones which radically brought down prices for consumers.
  • “But Nader always hit hard; you don’t get to be the world’s most famous shopper by making allowances or pulling punches.” I would venture to guess that the world’s most famous “shopper” is probably someone like Paris Hilton, which is probably not the image he wanted to convey…
  • “Liberals have spent the intervening years debating macroeconomic theory.” Have they? As far as I can tell, the only debate in the ideological vineyards of the Democratic Party is over how much Keynesian vs. how much Marxism.
  • “Democrats must also learn to argue history. They chortle when Michele Bachmann credits the founders with ending slavery or Sarah Palin forgets who Paul Revere rode to warn.” Tiny little problem: By and large Sarah Palin got Paul Revere’s story right, no matter how much liberals might insist otherwise.
  • “The best template of populism remains the career of William Jennings Bryan.” Well, it’s not that Curry is necessarily wrong per se, but one must view with a certain jaundiced eye the idea that current electoral models can be found in a man who probably peaked in 1896.
  • Indeed, when you get right down to it, Curry’s piece could be boiled down to “Talk vaguely about populism while pushing the same Big Government, redistributionist schemes liberals always push.” Maybe the Nader book itself is bolder (and if someone wants to pay me to review it, I’d happily give it a go), but Curry’s piece is very old and undistinguished wine decanted into a slightly shinier bottle.

    No matter how many times liberals declare “This is it! I’m finally fed up with the Democratic Party!”, the party’s fat cats know the truth. Come November 8, 2016, they’ll remember they loathe Republicans far more than they love reform, and pull the (D) lever no matter how many jeremiads Bill Curry and his ilk pen.

    We’ve seen this movie before, and we know exactly how it ends.