How to Fix California

Victor Davis Hanson has written a terrific essay on preserving what was once good in California. As always, Victor Davis Hanson is a wonderful read, and I highly recommend you read the entire short article.

In the article, he comes up with a solution as to how to save California in a single paragraph – not 2,000 pages. Hopefully without discouraging you from reading the entire essay, here is his very clear, excellent solution:

All of which raises the question: how would we return to sanity in California, a state as naturally beautiful and endowed and developed by our ancestors as it has been sucked dry by our parasitic generation? The medicine would be harder than the malady, and I just cannot see it happening, as much as I love the state, admire many of its citizens, and see glimmers of hope in the most unlikely places every day.

After all, in no particular order, we would have to close the borders; adopt English immersion in our schools; give up on the salad bowl and return to the melting pot; assimilate, intermarry, and integrate legal immigrants; curb entitlements and use the money to fix infrastructure like roads, bridges, airports, trains, etc.; build 4-5 new dams to store water in wet years; update the canal system; return to old policies barring public employee unions; redo pension contracts; cut about 50,000 from the public employee roles; lower income taxes from 10% to 5% to attract businesses back; cut sales taxes to 7%; curb regulations to allow firms to stay; override court orders now curbing cost-saving options in our prisons by systematic legislation; start creating material wealth from our forests; tap more oil, timber, natural gas, and minerals that we have in abundance; deliver water to the farmland we have; build 3-4 nuclear power plants on the coast; adopt a traditional curriculum in our schools; insist on merit pay for teachers; abolish tenure; encourage not oppose more charter schools, vouchers, and home schooling; give tax breaks to private trade and business schools; reinstitute admission requirements and selectivity at the state university system; take unregistered cars off the road; make UC professors teach a class or two more each year; abolish all racial quotas and preferences in reality rather than in name; build a new all weather east-west state freeway over the Sierra; and on and on.

While he admits that implementing the solution will not be easy, let us see if we can elect some state legislators and governors who would have the foresight and courage to undertake to restore California using VDH’s remedy. If we want to preserve this once golden state, it is what we must do.

How Public-Sector Unions Broke California

How Public-Sector Unions Broke California

There is a very good article on how the public-sector unions in California have raped the state by Steven Malanga on City Journal.  It explains how the unions, using their ability to elect politicians who will support their requests have negotiated contracts that have resulted in unreasonable and unsustainable retirement benefits for their members.

The ability of public-sector unions to control the legislature have caused much of the fiscal problems in California.  The unions’ political triumphs have molded a California in which government workers thrive at the expense of a struggling private sector. The state’s public school teachers are the highest-paid in the nation. Its prison guards can easily earn six-figure salaries. State workers routinely retire at 55 with pensions higher than their base pay for most of their working life. Meanwhile, what was once the most prosperous state now suffers from an unemployment rate far steeper than the nation’s and a flood of firms and jobs escaping high taxes and stifling regulations. This toxic combination—high public-sector employee costs and sagging economic fortunes—has produced recurring budget crises in Sacramento and in virtually every municipality in the state.

This is an important factor in the problems of California.

How public employees became members of the elite class in a declining California offers a cautionary tale to the rest of the country, where the same process is happening in slower motion. The story starts half a century ago, when California public workers won bargaining rights and quickly learned how to elect their own bosses—that is, sympathetic politicians who would grant them outsize pay and benefits in exchange for their support. Over time, the unions have turned the state’s politics completely in their favor. The result: unaffordable benefits for civil servants; fiscal chaos in Sacramento and in cities and towns across the state; and angry taxpayers finally confronting the unionized masters of California’s unsustainable government.

The CTA is one of the unions that has acquired enormous power and uses it for their benefit, and to the detriment of the citizens of California.

Consider the California Teachers Association. Much of the CTA’s clout derives from the fact that, like all government unions, it can help elect the very politicians who negotiate and approve its members’ salaries and benefits. Soon after Proposition 13 became law, the union launched a coordinated statewide effort to support friendly candidates in school-board races, in which turnout is frequently low and special interests can have a disproportionate influence. In often bitter campaigns, union-backed candidates began sweeping out independent board members. By 1987, even conservative-leaning Orange County saw 83 percent of board seats up for grabs going to union-backed candidates. The resulting change in school-board composition made the boards close allies of the CTA.

The SEIU is another.

The SEIU’s rise in California illustrates again how modern labor’s biggest victories take place in back rooms, not on picket lines. In the late 1980s, the SEIU began eyeing a big jackpot: tens of thousands of home health-care workers being paid by California’s county-run Medicaid programs. The SEIU initiated a long legal effort to have those workers, who were independent contractors, declared government employees. When the courts finally agreed, the union went about organizing them—an easy task because governments rarely contest organizing campaigns, not wanting to seem anti-worker. The SEIU’s biggest victory was winning representation for 74,000 home health-care workers in Los Angeles County, the largest single organizing drive since the United Auto Workers unionized General Motors in 1937. Taxpayers paid a steep price: home health-care costs became the fastest-growing part of the Los Angeles County budget after the SEIU bargained for higher wages and benefits for these new recruits. The SEIU also organized home health-care workers in several other counties, reaching a whopping statewide total of 130,000 new members.

The SEIU’s California numbers have given it extraordinary resources to pour into political campaigns. The union’s major locals contributed a hefty $20 million in 2005 to defeat a series of initiatives to cap government growth and rein in union power. The SEIU has also spent millions over the years on initiatives to increase taxes, sometimes failing but on other occasions succeeding, as with a 2004 measure to impose a millionaires’ tax to finance more mental-health spending. With an overflowing war chest and hundreds of thousands of foot soldiers, the SEIU has been instrumental in getting local governments to pass living-wage laws in several California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco. And the union has also used its muscle in campaigns largely out of the public eye, as in 2003, when it pressured the board of CalPERS, the giant California public-employee pension fund, to stop investing in companies that outsourced government jobs to private contractors.

The writer concludes:

It will take an enormous effort to roll back decades of political and economic gains by government unions. But the status quo is unsustainable. And at long last, Californians are beginning to understand the connection between that status quo and the corruption at the heart of their politics.

This is important information. Please read the whole article.

We Will Not Be Saying "Thank You", Mr. President

We Will Not Be Saying "Thank You", Mr. President

President Obama (February 4, 2009):

“I can make a firm pledge, under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.”

In the fifteen months of his presidency, President Obama has enacted into law, 25 tax increases totaling more than $670 billion, at least 14 of the taxes were violations of the Obama’s pledge not to raise any kind of taxes on Americans earning less than $200,000 for singles and $250,000 for married couples.

The President’s list of violations include:

* Tobacco tax increase and expanded enforcement authority*

* New tax on individuals who do not purchase government‐approved health insurance

* A 40% excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans

* A new “medicine cabinet tax” on over-the-counter purchases from HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs increasing the non-medical early withdrawal HSA penalty from 10 to 20 percent

* A “special-needs kids” tax (capping FSA contributions at $2500)

* An increase in the top Medicare payroll tax rate from 2.9 to 3.8 percent (in so doing raising the top marginal tax rate on labor from 37.9 to 43.4 percent)

* A hike in the capital gains rate from 15 to 23.8 percent

* A hike in the dividends tax rate from 15 to 43.4 percent

* A hike in the “other” investment tax rate from 35 to 43.4 percent

* An increase in the “reduction of the deduction” for medical expenses from 7.5 to 10 percent of AGI

* New annual taxes on health insurance companies, innovator drug companies, and medical device manufacturers

* A 10% excise tax for tanning salon sessions eliminating the deduction for employer-provided retiree Rx coverage in coordination with Medicare Part D

* Creating the “economic substance doctrine,” which allows the IRS to disallow perfectly-legal tax deductions it deems are only being used to reduce tax liabilities

* Requiring 1099-MISC information reporting for small business payments to corporations, increasing compliance burdens for small employers

Yesterday the President showed his typical arrogance and disregard for the public as he “amused” himself at the expense of the tax party protesters:

“In all, we passed 25 different tax cuts last year. And one thing we haven’t done is raise income taxes on families making less than $250,000 a year — another promise that we kept,” he told supporters at the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. “So I’ve been a little amused over the last couple of days where people have been having these rallies about taxes. You would think they would be saying thank you.”

Sorry, Mr. Obama, we will not thank you for raising our taxes and breaking your pledge not to raise taxes on those making less than $250,000. We will not thank you for further deepening the financial crisis by raising taxes in the midst of a severe recession. We will not thank you for creating the largest debt obligations ever in the history of the United States. We will not thank you for shoving a multi-trillion dollar healthcare insurance bill burden on American taxpayers when clearly a super-majority of Americans did not want it.

No thanks coming from here, Mr. Obama. You will have to look elsewhere for thanks.

h/t Yid with Lid

Assemblyman Mike Feuer Blocks Resolution To Honor Boy Scouts

Assemblyman Mike Feuer Blocks Resolution To Honor Boy Scouts

“On my honor I will do my best
to do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
to help other people at all times;
to keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.”

I really have difficulty understanding Democrats, especially Democrats like Mike Feuer, member of the California State Assembly from the 42nd Assembly District (West Hollywood, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, West LA, Studio City).

Everyone understands the good that the Boy Scouts do, and have been doing for 100 years.  I was a boy scout.  It was a valuable experience for me in my formative years.  It taught me many things. One thing I learned was how to be responsible for myself.  Another was that you had to be honorable as well as moral.  Effectively, how to be an adult.  It was a healthy and positive experience for me, as it was for tens of thousands of boys who went through the scouting movement for the past 100 years.

A resolution was presented in the California Assembly Judiciary Committee this week to honor the Boy Scouts of America for their nearly 100 years of service to the country.  Committee Chairman Mike Feuer said that he opposed the resolution because “gays are not allowed to serve as troop leaders.”

Does Mike Feuer not understand that one of the elements of scouting is that young boys go on overnight camping trips with their troop leaders and scoutmasters.  Some parents of young boys would be reluctant to send their son on an overnight camping trip if they knew the troop leader or scoutmaster was gay.  Yes, I know that few gay men are pedophiles, but some are.  Yes, I know that some heterosexual males are also pedophiles.  However, it is a matter of perception.  Parents will feel concerned that their child might be a victim of sexual abuse.

So, Michael Feuer got the other Democrats on the committee to kill the resolution honoring this fine service organization.  The resolution lost on straight party line vote.  All Democrats voted to kill the resolution.  All Republicans supported it.

The Democrats on the committee who voted against the resolution are Mike Feuer, Julia Brownley, Noreen Evans, Dave Jones,Ted Lieu, William Monning and Pedro Nava.  Republicans on the committee supporting the resolution were Van Tran, Curt Hagman and Steve Knight.

Objectives of the Boy Scouts (from their web site):
 
The Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.
For nearly a century, the BSA has helped build the future leaders of this country by combining educational activities and lifelong values with fun. The Boy Scouts of America believes — and, through nearly a century of experience, knows — that helping youth is a key to building a more conscientious, responsible, and productive society.

Happy Anniversary To Us

Well, loyal readers, it was exactly five years ago that I wrote the first post at Bear to the Right. I actually wrote three posts on that first day.

I am reposting them again:
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Welcome to “Bear to the Right”

This is a new blog where I, and occasional guests, will expound on the meaning of life. Comments will not appear on a regular basis as I have a life to attend to outside of blogging. Check back for further updates.

Since when do you telegraph your next move?

Can someone explain to me why Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made the comment that Iran has nothing to fear from Israel since Israel does not intend to attack Iran’s nuclear capability?

Wouldn’t the world be a lot safer if Iran was wondering what move Israel was going to make, and when?

Just a thought.

Boxer’s “rare” opposition

Barbara Boxer, liberal Democratic Senator from California, claims her opposition to John Bolton, President Bush’s nominee for the post of Ambassador to the United Nations, is rare.

Let’s see, in addition to opposing the Bolton appointment to the UN, she has opposed the appointment of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State, John Bolton as Under-Secretary of State, John Ashcroft for Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez for Attorney General, Theodore Olson for Solicitor General, Gale Norton for Secretary of the Interior and Michael Leavitt for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Were there any of President Bush’s significant appointments that she supported?

Rare, indeed.
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So, as you can see, here we are five years later, and we are still writing about the same topics. 

Happy Anniversary to us.