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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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Edward Ring

Why Investment Realities Will Compel Pension Reform

“For the first timein the pension fund’s history, we paid out more in retirementbenefits than we took in contributions.” – Anne Stausboll,Chief Executive Officer, CalPERS,2014-2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report

There are few examples of a seemingly innocuous statement with more significance than Stausboll’s admission, buried within her “CEO’s Letter of Transmittal,” summarizing the performance of CalPERS, the largest public employee retirement system in the United States. Because what’s happening at CalPERS – they now pay more in benefits than they collect in contributions – is happening everywhere.

For the first time in history, America’s public employee pension funds, managing well over $4.0 trillion in assets, are becoming net sellers, not buyers. And as any attentivestudent of economics will tell you, when there are more sellers than buyers, prices drop. Behind this mega economic trend is a mega demographic trend – across the developed world, certainly including the… Read More

Edward Ring

Friedrichs vs. the CTA Ruling Could Restore Free Speech Rights of Government Workers

In less than one weekthe U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, to determine whether unions can force public employees to fund speech through collective bargaining with which they might disagree. The case could result in a landmark decision impacting the First Amendment rights of millions of public sector workers nationwide.The California Policy Center joins hundredsof other organizations and millions of individual activists in urgingthe Supreme Court to rule in favor of the plaintiffs.

If the justices rule in favor of Friedrichs, the decision would not only take away government union’s ability to get public employees who do not pay them fired in the half of the states – most definitely including California – which do not have right-to-work, but would allow public workers to opt out of their union without needing to renew their objection every year. Here in California, the decision, which is expected in June 2016, would impact well over 1.0 million state and localpublic employees who are currently unionized.

The Friedrichs case rests on the argument that anything and everything that public… Read More

Edward Ring

A Pension “Pledge” for State Politicians

Earlier this week, noted pension reformer John Moore published “The Mechanics of Pension Reform,” listing specific principles of pension reform. Moore’s article focuses on state policy; he intends to focus on local pension reform policies in a later article. The list he has produced for state legislators is quite detailed; here’s is a partial summary of highlights:

1 – Change control of public employee pension boards to politically neutral private institutions. Currently, government union operatives exert nearly absolute control over California’s 81 state and local government employee pension systems.

2 – Limit the total annual pension contribution by any government entity to a fixed percentage of pension eligible salary.

3 – Differentiate between annual salary and pension eligible salary to lower overall contributions. Stop counting annual wage increases as pension eligible.

4 – Eliminate collective bargaining for government workers.

5 – Prohibit legislative bodies from granting vested contract rights to pensions.

6 – Require agency in-house… Read More

Edward Ring

Which Initiatives Will Qualify for California’s 2016 Ballot? Look for the Union Label

“There are some lunatics out there and for $200 we encourage them.” – Senator Mark Leno, speaking in favor of AB 1100,as quoted by the Los Angeles Times, August 17, 2015

Filing an initiative in California is about to get harder, thanks to a law taking effect on January 1st, 2016, that will increase the filing fee from the current $200 to $2,000. While $2,000 may seem like a lot, if the original fee, set at $200 back in 1943, wereadjusted for inflation, today it would cost $2,366. And anyone seriously intending to place their initiative onto California’s statewide ballot will need a lot more than $2,000, since qualifyingthe measures invariably requires paying professional signature gatherers. How many signatures are required varies depending on turnouts in California’s gubernatorial elections. Based on the 2014 turnout, getting ballot initiatives onto… Read More

Edward Ring

How the Pension Reactionaries Mislead the Public

re·ac·tion·ar·y,rēˈakSHəˌnerē,adjective 1.(of a person or a set of views) opposing political or social liberalization or reform. – Source: Google search “what is a reactionary”

When it comes to civic financial health and quality public education, “reactionary” is a word with increasingly bipartisan connotations. But the other qualities connoted by the word all still apply; shrill and divisive rhetoric, an almost militant unwillingness to acknowledge any of the opposition’s arguments, and, of course, an unyielding position favoring the status-quo, no matter how untenable.

Pension reactionaries embody all of these characteristics. For the most part, they are also hypocrites. Because their devastatingly effective campaigns against pension reformers are fundednot only by public employee unions, but also by powerful elements of those same Wall Street financial interests those unions routinely deride. They employ distortions of fact, they demonize reformers, and they employ inversions of logic.

Let’s examine some of the misleading arguments and tactics of the pension reactionaries, in no particular… Read More

Edward Ring

The Alliance Between Wall Street and Public Unions

“It’s [private equity investments] generating real returns for our members, which is exactly what it’s supposed to do,” said Joe DeAnda, a CalPERS spokesman. “It’s real value that we don’t feel there’s another way to achieve.” – “Are private equity investments worth the risk?,” Los Angeles Times, November 14, 2015

The alliance between government unions and America’s overbuilt financial sector is one of the most unreported stories of our time. It is a story saturated in greed, drowning in delusion, smothered and marginalized by an avalanche of taxpayer funded propaganda. If this story were known and appreciated by the people most victimized by its effects, it would fundamentally shift the political landscape of the nation. The most obvious example of this alliance are the government worker pension systems, Wall Street’s biggest players, controlled by union operatives.

The problem with public sector defined benefit pensions can be boiled down to two cold facts:… Read More

Edward Ring

Why Aren’t Unions Fighting California’s Bullet Train Boondoggle?

Back in 2008, voters in California approved Prop. 1, a statewide initiative to spend, “$9 billion for building a new high-speed railroad between San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

Total cost, $9.5 billion. Remember that?

Quoting further from the original initiative’s ballot language:

“Bond Costs. The costs of these bonds would dependon interest rates in effect at the time they are sold andthe time period over which they are repaid. The statewould make principal and interest payments from thestate’s General Fund over a period of about 30 years.If the bonds are sold at an average interest rate of 5percent, the cost would be about $19.4 billion to payoff both principal ($9.95 billion) and interest ($9.5billion). The average repayment for principal andinterest would be about $647 million per year.Operating Costs. When constructed, the high-speedrail system will incur unknown ongoing maintenanceand operation costs, probably in excess of $1 billion ayear. Depending on the level of ridership, these costswould be at least partially offset by revenue from farespaid by passengers.” (ref.UC Hastings ScholarshipRead More

Edward Ring

How Project Labor Agreements Elevate Costs to Taxpayers

When considering the labor movement in the United States, there is a huge distinction between government unions and private sector unions. Government unions elect their own bosses, they operate within agencies that collect taxes instead of having to make a profit by enticing consumers to buy their products, and they operate the machinery of government which means their more zealous members have the ability to intimidate their political opponents. Private sector unions have none of these advantages. They negotiate with managers hired by CEOs who report to shareholders. They negotiate with companies that will go out of business if they over-compensate their workers. And with rare exceptions, workers in private companies are not approving our business permit applications, inspecting our workplaces, or auditing our tax returns.

So where does this put construction unions who compete for government contracts?

This question matters a lot to reformers, because private sector unions, properly regulated, not only have a vital role to play in American society, but their members have the potential to lobby effectively against many of the special interests who are killing… Read More

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