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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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Edward Ring

California’s Government Unions are the Most Powerful in the U.S.

The Commonwealth Foundation, a think tank based in Pennsylvania, has recently released a study entitled “Transforming Labor – A Comprehensive, Nationwide Comparison and Grading of Public Sector Labor Laws.” It ranked every state in terms of the relative power of public sector unions. California, along with tiny Maryland, were the only states that got an F.

If you view the map presented in the Commonwealth study, there is a strong correlation between states controlled by the GOP vs those controlled by Democrats. Nearly all the Democrat controlled states with large urban populations get D grades, with the notable exceptions of Florida (C), and Texas (A). We can perhaps learn something from the outliers – why did Texas get an A and why does Montana get a D? But California is in a class by itself.

When performing this analysis, the studies author, Priya M. Abraham, created a… Read More

Edward Ring

Invest California’s Pension Funds in Water and Energy Infrastructure

“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” – Peter Thiel, in his 2011 manifesto “What Happened to the Future.”

Anyone living in California who’s paying attention knows what venture capitalist Thiel meant. While a handful of Silicon Valley social media entrepreneurs have amassed almost indescribable wealth, andfundamentally transformed how humanity communicates, investment in boring things like roads, bridges, tunnels, ports, aqueducts, reservoirs and railroads – the list is endless – has stagnated. Especially in California. Flying cars? Forget about it. Go tweet.

Why? Why the neglect?

(1) For starters, why invest in moving atoms around, which is messy and might incur the wrath of powerful climate change activists, when you can move electrons around in new… Read More

Edward Ring

The Credibility of Public Service

California’s government unions are nothing like private sector unions. Their bosses are selected via elections where these unions are the dominant campaign contributors. They get their money through compulsory taxes and therefore don’t have to run efficient operations. They run the machinery of government which lets them intimidate their opponents and act as gatekeeper to business interests. Their agenda – more government workers and more pay and benefits for government workers – is intrinsically at odds with the public interest, which must focus on achieving an optimal government, not bigger government for its own sake.

For these reasons, government unions are not only drivers of government inefficiencies and financial challenges, they discredit government itself. In three parts – local, state, and federal – here are ways that government unions have taken away much of the credibility once enjoyed by government agencies, and the good people who staff these agencies.

Part One – Local Government Credibility

A friend of mine just got a ticket for making a right turn on a red light. They weren’t… Read More

Edward Ring

Put Public Employees on Secure Choice and Social Security

“The state shall not have any liability for the payment of the retirement savings benefit earned by program participants pursuant to this title.” – California State Senator Kevin De Leon,August 7, 2016, Sacramento Bee

This quote from Senator De Leon, one of the main proponents of California’s new “Secure Choice” retirement program for private sector workers, says it all. Because De Leon’s comment reveals the breathtaking hypocrisy and stupefying innumeracy of California’s legislature.

Let’s start with hypocrisy.

De Leon is careful to protect private sector taxpayers from having to bail out their new state administered “secure choice” retirement plan, but no such safeguardhas ever been seriously contemplated for the state administered pension plans for state and local government workers. These plans, using official numbers, are underfunded by about $250 billion. If you don’t assume California’s 92 state and… Read More

Edward Ring

How Unionized Government Enables the Iron Law of Oligarchy

Political Parties,” published by the German political theorist Roberto Michels in 1911, is a relatively obscure book. But in this book, Michels offers a concept that has increasing relevance today, the “Iron Law of Oligarchy.” This law is summed up reasonably well in its Wikipedia entry:

“According to Michels all organizations eventually come to be run by a ‘leadership class’, who often function as paid administrators, executives, spokespersons, political strategists, organizers, etc. for the organization. Far from being ‘servants of the masses’, Michels argues this ‘leadership class,’ rather than the organization’s membership, will inevitably grow to dominate the organization’s power structures. By controlling who has access to information, those in power can centralize their power successfully, often with little accountability, due to the apathy, indifference and non-participation most rank-and-file members have in relation to their organization’s decision-making processes. Michels argues that democraticRead More

Edward Ring

For Nov. 8th: $32B in Local Borrowing, $2.9B in Local Tax Increases

New local taxes and new local borrowing are a regular phenomenon in California elections, but this year our government union controlled politicians have outdone themselves. Let’s compare:

November 2014– $11 billion in new borrowing proposed via 118 local bond measures, 81% passed. Of the 117 local proposals for new taxes, 68% passed.

June 2016–$6.2 billion in new borrowing proposed via 48 local bond measures, an estimated 93% passed. Of the 42 local proposals for new taxes, an estimated 66% passed.

November 2016 – $32.2 billion in new borrowing via 193 local bond measures, and 224 local proposals for new taxes!

Not only do these general and primary and special election tax and bond measures accumulate year after year, but they nearly always pass! The primary source for this information is theCalifornia Tax Foundation, who have just produced another excellent guide “… Read More

Edward Ring

Average Costa Mesa Firefighter Makes Nearly $250,000 Per Year. Why? Pensions.

Does that fact have your attention? Because media consultants insist we preface anything of substance with a hook like this. It even has the virtue of being true! And now, for those with the stomach for it, let’s descend into the weeds.

According topayroll and benefit datareported by the City of Costa Mesa to the California State Controller, during 2015 the average full-time firefighter made $240,886. During the same period, the average full-time police officer in Costa Mesa made $201,330. In both cases, that includes the cost, on average, for their regular pay, overtime, “other pay,” the city’s payment to CalPERS for the city’s share, the city’s payment to CalPERS of a portion of the employee’s share, and the city’s payments for the employee’shealth and dental insurance benefits.

And if you think that’s a lot, just wait. Because the payments CalPERS is demanding from Costa Mesa – and presumably every other agency that participates in their pension system – are about to go way up.

We have obtained twoinnocuous… Read More

Edward Ring

If Police Unions Were Abolished and Police Associations Were Restored

Earlier this month the New York Times ran an editorial entitled “When Police Unions Impede Justice.” They make the point that collective bargaining agreements for police employees often make it very difficult to hold police officers accountable for misconduct. When you have nearly 1.0 million sworn police officers in the United States, you’re bound to have a few bad apples. According to the NYT, these collective bargaining agreements discourage citizens from lodging misconduct complaints, micromanage investigations, and minimize disciplinary sanctions.

This isn’t news. It’s one of the reasons collective bargaining agreements for police officersare especially problematic. The other big problem with collective bargaining agreements for members of public safety are theoften excessive and unaffordable benefit packages they’ve “negotiated” with the politicians whose careersare made or broken by these same unions. So what if police unions were abolished?

One may argue that abolishing police unions in favor of police associations – which… Read More

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