Monday, July 27, 2009


No republic has long outlived the discovery by a majority of its people that
they could vote themselves largess from the public treasury.
Alexander Tytler

1. Spendthrift New York state needs California’s super-majority vote protection

2. Left’s media champion for higher California taxes thoroughly debunked

3. Private prisons crush government prison guards’ pay con job

4. If San Diego city public worker pay is so low, have city employees fled their jobs these past few years? Au contraire!

5. Does Obama want to own the airlines?

6. The Golden State's political class comes unglued in the face of a citizens' revolt.

7. Two Rider comments on why CA voters deserve only small part of blame for runaway spending

8. Fans Flock to Mourn California, 1849-2009

9. The coming federal tax increase(s)

10. How many of California’s 480+ agencies and commissions can you list – let alone recommend dissolving? Here’s one hell of a cheat sheet

11. Liberals love majority rule – except when it works against them

12. The feminist “78 cents on a dollar” myth

13. Thomas Sowell: “You can usually only equalize downwards”

14. Past (and many present) City Managers in San Diego County are the biggest crooks when it comes to the local pension debacles

15. Man bites dog. Rider supports labor union proposition

16. Over half the price of a ticket for international flight can be taxes

17. Tech Corner – Offsite backup – DO IT! Easier and cheaper than ever.

18. Financial tip: How to get extra discounts on online purchases

19. Latest updates to my “California Breaking Bad” article


1. Spendthrift New York state needs California’s supermajority vote protection

RIDER COMMENT: Previously I published a “must read” Chris Reed blog item showing how simple majority voting is working in our liberal sister state – New York.

As that blog item showed, in the teeth of this severe downturn, NY politicians are raising taxes left and right while increasing the state budget 8%.

If you didn’t read that item, do it now. If you DID read that item, reread it, commit its essence to memory, and send it to everyone you know – that’s one chain letter that needs to circulate the California Internet.

This Chris Reed follow-up blog item below is almost as valuable. Like California, some in New York are pushing for a constitutional convention to solve their government’s budget problems. But unlike California, they want and need such a convention to ELIMINATE simple majority tax increases – to adopt supermajority requirements for raising taxes!

When it comes to simple majority voting, they’ve been there, done that, and are now through with that.


New York, like California, ponders constitutional convention -- partly to block tax hikes on simple majority vote!

So in California, things are so dysfunctional that self-styled "good government" groups like the Bay Area Council want a constitutional convention, where job no. 1 would be killing the Legislature's two-thirds requirement for raising taxes and adopting a budget. California may be among the most heavily taxed states in the union, but these "goo goos" somehow think our problem is the budget process, not a refusal to live within our means.

Now for the hilarious twist:

In New York, things are so dysfunctional that perhaps the most popular politician in the state wants a constitutional convention, where job no. 1 would be killing the Legislature's ability to raise taxes by a simple majority vote. Introducing Mr. Rudy Giuliani:
Too often increasing taxes is the first impulse for Albany legislators. Requiring a supermajority for tax increases would provide a powerful check on those who still think we can tax and spend our way out of economic problems. A supermajority would protect already over-burdened citizens and attract businesses, improving our long-term competitiveness.

What led Rudy to this constitution? The appalling 2009-10 New York state budget I wrote about here. Rudy shares my low opinion of it:
There are more New Yorkers unemployed than at any time in 33 years, and the poverty rate is rising. Our combined state and local tax burden is the highest in the nation after New Jersey. Our business tax climate is rated the second worst in the country. And in the face of the worst recession in a quarter-century, the State Legislature decided to increase spending by 9 percent while increasing taxes and fees by $8 billion. No wonder a recent poll showed that more than 20 percent of New Yorkers are thinking of leaving the state in search of lower taxes and fewer government mandates.

Giving the California Legislature the option of behaving like the New York Legislature is what Jim Wunderman and the Bay Area Council want for California? Really? Really? Really?

Thanks to Bruce Kesler for drawing Giuliani's New York Times op-ed to my attention.
Posted by Chris Reed at June 24, 2009 01:05 PM

2. Left’s media champion for higher California taxes thoroughly debunked

RIDER COMMENT: The liberal press got all excited by a Michael Hiltzik column in the LA TIMES claiming that California’s spending problem is just a right wing myth. But the piece has since been crushed by a simple look at Hiltzik’s incorrect math and pathetic research.

Naturally, the TIMES and other liberal publications have failed to give much coverage to this robust rebuttal. Fortunately for you, this blog ain’t the LA TIMES! Here’s the REASON column tearing it to shreds – I had a tiny hand in it.

LAT Columnist: State Spending Problem a "Myth"...Unless You Count All State Spending
Matt Welch | May 28, 2009, 11:01am

In today's installment of You Californians Are Just Too STUPID, L.A. Times anti-business columnist and recovering sock-puppeteer Michael Hiltzik thunders: "California's problem is spending? That's a myth." Hiltzik's case:
[T]he idea that California's budget has been out of control as measured against inflation and population growth is a deeply cherished talking point in the debate over the state's fiscal deficit.

Unfortunately, it turns out to be yet another infectious myth. The truth is that over the last 10 years, California's spending has tracked population growth and price increases almost to the penny.

This finding comes from the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office, which subjects the state budget to more careful scrutiny than almost anyone else in Sacramento.

Analyzing the 2008-09 budget bill last year, the legislative analyst determined that since 1998-99, spending in the general fund and state special funds -- the latter comes from special levies like gasoline and tobacco taxes -- had risen to $128.8 billion from $72.6 billion, or 77%.

During this time frame, which embraced two booms (dot-com and housing) and two busts (ditto), the state's population grew about 30% to about 38 million, and inflation charged ahead by 50%. The budget's growth, the legislative analyst found, exceeded these factors by only an average of 0.2% a year.
What's missing from this analysis? Hiltzik cops to it a few paragraphs later: Bond spending. Which, as he quotes the state legislative analyst as saying, has amounted to $85 billion in voter-mandated issuances this decade alone.

In what universe does "bond spending" not count as "spending"? Does this mean I am not technically spending when I buy stuff with my credit card? If a "deeply cherished talking point" turns out to be true, can it still be "infectious"? These are the questions.

To see what an honest and complete accounting of California budget data over the past two decades looks like (hint: the phrase "almost to the penny" is not used), consult the Reason Foundation's study [PDF] "California Spending By the Numbers."
UPDATE: The San Diego Union-Tribune's Chris Reed has found what he calls a "Huge, obvious error" in Hiltzik's calculations of population growth.
RIDER NOTE: What Chris Reed discovered is that columnist Hiltzik claimed that CA population grew 30% over a 10 year period. But a check of the numbers shows that the state grew only 13.8% during that timeframe. I brought this point to REASON’s attention, and I think that was the reason for the “UPDATE” to the article (see comments at the REASON website).

3. Private prisons crush government prison guards’ pay con job

RIDER COMMENT: As you may know from my previous rants, the powerful California Correctional Peace Officers Association was instrumental in effectively banning private CA state prisons, driving up the California cost of incarceration. And then they bribed Gray Davis and the legislature to give the guards a 35% pay boost for dessert.

“California Correctional Peace Officers Association” – isn’t that a great name for a prison guard union? “Peace officers”? Uh huh. Funny how “public safety” employees never want to call their unions what they are – labor unions!

As usual, I digress. Below is a comparison of the cost of government vs. private prisons in the U.S. The cost savings from competition can be dramatic. The study is done by a Washington state think tank so it’s geared to that state’s needs, but the lesson available is more universal.

Bottom line of the study – comparing states with more than and less than 20% of inmates in private prisons: The states with less than 20% in private prisons are paying 49.4% more per day per inmate than states with more than 20% in private prisons.
Washington Policy Institute
Private Prisons and the Public Interest
Improving Quality and Reducing Costs through Competition
by Paul Guppy, Vice President for Research
The cost of maintaining Washington’s state-run prison system is becoming increasingly unsustainable. The state Department of Corrections budget has more than doubled over the last ten years, rising from $502 million in the 1991-1993 biennium to $1,072 million in the current biennium. Corrections costs rose more than 12.3% over the last two years, a rate more than four times faster than inflation. The increasing cost of operating the state prison system has outpaced the rise in total General Fund spending in every biennium in the 1990s, and is now one of the fastest growing areas of state spending.

Mounting prison expenditures are a major cost driver for state government, and are one reason overall state spending is increasing considerably faster than the rising level of tax revenues. State legislators now face a $2.4 billion deficit compared to what they had planned to spend in the 2003-2005 biennium.

Every state prison facility but one is overcrowded, some by as much as 50%. Many of Washington’s 39 county jails are also filled beyond capacity. Together county jails are designed to hold 8,770 prisoners, but instead house an average daily population of around 10,000, resulting in an average over-capacity of just over 113%.

The state’s tight financial situation lends fresh urgency to privatization and competitive bidding as a long-term way to bring rising spending under control. Introducing competition from the private sector would allow state leaders to provide critical prison services at lower cost.

Recent research compares two groups of states over four years, 1997 through 2001. The first group consists of nine states that took strong advantage of competitive forces by devoting at least 20% of their corrections system to privately run prisons. The second group consists of 24 states with few or no private prisons. Washington is one of these. In every rated category, the states in the first group operated a more cost-effective prison system than those in the second group. The results are summarized in the graph.

Comparison of Increasing State Prison Costs Based on Number of Privately Run Prisons

Over the four-year period the states with few or no private prisons experienced significantly faster growth in total spending, higher corrections costs and higher daily prisoner costs than states with a large proportion of privately run prisons.
States that made a greater investment in private prisons enjoyed far lower expenses per day per inmate than other states. These states had an average daily cost of $82.59 per inmate in 2001, compared with an average daily cost of $123.43 for states with few or no privately run prisons.

In Washington, with little prison privatization, per diem costs in 2001 were $104.25. Yet in neighboring Idaho, where state leaders made a significant investment in private prisons, per diem costs were 42% lower, just $60.21.
Other Western states that greatly benefited from lower per day costs because they had significant number of private prisons were Montana ($80.93), New Mexico ($85.89) and Colorado ($67.05).

There is a measurable relationship between states that have invested in private prisons and their ability to control the rise in total structural costs of state government.

States with 20% or more private prisons saw their total spending increase an average of 24.34% over four years, compared with an average increase of more than 32% for non-privatized states.

Concurrently, such states were better able to contain costs in their Department of Corrections budgets. In the states with more private prisons, Department of Corrections costs increased an average of 38.12%, while the states that had neglected privatization opportunities saw their corrections budget soar an average of 50%. Over the same period the populations of the two groups of states rose at similar rates, in the 15% to 18% range.

Details from the study reveal striking examples of the efficiencies states gain from investing in prison privatization:

Utah spends $125.40 per day for each prisoner housed, while neighboring Colorado spends just $67.05 per day for the same service.

Minnesota spends $164.03 per prisoner per day, while Wisconsin spends $93.33 per day, or 43% less.

Tennessee was able to reduce prisoner costs per day by more than 8% over four years, while in neighboring North Carolina per diem corrections costs over the same period increased by 15%.

In Washington per day costs increased almost 25% over four years, while in Idaho they increased at less than one-third that rate, by only 7.4%.

The measurable results of prison privatization have been overwhelmingly positive. While the private prison system is not perfect, the high quality, safety, low cost and management innovations that resulted from competitive pressures have been beneficial to the public interest.

Adopting a policy of prison privatization in Washington could go a long way to relieving prison overcrowding and slowing the growth in the government’s long-term structural costs.

See the full study on “Private Prisons and the Public Interest” here.

4. If San Diego city public worker pay is so low, have city employees fled their jobs these past few years? Au contraire!

RIDER COMMENT: I meant to post this Chris Reed blog item in a March, 2008 Rider Rant. It’s still excellent ammo, so I’m “publishing” it now.
The public employee pay urban myth, part 2: The numbers don't lie

John Kaheny says I don't know what I'm talking about when I mock his claim that constantly improving pay and great benefits are crucial to retaining municipal employees in San Diego. I quoted local government expert Steve Frates saying this claim was an "urban myth" and that there was essentially no market demand for public employees except for police officers.

OK, John, you want stats, here are stats.

"Median occupational tenure" -- the length of time a worker toils for the same employer -- is a very accurate indicator of job satisfaction. (Job satisfaction maybe not in the sense of personal fulfillment, etc., but in the sense of not looking for greener pastures elsewhere.)

"Median occupational tenure" is far higher for public employees than for the average U.S. worker. As this Bureau of Labor Statistics report confirms ...
In January 2006, wage and salary workers in the public sector had almost double the median tenure of private sector employees, 6.9 versus 3.6 years.

Also this:
Federal employees had a higher median tenure (9.9 years) than state (6.3 years) or local government (6.6 years) employees.

Now guess what the figure is in San Diego for general city employees (all but police, firefighters and lifeguards): 12.32 years -- way more than the national average even for other public employees, not just all workers. And this despite years of union leaders telling the rank and file they're being abused by city leaders.

There's more.

Here's the average annual turnover rate the past three fiscal years for general city employees: 3.8 percent.

Cue the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The total separations, or turnover, rate fell to 3.1 percent in December 2007. Separations are terminations of employment that occur at any time during the month.
Got that? The monthly overall job turnover rate for the U.S. as a whole is similar to the turnover rate for the city of San Diego FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR!

Put another way: Over the past six weeks, the total percentage of people who have changed or lost jobs in the economy as a whole is a higher percentage than we saw in the San Diego municipal work force for all of 2007.

Oh, yeah, municipal employees are in high demand, they're eager to leave, an exodus is imminent. City Hall would just be crazy to not jack up pay and benefits.

Case closed. Kaheny and friends will offer anecdotes galore, but the numbers don't lie.

Posted by Chris Reed at March 7, 2008 03:27 PM

5. Does Obama Want to Own the Airlines?

Manny Klausner Comment: Holman Jenkins' column in the Wall Street Journal poses an ominous question, in analyzing the current approach of the Obama Justice Department -- which threatens to undermine the prospects for survival of the chronically troubled U.S. airline industry.

Wall Street Journal
July 8, 2009

Does Obama Want to Own the Airlines?

Welcome to government for the benefit of government officials and their hangers-on.

By Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.

Only luck and falling oil prices saved Washington from having to face mass bankruptcy of the airline industry last year. Now the specter is rising again. Fuel prices are up. Traffic continues to plummet amid a global recession. United Airlines last week mortgaged its spare-parts inventory to raise cash at a usurious 17% interest rate.

Yet the Obama Justice Department has come out of the blocks trying to scuttle a promising experiment to stabilize the chronically unprofitable U.S. airline sector. The new administration seemingly won't let companies fail, and won't let them succeed either.

The airline industry's self-help solution has been an evolving trio of international alliances, partly blessed with "antitrust immunity" by the U.S. Department of Transportation. One, the Star Alliance led by United and Lufthansa, is currently poaching Continental from a rival alliance, SkyTeam. DOT was set to approve their application last week when Justice belatedly intervened with a 58-page complaint about why the pact should be restructured.

To anyone drilled in the antitrust mindset, Justice's argument won't seem outlandish. It frets about reduced competition on this or that international route, and sees little chance of competitive entry by new carriers despite fat profits that presumably would be on offer. It argues, in a fashion typical of antitrust these days, that nonstop flights are a market unto themselves, so connecting flights on the same routes don't count.

But the real fulcrum is Justice's insistence, or plea, that DOT should set a high bar for antitrust immunity, because antitrust enforcement has been such a gosh-darn boon to consumers.

Justice offers no supporting evidence for this proposition, which has resisted academic verification. And in dismissing the "putative" benefits of immunized airline alliances, Justice fails even to acknowledge the one benefit that Obama Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has emphasized: "These alliances are life savers for airlines. That is the premise from which we start. We believe it. The airlines believe it."

In part, such alliances are substitutes for international airline mergers (which are prohibited under U.S. law), but are more interesting than mergers, thanks to the flexibility with which carriers can enter and exit cooperative agreements with each other.

The antitrust mindset naturally sees such cooperation as always harmful, inflating prices and gouging consumers. But then why does organized labor oppose the deals? Shouldn't workers favor alliances if they reduce competitive pressure on wages? Yet Justice's intervention came after United's pilots ran a full-page ad in Roll Call attacking the company's own deal.

And why do carriers lobby against each other's pacts? Shouldn't they favor anything that leads to oligopoly pricing? And what to make of Continental's decision to jilt SkyTeam and jump to Star, shifting the competitive balance on the North Atlantic?

Obama antitrust chief Christine Varney doesn't have much good to say about her Bush predecessors. But she praises their record of cartel-busting. She might examine that record for what it actually says about the incentive to collude.

It shows, for one thing, that companies are inclined to snuggle up mainly to share losses and preserve capacity in a downturn or to curb the free-riding of powerful customers. When profits are available, on the other hand, they quickly go back to competing to maximize their respective shares rather than colluding to limit their individual upsides.

These incentives would very likely prevail in the highly flexible airline alliances. Such alliances are no miracle cure for what ails the domestic carriers, but they would open a window to let us see beyond antitrust's indiscriminate prejudice against cooperative acts by competitors.

Of course, this would fly in the face of Ms. Varney's agenda, which is to expand the bailiwick of the Washington antitrust bar. Even now, she has turned her attention from airlines to the mobile-phone business on the theory that any industry that hasn't collapsed into government receivership must be doing something wrong.

Mr. Obama blabs about the evils of lobbying, but his administration is fast becoming the greatest fillip to lobbying ever seen. Ms. Varney has now horned in on the DOT's action, forcing the airline business and all its camp followers to come and pay tribute. Her choice of targets is obviously designed for political effect. Airlines and mobile-phone operators both touch the public in ways that leave the public frequently annoyed.

What we're seeing here and elsewhere from the new administration is not some rebirth of thoughtful liberalism, but a spastic descent into machine liberalism -- government for the benefit of government officials and their hangers-on. Mr. Obama, however, may not be so pleased with the result if it means he must soon add the airlines to the collection of failed industries being run out of the White House.

6. The Golden State's political class comes unglued in the face of a citizens' revolt.

RIDER COMMENT: Below is an excellent article from REASON magazine that details the huge chasm between the grubby voters and the elitists who think they can direct us towards European socialism. It’s both an instructive and fun read.

> According to Adam Summers -- a policy analyst at the Reason
> Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this magazine -- the
> state's annual pension fund contribution vaulted from $321 million
> in 2000-01 to $7.3 billion last year. According to public
> databases, more than 5,000 people are drawing pensions in excess
> of $100,000 from the state of California each year.

Reason Magazine
August/September 2009 Print Edition

California Screaming

The Golden State's political class comes unglued in the face of a
citizens' revolt.

By Matt Welch

On May 19, California voters went to the polls to decide whether to pass a package of six tax-and-gimmick ballot propositions. Its supporters—Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Democratic legislative leaders, the California Teachers Association, and the overwhelming majority of the state’s major newspapers—billed it as the last best hope to plug Sacramento’s $24 billion budget deficit. “Either pass it,” warned the Los Angeles Times editorial board, “or risk fiscal disaster.”

Those who believe that either money or the media determine political outcomes should pay close heed to what happened next: Although opponents were outspent by more than 7 to 1, they trounced the state’s political class, rejecting five of the six measures by an average of 30 percentage points. The only proposition to pass was an anger-driven new law that limits elected officials’ salaries.

Faced with such thorough repudiation, California’s best and brightest then did a telling thing. They lashed right back.

The Los Angeles Times headlined its morning-after news analysis, “California Voters Exercise Their Power—and That’s the Problem.” Sacramento columnist George Skelton argued that “voters helped get themselves into this fix” by “passing feel-good ‘ballot box budgeting’ initiatives” and sanctioning “heavy borrowing” for “infrastructure projects.” Business columnist Michael Hiltzik (RIDER NOTE: see item #2 in this Rant to get a better feel for this guy’s credibility) averred that “far more blame for the deficit belongs to California voters” because “year in, year out, they enact spending mandates at the polls, often without endowing a revenue source.” Missing from any of these critiques was the fact that the Times’ own editorial board endorsed more than 90 percent of the very same ballot-box bond measures during the last decade. No matter: A perpetrator had been located.

“Good morning, California voters,” The Sacramento Bee’s post-election editorial began. “Do you feel better, now that you’ve gotten that out of your system?” The Bee, which (like the Times) had endorsed four of the five losing measures, came under immediate attack for its heavy-handed, citizen-blaming sarcasm. (A sample: “So, now that you’ve put those irksome politicians in their place, maybe it’s time to think about this: Since you’re in charge, exactly what do you intend to do about that pesky $25 billion hole in the budget?”) Rush Limbaugh gleefully read passages on his show, San Diego Union-Tribune editorial writer Chris Reed called it “staggeringly juvenile, arrogant and revealing,” and commenters on the Bee’s website were full of reactions like, “What an obnoxious editorial. Nevertheless, it illustrates that the Bee is completely in favor of bigger government and higher taxes.”

Then another funny thing happened: The Bee scrubbed the editorial off its website, replacing it with a much more conciliatory piece, addressed this time to legislators. The original editorial had been posted in “error,” the paper explained, and the new piece was the one that appeared in the print edition. “That [first] article was a draft prepared for internal discussion among members of The Bee’s editorial board,” a brief note said. “Such discussions are a routine part of our work, and frequently lead to editorials that are considerably different from writers’ first drafts.”

This instant airbrushing, normally fodder for such journalism-tracking websites as Jim Romenesko’s Media News, went virtually ignored by all but a few mostly right-leaning websites. So did another colossal gaffe, by the aforementioned Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, who thundered that the very notion California had a “spending problem” was an “infectious myth.”

Hiltzik claimed that the state government’s budget growth had kept pace “almost to the penny” with growth in population and inflation during the last decade. There were three problems with this analysis: Hiltzik miscalculated population growth (claiming 30 percent instead of 14 percent), he chose a federal inflation rate of 50 percent during that period instead of the California Consumer Price Index figure of 35 percent, and, most important, he excluded from state spending more than $100 billion in bond measures. This whopper was roasted and dissected on local talk radio, but it was unmentioned by more august repositories of public policy and journalism debate, such as the Times-tracking LA Observed.

Rarely has the chasm between elite political discourse and grubby popular opinion been displayed in such sharp relief. The implications of this citizen revolt—and the hostile reactions to it—stretch far beyond Nevada’s western border. California is the Ghost of Federal Government Future.

During the last two decades, the Golden State has been transformed from what was once known as the nation’s most anti-labor outpost to a state essentially run by public-sector unions. Nearly three in five public sector workers are unionized, compared to less than two in five public employees in other states. The Democratic Party, which is fully in hock to unions, has controlled the legislature and most statewide posts, with the notable exception of the governor’s mansion, for more than a decade. That means more government workers, higher salaries, and drastically higher pension costs.

According to Adam Summers—a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this magazine—the state’s annual pension fund contribution vaulted from $321 million in 2000–01 to $7.3 billion last year. According to public databases, more than 5,000 people are drawing pensions in excess of $100,000 from the state of California each year.

So pervasive is the union influence that big labor doesn’t even try to defend its deleterious effects on California’s finances. Just before the special election, a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board asked Service Employees International Union chief Andy Stern to respond to charges that unions are the 21st-century equivalent of the railroads that were once all-powerful in California. Stern verbally shrugged: “I think democracy is an ugly thing at times.”

That ugliness has made the California budget, like those in most of the other 49 states, less efficient and more bloated. Government spending, unlike spending in the private economy, is a zero-sum game—especially on the state level, since governors can’t print money. Every dollar spent gilding a pension is a dollar not spent funding an orphanage. Naturally, the same elite outlets that were busy blaming voters after the election spent even more time detailing the horrors of the “annihilating cuts,” as the Los Angeles Times called them in a news article, that were coming down the pike. (In early June, the paper invited readers to be shocked that a high school with 3,200 students would have to make do with just three guidance counselors.) Bloated pension costs and the increasingly inefficient provision of state services received a fraction of the coverage.

The federal government is now run by a president and Congress more responsive to union concerns than any in at least two decades. The same bloat currently bogging down statehouses and city halls is being duplicated in boomtown Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama even brought Andy Stern in to help warn Schwarzenegger that federal stimulus money would not be disbursed to California unless the governor rescinded some proposed state job cuts. Though that threat was later withdrawn, Schwarzenegger at press time was pushing for a measly work force reduction of 2 percent.

But there’s another interpretation of California’s rebellion, one with far sunnier implications for those of us who prefer our governments constrained. Faced with a political class that ignored bureaucratic inefficiency, that demanded higher taxes, that filled the newspapers with scare stories about people who will literally die as a result of budget cuts, the citizens of one of the bluest states in the nation collectively said we just don’t believe you anymore. If even California’s famous fruits and nuts can call the statists’ bluff, there may be hope for the rest of the country.

Matt Welch ( is editor in chief of reason.

7. Two Rider comments on why CA voters deserve only small part of blame

RIDER COMMENT: I have a foolish habit of commenting on articles online – and verbally sparing with opponents. I can’t help myself!

Well, I’ve decided I should make a greater effort to disseminate such thoughts by posting insightful comments in my Rant when appropriate. Like now.

These two comments were in response to elitists’ claims that it’s the voters who are to blame for our state mess. But much of that is from a lack of understanding of what’s being voted on, and the ramifications. Of course, these same elitists campaigned mightily via the press and through contributions to convince the public to support all these spending measures. But that’s well covered in the REASON piece above.

Here are my two comments:

A. Yes, California voters supported more spending and $100B+ in bonds. But sadly, the average voter doesn't see the connection between these commitments and higher taxes.

When it comes to state bonds, the deception is by design.

A LOCAL bond usually includes a specific tax increase to go with it -- so the voter knows what the measure is going to cost. Furthermore most such bonds require a 2/3 vote majority to pass (55% for most school bonds).

On the state level, no tax is included with the bond -- it seems to be almost free. In addition, the bond can be passed with a simple majority vote. Unsophisticated voters are left to assume that the payments somehow will be magically paid out of the general fund, and proponents are not about to indicate otherwise.


B. Voters deserve only a small part of the blame.

Voters didn't decide to ban private jails in California, resulting in our per-prisoner incarceration costs being over 50% higher than the rest of the nation.

Voters didn't decide to give away huge pensions and opulent health care benefits to our "public servants."

Voters didn't decide to pay over $100K annually to age 20-something prison guards with high school educations.

Voters didn't decide to let most highway patrol personnel to retire on bogus disability claims.

Voters didn't vote for most of the state commissions that impede commerce while paying the "commissioners" patronage salaries of $120K or more for at most six weeks work.

Voters didn't decide to give away community college educations at fire sale prices. (The average nationwide community college tuition is 4.5 times higher than California's.)

I could go on (and often do). Enough for now.

8. Fans Flock to Mourn California, 1849-2009

RIDER COMMENT: A sad yet quite humorous report of the demise of California, a la Michael Jackson.
Fans Flock to Mourn California, 1849-2009

LOS ANGELES - Millions of fans from around the globe gathered along Sunset Boulevard to pay final respects to California today, as a slow moving funeral procession transported the eccentric superstar state's remains to its final resting place in a Winchell's Donuts dumpster in Van Nuys. The self-proclaimed 'King of Pop Culture' died last week at 160, in what coroners ruled an accidental case of financial autoerotic asphyxiation. The death sent shock waves across the world and sparked an outpouring of grief by rabid fans.

"I don't care what the tabloids and the Wall Street Journal say," said a weeping Illinois. "I still love you, Cali!"

The 640-mile long funeral parade route was lined with flowers, candles, teddy bears, and IOUs from millions of mourners and debtors who made the somber journey to watch the passing of the state that had once ruled the box office and industrial charts. Among them were current chart-toppers who cited California as a key influence.

"If it wasn't for California, I wouldn't be where I am today," said Arizona of Westside 3, the popular sunbelt trio who recently benefited from the late state's generous gift of fleeing taxpayers and businesses. As a tribute to their mentor, Arizona vowed the group would start spending money "like crack-addled hip hop stars."
"California's financial and musical legacy will never die," said band mates Nevada and Oregon.

At the official funeral service at the LA Coliseum, a grief stricken Washington, who teamed with California on several hit software and wine projects, had to be physically restrained from climbing into the deceased's gold plated casket.

Similar emotional outpourings were the rule of the day. Stories - apocryphal or not - of the late state's bizarre self-destructive behavior and fondness for molesting children did little to dampen the flood of tributes from fans who preferred to remember California as America's Sweetheart.

From a humble beginning as a water-poor remote Spanish mission outpost, California proved to be a precocious and talented child performer. It struck gold with 'Sutter's Mill' in 1849, earning accolades and attracting millions of crusty bearded prospectors. Black gold soon followed with 'La Brea Tar Pits.' Unlike many child acts, California made a smooth transition to adolescence, scoring a major hit with 'Agriculture' in 1891.

Even a frightening bout with tremors did not stop the flow of hits. The 1915 megasmash 'Hollywood' broke all records, as did the wartime favorite 'Aerospace.' More recently, California topped the charts with 'Tourism,' 'High Tech,' and 'Coastal Pretension.'

For a time it seemed as if the superstar could do no wrong, but behind the glittering facade of Disneyland Manor troubling signs of mental instability began to emerge. The state developed a well publicized drug problem during filming of 1967's 'Summer of Love,' and briefly dabbled in strange religious cults. Under the influence of spiritual guru Jerry Brown, it began wholesale experimentation in exotic spending programs, eventual resulting in a traumatic 1979 stay at the Prop 13 Rehab Center.

During the 80's and 90's California enjoyed a brief career renaissance with hits like 'Olympics,' 'Real Estate' and 'Dot Com Boom,' but personal problems plagued the reclusive star once again. During the recording of the 'OJ' and 'Rodney King' albums, friends and visitors expressed concern over its recurring tremors and penchant for self-mutilation.

"California used to be so happy and beautiful," said a horrified Ohio. "I hardly recognize it any more."

During that period, camp insiders say the increasingly psychotic state began driving away its long time professional management team and support crew. In its place, it assembled an entourage of con men and embezzlers, some of whom stoked California's increasingly bizarre environmental paranoia. It was seldom seen in public without a breathing mask to ward off imagined pollutants.

Worse, the hits began drying up; the huge 2001 flop 'Dot Com Bust' put a huge crimp into California's once unlimited cash flow. Despite the setback, insiders say the superstar was unwilling to change its lavish lifestyle, and retreated once again into spending abuse. Personal expenses skyrocketed, propelled in part by California's 8 million adopted foster children. During the 90's sensationalistic accounts of child abuse began surfacing. Eyewitnesses reported California cruising local neighborhoods in school buses, luring unsuspecting kid for sessions of 'public education.' By some estimates hundreds of thousands were left traumatized and severely brain damaged.

The charges were vigorously denied by California camp spokestate Vermont.
"California loves children," said Vermont. "California loves children, because deep inside California is a also a child -- full of innocent wonder, and the belief that any budget wish can come true as long as you just wish hard enough."

True or not, the charges alienated many longtime fans, leaving California in an ever worsening financial position. In 2003 the state rejected suggestions that it was facing bankruptcy, saying that "I can't be out of money, I still have checks left." Amid the maelstrom, though, it fired tour manager Grey Davis who many blamed for California's financial woes. In his place, California hired Arnold Schwarzenegger to help engineer a career-saving comeback tour.
Under the management of the flamboyant Austrian body builder / therapist, California began a rapid descent that ultimately ended in death. Some faulted Schwarzenegger's unconventional therapeutic methods and prescription spending pills, including state pension steroids that some say were powerful enough to kill a Scandinavian industrial power. Schwarzenegger denied culpability, saying that his spending pills "help build de upper financial torso and lats, and deese other sings and so on."

Despite the last minute financial maneuvers analysts say the state died penniless, owing creditors as much as $100 billion. Amid the swirling recriminations between California camp factions, fans chose to mark its passing quietly. Longtime California fan club president Iowa said that despite being the constant butt of the Golden State's insults and jokes, it will remember the late superstar fondly.

"Let's not remember California as a bloated, rotting freakshow corpse hanging above a filthy public pension toilet," it said. "Let's remember the good times. Like my 6-day bender at the '91 Rose Bowl."

"California's pain is finally over, and I like to think that the whole state is going to a better place," Iowa added. "Just look at all those U-Hauls headed to Oklahoma."

9. The coming federal tax increase(s)

RIDER COMMENT: VAT’s an interesting topic. Not to mention a broader income tax increase.

But you greedy citizens can afford it. Just ask Obama and company.

Awaiting a tax increase
George F. Will

2:00 a.m. July 12, 2009

What's your bet on a tax increase? Economic policy, which became startling when Washington began buying automobile companies, has become surreal now that disappointment with the results of the second stimulus is stirring talk about the need for a . . . second stimulus. Elsewhere, it requires centuries to bleach mankind's memory; in Washington, 17 months suffice: In February 2008, President George W. Bush and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who normally were at daggers drawn, agreed that a $168 billion stimulus — this was Stimulus I — would be the “booster shot” the economy needed. Unemployment then was 4.8 percent.

In January, the administration, shiny as a new dime and bursting with brains, said that unless another stimulus — Stimulus II wound up involving $787 billion — was passed immediately, unemployment, which then was 7.6 percent, would reach 9 percent by 2010. But halfway through 2009, the rate is 9.5. For the first time since the now 16-nation Eurozone was established in 1999, the unemployment rate in America is as high as it is in that region, which Americans once considered a cautionary lesson in the wages of sin, understood as excessive taxation and regulation.

“Everyone guessed wrong” about the economy's weakness, says the vice president, explaining why Stimulus II has not yielded anticipated benefits. Joe Biden is beguiling when unfiltered by calculation, as he often is and as he was when he spoke about guessing (“Meet the Press,” June 14) and how everyone “misread” the economy (“This Week,” July 5). To be fair, economics is a science of single instances, which means it is hardly a science. And it is least like one when we most crave certainty from it — when there is a huge and unprecedented event and educated guessing is the best anyone can do.
But before embarking on Stimulus III, note that only about 10 percent of Stimulus II has yet been injected into the economy in 2009. This is not the administration's fault, the administration's defenders say, because government is cumbersome, sluggish and inefficient. But this sunburst of insight comes as the administration toils to enlarge governmental control of health care, energy, finance, education, etc. The administration guesses that these government projects will do better than the Postal Service (its second-quarter loss, $1.9 billion, was 68 percent of its losses for all of 2008) and the government's railroad (Amtrak has had 38 money-losing years and this year's losses are on pace to set a record).

Let's guess: Will a person or institution looking for a place to invest $1 billion seek opportunities in the United States, where policy decisions are deliberately increasing taxes, debt, regulations and the cost of energy, and soon will increase the cost of borrowing and hiring? Or will the investor look at, say, India. It is the least urbanized major country — 70 percent of Indians live in rural areas, 50 percent on farms — so the modernizing and productivity-enhancing movement from the countryside to the city is in its infancy. This nation of 1.2 billion people has a savings rate of 25 percent to 30 percent, and fewer than 20 million credit cards. Which nation, India or the United States, is apt to have the higher economic growth over the next decade?

Yet while government diminishes America's comparative advantages, liberals are clamoring for . . . higher taxes. Partly because of changes endorsed by presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama, approximately 60 percent of taxpayers now pay either no income tax (43 percent) or less than 5 percent of their income. Because one cannot raise significant money by that tax without nicking the middle class, or without bringing millions of people back onto the income tax rolls, attention is turning to a value-added tax.

A VAT is levied at every stage of production. Like the cap-and-trade regime being constructed, a VAT is a liberal politician's delight: It taxes everything, but opaquely.

Before he became an economic adviser in the Obama White House, where wit can be dangerous, Larry Summers said: Liberals oppose a VAT because it is regressive and conservatives oppose it because it is a money machine, but a VAT might come when liberals realize it is a money machine and conservatives realize it is regressive.
At the June 29 White House briefing, press secretary Robert Gibbs was asked, with reference to health care legislation, if the president's pledge not to raise taxes on couples making less than $250,000 is “still active.” Gibbs answered: “We are going to let the process work its way through.” What is your guess?

Will can be reached at .

10. How many of California’s 480+ agencies and commissions can you list – let alone recommend dissolving? Here’s one hell of a cheat sheet

RIDER COMMENT: This is not so much a “must read” entry as a “must scroll through” article.

July 13, 2009

Arnold is furloughing employees. How about permanently furloughing dozens of these 480-plus state agencies?

This e-mail is going around listing all the state agencies with "California" in their title. It's pretty stunning. Just a scroll of it in a TV ad would be powerful -- the point being, get a load of all these never-heard-of wings of state government. Why can't lots be cut?

Here goes:

* California Access for Infants and Mothers * California Acupuncture Board * California Administrative Office of the Courts * California Adoptions Branch * California African American Museum * California Agricultural Export Program * California Agricultural Labor Relations Board * California Agricultural Statistics Service * California Air Resources Board (CARB) * California Allocation Board * California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority * California Animal Health and Food Safety Services * California Anti-Terrorism Information Center * California Apprenticeship Council * California Arbitration Certification Program * California Architects Board * California Area VI Developmental Disabilities Board * California Arts Council * California Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus * California Assembly Democratic Caucus * California Assembly Republican Caucus * California Athletic Commission * California Attorney General * California Bay Conservation and Development Commission * California Bay-Delta Authority * California Bay-Delta Office * California Biodiversity Council * California Board for Geologists and Geophysicists * California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors * California Board of Accountancy * California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology * California Board of Behavioral Sciences * California Board of Chiropractic Examiners * California Board of Equalization (BOE) * California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection * California Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind * California Board of Occupational Therapy * California Board of Optometry * California Board of Pharmacy * California Board of Podiatric Medicine * California Board of Prison Terms * California Board of Psychology * California Board of Registered Nursing * California Board of Trustees * California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians * California Braille and Talking Book Library * California Building Standards Commission * California Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education * California Bureau of Automotive Repair * California Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair * California Bureau of Home Furnishings and Thermal Insulation * California Bureau of Naturopathic Medicine * California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services * California Bureau of State Audits * California Business Agency * California Business Investment Services (CalBIS) * California Business Permit Information (CalGOLD) * California Business Portal *California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency * California Cal Grants * California CalJOBS * California Cal-Learn Program * California CalVet Home Loan Program * California Career Resource Network * California Cemetery and Funeral Bureau * California Center for Analytical Chemistry * California Center for Distributed Learning * California Center for Teaching Careers (Teach California) * California Chancellor's Office * California Charter Schools * California Children and Families Commission * California Children and Family Services Division * California Citizens Compensation Commission * California Civil Rights Bureau * California Coastal Commission * California Coastal Conservancy * California Code of Regulations * California Collaborative Projects with UC Davis * California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth * California Commission on Aging * California Commission on Health and Safety and Workers' Compensation * California Commission on Judicial Performance * California Commission on State Mandates * California Commission on Status of Women * California Commission on Teacher Credentialing * California Commission on the Status of Women * California Committee on Dental Auxiliaries * California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, Junior Colleges * California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office * California Complaint Mediation Program * California Conservation Corps * California Constitution Revision Commission * California Consumer Hotline * California Consumer Information Center * California Consumer Information * California Consumer Services Division * California Consumers and Families Agency * California Contractors State License Board * California Corrections Standards Authority * California Council for the Humanities * California Council on Criminal Justice * California Council on Developmental Disabilities * California Court Reporters Board * California Courts of Appeal * California Crime and Violence Prevention Center * California Criminal Justice Statistics Center * California Criminalistic Institute Forensic Library * California CSGnet Network Management * California Cultural and Historical Endowment * California Cultural Resources Division * California Curriculum and Instructional Leadership Branch * California Data Exchange Center * California Data Management Division * California Debt and Investment Advisory Commission * California Delta Protection Commission * California Democratic Caucus * California Demographic Research Unit * California Dental Auxiliaries * California Department of Aging * California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs * California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board * California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control * California Department of Boating and Waterways (Cal Boating) * California Department of Child Support Services (CDCSS) * California Department of Community Services and Development * California Department of Conservation * California Department of Consumer Affairs * California Department of Corporations * California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation * California Department of Developmental Services * California Department of Education * California Department of Fair Employment and Housing * California Department of Finance * California Department of Financial Institutions * California Department of Fish and Game * California Department of Food and Agriculture * California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) * California Department of General Services * California Department of General Services, Office of State Publishing * California Department of Health Care Services * California Department of Housing and Community Development * California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) * California Department of Insurance * California Department of Justice Firearms Division * California Department of Justice Opinion Unit * California Department of Justice, Consumer Information, Public Inquiry Unit * California Department of Justice * California Department of Managed Health Care * California Department of Mental Health * California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) * California Department of Personnel Administration * California Department of Pesticide Regulation * California Department of Public Health * California Department of Real Estate * California Department of Rehabilitation * California Department of Social Services Adoptions Branch * California Department of Social Services * California Department of Technology Services Training Center (DTSTC) * California Department of Technology Services (DTS) * California Department of Toxic Substances Control * California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) * California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVets) * California Department of Water Resources * California Departmento de Vehiculos Motorizados * California Digital Library * California Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Certification Program * California Division of Apprenticeship Standards * California Division of Codes and Standard s * California Division of Communicable Disease Control * California Division of Engineering * California Division of Environmental and Occupational Disease Control * California Division of Gambling Control * California Division of Housing Policy Development * California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement * California Division of Labor Statistics and Research * California Division of Land and Right of Way * California Division of Land Resource Protection * California Division of Law Enforcement! General Library * California Division of Measurement Standards * California Division of Mines and Geology * California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) * California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources * California Division of Planning and Local Assistance * California Division of Recycling * California Division of Safety of Dams * California Division of the State Architect * California Division of Tourism * California Division of Workers' Compensation Medical Unit * California Division of Workers' Compensation * California Economic Assistance, Business and Community Resources * California Economic Strategy Panel * California Education and Training Agency * California Education Audit Appeals Panel * California Educational Facilities Authority * California Elections Division * California Electricity Oversight Board * California Emergency Management Agency * California Emergency Medical Services Authority * California Employment Development Department (EDD) * California Employment Information State Jobs * California Employment Training Panel *=2 0California Energy Commission * California Environment and Natural Resources Agency * California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) * California Environmental Resources Evaluation System (CERES) * California Executive Office * California Export Laboratory Services * California Exposition and State Fair (Cal Expo) * California Fair Political Practices Commission * California Fairs and Expositions Division * California Film Commission * California Fire and Resource Assessment Program * California Firearms Division * California Fiscal Services * California Fish and Game Commission * California Fisheries Program Branch * California Floodplain Management * California Foster Youth Help * California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) * California Fraud Division * California Gambling Control Commission * California Geographic Information Systems Council (GIS) * California Geological Survey * California Government Claims and Victim Compensation Board * California Governor's Committee for Employment of Disabled Persons * California Governor's Mentoring Partnership * California Governor's Office of Emergency Services * California Governor's Office of Homeland Security * California Governor's Office of Planning and Research * California Governor's Office * California Grant and Enterprise Zone Programs HCD Loan * California Health and Human Services Agency * California Health and Safety Agency * California Healthy Families Program * California Hearing Aid Dispensers Bureau * California High-Speed Rail Authority * California Highway Patrol (CHP) * California=2 0History and Culture Agency * California Horse Racing Board * California Housing Finance Agency * California Indoor Air Quality Program * California Industrial Development Financing Advisory Commission * California Industrial Welfare Commission * California InFoPeople * California Information Center for the Environment * California Infrastructure and Economic Development Bank (I-Bank) * California Inspection Services * California Institute for County Government * California Institute for Education Reform * California Integrated Waste Management Board * California Interagency Ecological Program * California Job Service * California Junta Estatal de Personal * California Labor and Employment Agency * California Labor and Workforce Development Agency * California Labor Market Information Division * California Land Use Planning Information Network (LUPIN) * California Lands Commission * California Landscape Architects Technical Committee * California Latino Legislative Caucus * California Law Enforcement Branch * California Law Enforcement General Library * California Law Revision Commission * California Legislative Analyst's Office * California Legislative Black Caucus * California Legislative Counsel * California Legislative Division * California Legislative Information * California Legislative Lesbian, Gay , Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Caucus * California Legislature Internet Caucus * California Library Development Services * California License and Revenue Branch * California Major Risk Medical Insurance Program * California Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board * California Maritime Academy * California Marketing Services * California Measurement Standards * California Medical Assistance Commission * California Medical Care Services * California Military Department * California Mining and Geology Board * California Museum for History, Women, and the Arts * California Museum Resource Center * California National Guard * California Native American Heritage Commission * California Natural Community Conservation Planning Program * California New Motor Vehicle Board * California Nursing Home Administrator Program * California Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board * California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board * California Ocean Resources Management Program * California Office of Administrative Hearings * California Office of Administrative Law * California Office of AIDS * California Office of Binational Border Health * California Office of Child Abuse Prevention * California Office of Deaf Access * California Office of Emergency Services (OES) * California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment * California Office of Fiscal Services * California Office of Fleet Administration * California Office of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Implementation (CalOHI) * California Office of Historic Preservation * California Office of Homeland Security * California Office of Human Resources * California Office of Legal Services * California Office of Legislation * California Office of Lieutenant Governor * California Office of Military and Aerospace Support * California Office of Mine Reclamation * California Office of Natural Resource Education * California Office of Privacy Protection * California Office of Public School Construction * California Office of Real Estate Appraisers * California Office of Risk and Insurance Management * California Office of Services to the! Blind * California Office of Spill Prevention and Response * California Office of State Publishing (OSP) * California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development * California Office of Systems Integration * California Office of the Inspector General * California Office of the Ombudsman * California Office of the Patient Advocate * California Office of the President * California Office of the Secretary for Education * California Office of the State Fire Marshal * California Office of the State Public Defender * California Office of Traffic Safety * California Office of Vital Records * California Online Directory * California Operations Control Office * California Opinion Unit * California Outreach and Technical Assistance Network (OTAN) * California Park and Recreation Commission * California Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) * California Performance Review (CPR) * California Permit Information for Business (CalGOLD) * California Physical Therapy Board * California Physician Assistant Committee * California Plant Health and Pest Prevention Services * California Policy and Evaluation Division * California Political Reform Division * California Pollution Control Financing Authority * California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo * California Postsecondary Education Commission *=2 0California Prevention Services * California Primary Care and Family Health * California Prison Industry Authority * California Procurement Division * California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) * California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) * California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) * California Real Estate Services Division * California Refugee Programs Branch * California Regional Water Quality Control Boards * California Registered Veterinary Technician Committee * California Registrar of Charitable Trusts * California Republican Caucus * California Research and Development Division * California Research Bureau * California Resources Agency * California Respiratory Care Board * California Rivers Assessment * California Rural Health Policy Council * California Safe Schools * California San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission * California San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy * California San Joaquin River Conservancy * California School to Career * California Science Center * California Scripps Institution of Oceanography * California Secretary of State Business Portal * California Secretary of State * California Seismic Safety Commission * California Self Insurance Plans (SIP) * California Senate Office of Research * California Small Business and Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Certification Program * California Small Business Development Center Program * California Smart Growth Caucus * California Smog Check Information Center * California Spatial Information Library * California Special Education20Division * California Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Board * California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) * California Standards and Assessment Division * California State Administrative Manual (SAM) * California State Allocation Board * California State and Consumer Services Agency * California State Architect * California State Archives * California State Assembly * California State Association of Counties (CSAC) * California State Board of Education * California State Board of Food and Agriculture * California Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) * California State Children's Trust Fund * California State Compensation Insurance Fund * California State Contracts Register Program * California State Contracts Register * California State Controller * California State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD) * California State Disability Insurance (SDI) * California State Fair (Cal Expo) * California State Jobs Employment Information * California State Lands Commission * California State Legislative Portal * California State Legislature * California State Library Catalog * California State Library Services Bureau * California State Library * California State Lottery * California State Mediation and Conciliation Service * California State Mining and Geology Board * California State Park and Recreation Commission * California State Parks * California State Personnel Board * California State Railroad Museum * California State Science Fair * California State Senate * California State Summer School for Mathematics and Science (COSMOS) * California State Summer School for the Arts * California State Superintendent of Public Instruction * California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) * California State Treasurer * California State University Center for Distributed Learning * California State Water Project Analysis Office * California State Water Project * California State Water Resources Control Board * California Structural Pest Control Board * California Student Aid Commission * California Superintendent of Public Instruction * California Superior Courts * California Tahoe Conservancy * California Task Force on Culturally and Linguistically Competent Physicians and Dentists * California Tax Information Center * California Technology and Administration Branch Finance * California Telecommunications Division * California Telephone Medical Advice Services (TMAS) * California Transportation Commission * California Travel and Transportation Agency * California Unclaimed Property Program * California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board * California Unemployment Insurance Program * California Uniform Construction Cost Accounting Commission * California Veterans Board * California Veterans Memorial * California Veterinary Medical Board and Registered Veterinary Technician Examining Committee * California Veterinary Medical Board * California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board * California Volunteers * California Voter Registration * California Water Commission * California Water Environment Association (CWEA) * California Water Resources Control Board * California Welfare to Work Division * California ! Wet lands Information System * California Wildlife and Habitat Data Analysis Branch * California Wildlife Conservation Board * California Wildlife Programs Branch * California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) * California Workers' Compensation Appeals Board * California Workforce and Labor Development Agency * California Workforce Investment Board * California Youth Authority (CYA) * Central Valley Flood Protection Board * Center for California Studies * Colorado River Board of California * Counting California * Dental Board of California * Health Insurance Plan of California (PacAdvantage) * Jobs with the State of California * Judicial Council of California * Learn California * Library of California * Lieutenant Governor's Commission for One California * Little Hoover Commission (on California State Government Organization and Economy) * Medical Board of California * Medi-Cal * Osteopathic Medical Board of California * Physical Therapy Board of California * Regents of the University of California * State Bar of California Veterans Home of California
Arnold is furloughing state employees. He should start permanently furloughing dozens of the 480-plus agencies listed above. This is ridiculous.
Thanks to reader Bob C. for passing that to me.
Posted by Chris Reed at July 13, 2009 12:05 PM

11. Liberals love majority rule – except when it works against them
RIDER COMMENT: Recently Democrats have been decrying Prop 13’s 2/3 majority vote requirement, claiming that it’s undemocratic. Here’s an online riposte I wrote to counter such complaints:
Liberals' love of majority rule is pure hypocrisy. After all, it was a simple majority California citizen vote that IMPOSED the 2/3 majority rule on raising some taxes.

IF you progressives are serious about bowing to the rule of the majority, we can settle this once and for all. Liberals, put a statewide prop on the ballot to repeal the 2/3 majority vote rule for new taxes -- returning to a simple majority vote requirement.

If it passes by a simple majority vote, it becomes the law of the state. If not, gracefully accept defeat.

Of course, you scheming hypocrites won't put such a measure on the ballot, because you know you'd lose -- AGAIN.

And not by some close vote either. And not from a lack of spending -- your unions would spend over $100 million to support such a measure. You'd outspend opponents at least 20 to 1. All for naught.

Be honest. You simply want to make it easier to raise taxes -- REGARDLESS of the will of the citizens.

12. The feminist “78 cents on a dollar” myth

RIDER COMMENT: One oft-repeated claim by women is that for every dollar a man gets paid for doing a job, women get paid only 78 cents for the same work. Obama recently repeated this canard at a recent ceremony signing of more bad legislation (you don’t wanna know). But this claim assumes that business owners (all male, I guess) are more chauvinist than greedy – an odd position indeed, as explained below.
Columnist Ilana Mercer was not at the ceremony, but asked the kind of economically-informed question that rarely percolates up through discussions of pay equity: If women with the same skills as men were getting only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns, wouldn't men have long-since priced themselves out of the job market? The fact that men haven't done that might mean that different abilities and experiences are at work, Mercer guessed, "rather than a conspiracy to suppress women."

13. Thomas Sowell: “You can usually only equalize downwards”

RIDER COMMENT: Thomas Sowell probably offers more pithy insights on economics and society than anyone I know. Here’s a recent gem, followed by my online comment on the topic.

You Can Usually Only Equalize Downwards

The problem with trying to equalize is that you can usually only equalize downward.

If you are going to try to equalize the chances of women getting jobs as firefighters then you are going to have to lower the physical requirements of height, weight and upper body strength. That means that you are going to have more firefighters who are not capable of carrying an unconscious person out of a burning building.

If you are going to have these lower physical requirements be the same for both women and men, that means that you are not only going to have women who are not capable of carrying someone out of a burning building, you are also going to have men who are likewise incapable of carrying someone to safety.

Most activities do not exist for the sake of equality. They exist to serve their own purposes-- and those purposes are undermined, sometimes fatally, when equality becomes the goal.

~Thomas Sowell

RIDER COMMENT: What is sometimes not appreciated is that too often the physically sub-par "worker" in strenuous jobs is a threat to their coworkers.

For instance, it's not too important how fast (as in sprint speed) a military ground-pounder can run -- it's important how LONG and fast they can move with their full combat gear to advance or retreat. If a grunt is slow and/or weak, the others have to carry their load for them, or slow their movement as a unit to the least mobile grunt, or leave the laggards behind and have less firepower when conflict arises -- not good choices.

Firefighters don't want a relative weakling as a coworker on a fire, but are often pressured not to say so. To complain about the "weaker sex" is to risk charges of sexism and sexual harassment.

Not to say women can't do such jobs -- but the standards should be rigorous for whoever applies, regardless of gender. No double standard -- and no dropping of the standards for all to accommodate the unqualified.

14. Past (and many present) City Managers in San Diego County are the biggest crooks when it comes to the local pension debacles

RIDER COMMENT: Recently the SD UNION-TRIBUNE and local TV stations publicized the names and pensions of CalPERS recipients in the county. Most local cities put their pension funds with CalPERS – the city of San Diego is the only one that doesn’t, as far as I know.

As it turns out, some of the highest pensions in the county are for city managers who pushed for the retroactive pension increases for city workers -- including for themselves. How objective was their fiscal advice concerning the pensions to their gullible city councils? What do YOU think?

Sometimes these senior city bureaucrats would push these retroactive pension increases through, and then retire within the year – before the magnitude of the disaster became apparent. The previous Vista city manager for one followed this path, if memory serves me.

So just what does "retroactive" entail? Example:

A city manager's pension is unilaterally raised from $100K to $150K. But the city manager has been paying only into a formula based on a $100K pension. If the city employee retires in a year, then they make only one year's contribution at the $150K level, but they get a lifetime $150K pension payout, plus annual (limited) COL increases.

Assuming that as an employee these city managers even have to make ANY contribution to their pension. For instance, La Mesa and Chula Vista don’t charge their employees a DIME for their 90% of salary pensions for 30 years “service.” The hapless city taxpayers pay both the city and the employee CalPERS contribution. And I’m sure that’s due in large part to the “impartial” advice of their greedy city managers.

Our city politicians are woefully inept when it comes to financial matters. In my experience, most quite literally could not balance their own checkbooks. So naturally they turn to “staff” for guidance in such fiscal matters. No one seemed to want to raise the issue of the HUGE conflict of interest facing “their” city managers.
From what I can see, a successful city manager’s most important skill is ingratiating himself or herself to the politicians – smoozing seems to be these bureaucrats’ greatest asset.

Generally city managers are loved and revered by their city council critters. Councils too often generously boost their manager’s salary just before retirement to further bulk up the managers’ obscene pensions.

15. Man bites dog. Rider supports labor union proposition

RIDER COMMENT: I support the unions' efforts to let the voters vote on term limits for San Diego County Supervisors.

Indeed, to be more accurate, they now support MY efforts. We tried without success a few years ago to put term limits for the Sups on the ballot, but our funding fell through. I'd guess that today it would cost about $200K to gather the needed signatures to put the prop on the ballot.

Not that it will be hard to GET the needed prop signatures. Such measures are popular with voters. If term limits makes it on the ballot, it will surely pass, even without union support.

Judging from the reader comments posted for a SD U-T article detailing this effort, it appears that paradoxically the labor union support for this measure is the biggest reason it might fail. Over and over, readers say something to the effect that “normally I support term limits, but if the unions are pushing this measure, then I’m against it.”

And I must sympathize with that viewpoint. Indeed, it’s great that unions’ support for ANY measure is now a big negative with the voters. Increasingly it seems that voters are looking to vote against the candidates the labor unions support – a welcome sea change.

In this case, the Supervisors can rightly claim that the unions are striking back for the Sups not being not quite as subservient to union demands as in previous years. But all in all, I doubt the union involvement will keep voters from passing the initiative.

Voters know that we've got an aristocracy ruling the county. With their $11 million annual slush fund explicitly designed to buy votes, our elected County Supervisors have become impossible to dislodge. It's time to end this DE FACTO reelection guarantee.

Let's not forget that the current batch of Supervisors gratuitously raised the public employee pension benefits and then issued over a BILLION DOLLARS worth of muni bonds to pay for the increase. We are still paying for those bonds, and will be for many years.

And note that these "pension obligation bonds" were issued without a vote of the electorate, thanks to friendly judicial rulings. But the ruling did not PROHIBIT such bonds from going to a vote of the citizens -- the Sups made that decision to avoid a public election (and public debate).

Remember, our Sups get the same fabulous pensions that our county workers get. Gee, I wonder if that might have influenced their decision to vote for the unsustainable, retroactive pension increases.

Ya think?

Time to turn 'em out to pasture. PAST time, actually.

16. Over half the price of a ticket for international flight can be taxes
RIDER COMMENT: We’ve all seen domestic ticket fees and taxes rise after 9/11, but it’s the international flights where madness prevails. If you manage to score a well-discounted international ticket, then over half the price you pay can be for taxes.

Flying Is a Taxable Event

Posted by Ryan Young on July 15, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

The potential specter of federal carry-on bag size restrictions [1] has not deterred me from flying. But my jaw nearly hit the floor recently when I saw that I had paid more in taxes and fees than for actual airfare for an international flight.
Click here [2] to see a list of 17 taxes we pay for flying. The September 11th Fee. International Departure Tax. International Arrival Tax. And those are just the direct taxes.

Indirect taxes are also legion. They’re harder to see. But they’re still there. And they, too, increase the price of flying. Airports have to pay an electricity tax to keep the lights on. Airlines have to pay a corporate tax on any profits. Pilots and crew have to pay income taxes. All these also affect the price of airfare. There is far more to taxation than meets the eye.
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17. Tech Corner – Offsite backup – DO IT! Easier and cheaper than ever.

RIDER COMMENT: I’ve written before about this matter. This post is an update.

Assuming you don’t keep all your computer files, address book, emails, photos, music, etc. online at a server such as Gmail, you need offsite backup. It’s gotten easier – and cheaper.

Try to imagine what life would be like if today someone stole your computer – along with your backup external hard drive or memory stick. Or imagine a fire burned down your home or office with all your computer data. Or an earthquake swallowed it all up. Or a nuclear blast vaporized your computer (along with you, of course).

Don’t dwell on the thought. Too depressing (at least for me!).

Use an offsite backup service. It’s safe, heavily encrypted and usually backed up at more than one offsite location. And it can be quite reasonably priced.

Some offsite services are free for small amounts – 1 to 5 gigs. For many people, that might be enough. And you can use more than one free service – maybe one for your docs, and another for your photos.

But if your home or office computers need more, get more. The price is quite reasonable – especially for home/personal use.

Not that you shouldn’t have ONSITE backup as well. It’s FAR easier and much faster to retrieve files from your external hard drive (or a networked computer, or a flash drive) than to download gigs of backup files via the Internet.

In the past, I’ve used Mozy for online backup, but I think I’ve found a significantly better service – MemoPal.

Perhaps its best feature is that, for home use, you can sign up to 10 computers and have an aggregate 150 gigs of backup – for $50 a year. Mozy cost $60 annually and could be used by only one computer.

MemoPal also provides real time incremental backup (backs up your file every time you save it WHEN you save it), has good backup software for selecting and maintaining your backup procedures. It’s highly rated by computer mavens, and rightly so, from what I can tell.

If you have large files – a gig or more – it also can be very useful in sharing files with friends that you normally can’t send as attachments. You designate who you want to be able to access certain files, and they can download them online.

With the proper codes, your backup files are accessible from any computer – while you are traveling, for instance.

I should be selling this stuff!

18. Financial tip: How to get extra discounts on online purchases

RIDER COMMENT: Sometimes when one is buying something from a commercial vendor online, there’s a box to put in a “Promotion code.” What does that tell you? It tells you that some people may be getting the same item as you for less cost!

“But,” you say, “I don’t HAVE a promotion code.” Probably not, but there’s a reasonable chance you can get one if it’s out there. For instance, for my purchase of the MemoPal backup service, I got an amazing 30% off the annual $50 price by using a promotion code.

Like you, I didn’t have the code, but I figured I’d Google “MemoPal promotion code.” Bingo!

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And hardly a time consuming online exercise.

19. Latest updates to my “California Breaking Bad” article

RIDER COMMENT: As my veteran readers know, I keep updating my Breaking Bad article with the latest stats – comparing California with the other states. It’s also available as a Word file, which prints out as a fine two page flyer. Ask and ye shall receive. It’s a powerful sharing document, and to a degree has gone viral.
To make it easier for previous readers, I’m going to try to highlight the CHANGES from the last Rant version, so that you can quickly see what’s different, and what’s been added.

Here are the changes first – with comments:

A. Highest gasoline tax (averaging 64.5 cents/gallon) in the nation (July, 2009) – up from #2 in last report. When gas hits $3.00/gallon, we are numero uno – because unlike many states, we charge sales tax on gasoline purchases (built into the price). And boy, do we have a sales tax!

B. Sixth highest unemployment rate in the nation. (June, 2009) 11.6%. National rate 9.5%. This is good news and bad news. The good news is that we’ve dropped from 4th to 6th worst, our best showing in some time. The bad news is that our unemployment rate STILL went up – it’s just that some other states are doing even worse.

C. California has 12% of the nation’s population, but 36% of the country’s TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) welfare recipients – more than the next 7 states combined. Unlike other states, this “temporary” assistance becomes much more permanent in CA.

Breaking Bad: California vs. the Other States

by Richard Rider, Chairman, San Diego Tax Fighters
Version 1.47 Revised 18 July, 2009

Here’s a depressing comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is breaking bad, and getting worse (I keep updating this article):

California has the 2nd highest state income tax in the nation. 9.55% at $48,000. 10.55% at $1,000,000

By far the highest state sales tax in the nation. 8.25% (not counting local sales taxes)

Highest state car tax in the nation – at least double any other state. 1.15% per year on value of vehicle.

Corporate income tax rate is the highest in the West. 8.84%

2009 Business Tax Climate ranks 48th in the nation.

Fourth highest capital gains tax 9.55%

Highest gasoline tax (averaging 64.5 cents/gallon) in the nation (July, 2009). When gas hits $3.00/gallon, we are numero uno – because unlike many states, we charge sales tax on gasoline purchases (built into the price).

Sixth highest unemployment rate in the nation. (June, 2009) 11.6%. National rate 9.5%.

California’s 2009 “Tax Freedom Day” (the day the average taxpayer stops working for government and start working for oneself) is again the 4th worst date in the nation – up from 28th worst in 1994.

To offset lower state revenues, 29 states are proposing 2009 state tax and fee increases totaling $24 billion. California, with 12% of the nation’s population, is proposing 47% of that increase (6/5/09).

1 in 5 in LA County receiving public aid.,0,4377048.story

California has 12% of the nation’s population, but 36% of the country’s TANF welfare recipients – more than the next 7 states combined. Unlike other states, this “temporary” assistance becomes much more permanent in CA.

California prison guards highest paid in the nation.

California teachers easily the highest paid in the nation. (CA has the second lowest student test scores)

California now has the lowest bond ratings of any state, edging out Louisiana.

California ranks 44th worst in “2008 lawsuit climate.”

In 2005 (latest figures), for every dollar Californians sent to D.C. in taxes, we got back 78 cents – 43rd worst.

America’s top CEO’s rank California “the worst place in which to do business” for the fourth straight year (3/2009). But here’s the interesting part – they think California is a great state to live (primarily for the great climate) – they just won’t bring their businesses here because of the oppressive tax and regulatory climate.
Consider this quote from the survey (a conclusion reflected in the rankings of the characteristics of the state): “California has huge advantages with its size, quality of work force, particularly in high tech, as well as the quality of life and climate advantages of the state. However, it is an absolute regulatory and tax disaster.”

California, a destitute state, still gives away college education at fire sale prices. Our community college tuition is by far the lowest in the nation. How low? Nationwide, the average community college tuition is 4.5 times higher than California CC’s. This ridiculously low tuition devalues education to students – resulting in a 30+% drop rate for class completion. In addition, 2/3 of California CC students pay no tuition at all – filling out a simple unverified “hardship” form that exempts them from any tuition payment, or receiving grants and tax credits for their full tuition.

On top of that, California offers thousands of absolutely free adult continuing education classes – a sop to the upper middle class. In San Diego, over 1,400 classes for everything from baking pastries to ballroom dancing are offered totally at taxpayer expense.

California residential electricity costs an average of 35.4% more than the national average. For industrial use, CA electricity is 56.2% higher than the national average (2007).

It costs 38% more to build solar panels in California than in Tennessee – which is why European corporations have invested $2.3 billion in two Tennessee manufacturing plants to build solar panels for our state.

Consider California’s net domestic migration (migration between states). From April, 2000 through June, 2008 (8 years, 2 months) California has lost a NET 1.4 million people. The departures slowed this past year only because people couldn’t sell their homes.
These are not welfare kings and queens departing. They are the young, the educated, the productive, the ambitious, the wealthy (such as Tiger Woods), and retirees seeking to make their pensions provide more bang for the buck. The irony is that a disproportionate number of these seniors are retired state and local government employees fleeing the state that provides them with their opulent pensions – in order to avoid the high taxes that these same employees pushed so hard through their unions.

As taxes rise and jobs disappear, we lose our tax base, continuing California’s state and local fiscal death spiral. This spiral must stop NOW.

NOTE: If you would like to receive my free periodic “Richard Rider Rant” e-newsletter with more of this type of information and analysis, just drop me an email at To see the latest version of this “Breaking Bad” column, plus samples of my free “Richard Rider Rant” e-newsletter, go to my blog at

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