Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism, but under the name of Liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program until one day America will be a Socialist nation without knowing how it happened.
Norman Thomas – 6-time Socialist Party Presidential candidate

1. Letters to editor in response to my U-T trash fee op-ed are informative in several ways
2. Government productivity often is internally frowned upon – the opposite of the private sector 3. “Time to Pull the Plug on the Library”
4. Damned planet refuses to heat up – environmentalists distraught
5. Environmental madness still rules in Congress
6. Generic political cartoon, but seems to apply to CA best
7. Massachusetts is our health care canary in the coal mine
8. British patients with stiff upper lips forced to live in agony
9. Textbooks doomed – about time!
10. Nevada produces funny, biting ads at California’s expense – California Big Government disciples, beware
11. SD Airport board members abusing expense accounts big-time
12. Sales tax on CA laptop computers can exceed 13%
13. Cash for clunkers: Trade in American, buy foreign
14. San Diego press folks finally figuring it out – they’re switching to work for government
15. Fair share? Top 1% paid more federal income tax than 95% of the rest

1. Letters to editor about my U-T trash fee op-ed are informative in several ways
RIDER COMMENT: As you doubtless recall from my last Rant, I had an op-ed published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, opposing charging a trash fee for San Diego city residential refuse pickup. My piece was printed in conjunction with another op-ed in favor of the fees.

The online comments afterwards under my op-ed were lively and informative – well, MY comments and the comments from those who agreed with me were informative. You might want to check ’em out. Or not. It was good to see that only a couple of diligent city workers bothered to make comments – I thought I’d be inundated with their propaganda.

Then the following Sunday the paper ran letters to the editor about the issue. The results were optimistic from my standpoint. Six letters were on my side, only one against.

When the letters editor picks the letters to publish, he tries to pick them to roughly represent the total letters submitted. That 6-1 ratio probably roughly represented the ratio of the total letters submitted. That means that, if this thing comes to the ballot, we have a good chance of winning, even with the labor unions spending millions to raise the fees (by repealing the city’s “People’s Ordinance”).

Moreover, I didn’t plant any of the letters. I knew three of the respondents on my side – two libertarians and a LIBERAL – but they wrote on their own (and did fine jobs, I might add).
Here are the U-T letters:
Letters to the Editor
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Two sides of the San Diego trash issue
Re: “Trash talk / Paying for a service many San Diegans don't get” by Leonard Martin and “Before we pay more, spending must be controlled” by Richard Rider (Dialog, August 2):

Another tax? Another fee? How about a “sidewalk tax” for people who want to walk on the sidewalk? How about a “wheelchair tax” to help pay for installing wheelchair curb-cuts? How about a “sidewalk tax” for people who have the Union-Tribune thrown on their sidewalk every morning? How about a “breathing tax”?

Or, how about cutting city expenses? That's what I have to do if things get too expensive and get out of hand.

San Diego

Expecting us to just forget about the fact that we are already paying for this service is criminal. Why not try reducing the employees' benefits and automatic annual raises. And why are we paying people to spy into garbage to see if it complies with recycling laws. I think people can follow a few rules without a snitch watching over their debris, much less paying the snitch, too.

San Diego

If the People's Ordinance of 1919 is rescinded, you can be assured of only one thing: The City Council will find creative ways to use the money for anything but trash collection.

Our city does not have a good record when it comes to spending our money. So, if you don't give it to them, they won't spend it.

San Diego

Individuals who elect to live in multiple complexes that do not qualify for “free” waste services should not complain. It's a question of free choice. Fairness has little impact when a question of choice enters the mix.

Most multi-unit dwellers choose to enjoy the amenities of free laundry rooms, computer rooms, play rooms, health spas, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, barbeques, landscaping, etc. If one opts not to enjoy some of these amenities they should consider a single-family dwelling. These units continue to be in the majority.

San Diego

“Tax fighter” Richard Rider offers nothing substantive regarding trash collection besides his usual diatribe against taxes, fees, city employees and unions. His opinion piece could apply, virtually unchanged, about almost any issue facing the city. In his stead, I offer a solution that remedies the inequity Leonard Marin addresses in his companion piece.

The City Council and mayor should remove trash collection from the menu of city services, just like closing library branches, removing fire rings, etc. The roughly 50 percent of households, like mine, paying for private trash collection would be unaffected. Those now receiving trash collection as a city service would be charged no fee nor would their taxes be diverted to collect my trash, presumably satisfying “one-issue” zealots like Rider. Instead, people currently receiving city trash collection would face choices and personal choice is what America is about. There would be no tax increase, no redirection of tax monies, no fees to the city, no city employee pensions involved, just plain old personal responsibility and free enterprise allowing equal treatment of all households.


Leonard Martin writes that the repeal of the People's Ordinance “will free up nearly $60 million annually, the first year and every subsequent year . . . ” How can anyone in his right mind believe that repeal of the ordinance will provide the city with an extra $60 million to spend on maintenance and other city obligations. If the ordinance is in fact repealed, which can only happen by a vote of the people, that $60 million or whatever amount is currently used to fund trash removal from city resident homes should be credited back to each and every homeowner paying taxes in the city of San Diego. In effect lowering taxes, which will be offset by a fee that is paid to a private trash hauler. Any other treatment of these funds is in fact an increase in local taxes.

San Diego

George Orwell would have found a place for Leonard Martin and the Union-Tribune's vision of “free city trash service” if he were writing “1984” today. The idea that residential property owners are getting services “free” from the city is laughable. The lack of a bill with the heading “trash pickup charge” does not make the service free. So let us be honest, this isn't about apartment dwellers in City Heights being raked over the coals for the benefit of Rancho Bernardo or Point Loma. It's about finding ways to generate more city revenue without being constrained by honesty.

San Diego

2. Government productivity often is internally frowned upon – the opposite of the private sector

RIDER COMMENT: In a comment on Chris Reed blog article about state worker compensation, BobSp raised a GREAT point about worker productivity. It's common -- even mandatory -- in the private sector that productivity should improve. In the public sector, in many instances, increased productivity is actually frowned upon.

The public employee labor unions make sure that better performance is not rewarded with higher pay. Work twice as hard (or half as hard) as your government co-worker, get the same pay. Showing up your government co-workers by "working too hard" can result in harsh words, shunning, or worse.

Perhaps more important, government managers are paid more the larger their "responsibility." And the number one criterion is how many people the managers supervise. The last thing a government manager wants is a smaller work force.

I remember my younger days as a LT in the Navy Supply Corps where I learned this lesson first hand. I suggested that by reworking my 32nd St Naval Station galley (cafeteria, to you land lubbers) work schedules and using private minimum wage food service personnel (we already used a private contractor for low level galley "mess cook" work), we could get rid of 75% of my civil service employees who were being paid for eight hours while only needing to work for three hours at most.

No one challenged the feasibility or accuracy of my proposal. But my superior (rank-wise) and his superiors were aghast at the idea.

Their thinking was that we should keep the deadwood because sometime in the future the Department of Defense might send out a "RIF" (Reduction in Force) mandate, and we'd want to have the unneeded employees to cut at that time.

Hence my civil service drones continued droning. Such is the nature of government.

Here’s the Chris Reed blog item and comments:

3. “Time to Pull the Plug on the Library”

RIDER COMMENT: Below is an excellent commentary opposing the proposed downtown San Diego library -- written by SD County Taxpayers Association President Lani Lutar. The title of the piece says it all.

The online reader comments are lively, with library lovers having a hissy fit. I missed out on putting in my own comments in a timely fashion – a loss to posterity.


Time to Pull the Plug on the Library

By Lani Lutar

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 The proposed downtown library currently remains on life-support after receiving a temporary extension from the State Librarian. Councilmember Carl DeMaio, a vocal critic of the project, recently pointed out that significant funding shortfalls for construction continue to plague the project. Beyond the cost of construction, the city would have to find almost $6 million every year to cover increased annual operating costs.

Equally troublesome, the latest proposal includes the highly questionable use of school bond dollars to make up for a lack of private funds. Given the city's dire financial situation for the foreseeable future, pulling the plug on boondoggles like this project has never been more important.

In 2005, construction of the library was estimated to cost $185 million, more than double the 1996 estimate of $63 million. Funding for construction of the project was slated to come from $80 million in CCDC redevelopment funds, $20 million from a State grant and $85 million in private donations. When private fundraising failed to meet the December 2008 state grant deadline, project proponents suggested the inclusion of a school on the two top floors of the proposed library to make up for funding shortfalls and extend the viability of the grant.

In order to maintain the $20 million grant from the state, the city and school district are required to conduct a "feasibility study" to update construction costs and determine any redesign needs to accommodate a school as part of the building. This $169,000 study will update cost estimates and analyze any changes in design necessary to accommodate the inclusion of a school.

The city and San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) have yet to reach an agreement on the proportionate funding of the feasibility study, but before $169,000 of taxpayer money is spent to investigate whether the hybrid project is actually viable, the complete inability of the proposal to pencil out must be considered.

A recent report released by the Office of Councilmember Carl DeMaio highlighted the following:

* Adjusting the 2005 proposal for construction cost inflation only (i.e. ignoring the school component) suggests that costs have increased from $185 million to $208 million today.
* Additional construction costs associated with Field Act compliance are likely to increase construction costs by at least another 3-4 percent. This yields an estimate of $214 million today.
* Using the most conservative of these inflation adjustments ($208 million construction cost), the project is underfunded by $55 million, even after taking the additional $20 million of school bond dollars in account.
* According to the city's Independent Budget Analyst, the new main library will require $5.7 million more per year to operate than the current downtown library.

This means that the new library will add to the city's annual operating costs at a time when budget deficits abound, branch library closures have been threatened and hours have been reduced.

Private fundraisers have also promised to cover the first five years of operating cost increases, which amounts to more than $28 million. In total, private fundraisers have promised to raise $85 million for construction of the library, plus $28 million for operating costs. To date, only $33 million has been acknowledged, and far less confirmed.

Furthermore, excess space in the library was originally designed to help mitigate cost by generating revenues. Adding the school to the proposal eliminates anywhere from $950,000 to $1.5 million of estimated annual revenue that would help to offset the annual operating cost increases.

The red balance sheet outlined above tells the real story of the downtown library proposal: taxpayers are left holding the bag. Under the funding proposal in 2005, public funds (from CCDC and the State) accounted for 55 percent of the project cost. Today, assuming construction cost inflation to $208 million, taxpayer funds (via CCDC, Proposition S, the State, plus the shortfall of $57 million) would make up more than 80 percent of project funding.

Furthermore, the proposed use of Proposition S school bond dollars for the project is a desperate attempt to save this ill-advised project and a classic case of bait-and-switch. Prior to the election last November, SDUSD sought endorsements from a variety of stakeholder groups, and provided lists of projects it planned to pursue with the bond dollars. During this campaign, SDUSD clearly outlined the need for a new elementary school downtown. However, law requires elementary schools to be housed on the lower floors of buildings and the available space in the proposed library is on top floors.

Within moments of this discovery, the need for the new elementary school downtown was conveniently tossed aside by the school district in favor of a high school which could save the project.

Every aspect of the library proposal depicts a financial disaster in the making. Construction is underfunded, the city cannot afford the increased operation and maintenance expenses and library boosters want taxpayers to pick up a greater portion of the total bill. In no uncertain terms, the time has come to pull the plug on this proposal once and for all.

Lutar is president and chief executive officer of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes accountable, cost-effective and efficient government. You can reach her at .

4. Damned planet refuses to heat up – environmentalists distraught

RIDER COMMENT: There’s been considerable consternation by the environmentalists about the insufficient level of urgent concern about global warming, even among the young. After all, we’ve been warned! But perhaps our reality trumps the highly questionable “sky is falling” predictions.

The following excerpt from a recent Mark Steyn column summarizes the widespread skepticism well. BTW, Steyn – an acerbic, witty conservative columnist – is always a fun read – except for his opponents.

Behind the Times
by Mark Steyn

. . .

If you’re 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you’re graduating high school, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade. There has been no global warming this century. None. Admittedly the 21st century is only one century out of the many centuries of planetary existence, but it happens to be the one you’re stuck living in. Alan Carlin, in a report for the Environmental Protection Racket — whoops, Environmental Protection Agency — that they attempted to suppress, says:

Fossil fuel and cement emissions increased by 3.3 percent per year during 2000-2006, compared to 1.3 percent per year in the 1990s. Similarly, atmospheric C02 concentrations increased by 1.93 parts per million per year during 2000-2006, compared to 1.58 ppm in the 1990s. And yet, despite accelerating emission rates and concentrations, there’s been no net warming in the 21st century, and more accurately, a decline.

. . .

5. Environmental madness still rules in Congress

RIDER COMMENT: Ya know, we are just getting jaded. Bill after feel good bill works their way through Congress, costs us TRILLIONS, and does nothing for us or the environment. The article below details one of the worst ones in process.

Waxman-Markey Deserves to Die
Commentary by Pete du Pont
July 26, 2009

The economy-destroying measure ekes out a House victory.
Source: Wall Street Journal online

The fresh news about Washington--the White House and Congress--is that things are not going very well. A new president in full command of public-policy matters is having problems, from health care to taxes to massive federal spending and now to the Waxman-Markey bill, one of the oddest and most far-reaching pieces of legislation advocated by the new administration.

It passed the House a few weeks ago by a 219-212 vote--not much of a margin. Most interesting was the fact that of America's 50 state delegations in the House, 28 voted no and 22 aye, and one quarter of the 219 majority votes came from New York and California. Most of America's states and communities didn't much like the bill.

No wonder, for it would regulate many things--energy, wages, imported goods, corporations, states, cities, buildings and houses, snowmobiles, lawn mowers, light fixtures, candelabra base lamps and many others--while containing broad exemptions for regulation of agribusiness, ethanol and biofuels. The Waxman-Markey bill would be without question the biggest expansion of federal government control over our economy since the 1930s.

The Heritage Foundation concludes it would reduce America's real gross domestic product by $400 billion each year--a cumulative loss of $9.4 trillion by 2035--leading to almost 2.5 million job losses, and raise inflation-adjusted electricity rates by 90%. For a household of four, it would cost on average $2,979 annually and in 2035 the total family cost would be over $4,600 for everything, including power, food, supplies, gasoline and transportation.

Our federal government would have full control over global-warming matters. States would not be permitted to create their own cap-and-trade programs, but could be given emission allowances by the federal government which they could sell to generate funds for clean energy programs.

The federal government would also have control over the carbon permit process. It would give away 85% of the permits to utility companies, refineries and other politically connected businesses, and these no-cost permits could be used by companies to continue to crank out historically high CO2 emission levels, or be sold to other companies for real money.

Next would come the expansion of American protectionism. China and India have declined to participate in global-warming control, so under Waxman-Markey we would be able to impose tariffs on their goods coming into America, something India's environmental minister pointed out to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a few days ago. The other side of that coin is of course that they could impose tariffs on our exports too. That would hurt American businesses and expand government control of our economy, products and businesses, all in the name of fighting global warming.

Of course we have seen the predecessor of the Waxman-Markey bill in the European Union's cap-and-trade regulation, a political failure as well as an economic one. As Heritage's Ben Lieberman has pointed out, it has not worked in various countries, and is now being opposed by nations that need to burn coal for their electricity generation. As the Washington Post wrote last February, European "emission targets were set too high. Too many pollution allowances were given away to industry. . . . Companies made windfall profits by charging customers more for energy while selling allowances they didn't need. And the Europeans have not had much success in reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

As Lieberman observes, "To the limited extent European nations have reduced emissions below business-as-usual levels it has hurt their economies. . . . Far from seeing evidence of the bright new green economy some are now promising, we are seeing that cap and trade has contributed to the harm." Waxman-Markey would operate much the same way with many of the same results in America, and that means central government planning would pull America down to European levels.

So who is in favor of this massive expansion of governmental authority in America? Labor unions of course, for tucked away is the requirement that any project receiving grants from the billions of giveaways in the Waxman-Markey bill would be required to apply Davis-Bacon union wage rules.

Environmentalists like it too, but as climate researcher Chip Knappenberger pointed out in May, neither Henry Waxman nor Ed Markey nor anyone else in Congress is arguing that "the bill is going to save the earth from human-caused climate apocalypse." It won't, and it "will have virtually no impact on the future course of the earth's climate." The Waxman-Markey reduction of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, Mr. Knappenberger concludes, would reduce temperatures by less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit by 2050.

The real purpose of Waxman-Markey is to vastly expand the scope, power and authority of the federal government. Washington would permanently regulate and dictate the performance of the U.S. economy, reward constituencies it favors and punish those it doesn't, and make more and more Americans dependent upon federal largesse.

6. Generic political cartoon, but seems to apply to CA best

7. Massachusetts is our health care canary in the coal mine

RIDER COMMENT: Unwittingly, Massachusetts signed on in 2005 to show us how the currently proposed national health insurance would actually work in America. Would that we could learn from the results.

Three Lessons from Massachusetts
Brief Analysis Health
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
by Greg Scandlen

The Massachusetts experiment in health care reform offers many lessons that are applicable to the current debate in Congress. The goals of the Massachusetts plan are similar to proposals supported by Democratic congressional leaders and the Obama administration: universal health insurance coverage through greater access to health insurance.

The Obama proposals would use similar means to achieve these goals: requiring individuals to purchase insurance and creating an "insurance exchange" where they can buy heavily regulated, heavily subsidized health insurance.

Some of the lessons to be learned from the Massachusetts experience have been well-chronicled elsewhere, but there are three lessons that remain to be explored.

Lesson 1: Reform has raised costs, not lowered them. The state has indeed lowered the number of uninsured dramatically - down to 2.6 percent of the population by some estimates. But it has done so in a very expensive way that does nothing to control costs. Massachusetts has relied primarily on two factors to fund its plan: 1) state premium subsidies for almost everyone who has gained coverage and 2) the requirement that individuals enroll. This is a huge burden on taxpayers and on anyone who pays directly for health care:

* The state was able to get the federal government to pay for much of these new costs, but even with that help, state government spending has increased 42 percent since 2006.
* The Massachusetts program has cost about one-third more than projected when the law was passed.
* Before the Massachusetts health insurance reform plan was implemented in 2005, total per capita health care spending in the state was 33 percent above the national average.
* In just two years under the Massachusetts reforms, from 2005 to 2007, health care spending per capita rose an additional 23 percent.

Lesson 2: The people reform was intended to help say they are being hurt. That level of spending might be justified if it was clear that large numbers of previously uninsured people were being helped. But a survey conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found just the opposite.

* Slightly more than half (51 percent) of those required to purchase coverage say their health care costs have gone up and only 14 percent say they have gone down.
* Some 22 percent say the law is helping them personally, but 60 percent say it is hurting them.

Although the survey found that most residents of Massachusetts support the law, the level of support is greatest among those least affected - the people who are more likely to have insurance or be able to afford coverage because of their education and income:

* Some 69 percent of those with college degrees or incomes of more than $75,000 a year support the law.
* Just 49 percent of those making $25,000 to $50,000 and only 45 percent of those with a high school or lower education, support it.

Lesson 3: Everyone else is being hurt, too. It isn't only those directly affected by the mandate who are being hurt in Massachusetts. Due to the sudden increase in demand for physicians, every resident who would like to see a doctor is being harmed. Massachusetts has by far the largest number of physicians per capita of any state. Despite this, patients in Massachusetts now have the longest waiting times to see a doctor, according to a recent survey of physician waiting times in 15 major U.S. cities. For example, in Boston the average waiting time to get an appointment for any of five types of specialists is almost double the wait in the next highest area, Philadelphia. [See the table.]

Long waiting times to see a physician have caused the use of hospital emergency rooms to soar by 17 percent to 2.5 million visits in 2007. Half of these ER visits were for nonurgent conditions. Although one of the state's goals was to increase access to private physicians for the previously uninsured, Massachusetts payments to community health centers for free care to the indigent have increased from $52.2 million in 2005 to $58.6 million in 2007.

Lessons for America. Of all these developments, the most sobering one is the soaring waiting times to see a doctor. Previously, Massachusetts enjoyed the highest number of physicians per capita of any state, and it had one of the lowest rates of noninsured in the country. If any jurisdiction could have accommodated a surge of newly insured people it should have been Massachusetts. By contrast, California has half as many physicians per capita and twice the level of uninsured. Imagine what will happen to waiting times in California if all the uninsured suddenly become insured. As in Massachusetts, if they can't see a doctor on a timely basis, patients may seek treatment at hospital emergency rooms. But California doesn't have any excess capacity there, either. Waiting times in ERs will soar. Other big states like Texas and Florida are even less able than California to serve the newly insured.

What kind of health care reform requires working people to pay for coverage, but then deprives them of the ability to see a doctor? It is the kind that will generate an enormous backlash of outraged patients. Members of Congress need to think twice before embarking on the same journey as Massachusetts.

Greg Scandlen is director of Consumers for Health Care Choices at the Heartland Institute.

8. British patients with stiff upper lips forced to live in agony

RIDER COMMENT: No, a stiff upper lip is not an English medical malady. It’s just that the wise central planning souls in charge of the UK’s national health insurance now eschew adequate pain relief for folks with lower back problems. Acupuncture is being recommended instead (cheaper – even when it doesn’t work!).

Rationing health treatment is SOP in dear old Britain – for those who cannot afford private health care.


In England, the government's drug rationing watchdog says "therapeutic" injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known. Instead the National Institute of Health (NHW) and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is ordering doctors to offer patients remedies like acupuncture and osteopathy, says the Telegraph.

Every year, one-in-three people are estimated to suffer from lower back pain, while one in 15 consult their general practitioner (GP) about it. Specialists say therapeutic injections using steroids can deaden nerve endings, can provide months or even years of respite from pain. Others fear that if funding, tens of thousands of people, mainly the elderly and frail, will be left to suffer excruciating levels of pain or pay as much as £500 (about U.S. $847) each for private treatment, says the Telegraph:

* The NHS currently issues more than 60,000 treatments of steroid injections every year.
* NICE said in its guidance it wants to cut this to just 3,000 treatments a year, a move which would save the NHS £33 million (about U.S. $56 million).
* But the British Pain Society, which represents specialists in the field, has written to NICE calling for the guidelines to be withdrawn after its members warned that they would lead to many patients having to undergo unnecessary and high-risk spinal surgery.

While the NICE guidelines admit that evidence was limited for many back pain treatments, where scientific proof was lacking, advice was instead taken from its expert group.

But specialists are furious that while the group included practitioners of alternative therapies, there was no one with expertise in conventional pain relief medicine to argue against a decision to significantly restrict its use, says the Telegraph.

Source: Laura Donnelly, "Patients forced to live in agony after NHS refuses to pay for painkilling injections," Telegraph, August 2, 2009.

For text:

9. Textbooks doomed – about time!

RIDER COMMENT: While the level of education in the U.S. has deteriorated, one area of learning has shown remarkable growth – textbooks. They’ve grown in a number of ways.

Certainly modern textbooks have grown in entertainment value compared to the drab textbooks of yore. They’ve grown in the sheer quantity of material offered (much of which is never covered by classroom teachers). Then there is all that growth in PC coverage. Robust growth can be observed in the price of textbooks. And all of this adds together – leading to the oppressive growth in the massive size and weight of textbooks – today’s textbook tomes lugged around by kids without school lockers.

It’s time to put an end to this madness – at least the madness of hard copy textbooks. The day of the personal/laptop computer has arrived. And the price for such has plummeted.


SIDEBAR: One ongoing canard is that the “digital divide” leaves behind the poor without computers. Nonsense! There are many inexpensive ways to buy a computer. Go on Craigslist and buy a used basic desktop computer for $125 or less. Sometimes MUCH less. Furthermore, there are charities that provide computers for poor kids for free!

Yes, the poor have fewer computers at home – but that’s a decision they make. Anyone with the slightest initiative can solve that problem for little cost. Instead most poor folks spend far too much on TV’s, cell phones and video console games. No one likes to point out that such bad decision-making is one big reason the poor are poor!


Let’s go back to taxpayer-paid education. It appears that some educators are figuring out that digital textbooks can be read and studied on a portable computer. Some mavens are predicting that hard copy textbooks will all but disappear within five years.

Meanwhile notebook laptops are down under $300 retail. Simple full-size laptops can be found under $350 retail. Given the cost of hard copy textbooks, it would seem that the districts can save money (and students’ posture) by buying cheap, no frills notebooks or laptops for students (the notebooks weigh under 3 pounds) and then acquire textbooks electronically. I suspect the savings on software textbooks could pay for the notebooks in a year.

School districts in Arizona have already figured out the benefits of providing laptops and avoiding costly textbooks. As we all know from our online experiences, there’s a wealth of FREE material on the Internet available for dissemination – including educational material. Furthermore, the Arizona districts are encouraging teachers to disseminate good lesson plans prepared for the computer.

Here’s a link to a May, 2009 LA TIMES editorial encouraging the digital textbook option:

And here’s a link to an encouraging (and more detailed) article in the 9 August, 2009 NY TIMES – referencing the Arizona district experience:

10. Nevada produces funny, biting ads at California’s expense – California Big Government disciples, beware

RIDER COMMENT: The zany folks in the Nevada Development Authority keep putting out outrageous ads pounding on how business-UNfriendly CA is. The ads – both print and video – are slick, funny and irritating – as they should be. And the gonzo nature of the ads is getting Nevada a good bit of free media coverage as well. Here’s a couple newspaper ads that I particularly liked:

To look over what the Nevada Development Authority has to say about leaving CA for the Las Vegas area, go to:

11. SD Airport board members abusing expense accounts big-time

RIDER COMMENT: A couple years ago the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE did a fine expos̩ on the extravagant spending by the appointed members of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. Currently the agency has a $121 million budget, which it derives from public money Рprimarily from airport fees and rents.

As a result of that exposé, new spending guidelines were put in place. Guidelines, smidelines. Our airport officials don’t need no stinkin’ guidelines. Must be so, since they imperiously ignore said guidelines.

We know that such is still the case, thanks to a follow-up investigation by the intrepid Voice of San Diego. Here’s the link to their just-released article:

You might be wise not to read it – if you pay the fees for flying in and out of San Diego’s Lindberg Airport. Don’t want you going postal in the airport.

Perhaps the most egregious incident was when two board members flew to England for a Charger exhibition game (I’ll leave it to you to conjure up the rationale for that trip). No taxpayer expense was spared – from the $5,500 first class airline tickets to the $350 Charger reception to the $1,200 for seats (a board member and a guest -- $600 each) at the game. And just to be clear, that’s the price for EACH board member’s football two tickets, reception and airfare.

Ya gotta’ love authority Chairman Bob Watkins’ response to the Voice story – it’s just lowly-paid reporter envy. Great stuff – his elitism is insufferable.

Just in case you think the above expenses are a one-time aberration – consider this: San Diego Airport staff fly to Los Angeles for as much as $820 a ticket. And yes, that is Los Angeles, California.

Now, let’s see if these political appointees avoid being fired.

Assuming that they are not fired, surely they will be denied reappointment by the politicians who first put them there. Yeah, when pigs land on the Lindberg runway.

12. Sales tax on CA laptop computers can exceed 13%

RIDER COMMENT: Currently our total sales tax on goods in San Diego County ranges from 8.75% to 9.75%, depending on where the purchase is made. But what few people realize is that California now levies a second DE FACTO sales tax on laptops, computer monitors and TV’s. The Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003 was passed to levy an E-waste “fee” on items with a screen (anything larger than 4”). Supposedly this fee is imposed to somehow help recycle such items.

BTW, included in this law are provisions to make tossing such items in the trash a criminal offense. And that aspect of the law covers other items as well (such as computer cases with the innards included), though few know just what those items are.

The E-waste tax is crudely figured based on the size of the screen.

4” up to (under) 15” is an $8 fee

15” up to 35” is a $16 fee

35” and above is a $25 fee

This is not like some bottle or can deposit you can get back when you properly recycle your screen device. It’s money that’s disappears into state government.

I ran into one particularly nefarious aspect of this tax when this spring I purchased a laptop at Costco. I got a great deal for $450. But like most laptops sold today, my screen was a tad bigger than 15”. 15.1”, to be exact. Currently this is probably the single most popular size for a laptop screen. For that tiny incremental increase, the state doubles my E-waste fee from $8 to $16.

So what’s my total “sales tax” on that $450 purchase? 8.75% (“normal” sales tax) + 3.55% (E-waste fee) = 12.3%. If I had purchased my laptop from the El Cajon Costco, it would have cost me 13.3% sales tax.

Most people realize that they can break the law by avoiding the sales tax – buying their computers from out-of-state vendors via the Internet. But few think about the fact that such a purchase also avoids the E-waste tax – doubtless violating another law.

As this knowledge spreads, it surely will not help our California vendors sell our uber-taxable computer laptop, monitor and TV’s. Too bad.

And BTW, CA is looking at banning plasma TV sales in CA (for energy savings) – making out-of-state purchase the only alternative (yeah, and making that choice will surely break yet another law).

13. Cash for clunkers: Trade in American, buy foreign

RIDER COMMENT: The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes the “Cash for Clunkers” trade-in program. Once again, our central planners have screwed up. American taxpayers subsidize foreign car industry. Read on.



Published on on August 10, 2009

The only part of the stimulus program that is working, the cash-for-clunkers program is, in reality, a subsidy to foreign car companies, proving that Barack Obama is the best president Japan ever had.

The Department of Transportation reports that the ten leading trade-ins are all American branded cars while six of the top ten new cars purchased - and four of the top five - are foreign. So the United States Senate is about to pass additional funds to subsidize the trade-in of American cars and the purchase of foreign cars.

DOT reports that the following are the ten top trade-ins, all American:

Ten Top Trade-Ins Under Cash for Clunkers

1. Ford Explorer
2. Ford F150 Pickup 2WD
3. Jeep Grand Cherokee 4 WD
4. Jeep Cherokee 4 WD
5. Dodge Caravan/Grand Caravan
6. Chevrolet Blazer 4 WD
7. Ford Explorer 2 WD
8. Ford F150 Pickup 4 WD
9. Chevrolet C1500 Pickup 2 WD
10. Ford Windstar FWD Van

And the top ten new car purchases, subsidized by the American taxpayer, are mainly foreign vehicles:

Top Ten New Car Purchases: Cash for Clunkers

1. Toyota Corolla
2. Ford Focus FWD
3. Honda Civic
4. Toyota Prius
5. Toyota Camry
6. Ford Escape FWD
7. Hyundai Elantra
8. Dodge Caliber
9. Honda Fit
10. Chevrolet Cobalt

It is a violation of the World Trade Organization rules to enact a public subsidy program and skew it toward only domestically produced products, so the Congress has no choice but to extend the program to all comers. No choice, that is, but to not spend the money in the first place.

Cash for Clunkers will do wonders for the Japanese economy, but its impact on the US job situation is problematic. This unintended consequence is a great illustration of what happens when the blunt tool of government subsidy is applied to the fine tuning of a free market economy. Government planners keep getting it wrong. That's why socialism is such a bad idea.

So Obama can boast of a great success in taking American cars off the road and replacing them with foreign cars. Great going!

14. San Diego press folks finally figuring it out – they’re switching to work for government

RIDER COMMENT: Normally when I conclude a speech on local politics, I ask the audience what’s the ONE thing that they should take with them out of the lecture – what ONE piece of advice could turn their lives around.

Someone eventually comes up with the right answer – “get a government job.” More specifically, get a San Diego CITY government job.

I give the same advice to media folks at the conclusion of an interview or press conference. Given the tenuous nature of their occupational job security, coupled with their stagnated compensation, such advice fits them particularly well.

As the article below demonstrates, it looks like many media pundits have indeed heeded my advice and become government employees at an accelerating rate – even more than I realized. After years of covering stories that show the stark contrast between public and private sector employment, many reporters have fled to (or been laid off and gone to) government jobs.

I’m worried that such a career pattern might give reporter cause to hesitate in doing investigative journalism, delving into our politicians’ antics. I doubt such a potential conflict is a major factor, but the number of press folks switching to public “service” is unsettling.

It also means that when the press wants info from government, it’s often their former co-workers that they deal with – which is a little too chummy for objective media coverage.

Another S.D. Journalist Goes Into Politics

San Diego has experienced a noticeable shift of journalists entering the world of politics

Updated 3:45 PM PDT, Fri, Aug 7, 2009

Next time you read a byline in a local newspaper or magazine, or watch an anchor on a nightly TV newscast, take note: Those people may soon be your public servants. Over the past few years, there’s been a steady march from the field of journalism into politics.

On Monday, Tim McClain is expected to begin working as a legislative assistant/press secretary for San Diego County District 4 Supervisor Ron Roberts. For the previous dozen years, McClain was the editor of "Metropolitan" magazine and appeared on "Editors Roundtable” on KPBS.

What’s it like to go from asking the questions to answering and/or avoiding them?

"I love journalists and writers -- I've always been a big defender of what they try to do," McClain said. "And I'll help them do their jobs from this side of the fence."

Last month, San Diego City Councilwoman Marti Emerald (District 7) hired former KGTV weather reporter Geni Cavitt to be her director of communications. You might recall Emerald was the "Troubleshooter” consumer reporter for 10News.

Within the last year, San Diego mayor Jerry Sanders snatched up San Diego Union-Tribune writers Gerry Braun and Rachel Laing to be director of special projects and deputy press secretary, respectively.

District 6 City Councilwoman Donna Frye has also double-dipped at the Union-Tribune. Former reporters Mark Sauer and Chet Barfield are now her district representatives.

Former U-T reporter Tony Manolatos was grabbed to be the director of communications for District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer. District 1 County Supervisor Greg Cox has the U-T's Luis Monteagado as his spokesman. And the director of communications for the past couple years for District 5 County Supervisor Bill Horn is former KFMB-TV anchor John Culea.

And now, I'd like to announce I'm running for president ... not.

Ron Donoho is a regular contributor to and a contributing editor to His Web site ( is dedicated to news, sports, culture, happy hours and all things downtown.

15. Fair share? Top 1% paid more federal income tax than 95% of the rest

RIDER COMMENT (well, actually, mostly Bill Leonard’s comment): The Tax Foundation has crunched the IRS numbers for the most recent data available, 2007. It found the top one percent of taxpayers paid 40.4 percent of the total income taxes collected by the federal government. What is remarkable about this is the share of the tax burden by the top one percent now exceeds the share paid by the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined. In 2007, the bottom 95 percent paid 39.4 percent of the income tax burden. This is down from the 58 percent of the total income tax burden they paid 20 years ago.

The top one percent is comprised of just 1.4 million taxpayers and they pay a larger share of the income tax burden now than the bottom 134 million taxpayers combined. Given that we are no longer a republic, but rather simply a “majority rules” democracy, that fact does not bode well for the wealthy – as more voters feeling little pain from the income tax seek to increasingly soak the rich to benefit themselves.

The substantiating income tax data tables on the foundation’s website (links below) are illuminating. One aspect that the report did not discuss is that we had tax cuts in rates during this decade, and now the wealthy pay more taxes (a higher percent of their income), and a higher percent of the total income taxes paid. The Laffer Curve lives!

I may dig deeper into this data at another time.

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