Fewer LA Government Transit Riders—Will Losses Go Down as Well

It is estimated that government, at all levels subsidize the Los Angeles government transit systems more than $100 million a year. That is regardless of how many people use the system, since there are fixed costs, allocated costs and paying back the billions in bonds—used to pay off the special interests, the very rich (who would not be caught dead on an LA—or San Fran—bus) and the unions.

Is it the lowered gas prices putting freedom back into the riders life? Or it is finally dawning on them that they are losing lots of time—and money—riding a government bus. Recently we did a story about a man who commutes 21 miles in the Bay Area—only taking him THREE hours to go the distance. While the rider may pay $2-3 bucks for the ride, the poor and middle class are paying $6-10 for each person who decides to use government transportation, when you consider all the government costs and losses.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image2562817

Transit ridership drops in LA — Are low gas prices to blame?

Ben Bergman, KPCC, 12/25/14

How’s this for a great Christmas present? An average gallon of unleaded regular costs less than $2.75 in Los Angeles, the lowest price in years. But falling gas prices don’t necessarily mean a decrease in the use of public transportation.

Metro ridership dropped to 36,646,614 in November, compared to 38,738,815 the same month last year, or 38,529,688 in November of 2013.

But Metro spokesman Paul Gonzales cautioned that it’s way to early to know whether the drop is due to gas prices.

“We really cannot say,” Gonzales said.

Nationally, transit ridership has been on the upswing, according to the American Public Transportation Association. The association reported that more than 2.7 billion trips were taken on U.S. public transportation in the third quarter of 2014, which is a 1.8 percent increase over the same quarter last year.

In fact, the third quarter – which spanned July through September – saw the highest ridership for those months since 1974.

Gas prices were not as low last summer as they are now; but Darnell Grisby, the association’s Director of Policy Development & Research, still doesn’t expect the fourth quarter numbers will show a drop in ridership. That’s because he thinks the improving economy will more than offset any decline caused by low gas prices.

“Because 60 percent of people who take public transportation are taking it to jobs,” explained Grisby. He acknowledges falling gas prices can be a factor, but says the economy has greater impact.

“The strong growth of the U.S. economy has helped counteract the impact of lower gas prices,” said Grisby.

Grisby also points out that mass transit use tends to be sticky – meaning once people try taking buses and trains, they can be slow to move back to their gas guzzlers.

For that reason, he said rising gas prices have a bigger positive effect, drawing people to public transportation. Once they’re hooked, falling gas prices are less likely to lure them away.

CalSTRS $$ Troubles Growing: Teachers retiring older, working fewer years

CalSTRS has a totally unsustainable $166 billion (or more) in unfunded liabilities. The management lies about its returns—they claim they will be getting 7.5%, when the experts—not the politicians—say the return will be 7%–that half percent a year creates an unfunded liability—so CalSTRS is planning to go belly up in the future by misrepresenting (lying) about the return on investments. In the meantime teachers are getting pay CUTS, money taken from their paychecks to pay for the problem. In Los Angles Unified School District they cheat. Yup, they cheat.

LAUSD takes money from the teachers to help pay for the added costs of their pensions. Then LAUSD gives the teachers “bonuses” to make up for the funds cut. In the end the children and the taxpayers lose and the unions laugh at the truth told by Jon Gruber—“Americans are stupid.” We allow these manipulations of finances and do nothing to stop them.

“Retirees grew much faster during the period than active workers, increasing from 27 percent to 36 percent of total membership and raising questions about the impact of longer life spans on projected pension costs.

The average CalSTRS pension benefit for a K-12 teacher increased 70 percent during the same period, growing from $28,309 in 1997-98 to $48,094 in 2012-13. The California consumer price index grew 48 percent.”

Teacher

Teachers retiring older, working fewer years

by ED MENDEL, Capitol Weekly,   11/10/14

A new look at how CalSTRS members changed during the last 15 years shows the average teacher working fewer years, retiring at an older age and collecting a pension that grew faster than pay or inflation.

Retirees grew much faster during the period than active workers, increasing from 27 percent to 36 percent of total membership and raising questions about the impact of longer life spans on projected pension costs.

The average CalSTRS pension benefit for a K-12 teacher increased 70 percent during the same period, growing from $28,309 in 1997-98 to $48,094 in 2012-13. The California consumer price index grew 48 percent.

The new CalSTRS demographics report issued last week, done in part to show differences among employer types, covers a period beginning in fiscal 1997-98 as a stock-market boom yielded big earnings for pension fund investments.

A brief pension fund surplus helped prompt legislation in the late 1990s and 2000 that increased pension benefits in several ways, while also cutting the annual employer and employee contributions to the pension fund.

According to the new report, the average final compensation of a K-12 teacher increased 54 percent during the 15-year period, growing from $52,200 in 1997-98 to $80,500 in 2012-13.

The average CalSTRS pension benefit for a K-12 teacher increased 70 percent during the same period, growing from $28,309 in 1997-98 to $48,094 in 2012-13. The California consumer price index grew 48 percent.

“The reason why the benefits went up is during that period of time there were changes in the benefit structure, which improved benefits for the majority of our members, so they are getting a bigger benefit,” Ed Derman, CalSTRS deputy chief executive officer, told the board.

Retirees living longer than expected is one way pension funding can fall short, much like overly optimistic investment earnings forecasts.

“For people retiring after the benefit increase, the benefit is going to be greater for a given compensation than people who retired in 1997-98 — one-year final compensation, increased age factor, longevity bonuses, a whole variety,” he said.

In addition to a number of small benefit increases, the state CalSTRS contribution was cut from 4.6 percent of pay to 2 percent. For 10 years, a quarter of the teacher contribution, 2 percent of pay, was diverted to a new pension supplement for teachers.

The California State Teachers Retirement System funding level peaked in 2000 at about 110 percent of the projected assets needed to pay future pension obligations. In the latest actuarial report as of June last year, the funding level had dropped to 67 percent.

A Milliman actuarial report last year said CalSTRS would be 88 percent funded if it had continued to operate under the contribution and benefit structure in place in 1990, without the changes that began 15 years ago.

Now legislation last June phases in a $5 billion CalSTRS contribution over seven years. Most of the money comes from school districts, whose rates will more than double from 8.25 percent of pay to 19.1 percent of pay by July 2020.

Teachers in CalSTRS do not receive Social Security in addition to their pensions, unlike state workers and many local government employees. A report several years ago said CalSTRS pensions and supplements usually replace about 70 percent of job income.

Retirees living longer than expected is one way pension funding can fall short, much like overly optimistic investment earnings forecasts.

CalSTRS was told last month more than a dozen financial experts expect annual earnings of 7 percent or less next decade, below the 7.5 percent CalSTRS assumption.

The report last week that retirees are a growing percentage of the total CalSTRS membership led a board member, Paul Rosenstiel, to ask several questions about the accuracy of CalSTRS mortality projections.

CalSTRS lacks the power to set annual rates that employers must pay, needing legislation instead. The Legislature, willing to tolerate funding shortfalls, ignored CalSTRS pleas for a rate increase for years before approving the funding solution in June.

Last month the Society of Actuaries released new mortality tables showing that males age 65 are expected to live to age 86.6, two years longer than expected in 2000. Women age 65 are expected to live to age 88.8, an additional 2.4 years.

“The Society of Actuaries estimates there could be a four to eight percent increase in private pension plan liability,” said its news release. “This average cost impact will vary greatly according to the design and demographic profile of each plan.”

With an eye on earlier versions of the Society’s first mortality update in 14 years, the California Public Employees Retirement System approved an employer rate increase in February to cover the cost of retirees living longer than previously expected.

The CalPERS rate increase, based on males living two more years and females 1.5 years, is expected to add $1.2 billion a year to the annual employer cost for state workers when fully phased in after three years.

The rate hike for increased longevity was the third CalPERS rate increase in the last two years, following a lowering of the earnings forecast from 7.5 to 7 percent and the adoption of a new actuarial methodology aimed at getting to full funding sooner.

CalSTRS lacks the power to set annual rates that employers must pay, needing legislation instead. The Legislature, willing to tolerate funding shortfalls, ignored CalSTRS pleas for a rate increase for years before approving the funding solution in June.

The new legislation gives CalSTRS limited power to raise rates: an employer increase (no more than about 1 percent of pay) after 2020 if needed for full funding by 2046; a state increase after 2016 if needed to eliminate benefit debt prior to 1990.

A CalSTRS board decision to lower earnings forecasts or increase longevity forecasts might have little impact, other than to alert the Legislature that a CalSTRS funding gap is reopening.

As part of a routine review every four years, CalSTRS is scheduled to look at the forecasts for investment earnings and longevity in 2016. It’s possible that the board, which has a long-term outlook, will make no change.

In the earnings review, as reported last month, CalSTRS will look at factors such as a 30-year investment horizon, what could happen during market booms and busts, and the possibility that inflation might offset a lower earnings forecast.

In the longevity review, the experience of CalSTRS members, who tend to have healthy lifestyles, and the Society’s new update will be used, said Rick Reed, CalSTRS actuary. He said teachers may have already made the gains shown in the new tables.

“We don’t know that our study is out of date,” Reed told the board. “As a matter of fact, because teachers have been living longer for a long period of time what we have found is that other groups are catching up.”

A Milliman actuary, Mark Olleman, agreed that the current longevity forecasts used by CalSTRS are not out of date. He said reviewing assumptions every four years is a “very responsible” schedule.

“CalSTRS is a very large, credible population to look at, and your mortality assumptions are based on the actual mortality of the California teachers,” he told the board.

 

Cost of Eggs UP 35% in One Month Due to New State Law—Going Higher

In early November I bought 18 eggs for $2.49 at the 99cent store. A couple of days later I bought a dozen eggs from Trader Joes for $1.89. On Monday I went to the 99Cent store and found a dozen eggs for $2.89—still believe you can buy a dozen eggs at Trader Joes for under $2.00—but not for long. In the past month, while gas prices have been dropping in California and nationwide, the cost of eggs in California have gone up 35% (not a typo).

On January 1, the ballot proposition that created condo’s for chickens goes into affect. I know of an egg farmer in San Diego that has already spent past $500,000 to convert his ranch to Michelle Obama standards—and still have more than 2/3 of his farm to convert. Plus, the California Attorney General has notified out of state producers of eggs that are shipped into California—your chickens must live in condo’s—or they will not be allowed to be sold in California.

The good news for 49 States is that the price of eggs are going down—since those usually sent to the Depression State will no longer be welcomed here. Watch the price of omelet’s going up!

Photo courtesy of pietroizzo, flickr

Photo courtesy of pietroizzo, flickr

California Egg Standards Change January 1st

Amy Quinton, Capitol Radio,   12/24/14

Proposition 2 requires farm animals have enough space to turn around, stand up, lie down and stretch their limbs. California lawmakers expanded the provisions to apply to all hens laying eggs sold in the state.

Egg farmers sued in 2012 on grounds that the law is unconstitutionally vague. The measure has prompted concerns about an egg shortage. But Ronald Fong with the California Grocers Association says that’s unlikely.

“The retailers that are hearing from their manufacturers saying ‘I’m not going to be able to supply you with enough eggs to get you through however many eggs you sell per week,’ will go to a second supplier,” says Fong. “Somebody will sell retailers eggs.”

Fong says there is no dispute that egg prices have gone up in the past month. He says in some cases they’ve gone up as much as 35-percent.

But he says it’s not necessarily a result of Proposition 2.

“I have also heard from other egg manufacturers that it had nothing to do with Prop 2 that it really has to do with market conditions,” says Fong.

A statement from the Association of California Egg Farmers says its members are working diligently to meet the law’s requirements and the expectations of consumers.

 

 

Privately Financed—Faster—Choo Choo Train Possible for California.

 What a great idea. Private folks will finance, engineer and run a train from Los Angeles to San Fran, for about $16 billion of PRIVATE funds. In contrast, the State of California is going to steal hundreds of parcels of private land, spend $200 billion to build a system—then hundreds of millions more a year in subsidizing the unions and special interest for a train from nowhere, to nowhere, for nobody. Seriously, do you think Soros, Steyer or DeLeon would use the High Speed Rail?

“Ahlborn predicts the effort will cost $16 billion and 10 years’ time, assuming a technical feasibility review planned for next year doesn’t reveal any insurmountable hurdles. In the meantime, JumpStartFund has “created the sub-company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. to develop the system,” relying on crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, and an improvised “collective” of engineers to move the ball forward, according to The Guardian.

Some 100 experts drawn from Boeing, NASA and Musk’s own SpaceX have been enlisted by JumpStartFund — and have already produced a 76-page memorandum laying out their vision for how the project can proceed.”

Decision time—let government waste hundreds of billions of tax dollars—paying off unions and special interests, or allow the private sector to build a better transportation mode? Only a Democrat would hesitant with an answer.

from the L.A. Times

from the L.A. Times

Buzz returns for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop

By James Poulos, Calwatchdog,   12/25/14

Silicon Valley impresario Elon Musk’s Hyperloop transportation concept is back in the news. With a price tag that seemed daunting, especially when Musk warned he lacked the time to pursue the project, when it was advanced a year ago Hyperloop achieved little beyond sparking the imagination.

But now, Dirk Ahlborn, the head of his own California startup, has stepped forward to seize the initiative on making Musk’s super-fast trainlike vehicle a reality.

In a surprise for those outside the Silicon Valley bubble, Ahlborn recently announced  his JumpStartFund has the wherewithal to take Hyperloop off the drawing board and into reality. “I have almost no doubt that once we are finished, once we know how we are going to build and it makes economical sense, that we will get the funds,” he told Wired magazine.

Ahlborn predicts the effort will cost $16 billion and 10 years’ time, assuming a technical feasibility review planned for next year doesn’t reveal any insurmountable hurdles. In the meantime, JumpStartFund has “created the sub-company Hyperloop Transportation Technologies Inc. to develop the system,” relying on crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, and an improvised “collective” of engineers to move the ball forward, according to The Guardian.

Some 100 experts drawn from Boeing, NASA and Musk’s own SpaceX have been enlisted by JumpStartFund — and have already produced a 76-page memorandum laying out their vision for how the project can proceed.

Remarkably, JumpStartFund’s collective has “expanded on Musk’s concept and now envisions a huge interconnected Hyperloop system, spanning coast to coast and linking many of the U.S.’s major cities,” as Quartz reported.

Uncertain expectations

Back in August 2013, when Musk first revealed the Hyperloop concept, critics immediately dismissed its real-world applicability. Not only did supporters of California’s current high-speed rail project find reason for skepticism; analysts worried Musk had simply underestimated practical challenges like overheating, despite ballparking the cost of Hyperloop at somewhere around $10 billion.

Nevertheless, Musk’s track record of innovation attracted serious attention to the idea. Unlike a traditional train, Hyperloop would “send passengers hurtling through low-pressure tubes in ultra sleek pods at speeds of up to 800 miles per hour,” as CalWatchdog.com previously reported. “At that clip, a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco would take a mere half hour. That’s two hours and eight minutes faster than California’s bullet train promises to make the 432-mile jaunt.”

Provocatively enough, from the very beginning, Musk envisioned California as Hyperloop’s home.

All told, the scheme created near-perfect conditions for a storm of media interest. Hyperloop was controversial without being outrageous, farfetched without being ridiculous, and — theoretically — competitive with one of California’s biggest and most fiercely challenged infrastructure projects in history.

But without direct funding and dedicated personnel, Hyperloop couldn’t begin the complex research and development that would lead to its construction. As media interest moved on, and Musk broke new ground with Tesla and other marquee projects, public expectations around Hyperloop moved to the back burner.

Privately, however, Hyperloop remained relevant to the kinds of people it would need to move forward.

A welcome surprise

For now, the Hyperloop team’s sky’s-the-limit approach has yet to attract the political rancor associated with California’s high-speed rail endeavor, which has benefited from the unswerving devotion of Gov. Jerry Brown.

As research advances, however, attention from policymakers and activists will likely become inevitable. The costs associated with the project — borne by private investors, not public funds — could prove enough to renew argument about the future of Brown’s bullet train.

As CNBC revealed, the Hyperloop team “estimates that the cost of the system would be $20 million to $45 million a mile, as contrast from what it says are costs of up to $200 million a mile for a conventional mass transportation system.”

Reagan Christmas ’81: ‘Twin Beacons of Faith and Freedom Have Brightened the American Sky’

President Reagan. Like Jefferson and Lincoln before him, will be relevant for all freedom loving people for centuries. His words and deeds, the Reagan approach that everyone is a friend—but we need to “trust but verify”, led to the end of Soviet domination in Eastern Europe and allowed the possibility of freedom for all on planet Earth.

 

Yet, his view was a simple one—you could not have freedom without faith, and you could not have faith without freedom. This is his Christmas 1981 message to America and the world. Today, 33 years later it is as if he knew about Obama, ISIS and the modern Democrat Party. Please read this and pass it on to your friends—and those who are still liberals and Progressives—they need to know Reagan, faith and freedom.

“Like the shepherds and wise men of that first Christmas, we Americans have always tried to follow a higher light, a star, if you will. At lonely campfire vigils along the frontier, in the darkest days of the Great Depression, through war and peace, the twin beacons of faith and freedom have brightened the American sky. At times our footsteps may have faltered, but trusting in God’s help, we’ve never lost our way.”

Reagan

Reagan Christmas ’81: ‘Twin Beacons of Faith and Freedom Have Brightened the American Sky’

By Eric Scheiner. Cnsnews.com, 12/24/14

 

See the full message from President Reagan here in a YouTube version.

An excerpt from President Ronald Reagan’s Dec. 23 1981 Christmas address:

“At this special time of year, we all renew our sense of wonder in recalling the story of the first Christmas in Bethlehem, nearly 2,000 years ago.

Some celebrate Christmas as the birthday of a great and good philosopher and teacher. Others of us believe in the divinity of the child born in Bethlehem, that he was and is the promised Prince of Peace. Yes, we’ve questioned why he who could perform miracles chose to come among us as a helpless babe, but maybe that was his first miracle, his first great lesson that we should learn to care for one another.

Tonight, in millions of American homes, the glow of the Christmas tree is a reflection of the love Jesus taught us. Like the shepherds and wise men of that first Christmas, we Americans have always tried to follow a higher light, a star, if you will. At lonely campfire vigils along the frontier, in the darkest days of the Great Depression, through war and peace, the twin beacons of faith and freedom have brightened the American sky. At times our footsteps may have faltered, but trusting in God’s help, we’ve never lost our way.

Just across the way from the White House stand the two great emblems of the holiday season: a Menorah, symbolizing the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, and the National Christmas Tree, a beautiful towering blue spruce from Pennsylvania. Like the National Christmas Tree, our country is a living, growing thing planted in rich American soil. Only our devoted care can bring it to full flower.”

 

New NLRB rules give unions access to workers’ email addresses and phone numbers

The police will not turn your email address and phone numbers over to gangsters and criminals. That would be wrong. But the National Labor Relations Board, supposed to protect workers, is giving extortionists, blackmailers, criminals and those that harass workers this information.

An SEIU official was arrested for attacking two cops in New York—he will be able to get YOUR email and phone number if you work for a firm he wants to blackmail—by extorting you. These criminals are protected by government—you are no longer protected by government—you are game for the sleazy folks that steal from paychecks and use your money to have government take away your freedoms.

“The NLRB earlier this month issued new rules for how and when union organizing elections can take place within workplaces. Under the new rules, unions will have access to employees’ private information as they make their sales pitch, and employers will have less time to respond to workers’ demands before a unionization election can take place.”

NLRBLogo

New NLRB rules give unions access to workers’ email addresses and phone numbers

By Eric Boehm, Fox News,   12/24/14

Labor unions got an early Christmas present from the National Labor Relations Board: access to non-union workers’ email addresses and phone numbers.

The NLRB earlier this month issued new rules for how and when union organizing elections can take place within workplaces. Under the new rules, unions will have access to employees’ private information as they make their sales pitch, and employers will have less time to respond to workers’ demands before a unionization election can take place.

Geoff Burr, vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., a national trade association for non-union construction companies, said the new rules “will lead to the unsolicited distribution of employees’ personal contact information.”

The NLRB says the changes are meant to streamline the process of holding elections and stop employers from stalling. Opponents of the changes say they will unfairly give unions an upper-hand in convincing workers to unionize.

“Simplifying and streamlining the process will result in improvements for all parties,” NLRB chairman Mark Pearce said in a statement announcing the new rules. “With these changes, the Board strives to ensure that its representation process remains a model of fairness and efficiency for all.”

 

The coming pension meltdown in California and nationally

Using Federal accounting criteria, CalPERS has a $754 billion unfunded liability. Even the Democrat State Controller John Chiang, using a very loose accounting system says they have an unsustainable $198 billion unfunded liability. At the same time CalSRTRS, the teachers pension plan is $166 billion in the hole and the State health care plan is $72 billion in the hole. Oh, we still owe the Feds $10 billion for loaning us money to keep our unemployment fund from closing its doors.

California is in a Depression and our very confused Guv Brown claims we have a balanced budget—we do, if we forget the above and forget the $340 billion in debt the State has accumulated. We are going to see a meltdown, and all the pot and happy faces will not make it go away.

“By some estimates, the unfunded pension liabilities in California have eclipsed $750 billion, which means that in a few years, residents will be paying their already-highest in the nation income and sales taxes not for roads, bridges, schools and public safety but for retired employees living like Daddy Warbucks.”

budget

The coming pension meltdown

By Stephen Moore, Washington Times, 12/21/14

For outrageous government scam of the year, it’s hard to compete with the news of the supersized public-employee pensions in California. If you haven’t already heard: In 2013, an assistant fire chief in Southern California collected a $983,319 pension last year. A police captain in Los Angeles received nearly $753,861. Talk about a golden parachute. The report on Golden State government pensions contains a list that runs pages and pages of hundreds of “public servants” who have hit the pension jackpot with annual pensions of a half-million a year. It’s like they’re playing the game “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” With taxpayer money.

By some estimates, the unfunded pension liabilities in California have eclipsed $750 billion, which means that in a few years, residents will be paying their already-highest in the nation income and sales taxes not for roads, bridges, schools and public safety but for retired employees living like Daddy Warbucks.

This same scandal — only on a slightly smaller scale — is happening in most states. The crisis dates back 20 to 30 years ago when public-employee unions negotiated fat pension deals with state and local politicians that were like ticking time bombs in municipal budgets. The fat and happy politicians who bought union votes didn’t care much. They’d be long gone when these grenades detonated and the fiscal carnage began.

Americans know instinctively that this is no way to run a city or state, and that the enormous pensions border on larceny from public treasuries. This will eventually cause rip-roaring problems for state and local budgets. Now we have a story from middle America of what happens when the crisis hits a financial boiling point. Look no further than Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Scranton is a middle-class, blue-collar town of 76,000 with severe financial problems. The city recently raised its property taxes for 2014 by more than 50 percent and those taxes are expected to rise by another 20 percent in 2015. The city had to also raise various fees, such as the charge for garbage collection, by two-thirds. It’s becoming a tax hell.

These taxpayer costs are skyrocketing because the city’s auditors calculate that the police and fire pension funds will be completely depleted of funds in three to five years. The local Times-Tribune newspaper reported this week that “pensions increased by as much as 80 percent” after a court order in 2011 awarded millions of dollars in added pensions to firefighters and police officers.

This is a town that has already been struggling for years to pay its bills. The Times-Tribune reports: “The increased pensions come at a time when Scranton, in distressed status since 1992, is struggling to survive [and faces] a $20 million deficit.” City officials admit that paying these lucrative pensions will mean less money for schoolchildren, public safety and infrastructure needs.

Finances are so tight in this town that late last year the city auditor put out an advisory memo to city agencies that “Only in the event of an extreme emergency can a purchase be made . This is a serious matter and your cooperation is expected.” Now homeowners are getting squeezed on basic city services as they pay ever-escalating property taxes. What a deal. Don’t be surprised as more leave Scranton, further depleting the tax base. And who would want to move there now?

When the mayor requested that the unions help keep the city afloat by renegotiating the soaring pension costs, the answer from these militant “public service” union leaders was heck no.

One option is for Scranton to take the Detroit route and declare bankruptcy. This is also what several California cities, such Vallejo, have had to do.

The California Policy Center notes that this option has the virtue of “forcing the unions to renegotiate and take a hair cut.” If that doesn’t happen, cities like Scranton, and many more working-class towns, will continue to raise taxes at a time when families are already walking a financial tight rope.

The left loves to talk about “fairness” and “inequality,” but where the inequities really exist is in towns like Scranton. Middle-class private-sector workers pay higher and higher taxes to fund public-sector pensions that, as the Manhattan Institute has shown, are often twice as generous as what most workers will receive themselves. The money for supersized pensions isn’t going to come from millionaires and billionaires like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. It is coming right out of the paychecks of working-class Americans.

The crisis isn’t going away. Nationwide, public-employee pensions are running between $1 trillion and $5 trillion in the red, depending on the rate of return expected on stocks and bonds. This could be the next housing bubble to burst. Some states such as Utah have smartly moved quickly to head off this crisis by closing down open-ended pensions and putting public-sector union members in 401(k) plans that won’t bankrupt the state or municipalities. The unions are fighting this reform everywhere.

If something isn’t done quickly, the crisis in Scranton will soon be coming to a town near you.

  • Stephen Moore is chief economist at the Heritage Foundation.

 

Victory for Exposure! Garcetti to Metro Staff: Stop Having Riders Arrested for Charging Their Cell Phones at Platform Outlets

Exposure of corruption, incompetence and mismanagement seldom gets a quick response from government. In this case the LA Mayor, Garcetti, realized he needed to act fast, since a story was spreading. At the same time the State was providing hundreds of thousands of tax dollars so the rich in San Diego could get a free charge for their expensive electric cars, cops in LA were arresting people for charging their cell phone in the money losing subway system.

Within hours of this becoming public Garcetti acted—and stopped the abuse of power by the subway cops.

“Metro Spokesman Paul Gonzales has argued that riders who use Metro outlets are in effect stealing electricity, to which the mayor responded, “Grow up.” We kid, we kid, but he was probably thinking as much when he released a statement saying, “This is simply common sense. I want our law enforcement resources directed toward serious crime, not cell phone charging.”

Now maybe he can stop the IRS from abusing its powers and harassing citizens—even if the bigoted AG Holder approves.

Photo courtesy of Eric Garcetti, Flickr.

Photo courtesy of Eric Garcetti, Flickr.

Garcetti to Metro Staff: Stop Having Riders Arrested for Charging Their Cell Phones at Platform Outlets

Marielle Wakim LA Magazine, 12/23/14

It’s good to be the mayor—and the Metro chair.

Eric Garcetti responded today to a KPCC report claiming that three people have been arrested for charging their cells in Metro stations this year. (Surprise, that’s illegal!)

Metro Spokesman Paul Gonzales has argued that riders who use Metro outlets are in effect stealing electricity, to which the mayor responded, “Grow up.” We kid, we kid, but he was probably thinking as much when he released a statement saying, “This is simply common sense. I want our law enforcement resources directed toward serious crime, not cell phone charging.”

Moving forward, riders will be able to charge their phones without the fear of jail time—as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with Metro operations.

– See more at: http://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/garcetti-metro-staff-stop-riders-arrested-charging-cell-phones-platform-outlets/#sthash.2TgZ8Cwy.dpuf

 

LA Taxpayers Ripped Off of $170,000—for “Vanity” Concert for Millionaire Rapper

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti wants to appear to be hip and modern. So, he used at least $170,000 of tax money to help pay for a concert put on my multi-millionaire rap star JayZ. If JayZ wants to spend HIS money on a concert—that is his business. But the city of Los Angels or any city has not right to use our tax dollars to promote the record sales of any singer. This is as if the LA taxpayers helped financed the latest album by JayZ and his friends.

Why is government mistrusted and not respected? Because instead of promoting the middle class and helping the poor, it is giving limited tax dollars to millionaire rap stars. Shame on Garcetti and the city council for abusing their offices.

“The Jay Z touch doesn’t come cheap. It was revealed this week that L.A.’s first Made in America festival, which was held in Grand Park over Labor Day weekend, ended up costing taxpayers around $170,000. According to the Los Angeles Times, concert producer Live Nation was on the hook for up to $500,000 worth of expenses, but the total costs reached nearly $670,000, leaving the city to pick up the remainder of the tab for security personnel, street closures, cleanup, and other services provided during the two-day event. (Meanwhile, Los Angeles County required Live Nation to pay an additional $600,000 to use Grand Park plus pay for any damages.)”

ShakingHandsWithMoney

After the Buzz Wore Off, Made in America Cost L.A. Taxpayers $170,000

Shayna Rose Arnold, LA Magazine,   12/24/14

The Jay Z touch doesn’t come cheap. It was revealed this week that L.A.’s first Made in America festival, which was held in Grand Park over Labor Day weekend, ended up costing taxpayers around $170,000. According to the Los Angeles Times, concert producer Live Nation was on the hook for up to $500,000 worth of expenses, but the total costs reached nearly $670,000, leaving the city to pick up the remainder of the tab for security personnel, street closures, cleanup, and other services provided during the two-day event. (Meanwhile, Los Angeles County required Live Nation to pay an additional $600,000 to use Grand Park plus pay for any damages.)

Unsurprisingly, Mayor Garcetti, who championed the Jay Z-curated concert, shook off concerns over the expense to taxpayers, saying he is confident the benefits reaped by the city outweigh the hard cost. Critics, including the L.A. Weekly, aren’t so sure. UCLA Visiting Professor of Urban Planning Matthew Drennan offered us this perspective: “We’re talking about peanuts. It seems like a very, very small amount of money in light of the city’s size and budget,” which exceeds $8 billion annually. “I think it was worth it even if there is no ripple effect because municipal governments should do something in the area of arts and entertainment. Citizens like that.”

City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana has said a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the festival will be made public later this year.

 

Covered California Works HARD to Keep Prices High—Service Inferior

An Oregon company wanted to provide health care plans to California citizens in the rural Northern California counties. The cost to the California taxpayer was ZERO. If the insurance company got customers, they made money. If they didn’t, they lost money—not a dime of tax dollars involved. But, it would have given the people of our northern counties more choice in insurance companies.

Covered California has been trying to raise rates by only allowing one or two companies into an area—at a high price with inferior products and services. The Oregon firm was going to provide some free market competition. Covered California understood that meant few would want the vastly inferior government approved plans—so, using the force of government told the company to stay out and the people of California you must pay more and get less. Isn’t that how Russia operates?

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Oregon-Based Insurer Rejected From Covered California

Pauline Bartolone, Capitol Radio,   12/23/14

Covered California had the opportunity to increase the number of health insurers competing on the exchange this next year. But it chose not to.

Oregon-based Moda Health insurance says it applied to be part of Covered California for 2015, but was rejected.

“We were a little taken aback,” says Dr. Jay Lamb, a vice president of the company.

“Having said that, we recognized that we were smaller, and that we were going to have a harder time having competitive rates to the existing big three or big four that you have going in the state,” says Lamb.

Moda will still be selling in rural areas such as Northern California and the Central Valley, but customers won’t be able to buy their policies with a government subsidy.

Health policy experts say the more insurers in a marketplace, the more likely it is that consumers can find the coverage they need at prices they can afford.

Covered California says it won’t comment on dealings with insurers.