Government Transportation—Union Controlled/Taxpayer Funded

If you live in the San Fran area you know that getting to work on time depends on an alarm clock that works and a union that allows the trains to run. Your schedule is at the hands of special interests. Yes, if you drive to work the roads could be crowded or there could be an accident. Seriously, why trust your life to unions? Do you?

Now the people of Los Angeles already burdened by high taxes, corrupt government and radical ideology, have to look at the main roads being torn up—and children in a High School threatened by a train under the school—in earthquake country. Is this child abuse by government? Some think so.

“The money will help build four miles of new track, which is projected to be completed in nine years.

After that, Metro wants the Purple Line to go under Beverly Hills and end on the west side of Los Angeles.”

Photo courtesy of skew-t, flickr

Photo courtesy of skew-t, flickr

Los Angeles’s Purple Line getting $2.1 billion federal promise

KPCC, 5/20/14

Los Angeles’ growing public transit network is receiving another big dose of cash from the federal government.

The office of Sen. Barbara Boxer says that on Wednesday, federal and local transportation officials will sign a $1.25 billion grant for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to extend the Purple Line into Beverly Hills. The project also will receive a $856 million federal loan.

The money will help build four miles of new track, which is projected to be completed in nine years.

After that, Metro wants the Purple Line to go under Beverly Hills and end on the west side of Los Angeles.

Opponents of the extension have sued, saying the tracks should not go under Beverly Hills High School.

 

Sand: Brown v. Board of Education ENDS Race Based Education

The law is a real problem for the bigots that support discrimination, affirmative action and quotas for government education. The Left, ACLU, NAACP, La Raza and other racial based organizations believe that people of color need extra money in the classroom, to make them smart. They show little interest in curriculum unless it denigrates people of one race to promote the superiority of other people, based on race. That is called racism.

“And the privatization shibboleth really needs to be put to rest. Private schools generally do a better job than public schools (at lower cost, I might add), but it is rarely reported that privatization also leads to less racial segregation, not more, as the unions claim. Just a year ago, Greg Forster, of the Friedman Foundation, released the third in a series of reports on school choice which includes vouchers and, to a lesser extent, educational savings accounts and tax credit scholarships. The findings about segregation from “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice” are not ambiguous.

Eight empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of these, seven find that school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools. One finds no net effect on segregation from school choice. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation.”

teacher-apple

The Teachers Unions’ “Brown” Problem

By Larry Sand, Union Watch, 5/20/14

When it comes to education and civil rights, NEA and AFT are part of the problem; the solution is choice.

Last Saturday was the 60th anniversary of the Brown v Board of Education decision, which outlawed state-sponsored segregation in schools. Never missing an opportunity to grandstand, the teachers unions groused all last week about various obstacles still facing low-income students of color. Their whine included inadequate school funding, the usual dumping on charter schools and blaming ALEC for various social ills. Amazingly, the Koch Brothers got the week off. 

Kicking off the festivities on May 13th, a union front group calling itself the “Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools” organized a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court. The speakers trotted out the bogeymen du jour – high-stakes testing, school closures, corporate and private involvement in education, etc. National Education Association president Dennis Van Roekel complained that “there are several inequalities that still exist in both educational programs and in school facilities.” And American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten, going for the lachrymose, snatched a couple of human shields – I mean young children – from the crowd and proclaimed, “These kids, this is why we do what we do.”

Over on the NEA website, Van Roekel grumbled that not much has changed since Brown and retired educator Bruce Smith asserted that he knowswhere the blame lies. Smith claims that the problem revolves around state politicians… 

who have sold out their constituents and, instead, have pledged their support to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is known for pushing education policies that foster inequity in our public schools.

Many of the wealthiest corporations in the world are members of ALEC, which uses its vast resources to shower state politicians across the country with expensive gifts, high-priced dinners at fancy restaurants, and vacation junkets at exotic resorts.

Those politicians who fall for the “ALEC treatment” become puppets who push the conservative, right-wing group’s education policies and proposals back home–legislation designed to benefit ALEC’s wealthy benefactors and turn a profit on the backs of students without any regard for their educational wellbeing.

For example, ALEC is a big supporter of vouchers and tuition tax credit schemes which use public dollars to subsidize tuition at private or religious schools. In addition to being costly to taxpayers, studies show such programs do not result in a better education for students.

In other words, Smith thinks the most important blocks to kids getting a good education are politicians who are bought off by wealthy, right wing, corporate benefactors. Vouchers and tax credits (which are somehow costly to taxpayers) are of course the devil’s work. His evidence that privatization doesn’t work? The always intriguing “unnamed studies.”

Then there is the “Advancement Project,” a group heavily funded by billionaire globalist George Soros which has ties to various teachers unions. This bunch has decided that charter schools are racist and compared them to prisons. (Apparently, the only thing that is “advanced” about the “Advancement Project” is its advanced deranged thinking.)

Time for a reality check.

First off, if charters are so racist, why are so many parents of all colors flocking to them? Simply because they have been more successful than the traditional public schools – especially with minorities – and over a half-million children of all ethnicities sit on waitlists nationwide. But this inconvenient truth is ignored by the teachers unions because most charters are not unionized.

Regarding Van Roekel’s “inequities,” he’s right, but not in the way he thinks. In a recent in-depth study, University of Arkansas researcher Patrick Wolf found that the gap for charter school funding is widening.

We identified a funding gap of 28.4 percent, meaning that the average public charter school student in the U.S. is receiving $3,814 less in funding than the average traditional public school student. Since the average charter school enrolls 400 students, the average public charter school in the U.S. received $1,525,600 less in per-pupil funding in 2010-11 than it would have received if it had been a traditional public school. The gap is actually higher in focus areas within states where charter schools are more commonly found, such as major cities. (Emphasis added.)

And the privatization shibboleth really needs to be put to rest. Private schools generally do a better job than public schools (at lower cost, I might add), but it is rarely reported that privatization also leads to less racial segregation, not more, as the unions claim. Just a year ago, Greg Forster, of the Friedman Foundation, released the third in a series of reports on school choice which includes vouchers and, to a lesser extent, educational savings accounts and tax credit scholarships. The findings about segregation from “A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice” are not ambiguous.

Eight empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of these, seven find that school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools. One finds no net effect on segregation from school choice. No empirical study has found that choice increases racial segregation. (Emphasis added.)

Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund, adds…

there have been some improvements toward equality for low-income students of color, particularly in the realm of school choice.

I am beginning to see some promising educational improvements that are ensuring that if a low-income child of color wants to remain in the neighborhood in which he or she lives, that if we create a really good school in that neighborhood, that child can get a very good education,” Lomax says.

Interestingly, last week saw a major victory for educational choice in North Carolina where the state Supreme Court lifted an injunction that had barred parents from accessing North Carolina’s Opportunity Scholarship Program.

And ultimately, isn’t that the best way to assure that all kids receive the best education possible? By opening the system up to competition, parents get to choose the school that best fits their kids’ needs.

On another note, I think it’s condescending to insist that the only way that black kids can get a good education is if they go to schools with white kids. As Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom wrote recently,

It is demeaning, even racist, to assume that minority children can’t learn—or can’t learn as much—unless they are immersed in a student body in which whites are the majority. The most sophisticated research on the subject does not find that having white classmates notably improves the academic achievement of blacks and Hispanics.

In any event, all the bluster last week reminded me of an old joke.

A woman comes across a man on his knees under a street lamp. “I’ve lost my car keys,” he explains. The woman tries to help the man find his keys. After a few minutes of searching, she asks “Where exactly did you drop them?” 

“About a block away.” 

Puzzled, she asks “Then why aren’t you looking over there?” 

“The light is better here.” 

For the teachers unions and their cronies and acolytes, shining a light on all the old canards will do nothing to help children fulfill the “Promise of Brown.” Like the man in the joke, they are looking in the wrong place. The keys for those kids are great teachers who are accountable to parents. And the best way to get there is by doing away with the government-union duopoly and replacing it with a system of universal school choice.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

 

Comparing Pension Reform in Pacific Grove vs. Bakersfield

The city of Bakersfield made a mistake a few years ago and increased pensions, without the needed revenues to pay for the increase. That created an unfunded pension deficit of $93 million, unsustainable. The City reversed course and changed the formula—the new hires would get 2% @ 50 years old, instead of the 3%@50. They were told that would mean they would not be able to fill openings in the fire or police department—totally untrue. Pacific Grove is about to go bankrupt, they refused to change back to the original formula—they cannot longer pay for police or fire protection.

“In Bakersfield, in 2011, the first year of the reduced pension benefits, Bakersfield recruited a few dozen “new hires” who would receive the reduced pension. It had just over 1,000 qualified applicants.”

Pensions are going to economically harm most government agencies. The good news is that they will be forced to go BK and employ many fewer people on the taxpayers’ dime.

calpers

Comparing Pension Reform in Pacific Grove vs. Bakersfield

By John Moore, Union Watch, 5/21/14

Editor’s note: Several times this year we have published in-depth investigative reports written by John Moore, a citizen activist living in Pacific Grove. This recent letter from Moore was addressed to the local newspapers serving Pacific Grove. Moore is unhappy with the coverage these newspapers have given the city of Pacific Grove’s pension crisis. The Monterey County Herald is a daily. The Cedar Street Times is a weekly, printed each Friday and is the only Pacific Grove newspaper. The editors of these newspapers have a journalistic obligation to provide accurate and balanced reporting on the pension crisis in Pacific Grove. Given the magnitude of the financial challenges facing Pacific Grove because of pensions, it is also their journalistic obligation to investigate serious allegations of financial misconduct relating to Pacific Grove’s pension obligations.

An open letter to the editors of the Monterey County Herald and the Cedar Street Times from John Moore, a Pacific Grove resident:

I continue to list your papers as the primary recipients of my pension reform circulars, because your reporting indicates more than a reluctance to factually describe the recent pension history of Pacific Grove. So you need to know what is going on. Whether you consider my research and opinions news is for you to decide.

In 2002, both Pacific Grove and Bakersfield adopted 3%@%50 for Police and Fire. It was a 50% pension increase negotiated by the fire and police unions. At that time, both cities already had significant pension deficits. Until 2001, both cities had generous surpluses in their pension plans. Until 2002, both cities had a 2%@50 pension plan for the safety unions (2% x number of years service x final salary at retirement).

By 2006, Pacific Grove had an unfunded pension deficit of about $19,000,000 and Bakersfield had a pension deficit of about $93,000,000. Of course Bakersfield is much larger than PG, but, based on population, Pacific Grove had a larger deficit per resident.

In 2010, Pacific Grove adopted a citizen’s initiative that capped the city’s annual pension contribution going forward, at 10% of salary. In 2010, Bakersfield voters adopted Measure D which, for new public safety hires, reduced the pension back to the 2%@50 level.

In both cities, the safety unions sued. In Bakersfield, the case was thrown out of court and the reform is in place. By now about half of the police and fire are new hires receiving the lower pension. In Pacific Grove, as I have documented several times, the City council allowed a seriously conflicted city attorney to supervise the reform law suit to defeat, by assuring that key evidence was not put before the judge.

The Cort-Colangelo city council simply allowed city manager Jim Colangelo (city manager 2006-2009) and city attorney David Laredo to multiply the pension deficit via borrowings, raises, a costly fire dept. merger etc. etc.

The current council majority basically takes the position that nothing can be done at the local level. The Bakersfield example proves otherwise.

Please understand, that I do not believe that any of the council members are criminals (like in the Bell, Ca. case). But the council majorities simply do not want to “confront” the likes of former city manager Jim Colangelo, current city manager Thomas Frutchy and city attorney David Laredo. Instead of demanding reform, the council majorities have allowed the city managers and city attorney Laredo to bury Pacific Grove in debt that is at least ten times more than a small town like Pacific Grove could possibly handle.

Pacific Grove has lost its fire dept. and Museum. The police dept. is in a constant state of disgrace. Recently it was learned that a tenured Commander and his wife were in effect, running a criminal gambit out of the Pacific Grove police dept. for at least a couple of years. Former police Commander Nyunt has pled guilty to several felonies in both state and federal court and is now in federal prison. His ex-wife is in jail awaiting trial on charges of identity theft of victims she identified via her husbands access to police computer programs. These facts were printed several times in the Monterey County Herald. And all this happened right under the noses of the responsible supervisors; the Chief and the city manager. The city manager even placed a letter on the city web site that defended the now incarcerated criminal Commander – before the commander pled guilty.

In San Jose, Salinas, Stockton and several other cities, the police and fire depts. claim that without the 3%@50 pension benefit, recruiting will be affected. Most citizens feel that 2%@50 (60% of final salary) at age 50, is ample. But what are the facts?

In Bakersfield, in 2011, the first year of the reduced pension benefits, Bakersfield recruited a few dozen “new hires” who would receive the reduced pension. It had just over 1,000 qualified applicants.

I believe that the current Pacific Grove unfunded pension deficit is about $45,000,000. There are still 15 payments of about $1,500,000 per year due on the 2006 pension bonds, or, about $22,500,000. Three council seats are up for election in November, including mayor. The 2014 election is the defining moment for Pacific Grove. Pacific Grove needs and deserves three strong new council members who will defend this once great town. The decisions going forward are daunting, but must be made. It will be hard work.If Bakersfield could do something, so can Pacific Grove.

*   *   *

Click here to read more posts by John Moore

About the Author:  John M. Moore is a resident of Pacific Grove, Ca. He is a licensed member of the California State Bar (#34734) and a member of the “Public Law” section of the State Bar. He is retired and no longer practices law, but has Lexis/Nexis for research. John graduated from San Jose State College with majors in Political Science and Economics (summa cum laude). He then received a JD from The Stanford School of Law and practiced business and trial law for 40 years before retiring. In 1987, he was the founding partner of a Sacramento law firm that he formed in 1987 to take advantage of the increased bankruptcies brought about by the Tax Act of 1986. Although Moore did not file and manage bankruptcy cases, he represented clients in numerous litigation matters before the bankruptcy court, including several cases before judge Klein, the current judge of the Stockton bankruptcy case. Moore is an admirer of Judge Klein, for his ability and accuracy on the law. As managing partner at his law firm, Moore understood the goals of bankruptcy filings and its benefits and limitations.

 

Good News? Drought to “Only” Cost Central Valley $1.7 Billion/14,500 Jobs

The loss of 14,500 jobs and revenues of $1.7 billion is a ho-hum to the denizens of Sacramento. That is how much it is estimated will be lost in the Central Valley due to government water policies (we have a drought, but government has decided to use our water for the environment and fish, not people). Also 400,000 acres of prime farm land is going fallow this summer. A massive cost to the economy and the families.

Ask the 14,500 people losing jobs if this is a minor problem. What happens to local stores, sales tax revenues and the economy of the already depressed communities? At the same time the Sacramento politicians are finalizing legislation to take control of groundwater from private owners. Little and big policies have caused the California Depression. Are we angry enough to end it?

“Agriculture companies make up a relatively small share of the state’s economy and state government revenue. The sector contributed 1.5 percent to the state’s gross domestic product in 2012, half of the contribution of the construction industry and less than a quarter of the information and high-tech sector.”

jobs obama sotu

Moody’s: Drought unlikely to hurt state economy

An irrigation canal control gate is dry at a farm near Firebaugh. Moody’s said California’s drought won’t have a significant impact on the state’s credit rating, at least for now. It may be a different picture if the drought continues for a couple more years.

Allen Young, Sacramento Business Journal, 5/21/14

Although the San Joaquin Valley has been called “the food basket of the world,” the drought will won’t have a significant impact on California’s economy and will not hurt the state’s credit rating, according to a Moody’s credit rating agency report Tuesday.

Agriculture companies make up a relatively small share of the state’s economy and state government revenue. The sector contributed 1.5 percent to the state’s gross domestic product in 2012, half of the contribution of the construction industry and less than a quarter of the information and high-tech sector.

However, if the drought continues for another year or two, farmers will struggle to use short-term fixes to reconcile the loss of water, which would lead to “significantly larger losses in farm income and employment,” according to the credit rating agency.

“For a city or county with a large agricultural base, a prolonged drought could lead to material revenue losses,” according to Moody’s.

This report arrives a day after another study from the University of California Davis found that the drought could cost Central Valley farmers and farm communities$1.7 billion this year and may cause more than 14,500 workers to lose their jobs.

Read a PDF of the Moody’s report.

 

Santa Cruz County BANS Fracking and ANY Oil Drilling—Still Allows Oil and Gas INTO the County

Santa Cruz is a hypocritical County. It has banned the use of fracking as a means of extracting oil. But it also banned all onshore oil and gas development. No more oil or gas to be developed, by any method in Santa Cruz County. Yet, they still have businesses, homes and communities run by gas and oil—brought in from outside.

If this was an honest County it would outlaw any use of gas or oil within the county limits. That would end the use of most cars, close offices and homes, force people to leave the County. They do not want to drill for oil—but they want your county to drill and send it to them. Honesty dictates they end all use of oil and gas. What do you think?

“Santa Cruz County has become the first county in California to impose a “permanent” ban on fracking, as well as all other on-shore oil and gas development.”

Photo courtesy of Lyndi&Jason, flickr

Photo courtesy of Lyndi&Jason, flickr

Santa Cruz Is First California County to Ban Fracking

By Peter Jon Shuler and Molly Samuel, KQED, 5/21/14 

Santa Cruz County has become the first county in California to impose a “permanent” ban on fracking, as well as all other on-shore oil and gas development. Tuesday morning the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the pre-emptive move against hydraulic fracturing, a technology that uses water and chemicals to unlock oil and gas underground.

“Some would say this is a symbolic gesture,” said Supervisor Bruce McPherson. “But I think it’s a message that needs to be sent out and listened to, especially on our quality of life and particularly about the impact it might have on our water supply, whether it occurs inside this county or in adjacent counties.”

Butte and Mendocino counties are considering similar moves. And Butte, San Benito and Santa Barbara counties may all have fracking restrictions on the November ballot. A state bill that would ban fracking until there is more scientific study is in limbo, having been relegated to the Appropriations Committee suspense file on Monday.

The oil industry insists that fracking is safe and has made the United States less dependent on foreign energy.

 

Riverside County: Cities Should Control Food You Eat, Walking and Lifestyle Decisions—As Part of “General Plan”

When a community has a “General Plan” it decides zoning, infrastructure needs and what the community looks like in five or ten years. Many communities have twenty year vision statements. They will know how many homes, apartments, affordable housing, transit and school needs. This is the outline of what a community should look like, a guideline, set in law.

Now the County of Riverside has decided to go a step further—they want the Plan to include what YOU will look like, your weight, your exercise, the food you eat. In others words, your life and lifestyle belongs to government—NOT you. This is the final step in government domination of families, businesses and the quality of life—all determined by bureaucrats, not the freedom given to you in the Constitution. The New World Order is now in change down in Riverside County.

“The tool kit gives cities tips on how to promote health by passing a “healthy city” resolution and then writing health into the general plan. The city plan then informs decisions going forward on things like land use, parks and recreation programs, access to healthy food and public transportation. The County Board of Supervisors took the lead in 2011, passing a “healthy county” resolution.  Many cities now require new developments to include open parks and bike lanes. They are also required to build sidewalks and pass-throughs so people can walk to schools and shopping areas. Cities can also limit the number of liquor stores and encourage the establishment of a farmers market.”

Foodtruck

Riverside County Wants Healthier Cities

By Suzanne Potter, HealthyCal.org, 5/21/14

Obesity. Heart disease. Stroke. Lung Cancer. Almost two-thirds of the deaths in Riverside County are linked to poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and tobacco use.  And the county ranks just about last (54th out of 56 California counties) on making the physical environment conducive to health.

The Riverside County Health Coalition is fighting the problem by getting local governments to prioritize health and recently released a Healthy City Resolution Tool Kit and held a one-day conference to help the 28 local cities get started.

One of the guest speakers, Bill Anderson of the American Planning Association, praised the plan. “It’s a good first step and a leading first step in the country.”

The tool kit gives cities tips on how to promote health by passing a “healthy city” resolution and then writing health into the general plan. The city plan then informs decisions going forward on things like land use, parks and recreation programs, access to healthy food and public transportation. The County Board of Supervisors took the lead in 2011, passing a “healthy county” resolution.  Many cities now require new developments to include open parks and bike lanes. They are also required to build sidewalks and pass-throughs so people can walk to schools and shopping areas. Cities can also limit the number of liquor stores and encourage the establishment of a farmers market.

The Clinton Health Matters Initiative is involved, too, and will provide an expert analysis of the general plans for the Coachella Valley’s nine cities.  Alexander Chan, with the Clinton Foundation, says, “Most of the plans had parks and recreation, open space and biking and walking trails. What they didn’t have was language, programs or policies related to healthy food access or other types of healthy behavioral changes that affect a healthy quality of life.”

The City of Coachella, for example, is already updating its general plan to reflect this new emphasis in the areas of public safety, community health, parks and recreation, land use planning, engineering and transportation.  State law requires that all decisions are in line with the city’s general plan.

Cities can encourage mixed-use neighborhoods and make public transportation cheap and easy, which allow people to live closer to their workplace and also encourage biking and walking. While residents will hold on to their car, families may no longer need that second or third vehicle.  “For many households, that’s an important savings,” Anderson says.  “So there are different types of economic benefit that come from a healthy planning approach to city building.”

Seniors have a healthier retirement when they have easy access to health care, services, friends and family.  He adds, “There is some point where people want to walk and not have to drive for everything they do.”

“People who live near transit weigh less and are more physically active. You reduce pollution, there is less stress, people are happier and healthier,” adds Michael Osur, Deputy Director of the Riverside County Department of Public Health.  “We have so much building that is going on, but also as we do in-fill projects, as we re-do housing developments, we can think about where is the bike lane gonna go, how can the sidewalk connect? All it takes is planning.  It costs the same; you just have to plan it with that in mind.”

Cities can also save big money by offering wellness programs to their employees. The City of Riverside saw insurance claims plunge after it instituted a healthy living program at City Hall.  The city’s insurance providers even reimbursed it almost half a million dollars last year.  Al Zelinka, Community Development Director for the City of Riverside, said, “This isn’t just fluff; this is about real dollars, real cents.”

Riverside also wants to improve people’s mobility and boost the commercial corridors by bringing back the old streetcar system. “Public health is tied to the way that places are built and maintained,” Zelinka said, “and all of that is tied to the economic vitality of the community.”

Walgreens to Save BILLIONS in Taxes: Moving “Tax Domicile” to Europe

If you were on the Board of Directors of a company would you want to add BILLIONS to your profits without having to sell extra products or services, do not have to do anything illegal or be unethical? Would you fire a CEO that refused to add billions to the bottom line by making a minor change in operating procedures?

By moving to the U.K. or Switzerland, Walgreens can save BILLIONS each year. That makes the company more valuable. Just as companies are leaving California for Texas due to bad tax and regulatory policies, major firms are leaving the U.S. for the same reason. Billions to be made, and the Swiss Alps!

“However, Walgreen hopes to move sooner in a takeover valuing Boots at around 10.5 billion pounds, the Telegraph said.

The deal is attractive to Walgreen because it would enable the business to move its tax domicile to either the U.K. or Switzerland, making annual savings of billions of dollars.”

Photo Courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Photo Courtesy of 401(K) 2013, Flickr

Why Walgreen (WAG) Stock Is Higher Today

BY Tedd Cohen, The Street, 05/19/14

Shares of Walgreen Co. (WAG_) are up 3.70% to $69.95 after it was reported that Alliance Boots, which runs Europe’s largest pharmacy chain, could be wholly owned by the biggest U.S. drug-store chain within eight months, according to the Telegraph.

Walgreen now holds a 45% stake and has an option to buy the remaining 55% between February and August next year.

However, Walgreen hopes to move sooner in a takeover valuing Boots at around 10.5 billion pounds, the Telegraph said.

The deal is attractive to Walgreen because it would enable the business to move its tax domicile to either the U.K. or Switzerland, making annual savings of billions of dollars.

The drug giant is reportedly accelerating the full takeover option following pressure from a numberl of activist hedge fund investors, including the Och Ziff (OZM_), Jana Partners and Corvex, who have amassed a 5% stake in Alliance Boots in recent months.

TheStreet Ratings team rates WALGREEN CO as a Buy with a ratings score of A. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

“We rate WALGREEN CO (WAG) a BUY. This is based on the convergence of positive investment measures, which should help this stock outperform the majority of stocks that we rate. The company’s strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its revenue growth, solid stock price performance, largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures and notable return on equity. We feel these strengths outweigh the fact that the company shows weak operating cash flow.”

Highlights from the analysis by TheStreet Ratings Team goes as follows:

  • The revenue growth came in higher than the industry average of 6.5%. Since the same quarter one year prior, revenues slightly increased by 5.1%. This growth in revenue does not appear to have trickled down to the company’s bottom line, displayed by a decline in earnings per share.
  • WALGREEN CO’ earnings per share from the most recent quarter came in slightly below the year earlier quarter. This company has reported somewhat volatile earnings recently. But, we feel it is poised for EPS growth in the coming year. During the past fiscal year, WALGREEN CO increased its bottom line by earning $2.56 versus $2.42 in the prior year. This year, the market expects an improvement in earnings ($3.45 versus $2.56).
  • Compared to its closing price of one year ago, WAG’s share price has jumped by 36.13%, exceeding the performance of the broader market during that same time frame. We feel that the stock’s sharp appreciation over the last year has driven it to a price level which is now somewhat expensive compared to the rest of its industry. The other strengths this company shows, however, justify the higher price levels.
  • WAG’s debt-to-equity ratio is very low at 0.24 and is currently below that of the industry average, implying that there has been very successful management of debt levels. Despite the fact that WAG’s debt-to-equity ratio is low, the quick ratio, which is currently 0.54, displays a potential problem in covering short-term cash needs.
  • The return on equity has improved slightly when compared to the same quarter one year prior. This can be construed as a modest strength in the organization. When compared to other companies in the Food & Staples Retailing industry and the overall market, WALGREEN CO’s return on equity is below that of both the industry average and the S&P 500.
  • You can view the full analysis from the report here: WAG Ratings Report

Home Health Unions, Advocates Fight Proposed Limit on Hours. Sick/Elderly to be Harmed

Guv Brown has decided that if you are a home health worker, you may not work more than 40 hours a week—no overtime allowed. How does he implement this new policy? It is part of the budget—so no separate hearings, little public discussion—pass the budget and the sick and elderly are harmed. Instead caregivers—many times family members paid by the government helping the needs of the sick, when the 40th hour comes, must stop work. Guv Brown is rich—won’t hurt him—only the poor and middle class get hurt. Even unions are opposed to this radical policy.

“The proposal would affect California’s In-Home Supportive Services, which consists of about 360,000 home health care employees who work with hundreds of thousands of individuals with physical and mental health issues, according to the Bee. About 83,000 of those employees currently work more than 40 hours per week. A recent federal order requires in-home supportive services workers to receive overtime pay.”

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image13456426

Home Health Unions, Advocates Fight Proposed Limit on Hours
California Healthline, 5/20/14
Home health care advocates and unions in California are pushing back against a provision in Gov. Jerry Brown (D)’s revised fiscal year 2014-2015 budget that would limit the number of hours such providers can work to 40 hours per week, the Sacramento Bee reports. The proposal would affect California’s In-Home Supportive Services, which consists of about 360,000 home health care employees who work with hundreds of thousands of individuals with physical and mental health issues, according to the Bee. About 83,000 of those employees currently work more than 40 hours per week. A recent federal order requires in-home supportive services workers to receive overtime pay.
However, Brown’s revised budget specifically exempts IHSS from that rule. Brown noted that the cost of IHSS increased by nearly $250 million between January and May and that the monthly caseload has increased from 317,000 in 2003 to 453,000 in the current fiscal year. As a result, Brown said federal overtime rules could cost the state an additional $186 million annually. Under Brown’s proposal, individuals who need home care services could obtain more than 40 hours of care weekly by using conglomerates of backup providers who would be available on short notice. Patient advocates and labor unions said that not permitting overtime would put financial strain on home health workers and could harm patients, the Bee reports.

Ed Ring: A “Left-Right Alliance” Against Public Sector Unions?

Is it possible that the Left and the Right can unite on key issues? We are both angered by the NSA and the IRS scandals. Both sides want the best for our children through quality education. Neither like crony capitalism or corporate welfare. We are both leery about the way Wall Street makes sure it gets paid off in any crisis, forcing the middle class to pick up the check.

Both Ralph Nadar and Pat Buchanan have written about the possibility if issue oriented coalitions. This would truly be the grand compromise. But, in this case I agree with both of them. Ed Ring, the author of this article says there are three areas we can agree on, 1) pension reform, 2) charter schools and 3) transparency. Great areas.

“In a Salon interview published on May 2, Nadar lists five areas where the left and right can agree on policy goals: (1) controlling security state overreach, (2) eliminating corporate welfare, (3) fighting military overspending and waste, (4) cracking down on Wall Street financial fraud, and (5) revisiting international agreements that undermine American sovereignty.”

Unions pension public sector

A “Left-Right Alliance” Against Public Sector Unions?
By Ed Ring, executive director, California Policy Center, 5/21/14

Consumer advocate and left-wing activist Ralph Nadar has just written a book entitled “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.” In a Salon interview published on May 2, Nadar lists five areas where the left and right can agree on policy goals: (1) controlling security state overreach, (2) eliminating corporate welfare, (3) fighting military overspending and waste, (4) cracking down on Wall Street financial fraud, and (5) revisiting international agreements that undermine American sovereignty.

Populist right-wing commentator Patrick Buchanan has taken notice. In a column published on May 19th entitled “A Left-Right Convergence?,” Buchanan identifies the rift within conservative ranks that provides an opening for convergence with the left. He writes:

“Undeniably, there has been a growing gap and a deepening alienation between traditional conservatives and those Ralph calls the ‘corporate conservatives.’ And it is not only inside the conservative movement and the GOP that the rift is growing, but also Middle America.”

As for the left? Here are two easily identified, escalating rifts that are dividing liberals: The first, construction unions vs. environmentalists, as exemplified by their conflict over the Keystone Pipeline. The second, public sector union Democrats vs. progressive Democrats. As San Jose’s mayor Chuck Reed, a Democrat, puts it:

“There’s a difference between being liberal and progressive and being a union Democrat.”

This second rift has immediate importance in California, and it has immediate potential for what could become California’s regional version of a left-right alliance. Here are three areas where California’s left and right can unite:

(1) Charter schools: California’s public schools have failed millions of students. Charter schools, unconstrained by union work rules, have become laboratories of innovation. They have consistently delivered better educational outcomes at lower cost. Their proliferation should be encouraged.

(2) Pension reform: California’s cities, counties and state agencies now face unfunded pension liabilities that – depending on what assumptions you make – total between $200 and $500 billion. Annual pension contributions now consume as much as 25% of the general fund budget in major cities. Reform is vital.

(3) Transparency: Closed door negotiations enable sweetheart deals between policymakers and public sector union leaders; these secret negotiations also occur between policymakers and government contractors. Open negotiations allow citizen watchdogs early warning and prevent corruption. They should be mandatory.

Enacting these reforms and others requires taking on the immense political power of public sector unions. The prerogatives of unions, embattled in the private sector, are sacred to liberals, and to some extent perhaps they should be. But public sector unions are fundamentally different from private sector unions. Their goals are inherently in conflict with the public interest. They have no natural checks on their power because they elect their own bosses, and, unlike unions in the private sector, their survival is not dependent on the financial health of a competitive company. And because their members enforce the law, approve permit applications, conduct inspections, etc., they have a coercive power over the business community that co-opts it. Finally, public sector unions enrich the very bankers they rhetorically demonize, because their bloated payrolls and overbuilt government agencies – the measure of their success – cause deficits that earn billions for bond underwriters. Similarly, their over-generous pension funds pour hundreds of billions each year directly into Wall Street investment firms. These monopolistic vested interests – public sector unions, large corporations, and the financial sector – share a common agenda to squelch competition and increase the cost of living for the rest of America. Only a left-right coalition can hope to counter their power.

For the left and the right to unite on these critical issues, they have to acknowledge what Ralph Nadar and Patrick Buchanan have realized – partisan lines in America are blurring. The simplistic polarity of right vs. left is a myth. Why else would the increasingly authoritarian, corporatist status-quo be something that public sector unions have just as much interest in preserving as multi-national corporations? The “left” must stand up to public sector unions. The “right” must stand up to crony capitalists. They must work together.

In the recent Salon interview, Nadar said “the most manipulated voter is a single-issue voter.” He’s right. In order to work together on issues of fundamental importance, whether they are regional issues here in California, or issues that face the entire nation, both sides will have to accept that their incongruous partners still bitterly oppose many of their most cherished ideals.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

 

 

Covered California Charges a TAX on its Policies $13.95 per month—surprised?

If you bought an expensive, but inferior health care plan through Covered California, did you know you were also paying a tax of $13.95 a month—with the money going to finance the Administration of the plan? The plan you bought includes the cost of Administration, this is a double tax on your plan. Government knows how to tax in a way the people paying do not know.

“Various states have proposed solutions to handle the cost of running an exchange going forward. For example:

  • California has authorized a $13.95 monthly assessment on plans purchased through its exchange.”

  • taxes

States Seek Alternative Exchange Funding Before Federal Aid Expires

California Healthline, 5/20/14

There is concern among state officials, particularly in the 14 states and the District of Columbia that run their own health insurance exchanges, about how to fund those exchanges once federal funding ends in 2015, Modern Healthcare reports.

According to Modern Healthcare, states have received at least $4.7 billion to build and operate the exchanges so far.

Various states have proposed solutions to handle the cost of running an exchange going forward. For example:

  • California has authorized a $13.95 monthly assessment on plans purchased through its exchange;
  • In Colorado and Minnesota, officials have approved taxes of at least 3% on 2015 premiums for exchange plans; and
  • The Washington, D.C., city council earlier this month unanimously passed a tax of as high as 1% on premiums for coverage purchased by D.C. residents, even if the plans are not purchased through the district’s insurance exchange (Demko, Modern Healthcare, 5/16).