Police Cannot Police in Liberal California

Police tapeCalifornia’s political dysfunction is directly responsible for making the state unaffordable for middle class families. The so-called “housing crisis,” the most visible and harmful manifestation of California’s unaffordability, is precisely the result of California’s policymakers inviting the welfare cases of America and the expatriates of the world to move here, at the same time as they’ve enacted environmental policies that make it extremely time consuming and expensive to build anything.

There is a parallel dysfunction in California, also entirely the creation of the political elites who run this state. That is the near impossibility of efficiently policing the state. Members of law enforcement contend with powerful transnational gangs, often sheltered from arrest by sanctuary laws. They contend with burgeoning populations of the homeless that now dominate some of California’s most cherished public spaces. How many of these homeless would find refuge with families or friends if laws didn’t prevent vagrancy enforcement? How many of them would find entry level jobs to pay a living wage if laws hadn’t made housing prohibitively expensive?

And then there are the common criminals, to be found everywhere, and bound to be numerous in a state with over 40 million residents. Here too, in the fight against ordinary crime, thanks to “progressive” state legislation, law enforcement in California fights an uphill battle.

The turning point in California’s progressive assault on law enforcement was the passage of Prop. 47 in November 2014. Supported by nearly all Democratic politicians, a smattering of naive libertarians, the ACLU, and several unions including AFSCME and SEIU California, this ballot initiative was misleadingly marketed as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.”

Ostensibly to empty the jails of expensively housed “nonviolent” offenders, unintended consequences were felt immediately. Over four years later, the negative consequences of Prop. 47 continue to compound and intensify.

Here are some of the impacts of Prop. 47:

  • Freed tens of thousands of felons from state prisons and county jails back into communities.
  • Reduced to misdemeanors the personal use of (or being under the influence of) most illegal drugs including heroin and methamphetamine.
  • Reduced to misdemeanors any crime where the value of property stolen doesn’t exceed $950. This includes shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, and fraud.

Downgrading drug and property crimes has led to what police derisively refer to as “catch and release,” because suspects are just issued citations with a court date, and let go. Many of them don’t show up for their court dates. Habitual offenders know they’re no longer vulnerable to the “three strikes” statutes. They know that even repeated misdemeanor convictions are unlikely to land them in jail for very long. Even the liberal Washington Post reported on the impact of Prop. 47 as “A ‘virtual get-out-of-jail-free card’

California’s generous welfare and inviting sanctuary policies, combined with unaffordable housing and the most forgiving winter climate in America, mean a large homeless population is inevitable. Prop. 47, which releases inmates from prison at the same time as it makes it harder to incarcerate new offenders, inevitably adds rather than decreases the total population of California’s homeless. Recent estimates put the number of homeless in California at nearly 140,000, with the largest number, approximately 55,000, in Los Angeles County.

The concentration of homeless in Los Angeles isn’t just because it is the largest city in the state. It’s also because in 2006, the notoriously liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Jones v. City of Los Angeles ruled that law enforcement and city officials can no longer enforce the ban on sleeping on sidewalks anywhere within the Los Angeles city limits until a sufficient amount of “permanent supportive housing” could be built. And as the city bureaucrats fitfully apply grant funds that apparently can’t construct a basic apartment for much less than a half-million each, police are forced to permit massive and permanent homeless encampments which have become havens for criminals of all kinds.

Policing has become tough everywhere in California. As if the fallout from Prop. 47 and rulings such as Jones v. City of Los Angeles aren’t bad enough, now there’s something new, the “The Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015.” This law, supposedly intended to address dubious claims, especially in California, of discriminatory policing, has made it even more difficult for police to do their jobs. Each year, police departments are now required to submit to the State of California an annual report of their “stop data.” The following table, drawn from this report, shows the “Officer Reporting Requirements.”

When it comes to the practical effect of AB 953, it’s hard to find anything good. Every single time they interact with a citizen, for whatever reason, officers have to input 17 variables into a form that is either paper (four pages, requiring reentry into a database), or onto a tablet, cell phone, or in-car laptop. The mere fact that this is a time consuming process will prevent a police officer from making as many stops during a normal shift, and may deter them from even making some stops. Worse, the data collected is designed to either prove or disprove that officers in any given police department are stopping a disproportionate number of citizens who are members of “protected status groups.” Needless to say, officers, and their departments, may become reluctant to exceed their “quotas,” and as a result have an incentive to not make stops when stops are warranted.

This sort of meddling in the day to day actions of police officers does not serve the community, and it is demoralizing to officers. And it is important to emphasize that this focus on trying to prove that a disproportionate number of, say, African American, or Latinos, or other “people of color” are being “profiled,” has little or nothing to do with appropriate police oversight. There are over a million sworn police officers in the United States. It is statistically impossible for a population of individuals that large to not have a few bad apples. For this reason, and others, police tactics and police oversight should constantly evolve, and they do. That’s a good thing. But laws like AB 953, which pressure police into bringing their “stops” into conformance with ethnic and religious quotas, ignore the disproportionate reality of crime statistics, and further tie the hands of law enforcement.

California is ran by a progressive elite who have decided to sacrifice the aspirations of ordinary residents on the altar of utopian dreams. It’s not working, but they’re doubling down, and at this point there’s no end in sight.

The laws they’ve passed in virtually all areas make it harder for individual Californians to succeed. Astronomical costs for housing and tuition. Utility and gasoline prices that are the highest in the nation, and unaffordable to many. Regressive, often embedded taxes that make everything more expensive, from food to telephone bills. Then on top of that, laws that make California a magnet for welfare recipients and undocumented immigrants; laws that create an exploding population of homeless; laws that release thousands of criminals onto the streets. All of this makes crime more likely.

The last thing California’s lawmakers should be doing is making it harder for police to police. But that’s exactly what they’ve done. Things may have to get much worse, before they get better.

This article originally appeared on the website California Globe.

Democratic California’s Cautionary Tale

Democrat DonkeyIt’s become fashionable among certain conservatives, libertarians, and assorted free-market types to claim that Republicans are no better than Democrats. Both parties, according to the disenchanted, have lost their way. Both parties are controlled by establishment cronies, who support big government of one sort or another.

But conservatives who are disillusioned with Republicans need to remember just how much is at stake if Democrats take over. To indulge in understatement, California offers a cautionary tale.

In the name of saving the planet, and helping the poor, Democrats win votes in California. Assisting these Democrats is the most powerful coalition of leftist oligarchs in the history of the world. But the planet is not better off and California’s poor get poorer. How can this be?

Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

Since at least 2006 — the year Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a moderate Republican, totally capitulated to the Democratic establishment — Democrats have exercised absolute power in California. Their ongoing agenda, much of which has already been implemented, offers insight into just how different Democrats are from Republicans — even those watered down Republicans who struggle to earn votes from true conservatives.

California’s Democrats, in pursuit of environmentalist perfection, have legislated artificial scarcity of everything necessary to civilized life: land, housing, electricity, gasoline, water, transportation, and quality education — you name it. California has the most expensive homes, the highest utility prices, the worst roads, and failing schools. Behind the high-minded environmentalist rhetoric stand oligarchs who profit from scarcity; established corporations, public utilities, large landowners, and “green” entrepreneurs.

It’s no exaggeration to say California is a left-wing, Democrat-ruled oligarchy. If anyone thinks they aren’t poised to take over the rest of the United States, think again. California is merely the epicenter of an uncontained nationwide leftist oligarchy that now controls nearly all traditional media, online media, social media, academia, and the entertainment industry. It has also co-opted most major corporations and government bureaucracies, and draws additional support from powerful government unions as well as most private sector unions.

All of this elitist support is self-serving. All of it is hypocritical. All of it is deeply cynical, and utterly indifferent to working Americans.

California’s Proposition 10 offers an excellent example of how Democrats think. This deeply flawed state ballot initiative addresses the high cost of housing in California by authorizing cities and counties to impose rent control on all rental units, right down to the second homes that middle-class Californians may own in order to earn supplemental income. The negative consequences of a measure like Prop. 10 are obvious not only to anyone with a basic understanding of economics but also to anyone with plain common sense.

If Prop. 10 passes, what few incentives remain for investors and developers to build new housing in California would be further undermined. Who would want to invest in new apartment construction if the rental income from those apartments could be frozen by the whims of populist Democrats as they exert their influence on the local city councils? And what landlord would want to invest to maintain or upgrade their rental properties, if the rental income they can recover on their investment is frozen via rent control? And what renter will move into more appropriate housing as their life circumstances change, if moving means losing the favored low rent they currently enjoy?

Not one Republican supports California’s Prop. 10, but plenty of Democrats do, including the notorious U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, U.S. Senate candidate Kevin de León, and Los Angeles mayor and future presidential contender Eric Garcetti. And behind these Democrats, also endorsing Prop. 10, are California’s all powerful public sector unions, including the California Teachers Association, the California Nurses AssociationAFSCME California, and SEIU California. And, of course, the California Democratic Party.

Prop. 10 is an example of how Democrats are making California’s housing shortage worse instead of better, but it’s not the only one. Also appearing on California’s statewide ballot next month are Prop. 1, which would borrow $4 billion to build “affordable housing,” and, Prop. 2, which would use state tax revenues to build more government-run homeless shelters. It is possible, if not likely, that every one of these propositions will pass.

Scandalous Inefficiency, Unassailable “Compassion”

Democrat “solutions” to the housing crisis aren’t limited to the state ballot, however. In Venice Beach, California, along one of the most expensive, touristy stretches of coastline in the world, are now permanent homeless encampments. To address the challenge, Los Angeles city officials are proposing to build a homeless shelter on 3.2 acres of vacant city-owned property less than 500 feet from the beach. This property, nestled in the heart of Venice’s upscale residential and retail neighborhoods, if commercially developed, would be worth well over $200 million. Imagine what could be done with that much money.

That a solution so scandalously inefficient could even be considered by the Democrats running City Hall in Los Angeles offers additional insights into the Democrat mind. Solving the homeless crisis really isn’t their goal here. Rather the intent is to create additional government-owned properties, hire additional government bureaucrats, while pretending to solve a problem. Should the Venice Beach property be developed as currently proposed, well connected construction contractors will rake in government funds, so eventually a few hundred homeless people will find shelter. Meanwhile, tens of thousands will remain outdoors.

Democrats, and not Republicans, made California’s housing unaffordable by passing restrictive laws such as CEQAAB 32SB 375, and countless others at both the state and local level. At the same time, it is Democrats, and not Republicans, who are inviting in the world’s poor en masse to come and live there. An estimated 2.6 million illegal aliens currently live in California. But the rhetorically unassailable compassion exhibited by these Democrats does nothing to alleviate hardship in the nations where these refugees originate, because for every thousand who arrive, millions are left behind.

The result? While California’s Democrats, and not Republicans, engineer a shortage of housing supplies, their welcoming sanctuary policies engineer a burgeoning housing demand. This is the deeply flawed, misanthropic vision Democrats have for America. Democratic power is rooted in wishful thinking by the naïve, and by the savvy because of epic greed. Republicans, no matter how tepid their convictions may be, would never have done to California what these Democrats have done. And it’s not even close.

When conservatives and libertarians think about where to cast their vote, they should look west to California, and think very hard about whether or not they want to live in a nation ruled by Democrats.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

California unions brace for a Supreme Court loss

California labor leaders sound almost apocalyptic when they describe a looming Supreme Court case that many of them concede likely will cost them members and money.

“Everything is at stake,” says Yvonne Walker, president of Service Employees International Local 1000, state government’s largest union.

“It’s a blatant political attack,” says Eric Heins, the leader of the massive California Teachers Association.

“That’s a way that the corporations are trying to take our legs out from under us,” says Kim Cowart, a state registered nurse and SEIU union leader.

They’re alarmed by Janus vs. AFSCME, the Illinois lawsuit that challenges the rights of unions in 22 states to collect so-called “fair share” fees from employees who do not want to join bargaining groups but may benefit from representation. That practice has been legal and common since 1977, when the Supreme Court favored union arguments for fair-share fees in a lawsuit against the Detroit Board of Education. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Legislature’s scary precedent: Giving unions private workers’ cell numbers, home addresses

Even those Capitol observers who are aware of the degree to which the Democratic-controlled Legislature is in the tank for public-sector unions might be shocked by the latest bill that’s making its way to the governor’s office.

Legislators are about to require that private-sector workers in the home-care industry provide a wide range of personal information – home address, email contact, cellphone number – to any labor organization that wants it. Those unions would then be free, at their discretion, to pester these workers into joining the union.

seiu unionThe bill only affects one industry, but the precedent is clear. How long before an ever-expanding list of private workers in California are subject to union organizers showing up at their doorstep and contacting them on their private emails and cell phones? The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has already been able to unionize home healthcare workers receiving government payments to care for a loved one. Clearly, SEIU is expanding its horizons.

In fact, the bill apparently is such a priority to the Democratic leadership that Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, recently stacked the Human Services Committee with three new Democratic members to assure its passage. It’s a highly unusual move to expand the size of a committee to assure passage of particular legislation.

Assembly Bill 1513 ostensibly is designed to improve the licensure and regulation of home-care organizations – companies that provide aides to the homes of sick, disabled or elderly people to help them with laundry, cooking, showers and other basic needs.

The state already requires aides to pass background checks, receive necessary training and register with the California Department of Social Services to help combat abuse. The aides must already provide their personal information to the state government. Clients can search an existing database to double-check the backgrounds of those who provide such work in their homes.

This new Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act claims to improve home health services by allowing “home care aides the opportunity to benefit from information, resources and more,” according to Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose. But the real purpose is to let the bill’s sponsor, SEIU, gain personal information for organizing purposes.

There’s no need to speculate about the goal here. The previous version of the bill required employees to provide their personal information to the state, which would then provide the information “to a governmental or non-profit entity that provides training, educational classes, and other specified services …” upon that entity’s request.

The newly amended bill requires “a copy of a registered home care aide’s name, mailing address, cellular telephone number, and email address on file with the department to be made available, upon request, to a labor organization.” The labor unions would be free to use the information for “employee organizing, representation and assistance activities.” That provides wide latitude with few restrictions.

The bill includes an “opt out” mechanism, but that doesn’t offer much protection. A home-care worker would need to go through the trouble of trying to keep personal information out of the union’s grasp. And we’ve seen the problems with such a system in the current union dues-paying system.

A 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allows public employees to opt out of paying those portions of their dues that are used for direct political purposes. But employees who want to opt out often complain about the difficult and convoluted process of doing so. Obviously, unions – and the state government – have no reason to make such a process easy.

This bill is nothing more than a union-organizing ploy. Again, the state government already has all the requisite personal information of those who provide home-care services. The public can search that information using an employee number. We’re talking about private employees of private companies working for private people. This is different from the Medicaid-funded In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) system.

Legislators also have recently passed two bills, as this writer detailed for the California Policy Center, that provide public-sector unions with unfettered on-the-job access to teachers and other government workers in order to provide seminars about union membership. That legislation is a pre-emptive effort in case the U.S. Supreme Court, as some expect, strikes down mandatory union membership. A.B. 1513 is even more noxious because it gives unions a right to contact employees of private companies outside of the job site.

The bill also undermines a compromise that was hammered out between unions, legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013. That’s when the Legislature passed the previous version of the Home Care Services Consumer Protection Act to require the licensing and regulation of the private home-care industry. Unions had pushed for the inclusion of personal employee information back then, but concerns about privacy scuttled that idea.

Now they’re back for the same thing again and are likely to get the bill through because of De Leon’s committee-packing efforts. De Leon removed Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, and added Democratic Sens. Connie Leyva of Chino, Mike McGuire of Healdsburg and Anthony Portantino of La Cañada-Flintridge. Newman is facing a recall, so this takes him off of the hot seat on a controversial union vote in conservative-leaning Orange County.

Ironically, Democratic legislators often have tried to enhance the privacy of public employees with a variety of bills. Yet when it comes to private-sector employees, the Legislature is more than happy to let union organizers know exactly where they live – and even have access to their cell-phone numbers and email addresses.

“A.B. 1513 is clearly just a labor grab, and will do nothing more than boost unions’ membership rolls and bottom line at the expense of home care aides and the frail elderly and disabled individuals they serve,” said Trevor O’Neil, president of Colonial Home Care Services in Orange and co-chairman of the Home Care Association of America, California chapter. “Home care is an out-of-pocket expense, and any mandated increases to employee pay and benefits will result in higher prices for people who depend upon these services to remain in their homes.”

That’s for sure. But even worse – home-care workers could now be subject to unwanted visits from Nick the Union Organizer. And how long will it be before other unions follow this lead and coerce the Legislature to hand over your personal information?

Steven Greenhut is a contributing editor to the California Policy Center. He is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

California’s largest public employee union authorizes strike

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

Members of California’s largest public employee union have voted 92 percent in favor of a strike vote as its members seek new labor contracts with the state, the union announced Tuesday.

The Service Employees International Union Local 1000 represents about 95,000 state employees, many of whom are office and administrative workers, librarians, engineers and nurses.

Both sides have been bargaining since April, and they were scheduled to resume Tuesday, the union said.

The state has offered the union a nearly 12 percent salary increase over four years, but SEIU officials say the 3 percent annual raises would be offset by a 3.5 percent employee contribution to retirees’ health care. …

Click here to read the full story

Teachers Union’s New Gambit to Cheat Taxpayers Annually

Teachers unionCalifornia is a fabulous place. Fantastic weather, fertile fields, glorious mountains and a thousand mile coastline have long beckoned many to the Golden State.

And then there is the state legislature.

This law-making body is very far from fabulous. Its main activities in our one-party state are taxing, spending and regulating our business community, workers and economy to death. Additionally, many of its members are in the pocket of the California Teachers Association, which is by far the biggest political spender in the state, unleashing $290 million on candidates and causes between 2000 and 2013.

The latest legislative sop to the unions is AB 2835, a CTA-co-sponsored bill that, if it passes, will force local governments, including school districts, to provide 30-minute in-person orientations, paid for by the taxpayer, to each and every new public employee during work hours within the first two months of their being hired. But as pointed out by several government officials in a piece that ran in the East Bay Times recently, cities, counties and special districts already do that, spending “the better part of a full day educating new employees on the benefits available to them, policies on harassment and violence, and how to respond to possibly harmful workplace situations. Our employees begin their public service with the knowledge they need to serve their communities.”

However, AB 2835 goes way beyond that, requiring local governments to set aside half of an hour – within the first hour of any orientation it provides – for each union representing public employees to speak, with almost no restrictions, to new employees. “It won’t matter if local governments are using an online or video orientation to maximize tax dollars and avoid unnecessary travel expenses. It won’t matter if a police officer or firefighter should be on-call to respond to emergencies instead of meeting with his or her union representative. Every employee. In-person. Thirty minutes during the first hour of an orientation. Every time.”

This requirement would place an enormous administrative burden on government, and it won’t come cheap. The California State Department of Finance has estimated that the mandate would cost taxpayers “more than $70 million annually for local governments and more than $280 million annually for school districts.”

AB 2835 would especially pose logistical problems for schools because the 30 minute orientation sessions would be held during the work day. Colleges, which have numerous collective bargaining units, would be especially affected.  As the Association of California Community College Administrators points out, allowing each collective bargaining unit 30 minutes to make a presentation, “will result in a significant length of time, which will require colleges to hire additional staff to cover classes and other critical campus safety services during the orientations.”

Not surprisingly, the bill is backed by a gaggle of labor organizations. In addition to CTA, the California Faculty Association, California Nurses Association and SEIU are behind it. The opposition includes the California School Boards Association, the League of California Cities and the Association of California School Administrators.

Just as onerous as the cost and disruptiveness will be the quality of the orientation session. This is going to be a hard sales pitch, plain and simple. Or, in less polite terms, indoctrination. I guarantee that the results of a study released in April by the Heritage Foundation – which found that between 1957 and 2011, mandatory collective bargaining costs a family of four between $2,300 and $3,000 a year – will not be a topic of discussion.

Also missing from the pitch will be a recent study by Cornell researcher Michael Lovenheim. He found that “laws requiring school districts to engage in collective bargaining with teachers unions lead students to be less successful in the labor market in adulthood. Students who spent all 12 years of grade school in a state with a duty-to-bargain law earned an average of $795 less per year and worked half an hour less per week as adults than students who were not exposed to collective-bargaining laws.”

Will the orientation stress that collective bargaining creates significant potential for polarization between employees and managers? Or that it decreases flexibility and requires longer time needed for decision making? Or that it protects the status quo, thereby inhibiting innovation and change? Or that it restricts management’s ability to deal directly with individual employees? Nah.

AB 2835 was birthed when CTA leaders were frightened that the Friedrichs decision was going to go against them and decided they needed to deliver a sales pitch to teachers who would no longer be forced to pay money to the union as a condition of employment. But with Antonin Scalia’s death and the Supreme Court’s subsequent refusal to rehear the case, this bill is irrelevant; CTA and the smaller California Federation of Teachers still have a captive audience. Just about every public school teacher in the state will continue to be forced to pay a union if they want a job in a public school. But if CTA and other unions still insist on trying to convince prospective members of their value, they should do it after hours and not ding the taxpayer in the process.

The bill sailed through the California State Assembly and now rests in the State Senate where it must be voted on by August 31sttomorrow, for it to become law. So, if you live in the Beholden State, please contact your state senator immediately and keep your fingers crossed. And should the bill become law, prepare for even more money to be transferred from your wallet to the unions’ already healthy coffers.

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 and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This piece was originally published by UnionWatch.org

Teachers union has given more than $13 million to extend income taxes on wealthy Californians

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

California’s largest teachers union has given more than $13 million to the effort to extend income tax hikes on California’s highest earners, according to newly released state campaign finance reports.

The report shows the California Teachers Assn. gave $3 million between April and June this year, in addition to the $10 million the union donated last month.

Before the $10-million contribution, supporters of the Proposition 55 campaign reported having $14 million in the bank. Also supporting the measure are the California Hospital Assn., Service Employees International Union and the California Medical Assn. …

Click here to read the full article

Quick and Dramatic Consequences of Minimum Wage Hike

Minimum wage fight for 15Confronted with an impending hike to $15 in the California minimum wage, businesses, labor advocates and political analysts have all begun to shift strategies and tactics. Given current trends, the combined impact could be a smaller, more unionized workforce — that doesn’t always see the benefits wage activists have promised.

The consequences will be quick and could be dramatic. “Most state raises over the past decade, when there have been any, ranged from 1 percent to 3 percent annually. The law Gov. Jerry Brown signed will increase bottom-rung pay roughly 10 percent per year starting in January,” as the Sacramento Bee reported.

Manufacturing flight

One immediate result of the hikes has already appeared in Southern California, where the garment industry faces an especially rough road. Sung Won Sohn, former director of apparel company Forever 21 and economist at Cal State Channel Islands, told the Los Angeles Times a veritable “exodus has begun,” with manufacturers already tempted to shift garment production overseas to retreat from the Golden State still further. “The garment industry is gradually shrinking and that trend will likely continue.”

“In the 1990s, as borders opened up, foreign competitors began snatching up business from Southland garment factories. Eventually, many big brands opted to leave the region in favor of cheaper locales. Guess Jeans, which epitomized a sexy California look, moved production to Mexico and South America. Just a few years ago, premium denim maker Hudson Jeans began shifting manufacturing to Mexico. Jeff Mirvis, owner of MGT Industries in Los Angeles, said outsourcing was necessary to keep up with low-cost rivals.”

The problem, particularly acute for business owners who can’t automate jobs as readily as, say, fast food restauranteurs, was encapsulated by Gov. Jerry Brown himself, who signed the $15 wage into law despite clear reservations about its economic wisdom. “Economically, minimum wages may not make sense,” he said, defending the law on moral and sociopolitical grounds. A high minimum wage, Brown claimed, “binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way.”

Incentives in tension

According to critics of the change, the tension involved in using poor economic choices to encourage good moral ones has driven labor unions themselves toward a predictable, if hypocritical, shift in their own policy objectives. Many of the same unions that agitated for a higher wage “have been quietly — and often successfully — lobbying cities to let employers who hire union workers pay them less than the mandated minimum,” as Quartz observed. “Unions say it gives them the flexibility to negotiate packages for their workers that supplant wages with health insurance and other benefits.

“Critics say that it’s a shrewd move by unions to drive up membership dues and ensure that their workers are the cheapest in town. The exemption gives cost-conscious employers little choice but to hire union, and workers who want jobs little choice but to join their local.”

At the same time, however, workers who have been rallied to the $15 cause have been swiftly pressed into service for pro-unionization demonstrations. “The demand from the original strikes in 2012 was $15 and a union,” said Mary Kay Henry, international president of the SEIU, according to the Times. “Underpaid workers in California are now on a path to $15, but we think the way we can make these jobs good jobs […] is through a union.”

In an added twist, some economists defending the wage hikes have raised the question of whether subsequent job losses are a price worth paying. Gov. Brown, in fact, has referred favorably to that view. “We understand that this can be difficult,” he said, as the Washington Post recalled. “But the fact is that there’s a principle called the living family wage, which is a doctrine that has been around for a long time, since probably before the 1900s, which is that you can’t expect someone to work if the wages for that work can’t support a family.”

The Horror Movie of Capitol Lawmaking

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

The state Capitol building in Sacramento is a popular destination for school groups. The kids tour the historic legislative chambers, while adults explain how laws are made.

A more accurate tour of how laws are made can be found on Netflix. Look for the 1931 horror classic “Frankenstein.”

There you’ll get a good look at how it’s really done. Peek into the laboratory as the mad scientist pieces together grisly remains from the local graveyard, while the villagers assemble outside with pitchforks and torches.

Consider, for example, the $15 minimum wage law.

On the Saturday night before Easter, word escaped from Dr. Frankenstein’s lab that Gov. Jerry Brown had made a deal with labor union leaders and state lawmakers to ratchet up California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour and beyond.

In January, Brown warned that a minimum wage hike of that magnitude would “put a lot of poor people out of work” and would be too costly for taxpayers. The state is an employer, too, and those wage hikes would add $4 billion to the annual budget by 2021.

But everything changed because of an unfortunate accident in the laboratory in 2014 that caused the state’s beloved initiative process to mutate. When the smoke cleared, initiatives could no longer appear on the June ballot, but were pushed into a November crowd scene. And suddenly new initiatives were born with a cord around their necks. This allowed their sponsors to yank them back if a deal for similar legislation could be reached in time.

In the latest experiment, two of Dr. Frankenstein’s trusted assistants, the Service Employees International Union state council and SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, created competing $15 minimum wage initiatives. The unions hired costly consultants to qualify the measures for the ballot, paying $3 or $4 for each voter signature on the petitions. In earlier years, signatures could be had for a dollar or two, but the crowded field for November pushed prices up.

On March 22, the health care workers union announced that their initiative had qualified for the ballot with 423,236 signatures. They put Gov. Brown on notice that unless he signed a state law to raise the minimum wage to $15, they were taking it to the voters.

Four days later, the pre-Easter deal was announced.

Work in the laboratory commenced immediately on a long-buried minimum wage bill that had passed the state Senate in 2015. With a few spare parts grafted in place, the Assembly Appropriations Committee passed it in 90 minutes and sent it to the Assembly floor. Within 24 hours, the creature was passed by the Assembly and state Senate and sent to the governor’s desk.

Soon the thing will be fully electrified and walking around California. You’ll feel it taking extra money out of your pocket every time you shop, eat or pick up dry cleaning.

Out in the streets of the village, the California Restaurant Association and other business groups are massing and angry. They could storm the laboratory and steal the antidote. It’s in the tall cabinet, in a bottle labeled “Referendum.”

The business community could gather signatures for a referendum to repeal the law.

But then the unions could gather signatures for “Bride of Minimum Wage.”

Ballot fights cost many millions of dollars for advertising, but initiatives are inexpensive bargaining chips now that they can be withdrawn after they qualify.

It’s all cooked up secretly in the laboratory or in the back room of the local inn, where sometimes the villagers and their torches win a few concessions.

And that’s how laws are made in California.

Bwaa-ha-ha-ha-ha.

Daughters of Charity Deal Carries Warnings for the Future of Health Care

MedizinWhat would happen to our health care system if we took the advice of some politicians and turned it into “Medicare for all,” a single-payer plan?

Right now in California, there is a story of hospitals, nuns, hedge funds, corruption, the state Attorney General and union bosses that may hold the answer to that question.

The story begins in Paris, where the Daughters of Charity religious order was founded in 1633, dedicated to serving the poor. The Daughters came to America in the 1800s, and by 1991, their highly respected nationwide chain of nonprofit Catholic hospitals had $3.1 billion in annual net revenues and a top credit rating.

Six hospitals in California, including St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, became the Daughters of Charity Health System in 2002. By 2013 they were losing $10 million every month. Why? DCHS said three-quarters of its patients were covered by government health programs, which pay less than private insurers. The recession made it worse as more people lost their jobs and health benefits, and then the government cut back further, slashing Medi-Cal rates that reimbursed providers for low-income patient care.

DCHS also cited the “volume and mix of services” and the “employee salary/benefits structure” as causes of the financial bleeding.

The nonprofit chain put itself up for sale in 2014, hoping to find a buyer that would preserve the pensions of current and retired employees, repay debts, honor existing union contracts, and maintain services.

And they did. Prime Healthcare Services, based in Ontario, California, made an offer of $843 million to buy DCHS. But under state law, nonprofit hospitals can’t change hands without the approval of the California Attorney General.

And that gave Prime Healthcare’s longtime enemy, the Service Employees International Union and its affiliate, United Healthcare Workers West, the power to blow up the deal. In July, 2014, UHW president Dave Regan met with Prime CEO Dr. Prem Reddy and told him, according to court documents, “that he would prevent the sale unless Prime allowed UHW to unionize hospital workers at all of Prime’s hospitals.” Prime refused Regan’s demand.

The union allegedly told Attorney General Kamala Harris that if she blocked Prime’s acquisition of DCHS, they’d spend $25 million to get her elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016, and threatened that if she didn’t, they would spend the money to elect somebody else.

Harris gave conditional approval to the deal but added poison-pill requirements, including an order to run the hospitals without any changes for 10 years, which would have continued the financial meltdown. Prime walked away.

The Daughters of Charity filed a lawsuit against the SEIU-UHW in Santa Clara County Superior Court, accusing the unions of extortion and of chilling bids from other suitors by threatening to block the attorney general’s approval.

Then Prime Healthcare Services filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing Kamala Harris of corruptly abusing her power in an illegal scheme to gain financial support of her political career.

The story is told in disturbing detail in the combined 85 pages of the complaints.

Now a New York-based hedge fund, which has never run a hospital, has offered to take over the management of DCHS. BlueMountain Capital Management would pump $250 million into the nonprofit chain, take 4 percent of annual revenue as a management fee, and have an option to buy the hospitals after three years.

Harris has granted conditional approval, and BlueMountain is presently reviewing the conditions, which include providing services and charity care for ten years.

If the deal falls through again, DCHS could enter bankruptcy. Pensions could be lost and the hospitals could close, costing 7,600 jobs and depriving the communities of local health care services.

Twelve million people are now enrolled in Medi-Cal — one in three state residents — and the number could go higher. How many hospitals will go bankrupt providing legally required services for below-cost reimbursements?

Imagine what would happen if all of American health care was run that way.

It’s easy for politicians to decree that services shall be provided and fees shall be reduced. It’s even easier for them to help their friends get lucrative contracts, and to collect campaign cash as a tip for good service.

What’s not easy is persuading anyone to go to medical school or build hospitals when politicians control health care. Too bad no one has ever been cured by a hedge fund seeking a tax loss.