Kashkari debunks ‘California Comeback’

By spending a week down and out in Fresno, Neel Kashkari has made the state’s sky-high poverty rate a central issue in the governor’s race, and in the process, debunked Gov. Jerry Brown’s myth of a “California Comeback.”

Last week, the Republican gubernatorial nominee hopped on a Greyhound bus headed for Fresno with just $40 in his pocket and the goal of drawing attention to the other California, where nearly 9 million people live in poverty.

“I wanted to see firsthand what that comeback looks like for many Californians,” Kashkari writes in a powerful opinion piece featured in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal. “With only $40 in my pocket (and no credit cards), a backpack, a change of clothes and a toothbrush, I planned to find a job and earn enough money to get by.”

“I am an able-bodied 41-year-old,” the former Treasury official wrote. “Surely I could find some work.”

But Kashkari, who has an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, was unable to find work and, after five days, turned to a local homeless shelter for food.

“I offered to do anything: wash dishes, sweep floors, pack boxes, cook meals, anything,” Kashkari said of his experience. “In seven days, I didn’t see a single ‘Help Wanted’ sign, but I did see plenty of signs that fast-food outlets now accept food stamps.”

Jerry Brown’s myth of the California Comeback

Neel Kashkari Down and OutThe unconventional campaign move, which was documented by two videographers, debunks the central theme of Brown’s re-election campaign: that he’s led a remarkable comeback of the eighth largest economy in the world.

“‘California Comeback!’ is the favorite slogan of Gov. Jerry Brown and other Sacramento politicians cheering a temporary budget surplus provided by a roaring stock market,” Kashkari said. “But California also has the highest poverty rate in America at 24 percent and I wanted to see first-hand what life is really like for many of our friends and neighbors.”

In March 2013, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman admonished the rest of the country to follow Brown’s “Lessons From a Comeback,” which included a round of tax increases approved by voters in 2012. Brown formally picked up that theme in this year’s State of the State address, in which he officially declared the state’s “comeback” — a message quickly repeated by the state’s mainstream media.

“Jerry Brown, California’s comeback king,” the Los Angeles Times proclaimed, following the governor’s speech. “California is back. And like it or not, that’s in no small measure because of Jerry Brown.”

24 percent poverty rate – worst in nation

The Republican candidate’s homeless challenge mirrors similar efforts by Democratic politicians to highlight the problems facing working families. United States Senator Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, kicked off his political career by living in “some of Newark’s roughest neighborhoods.”  Earlier this month, Ted Strickland, the former Democratic Governor of Ohio, spent a week living on minimum wage.

“I know I’ll never be able to truly walk in the shoes of a minimum wage worker,” the Democrat wrote in Politico Magazine, “but experiencing just some of the decisions this income requires on a daily basis is enough to understand that we need to do better for these hardworking families.

With a 20-point lead in the latest opinion polls, Brown has largely ignored Kashkari — most recently telling reporters that he might not bother to debate his opponent.

“I haven’t made up my mind,” Brown told reporters accompanying him on his trip to Mexico.

By borrowing a page from Democrats’ playbook, Kashkari elevates the issue of poverty to a major topic in the gubernatorial campaign.

“Jerry Brown is ducking,” Kashkari said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” saying that the most recent campaign move was intended to “force a conversation” about the state’s 24 percent poverty rate — the worst in the nation.

Not first time Kashkari has raised issue of poverty

This isn’t the first time that Kashkari has pressed Brown on poverty. During the exploratory phase of his campaign, Kashkari spent a night in a homeless shelter and worked the fields picking produce. In January, Kashkari attempted to raise the issue, but struggled to capture the media’s attention.

“Gov. Brown may claim a California comeback, but the truth is that he has forgotten the millions of California families who are struggling,” Kashkari said in response to the governor’s State of the State address. “Twenty-four percent of our fellow Californians live in poverty. Yet how many times did the governor mention poverty in his 17-minute address? Not once. That is outrageous.”

But don’t expect the Capitol establishment to recognize Kashkari’s repeated attempts to change the image of the California Republican Party.

“Kashkari has not for one minute shown an interest in re-branding his party,” CalBuzz bloggers Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts wrote on Monday.

John Hrabe is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was originally posted on Calwatchdog.org. 

14 Senate Seats Could Flip to GOP

The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said Thursday that the likelihood Republicans win back the Senate is better today than when he assumed leadership in 2012.

During a luncheon with reporters, Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said: “Back in the very beginning, I would’ve told you we had six good candidates in six states.”

Now, Moran said, the number of races where Republicans could pick up seats from Democrats has expanded to somewhere in the range of 12 to 14 states.

Republicans need to flip six states to win back control of the Senate.

Photo courtesy of Rob Crawley, flickr

Moran credited Republicans with nominating credible candidates in primaries across the country.

“I think what we are most pleased about is the quality of candidates that we have in those states,” Moran said.

Moran listed open-seats in West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota as the top three most likely pick-ups for Republicans.

“They are solidly red states, and they have good candidates, excellent candidates, and Democrat opposition is not at that caliber,” he said.

Moran also listed Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina and Alaska as other top target states for Republicans. Each of these states have Democratic incumbents running in red states.

“We have significant opportunities,” Moran said. “History is on our side. In a non-presidential year in the second term of a president, the party out of power in this case, the Republicans, on average win six and half seats.”

But Moran is cautious. “We have history on our side, but we’re not relying on history to allow us to achieve a majority.”

Republicans are also closely watching Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, New Hampshire, Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota.

“The political environment is in our favor,” Moran said. “Twice as many Democrats up for election as Republicans.”

While as many as 14 seats could be up for grabs for Republicans, the party also has to keep control of seats in Kentucky and Georgia, where two formidable Democrats are challenging GOP incumbents.

Asked by The Daily Caller how many seats Republicans would pick up if the election were held today, Moran declined to make a prediction.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said.

According to the most up-to-date RealClearPolitics polling averages, Republicans would take back the Senate if the election were held today. GOP candidates are polling ahead of Democrats in Montana, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana and West Virginia.

That would lead to Republicans having 51 Senate seats, and Democrats holding 49 seats.

Alex Pappas is a political reporter for The Daily Caller. This piece was originally posted on Dailycaller.com. 

Transit Workers Paid $129,708 per Year — Threaten Strike

“No one wants the inconvenience associated with transportation workers taking action, but the District is leaving these workers little choice. This is about the middle class. We want the public to know what’s going on,” Tonisson said.
– Alex Tonisson, co-chair, Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition, SF Appeal, July 24, 2014

If you were receiving a pay and benefits package that averaged $125,678 per year (ref. Transparent California), in exchange for working a 37.5 hour week, would you feel exploited? What if along with that, you got 13 paid holidays per year, five weeks annual paid vacation (ref. MOU, page 20), and 12 paid sick days (MOU, page 16) per year that accumulated without limit?

Would you feel exploited? Would you have “little choice” but to go on strike?440px-GoldenGateBridge-001

Lest we encounter the usual objection that “top management” pay skews the average, please note the median annual pay and benefits for a worker with the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is $129,708, more than the average. And if anyone still thinks that “total compensation” – that is, direct pay plus employer paid benefits – is not an accurate reflection of what they earned, they are invited to participate in America’s labor force as an independent contractor, where they will turn over 15% of their gross earnings to Social Security and Medicare funds before they’ve paid a penny in income taxes or kept a dime for themselves – and then with what remains they can purchase their own health insurance and life insurance, set aside money for their vacations, holidays and sick leave, and save on their own for any retirement compensation apart from Social Security.

Here’s a thought experiment: What would the total compensation per hour be for the median wage earner who used all five weeks of vacation and all 13 holidays in a given year? The math is tough, but as Mr. Tonisson is quoted as saying, “we want the public to know what’s going on,” so here goes:

A veteran full-time employee of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, earning median pay of $129,708, who takes five weeks off for vacation and takes 2.2 weeks off for holidays, works 44.4 weeks per year. And at 37.5 hours per week, they work 1,665 hours per year. That, folks, equates to $77.90 per hour.

Not bad work if you can find it. But, to quote Mr. Tonisson, “a strike is very likely.”

San Francisco Bay Area residents have been through this fairly recently. As reported here less than one year ago, in the post “BART Strike is a Teachable Moment,” transit workers in the east bay decided their compensation package – averaging $127,675 per year with similar benefits, compelled them to go on strike. The result was a two-fold disaster, first because of the havoc wreaked on Bay Area commuters for one hideous week last Fall, and secondly because in the ensuing negotiations BART’s management pretty much caved in to union demands.

The suggestion that Golden Gate Transportation District workers are exploited and need to go on strike, given their median pay is $129,708 per year, is obviously ridiculous (by the way, take a look at their retiree pensions here). These workers wield monopoly control over transportation assets – and like any union that operates in the public sector – they have the ability to inflict dire inconvenience on the average private citizen, they exist in a financial environment where their employers have no compelling need to earn a profit, and they elect the members of the same management team they negotiate with.

This is indeed a recipe for exploitation, but not of the workers who staff these agencies, but of the public they supposedly serve.

There is a deeper issue, which addresses Tonisson’s points about the excessive cost-of-living in the Bay Area. The reason the Bay Area has a punishingly high cost-of-living is because of public policies that restrict land and energy development. These policies benefit public sector unions, who collect higher property taxes and whose pension funds ride the asset bubble, but destroy the aspirations of working families. The solutions unions ought to embrace are to advocate changing these destructive policies, instead of thinking only about their own narrow interests of pay and benefits which, collectively, become part of the problem.

To cite one very relevant example, the leadership of the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition should advocate – along with their construction worker brethren at the California Labor Federation – to scrap the “bullet train” and instead invest in upgrades to existing roads, rail, bridges and ports. That would create more jobs, cost less money, and greatly lower transportation costs in California.

Instead, California’s unions line up with the environmentalist lobby to support building an 800 mile long wall enclosing high speed rail, rivaling the infamous Iron Curtain in its scope and security features. A scar across our land, a monument to misguided union leadership allied with crony capitalism at its worst, costing hundreds of billions. An expensive blight, that will divert an infinitesimal fraction of the traffic currently stacked up on California’s under-built and under-maintained conventional transportation infrastructure.

Mr. Tonisson and his associates at the Golden Gate Bridge Labor Coalition should be thinking about how to make transportation better and cheaper for Californians, instead of thinking about going on strike.

*   *   *

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

A Neutral Guide to Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality has been the topic of intense conversation recently, as the FCC solicits and considers public comments about how to regulate Internet traffic. We’ve put together the overview below to help you understand the issues and players that influence the way we use the Internet daily for business, research, entertainment, and social activities.

Net Neutrality OverviewFCC-building

Net Neutrality refers to the idea that all data on the Internet should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). For most of the Internet’s history, ISPs generally did not distinguish between the various types of content that flow through their networks, whether web pages, email, or other forms of information. In the 1990s and early 2000s, the few ISPs that tried to block certain types of data faced strong opposition from consumers, tech companies, and regulators.

With the rise of bandwidth-heavy services such as Netflix, ISPs have increasingly sought to sell more bandwidth, or “fast lanes,” to companies willing to pay for it. Other traffic would move through their networks at a slower pace.

An FCC History of Net Neutrality

The term “Network Neutrality” (later shortened to Net Neutrality) was coined by legal scholar Tim Wu in a 2003 study of potential ways to regulate the Internet. Over the last decade, the FCC has tried multiple times to enforce “guiding principles” in support of Net Neutrality.

In 2007, the FCC ruled that Comcast had illegally throttled its users’ service, but the ruling was struck down by the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.[1] In 2010, the FCC passed a regulatory order intended “to preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation, investment, job creation, economic growth, competition, and free expression.”[2] Verizon Communications challenged the new rules in court, and in January 2014, the D.C. Circuit again struck down the FCC’s ruling.[3]

In response to the most recent ruling, the FCC proposed another rulemaking and solicited public comments through July 15, 2014, with a reply comment period through September 10, 2014. During that period, members of the public can comment by visiting www.fcc.gov/comment or emailing openinternet@fcc.gov.[4]

Arguments for Net Neutrality

Net Neutrality proponents argue that the Internet should provide a “level playing field” by codifying an open-access model of the Internet in which all data is treated equally. In support of Net Neutrality, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has stated, “Freedom of communication with any application to any party is the fundamental social basis of the Internet, and now is the basis of the society we’ve built on the Internet.”[5]

Responding to opposition against government regulation, supporters of Net Neutrality argue that regulation is necessary to preserve the previously voluntary open access. Some have equated such regulation as similar to the First Amendment, and Senator Al Franken has called Net Neutrality “the most important free speech issue of our time.”[6]

Replying to concerns about interference with the free market, Net Neutrality advocates argue that 96% of Americans have access to two or fewer wired broadband providers,[7] which means that there is very little ISP competition now. Network Neutrality rules, they contend, would prevent ISPs from suppressing competitors and inhibiting startup companies such as YouTube, which started as a small company competing with Google Video before Google bought it in 2006.

Arguments Against Net Neutrality

Opponents of Net Neutrality regulation argue that ISPs should be allowed to charge more for bandwidth-intensive services that heavily use the Internet’s infrastructure. Offering tiered service, they add, will allow consumers to receive faster traffic for high-demand services, such as multimedia streaming, video conferencing, and cloud-based IT.

Other opponents of Net Neutrality rules argue from a libertarian perspective, asserting that the government should refrain from interfering with the Internet. Some have likened regulation of an open Internet to the institution of common carrier locomotive transportation laws in the late 19th century, which they claim subsequently raised prices and degraded service.[8] Christopher Yoo, a legal professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has argued that common carrier regulation has historically been poorly implemented, and similar rules should be avoided with respect to the Internet.[9]

In response to claims that tiered service will hinder innovation and discourage competition, Net Neutrality opponents claim that regulations will suppress creative, free-market solutions that might otherwise emerge.

The Future of Net Neutrality

Arguments supporting and in opposition to Net Neutrality proceed in a variety of places — online, through traditional media, in political venues, and elsewhere. People on each side position themselves as champions of freedom and innovation, while companies and organizations lobby rulemakers in Washington, D.C..

Meanwhile, companies continue wrangling over how high-bandwidth services should be delivered over the Internet. In February, Netflix saw a slowdown in its service as it tried to negotiate connection fees with broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast,[10] an event later used by Net Neutrality proponents as an example of ISPs limiting other companies’ service to get what they want — although others have argued that the event had nothing to do with Net Neutrality.[11] Net Neutrality supporters have noted that in 2013, Comcast spent more than $18 million on lobbying efforts, more than any other single company except defense contractor Northrop Grummon.[12]

In April 2014, a set of rules proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for cable and wireless companies, indicated that the FCC may abandon its previous Net Neutrality position and consider letting ISPs provide tiered service. Wheeler denied that the proposed rules changed the FCC’s position,[13] but more than 100 companies supporting Net Neutrality wrote a letter to the chairman in May criticizing the proposed rules.[14]

Whatever rules the FCC eventually establishes, they will have a great impact on how we continue to use the Internet in our personal, professional, and political lives. Understanding the issues and players involved is important to anticipating the how clients, service providers and even competitors will respond.

Stephanie Crets is a contributor to Single Hop. This piece was originally posted on Singlehop.com. 

FCC commissioner wants to end Obamaphone fraud

A top federal regulator wants the Federal Communications Commission to rein in the so-called “Obamaphone” program.

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai told an audience of right-leaning tech policy advocates Monday morning during an event organized by the nonprofit organization Citizens Against Government Waste that he wanted to reform the Lifeline program. Lifeline was first created in the 1980s, but now is fraught with waste, fraud, abuse by telecom industry members and consumers alike.

The Lifeline program is part of the congressionally mandated Universal Service Fund, intended to help carriers subsidize phone service for low-income people. Wireless carriers participating in the program receive $9.95 per month for each qualifying subscriber, and $34.25 if the subscriber lives in tribal lands. According to the FCC’s rules, only one Lifeline phone is allowed per qualifying customer.

Pai, one of the two GOP members of the commission, told audience members that he believed the Commission should put the program on a budget, reduce “financial incentive for people to commit Lifeline fraud” by possibly getting the states to help police the program, fill in gaps that encourage fraudulent behavior and step up enforcement of its rules.

AP file photo

Lifeline first became an overnight media sensation during the 2012 presidential election cycle after a viral YouTube video of a woman excitedly declaring her intention to vote for President Obama’s re-election because she received a free cell phone, which she dubbed an “Obamaphone,” made the headline of the Drudge Report.

“Lifeline wasn’t designed to give people free phone service,” Pai said.

“It was intended to provide low income consumers a discount on phone service, and the recent shift to free wireless service plans has dramatically increased the incentive for individuals to break the FCC’s rules by signing up for the program more than once,” he said.

Pai said the Lifeline program grew by nearly 102 percent since January 2009, compared to the program’s 3 percent growth during former President George W. Bush’s administration.

“From the end of 2008 to 2012, the size of the Lifeline program exploded from $819 million to $2.19 billion,” said Pai, “with annual increases of over 27 percent each and every year.”

According to a June 12 announcement by the FBI, for example, Oklahoma telecommunications company, Icon Telecom, and its sole owner, Wes Eui Chew, pleaded guilty to laundering more than $20 million, which he made by taking money from the Lifeline program.

Icon Telecom was involved in the program from July 2011 until September 2013. In September 2011, the company reported fewer than 2,200 qualifying customers. Fourtenn months later, Icon reported more than 130,000 qualifying customers.

“He admitted that when he made that transfer,” the FBI said, speaking about Chew wiring $20,455,829.10 to a personal account, “he knew that Icon had tens of thousands fewer customers than it had reported to the FCC for the first three months of 2013.”

The commissioner said that the explosion in fraud could be attributed to a change in the FCC’s rules to allow wireless re-sellers, wireless companies without their own network, attracted “many new carriers into the program whose sole model was to make money off of the Lifeline Program.”

Carriers began giving phones and minutes away for free, creating the incentive for customers to apply for as many new Lifeline phones as possible.

A 2013 investigation by Jillian Kay Melchior, a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the parent organization of Watchdog.org, even revealed how easy it is for a person who does not qualify for the program to receive a Lifeline phone.

In 2012, the FCC created a database as part of a set of reforms to keep participants accountable . Members of Congress also examined the Lifeline Program in April 2013 during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill.

But the program still needs more reform, and Pai said he wants the Commission to hold a vote on his proposals.

“As that wise sage Yoda put it in the Empire Strikes Back,” he said, eliciting a laugh from the room, “‘Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.’”

Josh Peterson is a contributor to Watchdog.org. This piece was originally posted on Watchdog.org.

Pot politics could inhale controller’s race

The California Republican party has a lot riding on Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.

She’s the only prominent Republican who carried a strong lead into the recent “jungle” primary elections for statewide office, under which the top two candidates, regardless of party (or no party), advance to a November runoff. Swearengin sat atop the field of candidates for state controller.

While she cruised to a first place finish, her Democratic opponents fought tooth and nail for second place, with Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee besting Assemblyman John Perez, D-Los Angeles, after a brief recount.Cannabis marijuana weed pot

The positioning helped fuel an impression throughout the state GOP that Swearengin was a strong party asset. In addition to attributes typically associated with “electable” Republicans, Swearengin seemed capable of actually notching electoral victories – unlike most recent GOP statewide candidates.

Now, however, Swearengin’s fortunes have become more uncertain. And, remarkably, marijuana may play a quietly decisive role in the outcome of her campaign.

The background

It all comes down to Swearengin’s matchup with Yee. Although Swearengin, a popular two-time Fresno mayor and ex-CEO, is well qualified to serve as controller, Yee’s own resume could neutralize that advantage in the minds of many undecided voters. Yee became chief deputy director for budget for California’s Department of Finance after serving on staff for Assembly and Senate fiscal and policy committees.

Politicos reading the tea leaves believe that lays the groundwork for an uphill battle for Swearengin. Had she faced off against Perez, Swearengin’s gender and business background could have made her relatively more competitive.

One additional primary-season detail, however, points to a possibly more substantial challenge for Swearengin. Notably, Perez lost to Yee despite topping the list of candidates statewide with Sacramento-area television ad buys. Beating out even Neel Kashkari, Perez spent some $220,000 in airtime, only to see Yee best him by a scant 481 votes.

That’s where things get interesting for Swearengin.

The marijuana factor

An unusual theory has started circulating about those 481 votes. Analysts are interested in understanding which constituency of otherwise undecided voters gave Yee the critical support necessary to put her over the top. According to the East Bay Express, Yee’s very strong endorsement of medical marijuana could have played a decisive role.

Dale Gieringer is the California director of the National Organization for the Repeal of Marijuana Laws. As he put it, “In an election settled by 500 votes, anything would have made the difference. I’m certain the cannabis community delivered more than that number of votes for Betty. She courted us aggressively with her forthright support for legally taxed and regulated cannabis, and we all plugged her in our election guides.”

If that sounds a bit speculative, Yee’s own response to the idea was anything but. “I support medical cannabis and believe the state regulation of it should be strengthened,” she told the Express. “I also support adult use laws for legally taxed and regulated cannabis. California needs a strong state-level regulatory framework for medical cannabis from which adult use laws may be considered. All eyes in California should be on the experiences and lessons learned from adult use laws in Colorado and Washington.”

In Swearengin’s Fresno, meanwhile, marijuana is on the outs. City officials have effectively banned all cultivation of the plant, leading to frustration and outrage among citizens who say they now can’t access medical marijuana. Two years ago Swearengin signed into law a city ban on growing marijuana outdoors.

That tees up a controller’s race, where pot could become an issue that swings an electorally significant number of votes. As is well known, California Republicans are currently on the hunt for almost any issue that can help them make inroads against Democrats — without sacrificing any GOP votes.

Republicans for pot reform

Especially over the course of the past several years, marijuana reform has become one of those issues. Republican officeholders inside and outside of California, from the local to the federal level, have found new audiences and new interest as a result of siding with reform.

For example, conservative California Republican Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Tom McClintock co-sponsored a bipartisan bill to prevent the federal government from interfering with state medical-marijuana laws. House Amendment 272 passed the Republican-controlled House in May.

In the Swearengin-Yee race, that tactic is likely off the table unless Swearengin makes a major policy shift.

In fact, Yee’s strong advocacy for medical marijuana, and the support from pot activists that it has cemented, could make Swearengin less competitive on drug policy – another disadvantage she would not have faced had Perez succeeded in overcoming Yee’s support among pro-pot voters.

That makes the California controller’s race one to watch for Republicans curious about the electoral value of a reformist approach to marijuana regulation.

  James Poulos is contributor to the Calwatchdog.org. This piece was originally posted on Calwatchdog.org. 

The myth of California’s underpaid public school employees

Eduardo Benard, a custodian at San Francisco’s Leonard R. Flynn Elementary School, received $107,912.31 in pay and benefits in 2013.

He was one of 31 custodians employed by California public schools that boasted more than $100,000 in compensation last year, according to just-release figures revealed on Transparent California, a database maintained by the nonpartisan California Policy Center.

The handsome compensation packages enjoyed by Benard and the other six-figure custodians almost certainly aren’t what California voters had in mind when they approved Proposition 30 two years ago.

The measure, championed by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and bankrolled by such special interests as the California Teachers Association and SEIU/California State Council of Service Employees, imposed $7 billion in new taxes for seven years, 89 percent of which was supposed to reach the state’s K-12 classrooms.

But Prop. 30 has proven a bait-and-switch. Indeed, 80 percent of the Prop. 30 money the state has collected has gone to salaries and benefits of public school employees, according to the state Controller’s Office.School-education-learning-1750587-h

$763,000 compensation

That includes Jose Fernandez, who left his post this month as superintendent of the Centinela Valley School District after revelations by the Daily Breeze in Torrance that he received more than $763,000 in total compensation last year.

And if that was not excessive enough for the superintendent of one of the state’s smaller school districts, Fernandez’s contract with the school district entitled him to a 9 percent annual raise. It also allowed him to secure a $910,000 low-interest loan from the district to purchase a home in Ladera Heights.

While none of California’s other public school superintendents was as extremely well compensated as Fernandez, they haven’t exactly been shortchanged by their school districts. Indeed, at least 100 superintendents received more than $250,000 in compensation last year.

Then there are the state’s unionized public teachers, who were portrayed during the Prop. 30 campaign as grossly underpaid.

The reality is that the average full-time teacher received nearly $85,000 in pay and benefits in 2013, according to Transparent California. And nearly 35,000 teachers received more than $100,000 in compensation.

Among the well-compensated unionized teachers are more than 1,000 “retired” instructors, the Los Angeles Times reported, who have taken advantage of a loophole that allows them to keep on teaching (and receiving a salary for doing so), while receiving their taxpayer-funded pensions at the same time.

These are the kind of abuses opponents of Prop. 30 foresaw in 2012. And in 2014 their fears have been realized.

Joseph Perkins is a contributor to Calwatchdog.org. This piece was originally posted on Calwathdog.org.

The Public Rejects Obama’s Immigration Policies

President Barack Obama is pushing for a huge amnesty in the weeks before Americans go to the polls, but a new poll shows that the swing-voters are deeply hostile to his immigration policies and to illegal immigration, and are growing very worried about legal immigration.

Only seven percent of swing-voting independents say the 50,000-plus Central American youths who have crossed the Texas border under Obama’s oversight (since October) should be allowed to stay, according to the poll released on July 28 by YouGov and The Economist.obama_iraq

Eighty percent of independents say the youths should be returned now, or once conditions are safe in their home country, the survey said. The score for independents are critical, because their votes are up for grabs in the November election, which may give the GOP a majority in the Senate.

The poll suggests that Obama’s conditional support for the migrants is damaging his already-weak public polls. It also shows that a large majority of the public will oppose his developing plan to provide work-permits to roughly five million illegal immigrants amid a stalled economy and massive unemployment.

Obama’s immigration policies are backed by only 32 percent of independents. He’s also backed by only 62 percent of Democrats, 21 percent of independents, 32 percent of moderates, 42 percent of Hispanics, and 23 percent of whites.

His greatest support on the issue comes from African-Americans, but even they give him only 61 percent support.

Few people believe the White House’s claim that the 100,000-plus Central American adults, youths and children are fleeing violent crimes.

Only 28 percent of independents, and 31 percent of moderates, say the migrants are fleeing crime. But 59 percent of independents and 55 percent of moderates say they’re seeking an “amnesty.”

Also, there is some evidence that the border-meltdown is causing people to rethink assumption that they should welcome immigrants.

The poll said that 61 percent of independents and 58 percent of moderates said that “immigration” — not illegal immigration — is a “very serious” problem. Only 3 percent said it was not a problem.

That’s a boost for politicians and groups who are seeking lower levels of immigration. They include Sen. Jeff Sessions and groups such as NumbersUSA and the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Other polls also show Obama’s policy is broadly unpopular.

The isolation of Obama’s Democratic partisans from the mainstream is highlighted by one question asking how the government should treat the border crossers: Twenty percent of Democrats and 18 percent of liberals say the Central American youths and children should be allowed to stay in the United States, but that view is shared by only 11 percent of moderates and 7 percent of political independent voters.

A vast majority of respondents want the border-crossers to go home, either immediately or later. For example, 37 percent of moderates and 45 percent of independents supported a policy that would either “return them to the Mexican border [or] return them to their family in their home country, regardless of conditions in their home country.” That policy is even endorsed by 27 percent of Democrats.

Even the middle-of-the-road option in the YouGov poll said the youths should be returned. Forty percent of Democrats and 43 percent of liberals said the youths and children should be returned “to their family in their home country, only if conditions in their home country are safe.”

Neil Munro is the White House correspondent for The Daily Caller. This piece was originally posted on Dailycaller.com.

Groundwater war breaks out

Future historians might mark July 20 as the date when a full scale war broke out over California’s groundwater.

On July 20 in the Los Angeles Times, George Skelton, the dean of California journalists, said it was unfair to tell him he can’t hose off his driveway or water his lawn while farmers can use all the groundwater they want. And he called for a coalition to legally absolve state property and water rights law going back a century.

He quoted state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, who said:Water

“California property owners have the right to all the water under them.  That began in the Wild West.  And we haven’t adapted to modern times…. It’s competition between property owners who get the most water.  I call it a race to the to bottom.”

Pavley and Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, are sponsoring separate bills in the Legislature to increase state government control over groundwater.

Santa Barbara water rights advocate Andy Caldwell reacted on July 24 on a radio program on AM 1290. Caldwell said such an action scared him because agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of most central and coastal counties.

So this could turn out to be another state battle pitting farmers against city folk.

Wild West water shootout?

So what’s going on?

California does not have a groundwater permits process for groundwater use, instead preferring regulation by court adjudication and monitoring of groundwater basins at the local level.  

California Groundwater law goes back not to Wild West shootouts, but to a 1903 legal case, Katz vs. Walkinshaw. In that case, the California Supreme Court established the groundwater rights of the overlying landowner are paramount over rights of others for use outside a basin.

Any new regulation of groundwater in California likely would require ratification by the state Supreme Court, or possibly the passage a state constitutional amendment by the Legislature or voters. 

So agricultural groundwater is not regulated in California, but it is managed. After the passage of Assembly Bill 3030 in 1992 (Water Code Section 10750 et seq.), 200 water agencies and districts adopted groundwater management plans. The Department of Water Resources reports that groundwater is already monitored in 10,000 active water wells where most of the water is used.

The major difference between voluntary local government groundwater management and state regulation is that the state has the power to issue shutdown notices and compel compliance with law enforcement to conserve water. But is the latter necessary? In fact, water levels in aquifers have always rebounded, as shown in the above table.

There still are some areas of the state that have not adopted such management plans.  Liability issues, the high cost of adjudicating water basins, the ability of farmers to self-manage groundwater levels, the complexities of existing water rights, and the lack of legal conflicts over local groundwater usage have made groundwater regulation unnecessary in many areas.

Groundwater is not generally monitored in some 200 water basins where the population is sparse and groundwater withdrawals are typically low. Moreover, it is not possible to convey groundwater from isolated aquifers to George Skelton to hose off his driveway.

Never Let A Groundwater Crisis Go to Waste

President Obama’s first chief of staff, current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, famously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”

Echoing that, Dickinson said about the drought (as quoted by Skelton), “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” As with the Emanuel, Dickinson meant using the crisis to increase government control.

According to Skelton’s analysis:

“Over the last century, the Central Valley has lost enough groundwater to fill Lake Tahoe — or enough to inundate the entire state by 14 inches. Between 2003 and 2009 alone, it lost enough to fill Lake Mead. The aquifer has fallen hundreds of feet in some areas, and not just in the San Joaquin Valley…. In the San Joaquin, land has been sinking with the aquifers.”

But again, as seen in the table above, water basins in the Sacramento, Delta, and San Joaquin basins never became depleted — even in the severe drought of 1977. The depletion of groundwater in the Central Valley is isolated to the Tulare Basin.

Even there, as of 2000 the Tulare aquifer had 390 years of remaining water storage left and was depleting at a rate of only 0.25 percent per year, according to a 2012 study conducted under the sponsorship of the National Academy of Sciences.

If California’s Water Wars really are beginning, it’s worth noting that groundwater in California is not part of a Wild West shootout, but a modern, mature system of management and adjudication.

Wayne Lusvardi is a contributor to Calwatchdog. This piece was orginally posted on Calwatchdog.org.

‘Healthy People’: Karl Marx wouldn’t recognize this 10-year plan

 A federal program has designs on making Americans “Healthy People.”Amid rising obesity rates and a binge of political correctness, the government initiative is getting broader.

Healthy People 2000 — launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — was initially tasked to reduce health disparities among Americans.

By 2010, the mission was expanded to eliminate, not just reduce, health disparities.

Healthy People 2020 is moving the goalposts yet again — “to achieve health equity, eliminate disparities and improve the health of all groups.”

According to the HHS directive, “Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities.”

“Karl Marx couldn’t have come up with this,” says Richard Williams, vice president for policy research at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

“They have decided that ‘racism’ is a determinate of health. They are concerned about ‘residential segregation’ and ‘perceptions of discrimination,’” Williams noted in
an  interview with Watchdog.org.obamacare healthcare

Promoting “Civic Participation and Social Cohesion,” the Healthy People program has ventured far beyond its original mission.

“If you try hard enough, and they have, virtually every aspect of society can be related to health, such as quality of housing,” said Williams, a 27-year official at the Food and Drug Administration.

A 2011 document indicated that government grants of up to $10,000 would be available for up to 170 non-profit organizations.

Officials at Healthy People — under the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion — did not respond to questions about the program’s overall budget.

A Healthy People prospectus stated, “We would like to see that there’s some research and some science behind the work.”

“But at the level that we’re funding, we’re not really anticipating research projects coming in.”

Money aside, the scope of Healthy People is both impressive and ambiguous. The 2020 version covers 42 topics with more than 600 “objectives,” encompassing 1,200 undefined “measures.”

Among the overarching objectives is “Environmental Justice: supporting the rights of all people to live in a healthy environment.”

Critics suggest that manipulating market economics — while expanding the federal bureaucracy — lies at the core of the agenda.

“Now we want to make all the world’s wages better. That’s real mission creep,” Williams said.

Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org. This piece was originally posted on Watchdog.org.