Florida Judge Declares CDC’s Federal Travel Mask Mandate ‘Unlawful’ and Vacates It

“Our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends,” writes Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle.

A Florida judge has vacated the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) mask mandate for transportation, calling it an “unlawful” expansion of federal authority.

“Our system does not permit agencies to act unlawfully even in pursuit of desirable ends,” wrote U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, who was appointed during the Trump administration.

Mizelle’s ruling brings an immediate halt to the mandate, though the government could ask the court to stay the judgment while an appeal is made. Under that scenario, the travel mandate—which applies to airplanes, trains, buses, and subway systems—could return.

In either case, it’s not clear how much longer the CDC planned to keep the mandate. It was initially set to expire today, but the agency extended it for two additional weeks. Given that the air quality on airplanes is highly filtered, the CEOs of major airlines have testified that the mask requirement is unnecessary for their industry.

“It makes no sense that people are still required to wear masks on airplanes, yet are allowed to congregate in crowded restaurants, schools and at sporting events without masks, despite none of these venues having the protective air filtration system that aircraft do,” wrote the CEOs of all major airlines in a letter to the Biden administration.

They certainly have a point. It’s difficult to imagine that unmasked travelers and commuters are at significantly greater risk of catching COVID-19 than unmasked restaurant and gym customers: There’s much less talking and heavy breathing on an airplane than there is at a bar—but the latter has practically no masking requirements at this point in the pandemic. In most respects, people are now free to decide for themselves what their personal risk tolerance is with respect to COVID-19 and behave accordingly.

In her decision, Judge Mizelle chided the CDC for taking shortcuts and exceeding its own statutory authority. Under the law—specifically, a federal law known as the Administrative Procedures Act—the agency is required to submit new policies for outside review and comment. The CDC declined to do this, arguing that any delay in implementing the mandate would cost lives. The agency also maintained that the mandate was not a new rule but, rather, a clarification of previous guidance relating to “sanitation.”

Mizelle was unpersuaded, however, that the Public Health Service Act of 1944—the law the CDC cited as giving the agency the power to take such actions—considered disease prevention to be a form of sanitation.

“Wearing a mask cleans nothing,” wrote Mizelle. “At most, it traps virus droplets. But it neither ‘sanitizes’ the person wearing the mask nor ‘sanitizes’ the conveyance. Because the CDC required mask wearing as a measure to keep something clean—explaining that it limits the spread of COVID-19 through prevention, but never contending that it actively destroys or removes it—the Mask Mandate falls outside of [applicable law].”

Click here to read the full article at Reason

Gov. Brown Pushed for Softer Treatment of Violent Felons

It’s an election year and crime has emerged as a major campaign issue, so it’s no wonder that the horrendous shootout between two gang factions in downtown Sacramento that left six people dead has led to much political fingerpointing.

Republicans, who have become virtually powerless in California, quickly pointed the finger of blame at Gov. Gavin Newsom because one of the alleged shooters, Smiley Martin, had served just five years of a 10-year prison term for spousal abuse due to the state’s recently loosened parole standards.

“In California, you can do the crime and skip the time. Criminals see little to no consequences for crime, and that needs to change,” said Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk. “If we are to restore order and safety to our communities, a good place to start is ensuring early release credits are not given to violent and dangerous felons for simply breathing.”

In response, Newsom’s office has said the state prison system was merely implementing authority to grant more generous “good time” credits to inmates that voters authorized when they passed Proposition 57 in 2016.

Prison authorities had adopted the new rules on an expedited basis without the chance for public input, but after a lawsuit was filed and a judge tentatively ruled against the process, they reversed themselves and have allowed a period for comment.

The politician who should bear the onus for allowing the alleged shooter and other violent criminals to serve only portions of their sentences is former Gov. Jerry Brown, who wrote Proposition 57 and more or less tricked voters into believing that it would benefit only felons who committed non-violent crimes.

Brown’s stated aim was to undo some of the tough sentencing laws he signed during his first stint as governor nearly four decades earlier, saying they had not worked.

He closely guarded details of the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016” until just before submitting it as an amendment to a pending ballot measure dealing with juvenile justice, thereby virtually eliminating any chance for opponents to influence “title and summary” processing by the Department of Justice.

The measure, a constitutional amendment, declares that “any person convicted of a non-violent felony offense and sentenced to state prison shall be eligible for parole consideration after completing the full term for his or her primary offense” and made it easier for them to reduce the “full term” with more generous credits for good behavior.

However, it did not define or list “non-violent felony offenses.” Instead, Brown’s campaign referred to a section of the Penal Code that listed 23 particularly violent offenses, such as murder. Any crime not on the list would be considered non-violent for purposes of parole.

Indirectly, therefore, dozens of serious crimes would be considered non-violent for parole purposes. They include assault with a deadly weapon, soliciting murder, intimidating or harming a crime victim or witness, resisting arrest that injures a police officer, violent elder or child abuse, arson with injury, human trafficking and several forms of manslaughter.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

L.A. Times’ pathetic attempts to smear Rick Caruso

You can tell that Rick Caruso is making progress in his campaign for Mayor of Los Angeles when the Los Angeles Times initiates and engages its’ relentless smear machine in semi-weekly reports to establish that the self-made The Grove billionaire developer is the terrible person he is not.

A recent poll co-sponsored by the Times shows that Caruso is leading South Central L.A.’s progressive Democratic Congresswoman Karen Bass by 24% to 23%. Caruso stood at 8% in a prior poll, but with an advertising campaign underway since then, his support has tripled while Bass has lost ground.

Bass is the Progressive Left and corporate media’s sweet-heart to be L.A.’s next Mayor. She continually receives fawning attention from systemic liberal legacy outlets like the New York Times, (From Outsider to Insider: Karen Bass’s Unexpected Journey to Power), or other woke publications, (Karen Bass’s L.A. mayoral run reflects a political career of progressive leadership). She apparently likes Communist Cuba, and some thought that should disqualify her for consideration as Joe Biden’s Vice-President back in the day.

Caruso, a successful Los Angeles businessman and lawyer, has given generously of time and effort to southern California institutions such as Pepperdine University Law School, which now bears his name; and the University of Southern California, were he ably served as Chairman of the Board and helped correct a most difficult time for the university. He also served exemplarily as a volunteer leader of the Los Angeles Police Commission, after turbulent times required some real attention at LAPD.

So, now that Caruso is a threat to Bass, he has become a threat to institutional liberalism’s stranglehold on political power in Los Angeles county. Caruso is quite different from the woke idea of who should populate positions of power in government. The purveyors of “identify politics” in the Democratic Party don’t like what they see in Caruso. To them, Caruso is not only an outsider, a developer (even with a heart), and a billionaire; he is also a non-Hispanic white male Christian. That is a profile that simply does not show up in Los Angeles County’s power structure, including all the Congressional delegation, its’ representatives in the state Legislature, all the members of the Board of Supervisors, and is a distinct, tiny minority on the Los Angeles City Council.

Thus, the headlines and stories we now read in the Times reveal again-and-again just how bad a person Caruso really is. For example, did you know that as a volunteer on the police commission he only attended 86 meetings?! Outrage! Did you know that up until just TEN years ago he was a Republican?! More outrage! (Never mind that he gave $5,800 in contributions to….Karen Bass.) And what I think is the most pathetic hit on Caruso of all – Did you know that though Rick Caruso says crime is really bad in Los Angeles, that he is stating inaccuracies, because it was actually worse in 1993? (After the Rodney King riots.)

As we get closer to the start of voting on May 10, you can expect many more attempts to spin Rick Caruso into a monster – stuff like “he only paid $1.6 million in taxes” and “why will he not reveal all his tax returns”, a question they never insisted upon on former Governor Jerry Brown, who never, ever disclosed a tax return in his entire political career. If you are politically savvy, you will be able to read the tea leaves – the more emphatic the Times gets making Caruso the villain, the better their own polling will be showing Caruso to be the winner.

Southern California can use a leader that is committed to fighting the epidemic of addicted street people and giving them better options in life than more of the same. We need to crack down on the criminal gang-members, take away their guns, and make them fully accountable to society for their anti-social behaviors. We need some hope that Los Angeles can become a cleaner, safer place again with a palpable, positive future. The candidate to do that is definitely not Cuba-fan Karen Bass. It is Rick Caruso.

Rick Caruso

California Politics: The Taxes Paid By 100,000 Millionaires

When Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers settle on details of a new California budget in June to provide another year of government services for almost 40 million people, they will do so largely by tapping the fortunes of one of the most exclusive groups of taxpayers in the nation.

The group includes almost 100,000 taxpayers with incomes above $1 million — residents who represent only about one-half of 1% of all tax returns filed in the state but collectively pay about 40% of all California personal income taxes.

As tax day approaches, it’s this small subset of people who will likely again provide an outsize amount of government cash, a reminder of how dependent the state is on their fortunes.

96,322 tax filers. $35.3 billion in payments

State officials compile a robust amount of information about tax collections and the Californians who pay, delineated into categories such as adjusted gross income, taxable income and tax liability. But it’s a snapshot of what’s in the rearview mirror: the state Franchise Tax Board’s most recent report is from 2019 and agency officials didn’t respond to a Times request for any partial data sets that might have been compiled from 2020 or 2021.

Even so, the fundamentals are unlikely to change.

California’s progressive income tax policy, by which those who earn more are expected to pay more, has always been intended to skew collection toward a relatively small number of taxpayers. That group of high-income earners has grown in recent years, as has their total tax liability.

State data show that of the more than 17.5 million personal income tax filings in 2019, there were 96,322 tax forms with an adjusted gross income of at least $1 million. These taxpayers had a collective tax liability of $35.3 billion — the single biggest share of the state’s $90 billion in personal income taxes.

So what else does the most recent state tax data tell us about California’s millionaires?

We know this small group of taxpayers reported about $300 billion in taxable income, more than one-fifth of the state’s total. And we know they reported about 9% of the state’s wage and salary earnings but 42% of taxable income earned from interest payments and almost 45% of taxable income earned from stock dividends — a reflection of how investments, not paychecks, drive the income of the most wealthy.

But millionaires are hardly the only story worth telling about California’s progressive income tax system.

Widen the lens to include all California income tax returns with an adjusted gross income of $500,000 a year or more — a view that takes in about 17% of all tax filings in 2019 — and you end up with a group of taxpayers who owed $46.4 billion, more than half of the statewide total.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Newsom Signals He’s Open to Excluding the Wealthiest Californians From Gas Tax Rebate

SACRAMENTO — As California drivers continue to grapple with the highest-in-the-nation gas prices, Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators remain miles apart on the broad strokes of a proposal to give residents a gas tax rebate.

Newsom recently outlined new details of his plan, however, that suggest he’s open to excluding the wealthiest Californians from receiving rebates, as some Democratic legislators have insisted.

Three weeks ago, Newsom released his highly anticipated proposal to give Californians relief from soaring gas prices, calling for the state to send $400 gas tax refunds to vehicle owners in the form of debit cards, with a maximum of two refunds or $800 for those with multiple vehicles.

But state legislators have floated multiple competing proposals. Some progressives have pushed to prioritize rebates for low-income people, regardless of whether they own a vehicle. Republicans, meanwhile, have demanded the state suspend the gas tax immediately, in addition to giving rebates to drivers.

Newsom’s administration recently unveiled new details of his plan when it sent lawmakers budget bill language to enact his proposal. Here are five key questions to watch as the debate unfolds:

Would high-income drivers be included?

When the governor first announced his proposal, he called for giving refunds to all vehicle owners, regardless of their income. That sparked some criticism from some Democrats who said wealthy drivers don’t need the money.

But Newsom’s latest proposal includes a provision to potentially cap rebates for luxury vehicles valued above a set amount — signaling he’s ready to compromise. The cutoff amount is left blank in the latest bill language.

H.D. Palmer, a spokesperson for Newsom’s budget team, said the blank cap amount reflects that the governor is negotiating with legislators who’ve called for capping rebates.

“Where we end up, we’ll have to see,” Palmer said.

Legislative leaders have floated their own proposal that would provide tax filers a $200 rebate, along with an additional $200 for each dependent. Their plan would exclude high-income earners by capping eligibility at $250,000 in household income, or $125,000 for single filers.

“The Senate’s focus has been getting real relief to people who need it most as soon as possible,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said in a statement.

Who else might be excluded?

The bill language Newsom’s administration published also outlines another group of people who could be barred from receiving rebates: drivers who have expired tags or owe money to the DMV.

His proposal would limit rebates to only people whose vehicle registration is valid as of April 6, though drivers with expired or suspended registration would have until June 30 to resolve their issues and pay any fees or penalties. That could include fees owed due to delinquent parking tickets.

Newsom’s proposal would also exclude fleet vehicles and vehicles for which the owner has filed a certificate of non-operation with the DMV.

What about transit riders and city dwellers?

Newsom’s push for gas-tax rebates has sparked protests from some mass transit users and environmentalists who said it unfairly excludes people who don’t drive cars.

The Climate Center, a Bay Area advocacy group, chided the plan this week, tweeting, “@GavinNewsom should accelerate California’s #cleanenergy transition, not subsidize the oil and gas industry with rebates.”

California YIMBY, the housing advocacy group, tweeted that gas rebates “are self-defeating — they reduce funding for critical transportation infrastructure. What California’s workers need is more affordable housing closer to jobs.”

Palmer stressed that Newsom’s $11 billion plan, $9 billion of which would pay for rebates, also includes funding for programs that would benefit transit users, cyclists and pedestrians.

“This isn’t just gas- and diesel-centric,” Palmer said. “It is a very balanced package.”

The governor has asked legislators to approve $750 million in grants for rail and transit agencies to make ridership free for three months. Newsom’s office estimated 3 million Californians ride a bus, subway or light rail daily.

In addition, Newsom’s plan includes $500 million in funding for “active transportation programs,” such as projects to expand bike lanes or make streets more pedestrian-friendly.

The governor also proposes the state fast-track spending $1.75 billion of his $10 billion budget for electric cars, so more money for buyer incentives and to build charging stations could be used in the coming year.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Voters Say State Is On Wrong Track

Californians surveyed cite homelessness, gas prices and housing among top concerns.

Tents from a homeless encampment line a street in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Some 7,000 volunteers will fan out as part of a three-night effort to count homeless people in most of Los Angeles County. Naomi Goldman, a spokeswoman of the organizer the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the goal is to “paint a picture about the state of homelessness.” (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Coronavirus cases are dropping and the state’s unemployment rate is on the decline, but most California voters still say the Golden State is headed in the wrong direction, with high gasoline prices, low housing affordability and persistent homelessness cited as the biggest challenges.

In a new survey on some of the most prominent economic topics, nearly 6 in 10 voters said the state is on the wrong track and more than 70% rated high gasoline prices as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. The survey of registered voters by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

“Californians are giving a negative rating of the direction of the state,” said Mark Di Camillo, director of the Berkeley institute’s poll. “That coincides with how voters are viewing their personal financial situation.”

In response to the pain at the pump, voters said they are likely to cut back on driving.

Few, however, said they expected to switch to public transit. Only 25% said they were likely to take buses or trains more often.

By contrast, 7 in 10 said they were likely to drive less around town or cancel vacations or weekend road trips because of the high prices.

The pain of high gasoline prices, which last month reached a statewide average of $5.73 a gallon — up $1.79 from a year ago, is felt most keenly by lower-income Californians, Black and Latino residents and those under 30, according to the survey.

Among California voters earning less than $40,000 a year, 81% said gasoline prices were a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. At the other end of the income scale, 57% of those earning more than $200,000 said the prices were not a serious problem.

Gasoline prices were described as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem by 79% of Black voters, 85% of Latino voters and 75% of voters under 30, according to the survey.

Lorena Mendez, an airline catering company worker at Los Angeles International Airport, struggles weekly deciding how to fill her tank and buy groceries, among other household expenses. She bought a house in Bakersfield because housing is more affordable there, but her commute to LAX is two hours in each direction. On some days, rather than driving home she stays with her mother, who lives closer to her job, to save on gas.

“Everything has gotten more expensive, gas and groceries,” she said in Spanish. “It’s hard to figure out which bill to pay first.”

Until recently, Mendez said, she earned about $22 an hour, but her bosses have cut her pay to about $18 an hour. She hopes to work extra hours to make up for the pay cut.

“I was barely able to pay my bills, and now with everything getting more expensive, it’s a struggle,” she said.

For many workers like Mendez who have long commutes, public transit isn’t a viable option. The poll asked voters who said they were not likely to take transit more often to choose up to two main reasons. Among the most common responses were that buses or trains were not convenient either to their destinations (45%) or their homes (35%), that transit takes longer than driving (39%) or that service isn’t frequent enough (20%).

A significant number said they don’t feel safe waiting for or riding on a bus or train (34%) or that they worry about catching COVID-19 or some other illness (16%). Safety concerns were more common in Los Angeles and Orange counties than in the San Francisco Bay Area or San Diego. Few voters — 3% statewide — said transit costs too much.

In 2016, Los Angeles County voters showed just how frustrated they were with traffic. They approved a half-cent sales tax that will pump out $120 billion over four decades to further build out a massive rail system that can carry commuters from the foothills to the sea and to make highway improvements.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already spent $9.2 billion in the last 10 years on transit projects, including a yet-to-open light rail line running from the Mid-City area to the South Bay, a regional connector line and an extension of a line that connects the Westside to downtown L.A.

The agency projects it will spend an additional $30 billion on rail in the coming decade and will over the next few decades double the length of its interconnected rail system in the hope that it will lure more commuters across the region.

Academics said voter reluctance about riding transit in response to gas prices was not surprising.

“While gas prices have gone up, most roads and parking continue to be free and plentiful, incentivizing their use,” said Jacob Lawrence Wasserman, research project manager at UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “And, with transit not given the priority and service to get Angelenos to many destinations reliably, many are left stomaching higher gas prices instead.”

At the same time, by 56% to 35%, voters supported the state’s effort to build a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco that is already expected to be more than three times the original cost estimated when voters approved funding in 2008.

Registered Democrats favored the project 73% to 18%, but Republicans opposed it 66% to 25%. Nonpartisan voters supported the project 55% to 35%.

The glum attitude about the state’s direction was shared, to varying degrees, by California voters of nearly every age group, ethnicity and political stripe.

Just over half of Democrats said the state is headed in the wrong direction, and 93% of Republicans agreed with that gloomy assessment.

Only 21% of voters said they were financially better off than they were a year ago, 42% said they were worse off and 34% said there had been no change.

The survey showed voters are pessimistic about the future: Only 21% predicted they will be better off financially in a year, 30% said they would be worse off, and 44% expected no change in their financial situation.

The poll found that voters now rank the coronavirus near the bottom of a list of 15 challenges facing the state, far behind problems such as housing affordability, homelessness, crime, gas prices and climate change.

Over the last week, the state has averaged 2,824 new coronavirus cases, a decrease of 

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Biden Approval Rating in State Gets Slight Boost

Roughly 6 in 10 California voters give President Biden poor marks on his handling of inflation, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll, even as his overall job approval marginally improved in the last two months.

The survey, which was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, found that voters in the state had mixed reviews of the president, with displeasure over his economic performance cutting against a more positive assessment of his record on the international stage. Still, with 50% of respondents signaling approval, Biden notched higher ratings than his vice president, Kamala Harris, or the two congressional leaders from California, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.

The poll captures an electorate deeply pessimistic about the future. Two-thirds of registered voters surveyed say the country is on the wrong track, while just 26% think it is heading in the right direction. Republicans are nearly unanimously bleak, with 92% having a negative outlook on the nation’s trajectory. A substantial majority — 65% — of voters not affiliated with a political party agree, as do 51% of Democrats.

“They’re not at all pleased,” said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Berkeley IGS poll, of Biden’s Democratic base. “Even though their ratings of Biden are positive, they don’t see the country moving in a positive direction. That’s kind of ominous.”

Despite the starkly negative assessment on the nation’s course, California voters are more evenly divided on their views of Biden. His 50% approval and 46% disapproval rating is slightly better than the 47%- 48% marks he received in February, when the last IGS poll was conducted.

Nevertheless, enthusiasm for Biden in the state is sharply down from this time last year, when more than 6 in 10 voters gave him positive reviews. While Biden has lost ground with voters across the board, his steepest declines are among the state’s younger voters, ages 18-39, as well as Asian Americans and Latinos, two key Democratic constituencies increasingly courted by the GOP.

“During his honeymoon period and … during the election itself, he really was able to capture the support of the ethnic populations in California. It’s one of the reasons he won so big” in the state, DiCamillo said. “Now he’s falling back to Earth.”

One bright spot for Biden is his handling the war between Ukraine and Russia, in which he finds himself on relatively solid ground with voters. Fifty-six percent of California voters approve of Biden’s management of relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a key partner for the United States in responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while 33% disapprove. His handling of American relations with Russia is also positive, albeit more narrowly, with 49% approving and 44% disapproving. Overall, a slim majority — 51% — approve of how Biden has dealt with the war in Ukraine, while 43% give him negative marks.

The positive reviews for his work abroad, however, are offset by California voters’ displeasure on economic matters back home.

The president is underwater, with 50% disapproval and 45% approval, when it comes to his overall stewardship of the economy. The ratings are even worse — 59% disapproval and 34% approval — when it comes to rising prices, which are increasing at the fastest rate in decades.

“Inflation is on voters’ minds,” DiCamillo said. “They’re seeing it every day.”

The consumer price index, released by the Labor Department on Tuesday, showed inflation rose 8.5% over the last year — the highest year-over-year jump since 1981. The biggest drivers of the surge were the skyrocketing costs of energy and food, which have been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Views on inflation, as with most issues, vary drastically by party; just 5% of Republicans give Biden favorable marks, compared with 54% of Democrats and 27% of voters with no party preference.

But partisanship does not appear to be the sole factor driving some voters’ views. The state’s youngest voters, who generally tend to be more liberal, give Biden the lowest marks on inflation, while older Californians are more positive. Just 21% of voters ages 18-29 approve of Biden’s handling of the matter, compared with 49% approval from voters ages 65 and older.

Regionally, voters in California’s major urban areas, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, hold rosier views than those in more rural parts of the state, where assessments are more negative than positive. Notably, Biden’s popularity is evenly divided in Orange County, home to several battleground congressional districts that will have fiercely competitive races in the upcoming midterm elections.

Still, DiCamillo noted, Biden’s standing in Orange County, where his approval rating is 47% compared with 48% disapproval, is much stronger than in regions outside California with pivotal House races. Nationally, Biden’s popularity hovers around 42%, according to the website FiveThirtyEight’s average of polls.

“He’s probably not as serious a drag as he is in other parts of the country,” DiCamillo said.

Though Biden has seen minor improvements to his standing among California voters, Vice President Harris has not seen a similar uptick. Respondents continue to see her more negatively than positively, with 35% of voters approving her performance and 45% disapproving. Two months ago, her rating was 38% approval to 46% disapproval. The number of voters with no opinion of her performance has increased to 21% in April from 15% in February.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

US Inflation Jumped 8.5% In Past Year, Highest Since 1981

WASHINGTON (AP) — Inflation soared over the past year at its fastest pace in more than 40 years, with costs for food, gasoline, housing and other necessities squeezing American consumers and wiping out the pay raises that many people have received.

The Labor Department said Tuesday that its consumer price index jumped 8.5% in March from 12 months earlier, the sharpest year-over-year increase since 1981. Prices have been driven up by bottlenecked supply chains, robust consumer demand and disruptions to global food and energy markets worsened by Russia’s war against Ukraine. From February to March, inflation rose 1.2%, the biggest month-to-month jump since 2005. Gasoline prices drove more than half that increase.

Across the economy, the year-over-year price spikes were widespread. Gasoline prices rocketed 48% in the past 12 months. Used car prices have soared 35%, though they actually fell in February and March. Bedroom furniture is up 14.7%, men’s suits and coats 14.5%. Grocery prices have jumped 10%, including 18% increases for both bacon and oranges.

Investors focused on a bright spot in the report and sent stock prices up: So-called core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose just 0.3% from February to March, the smallest monthly rise since September. Over the past year, though, core prices are up 6.5%, the most since 1982.

“The inflation fire is still out of control,” said Christopher Rupkey, chief economist at the research firm FWDBONDS LLC.

The March inflation numbers were the first to fully capture the surge in gasoline prices that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Moscow’s attacks have triggered far-reaching Western sanctions against the Russian economy and disrupted food and energy markets. According to AAA, the average price of a gallon of gasoline — $4.10 — is up 43% from a year ago, though it’s dipped in the past couple of weeks.

The acceleration of inflation has occurred against the backdrop of a booming job market and a solid overall economy. In March, employers adding a robust 431,000 jobs — the 11th straight month in which they’ve added at least 400,000. For 2021, they added 6.7 million jobs, the most in any year on record. In addition, job openings are near record highs, layoffs are at their lowest point since 1968 and the unemployment rate is just above a half-century low.

The escalation of energy prices, a potential threat to the economy’s long-term durability, has led to higher transportation costs for the shipment of goods across the economy, which, in turn, has contributed to higher prices for consumers. The squeeze is being felt particularly hard at the gas pump.

“That’s an extra dollar per gallon that I’m paying to get into the city to work,” Jason Emerson of Oakland, California, said as he loaded groceries into his car. “And then, you know, we have the tolls that just went up this past year a dollar. My eggs are a dollar more as well. So everything’s going up at least a dollar, which, you know, adds up.’

The latest inflation numbers solidify expectations that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates aggressively in the coming months to try to slow borrowing and spending and tame inflation.

Kathy Bostjancic, an economist at Oxford Economics, said she expects year-over-year inflation to hit 9% in May and then begin “a slow descent.” Some other economists, too, suggest that inflation is at or near its peak. With federal stimulus aid having expired, consumer demand could flag as wages fall behind inflation, households drain more of their savings and the Fed sharply raises rates, all of which could combine to slow inflation.

But that could take time. Robust spending, steady pay raises and chronic supply shortages are still fueling inflation. In addition, housing costs, which make up about a third of the consumer price index, have escalated, a trend that seems unlikely to reverse anytime soon.

Economists note that as the economy has emerged from the depths of the pandemic, consumers have been gradually broadening their spending beyond goods to include more services. A result is that high inflation, which at first had reflected mainly a shortage of goods — from cars and furniture to electronics and sports equipment — has been emerging in services, too, like travel, health care and entertainment. Airline fares, for instance, have soared an average of nearly 24% in the past 12 months. The average cost of a hotel room is up 29%

The expected fast pace of the Fed’s rate increases will make loans sharply more expensive for consumers and businesses. Mortgage rates, in particular, though not directly influenced by the Fed, have rocketed higher in recent weeks, making home buying costlier. Many economists say they worry that the Fed has waited too long to begin raising rates and might end up acting so aggressively as to trigger a recession.

The American public’s expectation for inflation over the next 12 months has reached its highest point — 6.6% — in a survey the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has conducted since 2013. Once public expectations for inflation rise, they can be self-fulfilling: Workers typically demand higher pay to offset their expectations for price increases. Businesses, in turn, raise prices to cover their higher labor costs. This can set off a wage-price spiral, something the nation last endured in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Click here to read the full article at the Mercury News

California’s Shrinking Population Has Big Impacts

Although California’s population growth began to slow in the 1990s after exploding in the previous decade by 6 million people, both official and independent demographers continued to see relatively strong growth for decades to come.

In 2007, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in-house demographers projected that California would have 39.9 million residents by 2011. It didn’t happen.

Five years later, then-Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2012-13 budget projected that the state’s population would be “over 39.6 million” by 2016. That didn’t happen either.

In 2016, with the state’s population estimated at 38.7 million, the Public Policy Institute of California declared that “California will continue to gain millions of new residents in each of the next two decades, increasing demand in all areas of infrastructure and public services – including education, transportation, housing, water, health, and welfare.”

“By 2030, PPIC said, “California’s population is projected to reach 44.1 million.”

That’s not going to happen either.

The 2020 census pegged the state’s population at 39.5 million and a recent report from the Census Bureau says California had a net loss of more than a quarter-million residents between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021.

“California appears to be on the verge of a new demographic era, one in which population declines characterize the state,” PPIC demographer Hans Johnson writes in a new analysis. “Lower levels of international migration, declining birth rates, and increases in deaths all play a role. But the primary driver of the state’s population loss over the past couple years has been the result of California residents moving to other states.”

Since 2010, Johnson continued, “about 7.5 million people moved from California to other states, while only 5.8 million people moved to California from other parts of the country. According to Department of Finance estimates, the state has lost residents to other states every year since 2001.”

Instead of zooming past 40 million to 45 and then 50 million by mid-century, as earlier projections indicated, California may remain stuck just under 40 million indefinitely.

That said, a stagnant population doesn’t mean a lack of demographic change. Declining birth rates, the aging of the large baby boom cohort and rising death rates – three other components – mean, for example, that as a whole, California’s population is growing older. We’re already seeing sharp declines in public school enrollment from the state’s baby bust.

The state-to-state migration patterns Johnson cites also affect the composition of an otherwise stagnant population. Overall, he says, those leaving the state tend to have low to moderate incomes and relatively low levels of education while those moving here have higher levels of education and income.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Law Reduced Prison Time For Man Tied to Sacramento Shooting

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A suspect arrested in connection with last weekend’s mass shooting outside bars in Sacramento served less than half his 10-year sentence because of voter-approved changes to state law that lessened the punishment for his felony convictions and provided a chance for earlier release.

Smiley Allen Martin was freed in February after serving time for punching a girlfriend, dragging her from her home by her hair and whipping her with a belt, according to court and prison records.

Those count as nonviolent offenses under California law, which considers only about two dozen crimes to be violent felonies — such as murder, rape, arson and kidnapping.

Martin, 27, was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of possession of a firearm by a prohibited person and possession of a machine gun. He is among the 12 people wounded during Sunday’s shooting, which killed six others.

Police have said the violence was a shootout between rival gangs in which at least five people fired weapons, including Martin’s brother, Dandrae Martin, who also was arrested. No one has yet been charged with homicide in the shooting.

Smiley Martin typically would have remained behind bars until at least May after serving a minimum of half his time for his previous arrest in 2017, but prison officials evidently used a very expansive approach to applying lockup time credits to his sentence, said Gregory Totten, chief executive officer of the California District Attorneys Association and a former Ventura County district attorney.

“They’ve been given very broad authority to early release folks and to give them additional credit and all kinds of considerations for purposes of reducing the length of sentence that somebody serves,” Totten said.

Corrections officials did not dispute that Martin was among thousands of inmates who received additional credits that sped up their releases under state law. But the officials said their policy prohibits disclosing what prison time credits Martin received.

They cited credits through Proposition 57, the 2016 ballot measure that aimed to give most of the state’s felons a chance of earlier release. Credits were also broadly authorized in California to lower the prison population during the pandemic.

Proposition 57 credits include good behavior while behind bars, though corrections officials declined to release Martin’s disciplinary report. Good conduct credit is supposed to be reserved for inmates who follow all the rules and complete their assigned duties.

The state “has implemented various credit-earning opportunities to incentivize good behavior and program participation for incarcerated individuals, including those created in furtherance of Proposition 57— which was overwhelmingly approved by voters,” state corrections spokesperson Vicky Waters said in a statement.

Supporters of the credits, including former Gov. Jerry Brown, who pushed for Proposition 57, have said it’s important to give inmates a second chance. The opportunity for earlier release encourages inmates to participate in education and other rehabilitative programs and helps to reduce mass incarceration.

“The most recent reforms in California are seeking to change a culture that has been churning out recidivism problems for generations,” said Will Matthews, spokesperson for the Californians for Safety and Justice group, which backed the changes. “The question we need to be asking ourselves is, how are we engaging in behavior change?”

Under Proposition 57, credits are granted for completing rehabilitative or educational programs, self-help and volunteer public service activities, earning a high school diploma or higher education degree and performing a heroic act. Officials added credits during the coronavirus pandemic, including 12 weeks of credit that applied to most inmates.

Martin was denied parole in May 2021 under California’s process for nonviolent offenders to get earlier parole, after a letter was sent from the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors said they objected to his parole based on his lengthy criminal record and asserted that Martin “clearly has little regard for human life and the law.”

Six months after he turned 18, Martin was caught in January 2013 with an assault rifle and two fully loaded 25-bullet magazines, prosecutors said. Months later, he pushed aside a Walmart clerk to steal computers worth $2,800, they said. In 2016, he was arrested as a parolee at large. And less than six months after that was the assault that sent him back to prison.

It’s not clear if Martin has an attorney who can comment on his behalf.

Martin pleaded no contest and was sent to prison on charges of corporal injury and assault likely to cause great bodily injury in January 2018 under a plea deal in which prosecutors dismissed charges of kidnapping — considered a violent felony — and intimidating a witness or victim.

Click here to read the full article at AP News