Obama’s Julia: A Vision Right Out of Orwell’s 1984

Who is Julia? Julia is the eponymous voice of President Obama, a woman invented by the campaign to demonstrate how this present administration is assisting women in all aspects of life. However, inadvertently it displays the Obama vision of America, a vision right out of 1984 with Big Brother at her side throughout a lifetime.

In this cartoon narrative Julia evolves from birth to old age with the Obama government locked at her hip. The presumption is that Julia could not succeed without the helping hand of government. When Julia turns three she is enrolled in the federally funded Head Start pre-school program. Never mind that empirical evidence indicates Head Start is a failure despite $167 billion spent on this program each year.

In this evolving tale, President Obama’s programs prepare her for college, offer free health care, student loans, free birth control of course, a chance to start a business and an opportunity to retire in comfort and dignity. All of this from a beneficent government eager to carry Julia through the vicissitudes of life’s stages.

That reliance on government has a baneful effect on society and on the individual is not entertained by Ms. Julia, nor is there any mention of the incompatibility between the Nanny State and the U.S. Constitution. By the time Julia has reached the age of Social Security she will be burdened with a debt of $45 thousand. If one multiplies Julia by the thousands, arguably the millions, unemployment will remain unnaturally high, entrepreneurship will be a disappearing concept and Social Security will assuredly be bankrupt.

One gets the distinct impression Julia is European. She is offered the Faustian deal of cradle to grave security by a government promising more than it can or should deliver. In the process, the economy flounders, debt mounts, currencies fail, and the moral strength of the West is sapped.

Julia is to Obama what Goldstein is to Orwell. One is presumably asked to pay obeisance to a female narrative that has an inevitably destructive outcome, albeit not one recognized by the Obama team. Similarly, in 1984 obeisance is paid to Goldstein as the exemplar of government involvement. It is a ritual without purpose. In fact, Julia is also a symbol of government that nurtures and provides even as it takes and devours.

It is one thing to discuss government’s role as a “helping hand” when there aren’t alternatives, but it is quite another matter to think of government as a crutch to be relied on throughout life. For the Obama campaign team to think this is an appropriate message is revealing. Either Obama operatives believe the public, the female public, will find this narrative appealing or they believe women are too myopic to see the implications in this government scheme.

Suppose for the sake of argument Julia does not have a government on which to rely. She would have to apply her God given ingenuity to educational choices, finding a healthcare arrangement that’s affordable and using her talent to start a business or develop professional skills in order to earn an income. Liberty gives her choices and power. Government may create the illusion of helpfulness, but ultimately it stifles innovation and inventiveness. The most appropriate vision for Julia is empowerment. Unfortunately despite the frequent employment of this word, government invariably enfeebles and makes one dependent.

If the feminist movement is interested in Julia it should be wary of the cartoon the Obama team has limned. As I see it, Julia should be a free thinking individual capable of making her own choices in life and independent from the intrusiveness of government action. Julia should avoid personal debt and avoid as well serving as an instrument of government policy. She should be sufficiently sensitive to the fact that a government “benefit” comes with a price that is usually unseen.

Needless to say, the Obama team thinks Julia is a campaign attribute, but for thinking individuals this cartoon figure is a caricature implicitly describing all that ails this nation.

(Herbert London is the President Emeritus at Hudson Institute and Professor Emeritus at NYU. He is also the author of Diary of A Dean [Hamilton Books] and America’s Secular Challenge [Encounter Books].)

Escaping Failure: California’s Open Enrollment Act threatens the status quo

Passing any kind of school-choice legislation in California—a state whose education system was once the envy of the nation but today ranks near the bottom—is a daunting task. The legislature, dominated by Democrats in thrall to California’s powerful teachers’ unions, is unwilling to disrupt the status quo. But the Open Enrollment Act (OEA), passed under the authorship of former Democratic state senator Gloria Romero, has survived various legal and political challenges. Barely two years old, OEA lets parents whose children attend the lowest-performing 1,000 schools in California opt out and send their kids to a higher-performing, non-charter public school anywhere in the state. As with California’s landmark parent-empowerment law, which Romero also wrote, parents don’t need to get permission to make important changes in their children’s education.

One might expect that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson would be beating the drum for the law and making an effort to advise parents that they have a useful new education option for their children. But Torlakson, elected with the backing of the politically powerful California Teachers Association, maintains that open enrollment is “misguided” and that parents would rather see their local school strengthened than send their kids to another school. Torlakson is simply parroting the CTA line. The union lobbied heavily to kill open enrollment, claiming, among other things, that the bill would “create chaos in school districts and drain resources from local classrooms.” Chaos? Hardly. As for “draining resources,” the union is technically correct. State funds that would flow to failing schools go instead to more deserving schools as students transfer out. But the real reason that the CTA rejects open enrollment is that the law transfers power to another group—parents—who want an opportunity to get a better education for their kids.

Torlakson and the CTA fail to acknowledge that when parents have choices, all schools tend to improve. In February, Education Weekpublished “What Research Says About School Choice,” in which nine scholars analyzed the results of various studies concerning school choice. The report features no ecstatic claims, just offering a sober look at the 20-year effort to end mandatory school assignments by ZIP code. Researchers have found that test scores improved when students attended a school of their choice. They also learned that students at the affected public schools did better after choice was introduced.

Though Education Week’s research focuses on voucher systems, in which a student can opt out of a public school with tax dollars following them to a private school, California’s open-enrollment program applies only to public schools. Other states, including Indiana and Michigan, have begun OEA-like initiatives. In California, the traditionally low-performing Oakland Unified School District has been an all public- school-choice district since 2005. Almost immediately after the program went into effect, Oakland’s schools began an impressive turnaround. According to Lisa Snell, director of education and child welfare for the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, Oakland has made the most educational gains of any urban school district in the state since instituting choice. Under Romero’s open-enrollment law, the same choice option is now available on a statewide basis. There is no fiscal impact on the state—only on the schools that gain or lose students.

School choice does more than improve educational outcomes; it lowers crime rates. The results of a study by the Harvard Graduate School of Education measuring school choice and its effects on crime in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district in North Carolina appeared in February. Author David J. Deming examined an open- enrollment policy that allowed any student to apply to any public school within the district. If a popular school had more enrollees than seats, the district held a lottery. Deming found that a student who won the lottery was 50 percent less likely than a lottery loser to commit a crime. Among the high-risk male high school population, admission to a first-choice school reduced felony arrests from 77 to 43 per 100 students between 2002 and 2009. The greatest reduction in criminal activity occurred among the top 20 percent of high-risk students—mostly poor African-Americans.

California’s open-enrollment law isn’t perfect. It restricts participants and benefits only the children enrolled in one-tenth of the state’s nearly 10,000 elementary and secondary schools. The law further stipulates that no district can have more than 10 percent of its schools on the open-enrollment eligibility list, meaning some schools that would rank in the bottom 10 percent of performers statewide are excluded. Additionally, among the 1,000 schools, the law imposes quotas: 68.7 percent of schools must be elementary grades, 16.5 percent middle schools, and 14.8 percent high schools. Those ratios were written into the bill because they were in line with the proportion of bottom-performing schools in 2009. But by 2012, several of those schools had climbed out of the bottom ranks. Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Foundation for Educational Choice in Indianapolis, also points to problems implementing “narrow” bills such as OEA. He explains that getting information to the parents that need it is a massive challenge, and that the yearly churn in low-achieving schools can be confusing. Though he has reservations, Enlow believes California’s open-enrollment program offers parents a taste of genuine school choice. As more parents experience the benefits, turning back will become harder and harder.

The state legislature wants to end open enrollment before that happens. Assemblyman Jared Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat, last year sponsored a bill that would have eviscerated Romero’s law by slashing the number of eligible schools from 1,000 to 150. The measure—AB 47—easily passed both houses of the legislature, Thankfully, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the bill in October, saying Huffman’s changes “go too far and would undermine the intent of the original law.”

Burdened with hurdles, caveats, and fear-mongering from its foes, the Open Enrollment Act lives, but it isn’t thriving—yet. Few parents seem to know about the law, but Romero plans to address that problem. As director of the California chapter of Democrats for Education Reform, Romero intends to start by visiting churches in low-income communities and speaking directly to the people most likely to benefit from the law. In a state in educational disarray—burdened by a Titanic-sized education code, school districts in scary financial straits, bullying teachers’ unions, and a 33 percent or so dropout rate—any attempt to empower parents is a welcome development.

(Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. Originally posted on City Journal.)

California’s Cap-and-Trade Auction Creates Billions in Needless Costs

The California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) cap-and-trade auction will create needless costs for employers at a time when our state must compete, scrap, wrangle, advocate and fight for every high-wage job we can get.

These costs will seriously hamstring our ability to grow.  What most people don’t know is that CARB is asking employers to pay for far more emission credits than are needed to reach our goals.  California will reach it’s 1990-level greenhouse gas emissions without the economy-debilitating cap-and-trade auction, but CARB continues to move forward.

In the charts below, the red zone represents the amount that two particularly critical sectors — refiners and food processors — will have to pay to purchase emission credits in CARB’s auction over the next eight years. Those credits will be purchased even though the particular sector will already be on track for 1990 levels, with annual 2 percent reductions.

This punitive energy tax equals $2.96 billion in California-only costs on the refining industry and $163 million on the food processing sector. Remember too, while this auction raises a windfall of money, the 2006 AB 32 legislation prohibited revenue collection beyond the administration of the program.

  

(Gino DiCaro is the Vice President of Communications for the California Manufacturers & Technology Association. Originally posted on Fox & Hounds.)

CA Unions Bully School Volunteers into Paying Dues

At a recent Culver City Unified School District board meeting, dozens of parents packed the chambers to protest an outbreak of campus bullying. Valentina Garcia, the mother of a first-grader attending the National Blue Ribbon–awarded El Marino Language School, stepped to the microphone and proclaimed that if ruffians had accosted her daughter for her lunch money, “my logical response would not be to write the bullies a check.” What made Garcia’s statement unusual was that she wasn’t describing the bullying of children—she was referring to a local education union’s intimidation of parents.

In this West Los Angeles school district, the Association of Classified Employees (ACE)—a union representing non-teaching school staff—wants to force minimally compensated, hard-working volunteers and classroom adjuncts to unionize in a scheme both sides agree would be more expensive and exclusionary. This isn’t the first time a California-based union has tried to muscle school volunteers. In 2010, parent and community volunteers in a Bay Area school district sought to fill non-teaching positions slashed during two years of budget cuts, only to be met by a service union threatening a lawsuit to block their participation. Now ACE is contemplating legal action to stop El Marino’s adjunct program.

Culver City launched El Marino Language School, the first Spanish-language immersion program in the United States. The program started more than 40 years ago. The school expanded to include Japanese in the early 1990s. Because its students needed additional classroom help, parents in 1989 created Advocates for Language Learning El Marino (ALLEM), a nonprofit organization that raises money to hire part-time, independent adjunct teachers for each classroom. The adjuncts work one and a half to three hours per day, five days a week. Since language immersion requires a great deal of work to keep students up to date in both English and the second language, the extra help is significant. Most adjuncts have some personal connection to the school. Many are parents of current or former students. Some are former teachers or tutors themselves. They’re not unqualified or untrained amateurs.

The mother of two kids in El Marino, Jeanine Wisnosky Stehlin explains the challenge of keeping ALLEM alive. “We worked so hard,” she said. “It is very unglamorous how we raised money to support these 20 adjuncts that we have at El Marino. We had bake sales, silent auctions, pledges; we’ve begged grandparents. We have book sales; we host community nights at local restaurants. It’s a dollar here and a dollar there. That’s how we have raised money, and we’ve done it for 23 years.”

The union argues that the adjunct program is unfair to other schools that lack a similar level of parent and community involvement. At the same time, the union proposes that ALLEM continue its fundraising—to support higher-cost, unionized adjuncts. ACE president Debbie Hamme claims that unionized adjuncts would be better part-time teachers because they would receive regulated training under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Somehow El Marino, an award-winning school with high student-performance rankings in mathematics as well as language, has flourished thus far without such advantages.

“When people are doing our bargaining unit work on a daily basis, we have the right to ask that those people be made a part of our unit,” Hamme says. She added, in words calling The Sopranos to mind: “We decided as an executive board for the union that we needed to negotiate that they be brought into our unit. It’s not a personal thing, it’s a negotiations thing.”

Parents aren’t buying it. They see ACE’s machinations as a simple power grab. As Jeanine Stehlin maintains: “The booster clubs are expected to continue paying for the programs, but lose all rights of hiring, control, supervision and decision-making.” Another parent, Bryan Tjomsland, notes that if ACE prevails, Culver City residents are unlikely to support a foundation that would end up subsidizing the union. “If they unionize, the kids would be getting half of the benefit, but what’s worse, parents won’t want to support a program where they only get half of the benefit of their money,” he said. A spokesman for Advocates for Language Learning El Marino said the group would need to raise 40 percent more money every year to pay for unionized employees.

Remarkably, the union has no plans to move the adjuncts toward full-time status or even make them eligible for union health benefits and pensions. Instead, the newly unionized workers would have to pay union dues equivalent to those of full-time workers without receiving any of the benefits. Should they decline union membership, they would still have to pay collective bargaining fees—becoming “fee payers” who pay roughly 80 percent of full member dues without actually being enrolled in the union.

Thus far, Culver City school district officials have stood firm, refusing to force the adjuncts into negotiations with the union. But the union appears undaunted. “I am not surprised but I am disappointed,” said Hamme. “I am a firm believer in solving issues at the lowest common denominator. This just prolongs everybody’s agony”—as if her organization has no power to make the agony stop. ACE’s next steps include filing a grievance with the district, followed by an appeal to the union-aligned Public Employment Relations Board.

Clearly, more is at stake here than policymaking at one elementary school. The union push to extort dues out of parent-funded workers is not limited to El Marino. The union’s tactics will affect proposed or current positions at other Culver City elementary schools—such as curriculum coaches at Linwood Howe, the Growing Great leaders at Farragut, the science lab coordinator at El Rincon, and language adjuncts for the immersion program at La Ballona. As El Marino’s students learn Japanese and Spanish, parents and community members are receiving an immersion education in union politics.

(Pete Peterson is the executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy. Kevin Klowden is director of the California Center and managing economist at the Milken Institute. Originally posted on City Journal.)

Stand Up To Bullying: Not Just From Kids — But Unions, Too

The National Education Association celebrated “Stand Up To Bullying Day” on May 4th. Itswebsite is full of advice about how to deal with what it calls “everyone’s problem.” With a solemnity ordinarily reserved for a Sunday morning sermon, NEA has created a pledge –

I agree to be identified as a caring adult who pledges to help bullied students. I will listen carefully to all students who seek my help and act on their behalf to put an immediate stop to the bullying. I will work with other caring adults to create a safe learning environment for all the students in my school.

Please note, the union talks only about children bullying other children; there is nothing about adults bullying other adults.

Few adults in the country know more about bullying than Kristi Lacroix, a parent of five in eastern Wisconsin and according to her principal a “very good teacher.” Lacroix made a brief video late last year in which she spoke well of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker – aka “Hitler” to many teacher unionistas in the Badger State because he led the charge to remove teachers’ collective bargaining rights. Many in teachers unions believe that collective bargaining is sacrosanct, a human right; it’s not. In fact, it survives only because union heavies and their legislative fellow travelers in certain states have made sure that that this Soviet style group-think is law.

Lacroix has been a target of Alinskyite teacher union venom for months now. There is a “fire Kristi” movement that has led to a vicious hate mail attack from members of teachers unions. Luckily, Lacroix is anything but a shrinking violet and has stood tall and started her own website in an attempt to tell her story and lead the charge against the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s NEA affiliate.

Sad to say, Lacroix is far from the only teacher victimized by bullying. Actually, teacher unions, despite their public concern for children, can be quite brutal. In fact, the NEA asking anyone to take an anti-bullying pledge is akin to “Uncle Joe” Stalin asking people not to bully the Ukrainians.

Recently, Joy Pullmann, managing editor of School Reform News, published an important report – Bullying Teachers: How Teachers Unions Secretly Push Teachers and Competitors Around which is summarized as “When Bullies Grow Up, They Can Always Run Teachers Unions,” an op-ed in the Washington Examiner. She explains that teacher union bullying is rampant and can come either directly from the unions or as a result of fear of them. For example,

Many superintendents and principals in Kansas will not even let Garry Sigle give teachers information about his nonunion teacher organization. One superintendent told Sigle, “Why would I want to [let you talk to teachers in my district] if I knew that would create an issue between me and a union I have to negotiate with?”

In February, a Utah teacher named Cole Kelly testified in favor of a bill that would penalize school districts for not granting all teacher organizations — not just unions, but also other professional organizations — equal access to teachers. A week later, he was released from his position as athletic director, which for school districts is tantamount to firing. His principal admitted she approved of his job performance but had released him because of pressure.

Subsequently, other teachers texted Kelly to say they agreed with him but were afraid of being fired if they spoke out or left their union. He is contesting his release.

This spring, a Colorado teacher emailed the state director of a nonunion teachers association, explaining why she wouldn’t publicly speak for a bill extending the state’s two-week window for ending union membership.

“They [the state union] are a large and powerful organization,” she wrote. “I want to speak out against them, but I am afraid of the repercussions that I will face as a result and the possibility of them doing something to make me lose my job.”

At a new teacher orientation in Jacksonville, Fla., a union representative heard a presentation by a nonunion group. She walked onto the stage before 600 teachers, accused the presenter of being “a desperate former teacher” and stalked about the room ripping up the competition’s fliers, said Tim Farmer, membership director for the Professional Association of Colorado Educators.

As sickening as these examples are, Pullmann goes on to say that they are not isolated incidents.

Teachers unions engage in repeated, unashamed aggression against dissenting teachers and competitor organizations.

As we can see, teachers are frequent victims of teacher union bullying, but to show that they are fair–minded and equal-opportunity coercers, the California Teachers Association recently did a bang-up job of bullying parents in Adelanto, a town in eastern California. Not liking the results of a Parent Trigger vote at a local school, CTA sent in its finest arm twisters, I mean representatives, and “convinced” many of those who signed the petitions to have a “change of heart.”

While I’m sure that most teachers are not in accord with thuggish union activities, it is not enough to stand on the sidelines and wish the problem away. It is imperative that teachers speak out against teacher union bullying. While Kristi Lacroix has indeed received some positive mail, it typically comes from teachers who do so privately and, because of the fear factor, will not publicly criticize their union. If a lot more teachers don’t speak up, however, the public has no choice but to assume that their silence is tacit approval of the unions’ actions, thus earning them the justifiable enmity of a populace that is rapidly getting sick and tired of teacher union antics.

May 9th is the “Day of the Teacher,” but perhaps the day should be renamed “Stand Up To Teacher Union Bullying Day.” It would be a good time for dissident teachers to come forth and take a stand. For a profession that is supposedly demoralized, this could be the first step to “remoralization.” And yes, there are other professional organizations that they can join that provide them with many of the same perks and protections and save them money at the same time. But while The Association of American EducatorsChristian Educators Association InternationalEducators 4 ExcellenceCalifornia Teachers Empowerment Network, et al are all growing, the teachers unions still predominate. And union heavies are lying in wait, ready to bully the next brave teacher who dares to take issue with the union party line.

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

Munger Campaign Poll Highlights Some Tax Choices — But Not All

The campaign to raise income taxes for schools headed by civil rights attorney Molly Munger released a memo on a campaign poll that argues voters would embrace her plan if they knew all the facts. The Munger campaign, which handily filed enough signatures to qualify the tax measure for the ballot, has been fighting the perception that her measure will fail at the polls. The recent Public Policy Institute poll had the initiative at 40% support.

The release stated that when a “balanced” presentation of both the Munger and Gov. Jerry Brown tax measures are presented to the voters, the Munger initiative is supported by 52% of the voters while the governor’s plan gets 30% support.

However, the campaign would not release the poll questions so that independent parties could judge how “balanced” the information was.

The press memo did give an indication how aggressively Munger and her team will pursue the initiative. After acknowledging that the initiative’s title and summary doesn’t garner majority support from the poll respondents, the memo concluded: “It should be noted that in well-funded initiative campaigns that include broadcast TV and extensive voter outreach, voters seldom decide on initiatives solely on title and summary language and frequently make up their minds prior to reading the ballot.”

Munger is signaling that the $6-million she has invested in the campaign is just the beginning. The campaign understands it will take a massive media effort to persuade voters and the memo indicates she is prepared to lead such a fight.

As Sacramento Bee columnist, Dan Walters, has noted a number of times, including yesterday, the Brown campaign is concerned about the media advertising Munger could put forth. If a good portion of the ads attack the governor’s plan as not being adequate for education that could sink Brown’s canoe.

You can see the lines of battle being drawn in the memo. The poll was intended to test voter support between the governor’s tax measure and Munger’s proposal and get a reading how the voters would choose between the two.

There is another choice that voters can make besides either/or – supporting both measures seems highly unlikely but voters could choose to reject them both.

(Joel Fox is the Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. Originally posted on HJTA.)

California is Burning! Quick, More Gasoline!

There are good weeks and then there are bad weeks. For California, particularly its beleaguered taxpayer citizens, last week was a very bad week.

It’s hard to know where to start. First, while the rest of the nation comes out of recession – albeit slowly – California is doing some serious backsliding. According to the Controller’s office, government revenues are down compared to this time last year. The percentage decline was not all that great, from $40.97 billion to $40.81 billion, but the shortfall from Governor Brown’s proposed budget is a big number; more than $2 billion.

Compare these dismal numbers with Texas which, as of March, has seen a 12% increase in revenue.

Second, credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s issued a sobering statement expressing a lack of confidence that California’s political leadership could resolve the budget shortfall without the usual gimmicks. Bluntly stated, S & P said that it anticipates “budget maneuvers that may be politically expedient but fiscally unreliable.”

Third, for the eighth year in a row, California is ranked by CEO Magazine as the worst state in America in which to do business. California’s anti-business climate is legendary in the rest of the nation, and this year proved to be no exception. What is notable, however, were the brutal comments by business leaders who participated in the survey. Here are just two of hundreds of missives:

“California continues to head in the wrong direction as its tax policies will drive more businesses and people to relocate in other states. State politicians feel business and commerce are ‘necessary evils’ that provide the funds to enable pursuit of their misguided agendas.”

 

“California government is difficult to work with and very bureaucratic. Taxes and regulation are high and unruly.”

CEO Magazine simply confirms the reasons why well over 200 businesses have moved out of state and the rate of capital flight is accelerating.

Given all this horrible news, one would think that our ruling political class would experience an epiphany and realize that the failed policies of the past – high taxes, burdensome regulations, union favoritism – should be jettisoned immediately.

But no.

Led by socialist leaning Democrats, our political leaders – including Governor Jerry Brown – have a different answer: Double down on even more taxes, more draconian regulation and, heaven forbid, let’s not have any meaningful reforms.

First, three initiative measures raising taxes are in the process of being filed with the Secretary of State as you read this column. The cornerstone of these tax hike proposals is the Governor’s own measure imposing massive tax hikes in both the income tax and sales tax. Want to drive even more businesses – read “job creators” – and educated individuals out of California? Just raise our top marginal income tax rate from 10.3% to 13.3%, which is what Brown proposes. Remember, Texas (mentioned above as a state that is increasing tax revenue) has no income tax at all.

Second, as long as we’re fiddling while Rome (er, Sacramento) is burning, let’s pass more laws making energy more expensive, employing people more expensive and lawsuits against the productive private sector even easier than they are now. Brilliant.

Finally, let’s not pursue any meaningful reforms that would lessen the pain of this economic torture. Last week, the dominant Democrats in the Legislature made it clear that pension reform – the one reform virtually all thinking Californians agree is sorely needed – would not be forthcoming. The reason? They don’t want to anger labor whose support they need to help pass the tax hikes and budget related legislation.

California has always been different than other states. Many times, our unique nature has been a positive attribute. But it is no longer a good thing when our actions border on the suicidal.

(Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights. Originally posted on HJTA.)

Orange County Admits to Siphoning School Funds

Orange County’s financial crisis that became visible last month when the State of California sued the county for using $73.5 million of education money to balance its budget continues to swirl. Shortly thereafter, it was reported (here) the Auditor-Controller resigned in December after disclosing a $30,146,000 shortfall in “Reserves for Contingencies”, his Assistant turned down the lucrative promotion and retired after secretly warning the CEO in March the county was suffering severe cash flow problems, then recently the Treasury Oversight Committee Chairman resigned after it was reported (here) the Treasurer secretly lent hundreds of millions from local schools’ payroll and savings accounts to the county to make interest wagers. The crisis took another ugly turn this week when Orange County was forced to disgorge $2.7 million siphoned from local schools and other depositors in the Orange County Treasurer’s Investment Pool.

The Orange County Auditor-Controller under Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) rules at fiscal yearend on June 30th sweeps all unspent budget dollars from each county department into the unallocated Fund Balance Available account. Monies are then required to be allocated to the appropriate owners. During the fiscal years from 2006-07 to the first business day of 2011, the former Orange County Treasurer reduced the Treasurer-Tax Collector’s Budgeted Net County Cost spending by at least $12.7 million compared to his predecessor and now Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors, John Moorlach in 2005-06.

Treasurer Savings 2006 20101 300x186 ORANGE COUNTY ADMITS TO SIPHONING SCHOOL FUNDS

Approximately $4 million of savings came from lower spending on administration than budgeted to manage the Treasurer’s Investment Pool. Given that local schools generally account for 65% of Investment Pool deposits, John Moorlach knew the county owed schools $2.7 million of unallocated Fund Balance Available and should have made sure schools were paid their money.
But in 2011 Orange County was suffering a credit crunch due to increased spending and lower tax collections, Orange County’s “Cash” (free cash and float on un-cashed checks written) dangerously plummeted to $109.5 million from $182 million the prior fiscal year. Its Reserve for Contingencies also plunged to $44 million versus the required $91 million. Facing a $65 million bi-weekly payroll, it appears that the county was already kiting checks to make payroll. In order to avoid cutting spending, Orange County seized $73.5 million of local schools’ share of property taxes to balance their budget. According to page 6 of the just discovered County of Orange Proposed 2011-2012 Key Budget Message, the county converted all $17.2 million of unallocated Fund Balance Available into Reserves. Such blatant action appears to have included the embezzlement of another $2.7 million rightfully belonging to local schools.

County CEO 300x111 ORANGE COUNTY ADMITS TO SIPHONING SCHOOL FUNDS2011 12 Proposed Budget 300x164 ORANGE COUNTY ADMITS TO SIPHONING SCHOOL FUNDS

Orange County Internal Audit recently exposed the county’s $2.7 million conversion of education dollars. Desperate to avoid having to publicly restate the County of Orange’s false and misleading 2010-2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report under GASB, Board Chairman John Moorlach sought to attempt to disguise the alleged school embezzlement schools’ as $2.7 million in over-spending by the current Orange County Treasurer Shari Freidenrich. Such a dishonest spin appears to rise to the level of straight forward accounting fraud.

With investors withdrawing large sums from the increasingly illiquid Treasurer’s Investment Pool and rumors swirling that Orange County was not paying its bills in a timely manner, a California Public Records Act demand was sent to the county on April 19th for copies of the county’s “accounts-payable-aging” to quantify the amount of county has slowed payments to vendors to conserve tight cash. Although the law requires 10 day delivery of documents, on April 30 the county sent a legal letter composed by Mark Servino, County Counsel, stating:

Siphoning School Funds 300x57 ORANGE COUNTY ADMITS TO SIPHONING SCHOOL FUNDS

The letter attempts to stall discovery of readily available county documents and seems to ominously warn the county may refuse to disclose how far they are behind in paying vendors. Running out of free cash, threatened by litigation and money being pulled from the Treasury, maybe hiding behind lawyers is the only strategy left in the Orange County financial crisis.

(Chriss Street is a financial writer and speaker, and is author of the book, “The Third Way.”  Visit his blog for more information.)

LA Times: Screw The Troops – Save Our Editors

The Los Angeles Times long ago lost credibility as a professional newspaper. For at least thirty years it has been a reliable sock-puppet for the official party line of the most left wing elements in American politics. It’s liberal bias oozes from what are supposedly its “news” pages and even infects its sports section.

That being the case, this is something of a “dog bites man” story, but is too perfectly indicative of the left-wing fever swamps into which the Times has fallen not to pass along.

Recall that a couple of weeks ago the Times published inflammatory pictures of American soldiers holding severed body parts of quite-dead Afghan suicide bombers. Now our G.I.’s had not killed these rocket scientists – they had blown themselves up while trying to plant the devices in areas where the maximum number of Americans would die. So in perhaps questionable taste but a most understandable appreciation for irony, a few soldiers had their pictures taken with the terrorist remnants.

Concerned that these photos would be used as an excuse by the Taliban for further anti-American violence (they need an excuse?), the Defense Department asked the Times not to publish them in the interest of the safety of American troops. The newspaper rejected the request, and may I see a show of hands for all who are surprised by that action? Nobody? Good, I see you all recognize the Times for the anti-American rag it has become.

The editors defended their decision to publish the pictures thusly: “We considered this very carefully. At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions.” So for the editors, endangering American fighting forces on the front lines of a war is not sufficient reason to withhold publication of photos.

What about when the danger is to the paper’s editors? I know you will be shocked to learn that the paper came to an exactly opposite conclusion about publishing photos that could endanger its editors.

You likely remember the international controversy last year over cartoons that depicted Muhammad. Since depictions of Muhammad are considered blasphemous by the more deranged Muslims, followers of the “religion of peace” threatened to kill the editors of any paper which published them.

The editors of the Times, like the politically correct mindless sheep they are, meekly acceded to the dictates of the Muslim terrorists and refused to publish the cartoons. Not only that, but they even refused to publish a satirical cartoon that mocked the cowardice of papers like the Times who refused to publish the original cartoons. Nothing to see here – move along.

So when the lives of American troops are on the line, the editors insist that they must give their readers the information needed to “make informed decisions.” However when the editors themselves are in danger, the need of their readers to make informed decisions somehow vanishes.

Thus, in one fell swoop, the Times’ editors showed themselves to be not only cowards but also hypocrites. They are now perfect exemplars of what used to be called the major media.

This episode is a sad illustration of the fact that the paper long ago passed from mere liberalism into the nether regions of the loony left. It is a happy illustration however in this sense – it more than explains the cratering of the paper’s circulation numbers in recent years.

Twenty years ago the daily circulation of the Times was approaching 1,300,000. Last month’s circulation report put it at just over 600,000 (for UCLA graduates among readers, that means that circulation today is less than half of what it was). The paper’s death-spiral decline into irrelevancy is a self-inflicted fate, but a fate the extreme ideological mindset of its editors makes impossible to correct.

The editors of the Times clearly care more about being far-left proselytizers than they do about serious journalism or making money. Like liberal movie makers who continue to churn out anti-American drivel that bombs at the box-office, the paper’s editors see themselves first and foremost as left-wing propagandists. Before the internet and cable television they could get away with it. It is clear now that they can’t, but like their Hollywood fellow-travelers they don’t care. If they did they’d moderate their editorial extremism and make their news pages repositories of actual news instead of liberal talking points. Don’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen.

Potential subscribers aren’t holding their breath either—they are staying away by the hundreds of thousands—hence the anemic and embarrassing circulation numbers. The adult population of the paper’s self-defined circulation area is 14,200,000. Out of that potential subscriber base, the Times commands the daily attention of 600,000, a mere 4.2%. If you really want to know what the paper’s editors are thinking you don’t need to subscribe. Do what I do and subscribe to the online version of Pravda. I find the Times’ viewpoints much more engaging in the original Russian.

The paper’s continuously sinking circulation at least answers the question; “What if they publish a newspaper and nobody cares?” The answer is “It becomes the Los Angeles Times.”

(William E. Saracino is a member of California Political Review’s editorial board.)

Barack Obama, economic kamikaze

With an election on the horizon, President Obama and his administration are employing age-old political diversionary tactics to keep the American public from focusing on the dismal condition of our economy. Call in a four-alarm fire on the south side while they rob the bank on the north side. Al Capone lives.

With the economic train wreck they have engineered, it’s hard to blame Mr. Obama for his misdirection scramble.

Obama and company’s runaway political spin, sleight-of-hand tricks and smoke-and-mirrors games will only work for so long. Con men who sell snake oil are eventually exposed.

The truth will ultimately take center stage. When it does, the Obama administration’s economic flimflam jig will be up.

Mr. Obama owns the lingering recession lock, stock and barrel. He can try to blame everybody but the Wizard of Oz, bob and weave, dodge, lie, obfuscate and deflect that reality, but he will win or lose the election based on the economy.

Mr. Obama and his proxies are telling the American public that unemployment is decreasing. Serious people know that’s a sham, pure political snake oil.

The truth is that if the unemployed, those who have given up looking for work, and the underemployed are added together, that number is probably over 20 percent, not the 8.2 percent unemployment rate touted by the Obama administration.

Say what he will in deceptive rants about staving off economic collapse, the truth is that the president’s $800 billion stimulus didn’t stimulate anything except the debt and an increased hue and cry from the bloodsuckers who like being in the liability column of America. Add to that economic suicide ruse the Solyndra scandal and various assorted crony crimes by this administration, and the fundamental transformation via the Cloward-Piven playbook is clearly on the fast track.

There has been little, if any, growth in the private sector during Mr. Obama’s tenure. Small businesses, the engine of our economy, want nothing to do with Mr. Obama’s suicidal vision as evidenced by the fact they are not growing or hiring. Who can blame them?

One in 7 Americans are now on food stamps. This depressing number does not bode well for Mr. Obama.

With more than 20 percent of Americans drowning in economic hard times, many of them have had to foreclose on their homes. One quarter of all mortgages are at risk of foreclosure. Those who lose a job and then lose a home are not a political base any president would want.

Filling up your tank with $3.90-a-gallon gas is painful and ugly. Some are forecasting the price at the pump will rise to $5 or more this summer. Americans would do well to remember the price at the pump has more than doubled since the “the cost of energy will necessarily skyrocket under my policies” president was elected.

There is no economic recovery, Americans are not better off, incomes have not risen. The whole world can see how America’s economy is stuck in the mud. Happy days aren’t even close to being here again.

Even though he inherited a shaky economy, from Day One of his administration the president has run toward the wrong economic end zone and exacerbated our economic problems.

Instead of focusing on sound and proven policies that grow the economy, his economic platform has strangled economic growth.

The president is either clueless about how to get the economy moving again or he believes America will be better off with a European socialist form of government. Saul Alinsky is at the helm.

If the Titanic were sinking today and the president was on board, he would grab a leaky bucket to bail water and claim his bailout policy is saving the ship from sinking.

The world will see in November whether there are more rugged individual producers or more uncaring bloodsuckers in the last, best place. America would do well to stick with New Hampshire’s slogan: “Live free or die.”

(Ted Nugent is an American rock ‘n’ roll, sporting and political activist icon. He is the author of “Ted, White, and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto” and “God, Guns & Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Regnery Publishing). Copyright 2012 The Washington Times. Retrieved from The Michigan View.)