The Pension Follies of the Mayor Who Broke LA

From City Watch LA:

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, by failing to adequately address the unrealistic 8% Investment Rate Assumption for the 40% underfunded Los Angeles City Employees Retirement System, is making another boneheaded decision that reflects the unwillingness of Villaraigosa and the Garcetti-led City Council to make hardnosed, long term rational operational and financial budget balancing decisions for fear of alienating the City’s self-serving, campaign funding union bosses.   
And once again, this short sighted, politically motivated decision regarding LACERS will penalize the wallets of the next generation of Angelenos, even if the economy improves. 

Shortsightedness at City Hall is such an everyday occurrence that our Elected Elite now commonly refer to it as “kicking the can down the road.”  

In this particular case, involving LACERS and its $5.9 billion unfunded pension liability, the actuary once again recommended that the Investment Rate Assumption be lowered from 8% to 7.75%, the same rate used by the Fire and Police Pension Plans that is “only” 32% underfunded.

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L.A. should not play bank regulator

From the LA Times:

Even though it faces a budget gap of $200 million or more in the coming year, the L.A. City Council is considering a “responsible banking” ordinance that could raise its costs and reduce the income its investments generate. Why? Because some council members want to judge the banks and securities firms the city does business with in a new way — not by the value of the services they provide but by how well they perform on a series of poorly drawn tests of local service. Do we really have to say that’s not a good idea?

The idea comes from Councilman Richard Alarcon, who argued in the Huffington Post last year that cities should channel their “outrage” at the banks into a “cultural shift.” Rather than focusing on short-term gains, Alarcon wrote, local governments should try to produce more long-term growth “by investing our funds in economic growth opportunities that directly impact our communities.” His proposal languished for more than a year, but it gained new life this month as protesters aligned with Occupy Wall Street camped out on the City Hall lawn.

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AB 32 law choking jobs and growth

From Cal Watchdog:

As California’s unemployment rate hovers above 12 percent, even the state’s Democratic leaders — notorious for regulating, taxing and complaining about California’s business community — are talking about jobs. They are championing the occasional job expansion in Silicon Valley (i.e., a new Dell research and development center) and proposing their jobs plans, even if such plans ignore the reasons businesses aren’t growing here. (Hint: high taxes, punitive regulations, regulators’ hostility to the private sector.)

Meanwhile, the state is embarked on a massive utopian experiment that will soon push thousands more California jobs to neighboring states and other countries. The California Air Resources Board voted Thursday on final rules to implement the state’s cap on greenhouse gas emissions and the so-called cap-and-trade emission system that will force California businesses that can’t reduce their emissions to 1990 levels to buy credits in a government-created emissions “market.” The net result: Most manufacturers will either face a large new tax or will be forced to cut back production. A new bevy of brokers who trade in these emission allowances will do well under the new system.

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Why Occupy Wall Street Needs a Republican President

From Townhall:

There’s only one way the Occupy Wall Street movement can become like the tea parties, and that’s for Barack Obama to lose in 2012. Why? Because Obama is the most divisive figure in American politics today.

I suspect that sentence reads funny to some people because in the mainstream press, “divisive” is usually a term reserved for “conservatives we disagree with.” But as a factual matter it can apply to anybody who is, well, divisive.

Obviously, Obama divides the right and left. That’s not all that interesting or relevant (even if it does represent a failure to live up to his “one America” rhetoric from 2008). But Obama also divides everyone else. Independents, whom he desperately needs to win re-election, are split over Obama, with the bulk siding with Republicans.

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Paul Ryan: Obama Using “Class Warfare, Envy, Resentment And Fear”

From Real Clear Politics:

“He gave us a message of hope three years ago of uniting, not dividing. And what we’re getting now are class warfare. We’re getting very polarizing rhetoric that puts class against class, pits people against one another. And I would simply say sowing social unrest and class resentment does not make America stronger, it makes America weaker,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told Greta van Susteren on FOX News. Ryan is the chairman of the House Budget Committee and delivered a speech at the Heritage Foundation on Wednesday.

“It strikes me as an ideological thing, and also as a political decision I think he’s made. He decided not to work with Congress by sending us a jobs bill that had a chance of passing by sending us ideas that he knows we agree with him on. He sent us another stimulus. Then he spent months going around the country and impugning people’s motives, setting up straw man arguments, basically saying Republicans are for dirty air and dirty water and against people with health insurance. Basically picking a partisan conflict versus going for compromise, but more to point, Greta. I think it’s the rhetoric of class division that is especially destabilizing. This is not the American idea. We believe in a system of upward mobility. We believe in a system to get the hurdles out of people’s way so that they can rise in society. We don’t believe in talking to people like they’re stuck in some class and the government is here to cope with their station in life. And I think that’s the kind of rhetoric [Obama] is using, which (a), gives you bad policies, (b), it sows social unrest, and (c), it doesn’t work.”

Paul says this is an ideological thing with President Obama.

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The Two Republican Races

From the National Journal:

One reason the Republican presidential contest has been so unusually volatile is that it’s become two races running along parallel but very distinct tracks. One of those races seems to be settling down, steadily if slowly. The other still appears perched on an earthquake fault. If that dynamic persists,  former Massachusetts Gov.Mitt Romney will remain the favorite for the nomination- even though a significant proportion of the party remains resistant to choosing him.

The evolution of the GOP contest into two distinct races becomes apparent when looking at the long trend in public opinion polling. In the twelve national CNN/ORC surveys about the race conducted since January four different candidates have held or shared the national lead: ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and businessman Donald Trump (neither of whom actually entered the race), Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Other national polls this year have recorded leads for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and more recently businessman Herman Cain.

That’s an extraordinary level of volatility: not since Barry Goldwater’s insurgent win in 1964 have so many Republican candidates held a lead in national surveys before the first votes were cast. But a closer look at the CNN/ORC numbers suggests that the Republican race is settling down along one track, while still rapidly oscillating on the other.

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Summer growth calms recession fears: Will it last?

From the Sac Bee:

A summer of modest economic growth is helping dispel lingering fears that another recession might be near.

Whether the strength can be sustained is less certain.

The economy grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the July-September quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday. But the growth was fueled by Americans who spent more while earning less and by businesses that invested in machines and computers, not workers.

The expansion, the best quarterly growth in a year, came as a relief after anemic growth in the first half of the year, weeks of wild stock market shifts and the weakest consumer confidence since the height of the Great Recession.

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Gov. Brown Criticized for Needed Pension Reform

From the Silicon Valley Education Foundation:

Under Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to rein in pension costs, future teachers would work years longer before they could retire with smaller pensions. Current teachers and administrators would soon pay about 1 percent more out of their paychecks toward their retirement. And both current and future educators would be unable to retire, then turn around and return to the classroom full time.

Brown’s pension reforms would uniformly apply to all public employees, state and local, municipal and school. They would significantly decrease benefits, especially for new workers, and lower the risk for governments, by raising the retirement age from as early as 55 to 67 for all new non-safety employees, and by replacing a significant portion of a defined benefit plan with a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k).

“This is a decisive step forward,” Brown said at a press conference. “The plan will make the pension system more sustainable and fair to taxpayers and the employee.”

Brown’s plan would reduce the state’s pension costs by billions of dollars over the next 30 years. What it would not do, because it applies primarily to new workers, is solve the current huge unfunded liability facing most pension plans. That  includes CalSTRS, the nation’s largest pension fund for educators, which is currently only 71 percent funded and could run out of money in 30 years unless the state pays in hundreds of millions of dollars more per year. Nothing in the plan would address the unfunded liability issue, and Brown indicated he doesn’t intend to do so next year.

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Rick Perry may skip some debates

From the LA Times:

After a series of poor debate performances in the early months of his presidential campaign, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is backing off the upcoming GOP debate schedule, committing to just one of the next three events between now and Nov. 15.

Perry has struggled in the five debates he has attended since he joined the race in mid-August. At one, he fumbled an attempt to cast rival Mitt Romney as a flip-flopper. At another, bickering between Romney and Perry drew criticism that the candidates were acting juvenile.

Perry hinted at his frustration with the debates earlier this week when he told Fox News that participating in them was a “mistake.”

“These debates are set up for nothing more than to tear down the candidates,” Perry said. “…All they’re interested in is stirring it up between the candidates.”

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California assemblywoman Mary Hayashi charged with felony grand theft

From the Sac Bee:

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi has been charged with felony grand theft after allegedly being caught by security officers stealing nearly $2,500 in clothing from a San Francisco Neiman Marcus store.

The 45-year-old Castro Valley Democrat, wife of a Bay Area judge, pleaded not guilty Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court and is free on $15,000 bail pending further proceedings Nov. 15.

Sam Singer, spokesman for Hayashi, said the arrest occurred after she left the store while using her cellular phone.

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