CTA: Politically Correct, Clueless and Shameless

Recently dubbed “the worst union in America,” the California Teachers Association does its best to live down to its new moniker.

Troy Senik’s “The Worst Union in America,” is a deadly accurate piece which appears in the Spring 2012 edition of City Journal. Not surprisingly, the author was referring to the California Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association. It wasn’t too hard for Senik to make his case because the evidence is, well, overwhelming. With its ever ready cash on hand (forcibly taken from teachers who have no choice but to fork it over), CTA has stopped every meaningful education reform measure that has been proposed, ensured that meaningless reforms like small class size in early grades are mandated, protects underperforming and criminal teachers, bullies political opponents and encourages lawbreaking when it is to their political advantage.

But all the mean and nasty behind-the-scenes stuff is done in the name of the children and for the good of society, don’t ya know. On its website, CTA does its best to show us how caring and beneficent it is. For example, as serious, politically correct environmentalists, it touts green energy on its website. You don’t have to dig too deep before you see, “GREEN keeps district out of the red….” Yup, they actually believe (or want us to believe) that becoming an enviro-fetishist is going to save us money. The United Nations, hardly a shill for the evil corporations which as we all know are trying to kill off trees and bunnies in the name of the almighty buck, says that going green will cost us a mere $76 trillionover the next 40 years. Others have the dollar amount even higher.

The point here is that CTA is best at extorting and then spending other people’s money. To that end, along with California Governor Brown, the union is backing a tax hike which will be on this November’s ballot. Those caring CTA folks, who are of course doing it for the children, want the public to pay a higher sales tax and high income earners to pay up to 25 percent more taxes on their income than they are now. California is already ranked #50 of all the states when it comes to business climate.

In another attempt at getting its sticky fingers on other people’s money, last Tuesday, teachers from all over the state took a day off from work (courtesy of the taxpayer) and went to Sacramento to lobby the legislature to pass an on-time budget. Clueless CTA President Dean Vogel said, “This makes it all the more crucial that voters pass the governor’s tax measure in November to put California back on the road to recovery.” Yes, Mr. Vogel, this will put Californians on the road all right – to Texas – where they are smart enough not to tax their most productive citizens to the point where they want to flee the state.

It was interesting to note that CTA picked May 22nd for Lobby Day. For those of you who are not on board with teacher union political correctness, May 22nd is a holiday that, at the urging of CTA, is celebrated in many schools in California. As the CTA website tells us, it is Harvey Milk Day and we are told that,

Harvey Milk gave his life for what he believed in, and with that courage and sacrifice he gave hope to an entire generation of gay and lesbian people whose basic humanity and freedom had been denied and dishonored.

Gave his life for what he believed in? A martyr? Oh, please. The truth is just a tad different than that. As I wrote two years ago,

He in fact was a San Francisco city supervisor who was murdered along with heterosexual SF Mayor George Moscone by an unstable Dan White – one of your basic psychos who felt that the two people he murdered had wronged him politically.

Milk was no more murdered because he was gay than Moscone was because he was straight. But hey, why let that get in the way of a good story that activists can use to their advantage. Hence, CTA is mentioning Milk in the same breath as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, which is somewhat beyond reprehensible. And even worse than the fabrications is the truth about Harvey Milk.

Milk led an undistinguished life at best. At worst, he was a supporter of criminal guru Jim Jones who orchestrated the deaths of over 900 of his followers, most of whom he cajoled into drinking Kool-Aid laced with poison. For the rest of the real story about Harvey Milk, please read this article by Daniel Flynn.

If the CTA hagiography of Milk is what many in the teaching profession will be using as source material, your children will be getting a wretchedly sanitized and bowdlerized view of an undistinguished and possibly evil man. Parents, you might want to investigate what kind of Kool-Aid your child’s school is planning for this “holiday.”

Just to show how deplorable its priorities are, CTA did not have one word on its website about the courage and sacrifice of our veterans on Memorial Day, just its paean to Milk along with “suggested activities” to help children to celebrate that “holiday.”

Then there is a snippet from the May Issue of CTA’s magazine, California Educator, the hard copy of which is mailed to all its members. For the rest of us, it is now available online. (HT Darren Miller.) On page 20-21 of the current issuethere is a two page spread in which CTA excoriates Stop Special Interest Money Now (SSIMN), an initiative that will be on the ballot in November. CTA commits two sins here. First it shamelessly lies about the details of the initiative. As Union Watch points out, CTA attempts to portray this prop as a corporate power grab (Goliath) with unions (David) being bullied. Of course this is union newspeak; the reverse is actually true.

The second and worse sin is on page 22 where CTA suggests that teachers tear out the poster on the previous pages and hang it in their classrooms:

This disgusting attempt to indoctrinate children is done in the name of “opposition to the Corporate Power Grab.” In fact, CTA is suggesting that teachers break the law. According to the California Education Code, school employees are expressly forbidden from engaging in partisan politics on school grounds, during school time using school funds unless,

The information provided constitutes a fair and impartial presentation of relevant facts to aid the electorate in reaching an informed judgment regarding the bond issue or ballot measure.

“Fair and impartial?” What a joke.

Parents, it’s important to protect your children from CTA’s chicanery. Please visit your child’s class on a regular basis. If you see any signs of CTA’s attempts to indoctrinate your kids, speak up. Voice your disapproval to the teacher, the principal, the school board, the local press, your legislator – whoever will listen and act to counter the proselytizing, political correctness and blatant indoctrination produced on a regular basis by the “worst union in America.”

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

PPIC poll ignores big drop in support for Brown’s tax

A recent California opinion poll selectively reports data only in favor of Gov. Brown’s tax increase proposal on the November 2012 ballot. Conversely, it ignores data indicating growing opposition to Brown’s package of income and sales tax increases.

The May 23 press release of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC)reported no change from April, whether voters would favor or oppose Brown’s budget and $15.7 billion tax increase proposal.  Here’s what PPIC press release reported:

Support For Brown Initiative Holds. A majority (56%) say they would vote yes on Brown’s tax initiative, with 38 percent saying they would vote no and 7 percent undecided.  This is similar to the results of the April survey in which 54 percent said they would vote yes (39% no, 6% undecided).

But question #34 in its May 2012 opinion poll reports that only 41 percent favor Brown’s tax plan and 50 percent oppose it.

That would reflect a 13 percent drop in favorability for Brown’s tax plan since April.

This also indicates a rise from 39 percent to 50 percent — or a total of 11 percent — of those who oppose Brown’s proposed tax increase.

Unsurprisingly, PPIC was negligent in not accurately reporting the decline in support for and increase in opposition to Brown’s tax measure.

Here’s the results of PPIC’s new poll excerpted verbatim from their website:

34. On another topic, Governor Brown recently released a revised budget plan for the next fiscal year to close the state’s projected $15.7 billion budget deficit. It includes spending cuts to Medi-Cal, welfare, childcare and other social service programs
and to courts and state employee compensation. It increases funding for K-12 public education. The proposal includes tax increases that would have to be approved by voters through an initiative on the November ballot. In general, do you favor or oppose the governor’s budget plan?

  • 41% favor 
  • 50% oppose
  • 3% haven’t heard anything about the budget (volunteered)
  • 6% don’t know 

The reported 41 percent who favor Brown’s tax and the 50 percent who oppose it is unlikely a mistake because all the numbers including “don’t know” add up to 100 percent. The growing — but unreported — opposition to Brown’s tax proposition is consistent with the public’s growing opposition to raising the state sales tax and cigarette tax — Prop 29.

Near supermajority oppose raising sales tax not reported

Part of Gov. Brown’s tax increase proposal includes a one-quarter percent (0.25 percent) increase in the base sales tax rate from 7.25 percent to 7.50 percent.  This proposed sales tax rate increase is being touted as “temporary.”  But California’s “temporary” two-year one percent sales tax increase expired on July 1, 2011.

The PPIC May 2012 poll press release inconsistently reports that the support for the proposed sales tax increase has dropped to 58 percent. But the actual reported results to the poll indicate that support for a sales tax rate increase was only 33 percent in May. Here is the actual PPIC opinion poll question and results excerpted from their website:

May 2012 PPIC Poll Result:

33. Do you favor or oppose raising the state sales tax?

  • 33% favor 
  • 64% oppose
  • 3% don’t know

The April 2012 PPIC poll reported 33 percent of voters were in favor and 52 percent opposed to raising the sales tax, even for K-12th grade public schools (see question #33 in April poll).  Thus, there was an apparent 13 percent drop in those favoring an increase in the state sales tax rate from April to May 2012.

Additionally, there was a 12 percent increase in those opposed to a sale tax rate increase.

But once gain, the PPIC poll press release failed to report the drop of those in favor and the rise of those opposed to a sales tax rate increase.

Support for cigarette tax drops 14 points

PPIC also reported Proposition 29 — the cigarette tax — dropped 14 points from March to May. Support dropped from 67 percent to 53 percent.  The 14 percent drop is consistent with the 13 percent drop in support for Brown’s income tax and sales tax rate increases. PPIC reports the change in public opinion on the cigarette tax accurately.

Voter lack of trust extends to opinion polls

To sum up:

  • PPIC reports support for Gov. Brown’s proposed budget and tax package increase is holding steady at 56 percent in May 2012 compared to 54 percent in April 2012.  The actual PPIC poll results indicate support for Brown’s tax dropped to 41 percent, a 13 percent drop in May. Opposition to Brown’s tax package rose from 39 percent to 50 percent, an 11 percent unreported jump in May.
  • PPIC accurately reports that those FAVORING a sales tax increase held steady at 33 percent from April to May 2012.  But PPIC failed to report that those voters OPPOSED to a sales tax rate increase rose from 52 percent to 64 percent from April to May 2012. This is nearly a supermajority — two thirds — of the voters opposed to a sales tax increase. This indicates a 12 percent increase of those OPPOSED to sales tax rate increase. Once again, PPIC fails to report this in their press release. The PPIC May 2012 press release does not specifically report the change of voters FAVORING or OPPOSING a sales tax increase.

PPIC April and May 2012 reported and actual poll results

April 2012
May 2012
Percent Change of Voters – April to May
What PPIC Press Release Reported PPIC
Reporting Discrepancy

Brown Budget & Tax Package Increase

13% drop of those IN FAVOR Majority of voters (56%) FAVOR Brown’s Tax Increase PPIC puffed up those in FAVOR of tax by 15%
39% OPPOSED 50% OPPOSED 11% Increase in those OPPOSED Rise in those OPPOSED not reported PPIC ignored 11% increase in those OPPOSED to tax hikes

State Sales Tax Rate Increase

33% IN FAVOR 33% IN FAVOR No Change PPIC reported no change No discrepancy
12% Increase of those OPPOSED PPIC said 58% OPPOSED to sales tax rate increase as of May 2012 PPIC omitted 12% increase in those OPPOSED to tax
Cigarette Tax – Prop 29 67% IN FAVOR 53% IN FAVOR 14% drop in those who FAVOR tax 14% drop in those who FAVOR tax No discrepancy
PPIC April 2012 Poll: http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1014
PPIC May 2012 Poll:  http://www.ppic.org/main/publication.asp?i=1019
PPIC Press Release: http://www.ppic.org/main/pressrelease.asp?i=1236

The PPIC polls selectively reports data in support of tax increases and ignores data showing growing voter opposition to tax increases.  The actual data trend from April to May is consistent across the board: there is growing opposition to Brown’s tax increase package and the proposed cigarette tax hike — Prop 29 — from 11 percent to 14 percent.  This trend cuts across both those reporting support for a tax increase and those opposing a tax increase.  But PPIC selectively only focuses public attention on the data supporting tax increases.

The May PPIC poll indicated a growing “lack of trust of voters this election season.”  To this might be added a growing lack of voter trust of any opinion polls dealing with taxes.

(Wayne Lusvardi is a political commentator and writes for CalWatchdog. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)

Foolhardy Shenanigans of CA Legislature

Citizens of California are almost always in danger from being victimized by the foolhardy actions of our Legislature. But some weeks are more dangerous than others – and this is one of those weeks.

Why? Under the Joint Rules of the Legislature, this is the last week for each house to pass the bills that began in their respective houses, also known as the “house of origin.” Thus, the environment is ripe for a higher rate of backroom deals, anti-taxpayer laws and special interests bills. The only thing they have in common is that rarely do these actions result in any public good at all.

Although hundreds of bills will be part of this legislative scrum this week, with sessions going late into the evenings, HJTA’s Legislative Director, David Wolfe, will be monitoring a few specific bills with intense interest because of their threat to taxpayers.

First, AB 1500 by Speaker John Perez is a billion dollar tax increase. Being sold as “closing a tax loophole,” the proposal, nonetheless, would be a massive transfer of wealth from California’s beleaguered business community to government coffers. While HJTA is supportive of tax reform, any change in the tax law must, at a minimum, be “revenue neutral,” meaning that there would be no net tax revenue increase to the state. As a tax increase, this bill would require a two-thirds vote of each house. This means, absent a handful of Republicans who defy the strong wishes of their constituencies, that the bill will have a hard time clearing its house of origin, the California Assembly. Nonetheless, the pressure will be intense to grab the tax dollars that this bill would take from businesses because the Legislature has yet to cure its addiction to overspending.

Another bill threatens the victory that property rights advocates won against the redevelopment industry last year. SB 1220 would impose a $75 tax on various filings filled out by homeowners and other property owners for the purpose of funding “affordable housing” programs. But owning property in California is already tough enough. We don’t need another property tax the kind of which is not imposed in any other state. Moreover, we believe this to be a backdoor attempt at starting to resurrect redevelopment agencies in California. Those agencies died last year as the result of a Supreme Court ruling and, for everyone’s benefit, they deserve to remain in the grave.

The upshot is that this is going to be a busy week for our Legislative Director as he roams the halls of the Legislature protecting the interests of taxpayers late into the night. Millions of California homeowners probably don’t know they have their own lobbyist in Sacramento fighting against the special interests and higher taxes. Hopefully, the word will get out.

(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.)

Convention Wisdom: Cities keep squandering money on hotels and meeting facilities

For two decades, American cities have used public dollars to build convention center space—far more than demand warranted. The result has been a gigantic nationwide surplus of empty meeting facilities, struggling convention centers, and vacant hotel rooms (see “The Convention Center Shell Game,” Spring 2004). Given the glut, you’d think that cities would stop. Instead, many are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand convention centers and open yet more dazzling hotels, arguing that whatever convention business remains will flow to the places with the fanciest amenities. If this dubious rationale proves wrong and the facilities fail—it’s telling that the private sector won’t build them on its own—taxpayers will wind up on the hook, as usual.

The convention business has been waning for years. Back in 2007, before the current economic slowdown, a report from Destination Marketing Association International was already calling it a “buyer’s market.” It has only worsened since. In 2010, conventions and meetings drew just 86 million attendees, down from 126 million ten years earlier. Meantime, available convention space has steadily increased to 70 million square feet, up from 40 million 20 years ago.

Boston exemplifies double-down madness. The city shelled out $230 million to renovate its convention center in the late 1980s. After the makeover produced virtually no economic bounce, Boston concluded that it needed a new $800 million center, projecting that it would help the city rent some 670,000 extra hotel rooms a year by 2009. The new center, which opened in 2004, fell far short of expectations: the actual number of room rentals that it generated in 2009 was slightly more than 300,000. Now Boston tourism officials are proposing to spend $2 billion to double the center’s size and add a convention hotel, to boot. The officials optimistically predict that the expanded facilities would inject $222 million annually into the local economy, including an extra 140,000 room rentals a year. Despite these bullish projections, officials claim that the hotel needs $200 million in subsidies.

Boston is far from alone. Hoping to help its limping convention center, Baltimore paid $300 million to build a city-owned convention hotel, which opened in 2008. The hotel lost $11 million last year and has barely been able to pay its employees or its debt service. Yet Baltimore is now considering a massive $900 million public-private expansion that would add a downtown arena, another convention hotel, and 400,000 feet of new convention space. The projected cost in public money: $400 million.

Convention-hotel mania has swept Texas, too. Dallas just opened a convention hotel financed with $388 million in Build America Bonds, and Arlington and nearby Irving are both proposing new hotels to boost tourism. These facilities will compete with alternatives in places like Austin, which opened a massive 800-room convention hotel in 2003 after a study predicted that it would generate more than 300,000 room rentals annually for the city. But Austin has yet to exceed 200,000 per year.

Perhaps recognizing this weak economic record, convention and tourism officials have been changing their sales pitch. Convention and meeting centers shouldn’t be judged, they now say, by how much business they bring to local hotels, restaurants, and local attractions. Instead, we should see them as helping to establish a tourism brand for their cities. The director of Boston’s convention center, for instance, boasts that it brings the city “tourism impacts”—purportedly an economic value beyond whatever dollars the convention industry manages to attract.

The main value of such nebulous concepts seems to be to obscure the failure of publicly sponsored facilities to live up to exaggerated projections. As far as city officials are concerned, that failure is nothing that hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars can’t fix.

(Steven Malanga is the senior editor of City Journal and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Originally posted on City Journal.)

The real threat to Obama’s re-election

Could the coming European financial crisis doom President Obama?  That’s a question that seems worth asking after a ten day trip to Europe this month.  On June 17, voters in Greece will attempt to form a stable government; they will probably fail and Greece could be forced to leave the common European currency known as the Euro.  If that happened, the Euro itself might come apart, setting off a worldwide banking panic with monumental political impacts.

It’s hard to figure how a tiny country like Greece could do all this, but the global financial system is like a knitted sweater, pull out one thread and the whole thing comes apart.  If Greece is forced from the Euro, or it defaults on its monster debt, that will cause a run on Euro zone banks in weak economies like Spain, Portugal and possibly Italy.  Jeremy Siegal writing last week in the Financial Times notes that, “a run on the banks in those countries would need to be met by massive loans from the European Central Bank to prevent a financial collapse.”

Sound familiar?  This is what happened with the Lehman Brother bankruptcy in October 2008, requiring the now hugely unpopular American bank bailout.  But the European situation is different; Europe is already an economic basket case, only Germany has enough money to save it and Germans are revolting against more bailouts.

What does all this have to do with Obama?  World finances are tied together in ways few Americans appreciate.  JPMorgan Chase lost $2 billion earlier this month because of a rogue trader in London, and every time the Greek crisis has flared, the US stock market has fallen.  Recently, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development cited Europe’s potential crisis as the leading threat to the global economy.  America won’t escape the fallout.

Politics, like economics, has its rational and irrational side.  It is irrational to let Greece ruin the world economy; it is rational for money to flow away from weak countries, as will happen if the Euro begins to unravel.

An irrational world economy will have a rational political impact; people will get mad, and they will toss out their incumbent governments.  That is occurring now in Europe; almost every election in the past two years has seen the incumbents booted; socialists ejected in Spain and Portugal for conservatives; conservatives defeated in France and Italy for socialists.  If they had an election in Britain, Labor would come back in Conservatives would go out.   In Greece, a country whose problems are the result of a bloated public sector and unsustainable pensions, the thrust has been to the far left.  In other words, everyone who is in is being thrown out, as voters very purposefully vent their anger.

This is what happened in October 2008, the sudden banking collapse occurred on the Republicans’ watch, and whatever chance Sen. John McCain had to win that year disappeared in the bankruptcy uproar.  So it could well be this November.  President Obama is not to blame for Greek pensions, but the unraveling of the European financial system that would accompany a Greek default cannot help but be a body blow to the fragile American economic recovery.

In 2008, the collapse occurred with little warning and there was nothing the Bush Administration could do to head off the public’s anger.  This time the pending collapse is front and center for all to see, yet heading it off seems harder and harder.

That may explain the Obama Administration’s frantic efforts to define GOP nominee Mitt Romney as an unacceptable alternative whose hands are soiled by the same misdeeds that has caused all this financial misery.

This is, however, a difficult sell if Europe’s finances push the world, and America, back into recession.  It is not Obama’s or Romney’s fault, but Obama is the one now holding the bag, and angry voters react bitterly when confronted by hardships they little understand.  Often they throw out the people in charge even if they are not at fault.

In the year 2012, it may not be the Super PACs, or the massive fundraising, or the television talking heads that settles the election.  It may well be a world economy held together by such fragile knitting that the removal of a single thread in far off southern Europe unravels the entire thing.

(Tony Quinn is a Political Commentator and Former Legislative Staffer. Originally posted on Fox & Hounds.)

How “Public” Is the Public Sector?

You may have heard the old joke about the convenience store with a neon sign blaring, “Open 24 Hours.” A customer stops in one morning for coffee, and confronts the store’s owner, “Your sign says ‘Open 24 Hours’, but I stopped by last night at midnight for a pack of smokes and you were closed.” The owner replies, “Oh, we’re open 24 hours…just not in a row.”

I’ve been reminded of this exchange during one of the more intriguing battles over what “public ownership” means in California’s state parks. Governor Brown has designated 70 of them (out of 278) for closure in an effort to help close the state’s chronic multi-billion dollar budget deficit. In response, a Marin County Democratic Assemblyman, Jared Huffman, offered AB 42. The measure, which has now been signed into law, makes it easier for non-profits to enter into operating agreements with at least 20 of the parks on the chopping block. The law cuts the typical red-tape involved in forming such a “public-civic partnership”, including greater freedom in hiring and providing some added legal protections. And AB42 has been written specifically to hold local governments harmless from possible shoddy work, so lawsuits aren’t an issue. Over the last six months a number of parks have startedmaking such arrangements and will continue to operate.  But this is not without some consternation.

The first AB42-enabled contract has recently been signed between the previously closed Jack London State Park in Sonoma County and the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association, which will handle staffing and maintenance for this $500,000 annually budgeted facility. The Association plans to cover expenses through a mix of fundraisers, volunteer labor, and creative marketing.

Asked for her opinion on these new public-civic partnerships, state Sen. Noreen Evans (D-Coastal Northern CA) recently told The Huffington Post why she disliked the legislation: “My own philosophy is that a state park should be owned and operated by the public. Any time you turn even a portion of a state park away from public control, you always have the problem that the park’s interest becomes inconsistent with serving the public.” But this leaves open the question of what the senator means by ‘owned and operated by the public’?

Of course a state park is ‘owned by the public’ in the broadest sense, but what control do I, as a Californian, really have over how my state parks are run? In many of these AB 42 relationships between state parks and local organizations, the public is far more involved in the maintenance and running of these places than they were before.

In another issue I’ve written about, a group of parents and community volunteers were threatened with a union lawsuit if they persisted in their efforts to assume administrative tasks in a San Francisco Bay Area junior high school that had been hit with several years of budget cuts.

The local chapter of the California Service Employees’ Association (CSEA), sought to prevent parents and residents from volunteering as playground supervisors and back office staff. Said CSEA local president, Loretta Kruusmagi, “As far as I’m concerned, they never should have started this thing. Noon-duty people [lunchtime and playground assistants]—those are instructional assistants. We had all those positions. We don’t have them anymore, but those are our positions. Our stand is you can’t have volunteers, they can’t do our work.”

Notice the sense of ownership over these public sector positions.  Even in the face of dire municipal fiscal situations, with stark choices between whether or not to continue services everywhere from parks to libraries, public sector unions are increasingly challenging local volunteers who are attempting to fill the gap. It is easy to wonder whom are the real “public servants” – the employees or the parents?  As to complaints about the quality of volunteers, I’m not sure unprofessional behavior by volunteers outnumbers – even per capita – that by unionized/fulltime employees.

A similar story is being written currently in the West Los Angeles area Culver City Unified School District.  Here, in an interesting twist on the aforementioned tale, a service union in a local elementary school is seeking to force willingly lower paid classroom attendants to unionize, and demanding that a local charity pay for these unionized positions. The El Marino Language School has been a dual language (Spanish and Japanese) immersion program for more than two decades.

A “blue-ribbon” school in California, the students of El Marino have scored exceedingly high in a number of categories . In order to keep the students “immersed”, the school began hiring native language-speaking “adjuncts” to work in classrooms for a few hours each day – usually a couple of days per week. An additional element to what the district usually supports, these positions – often filled by parents of current or former students with teaching experience – are supported by a group of local booster clubs.

The longtime program apparently escaped the watchful eye of the Association of Classified Employees (“ACE”), which represents service employees in the district. Upon learning that these non-unionized “adjuncts” were working at El Marino, ACE gave the district an ultimatum: force them to unionize or allow us to bring in our own “adjuncts”.

The current battles over how “public” libraries will be run in California casts a bright light on the use of this rhetoric by municipal unions seeking to keep out competition from private organizations. The city council of Santa Clarita, voted to withdraw from the Los Angeles County system, and contract out their three libraries to LSSI (Library Systems and Services), a private company based in Germantown, Maryland.

The response from some residents and the library employees’ union was an outcry at the supposed “privatizing” of the public library. As the New York Times reported, protest signs at the council meeting declared, “keep our libraries public”, as if access to their libraries was going to be constrained by LSSI. As then-mayor pro tem, Marsh McLean responded, “The libraries are still going to be public libraries. When people say we’re privatizing libraries, that is just not a true statement, period.”

Faced with the prospect of more communities deciding to offer library services through contracted firms, California’s SEIU lobbied the Legislature for passage of AB 438, which adds extra hurdles to city councils making these decisions. Proclaiming that they had “beat the privatization beast in California”, LA County Community Library Manager and SEIU Executive Board Member, Cindy Singer said, “By signing AB 438, Governor Brown put taxpayers and the public ahead of the profits of privately held corporations.” But, once again, knowing exactly what “public” Ms. Singer is referring to requires some circuitous thinking.

Her statement is patently untrue in Santa Clarita, where, as Atlantic Cities describes, “Hours have increased. The library is now open on Sundays. There are 77 new computers, [and] a new book collection dedicated to homeschooling parents and more children’s programs.” It appears Santa Claritans have come out “ahead”.

The macroeconomic term “crowding out” is broadly used to describe the adverse impact on private investment created by government action. The phrase also applies to the negating influence government-delivered services can have on the actions of non-profits and businesses. This is not to say that volunteers and businesses can (or should) fill all the gaps exposed by the fiscal crisis, but it may be time to consider a new phrase, as Americans assume an old role: “crowding in” anyone?

(Pete Peterson is the Executive Director for the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership at Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy. Originally posted on Fox & Hounds.)

Did racial preferences play a part in the Claremont McKenna’s fabrications?

Claremont McKenna College, a private liberal arts college 60 miles east of Los Angeles, drew national attention earlier this year when its dean of admissions, Richard Vos, was caught deliberately misreporting the SAT scores that students had achieved before attending CMC. Vos’s goal was to reach the coveted 1400 SAT average for highly selective liberal arts colleges. He resigned soon after the scandal emerged in January, but not before touching off a debate about the lengths to which colleges will go to boost their rankings. Journalists and education-policy experts lectured about the corrupting effect of U.S. News and World Report’s rankings, while college officials hemmed and hawed about what had occurred during Vos’s tenure even as they vowed to sin no more. “While these events do not reflect our values of honesty and responsible leadership, our response does,” wrote Harry T. McMahon, chairman of Claremont-McKenna’s board of trustees, to the Claremont community.

Not quite. From the start, CMC officials played down the scope of Vos’s fabrications. College president Pamela Gann said that Vos had manipulated only the school’s average SAT scores, and then not by much. But a day after Gann made that claim, the Claremont Port Side, a left-wing student publication, revealed a wider system of manipulation by the admissions office; in some years, some individual SAT scores were simply made up. A report released last month by O’Melveny & Myers, the college’s outside counsel, shows still more deception. Evidently, Vos didn’t merely fake SAT scores; he faked ACT scores, the percentage of students admitted from the top 10 percent of their high school classes, and the college’s overall acceptance rate. Everywhere the investigators from O’Melveny & Myers looked, they uncovered evidence of fraud and manipulation. So after just 18 hours of interviews, they stopped looking.

It’s probably no coincidence that Vos’s manipulations began soon after the college received a $700,000 grant to expand racial preferences in its admissions. In March 2002, the admissions office changed its policies in accord with a “Campus Diversity Initiative” grant that it received from the James Irvine Foundation. The grant’s conditions called for a 2 percent yearly increase in nonwhite enrollment for three years. CMC also promised to deliver a student body that would be 37 percent nonwhite at the end of the grant’s term. The college went to great lengths to achieve these quotas, preparing “minority brochures” and flying in nonwhite students from around the country to visit. These efforts reached their apex at the same time that the college boosted its minority-outreach efforts through two new programs, QuestBridge and Posse, which continue to grant full scholarships to low-income—mostly black and Hispanic—students at top colleges across the nation.

Vos was an enthusiastic supporter of racial preferences and a vocal critic of California’s Proposition 209, which in 1996 banned state colleges from admitting students on the basis of race, ethnicity, or sex. During his tenure, CMC’s admissions policies led to higher acceptance rates for blacks and Latinos and lower ones for whites and Asians. According to the Claremont Independent in 2006, “statistics provided by the admissions office show that it admitted roughly 45 percent of both black and Hispanic applicants, [versus] 22 percent of the white applicants and 17 percent of Asian applicants.” Given this history, it’s probable that Vos’s preferential policies resulted in lower average SAT scores than he would have liked and led him to make his disastrous fabrications.

Now Claremont is doing its best to clean up its tarnished image. “We are confident that the process changes the president has proposed, and we have approved, will deter and prevent such actions from occurring again,” McMahon promised in his trustee letter—though what those changes are remains a mystery. In any event, Gann won’t be around to see them implemented. On May 15, she announced that she would step down at the end of next year. She will reportedly remain at CMC as a professor of “legal studies.” Never mind that the college has no legal-studies department.

Meantime, the college received an undeserved gift in April, when U.S. News & World Report announced that it wouldn’t drop Claremont from its list of the nation’s top ten liberal arts colleges. (Kiplinger’sPersonal Finance, however, dumped CMC, declaring that the school had “unfairly earned its place.”) U.S. News is sending a terrible message to other schools, which might interpret the influential magazine’s forgiveness as tacit permission to continue gaming the rankings.

CMC’s continuing commitment to diversity precludes its commitment to educational excellence, and its faculty is beginning to notice. “We’re in a big . . . mess,” says one professor who spoke under condition of anonymity. “We have admitted students that can’t read.” The college and the alumni community continue to hide from the facts. They’ve even launched a shameless publicity campaign to celebrate the college, complete with ice cream and free T-shirts for students. But no feel-good campaign can obscure the unpleasant realities that the Vos episode has revealed.

(Charles C. Johnson is a writer in Los Angeles and author of a forthcoming biography of Calvin Coolidge from Encounter Books. He is an alum of Claremont McKenna. Originally posted on City Journal.)

Growing CA’s education welfare system

Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, has been pushing unusually hard to get a tax bill passed, but it’s not looking good. There is no getting around the fact that AB 1500, a bill he’s sponsoring, would impose a $1 billion tax increase on businesses which are not headquartered in California, but have significant business operations in the state.

Even in California, some lawmakers recognize that this is just one more attempt to tax businesses for California’s growing education welfare system. And it is important to remember that, because AB 1500 is a $1 billion tax increase, it requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, which perhaps explains why Perez is working so hard to get it passed.

But even more insidious than this attempt to increase taxes, this bill is just another banal repackaging of similar bills that have failed to pass the smell test with voters, and even legislators. However, this version is worse because it contains none of the tax credits or other incentives from the 2011 bills, the last attempt to repeal a business tax credit.

There is another hearing on AB 1500 Friday which will undoubtedly prove to be as big a dog-and-pony show as the previous hearings. Perez has trotted out the same college students through each of the hearings to share their stories of hardship and financial woes. Mixed in with the students are union representatives, union employees and well-schooled, well-trained college activists.

But whining to a legislative committee of people who likely worked while going to college doesn’t twang the sympathy strings as much as Perez thought it might.

Middle Class Scholarship

AB 1500 would raise taxes on businesses and employers who operate inside California, but are headquartered out-of-state. Unlike the previous versions of the legislation, this latest bill remodeling now claims that the proceeds will go to creating a “Middle-Class Scholarship” for California’s public college students.

Perez calls the existing tax credit a “loophole.”

AB 1500 restores the level playing field for California businesses,” Perez has said at each of the hearings on AB 1500.

The Loophole

In 2009, state law was agreed to and changed by both Democrats and Republicans  to allow the use of the single sales apportionment factor to be used by businesses. The corporate tax break, imperative for stimulating business in the state, allows businesses to choose whether to have their income tax based on the proportion of their total sales within California — or on a combination of their total sales and operations, which includes payrolls as well as property.

Perez conveniently branded it a “loophole.”

AB 1500 is a very large tax increase on manufacturers, retailers and other businesses that create jobs for California workers. The bill is another $1 billion tax increase on companies that create jobs, pay taxes on their property, sales and payroll receipts, and have employees in California. Many fear that it will only lead to more uncertainty and unpredictability within businesses, and discourage companies from growing, or investing in California.

“Current law allows companies two ways to pay their fair share of taxes. AB 1500 removes one of those options,” the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported. But Perez has a different take on this tax law: “This elective method right now creates a ‘perverse disincentive’ to invest in new plants and jobs in the state. It actually creates an incentive to move payroll and property out of state.”

The leveling of the loophole

Perez claims AB 1500 will only target big corporations. But State Franchise Tax Board records showed that Proposition 24, the 2010 ballot initiative that was another rendition of this tax increase, would have impacted 120,000 businesses, large and small.

Chief Executive magazine recently ranked California the worst state to do business for the eighth year in a row, citing such factors as energy, labor costs, land costs, regulatory burdens, transportation congestion and taxes.  Disincentives for California employers to invest and hire are innumerable and astonishing; a $1.2 billion tax increase is a “perverse disincentive.”

But Perez doesn’t see it this way. At a recent hearing, Perez said, “If an out-of-state firm wants to move operations into California, they will be discouraged because, under the double-weighted sales apportionment rule, every dollar they invest in jobs or infrastructure in California will result in a higher California tax bill.”

AB 1500 tips the playing field by picking winners and losers among certain companies already heavily invested in California.  And AB 1500 inflicts another $1.2 billion tax increase so that the losers lose even more.

Perez said that if AB 1500 is passed, tuition costs for California’s public universities would decrease by two thirds, and California’s Community College system would receive a $150 million infusion of funds. .   “AB 1500 restores opportunity for middle class families,” said Perez.

However, the bill is light on details about this scholarship fund.

Tax business = fewer jobs

The California Manufacturers and Technology Association opposes AB 1500 and calls the funding scheme “an unjustified $1 billion tax increase on companies that create jobs, pay taxes on their property, sales and payroll receipts, and have employees in California.”

The irony of this bill is that it will likely lead to fewer middle-class jobs for those middle-class students when they graduate.  A $1.2 billion tax increase on California employers already struggling to compete against businesses in other states, will have fewer employment opportunities for the middle class.

“AB 1500 continues the effort . . . in a revenue neutral manner by using revenues generated . . . to cut college fees,” Perez explained at a recent hearing. However, California employers don’t pay college tuition.  The bill imposes a huge tax increase on employers and then uses that revenue somewhere else.  This is the definition of a tax increase, not revenue neutrality.

“Single-sales factor is a methodology of assessing what is a previously existing corporate tax,” said Gov. Jerry Brown. “It’s not a new tax. It’s a way of calculating the tax….And so I think changing this, which is an obvious loophole — a dumb idea to begin with — I think it equitable, it’s logical, and I would say, in every sense of the word, it’s a changing of how corporations calculate their tax in a way that brings things into line. I think it’s certainly consistent with what I believe and what I promised in my campaign.”

“We as individuals can’t choose between two methods of how to calculate our tax,” Brown added. “We only got one method.”

That a taxpayer’s liability should be somewhat tied to their presence and corresponding demand for government services is not an unusual concept.  The more than 40-year history of payroll-property-sales methods, recognize this and measure business economic presence accordingly.

The Middle Class Scholarship Fund cannot ensure job creation and investment in California as its supporters claim.  A California-based company could decide after AB 1500 is enacted to pocket their Single Sales Factor tax cut and move every employee and piece of equipment to Arizona, New Mexico or Texas, and join the growing club of out-of-state companies that fled California.

(Katy Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist, and CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)

Top five ways Obamacare crushes the middle class

President Obama has repeatedly claimed that he is “going to keep on fighting for what matters to middle class families.” Well, in this “fight,” the President seems to be his own worst enemy. His health care law does far more damage than good to the American middle class.

Here are the five most prevalent and harmful burdens the middle class will be forced to bear under Obamacare:

  1. More taxes. Obamacare imposes $502 billion of new or increased taxes and fees. Heritage expert Curtis Dubay explains that several of the taxes “will ultimately be passed on to [middle-income families] through higher prices. These include the fees on medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and health insurance companies and the new tax on tanning services.” The middle class will also be burdened by the individual mandate to purchase insurance, new restrictions and limits on their tax-free health and flex savings accounts, and a new tax on high-cost (Cadillac) health plans. Starting next year, Obamacare increases the Medicare payroll tax from 2.9 percent to 3.8 percent for individuals earning above $200,000 and couples earning more than $250,000 and for the first time extends the tax to income earned from investment. But the threshold for the higher rate isn’t indexed to inflation and will impact more middle-class families each year. The 2012 Medicare trustees report states, “By the end of the long-range projection period, an estimated 80 percent of workers would pay the higher tax rate.”
  2. Loss of existing coverage. As many as 35 million people could lose their existing coverage because of Obamacare. This is because Obamacare creates financial incentives for employers to drop coverage for their employees. One report that examined the health insurance costs of 71 fortune 100 companies estimated savings of $422.4 billion between 2014 and 2023 if they dropped their employee coverage and paid the employer mandate penalty. Another study predicts that 30 percent of employers will definitely or probably drop coverage under Obamacare.
  3. Higher premiums. Americans who purchase coverage in the new Obamacare exchanges will find that health insurance is still very expensive. American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Scott Gottlieb, MD, explains, “For a family of four, premiums on even one of the lower priced ‘silver’ options could still cost more than $15,000 annually on the exchanges.” A family’s income might exclude them from subsidies but not be high enough to pay $15,000 for Obamacare’s government-approved insurance. “A family of four earning $90,000 annually takes home about $60,000 after local, state, and federal taxes. If they lose workplace coverage, and move onto the exchanges, they could find themselves spending as much as 25 percent of the family’s take home pay for an average policy ($15,000 for the ‘silver’ plan).”
  4. Rising health care costs. As premiums and overall health care costs continue to rise, middle-class families, including those receiving a subsidy, will be left paying more. Beginning in 2019, Obamacare’s cost-containment strategy for the exchanges is to hold the total cost of the subsidies to 0.504 percent of GDP. Charles Blahous, a Medicare trustee, concludes that “this limitation would likely cause the federal subsidies to grow less rapidly over the long term than the cost of health care and thus require low-income individuals in the exchanges to shoulder a steadily increasing percentage of their health costs.”
  5. More government control of health care. Obamacare transfers massive authority over to the Secretary of Health and Human Services and expands the role of government in delivering care and coverage. This huge expansion of government’s role in health means that, by 2020, more than half of all Americans will be dependent on the federal government for health care and government bureaucrats will be in charge of deciding what you can and cannot buy.

If President Obama is serious about “fighting for what matters to middle class families,” he should start by repealing his own health care law.

To watch Heritage’s video on Obamacare’s Impact on Families and Future Generations, click here.

(Alyene Senger is a contributor for The Foundry, a conservative policy news blog from The Heritage Foundation. Originally posted on The Foundry.)

Prop 29 Could Begin Push to Tax Specific Products and Services

If the Proposition 29 tobacco tax passes on June 5th, it could kick off a negative trend of targeted taxes on products and services. Supporters of the tobacco tax argue that they wrote the measure to direct how taxes would be spent because voters don’t trust legislators to handle their tax dollars appropriately.

Walling off tax dollars with an unaccountable bureaucracy is not an answer for taxpayer angst, either. However, this “ballot box budgeting”  — meaning the tax is designated for a specific purpose and cannot be altered by legislative action – could gain traction if Prop 29 passes. That would be a bad thing for California’s problematic budget.

For a business community wary of regulations and taxes and fees that weigh down their trades, the fear of activists and legislators targeting taxes on products and services is a real one.

Last week the Richmond city council voted to put a measure on the ballot to tax sugary beverages with the funds going to fight obesity. This is similar to AB 669 proposed last year, which was designed to fund a new program through a newly created Children’s Health Promotion Fund with a tax on sweetened beverages.

Like the scheme in Prop 29, the proposed program would depend on a tax structure from a diminishing resource as fewer and fewer users of the products over time reduce the revenue take. The new programs would ideally disappear but that is not the nature of government programs. Like Frankenstein’s monster, when you think you’ve killed them off, they come back to life – demanding more tax money.

There are plenty proposals from legislators and even activists who look to the initiative process to tax some product or service and pay for a new or existing program. Consider the mattress tax in SB 1118 in lieu of a mattress recycling, or even SB 2441 to tax strip clubs and dedicate the money for rape centers.

One idea was filed as both a legislative bill and an initiative – an oil severance tax dedicating the revenue for higher education.

It seems everyone wants to raise revenues and decide how those revenues would be spent because no one trusts the legislature to fund their projects.

On the end of all these targeted tax proposals, are the businesses that see fluctuating costs, bureaucratic paperwork and diminished sales.

Advocates of more government spending continue to offer ways to secure additional revenue while at the same time making it more difficult for the job creators to grow the economy and produce the revenue government legitimately needs.

For California’s budget and tax system, passing Proposition 29 to boost the idea of ballot box budgeting would be another brick on that famous road paved with good intentions.

Author’s Note: Hat tip to CalTax for pointing out many targeted tax bills to me.

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

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