California Governor Brown calls Republicans “freeloaders”

Hail! Art thou a freeloader?

California has one of the highest income tax rates in the nation. It also has some of the nation’s worst roads. Meanwhile, the state government routinely diverts gas tax money from road maintenance for general spending purposes. (Thanks to ZeroHedge for the links.)

However, that hasn’t stopped the New Venezuela Party, I mean the Democrats, from pushing for an increase in gas taxes and vehicle license fee, to the tune of about $52 billion. And while a majority of Californians reject the proposal, that hasn’t stopped Governor Jerry Brown from describing Republican lawmakers as “freeloaders”.

While criticizing a Republican plan to fund road maintenance, Brown said:

“The freeloaders — I’ve had enough of them,” Brown said, adding that the approved tax and fee hikes bring those charges to the level they were 30 years ago if adjusted for inflation. “They have a president that doesn’t tell the truth and they’re following suit.”

It’s fascinating that a man whose career consists mainly in holding public office would have the audacity to call anyone else a freeloader.

Project much, Governor Brown?

Brown’s 2018 budget called for $179.5 billion in spending, a 53% increase since just 2010. With such a large budget, a strong argument can be made that the state ought to prioritize how much should be spent. However, Brown wants to hear none of that, and instead demonizes the state’s taxbase.

However, the state risks losing that very taxbase because it keeps losing residents. In 2014, the state lost 129,000 net residents. After all, why should productive people stay in the state when all they do is keep paying more taxes and get nothing in return?

At some point, California’s destructive policies will come back to haunt its residents. Until then, responsible Californians will be forced to suffer through Governor Brown’s prudish outbursts.

 

California pension liabilities skyrocket 22%

Breitbart reports that new accounting rules have required California to report that its unfunded pension liabilities have skyrocketed 22%:

The State of California is notorious for predicting spectacularly high pension investment returns, and then admitting lousy performance. But Governor Brown’s 2017-18 May Revised Budget admitted for the first time that the state’s and UC’s long‑term pension and healthcare liabilities jumped by $51 billion in the last year to $279 billion, “due to poor investment returns and the adoption of more realistic assumptions about future earnings.”

The Brown administration’s willingness to be more forthcoming with the cost of granting unions spectacular benefits was not voluntary. The Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which sets the accounting methodology for all government entities, issued Statement 85 in January 2016. The new mandate required pension plan audits to include postemployment benefits (OPEB) liabilities, such as retiree healthcare.
The State of California’s first GASB-compliant audited financial balance sheet revealed that unfunded retiree healthcare liabilities substantially exceed pension liabilities. The 2016 calculation of unfunded employee pension liability for the state was $59.141 billion, and $15.141 billion for the University of California. But the unfunded state retiree health liability is 36 percent greater, at $76.533 billion; and the UC unfunded retiree health liability is over 44 percent greater, at $21.719 billion.

The big jump in unfunded liabilities means a bigger burden on future California state budgets. The May Revised Budget reveals that the state’s contributions to California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) “are on track to nearly double from $5.8 billion ($3.4 billion General Fund) in 2017‑18 to $9.2 billion ($5.3 billion General Fund) in 2023‑24.

State pension plans provide returns that are woefully under the 7.5% rate used to discount the value of their future pension obligations. For example, CalPERS earned just 0.6% during its last fiscal year. Further, CalPERS was only 65% funded as of June 30, 2016.

Between the high level of obligations, low returns, and unrealistic earnings expectations, pensioners and California taxpayers need to prepare for a bumpy ride over the next thirty years.

California Democrats kill licensing reform

Reason’s Steven Greenhut reports that a California Senate committee killed a bill, by a party-line 6-2 vote, that would have eliminated licensing requirements for a range of activities, including fitting and selling hearing aids, barbering, and performing custom upholstery services.

While licensing requirements are supposedly designed to promote public safety and health, these rules are rarely relevant to the job at hand. Additionally, such restrictions are usually supported by parties that benefit from barriers preventing newcomers into their respective lines of work.

What’s worse, such requirement require poor Californians to jump through unnecessary hoops in order to work, which leads to fewer of them being employed.

California has the nation’s highest poverty rates, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau standard that includes cost-of-living factors. A good starting place to address that problem is to chip away at unnecessary barriers to work. Trade groups, however, recognize that the best way to inflate their members’ pay is to raise the cost of entry for others—and the more fields regulated this way, the more it keeps poor people in the welfare lines.

“One out of every five Californians must receive permission from the government to work,” explained a 2016 report from the state’s official watchdog agency, the Little Hoover Commission. “What once was a tool for consumer protection, particularly in the healing arts professions, is now a vehicle to promote a multitude of other goals. These include professionalism of occupations, standardization of services, a guarantee of quality and a means of limiting competition among practitioners, among others.”

Consider the freedom issue there too. We need to ask the government for permission to work?

The Little Hoover study found that the laws succeeded mainly in keeping “Californians from working, particularly harder-to-employ groups such as former offenders and those trained or educated outside of California, including veterans, military spouses and foreign-trained workers.” The problem is particularly acute for ex-offenders who often are barred from entering a variety of fairly low-skill professions by licensing rules that forbid them from entering the market.

However, when the Hearing Healthcare Providers of America and the California Nurses Association tell state Democrats to jump, don’t expect them to think about the little guy before they ask “How high?”

 

Did you know libertarianism is incompatible with Catholicism?

Me neither!

Fortunately, Holy Inquisitor Mark Shea has cleared it up for us:

Libertarianism is the religious superstition that individualists don’t need the help of society, that the state only does evil, and that your average FOX brainwashing victim on a fixed income will be fine because the 1% totally care about him and certainly will defend him when the Party of Trump robs him of Social Security and Medicaid.

He writes more, but it’s at the same level of detritus as the above.

There are three points I’d like to make about the above gordian knot of silly accusations disguised as a series of indignant j’accuses! against the demon spawn known as libertarians.

First, to claim that individualists don’t need the help of society is hogwash. If anything, the opposite is true. Civilization flourishes through voluntary interaction, not coercion. The economy, which provides the material support for a civilization, flourishes through the division of labor, the nexus of exchange, and the accumulation of capital. Libertarians simply believe that none of these three functions require the state, which is a monopoly of violence in a given society.

Second, regarding the nature of the state, need I remind Mr. Shea of Augustine’s observations on the matter in the City of God?

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you who does it with a great fleet are styled emperor.” (Book IV, Chapter 4)

I’ll address Shea’s accusation about how libertarians view the state once he addresses how Augustine views it.

Finally, where in the hell does Shea get the idea that Trump wants to get rid of Social Security and Medicare? Because Shea clearly knows, or at least ought to, that Trump has no intention of getting rid of either.

When Donald Trump was elected president in November, it was on the heels of numerous campaign promises. One of those key promises was that he would leave Social Security and Medicare as is. Trump has suggested that America has an obligation to its seniors to honor its commitment to pay their Social Security benefits.

And yet Trump’s assurances about both programs don’t prevent Shea from conflating that a) Trump really really does want to eliminate them, and b) libertarians control Fox (if only), and 5) the 1% really want free markets, when more and more of them have become rich through crony capitalism.

(By the way, Mark, crony capitalism means that big companies use government connections to create laws and regulatory burdens that reduce competition and increase profits. For them. Just so we’re clear.)

Beyond the ridiculousness of the above sentence, there’s one particular string of words, which when written by a more charitable writer would be called a paragraph, I want to address.

Libertarianism is Murray Rothbard’s belief that a child is a parasitic invader with no right to life because it cannot pay its parents for the property and labor it demands in order to be carried to term and raised to adulthood. If they choose to do so, they may. But if they decide to abort it or drive the child to a remote location and abandon it they may do that too. They owe it nothing.

It may come as a mild surprise to Mr. Shea that libertarians, who believe individuals have free will, do not always agree with Rothbard.

I mean, it’s not like Rothbard is a god or anything…

Sure, he wrote profusely, and was a genius when it came to economics and political philosophy. However, my Catholicism (you know, Mark, the thing you claim that I don’t believe) informs my strong disagreement with his view that a pregnant woman has the right to abort her child.

Father Jim Sadowsky, who taught philosophy at Fordham and was a friend of Rothbard, disagreed with him strongly about abortion as well:

But is the infant a trespasser the moment his presence in the womb is no longer desired? Does he have no right to be there? Murray [Rothbard] and Walter [Block] simply assume that the infant has no right to be in the womb. Yet it is by no means evident that their answer is the correct one. To say that x is trespassing is to say that he is somewhere where he ought not to be. But where should a foetus be if not in its mother’s womb? This is its natural habitat. Surely people have a right to the means of life that nature gives them? If the home in which the infant grew were outside the mother’s body, we should all see that to expel him from that home would be to deprive him of the nature-given means of life. Why should the fact that his nature-given home lies within a woman’s body change the situation? What is a woman’s womb for except to house the infant’s body? It is nature that gives the child this home, this means of life. When we cast him out, we are depriving him of that which nature gave him. To do this is to violate his rights.

However, that did not stop Sadowsky from being attracted to Rothbard’s libertarian thinking. As David Gordon wrote in his obituary of Father Sadowsky:

What attracted him to the libertarian point of view was its individualism: libertarianism rejects the notion of a collective interest apart from that of individual persons. In this he found echoes of one of his favorite thinkers among the scholastics, Francisco Suarez, who maintained that political authority rests on consent. If this idea were followed to its full implications, Sadowsky thought, it would lead to anarchism, an implication he fully accepted.

You remember the scholastics, right, Mark? Or did they advocate child killing as well?

Frankly, Shea’s schtick against libertarianism is getting really, really old. It is uninformed, uncharitable, and in the end, boring.

I am going to close this post to repeat my plea.

I don’t mind if Catholics don’t agree with libertarianism. I do, however, reject any attempt to demonize an otherwise compatible political philosophy with Catholicism simply because one decides not to view it and its adherents charitably.

Hopefully, at some point, Mr. Shea will be willing to talk to his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, who just happen to have a different perspective than him, in the manner they deserve.

Until then, talk to the hand.

 

 

Trump fires Comey. Chaos ensues.

Given the hullabaloo over President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, perhaps it’s best to start this post with a silly joke.

I’ll let Scott Adams of Dilbert fame provide it. After all, he’s a professional:

What do Bernie Sanders’ hair and CNN have in common today? They are both saying, “Comey” every time you look at them.

I feel better already!

Both Republicans and Democrats hated Comey, albeit for different reasons. Republicans were appalled when Comey publicly cleared Hillary Clinton, on dubious legal grounds and inconsistently with DoJ/FBI procedures, of charges that she obstructed justice when the FBI investigated her using a personal server for her State Department email. Democrats called for Comey’s head after he re-opened that investigation weeks before the general election, only to close it days for before it.

In fact, Lifezette reports that a reporter reminded Senator Chuck Schumer of his earlier call for Comey to be fired at a press conference yesterday:

“Sen. Schumer, you told me last year before the election that you lost confidence in Jim Comey because of how he handled the email scandal,” one reporter said. “Do you think that the president’s explanation … has credibility?”

“I never called on the president to fire Director Comey,” said Schumer.

Schumer then said Trump should have fired Comey earlier in his young presidency if he had some of the same concerns as Democrats.

It was a clever ploy. But it cannot hide the fact that Democrats have hated Comey for months. Many blame Comey for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s losing the election. Comey famously released a letter to Congress just before the Nov. 8 election indicating that he was reopening an investigation into how Clinton handled classified emails.

Comey, being Comey, closed the new investigation in record time, ending the investigation two days before Election Day and enraging Republicans by publicly declaring he still would not recommend charges against Clinton.

Schumer indicated Comey’s handling of the matter was a deal-breaker.

“I do not have confidence in him any longer,” Schumer said of Comey on Nov. 2.

However, because the wrong president fired Comey, we are now in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Or something like that.

As Reason’s Jacob Sullum reports:

“We are in a full-fledged constitutional crisis,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) declared on Twitter last night after hearing that Donald Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey. New York Times columnist David Leonhardt agreed. So did Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), although Blumenthal described the crisis as “looming” rather than “full-fledged.”

Yet Sullum points out the obvious; the president has clear authority to fire the FBI Director for whatever reason:

“Under the Constitution,” notes South Texas College of Law professor Josh Blackman, “the president has the absolute power to fire principal officers, such as Director Comey, at will. In that sense, Trump’s actions were entirely constitutional.”

(By the way, I love it that Democrats were silent when Obama attacked Libya without congressional authorization, thus creating the current refugee crisis in Europe, or don’t see an issue with the TSA routinely violating American’s fourth amendment rights who happen to fly, but become butthurt when a non-Democratic president fires someone.)

Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert found it necessary last night to reeducate the sheep known as the Democratic electorate on how to react to the firing:

Tuesday during the taping of CBS’s “The Late Show,” host Stephen Colbert announced the news that FBI Director James Comey had been fired by President Donald Trump.

Colbert’s left-leaning audience cheered.

Colbert reacted by saying, “Huge, huge Donald Trump fans here tonight.”

However, we now come to the core question, why did Trump fire Comey?

While Scott Adams argues that this was a strong move on Trump’s part that exhibits “some ballsy Presidenting”, such a move only works when we know what Trump is trying to achieve. And if there’s anything that Trump has demonstrated since becoming president (**cough** Syria **cough**), he can change his mind in an instant in terms of what he wants to do.

Sure, folks like Susan Rice, Loretta Lynch, and even Hillary Clinton should be feeling more nervous today than they did yesterday. But is Trump really focusing on sending them to jail? Who the hell knows? Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, thinks that Trump most likely fired Comey because he neither liked nor trusted him. Given what we know, that’s as good as an explanation as any other.

While the political world explodes in morally indignant outrage, I’m going to wait to see what Trump actually does before reacting.

In the meantime, I’m going to find some more silly jokes.

UPDATE: Roger Stone gives Alex Jones his take on Trump firing Comey.

 

California bill lets comrades be comrades

Communism

It looks like California will be hosting another coming out party soon, but this time for communists.

Breitbart reports that the California Assembly recently passed a bill that would remove provisions that allow members of the Communist party to be fired. The bill would also eliminate California’s official opposition to communism.

However, the bill would not touch provisions that bar state employees who belong to organizations that “advocated the overthrow of the Government of the United States or of any state by force or violence.”

Should Governor Brown sign the bill, state law would reflect the obvious: far too many government employees, of which there are far too many, are socialist leaning at best, and full on communists at worst.

The Daily Bulletin, a local newspaper for the Los Angeles area’s Inland Empire, ran an article in 2013 about the fact that a significant number of public school teachers who are closet communists:

“[State law prohibiting employees from being communists is] a remnant of the Cold War era and should have long been dropped from the Educational Code,” said Juan Lopez, the California chairman for the Communist Party USA.

Communists aren’t a registered political party in California, but they’re still around, and in good numbers, he said.

“We have more teachers that have joined the Communist Party than any other professions,” he said.

“More than anything, we laugh about it,” said Luis Rivas, a member of the Southern California Young Communists League. “Historically, in the U.S., there’s always been this pretty turbulent tension between the U.S. and Soviet Union.”

Yeah, that is pretty hilarious. I mean, how many communists teach history (or economics) in public high schools, yet somehow avoid discussing with students the fact that communist regimes killed at least 94 million people in the 20th century?

What a hoot.

But that’s ok. At least communists can safely come out of the closet, and they can be welcomed for who they are with open arms.

Meanwhile, those of us who believe in liberty and free markets need to be extremely careful in how we expose our ideas, particularly in the People’s Republic of California, lest we be subjected to ridicule and demands that we’re fired from our jobs.

It’s almost as if we need to maintain online aliases!

Go figure.

UPDATE: Here’s a refresher for the commie history and econ teachers about the enormous death and suffering communist regimes inflicted on their peoples.