Anger over new gas tax gives California Republicans a chance for revival

While Ronald Reagan was a governor of California before becoming President, the Republican party has been a weak political minority here for decades. The last time Republicans won the Golden State during a presidential election was in 1988. However, public anger over new gas taxes may give the GOP an opportunity to increase its presence in the state.

As John Meyers of the Los Angeles Times reports:

Less than seven weeks ago, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a sweeping $5.2-billion package of proposals to fix California’s roads and highways. To pay for it, the base excise tax on gas goes up by 12 cents a gallon in November. Diesel fuel taxes will rise by 20 cents a gallon.

There’s also a new annual vehicle fee the DMV will charge to help fund the transportation projects, based on a vehicle’s value and ranging from $25 to $175. Brown has made a frequent point of defending the necessity of the transportation plan, which won a supermajority vote in both legislative houses and earned the support of business and transportation groups.

While Governor Brown may have convinced the Democrat-controlled California legislature over these additional taxes, he doesn’t appear to have convinced taxpayers. And therein lies the opportunity for the Republicans.

Californians hate bad roads. But they may hate taxes even more. In a new statewide poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, 58% of voters surveyed said they oppose the tax-and-spend transportation plan.

The California GOP is making two moves against the gax taxes. First, they have organized a recall effort against Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), a freshman legislator who voted for the tax increase. Second, Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) is seeking an initiative to repeal the tax increases.

This initiative could alter significantly the 2018 state elections if it makes the ballot.

It could force Democrats in battleground legislative races to defend the tax. The California Democratic Party might have to open up its sizable war chest. Perhaps even Brown, by then on the homestretch of his political career and facing questions about his legacy, would dip into his $15 million campaign bank account for the transportation plan he helped craft.

Even vulnerable GOP members of Congress might benefit, giving them something other than President Trump to talk about. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently suggested that the unpopular gas tax could fuel strong Republican turnout next year.

Strong Republican turnout could be strong for no other reason than to punish Governor Brown for his calling Republicans “freeloaders” during the gas tax debate. While Republicans aren’t anarcho-capitalists, the vast majority of them vote for the GOP because they don’t want the government to burden entreprenuers.

While it’s too soon to tell how the 2018 election will play out, at the very least the prospect of a gas tax repeal initiative ought to put state Democrats on the defensive.

Given how active – and destructive – the Democrats have been in the state, that can be nothing but a good thing.

 

California Senate passes single-payer health care bill

The level of dumbassery in California politics knows no bounds.

By a vote of 23 to 14 (with three abstentions), the California Senate passed a bill that would set up a single-payer health care in the state.

According to the Los Angeles Times:

Lara’s bill would provide a Medicare-for-all-type system that he believed would guarantee health coverage for all Californians without the out-of-pocket costs. Under a single-payer plan, the government replaces private insurance companies, paying doctors and hospitals for healthcare.

There’s only one minor problem with the bill.

No one knows how the hell to pay for it.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), one of the key sponsors of the bill, admits that the bill will have to be “further developed”, and he hopes that a consensus will emerge on how to pay for it.

Lara proposed the bill while President Trump and Congressional Republicans are working to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“Despite the incredible progress California has made, millions still do not have access to health insurance and millions more cannot afford the high deductibles and co-pays, and they often forgo care,” Lara said during a floor debate on the bill.

In other words, the bill is virtue signaling writ large.

The Times has analyzed the various ways single-payer health care could be financed; none of the options look pretty. While a portion of the funds could come from existing federal and state sources such as Medicare and Medi-cal, it would require additional taxation. Among the tax proposals include a 2.3% business receipts tax and an additional 2.3% sales tax, or a 15% payroll tax.

Health Care

Such massive taxes would supposedly pay for a program that is twice the size of the current state budget.

“We don’t have the money to pay for it,” Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto) said. “If we cut every single program and expense from the state budget and redirected that money to this bill, SB 562, we wouldn’t even cover half of the $400-billion price tag.”

Fortunately, even if the state Assembly were to pass the bill, there are several significant roadblocks preventing the bill from being implemented.

Even if the bill is approved, it has to go to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been skeptical, and then voters would have to exempt it from spending limits and budget formulas in the state Constitution. In addition, the state would have to get federal approval to repurpose existing funds for Medicare and Medicaid.

Nevertheless, such impediments should not discount the reckelessness with which Democratic leaders are pursuing this bill. State finances are fragile enough as they are, given the state’s huge debt load and weak pension plans for teachers and other government employees.

However, such a bill would truly take the state down the road to Venezuela. The fact that state leaders are even considering such a brazen move simply shows how out of touch they are.

Fortunately, a backlash is beginning to brew within the state. I’ll address that in an upcoming post.

 

 

California Lieutenant Governor concerned about “job-killing robots”

The beauty about being a liberal politician in a liberal state is one gets countless opportunities to be concerned about the negative consequences of previously-implemented policies.

For example, an inevitable outcome of California’s minimum wage law, under which the wage will rise to $15 and hour by 2022, is businesses dependent on manual labor will seek to automate those tasks as much as possible. However, because the memories of liberals are those of gnats, politicians can point to the symptom and call for ACTION against such a pernicious trend.

In the case of the minimum wage, Brietbart points to a Guardian article that reports Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s concern that the increased use of technology is killing jobs:

The graduating computer science students at the University of California at Berkeley had just finished chuckling at a joke about fleets of “Google buses, Facebook shuttles and Uber-copters” lining up to whisk them them to elite jobs in Silicon Valley. The commencement ceremony for a cohort of students who, one professor confided, were worth around $25bn was a feel-good affair.

Until, that is, Gavin Newsom took to the lectern and burst the bubble.

The smooth-talking Democrat, and frontrunner to win California’s gubernatorial race next year, warned the students that the “plumbing of the world is radically changing”. The tech industry that would make them rich, Newsom declared, was also rendering millions of other people’s jobs obsolete and fueling enormous disparities in wealth. “Your job is to exercise your moral authority,” he said. “It is to do the kinds of things in life that can’t be downloaded.”

No, Lieutenant Governor, their job is not to exercise moral authority; their job is to find a job.

Honestly, it takes a tremendous amount of guile for a grown man to whine to a bunch of smart kids that their career paths may lead to the next political crisis. That is especially the case because his party’s policies have created the very conditions for their future success!

Don’t believe me? One of the companies that irritates Newsom to no end designs robots … for the fast food industry.

[Newsom] frequently complains about Momentum Machines, a secretive San Francisco startup promising to transform the fast-food industry with robotic technology. The ambition, according to the company’s founder, is to “completely obviate” human workers.

“There’s an empathy gap,” Newsom said. “I really feel intensely that the tech community needs to begin not just to solve these business problems but to begin to solve societal problems with the same kind of disruptive energy that they put behind developing the latest app.”

So let me get this straight. Out of empathy, California passes a law that keeps more and more low-skilled people out of the work force. Businesses look to automating previously affordable manual work just to stay in business. So businesses lack empathy because they are trying to solve a problem government policy created.

If this is what it means to show empathy, keep it far, far, away from me!

So what is Newsom’s “solution” to the “empathy gap”?

Serious thinker that he is, he doesn’t know. However, one possibility is what socialists call “universal basic income”.

He is “not opposed” to universal basic income, an idea popular among Silicon Valley utopians that would see all citizens receive some kind of regular and unconditional payment, and is interested in a proposal from Bill Gates to tax companies when they replace humans with robots.

But Newsom said he was not ready to endorse either policy. Adopting politician-speak, he said his team was “starting to lean in to create the tenor of a policy approach” that will involve rethinking the education system and massive investment in apprenticeships.

Then he reverted to a more frank response. “I’m struggling to figure it out,” he said. “So I don’t have the damn answer.

May I offer a suggestion, Lieutenant Governor?

Perhaps you can look at the state’s minimum wage law for a clue about what to do next?

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?”

 

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.

CalExit leader leaves movement with bizarre statement

Scott Shackford of Reason reports that current California succession efforts have been suspended because one of its key proponents has decided to live permanently…in Russia.

One notably bizarre, disorganized push to turn California into its own country is dead—at least for now. Its leader, Louis J. Marinelli, announced that he is canceling the petition and pulling up stakes. While he said he believed in the struggle for California’s independence “from the United States so we could build the kind of country that reflects our progressive values,” he has decided on a new path.

He’s decided he’d rather live in Russia, which is not exactly famous for its progressiveness.

In a missive released yesterday afternoon he said that life in Russia would offer him “a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed [his] entire life.”

Marinelli’s statement is particularly telling not only about why he wanted California to secede, but the progressive mindset in general.

Marinelli claims that a key motivation for being involved with the CalExit movement was the US government’s handling of the immigration status of his wife.

Throughout this campaign, I have been primarily motivated by a personal struggle I have had with the United States government since 2012. That personal struggle revolved around the immigration status of my wife, a foreign national who I brought to the United States to live believing at the time that it was the best country in the world. For years, our marriage suffered as politicians in Washington argued and bickered about immigration reform while the American people expressed their anti-immigrant xenophobia.

For years, our family, like so many other families in California, suffered without the relief of comprehensive immigration reform. Unable to work, study, or travel internationally, and forced to live each day with the possibility of deportation, my wife was forced to live in the shadows. At times, it was difficult for me to even look at her, ashamed for what I had done, putting her in that situation, simply by bringing her to this country.

These paragraphs raise a fundamental question: what was it about Marinelli’s marriage with a non-American that made it so difficult for him to get his wife a green card? After all, the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services appears to provide clear instructions on what Americans can do to bring their spouses into the country as permanent residents.

While USCIS’s process for evaluating such applications are designed to evaluate whether a marriage is genuine, Marinelli doesn’t bring that up as an impediment. Rather, he’s bleating about Washington’s supposed failure to bring about “immigration reform” and the supposed xenophobia of Americans. However, neither the lack of immigration reform nor American xenophobia should have prevented his wife from getting a green card. The premise that his wife “was forced to live in the shadows” is simply ridiculous.

What makes his cries against xenophobia that much more ridiculous is that in 2015, Marinelli opened a “California embassy” in Russia, all while trying to get a green card for his wife. However, that doesn’t stop Marinelli from comparing American xenophobia to the love that can’t help but pour out of the hearts of progressive Californians.

While Washington refused to act and the Americans continued to spew their hatred towards immigrants, Sacramento actively worked to protect our immigrants. And the people of California embraced our immigrants with open arms and with love and with respect.

It’s really easy for California politicians to proclaim the love of immigrants when national and state taxpayers pay for the welfare state at both levels. But I digress.

It was this contrast between Washington and Sacramento and between the American people and Californian people which shifted my allegiance from the United States to California. It was this contrast which motivated me to start this campaign for independence.

And so, thirty-six months ago, I started the Calexit campaign in order to establish a country where my wife would not need to live in the shadows and where my family would feel welcome. And I wanted a country to be proud of again… and California, unlike the United States, is a great source of pride for me. But three weeks ago, my wife finally received her green card and now my personal struggle against the United States government has ended.

He can’t pretend that he’s fighting the evil U.S. government anymore. The pretext is gone.

However, once a drama queen, always a drama queen.

His sense of victimhood does not prevent him leaving the movement with flair, stage left.

As I have stated in the past, I do not wish to live under the American flag. I do not wish to live under the American political system or within the American economic system. Regardless, I had long planned to eventually return to occupied California [if you only knew, buddy. Mr. Fool] and struggle for her independence from the United States so we could build the kind of country that reflects our progressive values. However, while my frustration, disappointment and disillusionment with the United States remains, these feelings now point me in a different direction. I have found in Russia a new happiness, a life without the albatross of frustration and resentment towards ones’ homeland, and a future detached from the partisan divisions and animosity that has thus far engulfed my entire adult life.

Consequently, if the people of Russia would be so kind as to welcome me here on a permanent basis, I intend to make Russia my new home.

Let’s follow the bouncing ball of Marinelli’s decision-making process, shall we?

The dude marries a Russian. She files for a green card, which takes a while for her to receive. Marinelli conflates American bureaucracy with xenophobia. He uses California’s cheap love of immigrants as a pretext for CalExit. Meanwhile, he opens a “California embassy” to Russia, where his wife is from. Once she gets her green card, he not only announces that he’s leaving the CalExit movement, but proclaims his desire to live in the progressive utopia of Russia for the rest of his life.

This is your mind on progressivism. Any questions?

A discussion about personal sovereignty, federalism, and yes, secession in the United States is long overdue. However, the CalExit movement will most likely die on the vine because of its feckless leaders.

Perhaps truer federalist and secession efforts will arise in its place?

Only time will tell.

 

 

California bill would ban “fake news”

Notwithstanding 60 Minutes’ pathetic failure to demonize alternative media as “fake news” – which Mark Dice hilariously demonstrates as fake news itself – movements are afoot to develop legal tools to clamp down on any news that might get in the way of The Narrative. To wit, Ars Technica reports:

Here at Ars, we’re always on the lookout for wacky, tech-focused legislation. And we’ve found one bill that is certain to make our Top 10 list.

The new proposal bars the online publication of a “false or deceptive statement designed to influence the vote.” Bye-bye online news. On the flip side, this legislation would probably outlaw lawmakers’ and candidates’ online speech, too.

The bill is proposed by California Assemblyman Edwin “Ed” Chau, a Democrat representing a section of Southern California. The proposal, which is likely unconstitutional on its face, was supposed to have a committee hearing Tuesday afternoon, but it was pulled at the 11th hour.

The bill includes the following language:

SEC. 2. Section 18320.5 is added to the Elections Code, to read:
18320.5. It is unlawful for a person to knowingly and willingly make, publish or circulate on an Internet Web site, or cause to be made, published, or circulated in any writing posted on an Internet Web site, a false or deceptive statement designed to influence the vote on either of the following:
(a) Any issue submitted to voters at an election.
(b) Any candidate for election to public office.

While Ars Technica’s David Kravets believes that this bill will “limp off into the ether”, there may come a time when it would not be appropriate to make such an optimistic assumption.

 

California man charged with driving under the influence…of caffeine

Governor Jerry Brown

I remember when California was a fun place to live in.

Nowadays, not so much, particularly when government officials can easily harrass innocent people by charging them with petty violations of the law.

ZeroHedge reports that Joseph Schwab, who lives in Fairfield, is being charged for driving under the influence…of caffeine.

That’s right. A man may have a DUI mark on his record because he had one too many Red Bulls.

Unfortunately, the law is written so broadly that he could conceivably be convited for this “crime”.

California vehicle code defines a “drug” as any substance besides alcohol that could affect a person in a manner that would “impair, to an appreciable degree” his ability to drive normally.

While Stacey Barrett, Schwab’s attorney, believes it will be difficult for the prosecutor to show that his driving was impaired because of the caffeine and not any other circumstances, it is outrageous that Solano County is charging him under such circumstances in the first place.

Jeffrey Zehnder, a forensic toxicologist who frequently testifies in court cases, calls the case against Schwab “really stupid”. He had never seen a prosecution for driving under the influence of caffeine.

“If that’s the case, then they better come and arrest me,” he joked

Other outrages have occurred in addition to the ridiculous charge, including the following:

  • Even though his initial toxocology report showed no traces of alcohol, benzodiazepines, cocaine, opiates, THC, carisoprodol (a muscle relaxant), methamphetamine/MDMA, oxycodone, and zolpidem, Solano County sent a second sample to a laboratory in PENNSYLVANIA. The only positive result was for caffeine;
  • Solano County filed the charges against Schwab ten months after the day he was pulled over for erratic driving; and
  • While the Solano County’s prosecutor’s office claims that the charge of driving under the influence is not based on the presence of caffeine in Schwab’s blood, Barrett counters that if that is the case, the rules governing criminal proceedings require the county to hand that evidence over to Barrett, which she hasn’t received.

All of this is not surprising when dealing with state and local governments interested in getting and maintaining power. They want laws designed to control behavior rather than protect rights, and officials have no problem using those laws just to show who is boss.

I can’t wait to see what California becomes if it secedes from the U.S.

Coffee drinkers of the world, unite! All you have to lose are your lattes.

California cities considering imposing a “Netflix tax”

If California residents ever become serious about seceding from the United States, one of its instincts it will need to check is wanting to tax anything that moves. Otherwise, the Golden State will look like Venezuela in nothing flat.

Martin Armstrong highlighted the fact that California cities are considering imposing a “Netflix tax” on residents who use online streaming services. The New York Times reports:

Dozens of California cities looking to shore up revenues are flirting with a new idea — tax your “Gilmore Girls” binge.

Pasadena was among the first to say publicly this fall that it wanted to tax video streaming services like Netflix, a step that could make up for lost tax revenue from growing numbers of cord-cutters.

At 9.4 percent, the so-called Netflix tax would treat streaming services as a traditional utility, the city said. If you use multiple services — for example, Hulu, Amazon Video and HBO — it would be added to each bill.

While no California city has begun collecting the tax, over 40 cities, including Glendale, Santa Barbara, Stockton and Sacramento, have hired municipal consultants to evaluate how best to impose and collect such a tax.

The New York Times article includes obvious objections from trade groups that would be impacted by the tax, Armstrong has a far more simple one:

Government is on the verge of completely destroying the economy all because those in power are incapable of managing even a bubblegum machine. Local cities are desperate for money as their own pensions keep moving closer to collapsing. Instead of dealing with the problem, of course, they always choose to just tax the stupid people. …

The tax burden will only rise as more and more cities begin to tax the internet to line their own pockets to keep their insane pensions and free healthcare alive.

In other words, moves by cities to tax the internet merely keep the state on the road to Venezuela.