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Blood Sport

California GOP Death Spiral: What Are You Selling?

California GOP Death Spiral: What Are You Selling?

Steven Greenhut offers an insightful analysis of the current state of the California Republican Party following the 2016 general election. An election that saw the California GOP slide further into irrelevance, giving California Democrats Super Majorities in both the State Assembly and the State Senate.

Greenhut observes:

In swing districts, the GOP can grab the occasional seat, but can rarely hold on to them for long. Recruiting attractive minority candidates doesn’t work. Having candidates who constantly sell out to the other side doesn’t work. Neither does picking candidates tailor-made for the district. All the outreach programs in the world don’t help.

So engineering your pitch to the electorate doesn’t work. Hyper-targeting and matching a candidate ethnically to district demographics doesn’t work. And selling out doesn’t work, because the Democrats already have that covered (why would you buy a Buick when you could get the Cadillac for the same price? – heck, we’re givin’  ’em away!).

My own opinion is that California Republicans don’t offer any solutions – only opposition, and rote adherence to principle when campaigning. Unified messaging is great when you actually have a message voters want to listen to. The problem for the Republican Party in California comes down not to candidates, or positioning, or message: it comes down to solutions and the voter. And to complicate that a bit more, the only solutions California voters want seem to be more spending, more bond measures, and more services. Until California reaches a tipping point, and the inevitable crash comes, it seems that California voters aren’t open to solutions to government, they only want more government, specifically, more from government, always at the expense of someone else.

With the 63% voter approved Proposition 55 (extension of the Proposition 30 Income Tax Increase) it is clear that the California State motto has changed from “Eureka! (I have found it!)” to “Eureka! (I have found someone to pay for it!).

Eureka! I have found someone to pay for it!

Boom Or Bust – The Story Of California’s… Ballot Referendum Process

Boom Or Bust – The Story Of California’s… Ballot Referendum Process

Rant ahead:

Please review the press release from the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department regarding the impact of the just passed California Proposition 47.

See also an article from the Los Angeles Times regarding Proposition 47’s impact in court on it’s very first day

OK – This is why the ballot referendum process can be dangerous. Unintended consequences. Make a Proposition too simple and there are loopholes. Make it too specific and there are loopholes. The ballot initiative process is supposed to be a remedy for extreme instances, not the whim of ‘there ought to be a law’.

Our legislators are supposed to weigh and measure the significance of California law and then either create a law, leave it as is, or fix it. That is what all these time and money wasting legislative committees are supposed to be doing: evaluating proposed laws, and passing a recommendation on to the full legislature. Instead we get “placeholder” laws, completely empty of content, which are passed, and then the legislation is added to them after the fact.

But something that will enrage voters, where blame can be assigned, that’s different – our Legislative majority wanted tax increases so badly in 2012, but they were too chicken to simply pass it themselves and suffer the outrage of voters. So they cried to the electorate that we needed higher taxes for kids and schools, and our ‘safety net’, and begged the electorate to pass tax increases via the ballot, so that they couldn’t be blamed.

“Yes, those tax increases are significant, but WE didn’t pass them, the PEOPLE demanded them at the ballot box. Can’t blame us.”

Budgeting and passing laws is their JOB, not the voters’. We are a representative republic, not a direct democracy. When we leave the crafting laws to the teaming masses, moved by some perceived outrage, this is what we get. Instead of doing their damn jobs, legislators pass the buck to the electorate.
Sorry, but we are an ignorant electorate, and we deserve to choke on this crap sandwich we just passed.

facepalm-captain-picard copy

PRESS RELEASE: THE PASSAGE OF PROPOSITION 47

Effective immediately, the passage of Proposition 47 will have the following effects on the custody and policing practices of the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department:

1. In most instances, many crimes that were previously “arrestable” as a felony will now only be “citable” as a misdemeanor. That means they may not be booked into jail but rather given a citation (similar to a traffic ticket) with a court date to appear, and released in the field. They will not be held pending trial. Such felony crimes that are now misdemeanors include:
• Commercial burglary (theft under $950)
• Forgery and bad checks (under $950 value)
• Theft of most firearms
• Theft of a vehicle (under $950 value)
• Possession of stolen property (under $950 value)
• Possession of heroin, cocaine, illegal prescriptions, concentrated cannabis, and methamphetamine

2. Inmates awaiting trial on any of the above felony charges in most instances will be able to have their charges immediately reduced to the new misdemeanor level, and will be let out of jail on a citation. A determination as to each person’s eligibility is somewhat time consuming, but could result in up to 420 releases.

3. Inmates who are sentenced on the above felonies can petition the court for reduction of their felony convictions to misdemeanors and many of them would be also be eligible for immediate release.

4. Convicted felons with the above felonies in their history can petition the court to have their prior felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors. If successful, many of the prohibitions they faced would then be reinstated, such as the right to vote, the right to purchase a handgun, the ability to apply as a peace officer, etc.

We’re Gonna Have a Surplus, And It’s Burnin’ A Hole In My Pocket

We’re Gonna Have a Surplus, And It’s Burnin’ A Hole In My Pocket

The California  Legislative Analyst’s Office’s Chief Analyst Mac Taylor is forecasting a budget surplus that could reach $2.4 billion by June 2014 and $5.6 billion by June 2015. The actual projection made by the LAO has the state at a $10 billion surplus in six years, provided that revenue and spending patterns continue at the same pace in that time span. Ignored in this reporting is the $70 billion unfunded  hole the California Public Employees Pension System has, or the unfunded mandate at the California State Teachers Retirement System.

With Governor Brown telling the Legislature that the surplus should be banked for a rainy day, and Legislative Republicans largely agreeing with the Governor, we’ve also seen numerous media opinion pages asking the Legislature to follow Brown’s suggestion to bank the surpluses and to start paying down debt before considering restoring funding to programs cut  during the recession that fully engulfed the state in 2007/2008.

Also missed in this economic euphoria is the fact that the surpluses are due in large part to the tax increases implemented by Proposition 30 – which, strangely enough, has projected increases in tax revenue collected that follow the expected surpluses through 2018. So, why did we need to increase taxes?

The question for now is, since California  is filthy rich with a  $10BILLION budget surplus through 2018, how much of that $10 billion surplus will the Legislature spend in 2014?

(*- The correct answer is $90 billion. 2014 is, after all, an election year -*)
California big fat money

Fundraising With The Smear Of Guilt

Fundraising With The Smear Of Guilt

Received a delightful letter from the Republican National Committee. Seems that they are concerned that, well, I’ve gone loco.

GOP_Fundy

 

 

I’ve got… a problem with  this.

First, I’ve never contributed directly to the RNC. I’ve never been a member of the RNC. I have contributed to individual candidates. But I’ve never contributed to the RNC, the NRCC, the NRSC, the California GOP, or any other party committee or organization.

Second, Mr. Parker starts his correspondence with a direct attempt at shaming me into a contribution:

I don’t want to believe you’ve abandoned the Republican Party, but I have to ask… Have you given up?

Well, with an approach like this, perhaps I have given up. Besides, I put conservative principals before party, so pushing my nose in my party allegiance sin is no way to get my wallet open.

Do you recall what Ronald Reagan, noted former Democrat, said of his party switch?

I didn’t leave the Democrat Party. The party left me.

Here’s the thing  – what has the party done for me? In 2012, we had a 20 year incumbent 79 year old US Senator running for reelection, sitting at a 49% approval rating. Not that the party made any real effort in fielding quality candidates. The candidate that they had shown some preference to, lost in the new California “Top 2” open primary system. Instead of embracing a young, eager female Republican Candidate who did place second, and who might have made some inroads against a stale, aging incumbent with middling approval ratings, the answer was “it won’t make a difference, she can’t win.”

– So who, exactly, has given up?

I refuse to be complicit with a party that treats me, and my state, as an ATM  to fund elections elsewhere, while abandoning our state. As long as there is cash in California, we will continue to hear from the National GOP – what we don’t hear are solutions. Solutions for our state and our nation. We don’t see candidates that are running for something, but candidates that are running against something. Or candidates that are simply running to win an election. Term-limited party retreads, jumping from  seat to seat between legislative houses, and then back down to County Boards, because they’ve exhausted the available supply of State-house seats.

Further, from RNC Treasurer Anthony Parker:

As the Treasure of the RNC, I know our Party’s success depends on grassroots supporters like you. So I am surprised and concerned we’ve not heard from you this year.

That’s a funny way of leveraging the grassroots – by accusing them of abandoning the Party. Besides, doesn’t a real grassroots effort drive the movement, and not the other way around?

And you have heard from me, Mr. Parker, you shouldn’t be surprised, but you should be concerned- every fund raising call or email I receive, I indicate that the Party system has failed me, failed my state, and has failed the nation. That I will support candidates, but not the party. What more do I have to explain to the Party so that everyone understands? Further, shouldn’t the Party be explaining to me where it has failed, and how it plans to improve?

–I hope you have not deserted the Party.

Who has deserted who now?

So to address the statement in your correspondence:

… the only things standing in the way of Barrack Obama fulfilling his radical “fundamental transformation” of America are you and the RNC.

I would respond, as the RNC did to our US Senatorial Candidate and the state GOP’s request for electoral assistance:

It won’t make a difference, you can’t win.

Grassroots enough for you?

National GOP and the California ATM: Or, how I learned to stop worrying, and love losing elections

National GOP and the California ATM: Or, how I learned to stop worrying, and love losing elections

bank-of-californiaI received a charming call from a national GOP fundraiser on Saturday asking me to ‘renew‘ my commitment to the National Party. I demurred, making certain that she understood that while I had contributed to the Presidential campaign in the general election, I was dissatisfied with the national party’s efforts across all fronts: Congressional, Senatorial, and the Presidential races. We lost seats in the House, didn’t gain any ground in the Senate, and of course lost the Presidential campaign.

Further, what was the national party doing for Republicans in California? Once again, we lost both Assembly and Senate seats, in fact falling so far as to gift wrap a Super Majority in both California Houses for Democrats. The national party did nothing – nothing – for Republican US Senate candidate Elizabeth Emken – with incumbent Dianne Feinstein sitting at below 50% in the polls, a modicum of effort *might* have narrowed the gap. The majority of Mrs. Emken’s electoral deficiencies were due to name recognition. Some state-wide TV spots could have gone a long way to making the race competitive.

Where was the national GOP?

Where was the National Republican Senatorial Committee? (well – they walked away, because the primary candidate they endorsed lost. They’ve got a stellar quite a track record!)

The knock on the GOP in California is that it is a party incapable of winning. An organization that is completely lost. And that’s a fair assessment. It might even be considerably worse than that. But why not try to fix it? Aw, it’s just too hard. Just give us your money, and we’ll make it work nationally!

And this is the tact that the fundraiser took with me. “We need your help to make sure that we take the gavel away from Harry Reid, and to protect the country from Nancy Pelosi!”

Well, certainly. But there are a lot of congressional seats in California that the party just lost. You want to stop Nancy Pelosi? Why don’t we try to run a candidate against her, and support that candidate?

But really what happens is that candidates breeze in, raise an obscene amount of money and then go enrich campaign professionals and advertising brokers. That’s where our money goes – not to change policy, but to make the careers of campaign staff and ad-men. And what changes for Californians? Nothing. Things get worse.

Then at the national level, the party is almost as ineffective. Why support that? Why not try to fix our state first, then go after the national level?

So my new policy is to support California candidates. I might be persuaded to support a national candidate, but not a national party or group.

Clearly the national party thinks California is lost – if they don’t want to help us in California, then let’s keep our money here, and at least try to fix it ourselves. You don’t help us, we don’t help you. We’re done being your ATM. Go get your money somewhere else.

Dominoes. California Style.

Dominoes. California Style.

Next!The City of San Bernardino has become the third city in California to file for bankruptcy protection in the past two weeks. Essentially, the city was at a point where they weren’t going to be able to meet their payroll obligations.

Stockton filed for bankruptcy protection in June. With a projected $26 million budget deficit, Stockton became the biggest city in the United States to throw in the towel.

The city of Mammoth Lakes, in a flurry of patriotic exuberance, filed for bankruptcy protection  on July fourth.  The city, with a $19 million dollar annual budget, lost a $30 million judgment in court  that has grown to $43 million (interest and legal fees).

More astronomical: Los Angeles has a $238 million dollar deficit this year. But with a budget of $7 billion they face an unfunded pension liability of $27 billion.

Twenty.seven.billion.dollars.


The next domino?

California is Los Angeles, writ large. It is also the United States, writ small. States cannot file bankruptcy. States also cannot print money like the federal government. Something will have to give.

If only California had a $42.6 billion,  one time projected  $98 billion, sorry scratch that, $65 billion high speed rail project that can get someone from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes with a ticket that costs more than an airline flight that could do the same job in an hour, why, salvation would be right around the corner.

Faster than a speeding bankruptcy

A Stick Up, or A Pay Off

A Stick Up, or A Pay Off

Sixteen billion dollars. The California projected deficit for 2012-2013. California doesn't want you

Sixteen billion. The California deficit is just three billion short of the entire budget for the state of Colorado, at nineteen billion. The California deficit is three times larger than the entire budget of the state of New Mexico, at $5.6 billion.

But it is not the politicians’ fault! Stupid fiscal projections!

Governor Brown’s solution is a combination of income tax increases on high earners, and a quarter cent sales tax increase, being put before the voters in November 2012.  The nine billion dollars generated by this plan doesn’t cover the projected budget deficit. And Governor Brown is now promising to send some of the nine billion dollars to education as a funding ‘increase’.

So, let’s recap

$9billion
$16billion

-$7billion

Wait: Don’t forget about the education funding increase. I’d go ahead and subtract the education funding increase from the negative seven billion dollars, but as the state of California has demonstrated, math is hard.

In light of the new budget crisis, the Governor has released his May revised budget, along with an implicit threat: Pass his tax measure and and he’ll give the schools more money. Fail to pass his tax measure, and he cuts education funding to the bone!

So the campaign is about taking more tax payers’ dollars. Or about paying off your vote with education funding.

So, pass the tax increase measure, or (BOO!!!) the kid gets it! Gimme! Or the kid gets it.

 

When anyone can spend, it really doesn’t matter where the money comes from, as long as it comes from someone else.

When anyone can spend, it really doesn’t matter where the money comes from, as long as it comes from someone else.

California has a long history with the ballot initiative process. Most famously, Proposition 13’s passage in 1978 heralded the Tax reform wave that swept the nation in the 1980s. Proposition 13 however, impacted  how the state collected revenue, but it did not impact how the state could spend tax dollars.

The larger history of the California referendum process involves the the spending of state dollars. Bond sales feature prominently in these these ballot initiatives, always couched in a “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could…” sentimentality.  Stem cell research. High Speed Rail. Mandatory School Spending. California First 5 (Proposition 10).

Frequently, these ballot measures result from the California Legislature’s abject failure to do their jobs. If there is a remote possibility that legislation will not pass the assembly of the elected representatives of the people, there is a mad sprint to the ballot. Framing an issue that couldn’t pass the review of the legislative electoral body as the “will of the people” in a ballot measure proved to be successful in enacting desired legislation. Further, this has the added benefit of shielding legislators from being responsible for their votes.

Often attempted, but never successful in the modern California political era, several tax increase measures are targeted for the 2012 California ballot. Governor Brown has modified his income tax increase (higher taxes on millionaires, i.e. $250K earners – and a quarter cent sales tax increase) to bring a competing tax increase measure into his efforts. Los Angeles lawyer Molly Munger’s efforts, which she has already funded to the tune of  nearly $6 million (and is prepared to spend much more on) is looking to fund education by increasing income taxes on all Californians.

Peter Schrag notes in California Progress Report, that Munger refuses to step aside so that Brown’s tax increase measure can continue unfettered by the competing measure. However, as Schrag observes

The gimmicks in Brown’s proposal are not all bad. In California’s strait jacketed fiscal system and its dysfunctional initiative-driven governmental processes, almost every inch of wiggle-room is probably a good thing.

There are several assumptions here. Tax increases regularly fail as a ballot initiative. Competing tax increase initiatives would be bound to fail. However, Brown, as he has proven in two centuries, is an effective campaigner. If he ties some spending reform to his offering, it might be enough to get some buy in from average Californians. Coupled with the concept of taxing “someone else“, those insensitive millionaires who simply don’t pay their fair share, Brown might garner enough movement in the electorate to get his measure through a general election. Especially since California’s budget gap continues to grow apace. Further bad numbers in respect to the budget deficit as June approaches might convince enough voters that something must be done to solve the decade long budget shortfall. If that something is a tax increase that the voter can inflict on someone else,  a villain that Brown can define, like a millionaire, it makes it all the more palatable. Ignore, for the moment, that Governor Brown’s Tax measure as currently constituted will not even cover the existing deficit.

Munger’s plan, while targeting all Californians, effectively pulls at the heart strings of funding education. If there has been one thing Californians have pulled the lever for via ballot initiates, it’s Education funding. Never mind that regardless of any increases California has implemented in  education funding, more dollars end up paying for administrators, and the percentage than sees its way to teachers, or measurably, into the classroom, the state’s educational ranking nationally continues to fall.

What happens, if both initiatives pass?

California is a Republic, not a direct democracy. When citizens have an opportunity to spend tax dollars via the ballot initiative, they have and will continue to do so. When Legislators can abdicate their responsibility to spend California’s tax dollars with measured restraint, laying the blame at the feet of the voters, they, too, have and will continue to do so. A not too insignificant portion of California’s budget morass can be found in bond repayment obligations, generally inflicted by well intentioned voters via the ballot initiative.

Pundits, lobbyists, political activists and politicians bemoan California’s broken initiative process, while encouraging more dysfunction via the very same process. Perhaps it is time to look at reforming the ballot initiative process to exclude spending. The responsibility for spending has always laid with the legislature. Why not amend the California constitution to prohibit spending measures from the ballot and leave the initiative process simply for reforms to the Constitution?