Finding a job in California is difficult but government makes it tougher still, according to Jobs For Californians: Strategies to Ease Occupational Licensing Barriers, a new report from the state’s Little Hoover Commission. “One out of every five Californians must receive permission from the government to work,” Commission Chair and former assemblyman Pedro Nava explains, down from one in 20 sixty years ago. This government barrier wields particular impact on those educated and trained outside of California, on veterans and on military spouses.
In California, the report notes, manicurists must complete at least 400 hours of classwork and training then take written and practical exams offered only in the cities of Fairfield and Glendale. The licensing board assigns the dates and if candidates can’t make it that day, “their candidacy is terminated, they lose their application fee and they must begin the application process all over again.”
As Nava explains, “when government limits the supply of providers, the cost of services goes up,” and those of “limited means” have a harder time accessing those services. Therefore “occupational licensing hurts those at the bottom of the economic ladder twice,” by imposing “significant costs on them should they try to enter a licensed occupation” and by “pricing the services provided by licensed professionals out of reach.” As Jobs for Californians explains, it’s actually worse.
Occupational regulations amount to “rent-seeking,” an attempt to gain influence “without contributing to productivity.” The licensing rules “serve to keep competitors out of the industry.” The rules also keep government employees in highly paid but essentially useless jobs. That is why, as the report notes, “when the Legislature eliminated the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology in 1997, Senator Richard Polanco resurrected it with legislation in 2002.” This board, one of the largest in the country, now boasts 94 employees and a budget of more than $17 million. Taxpayers should count that as pure waste.
“Getting government out of the way of people finding good jobs is a bipartisan issue,” Pedro Nava told Adam Ashton of the Sacramento Bee. Good luck with that. On all fronts, California legislators want to keep government in the way.
The southern part of California’s capital city of Sacramento is home to many Asian immigrants, and during the past year, according to news reports, violent criminals have been preying on innocent residents. Muggings, robberies and home invasions have victimized 300-400 Chinese immigrants and prompted some to sell their home at a loss and move out of the city. As Richard Chang noted in the Sacramento Bee, Asians have been “terrorized,” and now “are afraid to go out after dark.” In the typical pattern, the attacks come as people exit their cars, at their residence or in a parking lot.
For the embattled residents, police response did not keep pace with the threat, and they demanded action from the city council. The crime wave continued, however, and has spiked in recent months. The south Sacramento residents, including waitresses, construction workers and store owners, began forming civilian volunteer patrols to protect themselves and their property. The local authorities, however, had a problem with that.
A former sheriff told reporters the volunteer patrols could be “an absolute recipe for disaster.” So far they have not been, but the volunteers have averted several robberies.
Outgoing mayor Kevin Johnson set a better example at a recent community event, when an Occupy Wall Street re-enactor snuck up behind Johnson and struck him in the face with a pie. Johnson, a former NBA star, tackled the assailant and punched him out. As he explained, “When somebody comes up from behind you and slugs you – and in my case you didn’t know what it was at the time and thought it was a punch – you have a right to defend yourself.”
The embattled Asian immigrants agree. As one told reporters, “In America, everyone should have the ability to protect oneself.” Politically correct, anti-gun politicians would rather leave everyone vulnerable to violent crime. If that is not abuse it’s hard to know what to call it.
This summer, Americans learned that the Obama administration transferred billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in the form of cash to Iran in exchange for the release of U.S. hostages and Iran’s acceptance of a deal to delay its development of nuclear weapons for 10 years. Since Iran made the release of the U.S. hostages directly contingent upon its receipt of cash in addition to the secret lifting of United Nations sanctions by the U.S. government, the transfer of the cash to Iran’s government has been described as a ransom payment.
The money for those payments came from a little known fund operated by the U.S. Department of Justice called the Judgment Fund. While the DOJ’s Judgment Fund is intended to pay out legal settlements owed by the U.S. government to plaintiffs who win court cases against the U.S. government, the Obama administration would increasingly appear to view it as a means to do an end run around the U.S. Congress to fund its initiatives without congressional approval.
The latest beneficiaries of the Obama administration’s back door approach to giving away money from U.S. taxpayers to benefit its political interests may be the big insurance companies that are losing millions of dollars from their participation in the Affordable Care Act health insurance exchanges, which represents a fraction of their generally profitable business.
Under current law, any money to cover losses that are not offset by profits collected by other health insurers participating in the ACA’s exchanges through the law’s risk corridor program must come from the U.S. Congress. The risk corridor program was designed by the authors of the Affordable Care Act to be budget neutral, where they expected that health insurers participating on the ACA’s exchanges would have sufficient profits to cover any losses. As written, that portion of the Affordable Care Act also ensures that U.S. taxpayers will not be on the hook to bail out any extensive losses that the health insurers may have unless the U.S. Congress chooses to specifically appropriate money for that purpose.
In 2014, the U.S. Congress also restricted any transfer of other money budgeted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from being used for the purpose of compensating the losses of health insurance companies participating on the Affordable Care Act’s state exchanges.
The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration thinks that the DOJ’s Judgment Fund is its golden ticket to get around such restrictions.
The Obama administration is maneuvering to pay health insurers billions of dollars the government owes under the Affordable Care Act, through a move that could circumvent Congress and help shore up the president’s signature legislative achievement before he leaves office.
Justice Department officials have privately told several health plans suing over the unpaid money that they are eager to negotiate a broad settlement, which could end up offering payments to about 175 health plans selling coverage on ACA marketplaces, according to insurance executives and lawyers familiar with the talks.
The payments most likely would draw from an obscure Treasury Department fund intended to cover federal legal claims, the executives and lawyers said. This approach would get around a recent congressional ban on the use of Health and Human Services money to pay the insurers.
The Washington Post also describes the DOJ’s Judgment Fund, but omits noting its role as the source of funds in President Obama’s Iran nuclear program and hostage release deal.
A settlement probably would rely on Treasury’s Judgment Fund, a 1950s creation that is allowed as much money as it needs to satisfy valid claims against the government. The fund’s website shows that it has been used for a few hundred claims against HHS in the past decade. Taken together, they amounted to about $18 million—a fraction of what the insurers are owed.
The report then goes on to note that the DOJ is looking to make a deal to provide for the bailout of large health insurance companies to cover their losses on the Affordable Care Act state exchanges during the next two weeks, which could cost American taxpayers as much as $2.5 billion.
The Iran nuclear and hostage deal may very well have been the Obama administration’s test case for using the DOJ’s Judgment Fund to secretly evade legal restrictions on how the administration may spend U.S. taxpayer dollars in order to achieve its unapproved political agenda. Having succeeded with its test, the Obama administration would now appear to have bigger plans for the DOJ’s Judgment Fund in its remaining months in office, where it intends to use this method of judicially laundering U.S. taxpayer money to bestow billions more to benefit the administration’s special interests without either explicit Congressional approval or oversight.
Last July, members of the U.S. House of Representative Homeland Security Committee released a report with the disturbing title “MISCONDUCT AT TSA THREATENS
THE SECURITY OF THE FLYING PUBLIC“. Here are some disturbing excerpts from the report’s introduction:
TSA data shows that misconduct has grown over time—both before and after a watchdog investigation. For example, in 2013, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that misconduct by TSA employees increased by almost 27% from fiscal year 2010 to 2012, and that TSA did not have the processes in place to adequately address it.
GAO recommended that TSA establish a process to review misconduct cases to ensure that airport-level staff complied with existing policies, issue guidance describing the process for recording misconduct data, track cycle times for investigating and adjudicating misconduct, and reconcile completed investigations with adjudication decisions. GAO also reported that Transportation Security Officers (TSO) engaging in misconduct raised security concerns because those were the very employees charged with helping to ensure the security of the nation’s aviation system....
Although TSA implemented these recommendations, recent TSA data shows that misconduct continued to grow by almost 29% from fiscal year 2013 to 2015.
What makes this part of the report so disturbing is that the reforms that the TSA implemented after 2012 would appear to have had no effect on the rate at which incidents of misconduct on the part of TSA employees increased.
Doing some quick math, for every 1,000 incidents of misconduct that were recorded in 2010, by the end of 2012, that number would have increased to 1,270, a 27% increase. By the end of 2015, with an additional 29% increase, the number of incidents of misconduct by TSA employees would have risen to 1,638, which represents nearly a 64% increase since 2010.
WXYZ 7 of Detroit, Michigan investigated the misconduct occurring at just Detroit’s Metro airport.
They also report:
Congressional investigators found misconduct is occurring “at all levels” of the TSA and that “bloated bureaucracy” within the agency has slowed accountability.
The number of allegations against employees has increased by nearly 30 percent in the last three years. Congress estimates this represents one in every three TSA employees.
Misconduct allegations are frequent and broad, but more serious is misconduct involving criminal action.
What is happening at the TSA is not just the result of a culture of corruption, but is rather the result of the institutionalization of corruption within the federal government department.
In that respect, what is going on at the TSA is no different from what has been happening at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where at least the U.S. Congress is taking steps toward imposing corrective actions:
H R 5620, the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, passed in the House on September 14, 2016 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The bill was introduced by House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)
The legislation provides for the removal or demotion of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs based on performance or misconduct, and for other purposes. It changes how the Veterans Affairs Department disciplines and fires its employees and senior executives.
Because it is specifically focused on addressing the VA’s employee misconduct scandals, the bill just advanced for consideration by the U.S. Senate won’t address the worsening employee misconduct situation at the TSA.
That’s okay, because the VA’s employee misconduct problems do deserve special attention, where direct and quick action is warranted. However, the U.S. Congress should quickly turn its oversight activities toward addressing the similar situation at the TSA and at other federal government departments, where based on what we know today, the TSA would appear to deserve its own legislation to specifically address the growing ethical deficiencies of its employees and supervisors.
The California Court Reporters Association (CCRA) has introduced legislation, AB 2629, that would raise court reporters’ fees for producing transcripts of trials. CCRA president Brooke Ryan believes this raise is long overdue, but she ignores key issues of interest to taxpayers.
Court reporters are highly paid government employees and according to courtreporteredu.org, their average rate of pay in California is the second highest of any state. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual pay for California court reporters in 2015 was $70,490. In the Sacramento area, the 2015 average was $71,410, with court reporters bagging an annual $81,940 in Riverside-San Bernardino and $82,040 in Oakland.
In addition to their salary, the state also pays court reporters a fee per hundred words to produce transcripts of trials. Ryan neglects to explain that current policy allows reporters to own this material. Attorneys, observers and writers alike must purchase it directly from the court reporters, and it is not cheap. A transcript of the recent murder trial of Todd Winkler in Eldorado County, for example, would cost, $1777.44, according to the court reporter on the case, the sole source for the material. For those not able to attend the trial, that is a considerable expense, and the transcript does not include audio and video – 911 calls, police interrogations and so forth – even though those materials may be crucial to the case.
To put this lucrative perk in perspective, imagine if bailiffs were allowed to own the benches in a public courtroom and charge journalists a fee to take a seat and cover the proceedings. Court proceedings belong to the people and should be audio and video recorded in downloadable form, with the shorthand transcript serving as backup. We have had the technology for some time, but thus far Luddite legislators lack the will for reform. They would rather entrench a government information monopoly than adopt modern technology to lower costs for taxpayers.
As we’re on the cusp of the first debate between the two major candidates for U.S. President in 2016, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, it’s a good time to consider how each candidate’s proposals for spending and taxes would affect the fiscal future of the U.S. government, and by extension, U.S. taxpayers.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has provided a preliminary update of their estimates of the impact that each candidate’s proposals would have on the U.S. government’s budget in order to account for a number of new and revised proposals that each candidate has made in the almost three months since their original analysis of both Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s proposals back in July 2016.
Of the two candidates, Donald Trump’s proposals for future spending and tax policies have changed more significantly, where he has significantly scaled back the magnitude of tax cuts he had proposed during the Republican primaries.
Compared to the CBO’s most recent projections for the U.S. government’s spending and tax revenues, Trump proposes to reduce both, reducing spending by a small amount as a percent share of the GDP the CBO projects over the next 10 years and reducing taxes by a much larger percentage. However, the magnitude of the tax reductions that he has proposed to date are such that they would increase both the nation’s budget deficits and the national debt at a rate much faster than the CBO would project would happen with no changes to current law.
Hillary Clinton’s various budget proposals for the U.S. government to date go in the opposite direction for both spending and tax policy.
Clinton’s proposals to increase both spending and taxes by nearly 1% of GDP over the next 10 years would bring them to levels not previously seen outside of periods of economic crisis and war. In terms of fiscal balance, the sum of her proposed spending increases exceeds the sum of her proposed tax increases by a very slight amount at this point, so there would would be a very small increase in the U.S. government’s projected budget deficits over the next 10 years, which right now, amounts to little more than a rounding error compared to the current law projections. The same would hold true for the projected future growth of the national debt.
With the 2016 presidential campaign moving into high gear, neither candidate’s budget-related proposals can be considered to be a final version of what anyone will see by Election Day, so both reflect what is at best an incomplete picture of the objectives they would pursue if they take up residence in the White House. As such, they are very much works in progress, which have already changed considerably in just the last several months, and which would change even more before the next President of the United States must submit a new budget proposal to the U.S. Congress.
Perhaps the best news is that none of these proposals can be considered to be real until they’re signed into law.
Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would make it easier for managers at the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs to fire the employees and supervisors at the VA who have engaged in misconduct by a vote of 310 to 116.
The House voted 310-116 Wednesday to arm the Department of Veterans Affairs, exclusively among federal departments, with tougher employee “accountability” tools to punish misconduct and better protect whistleblowers.
It’s the latest political fallout from the patient wait time scandal of 2014 and multiple smaller investigations into misbehaving VA supervisors and staff that have become the primary focus of the House Veterans Affairs Committee under chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) who is to retire January.
The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016 (HR 5620), introduced by Miller in July, would provide new authorities for VA to withhold financial incentives or to demote or fire employees faster than current federal employee protection law allows.
Such a bill is needed because of a combination of civil service rules and government union protections that make it extraordinarily difficult to hold federal government employees who have engaged in on-the-job misconduct accountable for their actions by firing them.
In fact, the situation has become so bad that VA officials have turned to financial incentives to entice employees who have engaged in misconduct into leaving their jobs. Luke Rosiak of the Daily Caller News Foundation reports on the VA’s golden parachute plan for its badly behaving bureaucrats.
Union protections and civil service rules prevent many government agencies from outright firing employees, so in the case of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), they are paying 150 employees millions of dollars to quit.
Leigh Bradley, the VA’s top lawyer, claimed that “many” times the settlements didn’t mean money, and only “once in a while” do they involve agreeing to hide the misconduct from future employers. That stands in stark contrast to the current data that Bradley herself provided, which shows that 72 percent of settlements were indeed monetary and that 96 percent required the agency to give the employee a “clean record.”
“We don’t use [clean record agreements] regularly as has been depicted,” she said without explaining how 96 percent is not regularly.
The collective payments to terminated employees totaled $5 million, mostly being paid to employees facing misconduct charges; the money came from budgets that would otherwise be used to help veterans.
$5 million equally divided by 150 employees works out to an average incentive of $33,333 per badly behaving employee to leave the VA’s payroll. At the same time, the VA is frequently agreeing to cover up the misconduct that led to the generous severance package being paid to the departing employees in the first place.
That’s how U.S. taxpayer bucks are being used to pass the buck.
California’s Legislative Analyst has released Common Claims About Proposition 13, the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation 65 percent of California voters approved in 1978. The LAO examines whether Proposition 13 stabilizes property taxes, discourages new business creation, increases home ownership, and so forth. Prop 13 opponents, primarily government ruling-class types, claim it reduces revenue. Common Claims finds that, across all California local governments, per–person tax revenue has increased 36 percent since Proposition 13. Overall, the LAO report explains, “California local revenue increased” under Proposition 13. But this will not put to rest attacks on the measure.
Big-government apologists claim Prop 13 is inherently unfair because owners of similar properties pay different amounts of property taxes. With property tax pegged to the purchase price of a home, that differential is inevitable. The LAO says higher–income Californians “own more homes and own homes of higher value and, therefore, receive the majority of the total dollars of tax relief provided to homeowners by Proposition 13.” Actually, these homeowners do not “receive” anything. They pay less of their own money to the government because of a measure voters approved. Contrary to statist superstition, to allow anyone to keep more of what they earn is not to give them something.
While giving credence to the most infantile attack on Proposition 13, the Legislative Analyst does not weigh in on the need for property tax limitation in the first place. As we noted, before voters approved Proposition 13, people were being taxed out of their homes. Even so, Jerry Brown, in his first go-round as governor, called the measure a fraud and a rip-off. He was never, as he claimed, a “born-again tax cutter,” and he now spearheads a tax counterrevolution.
Common Claims About Proposition 13, meanwhile, might have tabulated the new state spending and new state hires mandated by the 1978 ballot measure. A ballpark figure for both would be zero. That’s why the ruling class still wages war on the People’s Initiative to Limit Property Taxation.
Chris Evans, superintendent of the Natomas Unified School District, bears a strong resemblance to the late Chris Farley of “Saturday Night Live,” but for students, parents and taxpayers, Evans’ latest happy meal is no joke. As Diana Lambert notes in the Sacramento Bee, the district’s board just boosted Evans’ pay by $46,130, a raise of more than 20 percent bringing Evans salary to $270,000, almost $100,000 more than the $182,791 Jerry Brown pulls down as governor of California. Evans’ lucrative deal now extends to 2020 and includes a $500 monthly car allowance, $1,500 per year “to pay for technology” and a $12,000 annual annuity. It was less clear what superintendent Evans had done, if anything, to deserve all that, plus his new raise of $46,130.
Natomas school board president Teri Burns issued a statement citing Evans’ “continuity in leadership, stability in administration” and “a clear vision for the district.” Burns cited no increase in student achievement during Evans’ five years with the district, no reduction in truancy, nor any savings he might have achieved in administrative costs. To calculate the raise, Lambert wrote, the district “used data from other school districts in the state.” The only one cited was the Twin Rivers School District, also in the Sacramento region, where superintendent Steven Martinez makes, $260,000 a year. As we noted, that raise was not tied to any achievements by Martinez, and the district has seen more than its share of troubles.
This dynamic models the entire government monopoly K-12 system, the state’s collective farm of ignorance and mediocrity. If schools fail, the money keeps coming. The educrats keep crying for more, and they get it, regardless of achievement or accountability. The education establishment resists reform, particularly parental choice. Their latest quest is to make schools more difficult to evaluate, which Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee describes as “at worst a cynical maneuver to evade true accountability.”
The chart was produced by Visual Capitalist in collaboration with Texas Precious Metals as part of The Money Project, which explores the concept of money through rich visuals.
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