Entries Tagged as 'California'

Rep. Campbell’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Bill

October 7th, 2011 at 12:47 pm 7 Comments

Rep. John Capbell, a California Republican, has introduced what may well be the worst Republican-led bill of the current session. His proposal, H.R. 3125 (there’s no short title) is a pre-funded bailout for California’s state-run, currently privately funded California Earthquake Authority (CEA). It’s difficult to overstate how bad an idea this bill is and how much damage it could do to the country. Indeed, it would put taxpayers around the country on the hook for billions of dollars in losses to private homes that they don’t currently have to pay.

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States Will Be Slammed by Default

July 27th, 2011 at 4:22 pm 40 Comments

A federal default could cascade through state governments, cialis sale forcing tax increases and budget cuts on local taxpayers. Medicaid budgets could be slashed. Federal money for unemployment benefits could halt. State colleges could lose federal grants.

The Pew Center on the States reports that the municipal market would get swept along in the wreckage, severely constricting state budgets.

Different states would experience different kinds of shock.

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Long Term Unemployment by State

David Frum July 21st, 2011 at 2:10 pm 2 Comments

The WSJ has a powerful, diagnosis depressing interactive chart of long-term unemployment.
Nation-wide, more than 25% of the unemployed have been out of work for more than a year.

But in hard-hit states like California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Michigan, the proportion jumps to over 33%.

See how your state is doing.

First Amendment Tour De Farce

June 27th, 2011 at 10:46 pm 28 Comments

Two rulings from the Supreme Court before they get out of town have illuminated the broad, search almost, unrestricted view the current Supreme Court has of First Amendment rights.

The Court struck down yet another campaign financing law, this time in Arizona, and also struck down a law aimed at limiting sales of violent video games to minors.  As usual I agree with Clarence Thomas more than any other Justice.

The Court, in the video game case, has ruled that no matter how violent, the states may not ban the sale to minors.  Thus, once again, parents can rightly see the government as an enemy in their attempts to raise their children.

I play video games and have a wide tolerance for violence in them.  It strikes me, as it struck the California legislature, that selling games that involve the beating and rape of women to children is not in the public interest and comes under the traditional police power of the states when it comes to minors.

Thomas took an originalist perspective and noted there is no question parents are the mediators of a child’s first amendment rights.  Justices Alito and Roberts found the law too vague (a reasonable position and consistent with past rulings) but were willing to uphold the law if more narrowly construed.

Scalia was having none of it, joined by Kennedy and all the Democratic appointees besides Breyer, he somehow separated violence from obscenity.  If California thinks simulated beatings, shootings and kidnapping of women are obscene, I do not see who Justice Scalia is to argue with them.  Are kids now going to be able to sue their parents for confiscating their video games?

On campaign finance, once again the Court is not going to let governments put its thumb on the scales when it comes to elections.

The Court sends the message — even in a shocking context — that any non-viewpoint neutral restriction on speech (or the money that buys that speech) will likely be struck down by this Court.

Quake Bill Means Big Debt After the Big One

May 11th, 2011 at 2:38 pm 2 Comments

One of the consequences of the recent Japanese earthquake is that legislation that might not be a good idea seems significantly more appealing. This seems to be the case with new legislation being proposed by Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein to subsidize the purchase of earthquake insurance in California.

California is a very earthquake-prone state and all its residents are aware of this. Yet currently only 12% of Californians have earthquake insurance. Benjamin Barendrick, mind a Farmers Insurance Agent based in San Francisco told FrumForum that in the current economy, most Californians simply can’t afford to purchase earthquake insurance:

The economy is so bad it is hard to qualify for a home and have money to pay for insurance. If you have a home that’s valued at a million dollars, you are talking about two million in earthquake insurance with a 15 percent deductible.

Boxer and Feinstein’s solution is a bill that would lower the cost of insurance in California by letting the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) (a private-public partnership for earthquake insurance in the state) receive federal loan guarantees.

The bill’s supporters claim it will lower costs and make it easier to purchase insurance. This is indeed an accurate assessment of what will happen when you subsidize the cost of insurance. Critics however contend that insurance will be unsustainable once an earthquake actually hits the state.

Brad Kading, the head of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers told FrumForum that the bill would distort the market, creating liabilities that the CEA could not hope to be able to pay back in the event of an earthquake.

According to Kading, limited resources should be spent on mitigation efforts: “limited government resources should be used to prevent damage in the first place. With building codes for example, or incentives to reduce the risk of loss.” Kading cited a 1990s era pilot project between the City of Oakland and FEMA where government funds were used to help retrofit homes to be more prepared for earthquakes as a positive example of this. Investments such as this makes homes more protected against earthquakes which helps bring down costs of insurance over the long run.

Large federal guarantees of the sort being proposed by Boxer and Feinstein are, unfortunately, not unprecedented. A similar guarantee by the federal government for flood insurance has left that program $18 billion in debt it is hard to see how a similar fate could not also come to the CEA if it were to receive a similar guarantee. The inevitable choices that California will face if this bill passes and an earthquake hits will either be to raise yet more taxes in an already high-tax state, or to receive a federal bailout.

Follow Noah on Twitter: @noahkgreen

Obama’s West Coast Swing

April 21st, 2011 at 6:41 am 18 Comments

It was fitting that President Barack Obama kicked off his bid for a second term last week in Chicago. The Windy City is, of course, his political home base, the place where his closest advisers and best friends live and work, and where he can raise a fair amount of money. Moreover, Illinois’ 20 electoral votes have to be a part of any Democratic strategy that hopes to amass the 270 necessary for victory. Illinois will see a lot of the Obamas over the next 18 months.

So, too, will California, which is the President’s second stop in his reelection drive. Mr. Obama’s appearances in the Bay Area and Southern California will give him a chance to present his case—and raise some significant financial contributions along the way. California was fertile ground for Barack Obama in 2008—it provided money, ideas, enthusiasm, energy and votes on the way to the Democratic nomination and to the White House.

It’ll be just as crucial in 2012, if not more so. The state’s 55 electoral votes represent a shade more than one-fifth of 270, and Obama cannot win reelection without them. That in itself is noteworthy, because it wasn’t all that long ago when California transitioned from a generally reliable Republican state in Presidential elections, to a swing status, and then to a key Democratic stronghold.

Although the activist left, in California and elsewhere, isn’t comfortable with the President’s political pragmatism, it’s clearly a quality that appeals to the state’s growing ranks of independents, and to its non-ideological younger voters.

My oldest daughter, Kirsten, lives and works in Silicon Valley; she is politically aware and active (what choice did she have?), and her assessment of the President’s standing in the area is positive yet sober. As she put it, “Silicon Valley is going to see through the Donald Trumps and Sarah Palins of the world… President Obama still reflects what people here want and need: intellect with a vision for the future.”

An old friend from the world of campaigns who is now involved in the high-tech world from a public policy perspective identified yet another of Obama’s strengths, one which will pay off in California and elsewhere. While watching the video stream of the Facebook gathering Wednesday afternoon, she wrote “I love the way he speaks to the current generation, making his words more relevant.  He’s our most ‘hip’ president ever!”

As a candidate for reelection, President Obama has his work cut out for him. The luster of “hope and change” has dimmed somewhat, thanks to the inevitable oxidization that comes with governing. He is dealing with a host of very tough issues, and he is doing so in the face of some of the most hard-edged and at times vicious partisan opposition seen in a long time. And, guess what—he’s not perfect; he has made his share of missteps and mistakes.

All that considered, I’m willing to bet that Obama and company will return from their West Coast swing flushed with renewed energy and a lengthy deposit slip payable to the campaign account. Not bad for a few days on the road—in a very nice part of the country!

Reagan Never Went Rogue

November 22nd, 2009 at 10:31 am 254 Comments

As Sarah Palin embarks on a publicity tour for her book, pharm conservative commentators have again taken to likening the former Alaska governor to the GOP’s revered conservative icon Ronald Reagan.  Palin, drugstore like Reagan, brands herself as an articulate conservative.

Both Palin and Reagan were governors from Western states, but the similarities end there.  When Reagan entered the White House, he had successfully completed two terms as governor of California and had run for president against President Ford.  Palin chose not to complete her first time as governor.

Reagan’s Republicanism was that of the big tent—the kind where contrasting opinions, even on matters like abortion, were tolerated.  The Republican party of the 1980s, under Reagan, provided a comfortable home to social conservatives, fiscal libertarians, and intellectual neoconservatives.  Although this coalition existed in some form as early as 1968, it was Reagan who knew how to unite the center-right and the right.  Today, Palin commands the allegiance solely of modern social conservatives.

“I know you can’t endorse me,” Regan announced to a gathering of thousands of evangelical pastors in Dallas, “but I endorse you!”  Reagan, however, was ultimately a pragmatist. He also endorsed illegal immigrants living in America’s “shadows,” granting amnesty to 3 million of them, and he endorsed supporters of nonproliferation, signing an arms reduction agreement with Gorbachev.  The Gipper even endorsed opponents of a 1978 California initiative to ban gays from working in the state’s schools.  Reagan’s advisors in the White House were not Moral Majority crusaders but fellow pragmatists.

Whom does Sarah Palin endorse?  She endorses challengers to Republicans who are not of like mind. Palin’s endorsement of third-party candidate Doug Hoffman over the nontraditional Republican Dede Scozzafava in New York’s 23rd congressional district is tantamount to backing a party purge.  Asked about the Democratic victory in a district the GOP has controlled for over a century, Palin said, “I’m glad to see this.”

Reagan was a leader devoted to new ideas, one who poured through books and policy papers to hone his conservative policies.  Here, too, Palin lacks Reagan’s thoughtfulness.  Reagan could articulate straightforwardly why negotiations with the Soviet Union were necessary.  Palin, on the other hand, can’t speak coherently even on a hot-button issue like Israeli settlements.  “I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon because [the] population of Israel is going to grow,” she said this week.  “More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead.”  Her ignorance that the settlement debate revolves around “natural growth” and not immigration is unacceptable for a politician who resigned from public office to focus more on ideas.

Despite Palin’s disavowal of her infamous Katie Couric interview, which she admits “wasn’t a good interview,” that terribly wincing moment for the Republican party when Sarah Palin could not name a single Supreme Court ruling she disagreed with, other than Roe v. Wade, of course, is shameful and should disqualify her from serving as the Republican party’s spokesperson.  It should not take prepping by campaign handlers for any American, let alone one at the center of the nation’s political arena, to repudiate Plessy or Korematsu.  Does the Alaskan school system not teach Dred Scott?  “Gotcha” questions or not, Reagan would not have blundered so.

Reagan helped to relieve the country of the malaise that had plagued it since the 1970s and to revitalize Americans’ love for their country and interest in government.  It is hard to imagine the Great Communicator ever going rogue.