What positive steps can we take? The energy that is now expended by well intentioned, freedom-seeking individuals on the destructive course of politics can be turned into powerful steps that will have a positive effect on the future. All are moral, right and just. None require aggressing. Consider the following...
The Affordable Care Act creates a new health insurance marketplace (the exchange). But because of the great uncertainty about what buyers will enter the market and who will buy what product, the law creates three vehicles to reduce insurance company risk.
Politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for manufacturing euphemisms -- clever but deceptive substitutes for what they really mean but don’t want to admit. That’s how the phrase “revenue enhancement” entered the vocabulary. Some of our courageous friends in government couldn’t bring themselves to say “tax hike.”
It’s easy to be negative about the U.S. economy these days. Find a glint of silver, and folks come running to point out all of the dark clouds looming about. This, of course, is what we got last week when the monthly jobs report was released from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Folks pooh-poohed the number of jobs and whining that they’re not enough or that it’s less than a bunch of economists thought that it might be. But you know what? Stuff ’em.
Facts are easy. You can check facts. What supporters of the Affordable Care Act are doing, on the other hand, transcends factual bungling. It’s far more advanced: a warping of reality so debauched it looks like something out of a tale by H.P. Lovecraft.
The east coast and parts of the southern U.S. were to varying degrees paralyzed by blizzards a few weeks ago. The snow as expected rendered the roads treacherous, and in anticipation of slick streets, shoppers flocked to the grocery stores in advance.The rush into grocery stores, and its aftermath, offers worthwhile lessons in economics.First up, […]
The highest form of charity, argued the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, is when the help given enables the receiver to become self-sufficient.But our systems of state charity — aka welfare — have too frequently had the opposite effect: They have actually created dependency. It is time to rethink the way we help people.I’m going to […]
Last year was quite the year for Bitcoin. We’ve seen exponential growth in Bitcoin’s exchange rate and extensive coverage in the media. Another phenomenon we have witnessed is the proliferation of alternative cryptocurrencies, five of which we’ve provided below.What all of these cryptocurrencies have in common is that they rely on a decentralized network to […]
President Obama crowed in his State of the Union speech about the economy, even mentioning “a rebounding housing market.” Maybe he was referring to friends in high places, like the seller of Penthouse One in New York, which just closed for $50.9 million, all cash. Millions of mere-mortal homeowners likely wanted to throw something at […]
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is acting in a bipartisan way to cover up the biggest single threat to the bipartisan political alliance that is stripping America of its wealth: the United States Congress.There is no question that the following policy is bipartisan. Democrats and Republicans in Congress are completely agreed that the following information […]
Recent difficulties with implementing the Affordable Care Act have increased opposition to the program. A majority of Americans now oppose it. Problems with the HealthCare.gov website are in all likelihood temporary. However, there are serious long-term problems, particularly considering long-term finance and labor supply issues. Given the mounting difficulties with and growing concerns about the […]
The faces of the Detroit bankruptcy are the thousands of pensioners whose promised benefits are suddenly part of the restructure negotiation. When Motown filed for Chapter 9 last July, the city had $11.5 billion in unsecured liabilities. The vast majority of this was pension and health care benefits owed to retired city employees.The images of […]
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”As the inequality gap grows, there is an ideological battle unfolding in the West.On the one hand, there are those who think government can fix things. It must do more, tax more, […]
On Feb. 7 the United States will once again reach its statutory debt limit, meaning it cannot legally borrow any more money. Since the obvious option of cutting spending to match the amount of revenue that the government collects is off the table for some inexplicable reason, Congress will have to pass a new, higher […]
The New York Times published an interminable article on health care recently. Plenty of facts — how scrupulous are these journalists! — but the article displayed absolutely no comprehension of the basics of cause and effect. I was left wondering about the whole point.The article details how the health care system rewards specialists to an […]
The Largest Company in History:“The United States Corporation of Government (USCOG)”I follow global social and commercial networks, looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.Innovation surges when industry and government models change. Buggy whips. Landline phones. Railroads. The Soviet Union. Apartheid South Africa. All marked social and commercial innovation, both bad and good.We are witnessing a new form of […]
We’d like to give the banks in Australia some credit. They’ve finally gone and done it. They have caught up with 1960s technology. They’ve figured out how to use PIN numbers.How to only use PIN numbers, that is. They’re considering scrapping signatures on credit cards to cut down on fraud. Apparently, having to verify your […]
We put in a good-citizen call to the SEC the other day.“There’s a massive scheme to manipulate stock prices,” we told the friendly agent.“I have to tell you that your call is being monitored so that we can better serve the public,” he replied.“Oh, don’t worry about that. The NSA is tapping our call anyway.”“Are […]
Dr. William C. Padgett is a retired optometrist who has been trying to bring an elderly care facility to Beaufort County, North Carolina, for over a decade.“Our senior citizens,” he laments, “are finding that it is difficult and in many cases impossible to find an appropriate long-term care facility locally.” Though he has received several […]
If you don’t have the angst out of your system concerning Wall Street banksters, Government Sachs, and the Affordable Care Act, settle in with Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia to make your blood boil one more time.Investors should be reminded of 2008 as they shrug their shoulders and put their money back in the stock market. The […]
What do 8 of the 10 wealthiest people in the U.S. have in common?Aside from being able to fly in private jets, the common thread is that each of them has made their fortune thanks to a start-up.Let me explain…From tech titans like Bill Gates and Larry Ellison (founders of Microsoft and Oracle, respectively), to […]
“Inequality is the defining challenge of our time,” according to President Obama. It’s certainly the topic of the day for Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz and a whole raft of liberal pundits.But have you noticed that hardly anyone else is talking about it? When is the last time you heard a shoeshine person or a taxi […]
In December of last year, I left my career to travel the world for one year.My plan was to visit as many countries as possible on my Star Alliance Around-the-World ticket in the first nine months, then, for the remaining three months, return back to the country that most caught my eye and my curiosity.Nine […]
Economic history is primed to repeat in the nastiest of ways unless the government stops distorting the price of something we use every day.Every product, good, or service has a price, which is essential to rational decision-making. We use prices every day as vital data that guide us. Without true prices, prices not distorted by […]
A new survey from Harvard University found a large majority of young Americans do not believe the law will save them money, do not believe it will improve their health, and do not intend to sign up for insurance through the new exchanges.
Uh-oh!The new pope, Francis from the Pampas, has just warned us to beware the “tyranny” of capitalism.Each man worships his own gods. Some worship at the altar of Jesus of Nazareth. Some at the altar of the Almighty Dollar. The capitalists don’t bad-mouth Francis’ god. You’d think he would cut them the same slack.Bad-mouthing Catholicism […]
The market has selected different things as money throughout history. Some of these items have served as money in isolated places for specific periods of time — for instance, cigarettes in prisoner-of-war camps. Cigarettes continue to be a currency in prisons if allowed, but if not, according to Wikipedia, “postage stamps have become a more […]
Gas in Vegas is a dollar cheaper a gallon than in the Golden State, or so a friend and recent LA transplant tells me. He went on to say the top tax rate in California is over 13%, while, of course, Nevada has no state income tax.
Over dinner at Del Frisco’s, he explained how industries are being ruined by runaway government in his old home state. Nevada would surely benefit from businesses making their escape. Plenty of people are leaving California — nearly 700,000, I read somewhere — however, my friend says these 700,000 have been replaced by an equal amount of uncounted “illegals,” as he put it.
The California legislature has democratic supermajorities in both chambers, and of course, California voters have determined that what ails their great state can be fixed with the return of Jerry Brown to the governor’s mansion.
But what really ails California, like many other states, is mathematics. The state’s inflow doesn’t cover its outflow. Like Greece, California can’t print its own currency (although it does resort to IOUs occasionally). Gov. Brown was stunned to find a $28 billion “wall of debt” when he took office.
How’s this happen in a state with so much going for it?
California is one of many despotic states that are losing residents in favor of those that are less despotic.
People are leaving the red for the green, and none is redder than the one-time golden state. Here is a picture of what freedom does (it attracts people) and what tyranny does (it drives people away). Fear not: pick up and move! It’s more effective than political action.
In general, state governments don’t seem to be the best negotiators when putting together pay and retirement packages. There’s something about spending someone else’s money that makes one less careful than if spending his own.
“It starts with the governor and the legislature and wanders down the line. These people are playing with the taxpayers’ money,” said Steven Frates, research director of Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute.
States paid out more than $711 million to 111,000 people who left jobs as employees of the 12 most populous U.S. states last year for unused vacation and other paid time off, according to payroll data on 1.4 million public workers compiled by Bloomberg.
Employees from California accounted for 39% of that total. Since 2005 the Golden State has shelled out $1.4 billion for unused vacation and other paid time off. That kind of money would put a lot of cops on the beat and teachers in classrooms. Instead, this taxpayer dough is ensuring cushy retirements for government workers who are no longer on the job.
For instance, the state of California cut a $608,821 check to psychiatrist Gertrudis Agcaoili, who retired last year from a state mental hospital in Napa, Calif. Ms. Agcaoili kept her nose to the Freudian grindstone for 30 years, not taking vacation, and now she’s cashing in. She makes no apologies, telling Bloomberg, “It was my prerogative, I did not go on vacation.” End of interview.
But in the private sector, vacation is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition. Or maybe a few weeks can be banked, but not 72 weeks like Ms. Agcaoili had, who pulled down $2.4 million in pay from the state since 2005. And there should be no fear that Ms. Agcaoili will be dining on cat food in her retirement: The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) will be paying her $199,000 a year in pension payments.
Since the state is so short on money, employees have actually been encouraged not to take their vacations. In fact, the state is happy to accommodate them, because filling in for vacationers is costly.
“Requiring employees to take all of their leave would have increased overtime costs at state prisons and hospitals, lowered reimbursements in tax collection and other fee-generating programs, and reduced services in other settings,” state of California HR man David Gay told Bloomberg.
Prison guards in California can now accrue unlimited vacation time courtesy of Gov. Brown. According to California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, the average prison guard has accumulated 19 weeks of unused vacation, a liability estimated at $600 million. These are the same prison guards that received a 34% raise in pay from Gov. Gray Davis when he was in office.
“Of the 100 biggest payments in 2011 in the dozen [most populous] states, all but 10 went to California state workers. The average payout for the top 100 was $178,267, in addition to regular wages,” says Bloomberg.
There’s a rule limiting the accrual of unused leave to 640 hours, but everyone ignores it. Well, evidently, as Bloomberg reports, unused leave grew from $1.4 billion in 2003 to $3.9 billion in 2011.
Paying out for the accrual of unused leave would bankrupt a private company. While government workers are always believed to be underworked, many assumed they’re underpaid as well. Not hardly, as Michael B. Marois & Rodney Yap explain:
“The lump-sum retirement payments, seldom granted in private industry, mirror a broader trend in which California’s public employees receive far more than comparable workers elsewhere in almost all job and wage categories, from public safety to health care, base salary to overtime. California, the world’s ninth- biggest economy, has set a pattern for lax management, inefficient operations, and out-of-control costs, the Bloomberg data show.”
In addition to Ms. Agcaoili, other state employees are cashing in big. A highway patrol officer collected $484,000 in pay and pension benefits while 17 employees received checks of more than $200,000 for unused vacation and leave. According to Bloomberg’s data, the best-paid staff in other states earned far less for the same work.
But California is hardly alone with inflated government salaries. Firemen in Clark County, Nev. (Las Vegas), routinely make well into six-figure salaries and overtime pay. The first several pages of these salaries compiled in 2009 by Las Vegas Channel 8 are firefighters making well over $100,000.
Ms. Agcaoili is 79, but many cops and firefighters retire in their 50s, collect nearly 100% of their salary as a pension, and then start new careers.This leaves cities and states to pay for two or three cops to have only one on the beat.
The math just does not work. The clock is ticking on California. People are fleeing. Soon it will not be so golden.