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Sonoma County Teachers Strike Over but Underlying Issues Unresolved

On March 7, members of the union representing teachers in the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District voted to strike. It began on March 10 and by March 17 it was over. What happened?

At first, prospects for a resolution to the strike were not encouraging. On March 9 they claimed the district could not possibly afford to issue the raises demanded by the union, particularly if those raises were extended beyond the credentialed teachers to all of the district’s employees in all the bargaining units. Then on March 17 they announced the strike was resolved. The compromise was to grant the cost of living increases in six month increments over the next three years, instead of granting the entire increase at the beginning of each year. This compromise saved enough money for the district to come to an agreement with the union.

But compromise or not, determining whether or not Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District could afford the concessions they made is not easy. Deciphering the financial statements of a public agency is nearly a fool’s errand, because they are not required to engage in accrual based double entry bookkeeping. The elegant symmetry of general ledger accounting as practiced in the private sector still allows for creative accounting, but because the balance sheet and the income statement are connected algebraically, any thorough audit of the balance sheet will turn up irregularities.

By contrast, take a look at this unaudited financial statement for Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District’s […] Read More

ESG Investing and Public Sector Unions

For the last few decades what used to be referred to as socially responsible investing has more recently morphed into “ESG” investing. The acronym stands for “environment, social, and governance,” and refers to how investors should evaluate the impact that every company they’re considering investing in has, positive or negative, in those three areas.

ESG investing has rapidly become a mainstream priority in the financial world. This year, the Securities and Exchange Commission is likely to mandate ESG disclosures for publicly traded U.S. companies. Reporting ESG scores is spreading as well to Europe, Canada, Australia, and elsewhere.

The implications of formalizing ESG reporting are intended to transform the global economy. Companies with low ESG scores will not only be subject to institutional divestment, which would itself constitute a serious threat to their ability to do business. They can also be denied access to lines of credit and other banking services, and they can end up unable to purchase insurance coverage.

The scope of what ESG deems objectionable is vast and inevitably subjective. It can implicate companies that may only involve a small fraction of their operations in the frowned upon activities. The allocation of low ESG scores is impacted by the corruptibility of the examiners and the criteria for ESG scoring may in many cases rest on premises that are either false or transient. With all that in mind, here some examples of activities that will draw a failing ESG […] Read More

Wind and Solar Energy Cannot Lift Humanity into Prosperity

A recent article in the New York Post nicely encapsulates the latest developments in the ongoing debate over climate and energy. In his article entitled “If the Ukraine war hasn’t scared the West straight on energy, nothing will,” author Rich Lowry reminds us “The world hasn’t embraced fossil fuels out of hatred of the planet but because they are so incredibly useful.” He goes on to accurately observe that fossil fuels are used to produce 84 percent of global energy.

If there is only an alleged consensus on the potentially catastrophic threat represented by fossil fuel, there is widespread agreement on the direct connection between energy and prosperity. With that in mind, and to make clear how critical it is to produce more energy worldwide, much more, here’s an immutable fact, courtesy of data in the 2021 edition of the BP Statistical Review of World Energy: For everyone on earth to have access to half the energy, per capita, that Americans consume, global energy production will have to double.

Meanwhile, according to BP, wind and solar power accounted for 5.0 percent of global energy production in 2020. Five percent. And yet, unless you are a climate contrarian, also derisively referred to as a “denier,” wind and solar are not merely the favored solutions to global energy challenges, they’re the only solutions. But what’s wrong with this picture? Go wind. Go solar. Why not?

To appreciate what it’s going to take to create a global economy powered by nothing […] Read More

Examining California’s Renewable Energy Plan

If you live in California, by now you’ve probably seen the ads, either on prime time television or online, exhorting you to “Power Down 4 to 9PM.” These ads are produced by “Energy Upgrade California,” paid for by “investor-owned energy utility customers under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission and the California Energy Commission.”

According to the mission of Energy Upgrade California, they are “a statewide initiative committed to uniting Californians to strive toward reaching our state’s energy goals,” and those goals include “getting 33% of our electricity from renewable resources by 2030.”

And it doesn’t end there. Over the past twenty years, through increasingly ambitious legislation and executive orders, California’s official state policy now aims to “achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible, and no later than 2045.”

The misanthropic cruelty of these laws ought to be obvious. Normal people need more electricity between 4 and 9 PM, and no amount of public education can overcome that circadian fact. This is the time of day when normal people complete their daily work, prepare and eat dinner with their families, complete routine and necessary chores from doing the laundry to packing lunches for the next day. This is the time of day when people want to heat or cool their homes to a comfortable temperature, and power up all the countless electronic gadgets which are now required for everything from homework to paying the bills. They don’t want to wait till 9 PM to do […] Read More

The Union Card

Until a few years ago, corporate political influence in the United States was balanced between those promoting a progressive, green agenda, and those still staying away from social equity issues while continuing to lobby for conventional energy policies. But the incredible wealth amassed by high tech companies over the past few years, all of them progressive and green, has completely overwhelmed that balance. America’s corporate establishment has now joined with the financial, academic, media, and government bureaucracies, to unequivocally support progressive politics.

Writing for the trade publication Natural Gas Now, Heartland Institute scholar and author Ronald Stein had this to say about the emerging “Environmental, Social and Governance” ethos that is sweeping through the business and government elites in the Western world:

“Allowing banks and investment giants such as BlackRock, led by CEO Larry Fink to collude to reshape economies and energy infrastructure is a very dangerous precedent. Their movement promotes the idea of a forcibly monolithic, regimented nation under the control of the investment community. It is scarily beginning to resemble the fascism that dominated the media in the past. The American people never voted to give banks this sort of control over our country.”

According to statistics kept by the St. Louis Federal Reserve, in 2021, 32 percent of the wealth in the U.S. was held by one percent of the population, while the bottom 50 percent of U.S. residents only held two percent of all U.S. wealth. This sort of distribution of wealth is not […] Read More

California State and Local Liabilities Total $1.6 Trillion

California’s total state and local government debt now stands at almost $1.6 trillion, or about half the state’s GDP.

That isn’t an alarming ratio when compared to the national debt, which has now soared to 128 percent of U.S. GDP with no end in sight. But Californians carry this $1.6 trillion state and local debt ($40,000 per capita) in addition to their share of the national debt (about $90,000 per capita).

Consolidated data on state and local debt is maddeningly difficult to compile. Getting the most recent data for California’s state and local bond debt requires downloading and analyzing the publicly released annual financial reports for 58 counties, 481 cities, 1,037 school districts, and 3,400 special districts. And even if data miners were to apply sweat and algorithms to this chore, at this moment in early 2022 the complete dataset can be obtained only for the fiscal year through June 30, 2020.

Rather than engage in a from-the-ground-up exercise in data gathering, we have turned to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 “State & Local Government Finance Historical Datasets and Tables,” which is the Bureau’s most recent compilation. According to the Census Bureau, California’s total state long-term debt was $145 billion at the end of 2019, and California’s total local debt was $361 billion. This total, $506 billion, passes the sanity check when compared to the 2017 state/local debt estimate we compiled a few years ago, $482 billion. The slight upward trend comports well […] Read More

What Defines a Legitimate Labor Movement?

While it isn’t uncommon for anyone critical of organized labor to accuse them of being socialist, such criticism ignores an essential truth: All government, indeed society itself, consists of versions of collective behavior.

The many ways that individuals share the burden of coping with risk, chaos, and oppression, might all be considered forms of collectivist redistribution. When someone purchases an insurance policy, they are distributing the burden of an accident that may befall them onto a pool of similarly concerned individuals. When someone submits to government authority, they do so because the social contract they’re accepting, and the taxes they pay, enable them to live with increased safety and shared rules.

In this context, unions are just another form of organized behavior, accepted by individuals because it gives them a chance to live better lives. One may debate important details – should anyone be forced to join a union as a condition of getting a job, to offer one rather significant example – but the fundamental concept of collective bargaining is not some novel aberration, sprung from the bowels of Marxism. It is a normal feature in a healthy democracy.

Whether or not a union is a necessity, or an unchecked and parasitical menace, can often come down to whether or not the union represents private sector workers or public sector workers. The hypothetical examples of Sarah (private sector) and George (public sector) illustrate this point.

Sarah has worked for a major grocery store chain for the past 25 years. […] Read More

The Unforced Errors of California’s Populist Grassroots

In sports, an unforced error is defined as “a mistake in play that is attributed to one’s own failure rather than to the skill or effort of one’s opponent.” Nothing better describes the fact that California’s school choice advocates managed to come up with two competing ballot initiatives, so similar that it takes an expert to tell them apart.

While school choice efforts in California have arisen for decades, the earliest entrant for the 2022 election cycle came from the California School Choice Foundation, led by Michael Alexander. The committee he formed, Californians for School Choice, is currently gathering signatures for the Educational Freedom Act.

Also qualified for circulation, but no longer engaged in signature gathering, is the awkwardly named “Education Savings Account” initiative, sponsored by Fix California, which is founded and led by Richard Grenell.

These two committees could have worked together to promote one school choice initiative. That might have allowed them to pool their paltry resources and take on the behemoth called the California Teachers Association, which combined with other education employee unions in California rakes in an estimated $500 million per year in membership dues. But they didn’t.

Both of these initiatives, if approved, allow parents to receive into an “education savings account” the state funding for their child that ordinarily goes to the local public school. The parents can then use those funds to pay for their child to attend a private school of their choice. If a parent doesn’t […] Read More

California’s Homeless Housing Scam

Pogressive politicians have created the homeless crisis. Their policies have made housing unaffordable, driven away decent job opportunities, and encouraged vagrancy and drug addiction. Their solution—taxpayer subsidized housing, provided free and with no conditions imposed on any homeless person—is a special interest scam, guaranteed never to solve the problem. And nowhere in America is that problem worse than in Los Angeles, California.

Over the past week, two local elected officials in Los Angeles have made public statements on the homeless crisis that grips the region. They represent two completely different perspectives on how to resolve that crisis.

The first came in the form of a thank you letter from retiring Los Angeles City Council member Mike Bonin, sent to those of his constituents who wish him well in whatever he does next. With respect to his legacy, Bonin writes: “By providing housing and services, we are changing lives and providing a pathway out of homelessness. Since the launch of the Venice Beach Encampments to Homes initiative, 76 people have been permanently housed.”

Seventy six people. Remember that number.

Bonin’s philosophy is consistent with what remains of the prevailing progressive doctrine regarding homelessness, known as “Housing First.” It is defined on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website as “an approach to quickly and successfully connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements.”

This approach has made Bonin infamous even among […] Read More

Will Police Unions try to Change Homeless Policy?

Over the past week two local elected officials in Los Angeles have made public statements on the homeless crisis that grips the region. They represent two completely different perspectives on how to resolve the crisis.

The first comes in the form of a thank you letter from retiring Los Angeles city council member Mike Bonin, sent to those of his constituents who wish him well in whatever he does next. With respect to his legacy, Bonin writes:

“By providing housing and services, we are changing lives and providing a pathway out of homelessness. Since the launch of the Venice Beach Encampments to Homes initiative, 76 people have been permanently housed.” Seventy six people. Remember that number.

Bonin’s philosophy is consistent with what remains the prevailing progressive doctrine regarding homelessness, known as “Housing First.” It is defined on the US Department of Housing and Urban Development website as “an approach to quickly and successfully connect individuals and families experiencing homelessness to permanent housing without preconditions and barriers to entry, such as sobriety, treatment or service participation requirements.”

This approach has made Bonin infamous even among the mostly progressive residents of Venice Beach, where an estimated 2,000 homeless have taken over this tiny beachfront suburb of Los Angeles. Only a small fraction of them have been given “supportive housing” or temporary shelter, and only a small fraction held accountable for using and selling hard drugs, public intoxication, theft, vandalism, or worse.

The other […] Read More