11/18/2019

News

Steven Greenhut: Here Comes the Spending Spree!

The California Legislature gets its share of national attention for some of the wackadoodle bills that it routinely signs into law. It’s 2019, which means that it’s now illegal for full-service restaurants to provide straws with sodas unless a customer specifically asks for one. Furthermore, water and unflavored milk must now be the default option […]

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Steven Greenhut: State’s Fiscal Fate in High Court’s Hands

The latest California craziness to make national news is the Public Utilities Commission’s plan to vote next month on a tax on cellphone text messaging to help fund phone programs for the poor. It is the latest example of our state’s undying commitment to taxing virtually anything we do. The state general fund has $15 […]

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The electric car market didn’t have to turn out to be such a corrupt, subsidized fiasco.

But there is a villain in this story — and his name is Uncle. He committed two heinous crimes, for which he deserves to be frog-marched to the dock, tried, convicted and (cue Judge Alvin Valkenheiser from Nothing But Trouble) sent for a ride on Mr. Bone Stripper. The first of his offenses is the […]

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Steven Greenhut: They’re Coming After the Prop. 13 ‘Loophole’

As always, the state has a spending problem, not a revenue problem. And check out the Transparent California website to see the unbelievably large pay and benefit packages received by California’s “public servants” if you really want to look at where our money goes. This initiative is just a chance to prop up the state’s […]

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From the raging wildfires to the fracas over Department of Motor Vehicle lines, California policy makers aren’t about to learn the right lessons.

“It’s unclear exactly which ‘bad environmental laws’ Trump is referring to,” explained a CNN report. “Experts assume he’s talking about the age-old fight for water rights in California, which pits farmers in the state’s conservative Central Valley against big cities and against environmentalists, who want to see some water left in rivers and streams to […]

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As home prices soar, a California commission issues new solar-panel rule that will drive up the cost of new houses by as much as $30,000.

When one is trying to reduce the cost of something, imposing a mandate that increases its cost is counterproductive. The commission argues that it will add only around $40 a month in payments but will save $80 a month in utilities (based on a $9,500 installation cost). My calculations suggest it will add $50 to […]

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Growth controls have caused the state’s housing shortage, yet a modest proposal to increase supply struggles to gain support.

Economic illiteracy has an astoundingly high cost. In Venezuela, children are dying of hunger but the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, has a bizarre new idea for making food affordable again. His latest plan is to simply shave three zeros off of the currency to control hyperinflation, so that a dozen eggs will cost 250 bolivars […]

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Healthcare Spending to Reach $5.7 Trillion by 2026

“National healthcare spending trends are unsustainable in the long term,” President Donald Trump’s budget acknowledges. An article published earlier this month in the medical policy journal Health Affairs buttresses this simple point. Medical inflation stands to outpace both economic growth and actual inflation. Our spending — government, individual, business, etc. — on healthcare, projected to […]

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A Progressive Experiment That’s Doomed to Fail

This is one of those cases where the concept makes a certain amount of sense in the philosophical realm, while being borderline crazy in the real world. If California ended its generous “ragbag” of welfare and support programs — programs that can provide more than $35,000 in benefits a year — then simply giving the […]

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Steven Greenhut: Is California’s ‘Third Rail’ Still the Kiss of Death?

Session after session, California’s leaders find new taxes to raise. There’s never enough money to pay for all the social programs they desire — not just for the citizenry, but for anyone who might happen to be here legally or otherwise. Indeed, the single-payer healthcare proposal that actually passed the state Senate would have crushed the entire state budget, even by the Legislature’s own analysis. Any resident would be entitled to “free” medical care even if they wandered here last week. This would certainly have provided a new spin on the term “medical tourism.” Someone needs to pay for this. And someone also needs to pay for all those six-figure public-employee salaries, pensions, and pension-spiking gimmicks. Someone needs to pay for throngs of highly paid Caltrans workers who, according to a state audit, have little to do. Someone also has to pay for a needless $68-billion high-speed rail system and that needless $17 billion project to bore twin tunnels underneath the California Delta and that needless mini state-based Social Security system that’s meant to deal with the common folks’ “pension envy.” (I know, legislators promise that the latter won’t burden taxpayers.) That someone is, of course, us.

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Democratic priorities collide, as legislators side with unions over high-tech companies that are driving California’s economy.

So, yes, California remains a capital for innovation, but only until all the union work rules crush that one bright spot in the economy. Meanwhile, the rest of the state is becoming something of an innovation-free zone, given lawmakers’ ongoing efforts to saddle businesses with bone-crushing regulations and tax rates. If Brown really believes in innovation, he ought to worry less about federal funding and more about the way his union allies mess with the Golden State’s economy.

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Has Bullet Train Been Hoisted on Its Own Petard?

California officials are notorious for ladling on one environmental regulation after another, forcing developers to spend years or even decades producing waist-deep environmental-impact reports and dealing with endless regulatory hassles and litigation. The main tool environmentalists use to stop growth is the 1970s-era California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It’s the equivalent of placing a “sue me” sign on every job site. . . . CEQA also remains uncorrected because of a disturbing double standard. Whenever there’s a big publicly funded project backed by prominent lawmakers, the first thing backers do is to exempt it from the act’s requirements. Why reform a poorly functioning law when it can be used to stop projects you don’t like, but never inhibits the ones you do like?

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Public Employees — Ever More Untouchable

One of the most obnoxious trends in the nation, and one that is particularly acute in California, is the continued push to enshrine public employees as a special, privileged

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“Green” Germany’s Emissions Keep Rising

“Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions rose last year, according to a new report. CO2 levels rose by 4 million tons in 2016 (0.7 percent), which means Berlin will have to reduce those levels by 40 million tons over the next three years in order to meet the country’s 2020 climate targets. As the FT reports, the country’s opposition Green party (who sponsored the study) is blaming an increase in vehicle miles traveled for the emissions increase . . . The Greens also blamed a pick-up in oil consumption, driven by an expanding economy: German gross domestic product rose 1.9 per cent last year, its fastest pace in five years. They said higher consumption of diesel was also a factor. Imagine that, Greens inveighing against economic progress. If you need a reminder of how politically toxic and counterproductive environmental dogma can be, look no further than this example.”

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Steven Greenhut: In California, the state insurance industry is run by commissar’s edict.

What kind of financial stability can any insurance company have in California if at any point insurance officials can decide to retroactively decrease the prices they charged consumers? . . . But Rex Frazier, president of the Personal Insurance Federation of California in Sacramento, captured the significance here: “The Department of Insurance just reversed over 25 years of consistent legal interpretation, claiming new powers to order retroactive premium refunds with the stroke of a pen, no public debate and no explanation. If their authority to do this was that clear, why did it take a quarter of a century to find it? Their view of the law is wrong, and their suspicion of due process is worse. Even the IRS would think this is heavy-handed.” . . . Some argue it [Prop 103] ended up boosting insurance-industry profits by reducing competition. But that latter point doesn’t make the latest departmental edict anything other than what it is. It’s a taking, and a particularly troubling one because of the uncertainty it offers for the state’s insurance industry and for California businesses in general.

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