How To Blow Nine Congressional Districts

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

It was quite a feat.  Congressional Republicans had a chance to win nine Democratic-held House seats in California and blew every one of them – actually ending up down one seat in an election when nationally the House GOP has its largest class since the Hoover Administration.  How they blew these seats is a story in itself.

On Election Night, an unknown and unfunded Republican farmer from Fresno named Johnny Tacherra was leading veteran Democratic Congressman Jim Costa by 700 votes.  He eventually lost, but only by 1,300 votes.  To his north, unknown and unfunded Republican Tony Amador held Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney to just 52 percent.  Every expert called that race safe for McNerney; it was not.  And in the counties north and west of Sacramento, another veteran, Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, held off retiring GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue with just 53 percent.

What do these three races have in common?  Each was in California parched Central Valley where farm folks believe, with good reason, that urban Democrats and environmentalists are starving them for water during the drought while taking care of the cities and the fish.

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Survey: A Divide Over Immigration Plan

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

If Fresno is an appropriate test market for political issues then the country is as a whole is evenly divided on President Barack Obama’s immigration proposals. A Survey USA poll taken on Friday after the president’s announcement tallied a dead even split in Fresno. One-third of Fresno residents who were aware of the president’s proposal agree with all his changes; one-third disagrees, and one-third agrees with some changes and disagrees with other changes.

On the major controversy over the legality of Obama’s move, half of Fresno says the president has the authority to make the changes, half of Fresno says he does not have the authority.

Of course, Fresno may not be a model test market for political ideas, especially on the immigration issue. California leads the country in the number of immigrants who have entered the country illegally and therefor the issue of immigration has a different context here than in other states in the union.

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President Obama’s Immigration Order and California Employment

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

It’s not too early to start considering how President Obama’s Immigration Order will impact California job markets. In fact, this past weekend has seen several commentators weigh in already, including Chapman University faculty member (and occasional Fox & Hounds contributor) Joel Kotkin, and USC faculty member Manual Pastor.

Like nearly all employment issues in California, ground zero should be our state’s Workforce Investment Board system (WIB). It is among these Boards that the issues will best be clarified and policies developed. Last week, I had occasion to speak with several of our Valley WIB directors, including Blake Konczal of Fresno, Adam Peck of Tulare and Daniel Smith of Kern. They already are on top of the subject and in touch with employers and worker organizations.

Agriculture is only one of the sectors likely to be impacted, but it is potentially a main one. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, involved the largest previous legalization. In California, it resulted particularly in movement of workers from agriculture to higher-paying jobs in the service, retail, construction, warehousing and manufacturing sectors, which were expanding in our state in the late 1980s and 1990s.

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Legal but Still Poor: The Economic Consequences of Amnesty

Joel Kotkin
Editor of and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

With his questionably Constitutional move to protect America’s vast undocumented population, President Obama has provided at least five million immigrants, and likely many more, with new hope for the future. But at the same time, his economic policies, and those of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, may guarantee that many of these newly legalized Americans will face huge obstacles trying to move up in a society creating too few opportunities already for its own citizens, much less millions of the largely ill-educated and unskilled newcomers.

Democratic Party operatives, and their media allies, no doubt see in the legalization move a step not only to address legitimate human needs, but their own political future. With the bulk of the country’s white population migrating rapidly to the GOP, arguably the best insurance for the Democrats is to accelerate the racial polarization of the electorate. It might be good politics but we need to ask: what is the fate awaiting these new, and prospective, Americans?

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A Power Grab that Exacerbates the Problem

Congressman Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader, United States Congress

The President doesn’t seem to get the point that he must work with the government he has, not the government he wants. But despite Congress and the American people’s resistance to President Obama’s unilateral action—action the President himself said would ‘violate our laws’ and be ‘very difficult to defend legally’—the President has decided to go it alone yet again.

As President Obama himself said, ‘there are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.’

We urge the President to listen to his own words. America is a country of laws, and our Constitution does not grant the President the authority to legalize millions of immigrants with the stroke of a pen.

Not only is this action wrong, it does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying problems of our open border and broken immigration system. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem.

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Executive Action Doesn’t Fix Immigration Problem

Gonzalo Javier Ferrer
Chairman, Republican National Hispanic Assembly

Executive action on immigration reform does not alleviate the need for a legislative solution.  Real, meaningful reform can only come through substantive legislation.

Our current immigration policies are outdated and decidedly ineffective, and changes must be implemented soon.  Immigration reform is a complex and highly emotional issue, but it must not be ignored any longer.  Congress must take action soon.

Our immigration system has gone practically untouched for the last 40 years. Enforcing outdated policies that no longer meet the needs of our modern American economy is what has led to the upsurge in illegal immigration.

Congress needs to lead the charge in passing substantive immigration reform that will drive economic growth and create jobs. We need an immigration system that focuses on market-based visa programs that provide the tools and an essential labor pool of the best talent for our American industries to meet growing labor demands. 

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LAO Outlook Analysis: Thinking Smartly About Our Fiscal Future

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

What a difference a year makes.

California’s recent approval of Proposition 2 is already paying dividends. The Legislative Analyst’s new Fiscal Outlook shows Proposition 2 is doing what it was designed to do: capturing a run-up in unsustainable spikes in revenue, paying down debts and setting aside revenues for the next economic downturn so that education and other vital programs have some protection.

The Analyst should be applauded for urging lawmakers to use Proposition 2 to think smartly about the long-term – by paying off debt to local governments (including school districts), which will increase support for those public services, and by reducing unfunded liabilities for the state’s retirement systems, saving taxpayers billions of dollars down the road.

The main LAO economic forecast shows steady economic growth through the end of the decade and concludes that by the end of 2015-16, a total of $4.2 billion will be available in a reserve to maintain fiscal stability (assuming no new major budget commitments are made). If the economy grows at a steady pace later in the decade as the LAO is forecasting, the budget reserve will continue to grow, bolstering the state’s ability to further cushion the impact of the inevitable next downturn.

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The Amazing, Obscure, Complicated and Gigantic Pension Loophole

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

“The bottom line is that claiming the unfunded liability cost as part of an officer’s compensation is grossly and deliberately misleading.” - LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/07/2014, in their post “Misuse of statistics behind erroneous LA police officer salary claims.”

This assertion, one that is widely held among representatives of public employees, lies at the heart of the debate over how much public employees really make, and greatly skews the related debate over how much pension funds can legitimately expect to earn on their invested assets.

Pension fund contributions have two components, the “normal contribution” and the “unfunded contribution.” The normal contribution represents the present value of future retirement pension income that is earned in any current year. For example, if an actively working participant in a pension plan earns “3% at 55,” then each year, another 3% is added to the total percentage that is multiplied by their final year of earnings in order to determine their pension benefit. That slice, 3% of their final salary, paid each year of their retirement as a portion of their total pension benefit, has a net present value today – and that is funded in advance through the “normal contribution” to the pension system each year. But if the net present value of a pension fund’s total future pension payments to current and future retirees exceeds the value of their actual invested assets, that “unfunded liability” must be reduced through additional regular annual payments.

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Tuition Hike Proposal Like Dialogue from an Old Movie

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

University of California officials could borrow dialogue heard in dozens of old movies when they essentially tell state officials: “Give us the money or the kids get it!” Of course, the UC administration and the Regents panel that endorsed their plan yesterday were not holding a gun to the students but made the threat in the form of a tuition hike of up to 25-percent over five years if the state doesn’t increase spending on the UC system.

Before the Regents approve the hike they should first look at the university system’s costs and also look for ways to save money.

Governor Jerry Brown was right in calling for a commission to consider ways to reduce expenses as well as plan how to deliver a 21st Century education in technologically advanced California. Brown insisted the UC system should not follow the lead of high-cost private universities in their salary and tuition decisions.

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Climate Change And Our Love Affair With The Automobile

Richard Rubin
Writes about political issues and is President of a public affairs management firm

The dirty little secret is out: We are degrading our planet at an accelerating pace and the reasons are not primarily celestial as a dwindling group of skeptics would have us believe.

Climate change and greenhouse gas emissions go together, so says a mounting body of evidence coming from the vast majority of eminent scientists worldwide, and those pollutants are man-made.

The issue is apparently important enough to have merited an urgent call for action by President Obama in his recent talk before the United Nations—a first before that body by a head of state.

California, however, is several steps ahead of Washington thanks to visionary actions by its own leaders—one a Republican, the other a Democrat, who avoided the partisan bickering that has killed any meaningful environmental reforms in Congress.

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