Lessons from the Badger State for California

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


SACRAMENTO — During recent travels to Madison and Milwaukee for some research about reform-minded Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s survival of a union-backed recall, I found little residual anger among the friendly folks there, despite seemingly endless pitched political battles that divided families and led to angry water-cooler discussions. Perhaps the central issue — Walker’s […]

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Police Shooting Policies Need Rethinking

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Crossposted on CalWatchDog While sitting in a restaurant in Philadelphia’s Chinatown during my first visit here in more than a decade, I watched TV news reports of violent protests erupting in normally placid Anaheim after two fatal police shootings the prior weekend. It was shocking. The footage of riot-clad police tussling with and firing nonlethal […]

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Schwarzenegger’s Bizarre Analysis

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Cross posted on CalWatchDog I love it when politicians have their chance in power, squander their opportunities, then spend the rest of their career lecturing us about how to reform government. Arnold Schwarzenegger was not just a disappointment, he was a fraud — and a particularly embarrassing one at that. Now he is playing martyr, […]

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More Proof Dems Manipulated Redistricting

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Crossposted on CalWatchdog Over the summer, Calwatchdog published a series of articles documenting the way that the political Left exploited the redistricting process to assure strong gains for the Democratic Party. The report included an exclusive interview with a redistricting commission member who alleged partisan behavior by his supposedly non-partisan commission colleagues, but the series […]

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Davis Pepper Spray Clear Case of Brutality

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Crosposted CalWatchDog If you want to know which of your friends or neighbors believe in a free and humane society and which ones believe in a police state, show them the now gone viral video of a riot-gear-clad University of California-Davis police officer dousing a peaceful group of Occupy protesters with pepper spray as they […]

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S.F. Establishment Hits Pension Reform

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Crossposted CalWatchDog To outsiders, liberal San Francisco may seem preoccupied with leftist protesters occupying prime real estate in the Financial District or with debating proper restaurant etiquette for the city’s small but flagrant nudist population, or until recently, with arguing whether male circumcision should be outlawed. But the prospect of bankruptcy focuses the mind, even in a city so […]

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Rules Have Unintended Consequences

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Crossposted at CalWatchDog People assume that if the government passes a new law that the actual effect of the law is what the legislators intended. But free-market economists understand that intent has nothing to do with effect. I like the example of the $1 million tax on poodles. If Congress were foolish enough to pass […]

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Will unions now thank Wall Street?

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Cross-posted at CalWatchdog.

Last week, I was a witness on a mock trial at Freedom Fest, in which public employee unions were in the dock over the detrimental effect of their pensions on the public treasury. It was a fun event, designed to debate and discuss the role of public employee unions in the current fiscal situation, but the union officials who questioned me and made their case kept coming back to the same argument.

Wall Street is evil. That’s what they say, basically. They deny that the routine six-figure pensions have anything to do with any fiscal problems suffered by cities and states. They deny that pensions are too high. They insist that public employees remain underpaid. They deny the obvious numbers about unfunded pension liabilities. The whole problem is in their view due to Wall Street greed, which sunk the economy and reduced the rates of return that kept sustaining the pensions their members receive.

Now, the unions are crowing over new reports that CalPERS and CalSTRS have recorded huge gains in the last fiscal year based on their stock-market investments. They now claim that there is no pension crisis and that we can go back to business as usual. But even the Bee report shows the following: “Yet the two systems, like many public pensions around the country, remain underfunded and are still feeling the effects of the market crash of 2008. Officials said it will be difficult to duplicate the latest investment results in the coming years, and both funds are likely to continue looking to taxpayers for higher contributions.”

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Attack on the Initiative Process

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Originally published in the Orange County Register

California legislators – who seem unable to come up with an honest balanced budget, who always pursue tax increases and who won’t pass even modest reforms to the state’s unfunded pension system or to anything else, for that matter – want to blame the government’s problems on voters, rather than themselves.

Several bills, some of which are likely to pass, would gut the initiative and referendum process, or at least make that process far more burdensome. The ultimate goal: eliminating the main vehicle Californians have to reform a government that will not be reformed by elected officials, thus leaving us completely at the mercy of legislators and the liberal interest groups that control them.

In this June 10, 2010 file photo, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D- Los Angeles, center, receives congratulations from Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, left, after he was sworn-in to the state Assembly at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Gatto was critical of Controller John Chiang’s decision to not pay members of the Legislature for not approving a balanced budget by the June 15 deadline.

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Proving the Redevelopment Rule

Steven Greenhut

Greenhut writes for American Spectator, Reason and the Orange County Register.


Cross-posted at City Journal.

Doug Tessitor is the mayor of Glendora, a city in Los Angeles County. He’s a self-described conservative and dead certain that preserving California’s redevelopment agencies (RDAs) is essential to his city’s fiscal health. In a pair of recent online columns, Tessitor mounted an impassioned defense of redevelopment in response to my City Journal article depicting the agencies as a “secret government” that runs up debt, abuses eminent domain, and doles out subsidies to favored developers. Tessitor’s response is worth rebutting, not because his arguments are exceptional but because they echo those of other California Republicans who defend redevelopment.

One of Democratic governor Jerry Brown’s few good ideas so far has been his proposal to shut down the RDAs as part of an effort to close a massive budget gap. Democrats in the state assembly tend to favor redevelopment, with its big-government, central-planning tools, but they backed Brown in order to shave about $1.7 billion from the budget. Republicans often complain about redevelopment’s abuses of property rights, but they blocked Brown’s plan, with only one Republican—longtime redevelopment foe Chris Norby of Fullerton—joining Democrats in April to support the measure, which fell one vote shy of passage. It might return for another vote. When I confronted several of the Republicans about their votes, I kept hearing the same rationale: they don’t like central planning, these Republicans say, but redevelopment works in their communities. (The abuses I described take place only in other cities, apparently.)

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