Government Pensions Are Dividing Americans and Damaging the Economy

Edward Ring
Edward Ring is a co-founder and senior fellow at the California Policy Center

A few weeks ago, the condition of California’s public employee pensions systems was serious, but it was a crisis unfolding in slow motion. As reported in their 6/30/2019 financial statements, CalPERS, the largest pension system in the U.S., was only 70.2 percent funded. To cope, the system was requiring its participating agencies to nearly double their annual payments by 2025. Needless to say, these increases were going to create havoc on civic budgets that already can barely afford to pay for their pensions.

That was then.

As of March 20th, the market value of all investments managed by CalPERS had fallen to $333.8 billion, after topping a record $400 billion just one month earlier. The most recent officially reported estimate of the total liability carried by the CalPERS system is $505 billion as of 6/30/208. If you review the trends over the past decade, this figure has never gone down. This means, best case, as of today, CalPERS is 66.9 percent funded. The real number is almost certainly lower.

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Gavin Newsom, Other Governors and President Trump See Very Different Paths To Recovery

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught at the University of San Francisco, Berkeley and Golden Gate University, is a regular columnist for the Marin Independent Journal and was Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors, 2017-2019.

The president is talking about reopening the nation and letting people go back to work at the latest by Easter—less than two weeks from now.

 “I want to see the U.S. open for packed churches,” he thundered and to  make sure we got the point, he added,  We are “near the end” of the pandemic. If this is true than the earth may indeed be flat!

He is also darkly predicting “mass suicides” if people do not heed his advice. Apparently propping up his private sector cronies and Wall Street’s numbers takes precedence over saving lives.

Meanwhile, ignoring his sunny forecast, the Senate has finally agreed on a giant 2 trillion dollar economic recovery package which ultimately could go as high 6 as trillion dollars to cover all the costs of this unprecedented event which is impacting every phase of American life.

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Coronavirus and the future of living and working in America

Joel Kotkin & Marshall Toplansky
Joel Kotkin is the editor of and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University and Marshall Toplansky is the Clinical Assistant Professor of Management Science at Chapman University.

By late spring, the most severe impacts from the coronavirus may be fading, but its impact on how we live and work will not go away. Indeed, many of the most relevant trends — including the rise of dispersed work and living arrangements — were already emerging even before the pandemic emerged.

Ever since classical times, pandemics have tended to be especially tough on large, dense urban areas. A look at a map of COVID-19 infections, reveals that the vast majority of cases have occurred in dense cities, like Wuhan, and later on around Milan, and, to a lesser extent, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston. In contrast there has been very little incidence in vast middle of country and particularly more rural areas, which benefit from less crowding and unwanted human contact, which now may be even more attractive to urban workers.

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During Time of Crisis Property Tax is Stable—for Now

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The state of California is bracing for a hit in revenue because of the COVID-19 crisis. Income taxes, sales taxes and corporate taxes, the three pillars holding up the state budget, are expected to fall precipitously. Property taxes, however, may not be reduced much, if at all, thanks to California’s Proposition 13 property tax system. 

The Legislative Analyst, Gabriel Petek, recently stated, “A preliminary analysis conducted by our office indicates a very high likelihood that tax revenues from capital gains income will be several billion dollars lower than what the Governor’s budget assumed.” 

With businesses and retail shops closed, corporate taxes and sales taxes will also suffer. 

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Quarantine Me at Asilomar

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Quarantine me as long as you like. Just make sure you quarantine me at Asilomar.

For this peculiar time, there may be no more desirable California place than that small strip of coastal Monterey County known as Asilomar. It’s more than just an unusual state park, with a state beach, hotel, and conference grounds.  It’s also a versatile refuge where Californians can either isolate themselves or be with others. 

And in a state as wired as ours, Asilomar is the rare place where Californians might find some peaceful sleep.

I’d been pining for Asilomar’s pines long  before the coronavirus shut down our daily lives. Months ago, my family made reservations to spend a few days of April’s spring break there. Asilomar is that rare location where I, an energetic person who works all the time, can actually relax.

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While Texas Attorney General Paxton discriminates, California’s Becerra defends our own

Mark Gonzelez
Chair, Los Angeles County Democratic Party.

Someone needs to check on Ken Paxton. You have probably heard his name in the news lately here in California. He seems obsessed with our state – and our industries – these days, and when he has bad days, he likes to take it out on us. And while you are checking on the Texas Attorney General, you should convey to him that we in Los Angeles County, and across the state, don’t care what he thinks about California. I was born and raised in Texas, but Ken Paxton does not reflect my views. 

His most recent spat with California has to do with discriminatory laws that Texas has passed that, thankfully, our legislators in Sacramento have zero interest in supporting, especially when it comes to taxpayer-funded travel to that state and others like it that have similarly passed broad, discriminatory measures. 

In 2017, the Texas Legislature enacted a bill, HB 3859, which permitted faith-based agencies that administer adoptions to effectively deny prospective parents based on religious objections. Texas opponents of the law rightfully, and unsuccessfully, pointed out that the law would lead to same-sex couples being turned away from adoption. 

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At Least Coronavirus Not as Disastrous as Spanish Flu

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

The death rate from those who get the coronavirus is projected by some experts to be about 1 percent, although no one really knows yet. In any case, it is a bad one.

Still, it is shaping up to be far less disastrous than the Spanish flu of 1918. According to some estimates, the death rate was 2-3 percent back then. However, the numbers suggest that the real death rate could have been much, much higher. It is hard to tell because back then recordkeeping was primitive to nonexistent in many places, especially in such regions as India, China and Africa but even in rural America. 

Let’s look at some numbers. An estimated 500 million people worldwide caught the Spanish flu and an estimated 20 to 50 million died of it, although some put the number closer to 100 million. That would imply a death rate of anywhere from 4 percent to 20 percent.

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It is a Good Time to Pave the Roads if We Listen & Stay at Home

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order to isolate at home means citizens should take the opportunity to catch up with reading, TV viewing, walks and spending time with family. Assuming people adhere to the governor’s order—more on that in a moment–there is an opportunity for government as well—with little traffic it’s a good time to pave the roads.

Admittedly, this is more a hope than a reality in these troubling times looking to find a positive angle in the depressing coronavirus crisis.

But the thought occurred, with fewer people driving the streets, it’s a good time to get as many road projects done or started as possible—all that was promised when the gas tax was raised. Of course, the breadth of carrying out the roadwork will be limited by the number of crews and equipment available and an expected drop in revenue with fewer gasoline purchases, but the jobs can be performed more quickly without causing huge traffic disruptions.

Staying out of the way of the roadwork is the key and that brings us to the focus of this column—follow the governor’s order to stay at home.

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LA City Council Wants to Run Businesses During Economic Crisis

Stuart Waldman
President, Valley Industry & Commerce Association

The current global health crisis has ushered in a rapid recession which is decimating the economy, jobs and businesses. In the midst of this global health crisis, the Los Angeles City Council will meet on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 to adopt several emergency measures. Two of the measures will dictate how employers can react to the financial crisis resulting from COVID-19.  Councilmembers Bonin, Harris-Dawson, Koretz and separately, Cedillo have introduced motions to instruct the Los Angeles City Attorney to draft ordinances, which will require:

  • Businesses to lay off employees based on seniority.
  • If a business survives the recession, employees will have the right of recall based on seniority.
  • If a business is sold, the laid off employees will have the right of retention.
  • Additionally, businesses will need to have ‘just cause’ to terminate an employee.
  • Retroactive to March 1, 2020.

The Valley Industry & Commerce Association (VICA) continues to oppose these measures. 

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Newsom, Trump: more beds, masks, equipment ahead for coronavirus

Laurel Rosenhall
Reporter, CALmatters

As California braced for an onslaught of desperately ill coronavirus patients, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans over the weekend to open two new hospitals, and President Donald Trump said the federal government will ship a number of mobile hospital units to the state, pay for National Guard deployments and deploy the San Diego-based naval hospital ship Mercy to Los Angeles.

The announcements, made in anticipation of a tidal wave of coronavirus hospitalizations, came as Trump ramped up aid to California, New York and Washington, the three states in the U.S. hardest hit by the outbreak.

At Newsom’s request, Trump on Sunday declared a “major disaster” in California, a followup to the president’s declaration of a national emergency last week, which allowed him to grant up to $50 billion in federal aid to state and local governments. The formal declaration will let California — which as of this weekend had 1,468 positive cases and 27 deaths from the coronavirus — offer more emergency aid, unemployment assistance and disaster legal services. Similar declarations were issued for New York and Washington.

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