“The California Teachers’ Association is the most-powerful voice in education. Police and fire unions are the best-funded and most muscular political players at the local level. The prison guards’ union has an inordinate influence on corrections policy.
Unions aren’t entirely to blame for California’s myriad problems and crises, but they provide a heckler’s veto to any reform idea that could realistically improve public services. Consider how vociferously teachers’ unions opposed school reopenings. Lawmakers rarely propose any idea that would antagonize any of the state’s easily antagonized unions. Imagine running a business where the employees could immediately quash any proposal that might help consumers or reduce operating costs.
“Through their extensive political activity, these government workers’ unions help elect the very politicians who will act as ‘management’ in their contract negotiations—in effect handpicking those who will sit across the bargaining table from them,” noted Daniel DiSalvo in a 2010 article in National Affairs. No wonder California’s municipal firefighters earn on average more than $200,000 a year—even as the state complains about an inadequate number of firefighters.”
“There are two primary types of fossil fuel subsidies. Production subsidies offset the costs for companies involved in energy production. Consumption subsidies make the final product less expensive for consumers.”
“Fuel subsidies lower the cost of energy and incentivize consumption: When the price of fuel is artificially lowered, more people will drive and fewer will turn to carpooling and other commuting alternatives. After all, there’s a reason that demand for electric cars surges whenever oil prices spike.”
“A decade ago, a study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research estimated that ending all fossil fuel subsidies would decrease global consumption by 29 billion gallons annually.
Last year’s Glasgow Climate Pact was the first time an international climate agreement included a call to revoke subsidies. Even then, it came after significant opposition from developing countries such as India and China.
The IPCC report notes that ending subsidies can hurt “the most economically vulnerable.” But the IEA noted that “subsidies are rarely well-targeted to protect vulnerable groups and tend to benefit better-off segments of the population.” It recommends prioritizing “structural changes” over short-term relief, while the IPCC report argues that if you want to help poor people pay for transportation, it may make more sense to redistribute the revenue you saved by cutting the subsidies.”
“If nothing changes, Social Security benefits will be subject to a 23 percent cut in a decade.”
“Since any changes to shore up Social Security’s bottom line will likely require huge tax increases or changes to how benefits are paid, policy makers are also running out of time to implement those changes in ways that don’t cause major disruptions to the economy and Americans’ retirement plans.”
“The most straightforward solution to Social Security’s problem is to raise the payroll taxes that fund the program to make up for the shortfall on the benefit side of the ledger. But that would only exacerbate the problem by placing a bigger burden on younger, generally poorer workers.
According to the report, Social Security could be kept afloat for the next 75 years by hiking the payroll tax by 4.15 percentage points in 2034 (or implementing a smaller increase sooner). The payroll tax is currently charged at a 16.5 percent rate, with employers and employees each covering half. That works out to a nearly 25 percent tax hike. Alternatively, the report says, benefits could be cut by about 25 percent.”
LC: We could also fund it by higher taxes on the wealthy.
“Taxpayers fronted nearly $500 million for a new professional football stadium in Minneapolis that opened just seven years ago. Now, they could be on the hook for as much as $280 million more in ongoing maintenance costs over the next decade.”
“Another reason why these public projects so rarely “pay for themselves” is that cities often grant huge property tax breaks to the stadiums. In New York City, for example, a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office found that the four major stadiums in the Big Apple—Barclays Center, Citi Field, Madison Square Garden, and Yankee Stadium—are exempt from roughly $377 million in annual property taxes.
While Madison Square Garden’s situation is weird and unique, the other three stadiums are exempt because they “were all built on publicly owned land that is exempt from property taxes,” according to the IBO report. But there’s nothing actually “public” about a stadium—they’re not parks that anyone can visit whenever they’d like or use for a variety of purposes—and cities should stop engaging in the fiction that they are.”
“Taxpayers are forced to cover stadium construction costs with the promise of economic growth that doesn’t materialize, then sometimes get hit up for ongoing maintenance costs that can’t be covered by the economic growth that didn’t materialize, and all this happens while the supposedly public stadiums are not generating property tax revenue to help offset their public costs. It’s a bad deal for just about everyone—except for the stadium design firms that get to decide how much extra cash taxpayers will have to pony up to maintain a facility that’s still basically brand new.”
“Florida legislators are considering several bills that would target undocumented immigrants and the Floridians who interact with them. One of the more controversial measures, which is wrapped into Senate Bill 1718, would make it a third-degree felony for Floridians to conceal, harbor, or shield—or transport “into or within” the state—a person who they know “or reasonably should know” is in the United States unlawfully.
“With this legislation, Florida is continuing to crack down on the smuggling of illegal aliens,” said Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. State Sen. Blaise Ingoglia (R–Spring Hill), who introduced S.B. 1718, said the bill “should be the model for all 50 states going forward.”
S.B. 1718’s supporters have painted the bill as a way to protect Floridians and their rights. But some religious officials in Florida are worried that if S.B. 1718 passes, their work with undocumented immigrants could be criminalized—something they say would represent a violation of their religious liberties.
Joel Tooley takes issue with the bill being framed as an anti-trafficking effort. Tooley is a pastor at Melbourne First Church of the Nazarene and a consultant with the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of evangelical churches and organizations that advocates for immigration reform. S.B. 1718 “is actually a bill that criminalizes normal activities that are irrevocably natural expressions of the work people do as a response to their spiritual calling to show compassion for those in need,” he tells Reason.”
“Federal law already prohibits people from transporting undocumented immigrants “in furtherance of such violation of [immigration] law,” but S.B. 1718 has a lower threshold, applying to more routine activities. The bill would make it a third-degree felony for someone to transport or harbor an undocumented immigrant that they know or suspect is undocumented. Under Florida law, that would be punishable by up to five years in prison (and up to 15 years if the transported migrant is a minor). The bill wouldn’t apply to migrants who overstayed their visas.”
“Esformes was not convicted of the most serious charges leveled against him. The government failed to convince a jury, for example, that he committed conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud. So his 20-year sentence—handed down by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola of the Southern District of Florida—may appear grossly disproportionate to his convictions.
Until you realize the judge explicitly punished Esformes for charges on which the jury hung.
That is not an error. “When somebody gets sentenced [at the federal level]…they get sentenced on all charges, even the ones they’re acquitted on, [as long as] they get convicted on one count,” says Brett Tolman, the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Utah who is now the executive director of Right on Crime. It is a little-known, jaw-dropping part of the legal system: Federal judges are, in effect, not obligated to abide by a jury’s verdict at sentencing. They can, and do, sentence defendants for conduct on which they were not convicted. In this case, Esformes was already sentenced—and had that sentence commuted—for the crimes that the DOJ now wants to retry.
“This defendant, as much as you might not like him…do you think he should be punished two or three times for the same conduct?” asks Tolman. “I don’t find anybody who thinks that’s fair.””