Blue State Blues

I hope Meep is planning to do all of the states eventually, or at least of of the states in fiscal distress. But that is a tall order. To date she’s done California and Illinois.

First up: States Under Fiscal Pressure: California.

The second one is that, unlike the federal government, they don’t have a money printer, and they really need tax revenue.

Governor Newsom of California announced yesterday that he is relaxing the statewide lockdown sooner than he had said he would.

What gives? I think Newsom is finally recognizing tradeoffs. He started the fiscal year with an expected budget surplus. He now expects a state government deficit of $54.3 billion.

At least they had a surplus going in to this mess. It shows some level of discipline. Unlike Illinois.

Illinois has some serious problems. States Under Fiscal Pressure: Illinois.

They’ve been issuing bonds with some of the highest yields in the muni market because of course they are.

So let’s hit the issues, in no particular order.
Illinois looking to raise public employees’ salaries

Wirepoints: Big raises for Chicago Teachers Union, state’s AFSCME shows where federal aid to Illinois will end up – Wirepoints

As hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans are getting laid off or seeing their pay slashed as a result of the economic shutdown, Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been quietly finalizing the $1.5 billion, five-year contract she negotiated with the Chicago Teachers Union six months ago.

So they’re broke. Beyond broke. And they are handing out raises, and holding their hand out for a handout from the rest of us. Yeah, count me out.

Do You Think Only New York Wants a Bailout?

New York is only the 9th worst state, in terms of debt per capita. STUMP » Articles » Classic STUMP: Visualizing the Financial State of the States » 8 May 2020, 11:51. Does a post form 2019 qualify as “classic?” I’ll let it slide.

The word of the day is choropleth. That is a color coded map, that conveys info, in this case based on the financial condition of the states. Click thru for that graph; it was created by Truth In Accounting. On a per capita basis, which is really the only metric that matters when all the states differ in population as much as they do, Illinois is in far worse shape the New York. Not that New York doesn’t have trouble.

Back to May 2020

Yes, I did a bit of bait-and-switch, didn’t I? Yes, I did re-run this post partly because of the tile grid map visualization….

… but mostly because it ended with the earlier version of state bailout politicking… well before COVID-19 hit.

There are several states that want bailouts, but can Wyoming and Montana bailout New York and Illinois? Seems doubtful to me.

Truth In Accounting also put together a video in 2019 that lets you visualize how the states stack up. (Data is apparently through the end of fiscal year 2018.) It clearly shows that Illinois and Connecticut and New Jersey have been in trouble for years. Indeed, it doesn’t even show 2020.

Some People With Integrity

It is surprising that they were offered “relief aid.” It is to me, anyway. Florida’s Fisher Island rejects $2M coronavirus relief aid: Resident.

Offered? Well the board of the HOA did apply for the aid. And for the record, most Home Owners’ Associations are evil.

“Fisher Island’s [homeowners’ association] fees alone are around $30,000 [per] year. Some of this fee covers private ferry service to take us to our homes,” Barnes said in a statement. “So I think to myself, wait, is it the right thing to do to take $2,000,000 from the government, much of which we wouldn’t have to repay… to help cover the costs of our private ferry to our home and staff to clean our pools? Well the answer is simply no.”

So the residents as a whole, not just the board, voted to return the money.

I’ve seen this story 3 times, and have been ignoring it, but in the face of all the insanity that we deal with, like the LA Lakers getting $4.6 million, which I guess they were shamed into returning as well, it is nice to see people doing something ethical.

Pandemic Hits Chicago, Only Solution Is More Government

Because what other solution could there be in the mind of a dedicated Leftist? How the coronavirus and Chicago’s gun violence are related.

There is so much wrong with this opinion piece, including the glowing review of how criminal gangs in various failed states are stepping in to organize pandemic relief because the states have, well, disappeared. I was tempted to use that as a reason to write it off as another bit of Leftist insanity. There is, however, a bit that exposes the true insanity of the Left.

What is needed on Chicago’s South and West Sides, however, is not more organized gangs; it is a more legitimate and benevolent state. The desperate conditions in these communities that are driving both the gun violence and coronavirus crises have been caused by decades of private sector abandonment and a public sector that has largely abdicated its role in ensuring people’s welfare in favor of policing and incarcerating.

The public response should not be to lock these youth up in death traps like Cook County Jail, but to invest in the South and West Sides to give these youth essential resources, hope, and a reason to live.

How is the city, or the state of Illinois, going to give you a reason to live? Will that come with your stimulus check? Or is it fancier than that? Perhaps it will something that is suitable to hang on the wall.

As for the subject of “private sector abandonment,” the City, under Mayor Daley, the Younger, worked for years to keep the EEEEVIL Walmart out Chicago. Because reasons. And if the author to the piece is opposed to law-and-order, which it is clear they are, (somehow cops are not seen as the agents of that “benevolent state”) how do you expect to get stores to open? When stores on The Magnificent Mile are having serious trouble because Mayor Lightfoot (affectionately known as Groot) and State’s Attorney Kim Foxx (affectionately known as Crimeshea in those same circles) have decided that shoplifting is not serious enough to arrest or prosecute. How do you think anyone in the private sector will stay in business where the revenue streams will be marginal, if paying for anything is optional? I know, Math is Hard!

Conspicuous by its absence, is any talk of family and religion. I’m old enough to remember when there were discussions of whether the 1960s Great Society would destroy families. I guess that’s not a discussion anymore. As for religion, the only one that these authors have is faith in the all-powerful benevolent state. Minus the cops as agents of that state, they’re still working out how that all fits. Or something. (For my take on the “benevolent state” see this post on the enforcement of law.)

I’ve said in the past that I don’t know how to fix the problems in places like Chicago or Baltimore, but I am sure that doing more of the same is not the answer. Making society completely dependent on the government hasn’t worked in Chicago, or Baltimore, or anywhere. And the state, whether that is Illinois or Michigan or elsewhere, has proven that it isn’t so benevolent. Not that the Left will notice.

How Was Cleaning Subway Trains Not a Thing?

The grocery stores near me close early everyday for cleaning, and there are fewer people (infected or not) in this part of the world. New York City to halt 24/7 subway service for daily coronavirus cleanings.

They were being cleaned every 72 hours. So it isn’t completely gross. More on that later.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today, alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio, that the state and city will coordinate on an effort to halt subway service between 1 and 5 a.m. each night in an effort to disinfect every train every 24 hours. The unprecedented service change, which will shutter all 472 subway stations for four hours every night, will begin on May 6.

May 6th? What were they thinking on April 6th? That the whole transit system was not an incredible Petri dish of germs helping to spread the infection? Maybe that old saying about fish not being able to see the water is true, though I doubt it, since the transit workers have been screaming about the conditions for sometime. No this is a combination of “We’ve always done it that way,” and insanity, with a dash of hubris. Are we surprised that the situation in NYC got so out of control? I’m sure they are. And they have to wait until the 6th because of Cinco de Mayo? They don’t have access to soap?

Geniuses. They are Geniuses running NYC and New York State.

Here is where I jump off the rails and go on a rant. Just sayin’ …

A quick check of the Wiki reveals that, aside from having different numbers for the same thing in different places, they show Manhattan has a population density of 72,033 people per square mile (2018 estimate of population). The county I live in has a population density of a little less than 600 people per square mile. And I don’t live in the most densely populated part of the county.

This is why I am always disturbed by people who think that the rules for this country should be set at the national level. Sorry, but that is an insane idea. If NYC needs to be on a lockdown, fine. They can decide that. What they do shouldn’t do is have any impact on what Buffalo, NY does, let alone what happens in Cincinnati, and certainly not what happens in my corner of the world.

I was reading an article the other day about people “escaping from New York” and heading for the burbs. (If you get the movie reference, more is after the break.) They were willing to spend $8,000 per month to rent a place. Which as far as I can see, is insane.

But that insanity spills over into everything else they are sure we are doing wrong. From minimum wage, to public transit, to all the things they are sure we are doing wrong, and that they are in love with, in their rat-infested, disease ridden city. But you, who are riding in your underground Petri-dish-trains, avoiding the rodents and bad guys, you are soooo much smarter than those of us who live where the air is clear, we don’t trade germs with 70,000 people every-time we step out the front door, and we don’t have to pay $8,000 to rent a temporary home. Yeah, right.

Continue reading

“There’s law, and there’s reality”

A review of a post from 2014 that probably has a lot of relevance in this era of COVID-19 STUMP Classics: The Fragility of Public Pensions Due To Can’t-Fail Thinking.

Set the wayback machine for 2014, when Detroit was going through bankruptcy. A pension system in California didn’t like the way the pension plans in Detroit was being treated, which was as unsecured creditors.

Meep has some thoughts on what is killing public pensions.

Public Pension Behavior That Endangers the Solvency of the Pensions

What actually threatens the actuarial soundness of public pension plans is behavior like the following:

  • Not making full contributions.
  • Investing in insane assets so that you can try to reach target yield. Or even sane assets that have high volatility to try to get high return, forgetting that there are some low volatility liabilities that need to be met.
  • Boosting benefits when the fund is flush, and always ratcheting benefits upward.

Calpers should be extremely familiar with that sort of behavior.

Given that Illinois has just been told to go through bankruptcy and not expect a bailout, Calpers – from California – should also take notice. And probably a bunch of other public pension systems.

The No Sense of Reality Party

Kim du Toit says it best. Open Appeal.

For fuck’s sake, can you bastards quit begging for money? Considering that I and probably millions of other Americans haven’t been able to work for nearly two months and have had zero income since then, it is the height of stupidity [ergo, the Stupid Party] to ask us to donate towards an election which isn’t due for over six months.

Frankly, when it’s hard to think how we’re going to be able to pay the rent or mortgage, car loans and utilities, health insurance and even groceries, what the fuck makes you think that we would be able to give you money?

The New Way to Finance College

The Other McCain notes that When They’re Dead, They’re Just Hookers: Mackenzie Lueck, ‘Sugar Baby’.

Or maybe it isn’t so new.

OK, let’s pause the italic/parenthesis fisking mode here, because I’m about to rant at this anonymous “friend” and anyone else who makes excuses for whoring: STOP RATIONALIZING AND JUSTIFYING.

Your vague “blame-society” rhetoric is a cheap feminist scam, a defensive rationalization to evade personal responsibility.

Personal responsibility is such a 20th Century idea.

So this is what passes for a college education in the 21st Century?

Chinese Masks Are Not “Hospital Grade”

Another reason to keep manufacturing of critical items in a place where quality matters more than quantity. Countries are returning masks imported from China: Here’s why.

At a time when countries around the world are facing a severe shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus testing kits, Finland has become the latest country to publicly blame China for selling masks that don’t meet its requirements.

On Wednesday, Finland discovered that the first shipment of 2 million surgical masks and 230,000 respirator masks it received from China did not meet the required standards of protection against the coronavirus for use in medical environments.

Still in love with Globalization?

Nations Rediscover National Interest

Yes, OK, it’s in German. Chrome or Google will do a fair job translating German. Finanzspritze für Schutzkleidung „made in Austria“ – OR – Financial injection for protective clothing “made in Austria”.

Austria has decided that relying a foreign countries for so much critical stuff is a bad idea.

Environment Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) and Economics Minister Margarete Schramböck (ÖVP) presented further measures on Thursday to keep the research, development and production of medical supplies, protective clothing, vaccines, medicines and other products needed by the Corona crisis in the country. This safeguards “our own needs, but also many jobs,” says Gewessler, whose ministry has made another five million financial injections available.

Imagine that. A government doing something to foster commerce, and not just adding insane regulations to everything.

COVID-19 and Globalism

This is a stark look at the state of America. Weekly Roundup: Strategic Control Over Medical Products Edition – Riverside Green.

It is sobering to realize that the coronavirus will likely kill my mother, who has very little lung function left after years of sarcoidosis. It may well kill my grandmother, who would otherwise probably clear the 100-year mark with ease.

So what happens if China decides to exercise “strategic control over medical products.” Medicine. Diabetes supplies. Antibiotics.

Imagine having a very minor car crash and then having everyone in both cars die because they can’t even get bandages or basic antibiotics. It could happen in six months.

Then there is the social divisions. Anyway, go read the whole thing. (Hat tip to Wirecutter and mobius wolf.)

It Isn’t Just the Mask-shortage That’s a Problem

But that is the one that has the most attention right now. 90 Miles From Tyranny : The Worldwide Face Mask Shortage Reveals The Folly Of Outsourcing Strategic Resources To China.

Most of the world’s protective face masks are made in China and Taiwan, and even for those made elsewhere, some component parts are Chinese-sourced. Shortages have led China to declare the masks a “strategic resource,” reserving them for their own medical workers, leaving the U.S. and the rest of the world to operate with a very limited supply of protective masks. In January, Taiwan banned the export of masks, which left them with ample supply but exacerbated the worldwide shortage of masks.

Gee. Imagine that. A nation acting in its own national interest.

Other things we might not want to source completely from China? Medicine is high on my list. I’m sure you can think of other things.

Because a Worthless College Degree is Worthless

College at all costs was never a good idea. Many high school graduates now doing better than college graduates.

A college degree in engineering, or one that was followed by a degree in medicine, or the law (though even that has changed today) was worth something. But when you have people working in Starbucks with college degrees, then you have to ask, “What did they get for all that tuition and interest on student loans?”

In fact, the earnings of the top half of workers with only a high school diploma overlap with those of the bottom half of college graduates. Moreover, every individual in the top 25% of high school graduates outperforms every individual in the bottom 25% of college graduates with Bachelor of Arts degrees with their earnings.

But the kicker of course is this:

“Today, regardless of aptitude or preparedness, a high school graduate enrolling in college can receive enormous subsidies to help fund a campus experience that can appear more amusement park than education,” Cass writes.

When students are offered 5-star accommodations, gourmet (by comparison to what I endured) meal plans, and little in the way of rigorous education… What are they getting in return for their investment of money and time? (Hat tip to Captain Capitalism.)

Socialism: The Dream of Omnipotent Government

The Quote of the day comes from Ludwig von Mises.

The champions of socialism call themselves progressives, but they recommend a system which is characterized by rigid observance of routine and by a resistance to every kind of improvement. They call themselves liberals, but they are intent upon abolishing liberty. They call themselves democrats, but they yearn for dictatorship. They call themselves revolutionaries, but they want to make the government omnipotent. They promise the blessings of the Garden of Eden, but they plan to transform the world into a gigantic post office. Every man but one a subordinate clerk in a bureau.

Ludwig von Mises (2016). Bureaucracy: The Economist

The hat tip (in a sense) goes to The Other McCain and Bad Causes Attract Bad People: On the ‘Dirtbag Left’ of Chapo Trap House, who sent me looking for a quote. (I found the one above instead.)

There is much to recommend the post as well. It talks in part about how and why Bad Causes attract Bad People.

What the radical wants (Ludwig von Mises explained this) is destruction — he despises the existing social order, asserting that nothing could be worse than a continuation of the hated status quo. The radical craves excitement, and wishes to possess greater influence than he can obtain within the existing bourgeois society, and his advocacy of revolution gives him, at the very least, the thrill of an outlaw identity.

It doesn’t matter if the cause is Left or Right (and some folks have moved from one to the other) as long as destruction is planned.

Is Sticking with Coal Better than Switching to Natural Gas?

Quick Dick McDick has a few things to say about people destroying the economy of Canada while also keeping Asian countries from reducing their dependence on coal in favor of natural gas. Coastal GasLink Pipeline Protest.

Of course Logic is not high on the list of stuff that the Left values.

“Just so you know where you stand.”

You have no intrinsic value as a human being. Not to the economic powers-that-be. It’s not economically viable for them to protect your lives..

You are only worth something as an economic unit. How much do you contribute the GDP, and therefore, how big a hit GDP would take is THE most important factor in figuring out how much to do to fight COVID-19.

We live in Godless societies, and the worship of money in the form of gross domestic product, free trade and economic growth is all that matters to us a collective whole. All of our politics align around this obsession. All that matters is growth in any form possible. We have cast aside all notions of family and community so as to remain in thrall to the mighty dollar. So we can buy the latest stuff.

And in doing so we have lost our humanity.

Children. Artists. Thinkers. Heroes. None of these things matter. And if the sacrifices are too large in fighting COVID-19, then we will sacrifice the children instead.

It’s ludicrous; you either protect your population or you don’t.

There is more for your consideration at the link. Hat tip to Wombat-socho at The Other McCain.

Want to Understand How Americans Really See Unemployment?

Look at the U-6 numbers, not the “official” U-3 numbers. Table A-15. Alternative measures of labor underutilization.

By the U-3 numbers, the January seasonally adjusted unemployment number was 3.6 percent. The raw number was 4.0 percent. Pretty good, since the last time I looked, 5 percent (on U-3) was theoretically full employment.

The U-6 number, on the other hand was 6.9 percent, seasonally adjusted, and 7.7 percent raw. Still it is way down from its peak of 17.2 percent in April of 2010.

Hat tip to The First Street Journal, and Déjà vu all over again. The Elites hate Sanders almost as much as the hated Trump in 2016. Case in point David Brooks of The New York Times.

Mr Brooks’ argument boils down to one simple thing, the old Wizard of Id cartoon in which the town crier yells, “The peasants are revolting,” to which the king replies, “You can say that again.”

Mr Brooks, whose net worth is estimated at $9 million, is definitely not one of the peasants. His political instincts are at least moderately conservative, but he was perfectly fine with 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, saying that she was determined, industrious even though somewhat unimaginative. To him, Mrs Clinton, though she’d doubtlessly have been further to the left than he would have liked, would still be a safe muddle at least somewhat close to the middle. For the patricians, a muddle in the middle is just what they want. It keeps them nice and safe and protects their status. Had he been in the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776, when Congress officially declared our independence, he would have voted against it.

Click thru for the cartoon. And more.

It Wasn’t Enough They Got Discounts on Tuition…

They wanted more money and went on strike. UC Santa Cruz fires 54 graduate students participating in months-long strike.

The firings came as graduate students at the University of California, Davis, and University of California, Santa Barbara, began their own cost-of-living strikes in solidarity. One of their demands is that all UC Santa Cruz graduate workers who participated in strike activities be restored to full employment status.

The 54 UC Santa Cruz graduate students who received termination letters on Friday are just a fraction of the 233 graduate student instructors and teaching assistants who have refused to submit nearly 12,000 grades from the fall quarter since December.

Graduate students are in the same boat as student athletes. Universities make a lot of money off their labor, but where student athletes only get free tuition and room and board, most graduate teaching assistants also get a living stipend. Or maybe the get a stipend instead of room and board. (The last time I applied to a graduate program, Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Or maybe it was George H.W. Bush.) Either way, they knew what they signed up for.

Still, I think that all of them should be fired. They have a contract, which forbids strikes, and they violated it. They shouldn’t get a free pass. (They are represented by the Auto Workers Union, so they can – eventually – renegotiate. Or they could before they threw the contract out the window.)

Hat tip to Pirate’s Cove and Super-Progressive UC Santa Cruz Terminates Graduate Students Demanding More Money. Who notes…

You know, these graduate students could have taken jobs elsewhere than the university. Heck, they could have gotten outside jobs and earned. But, no, they Demanded the college take care of them. While not working

Sanders Wants to Double Government Spending

And these are the estimates. Sanders releases plan to pay for $52 trillion worth of new government programs.

More than double. 5.2 trillion per year extra on top of 4.4 trillion today.

And of course this will make government even more intrusive into your life. But he doesn’t care about that. He wants government to control everything.

And those are the estimates. Any bets on what it would really cost?