Economy

Thumbnail image for Questioning San Diego County Pension Fund’s Excessive Risk

Questioning San Diego County Pension Fund’s Excessive Risk

by John Lawrence 09.23.2014 Economy

By John Lawrence

According to the Wall Street Journal, San Diego County’s pension fund manager is using an extreme amount of risky leverage to make up for a shortfall in funding.

This is equivalent to the gambler who makes riskier bets to make up for the bad bets he’s made in the past. Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Fitzpatrick called San Diego County’s investment methods “one of the most extreme examples yet of a public pension using leverage – including instruments such as derivatives – to boost performance.”

We have seen this kind of risky behavior before. Some jurisdictions like Orange County, CA and Jefferson County, Alabama along with the cities of Detroit, San Bernardino and Stockton, CA have gone bankrupt. The strategy being used by San Diego County Employees Retirement Association(“SDCERA”) is drawing a lot of criticism. The pension fund manages about $10 billion on behalf of more than 39,000 active or former public employees.

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Thumbnail image for Crippling Student Loan Debt, Not Just For the Young

Crippling Student Loan Debt, Not Just For the Young

by Source 09.20.2014 Economy

By Joan McCarter / Daily Kos

The retirement crisis, hastened by the death of the pension and the great recession that decimated retirement funds along with home values, has a yet another growing cause: student loan debt. A new report from the Government Accountability Office shows how massive student loan debt is throughout the population, but how dramatically it has grown for seniors.

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Thumbnail image for Chamber of Misery’s Million Dollar Campaign Halts San Diego’s Minimum Wage Increase

Chamber of Misery’s Million Dollar Campaign Halts San Diego’s Minimum Wage Increase

by Doug Porter 09.17.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders took to the airwaves yesterday to announce his group of paid canvassers had gathered 56,000 signatures (at up to $12 each) towards implementing their plan to keep the working poor in poverty for as long as possible.

There was no longer any pretense about a “small business coalition” fighting to save mom and pop stores from bankruptcy or simply getting this issue before the voters. This campaign was about the power of the wealthy to dictate policy to the city. This was and is about the sustaining an economic model that asks taxpayers to subsidize lower tiers of workers via government programs while corporations rack up record profits.

By the time financial reports reveal just how much money was spent by the Chamber and their corporate allies in the hospitality industry spent to gather signatures, the San Diego clerk’s office will have certified the results. I’ll venture a guess that they spent over a million bucks, probably not including the hotel rooms provided for vagabond canvassers from as far away as Michigan and Ohio.

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Thumbnail image for Corporate Deserters Seek to Continue Doing Business in the US While Paying Taxes to Foreign Governments

Corporate Deserters Seek to Continue Doing Business in the US While Paying Taxes to Foreign Governments

by John Lawrence 09.16.2014 Business

By John Lawrence

Corporations are relentless about setting up tax avoidance schemes and finding new and improved ways of getting out of paying taxes.

One method is to set up a corporate subsidiary in the Cayman Islands which doesn’t require any taxes to be paid. This works well for collecting royalties on patents because the patents can just be transferred to the subsidiary, and, voila, no taxes need be paid at all. Other companies which do a great deal of selling abroad have money piling up in foreign jurisdictions.

US law requires them to pay taxes on this money when they bring it back into the US. So these companies like Microsoft, Apple and Qualcomm are always lobbying for a “tax holiday”, which would allow them to bring this poor, lonely money home without paying taxes on it. Corporations are people, remember, and money is their Mother’s Milk.

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Thumbnail image for City Threatened with Lawsuit Over Illumina Economic Incentives Deal

City Threatened with Lawsuit Over Illumina Economic Incentives Deal

by Doug Porter 09.12.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

A citizen group represented by Attorney Cory Briggs has announced its intention to file a lawsuit blocking the city’s economic incentives package with Illumina, Inc.

An email sent to Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council this week set a deadline of September 23rd for rescinding the agreement. The communique claims the approval process violated a City Charter provision requiring any deals made by the council lasting more than five years to include a public hearing and a legal notice published 10 days in advance of that hearing.

The Economic Development Assistance Agreement with Illumina, Inc, was approved on August 7th as a “Consent Item.” The ten year deal includes a promise to rebate $1.5 million in sales and use taxes in return for retaining “over 100 middle-wage manufacturing job opportunities” in San Diego.

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Thumbnail image for Poisoned Chalice Electric Rate “Fixing” Threatens Community Energy in San Diego

Poisoned Chalice Electric Rate “Fixing” Threatens Community Energy in San Diego

by Jay Powell 09.12.2014 Activism

By Jay Powell

“… with the passage of AB 327, the thorny issue of Net Energy Metering and rate design has been given over to the CPUC. … recognize this is a poisoned chalice: the Commission will come under intense pressure to use this authority to protect the interest of the utilities over those of consumers and potential self-generators, all in the name of addressing exaggerated concerns about grid stability, cost and fairness. You—my fellow Commissioners—all must be bold and forthright in defending and strengthening our state’s commitment to clean and distributed energy generation.”

This was one of six parting observations offered by Public Utilities Commissioner Mark Ferron when he resigned from the PUC due to serious health issues in January of this year.

The “poisoned chalice” is what is on the table this next week. Those of you who are trying desperately to mind your “kwhrs” (kilowatt hours) this summer should be aware that you are about to be punished for your conservation, investments in energy efficiency and/or roof top solar.

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Thumbnail image for The Fight to Save the Minimum Wage Hike Intensifies in San Diego

The Fight to Save the Minimum Wage Hike Intensifies in San Diego

by Doug Porter 09.11.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

The struggle for a better life for nearly two hundred thousand San Diegans continues, as the forces of reaction desperately fight back following passage of an ordinance increasing the local minimum wage by the City Council.

The San Diego Chamber of Commerce, with assistance from corporate hotel and restaurant corporations, has funded a campaign to force the issue to a referendum, which would have the effect of delaying any increase until July, 2016. While their sales pitch started out with the premise that citizens needed to vote on such a measure, it has gotten increasingly desperate in recent days.

The paid canvassers used by GOP consultant Jason Roe and the big business funded “Small Business Coalition” have quit in droves, mostly because they are unable to collect enough signatures to make a living. The bounty for names on their petitions has risen from roughly $2 per signature to $7 each at retail locations and $10 each if done door-to-door.

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Thumbnail image for Are You Ready to ‘Disrupt’? Climate Movement Readies Global Mobilization

Are You Ready to ‘Disrupt’? Climate Movement Readies Global Mobilization

by Source 09.10.2014 Activism

In less than two weeks, the ‘Climate People’s March & Mobilization’ is set to make its mark on history. A new film helps explain where the movement came from and where it’s going.

by Jon Queally/ CommonDreams

On Sunday, Sept. 7, a new documentary film highlighting the intertwined story of the climate crisis and the growing social movement which has grown in response to it was released online for national screenings that took place in people’s home and public meeting spaces.

At just under an hour long, the film—titled ‘Disruption’—was produced with a stated goal to “galvanize a new wave of climate action and climate leadership” across the globe and comes just weeks before the ‘People’s Climate March‘ being organized for New York City that will take place on Sunday, September 21.

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Thumbnail image for DeMaio Dissed by US Chamber of Commerce

DeMaio Dissed by US Chamber of Commerce

by Doug Porter 09.03.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

San Diego’s “New Republican” candidate for the 52nd Congressional District actively sought and failed to get the endorsement of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Instead, the pro-business group endorsed Democratic incumbent Scott Peters, saying “We will encourage the business community to vigorously support your candidacy.”

This makes Peters unique in that he’s supported by (some) organized labor groups and the largest pro-business lobbying group in the U.S. The Chamber’s lobbying expenditures in 2013 totalled $74,470, 000. In the 2012 Congressional elections they spent $33 million in support of mostly Republican candidates.

I’ll suspend judgement for a moment about just how scummy the U.S. Chamber is as an organization to crack wise about the DeMaio campaign’s reaction.

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Thumbnail image for Why Labor Day Still Matters: Unions and the Future of American Democracy

Why Labor Day Still Matters: Unions and the Future of American Democracy

by Jim Miller 09.01.2014 Columns

By Jim Miller

Over the last year, the subject of economic inequality has been in the news quite a bit with the release of Robert Reich’s spectacular documentary Inequality for All and economist Thomas Piketty’s seminal work, Capital in the Twentieth Century. The picture they paint is a grim one and new bad numbers just keep rolling in.

For instance, a few weeks ago a Russell Sage Foundation study revealed that the wealth of the typical American household has dropped nearly 20 percent since 1984 and yet another study notes that private sector wages measured in real terms have dipped 16.2 percent since their 1972 high point. In the wake of that news, another US Census Bureau report came out showing that middle class household wealth fell by 35 percent between 2005 and 2011.

Thus while the last few years in particular have been incredibly beneficial for the ultra affluent, most of the rest of us have struggled to hold ground or not lose more. Some economists are even calling this phenomenon “the new normal.”

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California Legislature Passes Bill to Protect Temp Workers

by Source 08.30.2014 Business

220px-Californiastatecapitol By Michael Grabell / ProPublica

The California legislature has passed a bill that would hold companies legally responsible if the temp agencies and subcontractors they hire cheat workers out of their wages or put them in harm’s way.

Labor officials across the country have increasingly expressed concern about the rapid growth of the temporary staffing industry since the recession. They have also noted the push by hotels and warehouses to subcontract work that is part of their core business, such as cleaning guest rooms and unloading trucks.

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Thumbnail image for More Evidence Pointing to Charter City ‘Savings’ Fallacy

More Evidence Pointing to Charter City ‘Savings’ Fallacy

by Source 08.28.2014 Activism

by Don Greene / Escondido Democratic Club

Part of the pro-city charter mantra we hear from Mayor Abed and the other members of the city council majority is about savings. Especially savings when it comes to eliminating prevailing wages from city construction projects. In a recently released survey, the ‘savings’ that Sam & Co continue to promote are becoming harder and harder to find.

The City of Carlsbad – a charter city in North San Diego county and the favorite, “let’s-be-more-like-them” example promoted by the Mayor – answered a survey on Prevailing Wages and associated savings. The results were somewhat lackluster. When asked the question, “What savings have been realized on average for those contracts where non prevailing wages have been applied?” the answer was telling:

“We have found savings to be hard to ascertain. Bid prices might be lower on the front end but there is some suspicion that total project costs may impact initial savings (change orders, costly project delays, more labor by city employees, etc.)”

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Thumbnail image for Game of Drones: What Are the Rules of the Game for Civilian Drone Use?

Game of Drones: What Are the Rules of the Game for Civilian Drone Use?

by At Large 08.27.2014 Activism

By Lawrence A. Herzog

On a recent Sunday morning, I was hiking up the back streets of Soledad Mountain in La Jolla. Arriving on top and prepared to enjoy the stunning aerial view of our Pacific coastline, I suddenly heard a disturbing, loud, buzzing sound. As I poked my head around one of the black, granite-covered walls of the Veteran’s Monument, a small robot-sized helicopter jumped out, hovering just above me.

I was staring at, in today’s parlance, a drone.

“What the heck”? My eyes were soon drawn to its source, a man standing near the edge of the main parking area, operating a small remote control, with the drone now buzzing over toward him.

Curious, I walked over and said, “Hi, I was wondering, do folks need some kind of permit to operate near a Veteran Memorial site?” The drone operator did not respond. Within minutes, however, he was gone.

End of story? I think not.

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Thumbnail image for Precious Water Bottled and Shipped Out of Drought-Ridden California

Precious Water Bottled and Shipped Out of Drought-Ridden California

by Source 08.27.2014 Activism

By Anastasia Pantsios / EcoWatch

California is suffering through a record drought. Water is being rationed and its usually fertile agriculture industry is suffering. Meanwhile, someone in Minnesota or Kentucky or Maryland may be drinking a bit of California’s precious commodity. Mother Jones reported that at least four major bottled water companies—Aquafina, Dasani, Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead—use water from California, either ground (spring) water or tap water. Aquafina and Dasani both bottle and sell treated tap water, while Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead use spring water.

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Thumbnail image for GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Neel Kashkari’s Workers’ Paradise: North Dakota

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Neel Kashkari’s Workers’ Paradise: North Dakota

by Doug Porter 08.11.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

I attended Voice of San Diego’s Politifest on Saturday, held at Liberty Station. It was a gorgeous San Diego morning for what was dubbed a ‘civic festival.’ Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari and Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins were invited to strut their stuff.

Politifest is in the tradition of the days when grand public rallies were held to support candidates and causes–with a little bit of the 60’s teach-in thrown in for good measure. The main difference is that this annual event doesn’t have a cause beyond civic involvement. 

There weren’t a whole lot of people there–once you accounted for all those participating in some fashion–but those that did attend were the kind of people who take their policy seriously. Alternately it could be called it Wonkfest; or Politicon (with craft beer! and food trucks!). The nerd in me was glad they do this.

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Thumbnail image for Naomi Klein: ‘Our Economic Model Is at War with Life on Earth’

Naomi Klein: ‘Our Economic Model Is at War with Life on Earth’

by Source 08.11.2014 Books & Poetry

New video trailer previews thesis of anticipated new book by Canadian writer and activist

By Jon Queally / Common Dreams

The book’s title is not elusive: ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

Due for release in September, the anticipated new work by Canadian journalist, activist and public intellectual Naomi Klein has now been previewed in a video trailer that appears to lay out its main themes and central argument.

“In December of 2012, a complex systems scientists walked up to the podium at the American Geophysics Union to present a paper,” the narrator of the video—Klein herself—says as footage begins of urban high rise developments and burnt out croplands.

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What Could Have Been

by Source 08.09.2014 Culture

By Lucas O’Connor

FaulconerOn Friday, Kevin Faulconer made his position official and vetoed the City Council’s increase of the city’s minimum wage. We know Faulconer has long been fundamentally opposed to wage protections that strive to keep people out of poverty, likewise the big-money orgs who paid the way for his campaign. So while the move is hardly a surprise, it’s nevertheless bizarre.

The good folks who worked on Faulconer’s mayoral campaign have been remarkably open about their core strategy of manufacturing an image of Faulconer as a moderate in order to win. Since taking office, that approach has generally continued. This stripped-down compromise on minimum wage could have been the last step in that process, and everyone could have gone to happy hour 20 months early. But here we are. Why?

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Thumbnail image for Helping Young People Who See the World through Frosted Windows

Helping Young People Who See the World through Frosted Windows

by Ernie McCray 08.07.2014 Activism

By Ernie McCray

I just finished watching a Turner Classic Movie, “Scandal at Scourie,” that featured two of my favorite all-time movie actors, Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson, playing a couple who adopted a foster child. In one scene a bully, a boy, says to the adopted child, a girl, “You have no mother and you have no father. You’re nothing but a…” The last words are lost in a flurry of commotion.

As I watched I thought how timely the movie was for me since my plan for the day was to write about a program my son and others are creating to help empower low-income young adults and former foster youth, ages 18-24, to become more self sufficient. As it is, they spend their young lives pretty much seeing the world as though they’re observing it through a frosted window. All is blurry. Focusing on anything that might be of value to them in the future is often nearly impossible.

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Thumbnail image for The Anti Minimum Wage Hired Guns Coming to Town

The Anti Minimum Wage Hired Guns Coming to Town

by Doug Porter 08.06.2014 Activism

By Doug Porter

Sources close to Raise Up San Diego are telling us the company collecting signatures for the Slave Wage Jobs Coalition will be National Petition Management(NPM).

Today we’ll take a look at what they’ve accomplished in recent years, and why you might want to wash your hands after engaging one of their ‘contract employees’ asking for signatures to overturn San Diego’s minimum wage and paid sick days ordinance.

NPM and their likely local affiliate, Victory Consultants, Inc will start deploying signature gatherers at suburban malls shortly after the city council over rides Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s veto later this month. They’ll have 30 days to collect 34,000 or so signatures. Meeting that threshold will suspend the new minimum wage and earned sick days ordinance until after the June 2016 election.

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Thumbnail image for Who Runs San Diego?– Douglas Manchester and U-T San Diego

Who Runs San Diego?– Douglas Manchester and U-T San Diego

by Eva Posner 08.06.2014 Business

By Eva Posner / Democratic Woman’s Club

U-T San Diego, formerly the San Diego Union-Tribune, is the largest daily newspaper in the region. According to the U-T advertising rate book, U-T San Diego reaches 29.9% of the adult population of San Diego during the week, and 41.2% on Sundays. U-T San Diego.com receives 29.5 million page views per month.

The U-T Community Press, which consists of 8 newspapers that formerly brought communities hyper local and independent news but where bought by the U-T’s owner Doug Manchester, has a weekly readership of 221,905. One of those newspapers is the North County Times, which was the U-T’s biggest competitor.

Even assuming these numbers are inflated to sell ads, it is obvious that the management/ownership have incredible influence over the information taken in by a large portion of the population of San Diego County and the surrounding region.

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Thumbnail image for Beware of Wall Street Schemes on Redevelopment

Beware of Wall Street Schemes on Redevelopment

by Source 08.04.2014 Business

By Murtaza H. Baxamusa, Ph.D., AICP /San Diego UrbDeZine

With the demise of redevelopment in California, some cities are looking for creative ways to stay solvent. One idea is to leverage New Market Tax Credits (NMTC) to buy properties and become landlords. This acquisition fund concept was recently adopted by Civic San Diego (CivicSD), a nonprofit corporation that is a consultant to the city of San Diego on the wind-down of redevelopment.

I am supportive of finding new ways to fund redevelopment that are proper and legal. However, absent clear community benefits standards, I am not sure if the public interest will be served by a property acquisition-income fund. There are several reasons to be wary of funding schemes guised as redevelopment.

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Thumbnail image for ‘Poor For a Week’ – Neel Kashkari’s Trickle Down Game Show

‘Poor For a Week’ – Neel Kashkari’s Trickle Down Game Show

by Doug Porter 08.01.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

The forerunner of today’s reality TV programming was a program called ‘Queen for a Day.’ Starting out as a radio program, it made the jump to black and white TV in 1948, staying on air until 1964.

Women selected from the studio audience were ushered to the stage and urged to tell tales of woe, which were rated by the audience using an “applause meter.” The winner was crowned, showered with sponsor-provided prizes and expected to cry profusely. ‘Queen’ was a ratings monster in its day.

California GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari, whose running-on-empty campaign is desperate for attention, is hoping his latest campaign stunt –‘Poor for a Week’– will resonate with voters.

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San Diego’s P100 Program Targets the Poor and Vulnerable While Letting the Rich and Powerful Off the Hook

by John Lawrence 07.29.2014 Culture

By John Lawrence

black-mom-3-kids-250x250[1]Since 1997, San Diego County has required all families applying for California’s version of welfare called CalWORKs to submit to warrantless, suspicionless, unannounced home searches and interrogations by District Attorney investigators.

As of June 2013 about 150,000 families, or about 9,300 families each year, have been subject to these searches. This policy, called Project 100% or P100, diverts money away from the poor and has not been shown to be effective at detecting or preventing fraud.

San Diego is the only place in the whole nation which has such an intrusive, untargeted policy making it America’s finest city – NOT – for the poor and vulnerable. These searches are a violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids “unreasonable searches” of peoples’ homes.

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Thumbnail image for PPIC Poll: 51 Percent of Likely Voters Would Back $11.1 Billion Water Bond

PPIC Poll: 51 Percent of Likely Voters Would Back $11.1 Billion Water Bond

by Source 07.26.2014 Economy

By Dan Bacher

The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has just released the results of a statewide survey revealing that a “slim majority” of likely voters, 51 percent, would support the $11.1 billion water bond.

The survey, “Californians and the Environment,” also indicated that support for a lower bond amount is slightly higher. The bond has been postponed twice so far, first in 2010 and then in 2012, because lack of voter support.

The poll was published as California Legislature continues to discuss downsizing a controversial $11.1 billion state bond for water projects that is currently on the November ballot. The measure was authorized by the water policy/water bond package of 2009 that creates a clear path to the construction of the twin tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

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Thumbnail image for Pulling Back the Curtain of Production Concealment

Pulling Back the Curtain of Production Concealment

by Source 07.26.2014 Business

By Erik Loomis / Lawyers, Guns & Money

Concealment.

This is primary benefit of outsourcing work and supplies from the United States. That goods are produced far, far away from the eyes of consumers benefits the corporations tremendously.

It means that when the Rana Plaza factory in Savar, Bangladesh collapses, no Americans see the deaths that result from a system that provides them cheap clothing at Wal-Mart, Gap, and other retailers. That’s very different from the Triangle Fire, when New Yorkers were outraged when they personally saw the deaths of the women who made their clothing. They acted and conditions in the textile factories improved.

Today, most of us have absolutely no idea what the conditions of work are in the places that make our clothing, that grow our food, that produce our paint and glass and steel and auto parts. That’s exactly how companies want it. …

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