Pro-Union Activism at the California Justice Department

Did Attorney General Kamala Harris sabotage a voter initiative to please her public-sector union supporters?

We expect all sides to fight hard in politics given the stakes involved, but our system rests on the broad acceptance of a set of fairly applied rules. We know, for instance, that no matter how nasty the coming presidential election that the loser will ultimately cede power after the final count is in. This isn’t a kleptocracy where the only redress for the losing side is to take to the streets in a violent revolt.

Unfortunately, California Attorney General Kamala Harris’ recent misuse of power to provide a dishonest title and summary to proposed pension-reform initiatives she opposes comes right out of the totalitarian playbook, where those wielding power recognize no rules of decency or fairness.

We expect judges, no matter their political stripes, to apply the law as written. We expect election officials to battle election fraud no matter their personal preference for the outcome. Likewise, we expect state attorney generals, who are the head of California’s "Justice" Department after all, to provide fair title and summaries of all initiatives that are submitted to that office—even ones the AG personally doesn’t like. Without any civic spiritedness, people eventually will lose faith that they can make change by following the rules.

Harris, however, is a close ally of the public sector unions. And she has designs on higher office. Those unions have an iron grip on Sacramento politics, and they are doing all they can to stop the burgeoning pension reform movement. So when California Pension Reform submitted two initiatives that would rein in the unsustainable costs of the state’s pension system, Harris decided to behave as a political operative and besmirch the office she holds by distorting the official descriptions that most voters rely upon when making their voting decision.

In January, she provided a title to the measures: “Reduces pensions for public employees.” That’s flat-out wrong. Her summary was filled with distortions meant to sway voters against them. As result, last week the pension reform group dropped the initiative. They couldn’t raise the $2 million needed to gather the signatures given the overwhelming obstacle Harris put in their way. This never was going to be a fair fight. Unions would have outspent pension reformers by many multiples, but union supporters don’t want to take any chances given the growing pension backlash.

It’s certainly OK to hire a Democratic hack to wage a slash-and-burn anti-reform campaign as the unions already have been doing, but it’s another thing to abuse the office of attorney general and rig the process.

Now that the pension reform measure is dead, union allies in the Legislature are saying that Gov. Jerry Brown’s modest pension reform measures are dead also. As the San Diego Union-Tribune explained, one main fear the unions had was that the initiatives would give the governor leverage to force his reforms through the Democratic, union-friendly Legislature. You don’t want my reforms? the governor could ask. Then you’ll be stuck with tougher reforms at the ballot. That fear is gone.

Right-leaning blogger Chris Reed wrote on Calwhine.com, “There are plenty of signs that many … liberals were quite willing to believe that pensions are far too generous for public employees. But not union thug Kamala Harris. She’s in the tank for the union status quo. This is only the start of how the state government is rigged against the interests of regular Californians.”

Reed wasn’t the only one appalled by this increasingly rigged system. The Modesto Bee’s liberal editorial page opined that pension reformers are “right about the Harris title and summary. Her office’s official description of the two measures read like talking points taken straight from a public employee union boss’ campaign handbook. Harris claimed the measures would reduce retirement income for current employees, which is not true. She also claimed that future government employees would lose survivor and death benefits, also not true.”

The summary also described supposed “cuts” to “teachers, nurses and peace officers, but excluding judges.” That’s campaign lingo, not the description of a fair-minded AG. As the reformers explained in their statement, “The AG selectively lists three positive poll-tested jobs out of thousands of government employee job classifications when both measures apply to all public employees, except constitutionally-protected judges.” The San Diego Union-Tribune, referring to a pension system that is consuming upwards of 30 percent of municipal budgets, complained about “Kamala Harris’ dirty trick on California.”

Ironically, these proposed initiatives were far from radical. They offered alternative plans for new hires as a way to rein in an unfunded pension liability, or debt, that is estimated as high as a half trillion dollars by a Stanford University study. One measure would have put new workers only in a defined-contribution, 401/k-style plan. The alternative would have created a hybrid plan that mixed the current defined-benefit pension with the 401/k program.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, in its analysis, argued that the initiatives wouldn’t have achieved savings for many years. By focusing on new hires, the initiatives wouldn’t save too much until these new workers start retiring. That would argue for a tougher reform, but the state’s unions and their newfound heroine, Harris, want to block all reform.

California Cities are facing potential bankruptcy, localities are cutting services, and there’s much pressure for tax hikes in an already highly taxed state to pay for public employee pensions that are far more generous than those typically earned in the private sector. The problem is real and the situation is unfair to taxpayers.

It’s made even more fair by the tactics of an attorney general who is happy to distort the democratic process to do the bidding of a special interest group that already has nearly unchecked power in the Capitol. Don’t be surprised if more Californians lose faith in their ability to effect meaningful change.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism for the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Let's get ready...||

    ...for Primitard's sermon!

  • Anti-UNIONZZZZZZZZZZZZ||

    KOCHsuckin' at its best.

  • MWG||

    Um... actually it should be

    UNIONZZZZ!!!!!!

  • Juice||

    If only there were a different word for government unions to differentiate them from real unions so that people couldn't conflate the two very different beasts.

  • Taft Hartley||

    Big Labor stole 25% of my paycheck every week for 10 years and all I got was this lousy unsafe work environment!

  • Taft Hartley||

    Big Labor stole 25% of my paycheck every week for 10 years and all I got was this lousy unsafe work environment!

  • sl||

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  • ||

    This isn’t a kleptocracy where the only redress for the losing side is to take to the streets in a violent revolt.

    You sure about that?

  • ||

    It will be soon enough!

  • Almanian||

    You sure about that?

  • Old Salt||

    I remember a Superman comic from a few years back when Lex Luthor had rounded up the Legion of Doom (again) and gave a rousing speech about conquering America that went something like:

    Lex Luthor: I wanna make America a place where people like us can go far, where we can lie, cheat, and steal to our hearts content. Where we have no fear from the authorities because they'll be in OUR pockets! A world where those with power can do as we please!

    Joker: *mumbling* Why bother? I don't really see the difference from how things are now...

  • Jeffersonian||

    Yet.

  • ||

    gets a third degree sunburn.

  • Almanian||

    Based on the attached pic, I'd hit that.

    Yeah, I said it. I'm a guy. That's the first thing we think about when we see women. Jimmy Carter outed us all back in the 70's. Deal with it.

    So anyway....

  • *||

    You wouldn't know it from that particular photo, but California has the hottest AG in the country: https://www.google.com/search?q=kamala+harris&hl=en&prmd=imvnsol&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=85tCT96zH_LRiAL8tvywAQ&ved=0CDYQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=546

    H&R could at least select a nice pic as consolation.

  • Almanian||

    Mmmmm - tasty!

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    "hottest AG" is like winning the Special Olympics.

    Besides, Pam Bondi's not bad.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Beat me to it.

  • H man||

    I was going to nominate Lisa Madigan but Pam Bondi is better looking.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Ewww Madigan. I find her icky. She's a younger Pelosi, which means she will eventually be Pelosi.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    [*]Hit that
    [ ]Do not hit that

    [*]Never call again

  • Sevo||

    Harris learned politics at the 'knee' of Willy Brown; she's an ex-GF, and the less said of Willy, the better.
    There is no reason to presume any decision or action on her part is driven or even informed by anything other than her calculation of the political benefits.
    If she has ethical standards, they've yet to be seen in public.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    It is unbelievable to me that this sort of thing can stand. Deliberately invoking "teachers, nurses, and peace officers" automatically sets off my bullshit meter, but an AG putting into ballot language is absolutely abusing her office. It's impeachable, AFAIC.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    And, of course, her rampant Brady violations means she should be disbarred, but you know, Drugs Are Bad.

  • Hugh Akston||

    A similar thing happened in Denver back in '04. The local transit authority submitted both pro and con positions for a proposed light rail expansion, both of which were published in the official voter guide. The con statement contained bullshit statements about double-decker highways and three-lane expansions.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    It happens frequently with state AGs, in both parties, but I do find the explicit reference to "teachers, nurses, and peace officers" to be especially odious and clearly designed to manipulate the average voter. It is a shame that they withdrew the Prop, because it would have been worth a shot anyway.

  • MNG||

    "I do find the explicit reference to "teachers, nurses, and peace officers" to be especially odious"

    Even though they clearly would be impacted. Yeah, I guess you do have a strange view of what is dishonest and all...

  • Krunt||

    You got pussy for balls.

  • MNG||

    The eloquence of angry right wing thought.

    Only a dishonest person could fail to be swayed...

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Where is right wing coming from, dipshit? "Teachers, nurses, and 'peace' officers" are put on a pedestal and you damn well know it. The honesty of the statement depends on more than the literal wording, and language such as "teachers, nurses, and 'peace' officers" is emotionally loaded to appeal to emotionally voting dumbasses.

  • MNG||

    Then say "emotionally loaded" not "lie." It ain't a lie.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    What would you call misleading, or fraud, then?

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Keep in mind that you are the bitch ass that always complains about not having enough information that you should be entitled to others providing.

  • JBA||

    You suck at reading. He said "especially odiousand clearly designed to manipulate the average voter." Not "lie."

  • ||

    Maybe it's because they aren't the ONLY FUCKING ONES that would be affected.

    Jesus tap dancing christ, sometimes I think John is right and you ARE nothing but a Team Blue hack.

  • Gus||

    It is what is known as a lie of omission. Obfuscation. Name all potentially affected professions or none at all. You must be the dumbest cunt on earth.

  • Nurse||

    Many nurses consider unions to be professionally unacceptable, and won't join them. California is an aberration in this regard, at least regarding nurses's unions.

    Nurses consider themselves professionals, not blue-collar laborers. Our duty is to our patients, not to our pockets, anyway.

  • Teachers||

    "Our duty is to our patients, not to our pockets, anyway."

    You're doing it wrong.

  • Amakudari||

    Even though they clearly would be impacted.

    Jesus.

    Her job is to represent the position accurately. If all government workers would be affected, it should read "public employees" and should clarify why judges wouldn't be affected.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Its not a one or the other thing. Not expanding light rail or roads is also an option, and people can figure out how to deal with it.

  • Tony||

    Not quite as punchy as saying "small businesses" when you mean "massive corporations" when we're talking about politicians doing the bidding of those interests.

  • MNG||

    Those interests are DIFFERENT!

    They are JOB CREATORS!

    God Tony, you are so DISHONEST! I think I'm going to filter you lest your sheer dishonesty taint my pure, noble mind.

  • Tony||

    I am all about your taint, MiNGey! Let's stroke each other off and then write some Obama fanfiction!

  • MNG||

    Of course we will, dearie. Monday ends with a "y", after all!

  • Colonel_Angus||

    You are correct that that is the truth about progressives' punchy rhetoric, and hence yours.

  • ||

    Anything stated by Mr. Blue automatically sets off my bullshit meter.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    I didn't go to three years of beer seminary to be called "Mr."

  • Dr. Evil||

    Here! Here!

  • ||

    Prison guards exude a nobility verging on the supernatural.

  • Biography||

    When asked by a reporter why he repeated himself so hard every day, P Brooks replied, "There might be a kid out there who's never heard me say it."

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Funny thing about prison guards. And all the problems inside our prisons, from violence, to smuggled weapons, smuggled drugs, smuggled money, and smuggled cell phones happen not despite prison guards, but instead because of them. People get outraged about these things, but never take the next step and realize that these things happen only because of corrupt guards. But you know, thin blue line and all that...

  • MNG||

    I'm not sure what you are getting at, should we have no guards?

    Or robot guards? But even with the latter they could be bribed-with promises of genuine human feelings for example...

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    No silly. Don't get rid of prison guards. Instead, remember that they are civil servants, and are susceptible to corruption. They aren't corrupt for free, and many guards probably have a very handsome retirement fund (in $20 bills) in a suitcase in the back of their closet.

    The taxpayers don't have to capitulate to every union pension demand.

  • MNG||

    "The taxpayers don't have to capitulate to every union pension demand."

    I don't go in for the reflexive union hate many here do, but I totally agree with this statement.

    It's insane for anyone getting taxpayer dollars to not realize that in hard times, and hell even in some good times, that the taxpayers might want to give less of their dollars.

    Look, I realize that the union represents them and it's actually their legal duty to try to do the best by them they can. So I don't fault them for fighting every cut or change they don't want. But the pols and administrators don't have to agree with them.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Right. And my comment was meant to remind our state legislators who is sitting across the table when negotiating pensions. Too often, the prison guards and police unions use the "thin blue line", and other exalted/heroic rhetoric to justify increasing pension benefits. It would be nice to negotiate on terms based in economics as opposed to emotions.

  • MNG||

    Agreed. I've always said the way to deal with this is simple: insist on your legislators getting better deals for the taxpayers. When they don't, vote them out. Repeat as necessary.

  • Moogle||

    What negotiations? The politicians are bought and paid for in one way or another. Any apparent negotiating is a farce and theater of the mind for the shithead voters.

  • MNG||

    I like's my statements to be sweepin'!

  • ||

    "And my comment was meant to remind our state legislators who is sitting across the table when negotiating pensions."

    Step 2: Get state legislators to read Reason.com comments.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    I'm not sure what you are getting at, should we have no guards?

    Random rotation of guards between cell blocks, prison wings, even prisons themselves.

    If they have no time or notice as to when they will be moved, they are unable to establish a steady pipeline through which they can move contraband.

  • ||

    We should have only violent felons in prison, for starters. That would make for smaller prisons, fewer guards, and more effective oversight of guards.

    As with all things State, there is no eliminating abuse, so keep it as small as possible.

  • MNG||

    I'm all for having much, much less people in prison, but I don't think we should say only violent felons. What about white collar criminals who do truly awful, though not "violent", things?

  • NotSure||

    Yes I agree put all those white collar politicians in prison, only problem is that people like you will protect them, no matter how slimy they are. Just like you are doing here, you will the lick behind of the biggest shits, as long as they are protecting your thugs that you like to call "unions".

  • MNG||

    Yes Notsure, I live to protect white collar criminals.

    Jesus, you're deranged.

  • NotSure||

    Well yes, you are doing it right now ! That cow of a politician is as rotten as you get, no surprise you would defend her.

  • MNG||

    I'm defending this person therefore I must want to protect white collar prisoners.

    Yes, I see, it is pretty iron clad logic now that you mention it.

  • NotSure||

    Are you competing with white indian to win the stupid award ? I guess not, you are the guy that defends even the bed sheet legislation.

    You are very openly defending this criminal and she clearly is not in jail.

  • MNG||

    Again, of course I see your logic. I'm defending this person's interpretation of the initiative (though only to say it doesn't seem as bad as some here, that we don't have the entire text, and that it goes on all the time, as to whether it is "fair" imo I've actually said nothing), so therefore I would defend white collar prisoners. It's clear.

  • NotSure||

    Like I said, people like you will defend these criminals. Weasel word all you want, that politician is dirty and corrupt, that fact that she is on your side does not make her any less of a criminal.

  • MNG||

    She's a criminal because she said it would impact teachers and prison guards and that she stopped at mentioning the decrese defined benefit, failing to mention there could be, under proper market conditions and such, an equal or greater eventual yeild?

    Yeah, she's a regular Marilyn Manson! I can totally see how you would deduce that my defense of that means I would defend any and all white collar criminals. HONESTLY!

  • NotSure||

    Hey clown, read the article. I suppose when Bernie Madoff "failed to mention" certain things, I mean no harm done right ?
    The difference is that nobody defends Madoff, yet slimeballs like you defend your fellow slimeballs.

  • MNG||

    "The difference is that nobody defends Madoff"

    No, no, you just said that I DO!

    You're great fun, and of that I AM SURE!

  • NotSure||

    I did ? That is news to me. I said put all white collar criminals in jail, that includes Madoff and that bitch, you do not, Had Madoff been a union funnel, what would your excuse be ? The same weasel words you are doing right here.

  • MNG||

    MNG|2.20.12 @ 3:35PM|#
    "The difference is that nobody defends Madoff"

    No, no, you just said that I DO!

    NotSure|2.20.12 @ 3:47PM|#
    I did ? That is news to me.

    NotSure|2.20.12 @ 3:22PM|#
    Like I said, people like you will defend these criminals.

    Hint: read the time stamps, champ!

  • NotSure||

    I know what I said, I don't defend white criminals, whoever they are, you defend them when they are pro union. Thats what exactly what I said. If Madoff is pro union who would find a way to defend him.

  • NotSure||

    Well yes, you are doing it right now ! That cow of a politician is as rotten as you get, no surprise you would defend her.

  • Bingo||

    I think the problem with our justice system is that it is too focused on being punitive toward the perp instead of compensating the victim. If we lock petty thieves in with violent criminals and rapists we are only contributing toward a cycle of more violent criminal behavior.

    And yes, in your outrageous example of a guy committing fraud on kids with cancer (I'm honestly not even sure what you mean by that) if he isn't physically harming people we shouldn't be locking him in a cage. We should be finding a way to get the cancer kids some redress. Maybe, MAYBE, as a way to deal with repeat offenders, imprisonment might be the proper way, but it shouldn't be the first tool we use.

  • Bingo||

    wow did I misreply, this is directed and MNG below

  • Bingo||

    I think the important thing in that circumstance isn't punishing the perp but redressing the victims. If we are going to lock people in cages it should be because they pose a physical danger to other people.

    Note that this applies to burglars and other petty thieves, not just white-collar criminals.

  • MNG||

    Really? You can't think of non-dangerous crimes that are so morally abhorrent they deserve incarceration?

    How about a guy who goes around committing fraud on kids with cancer or what not. Look, coercion is bad, but it's not the only or worst bad thing imaginable.

  • Bingo||

    I think the problem with our justice system is that it is too focused on being punitive toward the perp instead of compensating the victim. If we lock petty thieves in with violent criminals and rapists we are only contributing toward a cycle of more violent criminal behavior.

    And yes, in your outrageous example of a guy committing fraud on kids with cancer (I'm honestly not even sure what you mean by that) if he isn't physically harming people we shouldn't be locking him in a cage. We should be finding a way to get the cancer kids some redress. Maybe, MAYBE, as a way to deal with repeat offenders, imprisonment might be the proper way, but it shouldn't be the first tool we use.

  • MNG||

    I don't agree with you on the principle that "physical harm to persons" should be THE criteria in deciding who gets prison and who doesn't, but I agree with your overall sentiment that far fewer people should get prison than currently do.

  • MNG||

    "Likewise, we expect state attorney generals, who are the head of California’s "Justice" Department after all, to provide fair title and summaries of all initiatives that are submitted to that office—even ones the AG personally doesn’t like."

    WTF? This is always a political football, how the initiative will be worded. There is no way to satsify all parties here, ever.

    What's amazing to me is that this article goes on at length about the wording, but doesn't seem to have a link to it. Maybe this author is not being fair in his summary of Harris' summary...

  • MNG||

    "“Reduces pensions for public employees.” That’s flat-out wrong."

    From the way folks here, who are gleeful about any reductions in government spending in general and public employee compensation in particular, are so supportive of the measure, I'm betting it's not "flat out wrong."

  • ||

    Cry wolf.

  • Jeffersonian||

    This is always a political football, how the initiative will be worded. There is no way to satsify all parties here, ever.

    So why not go full goon and hand the writing of the summary off to the public unions' general councils?

  • MNG||

    My point is that one side or both is always unhappy with this, no matter what is done they are going to see it the way you just described...

    There's tons of lawsuits filed and argued after initiatives pass saying "but the title and summary were misleading!!!!" Bias, as usual, is often in the eye of the beholder as much as anything.

    I also find it amazing that when it comes to consumer ,matters and campaign ads libertarians like to scoff at the idea that will be easily fooled by this kind of thing, but here, different story. Of course here we have: TEH UNIONZ!!!!

  • ||

    My point is that one side or both is always unhappy with this,

    The pubsec leeches would be unhappy with a fair description of the proposal, so this observation advances the conversation . . . not at all.

  • MNG||

    Yes RC, I'm betting the way you would choose to describe it would be the fair way...

  • ||

    As a professional obfuscator, I acknowledge my ability to bend the language, but also retain the ability to recognize what is fair. I couldn't give good service to my client otherwise.

    I could draft a fair description, but, regardless, I note you haven't denied that the pubsec leeches would oppose any fair description.

  • MNG||

    "I note you haven't denied"

    Which, in your world of logic, means I must therefore acknowledge...Yeah, I get it RC...

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    The pubsec leeches would be unhappy with a fair description of the proposal, so this observation advances the conversation . . . not at all.

    The evasive wheedlers are going to come out and say that there is no such thing as "fair" or "objective", therefore all rank partisanship is not only permissible but GREAT!

    I do believe that political leaders, especially state AGs, have an obligation to the public first, but most of them pledge their fidelity to their party.

  • MNG||

    If the AG doesn't write a description you think is fair you could always follow them around urging people not to talk to them...

  • Jeffersonian||

    I know what you said, Mange. I also know you.

    One doesn't pursue a ballot intiative without some expectation of success. If the ballot title and language are so skewed as to make the previously-optimistic sponsors simply drop their efforts, that tells you how one-sided the language was.

    But by all means, Mange, keep stooging for the unions. The rest of the nation needs a good bad example, and California is definitely in the running.

  • MNG||

    In my younger days my main cause was fighting affirmative action. I volunteered for Ward Connerly's initiative drives. I still believe in it strongly.

    But every one of them that passed or didn't was the target of a later lawsuit saying the wording was "unfair." No wording is going to seem fair to partisans, the bias is in them.

  • ||

    How is it that we don't agree on this, MNG? Aren't we both saying that no wording is going to seem fair to [union] partisans, the bias is in them?

  • ||

    No wording is going to seem fair to partisans, the bias is in them.

    I see we agree that the pubsec leeches will oppose any language that isn't (strongly) slanted in their favor. Glad we can put that to bed.

  • MNG||

    "I don't have the language in front of me"

    And yet you rage against it?

  • MNG||

    Lord, I can't caricature you fast enough RC!

    @ 2:48

  • Jeffersonian||

    Like I said, Mange, some see that inevitable bias as a challenge to asymptotically approach neutrality. Others see it as license to abandon the effort entirely.

    I think we both know which way CA's AG is going, no?

  • MNG||

    Sigh.

    OK, what would be the "fair" way to describe it?

  • Jeffersonian||

    I don't have the language in front of me, but obviously neutral language would not have driven the initiative's proponents from the effort.

    I'm trying to recall the ballot measure here a few years ago, but our SoS, Robin Carnahan, so laughably slanted the ballot language that the measure was easily defeated. Why else do you think the port side has a Secretary of State project in the works?

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    This editorial is obviously opposed to what the AG did here, but he points out that the kind of partiality in which she engaged is actually against the law in California.

    Of course, I am sure the AG's office is right on this...

  • MNG||

    Whoops, this should be here!

    "I don't have the language in front of me"

    And yet you rage against it?

  • Jeffersonian||

    And yet you rage against it?

    You are quite tiresome, Mange.

    Will you agree that the initiative's proponents would not have proceeded if they knew their cause was lost?

    Now, since the answer to that is obviously in the affirmative, why did they drop a cause that A - they supported and B - they believed had a chance at passage once the AG's summary was released?

  • MNG||

    Wait a second Jeffersonian. I'm tiresome to point out that maybe we should not rage against something as being unfair when we don't have the text in front of us?

    "Will you agree that the initiative's proponents would not have proceeded if they knew their cause was lost?"

    Dude, I've worked on initiatives. There's many possible reasons a group pushing one pulls it, many of which might have had nothing to do with the AG's language. It's likely they might have just pinned the political blame on that. It is what political orgs do you know?

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    You are quite tiresome, Mange.

    Like I said, you could stop feeding it.

  • MNG||

    Don't sit with him! Don't sit with him!

    Sit with me!

  • ||

    I also find it amazing that when it comes to consumer ,matters and campaign ads libertarians like to scoff at the idea that will be easily fooled by this kind of thing, but here, different story.

    1. There's no opportunity for rebuttal of similar stature in this case.

    2. People are much shrewder dealing with things that cost them, personally, money than they are with their votes.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    Jeffersonian, I wouldn't reply to it, if I were you. It isn't capable of a decent discussion.

  • MNG||

    You have to love Blue Moon. He admitted the other day that I hurt his feelings so he now follows me around from post to post urging people not to talk with me. It's like someone never left junior high.

    What a sad life you lead buddy.

  • Tman||

    What a sad life you lead buddy.

    Says the guy who trolls H&R comments section looking to pick nits in order to boost his self esteem.

    Pot, you have the Kettle on line two....

  • MNG||

    Tman
    I realize to right-wingers like yourself disagreement=trolling. It's important to keep in the echo chamber where everyone agrees with you and accepts the axioms that keep you feeling warm and righteous.

  • Tman||

    "Right wingers such as yourself"?

    False.

    It's important to keep in the echo chamber where everyone agrees with you and accepts the axioms that keep you feeling warm and righteous.

    Well, actually Rev Blue and I disagreed vehemently about the Ron Bailey contraception posts and we had some great discussions about it. That's what happens on these pages when people unlike yourself don't walk in and throw around straw men and ad hominems to make their argument sound better.

    You claim to represent the other side of the argument but the fact is you never argue anything in good faith and the number of times you've had your ass handed to you on these pages is too numerous to count.

    No one shies away from a tough argument around here, which is what makes it so enjoyable. People like you and Tony exist to keep reminding us how not to argue.

    Thanks!

  • MNG||

    Disagreement is fine, as long as there exists agreement on the big stuff!

  • MNG||

    " the number of times you've had your ass handed to you on these pages is too numerous to count"

    I also can't get more amusement when a right-winger here tells me or one of the other left-wingers here "you lost all these arguments."

    Of course you think I did. I bet you've never seen a left-winger beat a right-winger in an argument..

  • Tman||

    The problem mingey is that I'm not a "right winger".

    And you do get your ass handed to you all the time. It's happened twice in this thread already.

    What I find hilarious is your "internet tuff guy" approach, calling people pussies and such.

    It's so cute!

  • MNG||

    "And you do get your ass handed to you all the time. It's happened twice in this thread already."

    I'm sure you think that, honestly (kisses to Rev. Blue) I do.

  • ||

    I love how if we disagree with you or are against pubsec unions, that means we are right-wingers.

  • MNG||

    Hating public unions = right wing. That you fake libertarians agree with them is another matter entirely.

  • Apogee||

    So FDR was right wing?

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    Having it in the filter has exponentially increased my happiness on this board.

  • MNG||

    lol, that's why you keep posting to me.

    What a sad man. You lil' feelings hurt?

  • ||

    Here's teh dirty little secret about why the pubsec unions are opposed to this kind of reform, which creates defined-contribution retirement for new employees:

    Those defined-benefit plans create vast pools of assets managed, at least in part by . . . the pubsec unions.

    Its got nothing to do with assuring retirement for their members. They know as well as anyone that their members are all-caps FUCKED in the outyears. But, managing and skimming from a giant pool of assets is very very good indeed for union honchos. Ergo . . . .

  • Jeffersonian||

    And, just by complete coincidence, the same union bosses that are lined up for that sweet pension skim are the same ones who pass out the campaign donations, a lovely postive-feedback loop.

    Until you realize that the one characteristic about positive feedback loops is that they all eventually destroy the processes to which they are connected.

  • Jerryskids||

    This is soooo obviously a Libutard attack on this fine upstanding public servant!

    I mean, the author is always ranting about accountability and transparency in government as if "we the people" have any rights or responsibilities as loyal subjects of our government to have any input on what that government does.

    Besides which, the author works for an organization actually named for a traitorous, womanizing, gun-owning white male who was known to consort with other slave-owning white males dedicated to overthrowing their government and who lived in a state founded by, named after and financed by a religious wing-nut.

    So - racist? Check. Sexist? Check. Religious nutjob? Check. Right-wing extremist? Check.

    Just like Hitler!!!!

    We can ignore this guy.

  • ||

    Who are you even talking about here? Certainly not Greenhut, who writes for the Franklin center.

  • MNG||

    "The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, in its analysis, argued that the initiatives wouldn’t have achieved savings for many years."

    So there would be savings, eh? And yet it's "falt out wrong" to suggest this would "reduce public employee pensions", I mean, it's DISHONEST to say that.

    Sheesh.

  • ||

    It is flat out wrong to say that putting new employees in a defined contribution plan will reduce public employee pensions.

    Flat. Out. Wrong.

  • MNG||

    So it will save money but not reduce anything paid out.

    Did you run the numbers for Obama's health plan for him?

  • ||

    Lemme help you out, MNG.

    For every person in the pension plan, the state will pay a pension.

    Reducing the number of people in the pension plan, by putting new employees in a defined contribution plan, reduces the number of people for which the state will pay a pension.

    Thus, the state saves money, well into the future, by "closing" its pension plan to new employees.

    Existing employees, however, do not have their pensions affected at all. Hence, it is flat out wrong to say that their pensions would be reduced.

    Clear enough for you, yet?

  • ||

    Notice he gives no response to you since you clearly laid it out in terms a 10 y/o could understand.

  • Apogee||

    Yes, MNG doesn't respond well to arguments that lack an emotion or insult so as to create a distraction rather than a response.

  • Jeffersonian||

    The payouts will depend on how each individual employee invests his defined contribution, no? IOW, if he invests well and wisely, the payout to the recipient may well increase.

    Yet the AG chose to only point to the decreasing payout from the defined benefit plan. Dishonest.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    Dishonest.

    Oh, now you went and did it. There is no such thing as "honesty" in MNG's world.

  • MNG||

    Feel this man's butthurt!

  • MNG||

    "Yet the AG chose to only point to the decreasing payout from the defined benefit plan."

    See, when you tickle out claims of bias enough here is what you eventually get.

    So the AG is not being wrong or dishonest to say there is going to be a decrease-if you look at the decreasing payout from the defined benefit plan. But the "flat out wrongness" of her language is that she should take a broader view and say blah, blah, blah.

    See how this "blatant, obvious dishonesty" is getting stretched the more we tease it out?

  • Jeffersonian||

    If the language had also mentioned that the decreasing payout from the pension plan would be offset by payouts from each individual's defined-contribution plan, then I could see your point. But the AG never mentions that, only that pension payouts will go down, leaving the distinct impression that retirees will invariably be left worse off. That isn't true.

    Like I said, one-sided, slanted, biased, dishonest. And that goes for those defending her, too.

  • MNG||

    Like I said, this is usually what you get when people speak of bias. We've travelled from "flat out wrong" to "didn't take the story far enough."

  • Jeffersonian||

    If you examine the wording in the piece above, you'll see what the AG did. The title she provided was "Reduces pensions for public employees."

    That, Mange, is a flat-out lie. Those already in the system would not see their pensions reduced at all. Only in the aggregate will overall pension plan outlays dwindle, but not to any particular recipient. The language chosen is ambiguous, but clearly intended to leave the impression that individuals in the pension system will be left high and dry.

    Dishonest, lying.

  • MNG||

    Jeff! Do you not see you've answered yourself for me?

    "Only in the aggregate will overall pension plan outlays dwindle, but not to any particular recipient."

    You admit it's a reasonable interpretation to see benefits cut (dwindle) if you focus on the pension plan outlays. Your claim of "flat out lying" now rests on the idea that she should have had a broader focus.

    And THAT is "flat out lying?" WTF?

  • Jeffersonian||

    You admit it's a reasonable interpretation to see benefits cut (dwindle) if you focus on the pension plan outlays.

    No, the use of the word "pensions" (as I point out below) is the lie. Outlays from the plan will decrease, but the wording's primary intent is to convey the inaccurate idea that individuals will see their benefits decrease.

    Sure, the initiative's proponents could launch a campaign to overcome this mendacious wording, but why should they have to?

    Slanted, biased.

  • MNG||

    "the wording's primary intent is to convey the inaccurate idea that individuals will see their benefits decrease"

    But it's certainly true that, for future employees, the defined benefit of their individual pensions will decrease (as you said "dwindle"), right?

  • MNG||

    A (D) did it, so I don't really care.

  • MNG||

    Ah, and now we see the last resort of the scoundrel...

  • anotheranon||

    MNG is a rapist of goats!

    (See, by leaving out the "not", it wasn't that I said something wrong. I just didn't take the story far enough. There is nothing dishonest or even incorrect about calling you a rapist of goats.)

  • MNG||

    My GOD you are clever!

    Imagine what you could do if you knew wtf I was arguing!

  • MJ||

    "So the AG is not being wrong or dishonest to say there is going to be a decrease-if you look at the decreasing payout from the defined benefit plan."

    Yeah, and Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Anakin Skywalker, if you look at it the right way.

  • Almanian||

    Jesus FUCKING Christ, who got this MuNG all over everything! Now this thread is RUINED!

  • MNG||

    Waaa, someone I disagree with! I've been trying all day not to come across something I disagree with and this guy came along and ruined it!

    Jesus, what a pussy.

  • NotSure||

    Anytime unions are mentioned, the cunt shows up. His daddy was in a union, and since daddy is infallible, there is no union action he will not defend, no matter how rotten it is.

  • MNG||

    Oooh, I like the psychologizing the best! Don't accept any second rate stalkers!

  • NotSure||

    Well can you explain your love of unions then ? Whats a second rate stalker, when we have a first class union groupie such as yourself.

  • MNG||

    "Well can you explain your love of unions then?"

    Dude, you're mildly retarded, but the stalking should have tipped that off.

    Not only have I made no defense of unions here, I've even criticized them and suggested our pols should stand up to them more.

    What I HAVE been arguing is

    1. It's silly to denounce this as unfair when, well, none of us have the language in front of us

    2. Claims that ballot titles and summary are "unfair" are commonplace

    3. # 2 is likely because bias is often in the eye of the beholder.

    See, you actually have no idea what anyone is talking about. You've just seen me defend unions in the past, think I'm doing so here, and so: RAGE!!!!

    I think you do provide this very valuable service: you demonstrate how deranged people become when they become right wing partisans. They argue like Hannity or something.

  • NotSure||

    You made no defense of unions here ? You believe the crap you write or do you are serious memory loss disorder ?

  • MNG||

    Can you provide any defense of unions I made from this thread?

    And if you can't, will you say "I'm wrong, sorry man?"

    I doubt it, but hey, even slow people have integrity sometimes.

  • NotSure||

    "Look, I realize that the union represents them and it's actually their legal duty to try to do the best by them they can. So I don't fault them for fighting every cut or change they don't want."

    Your words, what weasel words are you going to use that this is not union defense, if this is not then nothing is. You gonna say sorry now ?

  • MNG||

    The whole thing:

    "It's insane for anyone getting taxpayer dollars to not realize that in hard times, and hell even in some good times, that the taxpayers might want to give less of their dollars.

    Look, I realize that the union represents them and it's actually their legal duty to try to do the best by them they can. So I don't fault them for fighting every cut or change they don't want. But the pols and administrators don't have to agree with them."

    So saying "I can't blame them for pushing against these cuts, but the cuts should be made" is "defending the union?"

    NOW we're gonna see some weasel words!

  • NotSure||

    Nope you already did that right now. Yes it is defending the union, their actions are indefensible as are the politicians in their pockets.

    Please apologise, oh wait that would assume you know what the word means.

    Please amuse everyone here, keep on pretending you are not defending the unions, you are merely being the objective arbiter of truth.

  • MNG||

    Like I said, if for you "I don't blame the unions for pushing for what they can get but the pols should cut them off" is "defending the union" then I don't know what else to say..

  • NotSure||

    That really is pro union, what really should be said: "I do blame the unions for having this politician in their pocket".

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    See, that is a problem. Misleading and dishonest ballot language is to be fought against no matter what form it takes or who is benefits. The AG has an obligation, both to her own profession and under California law, to write impartial ballot language, and she failed to do so. She isn't serving the public here.

  • ||

    Good point.

    I take back what I said about you, Mr. Blue.

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    Hey I made a friend today.

    Thanks!

  • MNG||

    No, sit with me, not him!

    He's DISHONEST!

  • ||

    Mr. Blue, would it be fair and balanced to say that Mr. MNG's is more "bread and butter in the here and now and not pie in the sky in the bye and bye" than he is SEIU suck-up?

  • Rev. Blue Moon ||

    He certainly is no friend to immigrants, so I think that would be fair.

  • MNG||

    Oh no, are you accusing me of racism?

    I guess I should follow you around urging people not to speak to you!!!

  • MNG||

    Because I never accuse libertarians of being racists, never !

  • ||

    I'm not sure what immigration has to do with "race." I wasn't aware that "Mexican" was a "race" in the first place.

  • MNG||

    "Existing employees, however, do not have their pensions affected at all. Hence, it is flat out wrong to say that their pensions would be reduced."

    Are'nt you supposed to be a lawyer? And aren't they supposed to be very careful readers of text?

    The line that the author finds so offensive does not limit itself to "existing" public employees.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Use of the word "pensions" (plural) makes the title a lie. If the AG had said "pension system" or something clear to point out that it wasn't individual benefits that were declining, but the number of recipients from the pension plan, that was causing the reduction, it would have been honest and fairly neutral (at least that part). As it is, the passage is false and misleading.

  • MNG||

    Look, Jeff, I see your point. I think your description is a good one, maybe better than the AG's. My point is that hers is hardly as egregious as "everyone was agreeing" a half hour ago, it's boiled down to a single letter for you now, for example. This may not be a perfect description, but I think it's far from "flat out wrong," a "lie" and criminal as many here have suggested.

    It's plain what she was getting at, you said it yourself: "Only in the aggregate will overall pension plan outlays dwindle"

  • Jeffersonian||

    She wasn't getting at anything of the sort. By saying what she did, the implication is clear and is so clumsy that no reasonable person would conclude that the reduction is only in the aggregate, since no mention of the aggregate is made. The only mention made is of "employees" whose "pensions" will be "reduce[d]."

    It's like a CEO who would email the company's employees saying there will be a 10% pay raise this year, leaving out the salient detail that his compensation will go up 300% and everyone else gets nothing (but the overall outlay averages to 10% of payroll). Technically true, but a construction no reasonable person would make.

    And the initiative's proponents have to overcome this mendacity...why?

  • MNG||

    Because fuck you, that's why. Go, Team Blue!

  • MNG||

    " By saying what she did, the implication is clear and is so clumsy that no reasonable person would conclude that the reduction is only in the aggregate"

    But wait! Don't even you admit that for future public employees the defined amount their individual pensions recieve will decrease?

  • MNG||

    I mean, maybe she was referring to that?

  • Jeffersonian||

    My understanding is that future public employees would have a defined-contribution plan like a 401(k), not a defined benefit plan like a pension. So there won't be a pension benefit to decrease.

    And if she was talking about future employees, why didn't she say "future employees" and not the more general "employees?"

    Because she meant to deceive.

  • Rev. Blue Mooon||

    And of course the unnecessary invocation of teachers and nurses doesn't speak well of her dishonesty either.

  • MNG||

    Again, how is it "dishonest" to say this will impact those it certainly will?

  • MNG||

    What you mean is "it's not right for her to mention politically popular groups that will be impacted."

    Again, you have a strange, strange view of what is "dishonest."

  • ||

    Mr. Blue, methinks that Mr. MNG is much more Samuel Gompers than he is Richard Trumpka.

  • Jeffersonian||

    It doesn't impact anyone currently in the plan. Not one bit. Saying so is dishonest.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Since when have half-truths become a substitute for honesty?

  • Rev. Blue Mooon||

    Yes, why not say "DMV employees "? We know why.

  • Ring Lardner||

    "Shut up," he explained.

  • ||

    Again, how is it "dishonest" to say this will impact those it certainly will?

    First, of course, its dishonest because it won't impact current teachers, etc.

    Leaving that aside, while it may not be technically a misrepresentation, it is certainly unfair to trot out the most popular pubsecs. And don't you want your AG to be fair and impartial?

  • ||

    Are'nt you supposed to be a lawyer? And aren't they supposed to be very careful readers of text?

    We are. That's why, when she says "Reduces pensions for public employees", she is wrong.

    There is no pension for someone who is not yet a public employee. The only pensions that exist are those (vested) benefits for current employees. Those will not be affected at all.

    By saying "reduces pensions", she can only mean "reduces existing pensions", since those are the only pensions around to reduce.

    or, what Jeff said.

  • ||

    God Damn you can be fucking retarded sometimes. It was explained to you, more than once, that pensions being decreased is a flat out lie (here's a big hint if you are already in the system, your pensions aren't being touched).

    Making new hires put away for their own retirement (you know, like the rest of us plebes do) IS NOT TAKING from those new hires. That is Tony level bullshit and you are better than it MNG.

  • MNG||

    You haven't read my hundred posts above if you think I am better than that, or if you think I'm better than Tony.

  • Uvalduvalcuckoo||

    We got it... Let it go already

  • ||

    Why did the petition groups give up without a fight? Aren't there libel laws against making damaging and demonstrably false statements. If the official summary lies, then the writer should have their ass sued off.

    It would be interesting to have links to compare the official summary to the proposed text, I wonder what it would take to have standing to sue over the summary...

  • MNG||

    There are many possible reasons they might have given up, and it might have had little or nothing to do with the AG, but it would be a typical political thing to do to blame her for the withdrawal.

    They might have seen they were not going to meet the deadline regardless of anything; they might have seen it was not going to pass this year, etc., etc. I've worked on ballot initiatives and seen this happen. Of course a smart org is not going to say "we misorganized and don't think we are going to meet the deadline so we are withdrawing it."

  • ||

    Or maybe they figured Harris plus $100 million of union money = fixed like Wrestlmania. The unions have the Moolah, fabulous or not.

  • ||

    "There are many possible reasons why my arm feels like it's burning. Perhaps I was out in the sun too long yesterday at the beach. Perhaps I'm undergoing andropause and it's just a hot flash. Maybe I scuffed it against the wall on the way into this room. What, you think it's the fact that it's on fire? Don't be so simplistic."

  • Dr. Sam Johnson||

    He said the Attorney General's near.

  • Pimple Dick||

    This is like the shittiest chat room EVER!

  • MNG||

    ^spoofer

  • ||

    It hardly matters. The unions were going to go 'all in' on this intiative just as they did in 2005, when they spent $100 million to shut down Ahnald's initiatives. They just got it cheap this time, with the AG doing a no cost hit.

    I would not underestimate how long California can 'spend' it's weather and beautful coastline in order to keep kicking the can. The unions figure they can kick it to outside their lifetimes and I think they're likely right.

  • ||

    It is called the "JUST _US " system for a reason.

  • Almanian||

    See what I mean? Way to go, MuNG!

    I don't even know if I "disagree" with you - it's just that you go ON, and ON, and ON, and ON....and John's not even arguing with you!

    Take a breath - and your meds, you annoying child.

  • Almanian||

    So how's everybody BESIDES MuNG doing?

  • ||

    Now there is a chick that really seems to know what the deal is. Wow.

    www.Totally-Private.tk

  • Some Guy||

    So if she made objectively false statements on this, why can't she be thrown out of office and into jail, exactly?

  • Appal;achian Australian||

    Don't worry, every productive business, like mine, is doing its best to flee the state.

    (Ohio's not that bad, it turns out, and it's been a mild winter to boot.)

  • Appalachian Australian||

    Why does the attorney general get to write ballot language, anyway?

    Shouldn't voters just read through the amendment they're passing to find out if they want to vote yay or nay? Our constitution is already clogged with page after page of dreck. If anything, forcing voters to read it would prevent the constitution from bloating to the size of a telephone book.

  • Sevo||

    "If anything, forcing voters to read it would prevent the constitution from bloating to the size of a telephone book."

    While I'm an optimist, I'm not this optimistic.
    Plowing through the legalese of an amendment really isn't something most voters are likely to do; 'bout four or so dependent clauses is all I can take.
    Besides which, if the writer of the amendment sticks 'for the children' somewhere in the first couple of lines, a great number of people have been bought right there.

  • Sevo||

    Oh, and this is the reason I much prefer a republic to a democracy.

  • ||

    Given how our adversarial system works in other areas, I could see allowing the proponents of the measure to write the "pro" summary to prevent chicanery like this. Not sure how to get the "con" summary written by someone who opposes it, though; it's harder to identify opponents.

  • Sevo||

    Dunno where you live, but (amazingly!) the CA 'Voters Summary' (or some such) does a pretty good job of presenting both sides and identifying who is making the argument. And which organizations are supporting or opposing it.
    Certainly not a slam-dunk, but I'd call it required reading as opposed to the obfuscatory wording of the actual proposal(s).

  • jessicatian||

    very nice

  • sounds real good||

    Everyone knew what Kamala Harris was about, everyone knew she was a lousy DA for San Francisco and only cares for her own career. In California, this sort of knowledge reliably predicts the winner of any election.

  • Bart Gilbert||

    Welcome to California initiatives...a tool of the rich and powerful. There is no appeal to the Title and Summary or Fiscal Analysis. Is Kamala Harris really any different than her predecessors going back to Younger and the post revision petitions. At least she is prettier than the others.

  • JB||

    Kamala Harris is a cunt.

  • ||

    1st sentence in final paragraph. Please change the word "more" to "less."

  • ||

    1st sentence in final paragraph. Please change the word "more" to "less."

  • ||

    Tell me again why government workers need unions. After all, our resident progressives are always telling us that Big Goobermint is the source of fairness. Surely they wouldn't mistreat their own employees!

    Ah, wait. It's those evil fucking taxpayers that the unions have to fight, isn't it?

    So, the unions win again in CA. So, where is the money supposed to come from for these pensions? Or does asking a basic question like that make me a "union buster"?

  • ||

    According to MNG it means you are a right-winger.

  • ||

    Let us acknowledge the right for all workers to collective bargaining with the limitation that it is a right, but should not be a condition of employment. The results of collective bargaining are often to the detriment of the workers. The UAW got sweetheart deals, and management looking the other way when workers got less and less productive. Result? Check out the nearest lot for Hondas, Nissans and Toyotas, and check out Detroit's dismal streets or available manufacturing space here in Fenton, Missouri.

    The public sector is much the same in that the negotiators across the table from the unions are as corrupt, perhaps even more spineless, then those of the Big Three who gave away the store to the UAW. So let us seek legislation that would require public sector contracts be put to the vote of the taxpayers, just as the UAW contracts and member behavior were put to the vote of the car buyer. Unions' and management’s last best offers go on the ballot for a binding vote by the electorate. And, should we feel the politicians charged with representing us have made too generous an offer to the unions, we need only look down the ballot to find the opportunity to throw them out.

  • adam allen||

    They can block reform, but they won't be able to continue paying the benefits. CA will realize sooner rather than later that public employees aren't paid in votes.

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