Bloomberg Takes Aim at the Fiscal Horror Show of State Employee Salaries

California paying a state psychiatrist $822,000 in total compensation for 2011 is the eye-popping number central to a six-part series Bloomberg is publishing to highlight “America’s Great State Payroll Giveaway.”

The series began yesterday with an overview of the various problems they’ll be exploring. Beyond the politics that led to the high wages, they’re analyzing how public pension fund managers cash in (even as pension systems are crashing), retirement spiking extravaganzas, and the many, many ways that public sector employees have managed to game the system to rake in even more bucks even as the economy tanked.

The series intends to explore more than just California, but their graph below does a very good job showing why they’re starting with the Golden State:

For those who have lived in California for the past five or so years and have been paying attention to the public employee pay system, much of the information probably isn’t new, but it is a helpful catalog of every disastrous public policy choice that led the Golden State to its own fiscal cliff. The crazy psychiatrist pay is the outcome of a state bidding war between agencies resulting from a ruling that the state needed to improve inmate care. Bloomberg’s story today details the circumstances that led to a place where a doctor who was making $90.000 for six months of work in 2006 is making nearly 10 times that amount now. Tuesday’s story delved into the crazy California Highway Patrol pay system that ultimately resulted in escalating raises for state officers. (The story doesn’t delve as much into how the CHP system bounced back to municipalities with local police unions demanding raises in order to “stay competitive” in recruiting, but Bloomberg will be focusing on law enforcement pay on Monday and mentions how municipalities mimicking the CHP's pension system have contributed to their fiscal troubles.)

The timing of the series coincides well with an announcement yesterday that San Bernardino County will be shutting down the court at my own stomping grounds in Barstow, Calif., as part of state cutbacks. Barstow is a small town in the middle of the Mojave Desert. The closest town to them is Victorville, 30 miles away, which is where most of the criminal and family cases will be heading.  But many civil cases will be heading to San Bernardino or Rancho Cucamonga, which are about 70 miles away. It’s even worse for folks out in Baker and Needles, small desert towns close to the state border. They may have to drive around 200 miles to handle any legal issues. I hope they aren’t expecting those folks to show up for jury duty.

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.

  • iggy||

    I've seen California progressives argue that their states fiscal condition isn't the result of too much spending or too much regulation, it's because their property taxes are too low.

    California's property taxes are 14th in the country. They're in the top five in virtually every other tax, including sales tax, gas tax and income tax, but the one tax that puts them just outside the top ten is the reason that they have no money.

  • Pro Libertate||

    From each according to his ability, to each according to his need. That's the inevitable end to this progression.

  • anon||

    But what if I need to be left the fuck alone?

  • Hugh Akston||

    You'll be declared unmutual and be relocated to San Bernardino.

  • nicole||

    And my ability is to leave you the fuck alone.

    Amazing how that works out!

  • Pro Libertate||

    That's fine. Those who righteously redistribute wealth will simply leave you alone and give you nothing.

  • anon||

    Those who righteously redistribute wealth will simply leave you alone and give you nothing.

    If only that were actually true...

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, no, they'll have camps where people who want to be left alone will be allowed to live, free from fattening diets and provided with free reeducation.

  • ||

    Something about Iron Laws and how this all ends with a shit-ton of needy, incapable people seems appropriate.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    California's pubsec has been blaming Prop 13 for everything since before the ink was even dry from the Governor's signature; no reason for them to try something different.

  • ||

    The thing is, Prop 13 causes them to assess new home sales super high to compensate for the Prop 13-limited assessments of older sales. So anybody who just bought a house gets fucked.

  • BakedPenguin||

    That's okay, they'll soon have several programs in place to help new home buyers. Assuming they don't already.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    The pubsec considers that a Feature not a bug.

  • Brian D||

    That and they're not taxing the rich enough.

  • dinkster||

    The super majority will quickly fix that discrepancy, right before they hammer through an exodus tax. Then the cornucopia will flow.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    I've seen California progressives argue that their states fiscal condition isn't the result of too much spending or too much regulation, it's because their property taxes are too low.

    In a sane world, allowing property tax rates to go through the roof would have a deflationary effect on home prices, since people would begin looking at their property tax bill before purchasing a house.

    Since this is California, however, sanity is not the order of the day.

  • ||

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: if we were truly able to see the corruption, graft, bribery, and cronyism within the government, even those of us who expect it to be appalling would be appalled at how much we underestimated how appalling the appalling corruption, graft, bribery, and cronyism is. I'd bet a lot of money it's beyond even our wildest dreams.

  • nicole||

    But not beyond SF's wildest dreams, right? So, we've been inoculated.

  • ||

    NutraSweet is only inoculated against hepatitis. Not this. I think you might want to pay a visit to the doctor, nicole.

  • ||

    It's not lupus. Sigh, it's never lupus...

  • anon||

    I dunno, I've had some pretty wild dreams involving unicorns and lemurs.

  • ||

    Go on...

  • Pagan Priestess||

    See I wish I had dreams with unicorns and lemurs, instead I get blue-skinned Anime villains...

  • ||

  • Pagan Priestess||

    Anyone that uses auto tune is a villain by definition..

  • ||

    What are you talking about? There are lots of sectors in the world where people almost universally retire as millionaires, despite earning $200k/year or less. I can't name any outside of elected officials, but I'm sure there's one or two others... somewhere.

  • anon||

    cocaine dealer?

  • Pagan Priestess||

    Nope, not if they're smart. I know a coke dealer who made an insane amount of money in high school and college. He has an ordinary job and an ordinary lifestyle (mostly) and piles and piles of cash. He works the job as a cover, because eventually the IRS and cops get suspicious when the jobless bloke never has a shortage of cash.

  • Killazontherun||

    I knew a flower shop owner who pretty much did the same thing as you describe.

  • Pagan Priestess||

    Are those the same sectors that retire at age 50?

  • ||

    With 80+% of their best year's salary and gold-plated health benefits! Lots of private companies offer that deal, right?

  • NoVAHockey||

    I think it's more cronyism that anything else. Not discounting fraud and graft, but that's hard work compared to cronyism.

  • GILMORE||

    if we were truly able to see the corruption, graft, bribery, and cronyism within the government, even those of us who expect it to be appalling would be appalled at how much we underestimated how appalling the appalling corruption

    3 years ago I made my first and only visit to the state Capitol in Albany, to cover a public hearing on the "2009 Budget and Tax Reform"

    I was there for a specific reason, but had to sit through 2 days of hours and hours of unrelated BS. Legislators hardly even bothered attending, with only one or two popping in at a time to politely pretend to listen to some constituent's griefs...

    ...then the room filled, the stage was covered in chairs, all the senior members of both parties showed up, the politicians stood at attention, smiling proudly...

    and in walked the Union bosses

    Who proceeded to dictate what areas of the budget should be amended to ensure that their own slice of the pie not be affected one iota - nay! INCREASED (despite fiscal crisis) They helpfully 'suggested' a few "shovel ready" areas for new spending, and reminded their minions that next year was election time...

    When they were done, state comptroller, Sheldon Silver, more or less got on his knees and blessed them for sharing their wisdom, promised his undying love and loyalty, and would they like anything else?

    In short = I was unprepared for how insufficient my existing cynicism was.

  • KDN||

    Shelly's the Speaker, not the comptroller. Therefore, your whole story must be an anti-union fabrication.

  • Invisible Finger||

    This is why I'd rather write a check to every (property) taxing body rather than one aggregate check to the county. I would love to withhold the library district portion of my tax bill - and if it wasn't aggregated I would. I would probably withhold the "police and fire pension shortfall" portion too, but I assume they'd have more effective collection processes.

    I know only 5% read their damn bills, which is part of the problem. They "hide" the graft out in the open - they're basically mocking the whole point of democracy while they're championing in. The corrupt know a stupid populace will vote as they're told.

  • ||

    The top five of that list tells the story.

    California
    New York
    New Jersey
    Illinois
    Michigan

  • Pro Libertate||

    Fucking libertarian strongholds at it again. Is there no end to their perfidy?

  • PapayaSF||

    I'm sure it's also the fault of taxes being too low, deregulation, and excessive military spending.

  • RPR2||

    those fat defined benefit pensions current cash value represents a lot of untaxed wealth.

  • ||

    California paying a state psychiatrist $822,000 in total compensation for 2011

    Wow! That's certainly not Groovy Money; though I would be curious as to how this breaks down and itemized.

    Anacreon, is this you?! -D)

  • Pagan Priestess||

    His patients were really REALLY crazy?

  • Tonio||

    Well, they do have that weapons-grade crazy in California.

  • Invisible Finger||

    Look at where that guy got his degree - some university in Afghanistan! I wonder what their on-line courses are like.

  • ||

    OT: I know Primate Wednesday isn't a real thing, but holy fuck, the Ikea monkey's owner is crazy as shit.

    “I had gone to Ikea before and they had me escorted out and didn’t want the monkey in…because they said they had a no pet provision, even though I said he was not a pet , he was my child,” said Nakhuda, who obtained Darwin around five months ago from a close friend who is an exotic pet breeder.
    ...
    “What I want to know is whose back he’s living off?” Nakhuda said, explaining that Darwin’s monkey breed lives off their mothers’ backs for the first year. “I was willing to give my back to that monkey. Who is giving her back to Darwin? He’s in a cage and he’s never been caged by me.”

  • Tonio||

    Perhaps crazy, perhaps a perfectly sane bullshitter. I don't know this woman, but from where I'm sitting it sounds like she's playing the victim card.

    He’s in a cage and he’s never been caged by me.

    Except TFA that I read said he was in a crate in the car and somehow managed to open it from the inside.

    So, bullshit.

  • GILMORE||

    I note the psychological similarities between posessive monkey-coddlers....and paternalistic nanny-stater's = they imprison us *with their love*, and become distraught with the idea we might be capable of life without them

  • dinkster||

  • GILMORE||

    they’re analyzing how public pension fund managers cash in (even as pension systems are crashing)

    What~! preposterous...

    http://www.reuters.com/article.....8W20121009

    ....retirement spiking extravaganzas...

    But...public workers are totally more trustworthy and honest than those greedy fat cat wall st bankers...?!

    http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news.....83463.html

    ...and the many, many ways that public sector employees have managed to game the system ...

    ...

    I had more links to the everyday thievery of NY state public workers, but hit my limit already. Oppressed! I'm being oppressed!

    I note: not one "Occupy" person I met last year in downtown manhattan had ever heard any one example of this sort of thing, and when confronted with the prospect that perhaps "more taxes" actually led only to "more corruption and waste", nevertheless asserted it was 'better to be wasted by public organizations than 'hoarded' by teh evils Financials people'

    As though the "Port Authority" is 'public'

  • egisterin||

    San Bernardino County is too big. (It's larger than each of the nine smallest states.)

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement