Government Spending

What Politics Looks Like in a Union-Run World That Has Run Out of Money


What to do with all these "structural deficits" popping up all over? Get used to it, kids, if you haven't already: Politicians will look for each and every "revenue opportunity" possible to soak their subjects rather than exact any concessions to the public sector unions that are gobbling up ever-larger shares of government budgets. The latest example comes from labor leader-turned Los Angeles Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa:

Quit staring at my wife, mayor!

Villaraigosa decried the hurdles involved in raising city taxes during a discussion about the sources of the city's huge deficit, which will grow to nearly $700 million in July.

In an interview with National Public Radio published over the weekend, the two-thirds vote it takes to increase sales taxes was a top peeve: "California cities are constrained by various propositions which limit your ability to raise revenues," Villaraigosa told NPR's Guy Raz.

"You can't raise taxes," Raz replied.

"Without a two-thirds vote of the people, and so that revenue opportunities just are a lot more difficult to try to take advantage of," Villaraigosa said.

Strangely, Los Angeles County has a sales tax that is among the highest in the state (8.75 percent) chiefly because Villaraigosa himself campaigned for a half-cent increase in sales tax in 2008. […]

We're losing

Some might even say Villaraigosa's recently approved proposal to begin increasing Department of Water and Power fees six percent is somewhat of a tax increase. […]

Meanwhile, in the same interview, Villaraigosa said he's out of options for patching up the deficit. Despite calls for thousands of layoffs, department closures and other budget-tightening measures, the mayor seems to have thrown up his hands.

"There aren't a lot of options here," he said. "We have contracts with our employees that we have to abide by. So unless they agree to sharing in the sacrifice in these tough times, I won't have a lot of options."

On a related note, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert last week decried the "ruinous fiscal meltdown occurring in state after state, all across the country," which he rightly noted is "a story that is not getting nearly enough attention." Unmentioned, as usual, was the ridiculous increases in spending and future promises states made during the comparative good times of 2002-2007. This is what public policy, and the discussion thereof, is going to look like for the foreseeable future.

Top link via Jill Stewart's Twitter feed.

NEXT: Hooray For Libertarian-ish Centrists, the 42 Percent Solution to All That Ails Politics!

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  1. You can always file for bankruptcy Mr. Mayor.

    No, I’m not joking.

    1. That would fix the contract issue, but getting reelected might prove problematic. So where’s the downside?

  2. Here’s a true story: My small firm, which is in L.A. County but not L.A. City, got a letter from the City of Los Angeles demanding that we register and pay a tax for “doing business” in L.A. When I called to say we’re not in L.A. and don’t do business in L.A., I was told “doing business” means meeting with anyone within the City of Los Angeles for business purposes (including having lunch) more than 7 times during a year.

    Now, try as I might, I can’t find anything in the law about this seven meetings rule. But what does that matter if the city’s broke and desperate to shake down every business person they can hope to intimidate into paying them money?

    1. Write Mayor Tony to let him know you won’t be meeting clients in the City proper for business lunches any more, thus depriving Hizzoner of even that scrap of tax pelf.

      If they don’t want you doing business in LA, don’t fight it. I’m sure those County eateries will be glad to have your business.

      1. Well, the P.S. is even funnier (in an ex-P.F.C. Wintergreen kind of way). When I assured the revenue-generating bureaucrat on the phone that I had not had more than 7 meetings in L.A., he said “Oh, OK.”

        I guess his career in sales is going nowhere.

        1. I trust you haven’t been fitted with your GPS beacon yet?

          1. Oh, crap. Is that what that beeping sound is?

            1. Mr. Rabbit, you owe me a new key board – I spewed my drink on it based on that comment.

    2. I was told “doing business” means meeting with anyone within the City of Los Angeles for business purposes (including having lunch) more than 7 times during a year.

      Invite them to prove it.

      1. Oh, c’mon – that’s too easy. They’ll just get seven SEIU thugs to swear an affadavit that they met with you, and then YOU’LL have to prove that it didn’t happen. By the time you finish, your costs would have been far greater than paying the actual tax – which is precisely the idea.

  3. Nice alt-text. And true too. He’s totally checking out her seins.

    I’d have junk-punched him.

    1. Ha! How great would that have been! Imagine the headline:

      “Former LA Times Editor Punches Villaraigosa In The Plums”

    2. I probably should never meet Mrs. Welch. I’m trying to break the habit of leering at libertarian honeys.

    3. Be careful, he knows Vic Mackey.

  4. Matt, maybe your pink shirt and tie told the mayor she was just sitting next to you and not betrothed to you.

    1. That shirt is *red*, like my heart.

      1. I wonder who took that photo…?

        1. Someone who knows enough to document a sex offender when they see one making his move.

      2. It’s pink in the photo — bad color processing, or denial of gay clothing tastes? (NTTAWWT)

        You decide!

        1. More of a dark coral on my monitors, but it looks like the color fading you get with a flash in a dark room with a digital camera.

          1. I have a calibrated monitor, and the shirt looks red, but a bit towards the candy/pink end.

            More importantly though, wearing a red shirt with a black suit? And you normally dress well, Mr Welch.

            1. Aren’t British colors different, though?

              1. Heh. 🙂

              2. Yes, they are spelled colours.

            2. I do *not* normally dress well.

              1. At least you found a tie, and someone to tie it for you.

              2. You are normally dressed better than your opponents on Bloggerheads. But that might not be much of a compliment since most of them look like they just staggered in from a Edgar Allen Poe-level bender and are undergoing renal failure as they debate.

              3. I don’t want to sound all stalky/creepy, but didn’t you appear in the video of a D.C. party posted on here early this year, and weren’t you wearing a very nice checked pattern woolen coat?

              4. You dress like Karl Lagerfeld compared to Cavanaugh. But I guess that isn’t saying much.

                1. Yeah but has he perfected that metallic robot skull pressing through the forehead look?

                  1. A long chain of surfed references to your robot skull quip led me to the horriblsome discovery that Hardware has been released on Blu-Ray.

                    1. Dylan McDermott should be barred from any new media format.

                    2. He was on 147 episodes of The Practice. Think about that for a moment. Even if he was on the screen only 50% of the time of each 45 minute episode, that’s 55 hours of Dylan McDermott.

                      The thought chills you right down to the bone, doesn’t it?

                    3. Downright Lovecraftian. I’ll thank you not to mention it again, good sir!

      3. Careful, there, Matt… remember what happens to the redshirts in every episode…

  5. Same argument pols make up here on the other end of the West Coast. King County Sheriff Sue Rahr, in the wake of the foulest scandals about sheriff’s deputies, threw up her hands and said, essentially, “w-w-well whaddya want me to do about it? Their union contract, waaaanh!”

    Dumbasses. Who negotiated the contracts in the first place? Bet if it were your own money, you wouldn’t have such a hard time saying “no” to these parasites, wouldja?

  6. Matt, I’m going to say that look on your face is a grimace of pain, or possibly a snarl.

    These are, after all, the only appropriate expressions when confronted by the like of Villaraigosa, especially when he’s trying to look down your date’s dress.

    1. Funniest thing about that moment? Just that week, or even day, is when news hit that he was having sexytime with a hot Spanish-language TV gal, thus ending his marriage. I know the mayor a bit from my L.A. Times days (which were ongoing during this photo), and so lamely said something like “We’re pulling for you, mayor.” As evidenced here, he didn’t hear a word I said. Serves me right.

  7. You kind of look like you’re winding up to bite his arm off, Matt. What stopped you, dammit?

  8. We WISH the sales tax were 8.75%. It’s actually 9.75%, high enough that I’ve had a few small businesses suggest cash transactions to me.

    In 2008, I got a bill from the city of L.A. for more than $1000, because I had operated a business in my home in 2007 and not filed a city tax form. The irony was that all my 2007 freelance income actually came when I was living in Texas, since my time was occupied with cancer treatments once I came back to L.A. But they’d gotten notice from my CA state income tax filing that I was a freelancer and that was that–even though my income was way under the limit at which these taxes kick in if you’ve filed for an exemption. Now I dutifully report my tiny income each year and get a lovely license to stick on my refrigerator. Its only use if getting a business membership at Costco.

    1. They’ve been running that scam for a few years now, sending annual shivers through the spines of the freelance community. I am convinced that the whole point is to scare 1 writer in 100 to just send a check, since any time we’d ask they’d say something “oh, that was a misunderstanding.”

      1. Sales (collection) by intimidation. See my post of 2:48.

    2. I was just gonna say, that 8.75 is an old number, unfortunately. It’s even worse!

  9. “We have contracts with our employees that we have to abide by. So unless they agree to sharing in the sacrifice in these tough times, I won’t have a lot of options.”

    It’s a suicide pact.

  10. Wait, we can’t do anything about the assholes wrecking the economy because they have contractual obligations? This sounds vaguely familiar…

    90% tax on public sector union income!

  11. I heard we all get hot broads as part of this healthcare mandate.

    I know it’s necessary for my healthcare.

    Maybe I’ll actually use that line at the bar…’now that healthcare has passed you have to put out for me…Obama said so.’

    1. Sorry JB you have the roles confused. You may get F***ed but there won’t be any hot babes involved.

  12. If the public were smart. They would set the wheels spinning to bankrupt DWP within 2-3 months.
    Just think how much the taxpayer would save after restructuring !

  13. It will all come to a screeching halt when the “cash flow” runs OUT. Not to worry, Mayor. You can always give city employees IOUs.

    But before that occurs, your creditor will walk away from you. Geeee, let’s see…how can we do this now?

    “..There aren’t a lot of options here…” Really? And the Progressive, Socialist Band Played On.

  14. Ain’t it grand boys and girls. And just think, you’re failed policies are now nationwide.


  15. Here in Texas your daddy tells you “don’t spend more than you make”? Is the problem no one in California know who there daday is.

  16. Ms. Stewart:
    “Unmentioned, as usual, was the ridiculous increases in spending and future promises states made during the comparative good times of 2002-2007. ”

    Ah, yes…well, that’s because “The Golden Age” happened to coincide with the Administration of George W. Bush, so it’s not at all a surprise that this shall not, must not, be mentioned, is it?

    The Pelosi/Reid Congress was sworn in, and then “Good-bye to all that”.

    1. Oh Yes “Blame Bush” either you’re a fool or a troll The issue is bi-partisan, both sides have and continue to fleece the sheep.

  17. The sales tax rate in Los Angeles is 9.75 %, not 8.75 %, It was 8,25 % up until last April or May.

    I can drive 25 miles East and pay 8.25 %, which is what I’m doing more and more often.


  18. It seems rather obvious that our government(s) at all levels – federal,state, county, etc. – simply don’t care about what is happening to the economy.

    And here is why.

    Each decision maker figures the economic problems are temporary and will be fixed by others. Or fixed by some miraculous means not yet foreseen.

    So each senses that a crisis is the perfect time to grab as much revenue and power as possible. And spend it all. And spend any funds you have managed to borrow too.

    You do that and hold on to your turf and power until others somehow fix the economy.

    If the economy does come roaring back you have won. If not you blame others.

    This works until there is some sort of revolution. The odds of that are still very small. And if matters get that bad you tell the army to shoot people. So why worry?

    1. “The odds of that are still very small.”
      But they’re (the pols) doing their best to increase them.

  19. > New York Times columnist Bob Herbert last week decried the “ruinous fiscal meltdown occurring in state after state, all across the country,” …(snip)… Unmentioned, as usual, was the ridiculous increases in spending and future promises states made during the comparative good times of 2002-2007.

    Not ALL states are in trouble, and there is a notable difference between the degrees of trouble in the various ones which are. Perhaps instead of looking at the pocketbooks of the citizenry, they might consider looking at what it is that separates the trouble from the untroubled… NAWWW. Tax ’em up!!


  20. Hi all. Just remember, Delta’s ready when you are. Only, please leave the high-taxing, high-spending ways behind. We here in Jawja have a pretty decent state going, and we’d like to keep it that way.

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