Liberating Occupied California

Yesterday a GFCer wrote me to encourage immediate action on pension reform. In response I wrote,

We don’t expect pension reform to happen any time soon and certainly not before OPEB [retiree health insurance subsidies] reform, which we will attempt in 2021 with at best 50/50 odds of success.

That doesn’t mean we aren’t working on pension reform. Soon you will read more in that regard. But as I’ve learned since the legislature removed me from the CalSTRS board simply for questioning the fund’s pension math, liberating California from domination by government employee unions is a task not unlike liberating Europe from occupation in WW2. Just as the liberation of Europe began with the liberation of North Africa, the liberation of California must begin with smaller steps.

Government employee unions began their occupation of California in 1968 under legislation signed by Ronald Reagan and extended it under legislation signed in 1976 and 1978 under Jerry Brown. Their domination has diminished public services, exacerbated inequality, increased taxes, and cratered budgets. Until now, GFC has focused on thwarting expansions of their power, but in 2021 we plan to go after two issues of great importance to them: LIFO (last in, first out layoffs of teachers) and OPEB (unnecessary insurance subsidies for retired employees). The odds of immediate success are not short but if we are persistent and powerful, over time we can prevail on those and other matters — including pensions.

We wish there was a silver bullet (if you’ve got one, please fire it!) but as with all reforms of long-standing government policies, change requires power, persistence and time. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” and as Lyndon Johnson proved, that doesn’t happen without persistence and power.

We wish you a safe and healthy Thanksgiving.