23 May

Single Payer Price Tag – $400 billion

single payer

One topic we haven’t spent too much time on in depth is the prospect of having a single payer healthcare system here in California. Proponents of such a system have made many arguments in favor of it. It was a major plank in Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign platform. There has also been discussion about whether Obamacare was designed to fail to pave the way for a single payer system down the road.

So far, these debates have been happening largely on the national stage with proponents and opponents lobbying Congress one way or the other. With the rise of the American Health Care Act as the fulfillment of a promise Republicans made to their constituents to repeal and replace Obamacare, the prospect of a single payer universal healthcare system seems to be more pie in the sky than ever before.

single payer need not apply

That is, unless you live in California. State Sens. Lara and Atkins have introduced SB 562, the Healthy California Act. This bill would extend healthcare benefits to every resident of California, citizen or not. While the merits of such a bill will likely be hotly debated here in the Golden State, one aspect of it cannot be denied — the cost.

Until just recently, the cost of such a venture was unknown. A single payer healthcare system in a state as large as California has never been attempted in the US. We have nearly 40 million people living here. The economic impact of single payer has always been a major sticking point in practical implementation. Exactly how much is this going to cost us?

$400 billion. That’s billion with a B. And that’s not a one-time cost. That’s an annual cost. To put that in perspective, California’s total annual budget is estimated to be around $250 billion. The legislative analysis estimates that around $200 billion in existing state and federal funds could be used to offset the cost of a single payer healthcare system, but that leaves another $200 billion to be raised through other means.

The government isn't the only one who will pay.

This being California, it’s practically a surefire bet that those other means will inevitably be new taxes. We would be almost doubling our current budget. Double. I suspect most of these increased taxes will be levied against our businesses. The argument will likely be that they will no longer need to pay for employee healthcare plans, so the money they would have spent should be directed to this new tax. I also predict a new affluence tax on individuals and couples making more than $500,000 annually (or maybe $250,000!). The analysis itself proposes one scenario where an increased payroll tax of 15% could foot some of the bill.

The net result will be an ever accelerating free fall to the bottom of the business friendliness rankings and an increased exodus of the middle class to more tax friendly states. After all, around 65% of general fund revenue comes from direct personal income taxes. Don’t worry though. Our legislators will surely find a way to pass this first and then figure out how to pay for it later. I’m sure we will be talking about this a lot more in coming weeks. Be sure to check out our podcast archives to keep up to date on everything going on in California.

11 May

Why Support the Newman Recall?

There has been a lot of debate recently concerning the potential recall of State Senator Josh Newman of California’s 29th senate district. And rightfully so. Recalling a politician is no easy task, even when the impetus behind the recall is something as divisive as a widely unpopular gas and vehicle registration tax. It is an endeavor that oftentimes sees the enthusiasm of supporters and the public at large wane as the process goes on. This is completely understandable. The world of local politics is murky and toxic.

Ling Ling Chang, Suhkee Kang, and Josh Newman (subject of potential recall)

Here there be dragons.

So, why support a recall? The biggest reason for me is we didn’t have a say in approving this tax. Now, if you listen to our interview with Sen. Newman you will find that he believes that we did have a say in the tax. We elected him to the state senate to represent us and our interests. In doing so, we have implicitly given our approval to his actions, whatever they may be. We, in essence, stand behind his votes because they are our votes.

How ridiculous does that sound? That an elected politician would attempt to justify his vote for a controversial (and downright stupid) bill simply because he was duly elected is the height of hubris. Such a stance fails to address the very real concerns people have about the bill. The argument that “we had to do something” just doesn’t hold water. To continue with aqueous analogies, what is the point of bailing out a sinking ship when you have yet to patch up the hole?

There’s a lot of rhetoric out there right now regarding the gas tax. Most of it is moot now that Gov. Brown has signed SB1 into law, but it has bearing on my motivations behind supporting this recall. Here are some facts. California spent $419,090 per state-controlled highway mile in 2013. This put us at 44th of 50 in terms of total spending per mile. In that same year, we ranked 10th in the nation in total state-controlled highway miles at 18,535. That means in 2013 we spent nearly $7.8 billion on California highways only to have them be some of the worst roads in America. (source)

Our daily commute

A typical day on California highways.

We spend more to repair fewer miles of road than several other states. In 2013, Texas had 80,490 miles of state-controlled highways. That’s 4.3 times the mileage of California’s state-controlled highways. Given that fact, one would expect Texas’ cost per mile to be around the same magnitude difference from California’s. Not so. Texas only paid $177,357 per mile. They were able to service over 4 times the amount of mileage California did for nearly 2.4 times less money.

When we asked Sen. Newman about this discrepancy, he stated that there are many differences between Texas and California, which is true. California has a higher cost of living. California wages are typically higher than wages in Texas. Things just cost more here. All of that is true. However, it’s also true that Caltrans may be massively overstaffed. It may also be true that Texas has found cost-effective ways to service its larger state-controlled highway system than we have.

What we needed to do before passing this bill was to take a full audit of Caltrans and determine where and how we can cut costs. That’s just responsible governance. Instead, we get a manufactured crisis that won’t even come close to addressing the infrastructure issues we have in this state. We get a tax and fee increase that will cost working families hundreds of dollars extra per year (or more). We get a bill that has the potential of doing largely the opposite of its stated intention.

What we have is an unacceptably large pile of unanswered questions. The answer to those questions was not to pass a tax increase on the working and middle classes. Our elected officials owed us more than that. They still do. Josh Newman ran on being fiscally conservative. It’s part of the reason I voted for him. His actions have shown that he cares more about voting in lockstep with the Democrats in Sacramento than he does actually serving our district.

That is my main reason for supporting this recall. He has betrayed out trust. We didn’t have a voice in Sacramento when he voted for this tax and fee increase. We must use our voice now to recall him and elect a true advocate for our interests.

11 May

A Case to Recall CA State Senator Josh Newman

Newman-Ferguson

Today I will heading down to ARCO at 519 S. Harbor Blvd here in Fullerton to participate in the recall effort of CA State Senator Josh Newman. I will be there while KFI640’s John & Ken Show as well as KOGO600’s Carl DeMaio live broadcast while attempting to collect the required signatures. Many people will likely show up both for and against the recall and each will have their own reasons and their own beliefs. But why am I supporting the recall of Senator Newman?

I’ve been asked in various outlets and in person how I could support removing an official who was duly elected.

I’ve been asked if its fair to recall Senator Newman simply because he voted to our raise taxes.

I’ve been asked if there’s even a legal case to recall Senator Josh Newman.

I’ve also been accused of being used in a game of partisan bickering and political grandstanding. Being told that I’m nothing more than a tool of a party that lost all power when Newman beat Ling Ling Change thereby securing the Super-Majority for the Democratic Party.

I’ve also been yelled at quite a bit both online and off for my support of this contentious effort.

Obviously anything with a partisan angle or flair will allow people to adorn their blinders and lock arms with their tribe. For most the very answers to the above questions will depend on whom you ask being that (D)s will say that there is no case or justification for a recall whilst (R)s will clearly state the opposite.

None of that matters to me. As I have never been a member of a political party I am unaffected by tribal political grandstanding. Therefore I am going to answer these questions from the perspective of somebody who voted for Newman and yet is supporting his removal from office. Read More

08 May

The Hourly Struggle on KFI

In case you missed it we here at The Hourly Struggle were featured on KFI’s John & Ken Show on Friday, 05 May 2017, for our interview with State Senator, and recall target, Josh Newman.

We spoke to them for about 10 minutes and they said they’d listen and play some of the interview today, Monday, 08 May 2017. Their shows airs between 2-6pm (1400-1800) so tune in and check it out.

In the interview we mostly spoke about the recall effort and the reasons why Newman voted for SB1 (the car & gas tax).

Give it a listen on iTunes or Google Play.

iTunes users click HERE. Google Play users click HERE.

06 May

Episode 2 – Josh Newman Interview

State Senator for District 29

Here it is — our interview with California State Senator Josh Newman. He graciously sat down with us to discuss a couple of pressing issues for the 29th District and California as a whole. Specifically, he discussed his vote for SB1. While we had some issues with the live stream audio, the quality of our recording here is pretty darn good. Hopefully, this information will help his constituents understand whey he voted the way he did, for better or worse.