The CMED Act: tax oil companies to provide quality education, aid cities, and create jobs

oil drilling california

In 2011 alone, California produced a grand total of approximately 200 million barrels of oil and 230 billion cubic feet of natural gas, making our state the fourth largest producer of oil and the tenth largest producer of natural gas in the country.

Yet, despite this, California does not get a dime for the resources that are extracted from our state and sold on the global market. This is because, unlike every other major oil and natural gas producing state in the nation, California has not enacted an extraction fee on the energy that is taken right from under our feet.

Let’s think about this for a moment.

California, the ninth largest economy in the world, is ranked 43rd in the country in terms of K-12 spending per pupil. The University of California, the flagship public university system of the nation, has seen a 14% decrease in funding since 2010.

And at a time when a quality college education has never been more important, tuition is skyrocketing, making a diploma unaffordable for an increasing number of young Californians. Meanwhile, at 9.8% unemployment, even those who have graduated from college find themselves without work or working at jobs they are tremendously over-qualified for. The appalling disrepair of our municipal infrastructure only discourages employers from bringing more jobs to our state. But our state government has its hands tied behind its back. The $250 billion dollar state debt all but assures that there will be no additional funding for education and infrastructure in the near future.

And we are giving away our oil and natural gas. We have the wealth to fund the investments that California needs and deserves and we are giving it away. This is to say nothing of that fact that by not charging an extraction fee on oil and natural gas, our state, which prides itself as a leader of reducing CO2 emissions, is not putting a price on the CO2 that eventually makes its way into the atmosphere. To say this is ridiculous would be an understatement. It is an outrage.

The California Modernization and Economic Development Act (or CMED) would put an end to it. By implementing a modest 9.5% extraction fee on oil and natural gas (Alaska, hardly an enemy of big oil, has implemented a fee of 24% on oil and natural gas that’s extracted from the state), CMED would raise between 2 and 2.5 billion dollars in revenue for California. A little more than half, 1.2 billion dollars, would be allocated in four equal parts for K-12, California Community Colleges, Cal State Universities, and the University of California for the purposes of increasing quality and restoring tuition to 2010 levels. 400 million dollars will be used to support small businesses by aiding their transition to cheaper, carbon-free and carbon-reduced forms of energy, which would in turn empower them to expand, hire additional workers, and reinvest. An additional 300 million dollars would be apportioned to the general funds of California County Governments for the purpose of upgrading and better maintaining municipal infrastructure, funding the conservation of regional park land and providing a multitude of other public services.

These are more than investments, they constitute a complete vision for responsible economic development in California. Making that vision a reality is as easy as ending the giveaway of our oil and natural gas, but it’ll take a popular movement if we truly want to realign the policies in Sacramento with the wishes and desires of Californians. Simply by taking a few moments, right now, and visiting, liking our Facebook, following us on Twitter, telling your friends or donating anything you can, even $5, you can provide the crucial grassroots support we need. It’s that easy. You could be the difference between failing to qualify and qualifying CMED on the 2014 ballot, so that Californians can have a chance to pass it democratically.

We can do this California, but not without your support. If you think it’s ridiculous that we are giving away our oil and natural gas at a time when California is more cash-strapped than ever, join our cause. It won’t be easy, but together we will qualify and pass the California Modernization and Economic Development Act and put our state back on the right track.

Medicare might not be so expensive in the long run after all

medicare cost projections

Sarah Kliff:

The reason for that yawning difference: Health-care costs growth has seen a steep decline over the past few years. Instead of outpacing the rest of the economy, it has grown at the exact same rate.

If that cost growth persists, it could make all the difference for Medicare: The entitlement program would, by 2085, make up 4 percent of the economy instead of the previously projected 7 percent.

Let’s still dismantle the welfare state. You know, just to be safe.


Brown University researchers estimate cost of Iraq War – the results are staggering

iraq war

Brown University:

Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003, researchers have released the first comprehensive analysis of direct and indirect human and economic costs of the war that followed. According to the report, the war has killed at least 190,000 people, including men and women in uniform, contractors, and civilians and will cost the United States $2.2 trillion — a figure that far exceeds the initial 2002 estimates by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget of $50 to $60 billion.


More than 70 percent of those who died of direct war violence in Iraq have been civilians — an estimated 134,000. This number does not account for indirect deaths due to increased vulnerability to disease or injury as a result of war-degraded conditions. That number is estimated to be several times higher.

Jeb Bush thinks that history will be kind to his brother. For what? For lying about the evidence that there would be nuclear weapons in Iraq? Or for spending trillions of dollars to ensure the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians?


Top news for March 14th, 2013

Other stories:


The United States will never turn into Greece

No, the United States Will Never, Ever Turn Into Greece:

To translate from stats-speak: our equation for non-euro countries tells us increasing debt by 1 percentage point of GDP only increases borrowing costs by 1.3 basis points. And that result isn’t even statistically significant. In other words, there is no evidence of a debt tipping point for countries that borrow in money they can print.

Yay for statistical evidence!

Ronald Reagan wouldn’t be considered conservative today

ronald reagan

Peter Wehner:

But the main point I want to underscore is the danger to conservatism when someone like Jeb Bush (or Mitch Daniels, or Bob McDonnell, or Chris Christie) is considered an apostate.

Let’s consider Bush’s record as governor. While Bush never signed an anti-tax pledge, he never raised taxes. In fact, he cut taxes every year he was governor (covering eight years and totaling $20 billion).

Ronald Reagan, by contrast, signed into law what his biographer Lou Cannon called “the largest tax hike ever proposed by any governor in the history of the United States”–one four times as large as the previous record set by Governor Pat Brown–as well as the nation’s first no-fault divorce law and legislation liberalizing California’s abortion laws, which even people sympathetic to Reagan concede “led to an explosion of abortions in the nation’s largest state.” (Reagan didn’t anticipate the consequences of the law and deeply regretted his action.)

Now imagine the Norquist and Shirley standard being applied to Reagan in the 1970s. If Jeb Bush’s comments unleashed heated attacks, even given his sterling anti-tax record, think about what Reagan’s support for unprecedented tax increases–including higher taxes on top rates, sales taxes, bank and corporate taxes, and the inheritance tax–would have elicited. The Gipper would have been accused of being a RINO, a pseudo-conservative, unprincipled, and a member of the loathsome Establishment.

Just because the history books say Reagan raised taxes doesn’t mean Republicans have to remember him that way.

Paul Ryan’s budget balances budget via cuts and higher taxes for poor and middle-class

paul ryan budget

“Paul Ryan’s budget: Social engineering with a side of deficit reduction”:

Here is Paul Ryan’s path to a balanced budget in three sentences: He cuts deep into spending on health care for the poor and some combination of education, infrastructure, research, public-safety, and low-income programs. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts remain, but the military is spared, as is Social Security. There’s a vague individual tax reform plan that leaves only two tax brackets — 10 percent and 25 percent — and will require either huge, deficit-busting tax cuts or increasing taxes on poor and middle-class households, as well as a vague corporate tax reform plan that lowers the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.

Who needs education and research when there are countries on the other side of the planet that we need to go bomb? What is the point of cutting taxes on the rich in a deficit reduction plan? When does the confidence fairy come to save the economy? Where are all of our skilled service jobs going to go when no one can afford to go to college?   Why tax the wealthy when the wealthy when the poor, uneducated masses aren’t paying their fair share? How does Paul Ryan keep getting elected?

Politico hits 1,000 subscribers for ridiculously expensive Pro service

Politico hits 1,000 Pro subscriptions and plans to launch a magazine — paidContent:

Politico launched Politico Pro in February 2011; while it was originally aimed at individual subscribers, Pro quickly switched its focus to the group subscriptions that now make up the vast majority of its base. Pro offers some subscriber-only articles, early access to morning newsletters, customizable instant alerts and other perks. Pro started out covering energy, health care and technology and added more coverage areas — defense, financial services, tax and transportation — last year. Starting this month, Pro subscribers can also receive an afternoon policy newsletter called Pro Report.

In an attempt to drive more Pro subscriptions, Politico is launching a free quarterly print magazine that will feature past Pro coverage. On March 22, it will be delivered to “every member of Congress, the White House and all federal agencies as well as to 160 newspaper boxes and 100 Washington-area Starbucks.”

Politico is tight-lipped on what a subscription to Pro actually costs. Subscription fees vary based on the type of organization (government, nonprofit and so on) and how many employees it has, as well as the number of coverage areas an organization wants. Nieman Journalism Lab reported last year that an individual subscription starts at $3,295 a year, with group memberships starting at $8,000 for five people and one coverage area.

I cannot believe that people are willing to spend that much for the features they mention. That makes a digital subscription to The New York Times look like pocket change.

Elizabeth Warren goes after banking regulators in HSBC case

elizabeth warren hsbc

“Elizabeth Warren Comes Out Swinging Against Banks”:

The latest example came last Thursday during a Banking Committee hearing, when Warren demanded answers from a panel of federal regulators as to why the multinational bank HSBC got off with a fine for money laundering for Mexican drug cartels — along with violating international sanctions against several countries, including Iran and Libya — when people caught with drugs go to jail for life.

“No one individual went to trial, no individual was banned from banking and there was no hearing to consider shutting down HSBC’s activities here in the United States,” Warren said. “So … what does it take? How many billions of dollars do you have to launder for drug lords and how many economic sanctions do you have to violate before someone will consider shutting down a financial institution like this?”

I am astounded by the fact that no one went to jail as a result of the HSBC investigation.

Since when are Republicans fiscally responsible?

Not branding the Republican Party as the party of fiscal irresponsibility is the greatest failure of the Democratic Party since President Obama won the 2008 election. It has enabled the GOP to frame the numerous major debates over the last four years, from the battle over healthcare reform in 2010 to the debt ceiling crisis of mid-2011 to this year’s sequester. By doing so, Republicans in favor of tax cuts for the wealthy and spending increases for the military have been able to label themselves “deficit hawks” while attacking policies that would significantly improve the US Federal deficit. The hypocrisy seems almost too blatant; there’s no way they could get away with that, right? Wrong. All it takes is some careful selection (and sometimes fudging) of numbers.

For instance, during the debate that led to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans attempted to disparage the bill as a massive increase in entitlement (read: bad) spending. To do so, they framed the situation using a simple story: it would cost a lot of money to insure 30 million people. While the Republicans were right in that federal spending would increase because of the ACA, they strategically forgot to mention that because of the cuts to Medicare, more efficient fees for doctors,  and new revenue included in the act, the Congressional Budget Office and various think tanks determined that it will actually produce a net savings for the government over the next decade. Republicans have been so successful at this framing that the idea of a “public option” has been taken off the table despite the fact that it would save approximately $100 billion dollars over the next ten years. 

Even more impressive, the budgets put forth by Paul Ryan over the last few years have managed to get away with reducing the deficit via magic asterisks. Rather than proposing specific cuts to spending (outside of changing Medicare to a voucher program), the budgets state that the government would put a cap on spending as a percentage of the economy. The budgets have also proposed lowering tax rates, payed for by closing loopholes – with no mention of specific loopholes, only that they should be selected so as to maintain the average of bringing in 18 percent of GDP in tax revenue each year. A smart move, considering the fact that the loopholes large enough to make up for the loss in revenue include such popular items as the 401(k) exemption, the mortgage-interest tax deduction, and the deduction for state and local taxes. By not including those cuts in the budgets, Paul Ryan and the House Republicans who pass them are able to make painful cuts to middle class families while keeping themselves free of blame.

The Republican Party will continue to get away with this duplicity until the Democrats openly address it, from freshmen Representatives to the President. If they can turn it into a controversy, the mainstream media and its 24-hour news cycle will do the rest.