Bill Maher is a Stupid Liberal Troll, Part Duh

Readers of this blog will know that I am not fond of Bill Maher. I occasionally find him funny and he has an occasional insight. But for every good joke, there are ten awful ones and for every smart observation, there are a dozen idiocies. I’ve hit him twice before for issuing idiot screeds that make liberals cheer but are factually, intellectually and humorously challenged.

His latest is about the paradise they are building out in California. Most of us think California has serious problems. But according to Bill Maher, California is fucking Shangri-La.

New Rule: Conservatives who love to brag about American exceptionalism must come here to California, and see it in person. And then they should be afraid — very afraid. Because while the rest of the country is beset by stories of right-wing takeovers in places like North Carolina, Texas and Wisconsin,

Those are called elections, incidentally.

California is going in the opposite direction and creating the kind of modern, liberal nation the country as a whole can only dream about. And not only can’t the rest of the country stop us — we’re going to drag you along with us.

It wasn’t that long ago that pundits were calling California a failed state and saying it was ungovernable. But in 2010, when other states were busy electing whatever Tea Partier claimed to hate government the most, we elected a guy who actually liked it, Jerry Brown.

Since then, everything Republicans say can’t or won’t work — gun control, immigration reform, high-speed rail — California is making work. And everything conservatives claim will unravel the fabric of our society — universal healthcare, higher taxes on the rich, gay marriage, medical marijuana — has only made California stronger. And all we had to do to accomplish that was vote out every single Republican. Without a Republican governor and without a legislature being cock-blocked by Republicans, a $27 billion deficit was turned into a surplus, continuing the proud American tradition of Republicans blowing a huge hole in the budget and then Democrats coming in and cleaning it up.

So much to take on there. Let’s start with California’s light rail project, which Maher praises. This project, now slated to cost $68 billion — more than twice the original price tag — has secured less than a fifth of its funding and even that has recently been squashed by a judge for not complying with the law. And California’s expansion of Medicaid? They’re going to have to slash payments to doctors to make the math work. Good luck finding a doctor when Medicaid won’t pay him even $10 for a pelvic exam.

And California’s budget? It is technically balanced — partially because of spending cuts that Democrats previously opposed. But that balance is a projection and relies on a lot of assumptions about tax revenue that may not come to pass. Even if it does, the LA Times reminds us:

Sacramento is legally obligated to pay many billions of dollars withheld from schools, local governments and healthcare providers as lawmakers struggled repeatedly to balance the books. It owes Wall Street more per resident than almost every other state. And it has accumulated a crushing load of debt for retiree pensions and healthcare, now totaling more than taxpayers spend each year on all state programs combined.

The budget Brown proposed Thursday addresses only a small portion of the overall debt, which stems from the same types of bills that drove cities like Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino into bankruptcy. The state is likely to find its debt consuming an ever larger share of money meant for the basic needs of government.

That’s not to mention the unfunded liability in California’s enormous state pensions which Moody’s recently estimated at $329 billion.

You know who else balanced his state’s budget? Scott Walker. One of the ways was by breaking the union monopoly on health insurance policies which dramatically cut the state’s health insurance bill.

How was Governor Moonbeam able to do this? It’s amazing, really. We did something economists call cutting spending AND raising taxes. I know, it sounds like some crazy science fiction story, but you see, here in California, we’re not just gluten-free and soy-free and peanut-free, we’re Tea Party free! Virginia could do it, too, but they’re too busy forcing ultrasounds on women who want abortions. Texas could, but they don’t because they’re too busy putting Jesus in the science textbooks. Meanwhile their state is so broke they want to replace paved roads with gravel. I thought we had this road-paving thing licked in the 1930s, but not in Texas. But hey, in Dallas you can carry a rifle into a Chuck E. Cheese, cause that’s freedom. Which is great, but it wasn’t so great when that unregulated fertilizer plant in Waco blew up. In California, when things blow up, it’s because we’re making a Jason Statham movie.

The West Fertilizer Company was regulated actually. It was Saint Obama’s beloved EPA that failed to enforce those regulations properly. The road they are replacing with gravel is one road and it’s being replaced because it’s been torn apart by heavy traffic due to Texas’ oil boom. And the reason people can carry guns into restaurants in Texas is because of the Luby’s Massacre. A man drove into a Luby’s and murdered 23 people at least in part because guns were forbidden in Texas restaurants. Suzanne Hupp had a gun, but left in the car in compliance with the law. She later became a legislator and made sure that law was changed. But apparently, no one cares about crusading female Texas lawmakers unless they’re opposing abortion regulations.

California isn’t perfect, but it is in our nature from being on the new coast to be up for trying new things — and maybe that’s why the right wingers are always hoping we fail. On the campaign trail last year, Mitt Romney warned that if we didn’t follow his conservative path, “America is going to become like Greece, or… Spain, or Italy, or… California.” And that was a big laugh line with Mormons, because Greece, Spain and Italy have some art and poetry and theatre, but nothing like Salt Lake City. Yes, Mitt sure hates California, which is why he moved to San Diego. To the house with the car elevator.

Utah may not have Hollywood. But they have the 7th lowest poverty rate in the nation; California is 35th and LA County is one the poorest counties in America. They have the 7th lowest rate of unemployment; wonderful California is 47th. Utah is listed as the 3rd best place to do business; California as the 39th. Utah is first in Gini coefficient, meaning it is the most economically equal state in the nation. California? 44th.

Of course, I’m sure California’s economy doesn’t feel that bad to Bill Maher, who is rich and who is surrounded by people who are employed. California, as argued in this absolute must-read is an increasingly feudal state with a growing “liberal apartheid” between rich mostly white people and poor mostly latino serfs. In the parts of California where they don’t make TV shows and software, unemployment is in double digits, poverty is increasing and mobility is downward. Maybe this explains Maher’s enthusiasm for high-speed rail. Serf areas so depressing when you’re one of the lords. High speed rail will make those new ghettos zip by in a flash (note to Bill: window shades are cheaper).

Utah’s success is not necessary a result of their politics, of course. A large part of it is because of those kooky crazy Mormons who work hard, look after each other, tithe and stay away from drugs and alcohol. But if Bill wants to make California look good, he could hardly have a picked a worse group of people to compare to.

In lots of areas, California seems to have decided not to wait around for the knuckle-draggers and the selfish libertarian states to get on board. They can mock “European style democracies” all they want, we are building one here, and people like it — the same way when Americans come back from a vacation in Europe they all say the same thing: “Wow, you can see titties on the beach!” But they also remark on the clean air, the modern, first world infrastructure, the functioning social safety net, and bread that doesn’t taste like powdered glue. And they wonder, “Why can’t we get that here?” Unless they’re Republicans, in which case they wonder, “How can people live like that?”

Ha-ha! Because America doesn’t already have clean air and water. Oh, wait, the WHO’s assessment of our environmental burden of disease says we are one of the cleanest countries on Earth. The WEF ranks us 25th in infrastructure, which sounds bad until you remember that we are larger than any five countries in the top 25 combined (seriously, they rank Singapore as #2. The United States is literally 10,000 times the size of Singapore. You simply can not compare the two countries). And Europeans are so selfless and so full of love for their society, that they’re making sure that no future generations of Europeans are born into it with the lowest fertility rates in the world.

It’s so ironic — the two things conservatives love the most, the free market and states rights — are the two things that are going to bend this country into California’s image as a socialist fagtopia. Maybe our constipated Congress can’t pass gun control laws, but we just did. Lots of ‘em. Because we don’t give a shit about the NRA. Out here that stands for “Nuts, Racists, and Assholes.” So while the rest of America is debating whether it’s a good idea to allow guns in bars or a great idea to allow guns in bars, California is about to ban lead bullets. Which is a no-brainer, because bullets don’t need lead, and lead kills birds and gets into the food supply of people who hunt their own food. Which explains why Ted Nugent is such a raving lunatic.

California, incidentally, is ranked 30th in violent crime rate. Utah? 7th.

California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, our minimum wage is almost three dollars higher than the national rate, and in 10 years a third of our electricity will come from renewable energy and 15 percent of our cars will be electric.

Again, see that business environment thing. I’m sure all those unemployed people are happy knowing that if they could get a job, it would pay $3 an hour more.

This isn’t just trolling by Bill Maher. This is something much deeper. This is a complete and utter insensitivity to what is going on his state. Conservatives are accused of not caring about the poor and not understanding what it’s like to live in poverty. There may be some validity to that when it comes to the pundit class. But’s definitely not true of the bulk of conservatives, including the dreaded Tea Partiers. Conservatives donate more money and time to charity. But what is this but Bill Maher not caring about the poor and not understanding what it’s like to live on the edge? He’s locking himself in a limo and crowing that things look great to him. But if you look at the numbers, California is a shambles. If you’re not a high-powered Hollywood or tech person, it’s one of the worst states you could live in. And Maher thinks this is the vision for America?

Well, maybe it is. Because California is working fucking great. For Bill Maher.

Comments are closed.

  1. Seattle Outcast

    This weekend I attended a 50th birthday party of one of my wife’s friends. She and her husband both work for UW, and they were talking about their pension plans, which my tax dollars support in some fashion.

    After 30 years, you can retire with 70% of your income from your best year, and if you wait just a bit you get 75%. For life, with your spouse receiving 50% upon you death until they pass as well. They also have 401(k) benefits.

    I don’t know of ANYBODY outside of government that gets such generous, and early, retirement benefits.

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  2. AlexInCT

    I don’t know of ANYBODY outside of government that gets such generous, and early, retirement benefits.

    Government used to provide these generous type of benefits to compete with the private sector, where people practically always in the past, could make anywhere from 15-250% more in income, for talent. Somewhere along the line, as private sector pay grew at a much slower pace, or even stagnated, civil sector pay surpassed it as well. And that happened while the quality of the civil sector’s membership drastically declined both in brain power and in quality of service.. You cannot pay people on par, if not more, than their private sector counterparts AND give them gold plated benefits, without the tax payers from the private sector getting fleeced wising up and getting pissed. Especially when they see the quality of work that most civil sector people provide, and all the political hackery that goes along with that, as not even close to being worth the cost.

    We basically have an credentialed elite class running our country while ripping the rest of us off. It can not keep going on.

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  3. Nexus

    “…continuing the proud American tradition of Republicans blowing a huge hole in the budget and then Democrats coming in and cleaning it up.”

    Detroit.

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  4. hist_ed

    “After 30 years, you can retire with 70% of your income from your best year, and if you wait just a bit you get 75%. For life, with your spouse receiving 50% upon you death until they pass as well. They also have 401(k) benefits.”

    At 50 I doubt they will see this. The next big economic crisis will be the fallout from over generous pensions. While Washington State’s is in relatively good shape it is still underfunded. Some others are near total collapse. While the law in many states mandates these payments if the money simply isn’t there it won’t happen.

    My wife and I are government workers. Her pension is 2% of highest salary times years of service* Mine is 1% plus I have a 401k style investment plan. I keep trying to steer more money into private investments because I don’t think we are going to get our full pension payouts.

    *as a lawyer working as a prosecutor she is one of the few government workers where the old formula still applies. While she makes decent money she could double it going to a private firm. Health benefits are better and her job is very flexible about family stuff. When the kids get a little older she will probably work private for a while to up the retirement savings.

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  5. Seattle Outcast

    At 50 I doubt they will see this.

    He’s already 60, and is planning to check out of work in 3 years. She will be doing the same shortly after, joining several of my wife’s friends who have “retired” between 50 and 55. For some it’s inheritance, for others it’s having a spouse a decade older who got a government pension. Oddly enough the one that is truly wealthy shows no sign of stopping (8 figure incomes only come with a certain type of drive), and neither have her parents.

    The thought that their pension might just go boom occurred to me, but I didn’t want to ruin the party by ripping on their feeding so deeply at the public trough.

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  6. richtaylor365

    “After 30 years, you can retire with 70% of your income from your best year, and if you wait just a bit you get 75%. For life, with your spouse receiving 50% upon you death until they pass as well. They also have 401(k) benefits.”

    Pikers, the generous state of California provides me with a pension of 93% of my best year’s salary…………..for life, unsustainable? You bet your ass.

    “While Washington State’s is in relatively good shape it is still underfunded. Some others are near total collapse. While the law in many states mandates these payments if the money simply isn’t there it won’t happen.”

    You don’t honestly think that the feds would let any state in the union default on it’s pension obligations, do you? Look what they did for Detroit. California has an unfunded pension liability debt of $640 billion, but they (the dems that run the state) are not concerned because they know the dems in Congress will not let them go under, so technically all you non Californians will be paying my pension long before the state can’t.

    It was Gray Davis (pre Arnold days) that gave up the farm and allowed unions to dictate demands, this was how 3% at 50 came about, now it is the norm for public sector employees to get this and it is beyond crazy.

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  7. Hal_10000 *

    In Texas, I opted out of the pension system, mostly because I knew my job was temporary, and went with a 403b. In Pennsylvania, we don’t have an option so it’s all 403b. I do however now a retired teacher who has been drawing her full salary plus COLA for thirty years. I don’t have a problem giving pensions to teachers. I have a bit of a problem with it being so generous.

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  8. hist_ed

    “You don’t honestly think that the feds would let any state in the union default on it’s pension obligations, do you? ”

    Dunno ’bout that.

    I know that there is some talk of nationalizing ALL pensions government and private (ie stealing their assets). Can’t imagine that really ever passing or being Constitutional. If the feds really step up for government pensions then there is going to be a shit storm. They’ll have to settle for pennies on the dollar (this is why any extra retirement money I have goes into private accounts not the state administered investment program that I can get at work. The only way it really “works” is a long steady bout of inflation after reformulating cost of living adjustments enough to essentially end them. Then we all get poorer but have the same amount of dollars.

    Truly I think we’re fucked. Some will be more fucked than others. Comparisons to Greece are all too common but eventually you get to a point of more people taking than giving and then the real talent just leaves.

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  9. richtaylor365

    ” I have a bit of a problem with it being so generous.”

    Pensions can be as generous as the dollars funding it will allow. The problem has always been too few dollars going into the pot and too many dollars going out to pay for benefits.

    If the actuarial guys at CALPERS ran the books like they did the family finances at the kitchen table and not like the congress critters did in Washington, they would require public employees to kick in more bucks each month (and establish a surplus like banks are required to do to account for stock market fluctuations).

    I would like pensions to be run like medical insurance, if you want the Gold plan (retiring sooner or with a bigger percentage of income) then your monthly premiums must be high enough, sufficient enough to pay for it.

    Pensions are a great idea, some people are just too lazy or do not have the investment savvy to understand options of a 401K, stuff like asset allocation, so pensions will provide for them at retirement, but they must be fully funded at the onset, otherwise the tax payers get screwed.

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  10. Miguelito

    I know that there is some talk of nationalizing ALL pensions government and private (ie stealing their assets).

    I almost wish they’d try to take over the private retirement accounts. There’s just no justifying that, it’s pure theft, and that might finally wake up the rest of the actual tax payers. I don’t think they be that stupid though (unless crazy desperate) because it’s one move that could spark violent uprisings.

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  11. AlexInCT

    I almost wish they’d try to take over the private retirement accounts.

    Don’t. Because they are already looking for an excuse to do things like this. If they do not get to raise the debt ceiling and the interest rate on their debt goes up, I expect private savings of the middle class will be the first thing they raid. I didn’t spend the last 30 years putting my money away because I knew SS was not going to be there for me, to have government steal even more of my money anyway. I have been raped enough times by these fucking class warriors already, and do not need this final insult from them.

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