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The Classical Saturday Morning Coffee Break & Prayer Revival | Main | Gardening, Puttering and Adventure Thread, Dec. 9
December 09, 2023

California Rant

colobus monkeysHogle.jpg

Members of The Horde consider
the sorry state of California government

*

How long has it been since you communicated with one of your government representatives? What were the results? They say that letters are more effective than emails or other forms of online communication, but I think it probably depends on the recipient. Letters do provide a nice record, though. And sometimes you have to push back.

NorCal Sierra Foothills Lurker sent us a copy of a letter to the Governor of California (slightly altered here to protect the innocent). BOLD. The first part of the letter includes a partial description of personal travails in dealing with the Government of California regarding a simple short-term disability claim. The description of these struggles with inane government actions was followed by a timely rant on more general issues with state government. They are related.

I think this letter may have been triggered by the Newsom/DeSantis debate on November 30, which brought several of Newsom's shortcomings out into the open. But here are some other reminders of Newsom's heavy-handed and disastrous policies and actions.


*

I have added some paragraph breaks to the text of the letter, because the details of the bureaucratic ordeal described are maddening and deserve to be considered in some detail:

Dear Governor Newsom,

In June of this year, my husband fell at home and broke his right great toe and tore and/or severely bruised the meniscus in his left knee. Since he hikes up and down hills and kneels all day, he had to be off work for about 6 weeks. He applied for state disability, properly (we have copies) and sent them in. We waited.

Then a rejection letter came that basically said his doctor doesn't exist. It had instructions to appeal and a form. He filled it out, correctly (we have copies) along with proof his doctor exists in good standing and sent it in. We waited and waited. Nothing.

He began the infuriating task of trying to get through by phone to the EDD office. Over and over and over again. The automated system has you enter all your information then says there are too many callers, try another time, then hangs up on you.

After weeks of trying someone tells him that they, EDD, sent the wrong form so will send the correct one. We waited. Finally it comes.

He fills it out correctly (we have copies) and sends it in. We have waited and waited and tried and tried and tried to call. All to no avail.

He was hurt in June. It is now December and we are still waiting and calling. Again today.

Now comes the rant:

During the pandemic our state was the laughing stock of the entire country because of the horrendously run EDD, which is emblematic of every department this state runs. You were on tv smiling and promising time and time again that California had a huge budget surplus as well as federal dollars flowing in and you were overseeing the remedy and implementation to fix it.

You lied to us. EDD is every bit as bad as it was then when billions went to fraud here and even abroad. Yet my husband who has worked steadily, paid his taxes, and been a good citizen and great person helping family member after family member who needed it, can't even get the disability payments he is owed by the state.

And yet there you are running around telling everyone who will listen what a wonderful job you have done here. This after you have lied to us, fixed nor improved nothing while turning our surplus into a huge deficit. It is abhorrent!

Sincerely,

(Name included in the letter to the governor, but not here)

Wow. Short, but full of truth. This letter also provides us with an opportunity to provide some details for backup, including math:

*

The California Employment Development Department (EDD)

Here is a piece from January 2021 to back up NorCal Sierra Foothills Lurker's "laughing stock of the entire country" statement in the letter to the Governor - California Says Unemployment Fraud During Pandemic Cost Taxpayers Up To $31 Billion

"It should be no surprise that EDD was overwhelmed, just like the rest of the nation's unemployment agencies," Su told reporters Monday. "And we now know that as millions of Californians applied for help, international and national criminal rings were at work behind the scenes working relentlessly to steal unemployment benefits using sophisticated methods of identity theft."

Officials noted the state is continuing to struggle with a backlog of claims that have not been approved roughly three weeks after being filed, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The EDD announced in a Dec. 31 statement that 1.4 million unemployment claims would be frozen pending an investigation into the widespread unemployment fraud.

The state's Labor Department may also be losing its top official, potentially complicating efforts to address unemployment fraud and the backlog. President Joe Biden has reportedly picked Su to become deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor, according to Bloomberg Law.

When they fail, kick them up to the federal level!

Perhaps the plan is to have her work her miracles in the federal government as well, in a future President Newsom Administration!

*

You would think that the California EDD would have had time to recover from its work overload and discovery of all those fraudulent claims from Nigeria in 2020 - 2021. The experience above suggests to me that perhaps this department should be broken up like a corrupt monopoly.

But maybe other parties have also been involved in making this morass worse.

CalMatters has done a four-part series of investigations on California's unemployment crash. Here's part of the overview:

Behind the scenes at the state Capitol, California is launching an unprecedented $1.2 billion overhaul of its battered job safety net. Its Employment Development Department -- better known as the EDD -- is attempting to rebuild its unemployment and disability systems as it recovers from a pandemic that left millions of workers waiting for payments and tens of billions of dollars missing to suspected fraud.
A year-long CalMatters investigation finds that the state was primed for disaster by years of missed red flags and failed reforms. Once COVID hit, public records and interviews reveal that California's system was initially friendlier to scammers than to many real workers - - and then the state got so aggressive that many workers struggled to prove their own identities. . .

I'm sorry, but I don't understand why the person in charge of the EDD at this time would even be considered for promotion to the federal system.

. . . New financial reports requested by CalMatters show that amid the chaos, the EDD and its unemployment payment contractor Bank of America split a half a billion dollars in revenue, though the bank says it ultimately spent more to cover fraud losses. Another large EDD contractor, Deloitte, made more than a quarter of a billion dollars on tech contracts and emergency contracts to build systems that state reports say buckled during the pandemic.

Bank of America and Deloitte. And unnamed others. Any possibility that there was some illegal activity going on with the State's contractors? Or are they all just really, really incompetent?

*

California's Current Budget

NorCal Sierra Foothills Lurker also mentioned in her letter Newsom's lies about the budget. She found this recent piece by Dan Walters, one of the few political reporters these days who came up through the business, skipping J-school:

Economic reality bites as Newsom faces a big California budget problem

During his much ballyhooed, nationally televised debate with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week, California Gov. Gavin Newsom boasted that the state's economy is "booming" and leads the nation.

"California has no peers," Newsom declared. "California dominates."

About 18 hours later, reality reared its ugly head. The Legislative Analyst's Office revealed that state tax revenues are running tens of billions of dollars behind expectations due to a slowing economy, creating a monumental budget headache.

The dilemma became apparent when the November income tax filing deadline - seven months later than the original date - passed, and tax receipts for 2022 could finally be counted. . .

LAO analysts Brian Uhler, Chas Alamo and economist Seth Kerstein estimated that 2022-23 revenues are $26 billion under projections and "our updated revenue outlook anticipates collections to come in $58 billion below Budget Act projections across 2022-23 to 2024-25."

California, they said, started seeing an economic downturn in 2022 as the Federal Reserve System raised interest rates to tame inflation. . .

"The number of unemployed workers in California has risen nearly 200,000 since the summer of 2022," they added. "This has resulted in a jump in the state's unemployment rate from 3.8 percent to 4.8 percent. Similarly, inflation-adjusted incomes posted five straight quarters of year-over-year declines from the first quarter of 2022 to the first quarter 2023."

When Newsom and legislators finalized a 2023-24 budget in June, they knew that revenue estimates were shaky due to the postponed filing deadline, but assumed that they had a $30-plus billion gap to bridge.

Their happy but shaky little revenue estimates didn't work out? How could that be? Aren't they totally in tune with the electorate?

More details at the Dan Walters link, with some of his sources also linked.

*

But wait . . . MORE interactions with the EDD:

There was a part of the saga I forgot to include in that letter. After sending in the final form and waiting and calling and calling, my husband was told they were in the process of reversing the rejection and a check should be going out. Then we waited and called and called again, as per the letter.

After sending the letter to the governor:

After calling disability 3 times in one day, being on hold over an hour, they said they sent my husband a letter, which we never got, that said it went to office of appeals. Called them and they said he has to go to an appeals hearing and they will mail him a letter when time!

And take off work to go! WTAF?!!?? I have to wonder if it's political and on purpose. They can't actually screw up this bad without actually trying.

BTW, when he was on speaker phone with EDD finally, towards the end of the call with the lady that didn't seem to have a grasp of why he was denied and sent to appeals, I said, "You guys are a mess!" And they hung up on him. End of call. Apparently you're not supposed to speak of their horrendous job performance.
So much for getting it by Christmas. What a nightmare!

*

So far, this nightmare has continued from June to December!

My first thought was "The process is the punishment". What an odd, intrusive thought! Is the punishment for being in the wrong demographic? Hard to say. There could be a variety of reasons, but this is the state where (as VDH has pointed out and as I have seen myself) building codes in rural areas are not enforced where illegal aliens live because . . . equity!

And in the city, the priorities of the homeless take precedence over the priorities of merchants and other citizens - - - until representatives of the CCP visit!

*

"Your doctor doesn't exist" is a novel reason for denying a claim!

Best wishes to NorCal Sierra Foothills Lurker and her husband. I trust that at least we we won't hear of a scenario something like this:

*

And here in the Central Valley, a railroad update


Biden Invests $3 billion in California's High Speed Rail

Project has already cost $11 billion with no tracks laid

Well, NorCal Sierra Foothills Lurker did note that Newsom promise that federal dollars would be flowing into the state.

The money will help buy six electric trains and bankroll construction and design of a train station and other facilities and projects along a 171-mile stretch of rail line in California's central valley--far from either Los Angeles or San Francisco. So far this year the California bullet train project has also received nearly $230 million in U.S. taxpayer money through the 2021 federal infrastructure bill.

Biden's fresh money infusion comes as the high speed rail project already has a projected $100 billion deficit after spending more than $11 billion. California Democrats and Republicans alike have blasted the enterprise as costly with little to show for the time and money spent so far. California governor Gavin Newsom (D.) has criticized the project as overly expensive and time-intensive and proposed a scale-back--an idea he later said was taken out of context by the media.

"Only the Biden administration would look at a project that's years behind schedule and tens of billions over budget and think 'that's a good place to invest another $3 billion,'" said Republican assemblyman James Gallagher, the state assembly's minority leader. "Taxpayers around the country should be outraged that this boondoggle is getting another dime of their hard-earned money."

But let's focus on the positive:

The Biden administration did not comment on the grant specifics and whether the money comes with any accountability measures or conditions. A spokesman for the high speed rail agency said workers are making progress on infrastructure like viaducts that need to be in place before tracks can be laid.

More details at the link.

Yes, a lot of farmland is currently being torn up and replaced with concrete, with traffic diverted in interesting curves on Highway 99 and elsewhere. So far, I haven't seen how some of these changes would allow future trains to run. Some of the traffic diversions seem quite narrow and they might be temporary.

Viaducts have been in place in Fresno for a while now. I haven't seen a lot of change in a while, but maybe there is some.

There were some construction delays in the spring due to flooding. The project team leaders knew that some land over which the rails would run had sunk, but make no changes. So some limited construction, vehicles and equipment were flooded.

Amtrak couldn't run for a while, either. It will be interesting to see how the State encourages massive ridership on the future glorious almost-high-speed route from Bakersfield to Merced, along what is basically the Amtrak route.

Maybe they shoulda done LA to Vegas as a practice run.

* * * * *

Hope you have something nice planned for this weekend.

This is the Thread before the Gardening Thread.

Serving your mid-day open thread needs


* * * * *

Last week's thread, December 2, Watching things burn

Comments are closed so you won't ban yourself by trying to comment on a week-old thread. But don't try it anyway.

* * * * *

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