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There’s a scene in Lauren Greenfield’s likable documentary, The Queen of Versailles, in which the titular monarch, the wife of time-share mogul David Siegel, announces she is shoveling $2,000 worth of caviar into her mouth. “Somebody’s gonna get fired,” grumbles her husband, a former billionaire who is now desperately pinching pennies as his creditors tighten a noose around his troubled empire.
The film is full of such jarring moments, making it partly an American economic fable, partly a reality TV show. Like many such train wrecks, the story takes place in Florida and, like many a tale of real estate rise-and-ruin, it begins on the eve of the recent recession. That’s when Greenfield set out to capture the Siegels’ construction of the largest house in America – a 90,000-square-foot monstrosity inspired by both Louis XIV’s court at Versailles and the Paris Las Vegas hotel and casino. Among other things, its floor plans called for 23 bathrooms,
In the past decade the number of California workers with access to a retirement plan at work has plummeted. A recent study by The New School’s Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) shows that in 2009, 52.3 percent of California’s workers did not have access to an employer-provided retirement plan—representing a 6.5 percent rise over the previous decade in workers without pension access.
This increase poses a danger to the broader economy, which will suffer the destabilizing effects of mass retirement insecurity. Legislators can address this looming crisis with a fair, low-cost solution: opening existing, well-managed retirement systems to private sector employees.
SCEPA’s new statistics underscore the need for the California state legislature to once again take action on legislation based on my proposal. Titled The California Retirement Savings Act, the bill was introduced by State Senator Kevin DeLeon and passed the state senate in February.
(This post first appeared on California Progress Report and is reposted here with permission.)
This November, California voters will have an opportunity to vote on a simple, yet important ballot initiative called Proposition 37 – the California Right to Know Act. If approved, it would require food sold in California supermarkets be clearly labeled if it has been genetically engineered.
What many probably don’t yet know is there is no clearer David versus Goliath fight on this year’s ballot. On one side, is a truly grassroots people’s movement that generated over a million signatures in just 10 weeks, easily qualifying for the November ballot. On the other stands the largest anti-union, pro-pesticide, agrichemical interests in the world dedicated to saying and spending whatever it takes to hide the fact that some of our most important crops are being genetically engineered in a lab without our knowledge or consent.
As more American cities sink into the quicksand of bankruptcy, a veritable Scapegoats’ Olympics has been inaugurated – crowd-pleasing blame games that usually point fingers at workers. Harold Meyerson was having none of it the other day, however, in an L.A. Times op-ed:
“From reading the voluminous accounts of the fiscal woes of Stockton and San Bernardino, you’d think that municipal unions and feckless city officials are primarily what led these cities down the path to fiscal ruin.”
For evidence, Meyerson quotes editorials and columns appearing in the O.C. Register and Sacramento Bee, both of which confidently laid the blame on the pensions of unionized public employees. Of course, the unchallenged narrative among the chattering classes has been all about spineless city governments caving in to unions whose greedy members expect to enjoy a paid retirement when they’re too old to work.