The IRS's Real Scandal

By Robert Reich

"This systematic abuse cannot be fixed with just one resignation, or two," said David Camp, the Republican chairman of the House tax-writing committee, at an oversight hearing dealing with the IRS. "This is not a personnel problem. This is a problem of the IRS being too large, too intrusive, too abusive."

No "Sticker Shock" for Covered California Health Care Consumers

By Anthony Wright

Covered California held a press conference last week announcing plans and rates that will be available to consumers starting January 1. This is one of the most significant steps yet toward being ready to serve consumers by the federally mandated 2014 deadline for health exchange availability under the 2010 Affordable Care Act. You can watch the press conference on the Covered California website, where you can also download a booklet with a description of all the plans that will be offered and sample rates.

California Anti-Fracking Bills Move Forward, Now Face Appropriations Vote

By Dan Bacher

Despite intense political pressure by the oil industry, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 29 approved three bills proposing to halt fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a controversial method of oil and natural gas extraction, in California.

Fracking opponents fear that increased water diversions destined for the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) will be used for expanding fracking in Monterey Shale deposits in the San Joaquin Valley and coastal areas. The construction of the tunnels is expected to hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt and other fish species.

Governor Brown, Counties Need Money to Keep California Healthy

Viji SundaramBy Viji Sundaram

Under California Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget, counties stand to lose crucial health care funding that would leave millions of people without access to care.

An estimated 3 to 4 million, or 10 percent of the state's population, the majority from ethnic communities, will remain uninsured in 2014, according to a study by UCLA and UC Berkeley. Some of them - an estimated 1 million - will be excluded from public health programs by federal law because they are undocumented. Some will not be eligible for Medi-Cal, the federal-state funded health care program for low-income people. Others who may qualify to buy coverage on the health insurance marketplace could miss the open enrollment period or simply not be able to afford it.

Garcetti, Backed by Tenant Groups, Wins L.A. Mayor's Race

By Randy Shaw

Eric Garcetti has won a 53%-46% victory in the Los Angeles mayor's race following a tough campaign against Wendy Greuel. Greuel sought to become the city's first female mayor, but was a bland candidate from the Valley who failed to energize women voters. Although the media framed the candidates as ideologically similar - the New York Times claimed they "did little to differentiate themselves on major issues like jobs and the city budget" - the city's big landlord and realtor groups backed Greuel, while tenant groups like the Coalition for Economic Survival supported Garcetti. Greuel pledged to decimate the city's vastly improved housing code enforcement program, while Garcetti has long backed tenants and affordable housing. I wrote on April 3 that Greuel faced an "uphill battle," and that New York City's Christine Quinn, another real estate-backed moderate woman candidate, had a greater chance of success. Quinn's chances still look good, particularly because she does not face an opponent as strong as Garcetti.

California Farmer Warns: "Don't Trust Oil Industry, State or Courts" to Protect Water

By Dan Aiello

Kern County almond farmer, Fred Starrh, is an unlikely darling of the anti-fracking movement in California.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an environmentally risky oil production method of pumping under pressure large volumes of water, sand and chemicals underground to bubble to the surface heavy tar-like oil left in depleted oil wells and to reach deep deposits of oil and natural gas.

Fracking is the method oil companies seek to employ to proliferate drilling in California where the discovered Monterey Shale Deposit is estimated to contain as many as 15.4 billion barrels of crude 11,000 feet deep.

Delta Stewardship Council Adopts Plan Despite Massive Opposition

By Dan Bacher

In spite of overwhelming opposition from environmentalists, fishermen, family farmers, elected officials and the majority of Californians, the Delta Stewardship Council (DSC) on Thursday, May 16 unanimously adopted what it described as a "comprehensive management plan" for the Delta.

The Council also certified the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), despite opposition to the report from every single person who spoke during the public comment period, ranging from Delta farmers to a representative of the Metropolitan Water District. In addition, the Council adopted regulations that will implement the policies of the Delta Plan.

Governor's "May Revise" on Health Care: Progress, but with Continued Cuts

By Anthony Wright

Governor Jerry Brown announced his May Revision of the California State Budget on Tuesday, declaring for the first time in decades a multi-year balanced budget. In his brief remarks unveiling the proposal, the Governor highlighted planned investments in education, as promised in the campaign for Proposition 30 last fall, as well as the work to implement the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In the May revision of the budget, Governor Brown moves towards a resolution for a timely Medi-Cal expansion as required under the Affordable Care Act. But the budget seeks a greater than 75 percent cut to county safety net funds, and would continue cuts to Medi-Cal provider rates and Denti-Cal.

FEMA Plans Clear-Cutting 85,000 Berkeley and Oakland Trees

By Randy Shaw

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is moving to chop down 22,000 trees in Berkeley's historic Strawberry and Claremont Canyons and over 60,000 more in Oakland. This destructive plan is rapidly moving forward with little publicity, and FEMA cleverly scheduled its three public meetings for mid and late May while UC Berkeley students were in finals or gone for the summer.

Paying the Debt of War

By Rev. Jim Conn

Some 53 percent of Americans say that the second Iraq war was a mistake. A recent Los Angeles Times article asked if the war brought change for the better. But no one asks what that war cost this country. The first trillion dollars we spent on it was only a down payment on what experts have estimated to be probably two trillion or more that we will spend over the next few decades to take care of America's wounded and maimed. Our taxes provide care for those veterans, but both parties regularly propose cutting the Department of Veterans Affairs as a quick fix to balance the federal budget.