This is a no brainer folks. Just post these two videos to your sites, Facebook feeds, and e-mail lists.
Let’s show our friends the nature of our opposition.
Public Unions are taking well-deserved heat for their pension greed. If you look at all the pension articles, the comments are full of reasonable sounding folks trotting out the argument that the really bad examples of abusive pensions are “outliers.” They then tell you that the average benefit is “only $20,000/year.” It’s best to address this calmly, reasonably, and accurately. Here’s how.
Some folks defending the public employee pension issue like to point out that the majority of those receiving benefits get relatively low payouts. They often use lines like “the average benefit is only $17-20K/yr.” This union talking point needs to be addressed.
While it is technically correct, they mask the real problem, which is the large number of the new retirees on the horizon, coupled with the actuarial insanity of their benefits. (I’m using Illinois as an example, but the same has occurred in CA, NJ, and the entire Northeast)
Think of 10 people who retired 15-20 years ago receiving $20K/yr. Now think of one greedy school superintendent who just retired sucking down $200K (or more) after hopping from district to district, ramping up his retirement with fat contracts no one ever vetted. Multiply that one person by a few 1000 in each state. Add to that whatever number of teachers are receiving big pensions after goosing their unwarranted salaries for the last 4 years of their careers.
Now you have this large run up in the number of retirees, the size of the pensions, and the INSANE early retirement options. It’s a HUGE problem. For icing on the bankruptcy cake, add in free health care for life for many of these folks.
Public Unions have bankrupted the states where they’ve gained massive power. It’s time to tell them to sit down, shut up, and take the massive cuts they deserve. Since their pension benefits are probably protected by awful constitutional clauses guaranteeing them, the best solution is to make every one of these folks with pensions over $100K pay 100% of their own health costs. In this political environment, that policy will pass political muster.
When a politician balks at this policy, and defends unions, fat pensions, and the feeble idea that “government workers” have the right to bankrupt the state, burn their political career to the ground. The time is right. There is no real downside to being rhetorically and politically aggressive on this point. To that end, I post this type of comment on many articles about the pension greed of public unions.
Look here, the fact that police protect us, that firemen run into burning buildings, and teachers educate our children, does NOT give them the right to bankrupt our civilization. It is time to get right up into the face of these unethical people and tell them to stop! It is also time for all of you to stop buying the “poor public employee” load of lies, and abolish public unionization. The best next step is to end this era of public greed is to cap the growth of EVERY government entity’s budget to inflation plus population growth.
Especially when it comes from the Hoover Institution.
Public employees unions have wielded huge influence to gain perquisites for themselves at the expense of the public. Early retirement, job tenure, high wages, and generous defined-benefit pension plans have gained increasing attention from commentators and voters, though many public sector perks are intentionally shrouded and confuse the public debate. What has received far less attention is the pernicious effect of public sector union privileges on the provision of public goods in the United States. Public sector unions have greatly distorted state spending priorities and made it more difficult for states to devise innovative public goods that would benefit their citizenry as whole. For example, prison guard unions have directly influenced penal policy, fighting reduced sentences or decriminalization of drugs. Teachers’ unions fight charter schools and merit pay. The strong organizational rights of these unions, protected or abetted by statute and regulations, enables their outsized influence on public policy.
But crisis is also opportunity. The dire straits of states offer the chance for entrepreneurial governors to abolish public employee union privileges, like the rights to strike, to collectively bargain, to seek binding arbitration, and to collect dues. Public employee unions are the great reactionary force in public life today, using their privileged position both to defend the rewards their members receive and to block innovation. As a result, this recession offers a political opening for both liberal and conservative governors.
For conservatives, taking on public employee unions provides a way to eliminate inefficient spending and create a polity of low taxes and lean government. For liberals, it provides a way to redirect spending to effective public goods, like better educational outputs, that public employee unions frustrate. If both liberal and conservative governors moved against public employee unions, the public would have the best of all possible worlds, a demonstration project pitting a low-tax, small-government jurisdictions against a higher-tax, high-value public goods jurisdictions. It would create a fair fight between the attractive options that conservatism and liberalism can offer. Union contracts, however, prevent most state governments from nimbly responding to changing circumstances. This ossification short-circuits the beneficial competition among jurisdictions created by our federal system, which works best when there are not entrenched impediments to government innovation.
The Golden State’s War on Itself
What went so wrong? The answer lies in a change in the nature of progressive politics in California. During the second half of the twentieth century, the state shifted from an older progressivism, which emphasized infrastructure investment and business growth, to a newer version, which views the private sector much the way the Huns viewed a city—as something to be sacked and plundered. The result is two separate California realities: a lucrative one for the wealthy and for government workers, who are largely insulated from economic decline; and a grim one for the private-sector middle and working classes, who are fleeing the state.
That is what is going to happen in Illinois the moment Quinn gets his tax increase. Why would a rational person stay here to pay for public union greed?
California’s supposedly progressive economics have had profound demographic consequences. After serving as a beacon for millions of Americans, California now ranks second to New York—and just ahead of New Jersey—in the number of moving vans leaving the state. Between 2004 and 2007, 500,000 more Americans left California than arrived; in 2008, the net outflow reached 135,000, much of it to the very “dust bowl” states, like Oklahoma and Texas, from which many Californians trace their origins. California now has a lower percentage of people who moved there within the last year than any state except Michigan. Even immigration from abroad seems to be waning: a recent University of Southern California study shows the percentage of Californians who are foreign-born declining for the first time in half a century. For the first time in its history as a state, as political analyst Michael Barone has noted, California is not on track to gain a new congressional district after the 2010 census.
If you ever forget just how bad public unions suck, they will always remind you.
When I talk to regular everyday citizens, they are ready to dump public unionism. When I talk to lobbyists and legislators, they still quiver in their boots or pee their pants.
The unions are neutered. Whole swaths of the working poor despise their greed. Whole swaths of the middle class and upper middle class see them as the parasites they have become. Only lobbyists, politicians, and the very rich still act as if they need to be part of the discussion.
It’s simple. Place the very rich (now more liberal than conservative), the lobbyists (any industry), and the existing political class, one one side of the equation, and every other American on the other.
Make the case to end public unionism, and run on that platform until there are enough to you to ram it down their throats. If this all sounds too confrontational to you, realize these important facts;
This isn’t tiddley winks. Just beat them.
At some point, however, voters turn resentful as they sense that:
– They are underwriting, through their taxes, a level of salary and benefits for government employment that is better than what they and their families have.
– Government services, from schools to the Department of Motor Vehicles, are not good enough – not for the citizen individually nor the public generally – to justify the high and escalating cost.
We are at that point.
In California, government-sector unions, once among the most entrenched and powerful labor groups in the country, mainly have themselves to blame. For most of the postwar period, they were a force for progressive change, prospering by winning over public support for their agenda.
But the unions switched strategies. Although the change was gradual, by the 1990s, California’s government unions had decided that, rather than cultivate voter support for their objectives, they could exert more influence in the Legislature, and in the political process generally, by lavishing campaign contributions on lawmakers. Adopting the tactics of other special-interest groups, government unions paid lip service to democratic principles while excelling at the fundamentally anti-democratic strategy of writing checks to legislators, their election committees and political action committees.
While not illegal (in fact, such contributions are constitutionally protected), the unions’ aggressive spending on candidates put them on the same moral low ground as casino-owning tribes, insurance companies and other special interests that have concluded that the best way to influence the legislative process is to, well, buy it.
Find courageous candidates willing to take on the oily incumbents who carry union water. Winning won’t be easy, but the message will get out. Here in Illinois, a losing primary in 2012 will get you a seat in 2014.
If you don’t want to run, at least be active enough to educate and organize. If some legislator is too timid and limp to speak out against unions, primary them. This is the time. Just fight to win.
Though great credit goes to policy wonks like Steven Malanga and others, the fact is that there are very few people who saw the financial conflagration wrought by greedy unions sooner than folks like John Bambenek and I.
While a few senators in the Illinois Legislature saw the pension time bomb coming, they still felt it necessary to vote “yes” on patently awful policies like the Early Retirement Option while looking the other way on atrocities like “end-of-career bonuses.” We deserved more from them.
I fully realize that the mood was different 5-10 years ago, when every bozo making over $50,000 was stupid enough to think his net worth and property values were going to keep up with public union greed. We tried to warn them. We were just a few years and a few quarters of economic retraction ahead of our time.
We were told that “the unions are just too powerful,” and that there was no “constituency for spending cuts. Would that a few stood their ground and told the taxpayers the truth.
Unlike past battles over the high cost of labor, this time pitched battles over wages and pensions are being waged from Sacramento to Springfield to New York City and the conflict is marked by its bipartisan tone, with public employee unions emerging as an intransigent public enemy number one in cities and state capitals across the country.
They’re the whipping boys for a new generation of governors who, thanks to a tanking economy and an assist from editorial boards, feel freer than ever to make political targets out of what was once a protected liberal class of teachers, cops, and other public servants.
Republicans around the nation have cheered New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose shouting match over budget cuts with an outraged teacher—“You don’t have to” teach, he told her without sympathy—became a YouTube sensation on the right last week.
Here is my message to our gubernatorial candidates and our legislators. Tell the firemen and policemen “No.” Tell the greedy administrators “No.” Tell the greedy teacher unions “Hell NO!” Tell them they have had a 25 year ride on the gravy train, and it’s time to give the taxpayers a 10 year breather.
I have no idea how successful I will be in promoting this message, but I am working for an election cycle where anyone who takes public union money and does their financially and morally corrosive bidding is washed away in an election cycle they won’t believe is coming – even as they see it.
2010 is going to be big. 2012, waged in the midst of a potentially deep double-dip recession, is going to be gargantuan. It is time to drive public unionization out of the public sector. Learn your facts, practice your lines, get your signatures, and drive their supporter from office.
(hat tip Warner Todd Huston)
Every teacher should know that they can exercise their Beck Decision rights to have their greedy unions return the portion of their dues that goes toward lobbying.
Now Texas joins Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Ohio, Michigan and Washington in promulgating “paycheck protection” their workers. If you go to this link, you’ll find out how the Texas Attorney General arrived at this important decision
Steven Malanga has been on top of the “public union” story longer than anyone, and if there is a good piece of reporting exposing their greed, he’s probably the one who wrote it.
As you contemplate the looming bankruptcy of states like Illinois and California, all you really need to know is that your local Democrat and Republican lawmakers across the country are either wholly owned by the SEIU, or, like too many Republicans, simply too cowardly to take them on.
When Andy Stern announced his retirement earlier this month, virtually every news account noted that under his leadership the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) had become the fastest growing labor group in America. Whatever else Mr. Stern is remembered for—including his role as a key political ally of Barack Obama and an aggressive campaigner for the recently passed federal health legislation—his principal legacy will be having headed up a union that managed to add 1.2 million members during a time when overall unionization rates continued to plunge in the U.S.
But it’s important to understand how Mr. Stern pulled this off, because his union’s story is really the story of the transformation of the labor movement in America. The SEIU did not win its most significant victories on the picket lines, but rather in backroom political deals with legislative leaders, especially in states like California where the political class is already union-friendly.
Those deals helped the SEIU to organize workplaces that are nominally considered part of the private sector but actually are heavily controlled and influenced by government regulation, most especially in health care. By contrast, the SEIU’s success in areas where its political pressure isn’t decisive has been minimal at best.
The SEIU’s mediocre organizing record outside of industries in which its political muscle matters helps explain why Mr. Stern was such a big supporter of President Obama’s federal health legislation. The bill that passed provides for hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes to expand health-care services largely under government control, for instance, by vastly expanding Medicaid rolls. That perfectly describes the ideal Andy Stern environment for successful union organizing in today’s politicized economy.