25 February 2011

Wisconsin state workers already pay for their pension? Then why are they so mad at Scott Walker?

Over at tax.com, a fellow named David Cay Johnston makes the claim that Wisconsin state workers already cover their own pensions. Naturally, this silly claim has been picked up, and waved triumphantly about by the lefty blogosphere.

I'm not going to dive down into the details, as a number of suckers already have in Johnston's comments section. Why bother? The truth is a lot simpler to discern here.

If what Johnston claims is true, it's funny that none of the protesting state workers have made the same claim, don't you think? I mean, you would think that would have come up when workers were asked to concede on this point.

You would also think, if they are already covering their retirement benefits, then Walker's proposal that future collective bargaining be restricted to wages would not be much of a sticking point, either. After all, if they are already covering their retirement, this wold be no change at all.

So why are they so mad?

Let's not get caught up in foolish arguments.

The state workers understand what they pay and what they don't, even if Johnston doesn't.

24 February 2011

If you follow the money in Wisconsin, it leads to Democrat machine politics

From the fever swamps of the left to your (Wisconsin) neighborhood democrats, dark conspiracy theories about the nefarious Koch brothers, and their puppetry of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are slowly becoming mainstreamed.

Let's put a couple of things into perspective here. I have no problem with "following the money," but the Kochs have hardly tilted the playing field. Their contribution to Walker's 2010 campaign was dwarfed by contributions to Democrats by Wisconsin teachers' unions alone.

There's big money in politics all right, but as the indispensable Michael Barone has pointed out, the biggest money of all comes from AFSCME, which contributed almost $90 million in 2010, almost exclusively to Democrats.

It's no wonder Democrats are fighting tooth and nail against the reforms proposed in Wisconsin. It's not about unions, or collective bargaining, or workers' rights or any other anachronistic nonsense being chanted by the dime-store tub-thumpers in the capitol building.

It's about protecting the campaign cash gravy train that's been the heart and soul of the Democrat machine for the last fifty years.

And the provision in the bill that they fear the most has nothing to do with concessions on pay or even collective bargaining. Rather, it's the change in law which would give government employees the option to join the union in the first place. Right now, those workers have no choice. They have as much as $1,100 a year extracted from their paychecks (read: Wisconsin tax dollars) and have no say in the political purposes on which it is spent.

Less than 7% of private sector workers are unionized. If government workers' unionization shrank to that level, Democrat campaign cash would dry up very quickly.

Let's face it, the outcome of the battle in Wisconsin will ultimately have little appreciable effect on the pay or working conditions of government employees.

For Democratic politicians, though, it's a battle for survival.

20 February 2011

Workers' rights implies employer powers; powers government does not have

When he first ran for President in 1992, Texas billionaire Ross Perot often promised that when he got to Washington, he'd "run it like a business."

It's one of the biggest reasons I didn't support him.

There's no doubt that Perot is a successful and intelligent businessman, but it's difficult to believe he could manage to amass his fortune and never figure out this truth: government is not a business.

Today, we have thousands of government employees demonstrating in the street over employment contract disputes in Madison, Wisconsin, and it seems to me that they share Perot's misapprehension about how government works.

Again: it isn't a business. For one thing, government should never have, or achieve, a goal of growth or profit.

They are called "public servants" because they are not simply employees serving the finite economic purposes of a business. Public servants serve a need defined by our society, and body politic, as necessary for the common good.

That's not to say they should not be paid fairly. However, their compensation is also a political decision, and ultimately, both the lawmakers and government unions are on the same side of the negotiating table.

It is not morally within the realm of the powers of elective office to elevate the needs of this self-selected minority above those of the larger society which both elected and non-elected public servants are supposed to serve.

Nor can it be truly a right for non-elected public servants to use the powers of collective bargaining to elevate their standing above those they are supposed to serve. Implicit in collective bargaining is the ability to quit; to hold the continuation of the business hostage. But striking government workers aren't shutting down one factory. They are shutting down the government. They aren't using their leverage against a small ownership group; they are using it against the entire body politic and even subsequent generations of taxpayers, all of whom have no real say in the negotiation.

In an ideal world, all of our wages would be determined by a free market. But a free market implies free decision-making, and taxpayers are simply not free to decide what they are willing to pay on a contract by contract basis. They are only free to decide who will make those decisions for them over a limited period of time, based on a limited set of priorities.

Their elected officials are bound to represent those interests, expressed in a free election, and public servants are bound by the same. Government decides things, and acts, more slowly than private business. That's one of the reasons, unfortunately for those who choose it, that "public service" used to be generally lower paid work.

But it isn't any more - why is that?