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.


davidcay said...

Your snarky comments indicate that you did not pay attention to the focus of my column (gullible journalists) and that you do not understand the foundations of private property and market economics.

All compensation is earned. If you can find any authority to contradict what I wrote please offer a citation because I correct actual errors promptly and forthrightly.

So far 18 eminent economists and lawyers, from a wide range of political views, have all written that my point is unassailable. A few have even written this is so basic that they did not grasp why I wrote about it.

Then you come along to remind us how many people do not understand the fundamentals on which our system of government and market economics is built. If you do not understand the principles then you are likely to get the mechanics all wrong (see, for a good example, the history of geocentrism v. heloicentrism).

You also ignore what my column says about one of the reasons Wisconsin state workers would be upset with the governor, who by falsely describing the situation has created the false impression that the pensions are a gift (which would be a crime), luring many people (evidently including you) into misunderstanding the basic economics.

As I show in detail the governor used his deceptive (or ill-informed) remarks to draw attention away from his real goal, which is to cut the take home pay of the workers.

That may be a worthy goal, but journalists are supposed to skeptically examine everything, check out the facts and cross check them, not accept what politicians (or anyone else) says at face value.

How much workers are paid, my column carefully explains, is a matter of tax burdens. How the compensation flows is mere accounting.

I also observe that the public workers may be paid too much or too little.

Apart from this, you evidently favor a system in which Big Government negotiates with lone individuals.

Not exactly symmetrical information or power there. But, hey, if you want ever more power to reside with whichever party or politician holds the reins of government then the Walker plan is very appealing.

Timothy P. Williams said...

Of course all compensation is earned, and I agree with those who do not understand why you wrote about it. However, how we account for income, contrary to your dismissiveness, matters.

It strikes me that the Wisconsin reforms are simply baby steps towards accounting for benefits and retirement directly, on paychecks. You can say this approach is "deceptive," but it seems to me that the opposite approach, which hides these costs, is the deceptive one. Maybe you can help me understand which is the, uh, geocentric approach? (Sorry for the snark.)

You are right about one thing: the debate is entirely about how much government workers are paid, and I do think your piece served to get more people talking about that.

Thanks for your comment.