You get what you pay for with city government

One of my “crossing the Rubicon” moments came upon me about twenty years ago, when I went to the main branch of the old San Francisco public library (before it moved to its snazzy, very expensive new digs), and tried to check out a book.  I found myself standing in a line of about 60 people, all waiting to check out their books.

Standing on tip-toe (remember, I’m short), I was able to see that there were three active stations, each with a library employee checking out the books.  Considering that checking out books isn’t “rocket surgery,” I was at a loss to figure out why it was taking so long.  I discovered the problem when I got to the head of the line:  the clerks weren’t trying very hard.  To be honest, they weren’t trying at all.  Watching molasses drip on a cold day would be a more scintillating experience than watching these public servants processing the public.  To add insult to injury, they were rude too.

I walked out thinking this to myself:  “I doubt anyone of those clerks is paid more than about $28,000 per year, plus benefits.  That’s $84,000 cash per year, not including the benefits.  Why don’t they just hire one good person for $50,000 (plus benefits, of course), and get the job done right at a savings to the City of $34,000 per year, plus two unused benefits packages?  But of course, that couldn’t happen.  The unions would never go for it.  Their goal is to have as many employees as possible who, once they get their jobs, can never be fired, no matter how shoddy their work.  This isn’t about serving San Franciscans, this is about maximum employment for union members.”

I walked out of that library much more conservative than when I walked into that library.

This memory came back to me courtesy of an Instapundit post (hat tip:  Earl):

MORE ON THOSE UNDERFUNDED / OVERGENEROUS PUBLIC PENSIONS: Report: SF Pension Crisis Much Worse than City Claims: Adachi-commissioned analysis puts gap at $6.8 billion–not official figure of $1.6 billion. “The city’s pension fund is officially underfunded by $1.6 billion. Nation’s study argues that the pension fund is relying on a 7.75 percent annual rate of return that is unrealistic over the long term. The study argues for 6.2 percent, which it says was the average rate of return in the capital markets from 1900 through 1999.” Frankly, that “conservative” number looks overoptimistic to me. 4% is probably more realistic.

Andrew Klavan on public sector unions and YOU

May I suggest a different way to phrase those headlines?

At about 4:30 PST, two headlines just came down the pike, following the Wisconsin Senate votes:

Wisconsin anti-union measure must pass Assembly before it can go to Gov. Walker for signature

More on Wisconsin anti-union vote: No Democratic senators were present – AP

I’d like to rephrase them:

Wisconsin pro-taxpayer measure must pass Assembly before it can go to Gov. Walker for signature

More on Wisconsin pro-taxpayer vote:  No Democratic senators were present — AP

Once again, the liberals are framing the debate, aren’t they?

The problem with public sector collective bargaining

The core problem, which this video illustrates, is that the government forces public sector employees to pay dues to public sector unions, that then use those dues to buy elections, to place into power politicians who raise taxes to pay ever higher government salaries and pensions.  This has nothing to do with fairness, and everything to do with an inherently corrupt system that sees Democratic politicians and union leaders use other people’s money to maintain their power bases:

Paul Krugman: a lazy ideologue

Paul Krugman has a bully pulpit in the New York Times.  Its numbers may be declining under Pinch’s overlordship, but it still remains “the paper of record” to a lot of people with their hands in or near the power trough.  Paul Krugman’s readers respect him because (a) he holds their elitist Left outlook and (b) he has Nobel Prize.  The latter assures them that he is a reliable source.

The problem for Krugman’s readers is that they’ve missed out on one essential feature of Krugman’s writing and analysis — he is profoundly lazy.  Comfortably encased in his ideology, he trolls the internet for facts that support his argument, without ever bothering to determine whether those facts are honest, credible or valid.  Worse, he has completely abandoned his own analytical abilities, and makes no effort to determine whether the facts he cites are relevant to his argument.  Conservative commentators have repeatedly caught him making outrageous misstatements that arise because of his appalling laziness.

The latest to catch him is Iowahawk, who has abandoned scathing humor for straightforward reporting.  This is a really important one, because it shows that Krugman’s wrongness is 180 degrees.  He gets things exactly bass ackward, and is using his bully pulpit to spread gross untruths about public sector unions and collective bargaining.

The New York Times again strains for moral equivalence

We all learned in school about the Triangle factory fire in New York back in 1911.  The fire started and too many women died in significant part because of horrible working conditions the factory owners were able to impose on economically trapped women.  The fire was a PR disaster for management in America, and a huge aid to the development of private sector unions.  Since the 100th anniversary is drawing near, both PBS and HBO have shows lined up about the event.  The New York Times TV reviewer is excited, because he seems to hope that these shows will help boost sympathy to union protesters in Wisconsin and, now, other states too:

As demonstrations in support of Wisconsin’s public-employee unions proliferate, PBS can pat itself on the back for scheduling the documentary “Triangle Fire” on Monday night — more than three weeks before the 100th anniversary of the New York garment-factory blaze it details, which figures so strongly in the imagination of the American labor movement.

I wonder if the reviewer ever wakes up at 3 a.m. and thinks, “What the hell kind of crap am I peddling?”  Because, really, is there any equivalence between these two scenarios?

Scenario A:  Immigrant women labor under appalling conditions (60-80 hours a week), starvation wages, no job security whatsoever, and factory conditions so dangerous that, ultimately, 146 die in a single day, having leaped from windows to escape encroaching flames and locked doors.

Scenario B:  College graduates work a seven month year for the government and, once they’ve received lifetime job security, earn a total compensation package in excess of the average non-government worker in their community.  Further, these graduates are forced by law to pay money to a union that, in turn, hands that money over to a political party that, in turn, sets the wages for the union members, who then are forced by law to pay part of those wages to a union that, in turn . . . well, you get the corrupt cycle I’m describing here.

I hope that Americans are wiser than New York Times television reviewers and realize that, while we want our teachers to have living wages and safe working conditions, both for their own benefit and for the good of our children, the scam that’s currently in place with public sector unions is grotesque, unsustainable, and totally unrelated to the tug of war that occurs between labor and management in the private sector.

What’s really going on in Wisconsin

It’s a good video:

Here’s the real point:  If you want to work for government (which can be a very honorable or practical or neutral thing to do), you are forced to pay union dues.  You know, when you pay those dues that they will be used to fund the Democrats.  This is true whether or not you, personally, want to fund the Democrats.

Once elected, the Democrats shower benefits on the public sector unions, since that ensures that the unions will then shower money right back on the Democrats.  What’s important to remember is that these elected Democrats are your employees, just as the public sector workers are.  Nevertheless, you, the tax payer, have been cut out of the loop.  Instead, there’s an endlessly cycling mutually beneficial relationship going on between unions and benefits, that you’re paying for.  I think it’s called taxation without representation.  (Hmm….  Where have I heard that expression before?)

James Taranto on Wisconsin

Taranto is always good.  Sometimes, though, he’s great.  That’s the case for his column today, which discusses (a) the difference between public and private sector unions and (b) the difference between Tea Party and union protests.  He’s not saying anything you haven’t heard before or figured out for yourself; it’s just that he says it so well.

Regressives

Roger Simon, among others, has noted that the demonstrations in Madison demonstrate how old-fashioned the modern Left is, something that’s true despite the Left’s attempt to re-brand itself with the name “Progressive.”  It therefore seemed appropriate for me to run again an article I wrote for American Thinker back in September 2007.  My section on the unions (“Look for the union label”) seems prescient now.

***

Regressives

Language is anything but static, something for which we must be grateful. It’s the dynamism of the English language that, at the high end, gives us Chaucer, Shakespeare, Pope, Dickens, and at the low end, gives us the liveliness of slang and dialect.

One of the interesting things about English’s constant, beneficial mutations is the fact that some terms which start off as merely descriptive begin to degrade in meaning, eventually ending as insults. For example, the now archaic word “beldam” started off as a grand old lady and ended up meaning a miserable hag. “Spinster” originally described a woman who spins, but came to mean a desiccated, narrow minded old virgin. Another word that ended with a completely degrade meaning was “bedlam,” which describes a completely insane situation, but that had its genesis in Christ’s natal town of Bethlehem.

And then there’s the word “liberal.” It comes from the Latin “liber,” meaning free, so the word “liberal” originally referred to one committed to freedom. Over time, however — indeed, in our lifetime — it came to mean one thing: someone who could not win an election. Clearly, it was time for a change.

Liberals, after some bold attempts to reclaim the title for themselves (and they’ve got the bumper stickers to prove it), decided to jettison the term entirely and come up with a new word to describe themselves. They are now “Progressives.” The word “progressive” means to advocate beneficial change and progress, and that’s certainly what Progressives would have the American people believe they offer.

By giving themselves this label, however, the Progressives have proven yet again that there’s no delusion quite as powerful as self-delusion. The fact is that, if you pick apart each of the Progressives’ stands on any major issue of the day, you’ll see that either they have staked out positions that were either proven false or ineffective decades ago, or they’re still fighting battles that were long ago won, making their efforts redundant (yet still, somehow, harmful to the modern political process).

One, two, three, four, No way will we win this war

The most visible example of the Progressives’ tendency to live in the past is their compulsive urge to view the Iraq War as if it was a movie sequel entitled The Vietnam War, Part II. This was apparent within minutes of the War’s inception, when Progressives (both in and out of the media) were already labeling it a quagmire. They looked for and found their My Lai massacre when the Abu Ghraib scandal and the Haditha affair came to light.

Showing admirable tenacity, the Progressives have clung to these few 1960s/1970s lodestones despite some pesky details that run counter to their Vietnam narrative. For one thing, there was the fact that, in the months leading up to the War, Saddam Hussein worked hard to convince UN inspectors that he had WMDs. If this was true (and they’re in Syria or elsewhere right now), he invited the War on himself and his long suffering people.

If it was Saddam issuing propaganda aimed at aggrandizing his stature amongst the rogue nations of the world, no one can be blamed for bombing his nuclear Potemkin Village. Certainly he’d actually built that faux village on a solid foundation, since few could doubt that someone who would gleefully use poison gas to massacre his own people would hesitate to use it against foreign enemies, given the chance.

Another problem for the Regressives… er, Progressives… is the nature of Saddam’s Iraq itself. Vietnam had the bad luck to be caught between opposing Communist forces, with Vietnam the battered football in the middle. Iraq was quite a different kettle of fish. In a region that distinguishes itself as the land of repressive regimes, Saddam stood out as a star. In addition to the Halabja massacre (see above), Saddam brutally tortured and murdered his own people, committed ecoterrorism to drive out disfavored ethnic groups, gave free reign to his sadistic sons with the hope that they’d eventually rule Iraq, invaded neighboring sovereign nations, and is believed to have murdered around 200,000 of his own people. Under Hussein, Iraq was not an unwitting international football kicked around in the Cold War, it was a time bomb waiting to explode.

None of these icky little facts deter the Progressives. For them, it’s always 1974 all over again and they urge us on to the one lesson they learned from the Vietnam War: the U.S. should turn tail and run. Sadly for Iraqis and Americans, the Progressives are careful to freeze their historic memories to fix on that (to them) wonderful moment when people raced to the rooftops of buildings, desperate to board the last U.S. helicopters. Memory carefully stops before it reaches the reeducation camps in North Vietnam or the Killing Fields of Cambodia. For Progressives, useful as the past is to define their current-day agenda, some history lessons are better left unlearned.

‘I believe it is peace in our time.”

When it comes to terrorists, Progressives show a true sense of retro style, turning the Way Back machine to the 1930s, with Neville Chamberlain as their role model. For those who are not conversant with Chamberlain’s dealings with Hitler, they are instructive.

Immediately upon assuming power in 1933, Hitler began to use violence and intimidation within Germany in order to achieve his political and social goals. To the extent that he went after Communists, many in Europe and, especially, in Britain, were not unsympathetic to his goals, even if they deplored his tactics. They were less sympathetic to, but perfectly willing to ignore, his attacks on Jews, gays, clergyman, gypsies, and the mentally and physically handicapped. These were, after all, internal affairs and (I’m sure this was said with the inevitable shrug), “what can one do?”

Europe’s ability to look the other way changed in 1938 when Hitler, feeling limited by turning his aggression on his own people, began turning his energies outward. In March 1938, after having already procured the assassination of an Austrian Chancellor, Hitler invaded Austria in what became known as the Anschluss. (And it’s no credit to Austria that large numbers of its citizens were delighted with this turn of events.) Although this was a complete violation of all international law, and was clearly an act of war, Chamberlain’s government sat passively by.

Then, in September 1938, when Hitler began to rumble about the Sudetenland, which Germany had lost to Czechoslovakia after World War I, Chamberlain went to Berlin to meet with Hitler. Hitler quickly got the measure of the man and offered Chamberlain an either/or solution to the Sudetenland issue: Either Britain assist Germany’s plans to annex the Sudetenland or Hitler would invade Czechoslovakia and take it back himself. Overawed by Hitler’s reasoning, Neville Chamberlain quickly agreed to the “either” part of that plan and executed the Munich Agreement. Proud of his negotiating skills, which gave Hitler the power and geographical range instantly to overrun Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain returned to England and boasted to the British people that

“this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace in our time.”

The 1930s peace crowd took those words seriously. Despite Hitler’s increasingly aggressive acts throughout the 1930s, both inside and outside Germany, and despite Hitler’s clearly expressed threats to take over Europe and destroy all whom he deemed inferior, Chamberlain and the peace party that support him were “shocked, shocked” when Hitler, appropriately viewing the Munich Agreement as a carte blanche from supine European leaders, first invaded Czechoslovakia, then Poland, and then tried to take on the world.

Chamberlain’s incredible naiveté in believing that it was possible to have peace with a tyrant bound and determined to control and kill anyone who affected his power meant that, within seven years of the Munich Agreement, through genocide, the ordinary and tragic casualties of war, and battle deaths, as many as 72 million people are estimated to have died. One can only conclude that Chamberlain got “peace with honor” confused with the Roman idea, which was to “make a desert and call it peace.”

If the above narrative sounds uncomfortably familiar, it should, and I’m not just saying this because you probably studied World War II in school (or, at least, you did if you’re over 30). The so-called Progressives are closely mimicking Chamberlain’s behavior. They’re thrilled with Bin Laden’s reasoning, especially since he sounds uncannily like their own Progressive leaders. They want us to do everything that Bin Laden and his minions advise: withdraw from Iraq, jettison Israel, and remove any Western presence from Saudi Arabia (except, of course, for the petrodollars).

The Progressive’s antiquated appeasement standards are even better displayed with Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York. Let me remind you here that Ahmadinejad may have been part of the 1979 hostage crisis, that he’s repeatedly threatened to destroy Israel entirely, and that he’s determined to become a nuclear power, which poses a threat to all Western interests. But who cares? Bully boys are always treated well by appeasers. This time, not only were the Progressive appeasers excited to give him a forum at the once prestigious Columbia University in New York, they’ve gave him airtime on American TV courtesy of 60 Minutes.

And just to put the whole matter of the Progressives’ fawning over Ahmadinejad in its proper retro perspective, in 1933 Columbia happily offered the red carpet to a high ranking Nazi official. One could argue that, in 1933, it wasn’t quite so obvious how terrible the Nazis were to become, but Columbia President Lee Bollinger has killed that argument already. He announced that he would have invited Hitler to speak too. Keep in mind that even Chamberlain didn’t invite Hitler to London.

We’re having a baby, my baby and me.

One of the most retrograde areas in Progressive thought concerns abortion rights — and I think you’ll agree with me whether you are pro-Choice or pro-Life.

A couple of years ago, I found myself at the abortion rights webpage for the National Organization of Women. What struck me right away was how dated the organization’s position was regarding abortion. At that time, to make its point about the need for legalized abortions, it led with photographs of four women who died from abortions. Following the link, I was led to the story of seven women who died from botched abortions. The years of death were 1929, 1929, 1940, 1950, 1967, 1977 and 1988. The dates are significant, since only the last two occurred after abortion became legal.

The death in 1977 was blamed on the fact that the dead woman was denied public funding for her abortion; the death in 1988 was blamed on a young woman afraid to seek parental consent for a legal abortion. Thus, with the exception of the 1977 and 1988 abortions, all the highlighted deaths occurred in times when birth control options were nil to limited, and when the stigma of pregnancy for unmarried women was extraordinarily high. The 1988 abortion was also a “stigma” abortion, since the girl was afraid to tell her parents.

There is no doubt that, if you are pro-Choice, either whole heartedly or in a lukewarm kind of way, there are, in 2007, still arguments to make in favor of abortion — rape, incest, a high risk pregnancy, a woman’s right to control her body, etc. The old reasons, however, just don’t apply anymore. Aside from the easy availability of myriad forms of birth control, nowadays the average accidental pregnancy may well be difficult or inconvenient, but it is no longer social death. Women are not turned out at night into snow storms, women do not become community pariahs, women are not forever tainted because of having an “illegitimate” pregnancy and, despite NOW’s focus on teen abortions and parental consent, it’s the rare news story that concerns a teen dying of a back alley abortion in those states requiring parental consent. It may certainly be embarrassing for a woman to admit to a pregnancy, but it is no longer the end of life on earth as women know it. Certainly the abortion debate would be more honest, if less emotional, if the “Progressives” were to debate abortion in the here and now, instead of in the then and gone.

We Shall Overcome

Perhaps ashamed that during both major Civil Rights battles (the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movements), Democrats allied themselves against African Americans, modern Progressives not only proclaim themselves the defenders of Civil Rights in America, but they also continue to wage the battle against racism as if it’s still Selma, 1964. In the Progressive world, racial oppression is an omnipresent aspect in the fabric of American life, with every white American (who isn’t Progressive, of course) a slavering racist anxious to degrade and dehumanize blacks.

To Progressives, something like the Jena 6 is a beautiful thing, because it proves their point — America is a racist nation, and they can board their protest busses and bravely take a seat at the segregated lunch counters of their fantasies. What they seem incapable of realizing is that even government conduct as suspect as that in the Jena 6 case reveals how far America has come since the actual Civil Rights movement. I’m probably not the first to notice that Jena 6 is a cause celebre, not because it’s happening all over America, or even all over the South, but because it’s anomalous.

White America is not routinely scapegoating black America. Indeed, the most recent racially motivated scapegoating saw a white Southern politician attempt to destroy the lives of several white defendants in an effort to curry favor with the local black community. (That would be the alleged Duke rape, for those of you scratching your heads over my allusion.) It’s also worth pointing out that the Jena 6 case is not the traditional “whites are bad, blacks are scapegoated” scenario, but seems to be an uglier and broader slice of race warfare amongst the young’uns, with each side enthusiastically threatening and otherwise terrorizing its opponent.

There is no doubt that there are still Americans who are racists, and it behooves each and every American to target that racism where it lies. But we make a grave mistake if we (for “we” read “Progressives”) pretend that the institutional racism of the Jim Crow South is still a looming factor in the lives of African-Americans. That kind of historical yearning means that, every three years or so, when something bad happens to African-Americans (and I don’t deny that bad things happen), Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton can race over to relive their own glory days in the early 1960s, all the while obscuring the fact that we live in a much less racially charged world. This kind of 1960s theater in the 21st Century does two terrible things: it continuously inflames the African American sense of grievance, something both psychologically and practically damaging; and it helps grow two dangerous emotions in white Americans when it comes to race: ennui and resentment.

Look for the union label

Unions were a necessity in the early days of the industrial revolution. Workers were so spectacularly abused in those days (in part because they had limited mobility when it came to looking for greener employment pastures) that only by united action were they able to shift the employer/employee dynamic away from mind-bogglingly brutalizing practices. (See, for example, the successful 1888 strike that forced the British government to legislate against the horror of phossy jaw, a phosphorous based cancer that afflicted 19th and 20th century workers in match factories.) Unionization is still useful today in highly dangerous industries where the risks of employment go beyond the economic and into life and death scenarios – and this is especially true in the chemical industry, where the employer has information the employee lacks and has the ability to control environmental safety which, again, is something the individual employee cannot do.

Having said that, most unions today are not useful at all, but are redundant victims of their own success. Thanks to decades of union action, the federal government and all the States have wage and hour laws, labor commissions (most of which are usually very hostile to the employer), occupational safety and health laws, mandatory retirement plans, minimum wage laws, etc. All of these, of course, were worker protections that unions fought for and won.

The problem is that, once you’ve done what you came for, what’s left? Well, for a lot of unions, aside from a huge effort negotiating salaries for the union bosses and a de minimus effort doing the same for union members, what’s left is a bullying style that tries to infringe on management prerogatives by dictating how the business should be run. The most obvious example of that trend can be found in the teacher’s unions, which routinely try to control both the broader political process and the classroom curriculum, all the while pressuring their employer (that would be you, through your agent, the government), to continue employing them without regard to performance standards.

Despite all this, for the Progressives, unions are the only things that stand between American workers and the 19th Century factory system of 12 hours, at salaries equal to mere pennies, in horrible unsafe conditions. It’s as if the social and political changes affecting employees during the last 100 years never happened. Instead, only by emphasizing working conditions that, in most cases, no longer exist, can Progressives keep alive an institution that serves their larger political agenda (often with a complete disregard for the rank and file’s beliefs), but that has an increasingly small effect on any given union’s original purpose.

Bill and Hillary Clinton, when running in 1992, were fond of repeating the old saying that insanity is defined by doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different outcome. They were prescient (and I’m not just talking about Hillary’s recycled healthcare plan). No matter how they label themselves, the Progressives are anything but: on every issue that affects Americans, they have staked their politics and theories that are antiquated, ineffective or redundant. And if that’s not crazy, I don’t know what is.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Obama wears the purple

In Roman times, purple was the Emperor’s color.  Today, it’s the color of the man who dreamed of being America’s Leftist king:

Is anybody else as creeped out by that video as I am?

And another question, which has nothing to do with unions — Do you get the feeling that Obama is hiding under the table as events in Libya unfold?

Hat tip:  American Thinker

A reminder to let Wisconsin Republicans known you’ve got their backs

If you haven’t already sent emails expressing support to Wisconsin Gov. Walker and the Republican Senators, you must.  Here are the email addresses:

govgeneral@wisconsin.gov
Sen.Ellis@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Darling@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Cowles@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Fitzgerald@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Galloway@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Grothman@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Harsdorf@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Hopper@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Kapanke@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Kedzie@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Lasee@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Lazich@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Leibham@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Moulton@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Olsen@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Schultz@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Vukmir@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Wanggaard@legis.wisconsin.gov
Sen.Zipperer@legis.wisconsin.gov

Wisconsin has become the first battle in the true war between the taxpayers and the unions. The Governor and the Senators are at the front line of fighting, and they need to know that their efforts matter, and that they matter far beyond Wisconsin’s own borders.

More thoughts on Wisconsin

The average Wisconsin teacher has a better total compensation package than the average Wisconsin taxpayer.  After the proposed legislation goes through, the average Wisconsin teacher will still have a better total compensation package than the average Wisconsin taxpayer.  If this was 1789, events in Madison would be the equivalent of the French aristocrats taking to the streets, attired in satins, silks and jewels, and armed with pitchforks and pikes, to stridently demand even more from France’s starved and overworked peasantry.

Let’s get serious, though.  The issue, of course, isn’t compensation.  The average teacher who is taking to the street thinks it is, but the organizers, including Obama, the organizer-in-chief, know what the uproar is really about, and that is a Republican effort to diminish the power of public sector unions.

Currently, unions — all unions, whether public sector or private sector — get to speak to politicians on behalf of their membership, speech that is effected through contributions to politicians who are most likely to pass legislation favorable to union goals.  When it comes to the private sector, I don’t have a problem with that.  Corporations can and should be able to do that do.  If legislation affects a group or entity, it should have a political voice.  The same holds true with private sector unions.

When it comes to public sector unions, especially the teachers’ unions, things are different.  With regard to teachers’ unions, the unions don’t limit their efforts to wages, benefits and working conditions.  Instead, they are deeply involved with politicizing the classrooms to ensure that they raise generations of young people who understand the world through a Leftist filter.  And with regard to all public sector unions, the union dues aren’t intended to affect legislation.  Instead, they’re essentially being used to bribe the people who write the checks and pay the pensions.

One of the things Wisconsin Republicans want to do is decrease the amount of dues available to public sector unions, money that those unions have traditionally used to buy elections.  They’re doing this by proposing a law stating that non-union members in the public sector are not required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.   (I’m not sure whether this law would also apply to private sector unions but, for the reasons discussed below, it should.)

Currently, in a unionized business, employees are forced to pay union dues, whether or not they agree with union goals.  The reasoning behind this, if I remember my Labor Law class correctly, is that it would be unfair for non-union employees to benefit from the wage and working concessions wrung out of the employer by union members who did pay dues.

How much better it would be to apply the marketplace to union membership.  Assuming a perfect union, one that exists only to ensure decent wages and working conditions, if enough people belong to the union, yes, everyone benefits, including the “freeloaders.”  In vaccination terms, the latter are getting the benefit of herd immunity.

What invariably happens when the going is good is that more and more people conclude that the status quo is good regardless of their active participation.  Parents stop immunizing their children; and employees back off from the unions.

In the disease world, herd immunity vanishes and unvaccinated people fall ill.  Seeing the consequences of their actions, people start immunizing again, and the diseases back off.  In the union world, employers gain the upper hand, and workers realize that it was a mistake not to pay their dues.  Employees start paying their dues again, the union’s power returns, and the balance of power between employer and employee swings back to the center.

Forcing union membership creates a situation in which the union leadership is beholden to nothing and nobody.  No matter what the leadership does, no matter the bad deals it strikes or, in the case of the teachers’ unions, the horrid things it does to the classrooms, it keeps going and going and going.  Union leadership is like a demented, perverse, evil Energizer Bunny.  Our students are held hostage in the classroom, and we are held hostage in the legislature — in significant part because these state supported unions buy elections to ensure politicians who will maintain this twisted status quo.

I often say I hate unions.  Thinking about it, though, what I hate is a political system that has given unions unlimited power, freeing them from marketplace constraints.  They are the perfect illustration of Lord Acton’s dictum that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

Thoughts about the Wisconsin teachers’ union *UPDATED*

As I understand it, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, faced with a $3.6 billion biennial budget deficit (for the years 2011-2013), had the choice of raising taxes in his financially beleaguered state or firing up to 6,000 state employees.  He chose a third route, proposing that Wisconsin’s public sector employees start carrying a small portion of their pension and benefit load.  The Heritage Foundation summarizes Walker’s proposal as follows:

Walker’s proposal would limit collective bargaining power and reform public employee benefit plans. For the first time, state employees would be responsible for making a 5.8 percent contribution into their pension plans and pick up the tab for 12 percent of their health care benefits. As it currently stands, Wisconsin taxpayers bear 100 percent of the costs.

Even with this change to the status quo, the employees are still better off than the average Wisconsin employee.  First, as noted, taxpayers are currently paying all of those costs.  Second, even under the proposed change, the public sector employees would still be paying a significantly lower percentage of these costs than are paid by similarly situated private employees.

Keep in mind, too, that the average teacher in a Wisconsin city Milwaukee including benefits — has a salary a total compensation in excess of $100,000:

This salary annual compensation package is one half the average sale price ($200,000) for a home in Madison, Wisconsin.  The average salary in Wisconsin overall is less than $60,000.  To summarize, Wisconsin teachers, who are state employees receiving their income from taxpayers, get higher pay and better benefits than many of their taxpayer employers.

Aside from the money issues, Gov. Walker proposes trimming union wings a bit, so that the unions lose some of their coercive power over their own members:

Walker’s budget removes the special privileges that give government unions their outsize influence. His plan allows workers to quit their union without losing their job. He requires unions to demonstrate their support through an annual secret-ballot vote. He also ends the unfair taxpayer subsidy to union fundraising: The state and local government would stop collecting union dues with their payroll systems.

In a dreadful economy, in a state with a huge debt load, you’d think that the public sector employees would be sanguine about the proposal.  After all, they get to keep their jobs, they get to keep their benefits, and they still have salaries and benefits that exceed those given to their taxpayer employees.  In addition, the unions that they are currently to which they are currently forced to belong would have to be run more fairly.

If you were looking for reasoned thought from unions, however, you’d be looking a long, long time.  The unions and their Democrat consigliores have gone absolutely ballistic.  The Democrat politicians have gone into hiding and the teachers have gone on the march.

With regard to the teacher protests, you’ve already heard about the illegal strike; the ill-informed and indoctrinated students dragged into the fray; the vile signs likening Walker to Hitler or Hussein or Mubarak, or placing gun sights on Walker’s face’ and the filth these protesters left in their wake.  What I’m more interested in is why the teachers?  Other public sector employees are also subject to these budget proposals, but it’s the teachers who are leading the way.

Part of the answer, of course, lies with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.  In a state in which the teachers’ union has been likened to the fourth branch of government, it was he who first made Americans aware of the way in which teacher’s unions, more than any other single employee group, are putting a pinch on state government coffers.  Suddenly, teachers aren’t the sweet-faced little ladies teaching Johnny and Janie to read.  Instead, they’re well-paid cogs benefiting from the union’s depredations.

Christie is always careful, in his speeches, to distinguish individual teachers from the unions themselves, and he’s right to do so.  It is the unions that are rapacious.  The teachers benefit, of course, from the union demands.  They’d be absolute idiots to say “No, I don’t want the salary you’re handing me; no, I don’t want the benefits that are coming my way; and, please, forget about that tenure that makes sure I’ll have a job forever.”  Each individual teacher knows that if he should decide unilaterally to be honorable and turn down the salary and benefits headed his way, it would change nothing.  The situation would continue the same, but he’d be poor.

The problem for teachers is that, having taken these benefits, they’re stuck with the consequences.  They’re stuck with the fact that, because of tenure, too many incompetent teachers occupying America’s classrooms, bringing the whole profession into disrepute.  And they’re stuck with the fact that the unions have stuck their collective bargaining noses in the curriculum, teaching information and values that offend their taxpayer employers.  And they’re stuck with the fact that ordinary taxpayers (and teachers are taxpayers too, but their numbers are small compared to the rest of America’s taxpayers), think that it’s obscene for someone to get paid twice their own salary, with much better benefits, for seven months work.

Oh, yeah!  Did I forget to mention that?  Most people work about eleven months of the year, with approximately one month off for official holidays and vacation.  Teachers, however, work on average seven months of the year, except that they make more money than those eleven-month workers do.

How did we get to this point with teachers?  I certainly remember a time when it wasn’t this way.  From about 1966 until 1987, my father was a public school teacher in a San Francisco Bay Area school district.  Those were not the glory days.  Our family lived only slightly above the poverty level.  We made ends meet only because, in addition to his teaching job, my father taught summer school and gave private lessons.  Eleven months a year, my father worked five to six days a week.  He left the house at 7:00 every day to teach school and returned home at around 10:30, after his private lessons ended.

The only good thing about my father’s job was the benefits.  He didn’t get life insurance, and he got a minuscule pension (about $5,000/year when he retired), but he got great medical and dental.  The dental was especially good:  if we had our teeth cleaned and checked twice a year, the insurance company would pay for all major dental procedures.  My parents, though, had to dig into their own pockets to get our crooked teeth straightened.

The whole situation stank.  There was a reason, though, for teachers’ lousy compensation.  Before women’s lib, the bulk of teacher’s were women.  Before women’s lib, you could therefore pay these female teachers a very low salary.  The thinking was that women who taught were wives and mothers who were bringing in a little extra.  They didn’t need a top salary because theirs was the second salary in a household.  (My mother, a draftswoman, was told precisely this back in 1958, when she learned that the man sitting at the table next to her, with the same training and job description, received twice her salary.)  That this wasn’t always the case — that the women was sometimes the primary or sole breadwinner — didn’t prevent it from being true often enough for the system to work fairly well in an era before women started realizing that the job itself, not their marital status, should determine the salary.

Incidentally, women’s lib also changed the caliber of teacher we see in today’s classroom.  In a pre-liberated era, one of the only jobs for bright, college-educated women, was teaching.  Classrooms therefore got a lot of teachers who would, by today’s standards, be considered over-educated.

I don’t say this to denigrate today’s teachers.  I know that most of them (and most are still female, although there are a fair number of men), are qualified for their jobs.  But the fact is that many of them don’t come from the top third of their own graduating classes.  When it comes to women, many in the top third now go to the cachet jobs:  doctors, lawyers, architects, investment bankers, etc.  This means that the current crop of teachers, with obvious and many exceptions, lacks the breadth of knowledge and education that characterized pre-women’s lib teachers.  What all this means is that we pay more now for teachers than we did a generation ago, but we get less educational bang for the buck.

The kind of starvation wages my father was paid were offensive.  Also, people realized that their children are in the teacher’s hands.  If they don’t get decent teachers, they don’t end up with decently educated children.  Ironically, it was the Leftists who argued most stridently what is an obvious free market principle:  if you don’t pay good salaries, you don’t get good workers.  Salaries for teachers had to go up.  It’s just that, as the unions gained more and more power, salaries went up disproportionately to the service being offered.  This fact wasn’t obvious during the flush times, but it sure is obvious now.

Worse, no matter how good the teachers, at precisely the same time that the unions were getting more demanding, people were noticing that their children were getting less educated.  Some of it, as I pointed out, was due to the change in educational level of those teaching.  Some, however, was due to the increased politicization of the classroom.  Educational colleges because less concerned with the Three Rs and infinitely more concerned with indoctrinating students.  Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic got swept away in ebonics, climate change, multiculturalism, identity politics, self-actualization and self-realization.  A six hour day just didn’t give enough time for everything, and academics suffered.

But no matter what, teachers’ unions clung to that moral high gr0und:  “It’s for the children!  Give us more money and, even though we won’t change the way in which we operate, we promise that we’ll produce a better product.”  After twenty plus years of being fooled, the taxpayers are finally wising up.

It’s this moral high ground, though, that sees the teachers in the forefront of the battle against Governor Walker.  No one is going to be sympathetic if the tax collections or auditors or motor vehicle employees rise up to fight the cuts.  It’s the teachers who have put themselves on the high moral pedestal, and it’s they who are falling furthest and fastest, although I don’t think they’ve quite realized either their speed or trajectory just yet.

The last thing I’ll say here, speaking directly to Gov. Walker and the Wisconsin Democrats, is a Margaret Thatcher quotation:  “This [is] no time to go wobbly.”  This is one of those turning points in a war.  It’s the public sector’s Gettysburg or Midway or Battle of the Bulge:  whoever wins this battle, wins the war.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

[Updated to add video with $100,000 compensation info.]

UPDATE:  Larry Kudlow gives some useful information that helps put all the numbers in context:

Wisconsin parents should go on strike against the teachers’ union. A friend e-mailed me to say that the graduation rate in Milwaukee public schools is 46 percent. The graduation rate for African-Americans in Milwaukee public schools is 34 percent. Shouldn’t somebody be protesting that?

Governor Walker is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and he wants state workers to pay one-half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health benefits. Currently, most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance. That’s an outrage.

Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America — which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Ace nails the bottom line on allowing public sector unions

The point of a union is that it has political heft.  One of the ways in which we demonstrate political heft in this country is money.  Unions (just like corporations) can donate money directly to candidates and parties.  The result, as Ace pithily says, is “nothing but legal corruption: they are currently permitted to bribe the government officials signing their contracts.”

As you watch the anarchy in Wisconsin, which sees infuriated teachers, ignorant students in tow, storming the capitol, while Democrats hide in order to prevent a fair vote, keep Ace’s point in mind.  (By “fair vote,” I mean of course that, in a representative democracy, on some issues, the party that won the majority wins the legislative votes too — unless the sore losers cheat.)

A smogasbord of interesting stuff

Apropos my apparent fascism, one neocon, an former Communist, and also an Italian Jew, suggests that supporting Israel may be enough to earn that appellation from the Left.  (H/t Soccer Dad)

Speaking of Soccer Dad, at his blog we have another reminder that Ataturk‘s western nation is vanishing, to be replaced by a hardline Islamic nation.

As a companion piece to three depressing posts about Islam’s ascendancy vis a vis Christianity, Bruce Kesler introduces us to an organization that’s trying to challenge discrimination against Christians.

I’ve mentioned that I use my “real” Facebook as a means, very politely and disingenuously, to challenge my liberal friend’s strident, usually unthinking, worldviews.  (All some of them, I admit, are a lost cause, whom I keep as friends only for the amusement value.)  Turns out I’m not the only one.  Here are some techniques if you’d like to use facebook as a gentle means to return some of your lost liberal friends to the real world.

The Anchoress has a great memory.  Back in 2004, when liberals lost, they went out of their way to make loud apologies to other Americans for failing to win the good fight to save the political world from Bush.  This time around, they’re remarkably silent.

It’s not just that Obama is again loudly criticizing Israel (all the while managing to keep his mouth shut about Palestinian behavior).  It’s that he uses a Muslim nation as the forum for his criticism.  I can’t quite articulate it, but there’s something even lower than the usual low about doing that.

Union bosses are content to kill the goose that lays the golden egg (that would be the American economy, by the way).  Union rank and file is, apparently, less thrilled about that short-sighted approach to their lives and livelihoods.

I’m worried that we’re showing hubris by getting all excited about Pelosi’s decision to retain her leadership status.  (Here’s an example from Roger Simon, whose writing is always so delicious.)  Nancy is vile.  Nancy is dishonest.  Nancy is intellectually stupid.  Nancy is all that.  But she’s also got a feral knack for manipulating people (aided, no doubt, by her dishonesty), and I have no doubt that the core players (Soros, the Chicago people) are behind her move because they think it will benefit them.  I don’t know how it will benefit them, but I’m neither manipulative nor dishonest.  We should certainly feel free to laugh, but I’d still keep my hand on my weapons around that woman.

I’ve been trying to explain to my kids all the reasons I despite the UN.  (This is a subject that comes up annually, because I refuse to give “coins to UNICEF.”)  Here’s a good, albeit merely symbolic reason, for loathing that antisemitic tyranny that elevates every tin-pot dictator to meaningful power, all of it aimed against Israel.

Oh, and here’s a good article about what constitutes real “progress.”  (By the way, how many old school Democrats do you think appreciate the way they’re now classified as “Progressives,” which is an entirely different political animal.  For all its whining about its inability to communicate over right wing noise, the Left is miraculously adept at manipulating language.)  (H/t New Editor)

Union members apparently don’t want to kill the American goose that is laying their golden eggs

A deeply disappointed New York Times reports that the Democrats are not able to rely upon the union stalwarts in the upcoming election:

Labor leaders, alarmed at a possible Republican takeover of one or both Houses of Congress, promise to devote a record amount of money and manpower to helping Democrats stave off disaster. But political analysts, and union leaders themselves, say that their efforts may not be enough because union members, like other important parts of the Democratic base, are not feeling particularly enthusiastic about the party — a reality that, in turn, further dampens the Democrats’ chances of holding onto their Congressional majorities.

I wonder if the problem doesn’t lie only with failed Democratic promises, something that would definitely agitate the union leaders.  Perhaps the real problem amongst the rank and file is that a lot of ordinary Americans who pay union dues, either from a weak commitment to the unions or because their job forces them to do so, are finally figuring out that unions can bring benefits to their members only if there is a fat and happy U.S. to generate those benefits — and that if you become a super parasite, your host will die, denying you the nutrition on which you feed.

He is a big guy in every way

I am crazy abut this politician:

We have some spectacular young guns in the conservative party.  The problem is timing.  I don’t know if any will be ready by 2012, and it may be too late by 2016.

SEIU under fire at Northern California Kaisers

I’m generally not a union fan, because I believe that unions have become inherently corrupt organizations that stifle business growth in America, something that harms the very people they’re supposed to represent.  At the government level, government unions have completely gained the upper hand, so much so that the government merely signs the checks, without considering that gold-plated pension plans are economically unsustainable.  In other words, with too much power vested in them, unions, rather than being helpful, and balancing power between labor and management, have become a parasite that will eventually kill the host.

Which is why I found very interesting a flyer that was lying around Kaiser when I went today for help with a vexing, albeit ultimately benign, problem.  (Kaiser, incidentally, gave me wonderful treatment — swift, attentive and courteous).  Anyway, for your consideration, I present a volley in one union’s war against SEIU hegemony:

kaiser0001_33pct

San Francisco protests on a silver platter

I’m all for reducing pollution, but we don’t need a trumped-up excuse like “climate change” in order to achieve a cleaner environment. Minimizing pollution is a legitimate goal which stands on its own merits; concocting hysterical disaster scenarios (such as those shown in An Inconvenient Truth) only serves to undermine any credibility the environmental and conservation movements once had.

That’s Zombie speaking, in the first of a four chapter journey through a day of protests in San Francisco.  Zombie covers environmentalists protesting environmentalists, madcaps trying to crash a Tea Party, the Tea Party itself and an SEIU Immigration Amnesty protest.  One can say many things about the City (and I often do), but it’s certainly never boring.  Find out for yourself.  Pull up a comfortable chair in front of your computer, and let Zombie do the walking.

P.S.  If you’d like more visuals and some audio of the SF Tea Party, check out Fund 47.

Why public sector employment is killing the economy

Actually, there are only three reasons here why public sector employment is killing the economy.  I’m sure that, all of us working together, could think of many more reasons:

Two unions spend $319.2 million over 10 years to affect California political process

Here’s a list of the biggest spenders in California politics for the past decade:

These 15 groups spent more than a combined $1 billion over the past 10 years to influence public policy:

— California Teachers Association: $211.8 million

— California State Council of Service Employees: $107.4 million

— Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America: $104.9 million

— Morongo Band of Mission Indians: $83.6 million

— Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians: $69.2 million

— Pacific Gas & Electric Co.: $69.2 million

— Chevron Corp.: $66.2 million

— AT&T Inc.: $59.6 million

— Philip Morris USA Inc.: $50.7 million

— Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians: $49 million

— Southern California Edison: $43.4 million

— California Hospital Association: $43 million

— California Chamber of Commerce: $39 million

— Western States Petroleum Association: $35.2 million

— Aera Energy LLC: $34.6 million

Source: California Fair Political Practices Commission

What’s striking is that the Teachers’ Union outspent the next biggest spender by almost two to one — and the next biggest spender is also a union.  The Chron, incidentally, tried to make it sound as if the union spending, while at the top, was indistinguishable from the trailing corporate spending:

While the powerful teachers union topped the spending list and the California State Council of Service Employees – which lobbies on behalf of public employees represented by SEIU labor chapters – came in second, at $107 million, business wasn’t far behind. Six corporations funneled nearly $324 million into the political process, including $69.2 million spent by Pacific Gas & Electric Co., $66.2 million by Chevron Corp. and $59.6 million by AT&T Inc.

In fact, on a per corporation basis, corporations were far behind unions, and, collectively, they lagged behind casinos too.  Here are the numbers:  Two unions spent $319.2 million to affect the political process.  Three Indian gambling groups spent $201.8 million to affect the political process.  Three government regulated utilities spent $172.2 million to affect the political process.  And where do the remaining corporate entities come in?  At $373.6 million, which sounds like a lot until you realize its divided between seven corporations, for an average of $53 million per entity over ten years — versus the unions’ average of $159 million per entity over ten years.  So just who is really affecting the political process?

By the way, do you want to know one of the ways in which the Teachers’ Union spent that money?

For example, the California Teachers Association, which represents 330,000 public school teachers in the state, spent $26 million to defeat a school voucher system in 2000 and another $50 million to kill three other ballot measures.

It makes more laughable than ever the Democrats’ hysterical attack on the Supreme Court for making the way clearer for corporate voices to speak.  The fact is, corporations are infinitely more representative of America’s varied voices than are the huge blocks of unions, all of which are aimed at consolidating vast amounts of political power under “progressive” control.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end for the SEIU and other unions? *UPDATED*

There are some things that seem immutable, right until a collapse that, in 20/20 hindsight, seemed inevitable.  Just think of the Iranian Revolution, the Fall of the Berlin wall and . . . the SEIU?

For some time, the Service Employees International Union has appeared to be a permanent fixture on the political and economic scene.  With a friend in the White House, friends in Congress, and aggressive purple-shirted adherents fanned out all over the nation, how could one believe that it was anything but a locust plague lasting in perpetuity.  It had POWER.

But a funny thing is happening.  While the SEIU may have POWER, it isn’t doing it’s actual job, which is to represent workers.  Otherwise, how to explain the fact that government workers in Marin County, one of the bluest of blue spots in America, are dumping the SEIU (emphasis mine):

County of Marin public employees dissatisfied with representation by Service Employees International Union Local 1021 have petitioned to replace it with their own locally controlled union, the Marin Association of Public Employees.SEIU represents more than 1,500 of the county of Marin’s total 2,100 employees. The Marin Association of Public Employees represented county workers and the employees of a number of other local municipalities and public agencies for years before joining SEIU, which has 2.2 million members, in 1983.

In January, a petition requesting the decertification of SEIU was submitted to the county. Maya Gladstern, a systems support analyst with the county who is helping to coordinate the campaign for the association, said at least 30 percent of county workers have signed the petition, the minimum required for decertification.

“It’s a way of giving the employees of Marin more and better representation,” Gladstern said.

[snip]

Gladstern said most of the complaints about SEIU stem from the union’s decision, three years ago, to merge many of its smaller local unions in California into four large locals.

“So we lost our small local,” Gladstern said. She said the union lost its permanent office, its executive director, three union representatives and an administrative aide.

“We went from having a local office where we could meet in private to meeting in the county cafeteria,” Gladstern said.

Gladstern said the union’s strike fund, which amounted to about $80,000 to $100,000, has been absorbed by SEIU, and the Marin employees are likely to see an increase in their union dues from 1.2 percent of their salary to 1.75 percent.

(Read more about the SEIU in Marin here.)

Of this last, emphasized, paragraph, my friend Steve Schippert has this to say:

Where I come from, that’s called stolen. Small union shop decides to roll on with the big boys, who can surely twist more arms and harder to get the workers more. When the Big Dogs end up taking from the workers (their offices, their local leadership and staff in order to do what all statist union leaders seek – central control), said workers decide that the Big Dogs were predators. And realize that they took their strike funds “for the better service to the whole” of course, and won’t be giving the money back.

Because, you see, it’s not about the workers. It’s about the Union and the top of its food chain. If it were about the workers, the strike funds garnered from those who paid into it would stay with those from whom it was extracted.

But it ain’t about them. Is it?

Any questions?

In many ways, you can change the names and nouns and this describes quite presciently what the beloved Health Care process will be like. There just won’t be any “petitioning” to replace the new Big Dog bosses.

When asked why I don’t teach in a public school and take summers off, my answer is a principled and monetarily costly, “I do not do unions.” I will die broke, in debt and hungry first. All on my own.

Marin’s county workers aren’t alone when it comes to feeling disaffected by the union’s loyalty to them.  With the recession, one of the things that is becoming patently clear to American workers is that unions really only have one constituency:  union management.  For both workers and employers, unions are simply an economic drain.  Certainly the numbers point to growing disgust with the whole institution:

Unions are losing the public-relations battle. A survey released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center found that public approval of labor unions has declined significantly during the last three years.

Positive attitudes toward unions have fallen in most demographic groups. Forty-one percent of those surveyed say they have a favorable view of labor unions, while nearly the same amount has an unfavorable view at 42 percent. The results are a 17-percent decline from the last poll taken in January 2007, when a majority of people (58 percent) had a good view of unions while 31 percent thought otherwise. (The findings reinforce a 2009 Gallup poll that said only 48 percent of Americans approve of labor unions—an all-time low since 1936.)

I certainly see that disaffection in my community and, for most people, it revolves around a single source:  schools.  All the lovely, liberal people where I live are discovering that the teacher’s union has a profound effect on their children’s education.  And somehow, liberalism flies out the door when one’s own children are the sacrificial lambs at the altar of liberal ideology.

I’m seeing that play out very clearly with one of the teachers at my son’s school.  This person is a cancer, loathed equally by parents and students.  The teacher is lazy, inept, vicious, erratic, and just about everything else you can think of that makes a teacher hateful and ineffective.  I’ve complained repeatedly to the administration and been told in carefully coded language that there is absolutely nothing that can be done about this teacher.  Thanks to union contracts, unless this teacher murders a student or praises Republicans, it’s a lifetime sinecure.  (And of course, one of the teacher’s sins is to advocate illegal immigration, but that’s okay….)

What’s fascinating is that, when I “innocently” ask those parents who rail about the teacher why the teacher is still there, I get a two word answer:  “The union.”  They understand that there is an institution standing there between their child and a quality education and, damn, if they don’t resent it.  They’ll still speak lovingly of unions in meat-packing plants in Arkansas, but they’re getting pretty sick of what’s going on in the school district in their own back yard.

I’m not unaware of the fact that unions have their place — perhaps only in history, but it’s still a place.  At the turn of the last century, the employers’ ability to exploit their workers was an overwhelmingly negative force, and one that needed to be countered.  But we’re not living in 1890 or 1910.  Instead we’re living in 2010 and unions, rather than defending illiterate, helpless employees against grasping employers, are themselves a corrupt and grasping group, destroying industries, rendering government bloated and ineffective (except where it’s dangerously intrusive and overwhelming), and generally acting as a significant drag on a moribund economy.

UPDATE:  Shortly after I wrote the above, I learned that Obama has appointed SEIU head Andy Stern to his debt panel.  While it is a reminder of how closely tied our president is to a corrupt organization, it doesn’t change my point.  Even if the head has a crown, can the entity survive if the body is dying off?  My post describes a dying body.  Yes, SEIU can damage America for some time to come, but I think its heyday is over.

The Kennedy Democrats and the rise of the public unions

Here’s a beautiful matched set:

The first part of the set is Daniel Henninger’s truly brilliant article about the way in which President Kennedy’s 1962 executive order allowing federal workers to unionize “transformed the Democratic Party into a public-sector dependency.”  Henninger thinks this dependency broke down yesterday in Massachusetts.

The second part of the set is the Supreme Court’s decision to break the back of McCain-Feingold, prompting this petulant outburst from President Obama:

“With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics,” Obama said.

“This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington — while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates.”

Illegal immigrants, gay rights, gun safety, and other stuff *UPDATED*

This is a portmanteau post, filled with interesting things I read today, some of which come in neatly matched sets.

Opening today’s San Francisco Moronicle, the first thing I saw was that an illegal teen’s arrest is causing a stir in San Francisco’s halls of power.  You see, San Francisco is a sanctuary city, and its official policy is to refuse to allow police to notify the federal government when arrestees prove to be illegal immigrants.  As has happened before, one of those nice legal illegal immigrants is, in fact, a cold-blooded murderer.  This particular 15 year old is accused of having held the two victims in place so that his compadres c0uld execute them.  The hoo-ha is happening because someone in City government, disgusted by the legal travesty that encourages people like this to make themselves free of our cities and our country, reported the kid to the INS, which is now on the case.  The liberals in the City ask “How dare a San Francisco employee help enforce federal immigration law?” My question, of course, is a little different:  “Why doesn’t the fed withdraw every single penny of funding from sanctuary cities?”  After all, I was raised to believe that he who pays the piper calls the tune.

As you’re thinking about the above travesty of law and justice (and the two dead kids executed in San Francisco), take a few minutes to read this American Thinker article about California’s self-immolation, a Democratic autodestruct sequence driven, in part, by the state’s embrace of illegal immigrants.  Illegal immigrants place a huge economic burden on California’s already over-taxed individuals and businesses.

The next Moronicle article that drew my eye was about the ongoing Prop. 8 trial taking place in San Francisco.  As you recall, Prop. 8 reflected the will of California voters, who wanted to affirm that marriage is between a man and a woman.  Prop. 8’s opponents are trying to prove that voters had impure thoughts when they cast their ballots, making the entire proposition an illegal exercise of unconstitutional prejudice.  Prop. 8 backers are arguing that you can support traditional marriage (as President Obama has claimed to do), without harboring bad thoughts about the GLBT community.

As you think about the ramifications of that lawsuit, I’d like to introduce you to Chai R. Feldblum, who is President Obama’s nominee to the EEOC.  She has a law professor at Georgetown, who really thinks that people’s brains should be purged of evil thoughts, especially evil religious thoughts:

Chai Feldblum, the Georgetown University law professor nominated by President Obama to serve on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has written that society should “not tolerate” any “private beliefs,” including religious beliefs, that may negatively affect homosexual “equality.”

[snip]

“Just as we do not tolerate private racial beliefs that adversely affect African-Americans in the commercial arena, even if such beliefs are based on religious views, we should similarly not tolerate private beliefs about sexual orientation and gender identity that adversely affect LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender] people,” the Georgetown law professor argued.

Feldblum’s admittedly “radical” view is based on what she sees as a “zero-sum game” between religious freedom and the homosexual agenda, where “a gain for one side necessarily entails a corresponding loss for the other side.”

“For those who believe that a homosexual or bisexual orientation is not morally neutral, and that an individual who acts on his or her homosexual orientation is acting in a sinful or harmful manner (to himself or herself and to others), it is problematic when the government passes a law that gives such individuals equal access to all societal institutions,” Feldblum wrote.

“Conversely, for those who believe that any sexual orientation, including a homosexual or bisexual orientation, is morally neutral, and that an individual who acts on his or her homosexual or bisexual orientation acts in an honest and good manner, it is problematic when the government fails to pass laws providing equality to such individuals.”

Feldblum argues that in order for “gay rights” to triumph in this “zero-sum game,” the constitutional rights of all Americans should be placed on a “spectrum” so they can be balanced against legitimate government duties.

All beliefs should be equal, regardless of their source, Feldblum says. “A belief derived from a religious faith should be accorded no more weight—and no less weight—than a belief derived from a non-religious source.” According to Feldman, the source of a person’s belief – be it God, spiritual energy, or the five senses – “has no relevance.”

[snip]

Feldblum does recognize that elements of the homosexual agenda may infringe on Americans’ religious liberties. However, Feldblum argues that society should “come down on the side” of homosexual equality at the expense of religious liberty. Because the conflict between the two is “irreconcilable,” religious liberty — which she also calls “belief liberty” — must be placed second to the “identity liberty” of homosexuals.

“And, in making the decision in this zero sum game, I am convinced society should come down on the side of protecting the liberty of LGBT people,” she wrote.

I don’t think Harry Truman would have understood or appreciated Feldblum’s effort to quash religious freedom in the U.S.  He was someone who was able to separate his acts from his prejudices in all the right ways.  As I like to tell my children, he was a racist who integrated the American military; and an anti-Semite who helped create the State of Israel.

I believe all people should be treated equally under the law.  I do not believe, though, that this means that religions should be wiped out, or that Americans should be subject to the thought-police so that their impure ideology is brought in line with the identity politics of the left.  I believe most Americans are capable of being Harry Truman:  that is, they can recognize that their own personal prejudices against a lifestyle, a skin color or a religion, cannot be elevated to legal doctrine.  One of my problems with Islamists is that they’re no Harry Trumans.  They want to do away with the rule of law and, instead, substitute their 6th Century desert theocratic code.

Moving on, at this weekend’s soccer games, the other moms and I were speaking about a gal who is quite possibly the worst teacher in middle school.  She’s a lousy teacher, which is bad enough, but one can layer over that the fact that she is vindictive, mean-spirited and lazy.  Everyone I know has vociferously complained about her to the school administration.  And yet there is is.  She’s too young to have tenure, so I asked, rhetorically, why don’t they just fire her?  One mom’s answer told everything we need to know:  “The union makes it impossible to fire people.”

At least one union leader, at least, is trying to make it so that the American Federation of Teachers is less of a tyrannical dictatorship holding children as hostage, and more of an institution aimed at helping to educate children.  I don’t think Randi Weingarten is going to turn unions around, nor will she much change my opinion of unions.  Historically, I think unions were necessary and important.  In certain low-wage, low-skill, low-education fields (meat packing springs to mind), I still think they’re potentially useful.  Overall, though, I have a deep dislike for unions that goes back to my dad’s years as a member of the various teachers’ unions controlling California public schools.  The unions did minimal work helping to raise my Dad’s wage (he earned $21,000 annually in 1987, the year he retired), but were excellent at (1) kick-backs to administrators, who got great wages; (2) beginning what became the profound devaluation in the quality of California’s education; and (3) making sure that bad, insane and malevolent teachers were impossible fire.

Other unionized businesses are just as bad.  Hospital worker unions make a certain amount of sense.  The 24 hour a day nature of a hospital makes it easy to abuse nurses and other care givers.  However, when I was a young college student who got a summer job in the virology lab (an interesting time, since AIDS was first appearing on the radar as a series of bizarre diseases in gay men), I took over for a secretary who was leaving on maternity leave.  Although a secretary, she was unionized too, which explained why, despite disposing of old sandwiches in her file cabinet, and being incapable of getting her researcher bosses to the medical publishers (a primary part of her job description), she could not be fired.  This was not for want of trying.  It was simply that the unions had made it impossible to fire people like her.  They’d also made it impossible to fire people like the nurse I had many years later who, the first night after I’d had major abdominal surgery, refused to give me any painkillers and isolated me from any other caregivers.  Apparently I had said something that offended her.  Sadly, this was not her first time playing this kind of sadistic game.  But there she was, thanks to the unions.

On a more cheerful note, guns don’t kill people, guns rescue people from sinking cars.

And lastly, Steve Schippert highly recommends today’s Daily Briefing at Threats Watch, so I do too.

UPDATE:  Please visit A Conservative Lesbian for a thoughtful take on the nexus between religious belief and gay rights.  No knee jerk liberalism here; instead, a good analysis about religious freedom and minority rights.

What in the world does this have to do with teachers?

One of my main bases for hostility to teacher’s unions is that increasingly have nothing to do with their original goal, which was ensuring a living wage and decent working conditions for teachers.  (Not that they were always that effective at serving their original union mandate.  My father was a teacher and he did belong to a union.  In terms of his needs, what it should have done was given him a living wage, which it did not.  For most of my childhood, we were just above the poverty line on his salary.)  In the old days, they mostly focused on wage and workplace issues, although they periodically slid into policy issues such as ebonics (which, unsurprisingly the unions supported despite, or maybe because of, the fact that ebonics education ensures   that blacks never leave the ghetto).

These small forays in policy, which used to be a subset of the teachers unions’ function, have now become overriding goals. The perfect example of this is the NEA’s wholehearted, almost obsesssive commitment to same-sex marriage.  Whether you support same-sex marriage or not, you have to task yourself — what in the world does this have to do with teachers’ salaries and workplace conditions?

I dislike strongly that my classroom teachers are being indoctrinated by an organization the purports to serve them in maintaining livable working conditions.  I’d have exactly the same response if the NEA obsessively opposed same-sex marriage.  This is not an issue that should be on the table for the teachers unions and, to the extent it is and to the extent it guides what goes on in classrooms, I bitterly resent it.

A good deal all around

I frequently read that the White House is dancing the to the various unions’ tunes because, as the saying goes, you “dance with them what brung you.”  In other words, it was union money that helped (in a large way) to pay for Obama’s victory, and now the White House is returning the favor.  The unions, having paid for his election, are dictating the agenda.

I don’t actually think that’s true.  I think the unions subsized the Obama bid for the White House, not because it expected a quid pro quo, but because it knew that, as inevitably as salmon swim upstream to spam, so too would Obama follow the union agenda.  That is, Obama wasn’t bought, despite being paid for.

Why do I say this?  Because Obama knows that even if he alienates the unions, he doesn’t have to worry about their money going elsewhere.  If Obama decided that his popularity amongst the American masses required him to give the unions a completely cold shoulder, the Democrats and Obama would still be the only game in town for the unions.  I mean, honestly, do you think that the unions are going to start funding the Republicans?

In other words, for Obama, it’s a wonderful one way street.  He can get money from the unions, but do whatever the hell he wants, because the unions have no one else to turn to.  As I said, though, it’s not all bad for the unions, either, because Obama’s core agenda is the same as theirs.  Even if they take a few hits from him, they’ll continue to be friends bearing financial gifts.

A teeny crack in the wall

This morning Mr. Bookworm offered me something:  “Hey!  You want to blog about something Obama’s doing that I don’t like?”

I was curious.  “What?”

“This Employee Free Choice Act.  What’s up with that?”

“That’s been around for a while,” I said.  “It’s one of the platforms on which Obama ran.”

He asked, “What do you mean?  I’ve never heard of it.”  I forebore to point out that this might be an indictment about the NY Times, NPR and The New Yorker, which are Mr. Bookworm’s only news sources.

“Anyway,” I said, “it’s kind of old news.  Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Obama promised to enact it as one of their first pieces of legislation.”

Another why question:  “Why would they do that?  This is a piece of crap?”

“They’re doing it because it’s payback time to the union bosses.”

A blank look:  “What do you mean?  This is a piece of crap legislation.”

I explain:  “This isn’t about the legislation’s merits.  This is payback.  The union bosses deliver the vote; the politicians deliver an Orwellian act that’s aimed at turning every workplace into a union shop.”

The last plaintive words I heard drifting down the hall as I headed off to work were, “But I don’t understand….”

It saddens me a great deal that a bright person caught in the NY Times web managed to vote for someone when he had no idea what that someone was promising to do.  It also saddens me a great deal that a bright person is so naive that he can’t understand that a dangerous and crappy piece of legislation is on the table as part of political dirty dealing.  On the other hand, I’m pleased to see a little crack in the wall.  That, at least, might lead to bigger and better things.

The Unions and GM

I’m ambivalent about unions.  When they first arose as a real market force at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, I believe they were a necessary counterbalance to industries that (a) had unlimited power in the employment market place and (b) that abused that power something awful.

I started turning against unions in the 1970s, when I witnessed the unutterable garbage pouring out of the California’s teachers union (of which my dad was a member).  The union did little to improve teacher’s wages (believe me, very little), but got it’s sticky, uninformed, politicized fingers in every aspect of public education, to education’s great detriment.

Nowadays, we still have unions, but we don’t have the situation that prevailed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  We have a fairly educated American workforce, we have vast bodies of legislation protecting the worker, we have the free flow of information, we have a mobility unimaginable a century ago (meaning workers have an easier time following jobs), and we’re struggling to compete in something equally unimaginable a century ago:  a world economy.

Also, unions, which used to protect blue collar workers from true abuse (dangerous working conditions, unsustainable wages, the abuses of factory towns, etc.), now exist at greatest strength in the government sector, a thought I find discomfiting, since both feed at the public trough, free of market forces.

With those thoughts in mind, I offer you an interesting press release that came in today’s email:

Center for Union Facts
For Immediate Release
November 11, 2008

Union Job Rules, Unreasonable Demands Big Factor in GM Downfall
GM’s Concessions to Unions Have Put the Company’s Long-Term Viability in Question

Washington D.C.- General Motors Corporation (GM) is driving its way toward bankruptcy or a government funded bailout, thanks in large part to restrictive work rules placed on the organization by the United Auto Workers (UAW). Last night, General Motors chief executive, Rick Wagoner said the company would need a federal aid package before Barack Obama takes office in mid-January.

GM has said that they will need an $11-14 billion cash injection in order to continue conducting business. Without that bailout, GM said Friday that it might halt production as soon as the middle of next year. Deutsche Bank Group, one of the world’s leading financial service providers, downgraded General Motors yesterday morning, targeting their stock value for $0.

Much of this turmoil stems from restrictive UAW job rules that prevent GM from having the flexibility to be competitive in the global marketplace, particularly during an economic downturn. One of the most egregious examples is the union job bank, which continues to pay workers whose jobs fell victim to technological progress or plant restructurings even though they aren’t actually working. The job bank, established in the mid-1980s, requires GM to pay displaced workers nearly their entire salary plus benefits and pension.

UAW also bullied GM into gold-plated health care benefits that are unsustainable. For each car GM makes, more money is spent for health insurance than on steel for its construction. Workers gained the right to smoke while on the assembly line, and some pay $0 deductable on doctor’s visits.

“The United Auto Workers have bled General Motors dry, leaving the company in a tattered state, and the union members extremely vulnerable,” said Richard Berman, Executive Director for the Center for Union Facts. “Job banks that pay workers to do nothing and other harmful union rules are at the heart of GM’s imminent bankruptcy. It will be truly unfortunate if union demands over many years result in another bankruptcy or bailout.”

“This should come as a lesson to government officials considering passing the Employee Free Choice Act, which would put more power and control into the hands of union chiefs who bankrupted one of America’s signature corporations.”

News you can use about unions

I think unions were an absolute necessity in the early days of the industrial revolution.  Workers were so spectacularly abused in those days, in part because they had limited mobility when it came to looking for greener employment pastures, that only by united action were they able to change the employer/employee dynamic away from mind-bogglingly brutalizing practices.  (See, for example, the horror of phossy jaw, which afflicted 19th and 20th century workers in match factories.)  I still think unionization is useful in certain unusually dangerous industries where the risks of employment go beyond the economic and into life and death scenarios — and this is especially true in the chemical industry, when the employer has information the employee lacks and has the ability to control environmental safety which, again, is something the individual employee cannot do.

BUT, as long-time readers know, there are a lot of unions that have become bloated entities that no longer ensure that the employees have a living wage and safe work conditions, but instead have become bullies (1) that drag down the economy, (2) that affect delivery of the product or (3) especially when it comes to teachers, that get involved in matters that have nothing to do with the terms of their employment.  Indeed, it is this last that long ago turned me against the unions.  My Dad was a teacher and a union member, and brought home unending stories of the union’s failure to affect his barely-there wages (we were often at poverty level, despite his working a second job all year long).  At the same time, the union aggressively advance all the brilliant “educational” ideas that brought California diving down from its ranking in the top ten States for education to a position somewhere near the bottom.  So I really dislike unions that abandon their mandate, which is to negotiate wages and benefits, and instead start trying to run their employer’s businesses.

As it is, unions nowadays aren’t doing very well, with membership falling everywhere (or maybe everywhere but in the government sector).  In a way, they are a victim of their own early successes.  Because of their early agitations, we have federal and state wage and hour laws, we have huge statutory systems and federal and state run commissions in place to protect worker’s rights, we have OSHA, we have retirement plans, etc.  Thanks to the unions, the systems are in place, essentially making the unions redundant.  Also, as a Weekly Standard article pointed out a few weeks ago, union management no longer shares the values of many union workers.  Workers apparently are tired of seeing their dues fund candidates who hold political views directly antithetical to their belief systems.

The fact that employees don’t need unions very much anymore, and that they may not like the unions very much any more, has led to an interesting phenomenon:  outsourcing picket lines to non-union labor.  You heard me correctly.  I wouldn’t have believed it myself if I hadn’t read it at Labor Pains, a blog devoted to news about unions.  Thus, Labor Pains reports that a seven month long strike has been going on against a store called Farmer Joes (which boasts two locations).  Aside from the fact that the strike is irritating customers and shoppers at neighboring stores, the union members themselves seem to be calling in the strike, which really can’t benefit their position.

Indeed, the fact that union members call in their work seems to be a problem that goes beyond the picket line.  Here’s some anecdotal evidence:  Periodically, the big San Francisco hotels are shaken by employee strikes, with tourists weaving their way through picket lines made up of strikers who accuse the hotel management of all sorts of heinous practices.  But the heinous practices aren’t all on one side, and I’m not talking here about dirty strike tactics.  I’m talking about the fact that a kitchen manager at one of the big hotels confided to one of my friends that he loves the strikes, because he finally gets decent labor.  The scabs who are willing to work during the strikes work hard and do a good job.  The union members who come rolling back into the kitchen every time one of these strikes has run its course are dead weight.  This guy is in the uncomfortable position of being a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat (this is San Francisco after all) who can’t stand the unions.

The problem, of course, is that once an entity exists, it’s hard to get rid of it.  Even though the union may have outlived its usefulness in most (not all, but most) industries, it’s just going to keep grinding away, sucking up worker’s dues, throwing its money at Democratic politics, and otherwise messing around with an economy that might benefit from a bit less union involvement.

Can we go viral over Pelosi’s hypocritical habits?

The internet is an amazing thing.  Within one day, that hilarious National Guard photo rebuking Kerry was everywhere.  It deservedly got all that attention, but how about a little attention for some other things too?  American Thinker points to a story from Investor’s Business Daily explaining that Nancy Pelosi, who may be the next Speaker, augments her vast fortune with non-union labor that may well include illegal aliens.  What’s even more shocking than the story — and it is shocking considering her political stands on unions and illegal immigration — is that the MSM (with the exception of Investor’s Business Daily) is assiduously ignoring the story.  It’s therefore up to the bloggers to get it circulating.

So, go, circulate!

Can we go viral over Pelosi’s hypocritical habits?

The internet is an amazing thing.  Within one day, that hilarious National Guard photo rebuking Kerry was everywhere.  It deservedly got all that attention, but how about a little attention for some other things too?  American Thinker points to a story from Investor’s Business Daily explaining that Nancy Pelosi, who may be the next Speaker, augments her vast fortune with non-union labor that may well include illegal aliens.  What’s even more shocking than the story — and it is shocking considering her political stands on unions and illegal immigration — is that the MSM (with the exception of Investor’s Business Daily) is assiduously ignoring the story.  It’s therefore up to the bloggers to get it circulating.

So, go, circulate!

How unions work, and how they don’t

VULGARITY ALERT. DO NOT READ THIS POST IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ SOMETHING SLIGHTLY VULGAR.

My sister sent me this joke in an email. As she said, “it pretty much says it all.”

A dedicated Teamsters’ union worker was attending a convention in Las Vegas and decided to check out the local brothels. When he got to the first one, he asked the Madam, “Is this a union house?”

“No,” she replied, “I’m sorry it isn’t.”

“Well, if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?”

“The house gets $80 and the girls get $20,” she answered

Offended at such unfair dealings, the union man stomped off down the street in search of a more equitable, hopefully unionized shop. His search continued until finally he reached a brothel where the Madam responded, “Why yes sir, this is a union house. We observe all union rules.”

The man asked, “And if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?” “The girls get $80 and the house gets $20.”

“That’s more like it!” the union man said.

He handed the Madam $100, looked around the room, and pointed to a stunningly attractive blonde.

“I’d like her,” he said.

“I’m sure you would, sir,” said the Madam. Then she gestured to a 92-year old woman in the corner, “but Ethel here has 67 years seniority and according to union rules, she’s next.”

Deconstructing a joke always kills the humor, but I think this joke, more than many, explains both how unions do benefit the worker and how they pervert the marketplace.

How unions work, and how they don’t

VULGARITY ALERT. DO NOT READ THIS POST IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ SOMETHING SLIGHTLY VULGAR.

My sister sent me this joke in an email. As she said, “it pretty much says it all.”

A dedicated Teamsters’ union worker was attending a convention in Las Vegas and decided to check out the local brothels. When he got to the first one, he asked the Madam, “Is this a union house?”

“No,” she replied, “I’m sorry it isn’t.”

“Well, if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?”

“The house gets $80 and the girls get $20,” she answered

Offended at such unfair dealings, the union man stomped off down the street in search of a more equitable, hopefully unionized shop. His search continued until finally he reached a brothel where the Madam responded, “Why yes sir, this is a union house. We observe all union rules.”

The man asked, “And if I pay you $100, what cut do the girls get?” “The girls get $80 and the house gets $20.”

“That’s more like it!” the union man said.

He handed the Madam $100, looked around the room, and pointed to a stunningly attractive blonde.

“I’d like her,” he said.

“I’m sure you would, sir,” said the Madam. Then she gestured to a 92-year old woman in the corner, “but Ethel here has 67 years seniority and according to union rules, she’s next.”

Deconstructing a joke always kills the humor, but I think this joke, more than many, explains both how unions do benefit the worker and how they pervert the marketplace.