Roosevelt, Wage and Price Controls, Fringe Benefits, Health Insurance, Pensions, Unions, Bankruptcy and Bethlehem Steel

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 3rd, 2013

History 101

(Originally published November 20th, 2012)

The Roosevelt Administration fought Inflation by Passing a Law to Cap Employee Wages

Most times when those in government try to fix things they end up making things worse.  Giving us the unintended consequences of their best intentions.  And the government had some good intentions during World War II.  They were printing money to pay for a surge in government spending to pay for war production.  As well as a host of New Deal programs.  Which sparked off some inflation.  Inflation is bad.  Enter their best intentions.

One of the biggest drivers of inflation is wages.  Higher wages increase a company’s costs.  Which they must recover in their selling prices.  So higher wages lead to higher prices.  Higher prices increase the cost of living.  Making it more difficult for workers to get by without a pay raise.  Which puts pressure on employers to raise wages.  If they do they pass on these higher costs to their customers via higher prices.  It’s a vicious cycle.  And one all governments want to avoid.  Because higher costs reduce economic activity.  And that’s how governments get their money.  Taxing economic activity.

Enter wage and price controls.  The Roosevelt administration thought the way to solve the problem of inflation was simply passing a law to cap employee wages.  To halt the vicious cycle of escalating prices and wages.  Something employers didn’t like.  For that’s how they got the best people to work for them.  By offering them higher wages.  With that no longer an option what did these employers do to get the best people to work for them?  They started offering fringe benefits.  Which became a killer of business.

As People lived longer in Retirement Retiree Pension and Health Care Expenses Soared

Employers began offering health insurance and pensions as fringe benefits for the first time.  To get around the wage and price controls of the Roosevelt administration.  Which they had to pass on to their customers via higher prices.  So the wage and price controls failed to do what they were supposed to do.  Keep a company’s costs down.  Worse, these benefits made promises many of these businesses just couldn’t keep.

Roosevelt also empowered unions.   Who would negotiate ever more generous contracts.  By demanding generous pay and benefits for current workers.  And pensions and health care for retired workers.  But it didn’t end there.  The unions also expanded their membership as much as possible.  So in those contracts they also got very costly workplace rules.  If a lamp burnt out at a workstation the worker had to call an electrician to replace the lamp.  They could not screw in a new lamp themselves.  The unions defined every work activity in a workplace and created a job classification for it.  And only a worker in that job classification could do that work.  Which swelled the labor rolls at unionized plants.  Who all were receiving generous pay and benefits.  As were a growing number of retired workers.  Greatly increasing labor costs.

For awhile businesses could absorb these costs.  Business was growing.  As was the population.  There were more younger workers entering the factories than there were older workers retiring from them.  But things started changing in the Sixties.  The population growth rate flattened out thanks to birth control and abortion.  So as the population grew slower the domestic demand for manufactured goods fell.  While in the Seventies foreign competition increased.  So you had falling demand and a rising supply.  Making it harder to pass on those high labor costs anymore.  Which proved to be a great problem as their market share fell.  For as they laid off employees fewer and fewer workers were paying the pensions and health care costs for an ever growing number of retirees.  Pensions were chronically underfunded.  Worse, people began to live longer in retirement thanks to advances in medicine.  Increasing retiree pension and health care expenses for these businesses.  Bleeding some of them dry.

Bethlehem Steel filed Bankruptcy when they had 11,500 Active Workers and 120,000 Retirees and Dependents

Bethlehem Steel helped build America.  And win World War II.  It made the steel for the Golden Gate Bridge.  And the bridges between New York and New Jersey.  Many of the skyscrapers you see on Manhattan are made with Bethlehem steel.  Little Steel.  Second only to Big Steel.  U.S. Steel.  Big Steel and Little Steel dominated the US steel industry.  Until, that is, foreign competition entered their market.  And the steel minimills arrived on the scene.  Neither of which had unionized workforces.  Or those legacy costs (retiree pension and health care expenses).  Which spelled the doom of the sprawling Bethlehem Steel.  From 1954 to 2003 hot-rolled steel sheet prices rose 220%.  While wages soared over 900%.  And it got worse.

Employment peaked in 1957 at 167,000 workers.  By the mid Eighties that fell to 35,000.  With some 70,000 retirees and dependents.  That is, Bethlehem’s retiree costs were about twice their active labor costs.  As business continued to fall employment fell to 11,500.  While their retirees and dependents rose to 120,000.  Just over 10 retirees for each active worker.  Unfunded pension obligations soared to $4.3 billion.  Just impossible numbers to recover from.  Which is why Bethlehem Steel is no longer with us today.  The company was dissolved in 2001.  With International Steel Group (ISG) buying some of their remaining assets.  Then, in 2005, a foreign steel company, Mittal Steel, merged with ISG.  Leaving no remnants of Bethlehem Steel in American hands.

ISG got the steelworkers union to reduce the number of job classifications in the Bethlehem plants they took over from 32 to 5.  Greatly shrinking the labor rolls.  And increasing efficiency.  Helping these remaining assets to move forward.  The pension fund was taken over.  With retirees losing only about $700 million, giving retirees a pension of up to $44,386.  But retirees lost their health care.  Some $3.1 billion in spending obligations that the company couldn’t pay.  And didn’t.  A sad ending for an American great.  A failure the Roosevelt administration was responsible for.  As their good intentions resulted in unintended consequences.  Setting businesses up to fail with costly fringe benefits.  Adding yet another demand to the union’s list of demands.  Spending obligations these businesses couldn’t pay once domestic demand fell while steel supplies rose.  Leading to the inevitable.  Bankruptcy of large unionized companies.

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The City of Detroit Bankruptcy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2013

Economics 101

There is nothing more Dangerous to a City’s Finances than a Shrinking Tax Base

The federal debt is at record levels.  Because federal spending is at record levels.  But those on the left say there’s nothing to worry about.  And try to expand federal spending further.  With more government benefits to hand out to the people.  And an ever growing federal bureaucracy.  Full of new jobs with generous pay and benefits.  All funded by the taxpayer.

Businesses in the private sector cannot operate like this.  Because businesses have to pay their costs with the things and/or services they sell.  That people willingly buy.  So there is a limit on the costs a business can incur.  But not so with government.  For the government has the power to tax.  To forcibly take more money from the people against their will.  Something businesses just can’t do.  And when that fails they can borrow money by issuing bonds.  Which are generally easy to sell.  Because governments have the power to tax.  All but guaranteeing that they will repay those bonds.  And when that’s not enough the federal government has one other benefit businesses don’t have.  They can print money.  Further guaranteeing that they will be able to redeem their bonds.  Making them that much easier to sell.

Government below the federal level, though, doesn’t have that last option.  So when they want to spend more money than they have they have no choice but to borrow.  And hope that their tax base doesn’t erode over time.  For there is nothing more dangerous to a city’s finances than a shrinking tax base.  Especially when the city has a huge and growing public sector.  Enjoying generous pay and benefits.  Especially pension and health care benefits for retirees.  Where promises made must be kept decades into the future.  During which time a lot of things can happen.  Such as that tax base shrinking.

Detroit’s Tax Base plummeted while the Size of the Public Sector did not for Government Never grows Smaller

This is the problem the City of Detroit has.  And it is why they filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.  Thanks to the automotive industry and World War II destroying most of the industrial economies of the world, Detroit became an economic power house.  And one of America’s grandest cities in the 1950s.  Paris of the Midwest they called Detroit.  Automotive capital of the world.  The Motor City.  The mecca of American manufacturing.  Having one of the richest middle class.  And one of the largest black middle classes.  Everyone was doing well in Detroit.  So the City of Detroit did the only rational thing a city could do with a swelling tax base.  They exploded the public sector.  All paid for with higher taxes.  Including a new city income tax.

But that growing public sector soon turned Detroit into a business unfriendly city.  With more red tape, regulatory costs and a corporate income tax.  And rising union demands during contract negotiations made it even less business friendly.  So businesses started leaving the city.  Taking their jobs with them.  And people followed.  Then the race riots hit in 1967.  Five days of unprecedented violence.  Thus beginning the great white flight from the city.  And the great population decline of the City of Detroit.  Culminating in the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in history.

At Detroit’s peak her population topped out at about 1.8 million people.  Today there are but 680,000 people remaining.  A loss of 1.12 million people.  About 62% of her peak population.  So Detroit’s tax base plummeted.  But the size of the public sector didn’t.  For government never grows smaller.  So Detroit continued on with the overhead expenses of a city with a population of 1.8 million people.  With the tax revenue of a city with a population of 680,000 people.  Making bankruptcy inevitable.

The Problems of the City of Detroit are the Problems of the Nation Writ Large

At the height of Detroit’s industrial might there were approximately 300,000 automotive or manufacturing jobs in the city.  Today there are a mere 27,000.  That’s a loss of 273,000 jobs.  That’s 273,000 breadwinners whose families are no longer in the city.  If each of them had on average 2.5 children who remained in the city with their parents that would have added about 1.2 million to the city’s population.  Which corresponds pretty closely to the 1.12 million the city actually lost.  So we can see how the loss of the jobs devastated the population.  But we can also see what it did to the city’s finances.

Let’s assume these breadwinners had their children when they were in their 20s.  So the breadwinner was still in the workforce when their children were 20 and had entered the workforce.  Let’s say this happened over a 40-year period.  So, on average during that 40-year period, there were an additional 136,500 jobs per year.  Let’s say they each owned a house and paid property tax of $750.  Over 40 years that’s about $4.1 billion in lost property tax revenue.  If each of these workers earned $35,000 on average over those 40 years and paid a 3% city income tax that’s about $9.8 billion in lost personal income tax revenue.  Finally, if we figure a 50-50 split between labor and material, a 15% overhead and a 2% net profit we can extrapolate that $35,000 average personal income into approximately $448 billion in lost corporate revenue over those 40 years.  At a city corporate income tax rate of 2% that’s about $9 billion in lost corporate income tax revenue.  Adding these all together we see a total loss of tax revenue to the city of approximately $18.8 billion due to the loss of 273,000 jobs.  Plus or minus.

This is a crude guesstimate with an emphasis on crude but it could be close enough to explain what happened in Detroit.  For with the falling tax base Detroit turned to borrowing more and more money to pay for an oversized public sector.  To service a disappearing population.  With those pension and retiree health care benefits being especially burdensome.  Which forced the city to borrow so much it left them with a debt of $18.5 billion (very close to the $18.8 billion in our little exercise above) that they don’t have a chance in hell of ever repaying.  Leaving bankruptcy as the only option.  Unless the federal government steps in.  Which probably won’t happen.  And shouldn’t happen.  For Detroit is not the only government suffering under the weight of unfunded pension obligations and retiree health care benefits.  If they bail out Detroit then they’ll have to bail out all other states and municipalities.  Which they can’t afford to do.  For the federal government has its own problems with pensions (Social Security) and retiree health care benefits (Medicare).  And they’ve just added a new government benefit that will dwarf the costs of Social Security and Medicare.  Obamacare.  All while burdening the economy with a slew of anti-business regulations that has chased jobs out of the economy.  And out of the country.

So the federal government can’t step in to save Detroit.  For the federal government is working to ‘out Detroit’ Detroit.  As the problems of Detroit are the problems of the nation writ large.  What’s happening in Detroit will happen in other states and cities across the country.  That are spending more money than they have to support an oversized public sector.  And in time what’s happening in Detroit will happen to the federal government.  Bailing out these states and cities will only hasten the downfall of the federal government.  Which the federal government will do whatever it can to prevent.  For while the nation can survive a city like Detroit going bankrupt the nation cannot survive a federal bankruptcy.  Because the numbers are just too big at the federal level.

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Roosevelt, Wage and Price Controls, Fringe Benefits, Health Insurance, Pensions, Unions, Bankruptcy and Bethlehem Steel

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 20th, 2012

History 101

The Roosevelt Administration fought Inflation by Passing a Law to Cap Employee Wages

Most times when those in government try to fix things they end up making things worse.  Giving us the unintended consequences of their best intentions.  And the government had some good intentions during World War II.  They were printing money to pay for a surge in government spending to pay for war production.  As well as a host of New Deal programs.  Which sparked off some inflation.  Inflation is bad.  Enter their best intentions.

One of the biggest drivers of inflation is wages.  Higher wages increase a company’s costs.  Which they must recover in their selling prices.  So higher wages lead to higher prices.  Higher prices increase the cost of living.  Making it more difficult for workers to get by without a pay raise.  Which puts pressure on employers to raise wages.  If they do they pass on these higher costs to their customers via higher prices.  It’s a vicious cycle.  And one all governments want to avoid.  Because higher costs reduce economic activity.  And that’s how governments get their money.  Taxing economic activity.

Enter wage and price controls.  The Roosevelt administration thought the way to solve the problem of inflation was simply passing a law to cap employee wages.  To halt the vicious cycle of escalating prices and wages.  Something employers didn’t like.  For that’s how they got the best people to work for them.  By offering them higher wages.  With that no longer an option what did these employers do to get the best people to work for them?  They started offering fringe benefits.  Which became a killer of business.

As People lived longer in Retirement Retiree Pension and Health Care Expenses Soared

Employers began offering health insurance and pensions as fringe benefits for the first time.  To get around the wage and price controls of the Roosevelt administration.  Which they had to pass on to their customers via higher prices.  So the wage and price controls failed to do what they were supposed to do.  Keep a company’s costs down.  Worse, these benefits made promises many of these businesses just couldn’t keep.

Roosevelt also empowered unions.   Who would negotiate ever more generous contracts.  By demanding generous pay and benefits for current workers.  And pensions and health care for retired workers.  But it didn’t end there.  The unions also expanded their membership as much as possible.  So in those contracts they also got very costly workplace rules.  If a lamp burnt out at a workstation the worker had to call an electrician to replace the lamp.  They could not screw in a new lamp themselves.  The unions defined every work activity in a workplace and created a job classification for it.  And only a worker in that job classification could do that work.  Which swelled the labor rolls at unionized plants.  Who all were receiving generous pay and benefits.  As were a growing number of retired workers.  Greatly increasing labor costs.

For awhile businesses could absorb these costs.  Business was growing.  As was the population.  There were more younger workers entering the factories than there were older workers retiring from them.  But things started changing in the Sixties.  The population growth rate flattened out thanks to birth control and abortion.  So as the population grew slower the domestic demand for manufactured goods fell.  While in the Seventies foreign competition increased.  So you had falling demand and a rising supply.  Making it harder to pass on those high labor costs anymore.  Which proved to be a great problem as their market share fell.  For as they laid off employees fewer and fewer workers were paying the pensions and health care costs for an ever growing number of retirees.  Pensions were chronically underfunded.  Worse, people began to live longer in retirement thanks to advances in medicine.  Increasing retiree pension and health care expenses for these businesses.  Bleeding some of them dry.

Bethlehem Steel filed Bankruptcy when they had 11,500 Active Workers and 120,000 Retirees and Dependents

Bethlehem Steel helped build America.  And win World War II.  It made the steel for the Golden Gate Bridge.  And the bridges between New York and New Jersey.  Many of the skyscrapers you see on Manhattan are made with Bethlehem steel.  Little Steel.  Second only to Big Steel.  U.S. Steel.  Big Steel and Little Steel dominated the US steel industry.  Until, that is, foreign competition entered their market.  And the steel minimills arrived on the scene.  Neither of which had unionized workforces.  Or those legacy costs (retiree pension and health care expenses).  Which spelled the doom of the sprawling Bethlehem Steel.  From 1954 to 2003 hot-rolled steel sheet prices rose 220%.  While wages soared over 900%.  And it got worse.

Employment peaked in 1957 at 167,000 workers.  By the mid Eighties that fell to 35,000.  With some 70,000 retirees and dependents.  That is, Bethlehem’s retiree costs were about twice their active labor costs.  As business continued to fall employment fell to 11,500.  While their retirees and dependents rose to 120,000.  Just over 10 retirees for each active worker.  Unfunded pension obligations soared to $4.3 billion.  Just impossible numbers to recover from.  Which is why Bethlehem Steel is no longer with us today.  The company was dissolved in 2001.  With International Steel Group (ISG) buying some of their remaining assets.  Then, in 2005, a foreign steel company, Mittal Steel, merged with ISG.  Leaving no remnants of Bethlehem Steel in American hands.

ISG got the steelworkers union to reduce the number of job classifications in the Bethlehem plants they took over from 32 to 5.  Greatly shrinking the labor rolls.  And increasing efficiency.  Helping these remaining assets to move forward.  The pension fund was taken over.  With retirees losing only about $700 million, giving retirees a pension of up to $44,386.  But retirees lost their health care.  Some $3.1 billion in spending obligations that the company couldn’t pay.  And didn’t.  A sad ending for an American great.  A failure the Roosevelt administration was responsible for.  As their good intentions resulted in unintended consequences.  Setting businesses up to fail with costly fringe benefits.  Adding yet another demand to the union’s list of demands.  Spending obligations these businesses couldn’t pay once domestic demand fell while steel supplies rose.  Leading to the inevitable.  Bankruptcy of large unionized companies.

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Animal Power, Waterwheel, Ship Transport, Steam Engine, Railroad, Steel Industry, Robotics, Rust Belt and Minimills

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 14th, 2012

Technology 101

Rent-Seeking Captains of Industry and Commerce give Capitalism a Bad Name

Once upon a time you lived, worked and died all within a short walk from each other.  In feudalism people owned land and lived well.  The landed aristocracy.  And other people (the peasants) worked the land.  But did not live as well as those who owned it.  For it was back-breaking work for long hours with no respite except in death.  For those who worked the land belonged to the land.  Just as the trees and fields and rivers did.  Peasants belonged to the land and the land belonged to the landowner.  The peasants couldn’t leave.  And they couldn’t work hard to provide a better life for their children.  For they were bond to the land as their patents were.  With no choice but to work the land like their parents did.

This was how life was before we started to use power to make our work easier.  We had long been using animal power to do things we didn’t have the strength or the endurance to do.  Such as pulling a plow.  Or a wagon full of goods.  Or to travel great distances more quickly than we could by walking.  Harnessing the power of moving water changed all of that.  For a river moves constantly.  And when you place a waterwheel in moving water you can convert the linear motion of the water into rotational motion.  This rotational motion could turn a main shaft running though a factory.  Belts and pulleys could transfer this power to workstations throughout the factory floor.  And these powered workstations could do far more work than a person could.  Lumberjacks could transport logs down a river to a lumber mill.  Where a waterwheel could spin a saw that made lumber out of those logs at such a rate that great cities could arise around these mills.  Cities with other factories powered by waterwheels.  And homes.

So it’s no surprise that our early cities grew up on rivers.  Both for water power.  And the ability to use them to ship bulk goods.  Ship transport.  Something even animals weren’t good at.  It is in these cities that wealth and political power grew.  Centers of industry and commerce.  Creating great wealth for those who controlled the resources that made all of that possible.  So another aristocracy grew.  Rent-seeking captains of industry and commerce.  Who give capitalism a bad name.  Who use their political power to maximize their profits.  And buy favors from those in power to protect their particular interests.  Such as using the power of government to create monopolies for themselves.  But advancing technology made that harder to do.  Especially the steam engine.  And the railroad.

The Steel and Heavy Manufacturing Industries required a Massive Infrastructure and Regionally Located Raw Materials

Control of rivers, ports and harbors provided a great opportunity to amass wealth at other people’s expense.  For when economic activity centered on water it made land around that water very valuable.  Which concentrated wealth and power on the rivers.  Until the steam engine replaced the waterwheel.  And the railroad provided a way to transport people and goods inland.  So not only did cities grow up along the waterways they grew up along the rail lines.  Those controlling these resources still had great wealth and power.  But they also offered competition.  And more economic liberty.  For while there can only be one Tennessee River flowing through Chattanooga, Tennessee, there can be more than one railroad running through Chattanooga.  Which made Chattanooga an important city to hold during the American Civil War.  For there was a great rail junction in that city.  Giving anyone who controlled the city access to any part of the Confederacy.

While the steam engine and railroad allowed industries to grow anywhere in the country some industries still clustered in regional areas.  Such as the steel industry.  It required three ingredients to make steel.  Iron ore, coke (coal cooked into hard charcoal briquettes) and limestone.  To make steel you use 6 parts iron ore, 2 parts coke and 1 part limestone.  Iron ore was plentiful around Lake Superior.  Because it takes a lot of iron ore and a lot of iron ore is located around Lake Superior the steel makers built their mills long the Great Lakes.  In Milwaukee.  Chicago.  Gary.  Detroit.  Toledo.  Cleveland.  Or in places like Pittsburgh where coal and iron ore deposits surround the city.  These cities made up the Manufacturing Belt.  Places with access to bulk ore shipping (on Great Lakes freighter or river barge).  And where the steel mills arose so did heavy industry that built things from that steel.  From structural steel.  To automobiles.

For a while these new industries dominated the economic landscape.  Big, heavy industries that couldn’t move.  Concentrating money and political power.  Giving rise to organized labor.  Who took advantage of the fact that these heavy industries could not move.  Negotiating lucrative union contracts.  With generous pay and benefits.  Raising the price of steel and the things we made from steel.  Like automobiles.  Making the rank and file like rent-seekers of old.  Looking to personally benefit from their near-monopoly conditions.  Like those early captains of industry and commerce.  Life was good for awhile for the rank and file.  Who lived very well.  And better than most American workers.  Thanks to those monopoly-like conditions in these steel and heavy manufacturing industries.  Allowing them to charge high prices for their goods to pay for those generous pay and benefits.  As there was no competition.  For the steel and heavy manufacturing industries required a massive infrastructure and an abundant supply of regionally located raw materials, making it very difficult for a new competitor to open for business.  At least, in the United States.

High Costs and Low Efficiencies have shuttered most of America’s Steel Making Past

Foreign competition changed all that.  And large ocean-going ships.  So new industries in other countries with lower labor costs could manufacture these goods and ship them to the United States.  And did.  Challenging the monopoly-like conditions of the rent-seeking steel and heavy manufacturing industries.  So the rent-seekers turned to government for protection.  And got it.  Import tariffs.  Which raised the price of those imported goods to the higher price level of the domestic goods.  Which did two things.  Insulated the domestic manufacturers from market pressures allowing them to continue with the status quo.  And forced the foreign manufacturers to find less costly and more efficient ways to make their goods to counter those import tariffs.

So what happened?  Technology advanced in these industries overseas while they stagnated in the US.  The US didn’t invest in new technologies like they did in the previous century to find better ways to do things.  Because they didn’t have to.  While the foreign competitors worked harder to find better ways to do things.  Because they had to.  As they weren’t insulated from market forces.  The Japanese invested in robotics.  Transforming their auto industry.  Improving quality and lowering costs.  Making their cars as good if not better than the Americans did.  And selling them at a competitive price even with those import protections.  So what did these US actions to protect the domestic manufacturers do?  Changed the Manufacturing Belt to the Rust Belt.

The big steel cities in America are no more.  High costs and low efficiencies have shuttered most of America’s steel making past.  Gone is the era of the sprawling steel mill.  Today it’s the minimill and continuous casting.  Small and efficient steel mills with small labor forces that can make small batches.  Thanks to their electric arc furnaces that are easy to turn on and off.  Unlike the big blast furnaces that took a while to reach operating temperatures and when they did they didn’t shut them down for years.  Making it difficult to adjust to falling demand.  Like the minimills could.  Which helped save the steel industry by finally adopted technology that allowed it to sell at market prices.  Making it harder for the rent-seekers these days.  But better for consumers.  Because of this relentless march of technology.  That allows us to continuously find better ways to do things.

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FT134: “There will always be poor and oppressed people because someone has to vote for liberal Democrats.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 7th, 2012

Fundamental Truth

Liberal Democrats would Not Like an America without Poor and Oppressed People

In the anti-nuclear power movie The China Syndrome Jack Lemmon’s character wanted to warn everyone about his dangerous nuclear power plant.  He was a control room operator at the plant.  During one event there was a vibration.  The reactor shut down (SCRAM) safely.  But Lemmon’s character did some investigating and found that some safety reports had been falsified.  And in his quest to publicize this fact people died.  So he did the only thing he could.  He locked himself inside the control room at the nuclear power plant.  Requested that the characters played by Michael Douglas and Jane Fonda come down to put him on the air live.  And threatened to create a nuclear catastrophe himself if that didn’t happen.  That’s right, as dangerous as that reactor was he did NOT shut it down.

Odd, really.  He threatened to cause what he was trying to prevent.  Why?  Well, consider what would have happened if he did everything he did with one change.  Instead of threatening his own nuclear catastrophe he shut down that reactor.  So it was safe and could not harm anyone.  If he did that what do you think would have happened?  No one would have brought that news crew (Douglas and Fonda) to the plant.  And plant security would have just broken into the control room and subdued Lemmon.  But because he left the reactor hot and dangerous they didn’t break in and subdue him.  And they brought in that news crew.  Because his threat of causing a nuclear catastrophe gave him power.  While a safe and shutdown reactor gave him no power.

So what do we learn from this?  Sometimes the thing you’re fighting against is the very thing that gives you power.  A purpose.  A reason for getting out of bed in the morning.  Something that gives you a job.  Something that pays the bills.  And it’s just not disgruntled nuclear power plant operators.  Imagine a world with no crime.  If there was no crime we wouldn’t need any police officers.  Something police officers wouldn’t like.  Just as firefighters wouldn’t like a world without fires or accidents.  Just as cardiologists would not like a world without heart disease.  Just as environmentalists would not like a world without global warming.  Just as advocates of affirmative action would not like a world without discrimination.  Just as liberal Democrats would not like an America without poor and oppressed people.

The Poor and Oppressed are a Favorite Constituency of the Federal Government

The more horrible the things people are fighting against the greater are the need for these people.  The Left makes use of this strategy all of the time.  Falling test scores means we need to spend more on education.  As in hiring more teachers.  And paying them more.  This works the other way, too.  When municipalities are running budget deficits because of costly public sector contracts calling for high pay and generous benefits they place a new millage on the ballot.  And warn the people that if they don’t vote ‘yes’ for these higher taxes they will have no choice but to increase the number of rapes, murders and assaults.  As well as increase the number of deaths from fires, heart attacks in the home and car accidents.  Because if the people vote ‘no’ they will lay off police officers and firefighters.  Instead of renegotiating those contracts that are causing their financial problems.  No.  It’s never cutting back on the things that are bankrupting their cities.  It’s always putting the fear of God into their electorate.  So the public sector workers can maintain their generous pay and benefits.

Of course some will say that our teachers, police officers and firefighters don’t get paid that much.  If that’s true then they belong to some real crappy unions.  Because you join a union to get better pay and better benefits.  And you pay union dues for the union’s help in getting better pay and better benefits.  Also, if we didn’t already pay them very well you would know what their pay and benefits were during these millage requests.  For it sure would help their argument for higher pay if most people made more than they did.  Because, let’s face it, we need good teachers, police officers and firefighters.  If we paid them less than most other people everyone would feel guilty and vote ‘yes’ without hesitation.  But during these millage requests they don’t make public their current pay and benefit schedule.  And it’s hard to find this information online.  Because that’s ‘personal’.  Even though we pay them with public money.  Which should tell you something.  They’re paid better than most people.  Because they’re asking for more without telling us how much they currently make.  For it is hard to get sympathy for your pay level when you make more than most other people.

It’s no secret that government workers get better pay and benefit packages than people in the private sector.  Especially in the federal government.  Where federal employment grows by leaps and bounds every year.  And they create ever new programs to fight against something.  So they can keep hiring more people into the federal bureaucracy.  To reward friends and cronies.  And to endear a growing federal government to ever more people.  So they will continuously help to support and promote that sprawling bureaucracy.  Through their votes.  And by making as many people as possible dependent on the government.  Making the poor and oppressed a favorite constituency of the federal government.  As it has been for a very long time.  Despite the numerous battles to end poverty and oppression.

The Liberal Democrat Answer to Poverty is Not a Job but a Government Entitlement

JFK was a tax-cutter.  Just like Ronald Reagan.  They both believed that you had to create a business-friendly environment to create jobs.  Because if a business did well it grew and hired more people.  That’s why both JFK and Ronald Reagan had strong economic growth and low unemployment during their presidencies.  And they each brought in a lot of tax revenue into Washington.  Even with their low tax rates.  So low tax rates are good.  They help businesses grow.  They help people get jobs.  They lower the price of consumer goods so people can buy more for less.  And they bring in more revenue to the government to help those who need help.  Of course liberal Democrats hate this.  Because if everyone is doing well there is no need for all their agencies and programs.  Or them.

Shortly after the assassination of JFK things changed.  LBJ became president.  Who was a big liberal Democrat.  Who declared unconditional war on poverty.  This was in 1964.  The plan was to explode the size of the federal government.  Which is what he did when he gave us the Great Society.  The war on poverty would become one of America’s longest war.  Longer than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Longer than the Vietnam War.  Even longer than the Cold War.  The war on poverty continues to this day.  Requiring ever more government agencies.  And programs.  Yet they’ve all failed to end poverty.  Proven by the fact that every generation of liberal Democrats running for office is an advocate for the poor and oppressed who have no voice but theirs.

The liberal Democrat answer to poverty is not a job but a government entitlement.  Because jobs lead to lower unemployment.  And less purpose for a liberal Democrat.  Liberals don’t want jobs and low unemployment.  They want high taxes and high unemployment.  So they can matter.  And make a difference.  So they can have a cushy job with high pay and generous benefits.  So they attack tax cuts.  They attack any lowering of regulatory costs.  And anything else that would help businesses create jobs.  Which would take the poor and oppressed away from them.  They don’t want people to be rugged and independent.  They want them needy and dependent.  And they want as many people as possible to be needy and dependent.  Even if it leads to a little rioting.  Especially if it leads to a little rioting.  For a little level of danger can be useful.  As it can be in a nuclear power plant in an anti-nuclear power movie.  Because it’s very hard to get taxpayers to vote for people that want to increase your taxes and make your lives more costly.  While some liberals genuinely care about making people’s lives better many more are like Jack Lemmon in The China Syndrome.  Who understand that they must maintain a certain level of poverty and oppression in the nation.  Or they will have no power.  As no one will vote for them.  Because if you’re in the business of ending poverty and oppression you need a certain level of poverty and oppression to fight against.  Always.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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Collective Bargaining in Wisconsin – Greed versus the Taxpayers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 25th, 2011

Democracy in Action and Whiny Democrats in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Democrats need to take a refresher course in democracy.  Because democracy isn’t oligarchy.  The minority power can’t have its way.  No matter how unhappy they are.  Elections have consequences.  Like Obama said.  The Obama Administration governed without the consent or input of the minority power.  It may not have been nice or what he said he would do during the campaign.  But it was legal.  And democratic.  So Obama governed against his campaign platform.  And the American people.  The people didn’t like that.  And gave the House back to the Republicans in the 2010 mid-term elections.

You see, that’s how democracy works.  You don’t whine and cry when you can’t have your way.  You compete in the arena of ideas.  Win elections.  And govern accordingly.  And when you lose elections you don’t govern any more.  Unless you’re a bunch of whiny cry babies in Wisconsin (see Capitol Chaos: Assembly Passes Budget Repair Bill by Charles Benson, Jay Sorgi and the Associated Press posted 2/25.2011 on todaystmj4.com).

Shortly after 1:00 a.m., after more than 60 hours of debate on this, the Republicans quickly called for the vote, which ended all debate.

Some of the Democrats were so taken aback by what had happened, they didn’t get a chance to vote. 

The vote happened so fast, within seconds, that the bill pass with Republican voting for it, but while they were voting, Democrats kept yelling, “No!  No!  You can’t do this!”…

After it passed, Republicans started walking off the floor, and the Democrats started yelling “Shame!  Shame!  Shame!” as Republicans walked off, one by one, and left the Assembly floor.

Obamacare was hustled through a lot faster with a lot of bribes.  There was no debate.  Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass it to learn what was in it.  The Democrats had no problem with that vote.  The vote in Wisconsin, on the other hand, they do. 

The people of Wisconsin, unhappy with the Democrats, voted in a Republican controlled legislature.  And a Republican governor.  The Republicans had the majority.  The Democrats didn’t.  It’s called democracy.  Which they’re all for.  When they are in power.  But when they’re not in power democracy just isn’t fair.  And they whine.

Of Course they’re Over-Compensated

After the vote layoff notices went out.  The UPI reports teachers are so anxious that they were breaking out in tears.  And for good reason.  They have some pretty nice jobs.  All public sector workers do.  I mean, they wouldn’t be making such a big fuss if those jobs were as bad as they would have us believe.

We the taxpayers pay public sector workers well.  And we’ve been giving them the best of benefits.  Well, yes and no, say the critics.  They’re smart.  Well educated.  And underpaid for their brains.  The critics say people in the private sector with the same education are compensated more.  That’s a little hard to believe.  Because few give up those public sector jobs once they get them (see Everything You Need to Know about Whether State and Local Bureaucrats Are Over-Compensated, in One Chart by Daniel J. Mitchell on 2/25/2011 on CATO@Liberty).

The data on total compensation clearly show a big advantage for state and local bureaucrats, largely because of lavish benefits (which is the problem that Governor Walker in Wisconsin is trying to fix). But the government unions argue that any advantage they receive disappears after the data is adjusted for factors such as education.

This is a fair point, so we need to find some objective measure that neutralizes all the possible differences. Fortunately, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, and this “JOLTS” data includes a measure of how often workers voluntarily leave job, and we can examine this data for different parts of the workforce…

Not surprisingly, this data shows state and local bureaucrats are living on Easy Street. As the chart illustrates, private sector workers are more than three times as likely to quit their jobs.

The reason someone doesn’t quit a job is simple and straight forward.  They can’t find a better one.  Over in the private sector, they say the way to increase your compensation is to make a few moves to other companies.  Let private employers bid up your salary.  This isn’t how it works in the public sector.  Pay and benefits have nothing to do with ability.  You get in and you stay put.  And let the union shake down the taxpayers for ever more generous pay and benefits.

Greedy Teachers and the Poor Taxpayers they Shake Down

Wisconsin teachers are calling in sick to show up at these protests.  They are using fraudulent doctor’s notes handed out at the protests to excuse their ‘sick’ days.  That’s not very ethical.  And probably not very legal.  Or a good lesson for the children they teach (some of which have joined them in the protest as useful pawns for the children can’t possibly understand what’s really at stake here).  So why would they go to these lengths?  Will the governor force them to choose between food and medicine?  Will they have to eat cat food?  I doubt it.  For it looks like they’re currently enjoying champagne and caviar (see Oh, To Be a Teacher in Wisconsin by Robert Costrell posted 2/25/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

The average Milwaukee public-school teacher salary is $56,500, but with benefits the total package is $100,005, according to the manager of financial planning for Milwaukee public schools.

Wow.  That’s like having one job and getting two paychecks.  And they only work 9 months out of the year.  And get a lot of time off when they do work.  That is some pretty sweet compensation.  I can see why they protest.  They are a privileged elite.  And like elites, they don’t like giving up their elitism.

So how do the benefits add up to $100,005 in total compensation for an average public-school teacher?  Well, thanks to collective bargaining, they get pensions and health care benefits like no one does in the private sector.

•Social Security and Medicare. The employer cost is 7.65% of wages, the same as in the private sector.

•State Pension. Teachers belong to the Wisconsin state pension plan. That plan requires a 6.8% employer contribution and 6.2% from the employee. However, according to the collective-bargaining agreement in place since 1996, the district pays the employees’ share as well, for a total of 13%.

•Teachers’ Supplemental Pension. In addition to the state pension, Milwaukee public-school teachers receive an additional pension under a 1982 collective-bargaining agreement. The district contributes an additional 4.2% of teacher salaries to cover this second pension. Teachers contribute nothing.

•Classified Pension. Most other school employees belong to the city’s pension system instead of the state plan. The city plan is less expensive but here, too, according to the collective-bargaining agreement, the district pays the employees’ 5.5% share.

•Health care for current employees. Under the current collective- bargaining agreements, the school district pays the entire premium for medical and vision benefits, and over half the cost of dental coverage. These plans are extremely expensive.

This is partly because of Wisconsin’s unique arrangement under which the teachers union is the sponsor of the group health-insurance plans. Not surprisingly, benefits are generous. The district’s contributions for health insurance of active employees total 38.8% of wages. For private-sector workers nationwide, the average is 10.7%.

•Health insurance for retirees. This benefit is rarely offered any more in private companies, and it can be quite costly. This is especially the case for teachers in many states, because the eligibility rules of their pension plans often induce them to retire in their 50s, and Medicare does not kick in until age 65. Milwaukee’s plan covers the entire premium in effect at retirement, and retirees cover only the growth in premiums after they retire.

No one in the private sector gets these benefits.  No one.  Unless they make very large contribution towards them.  Whereas the teachers get them totally free.  Is that fair?  People bitch about CEO compensation but at least it’s the shareholders who have last say on that.  In Wisconsin it is doubtful the taxpayers even know what their public-school teachers are making.  Courtesy of their tax dollars.

Overall, the school district’s contributions to health insurance for employees and retirees total about 50.9 cents on top of every dollar paid in wages. Together with pension and Social Security contributions, plus a few small items, one can see how the total cost of fringe benefits reaches 74.2%.

What these numbers ultimately prove is the excessive power of collective bargaining. The teachers’ main pension plan is set by the state legislature, but under the pressure of local bargaining, the employees’ contribution is often pushed onto the taxpayers. In addition, collective bargaining led the Milwaukee public school district to add a supplemental pension plan—again with no employee contribution. Finally, the employees’ contribution (or lack thereof) to the cost of health insurance is also collectively bargained.

As the costs of pensions and insurance escalate, the governor’s proposal to restrict collective bargaining to salaries—not benefits—seems entirely reasonable.

And there you have it.  Why the Left is panicking about what’s going on in Wisconsin.  And it ain’t about the children.  Health care benefits and pensions can’t get any less about the children.  Collective bargaining has given the public sector workers great pay and benefits at the taxpayer’s expense.  All without having the taxpayer to approve these generous compensation packages.  Unlike shareholders in private corporations. 

Collective bargaining for public sector workers enables the transfer of huge sums of money from the private sector (the taxpayers) to the public sector.  Union members pay dues.  And guess who unions support in elections.  Democrats.  If other states follow suit the Democrats stand to lose a lot of campaign cash and foot soldiers.  And this is what it’s really about in Wisconsin.  Greed.  The greed of public sector workers.  And the greed of Democrats.

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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