Democrats and Unions are impoverishing American Cities

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 21st, 2013

Week in Review

Detroit had a massive public sector.  Lots of union government jobs.  With very generous benefits.  Then the city began losing population.  As the city shrank the public sector did not.  As the city could no longer support the public sector on tax revenue they turned to borrowing.  At her bankruptcy her pension obligations were in the billions.  And were just unsustainable.  With a lot of those retirees going to see huge cuts in their retirement benefits.  A first for a public sector union.  And one that may set a precedent for other impoverished cities (see Cities where poverty is soaring by Michael B. Sauter and Thomas C. Frohlich,, posted 12/16/2013 on Yahoo! Homes).

Many of these cities show a symptom of the regions hit hardest by the recession — a significant decline in real estate value. Nationally, the average home value during the three-year period of 2010-2012 was down by 9% compared to the previous three-year period. In eight of the 10 cities with soaring poverty rates, property values fell by at least 10%. Homes in Eastpointe lost nearly half of their value. In Inkster, Michigan, another city where poverty grew substantially, an average of 43.3% of homes were worth less than $50,000 between 2010 and 2012, compared to just 11.8% of homes during the 2007-2009 period…

Several of these cities were already struggling prior to the recession, in part because of their reliance on manufacturing. The industry had been declining for years, and the recession only made matters worse. In Salisbury, North Carolina, employment in manufacturing fell from 15.5% of all jobs to 8.3%. Goshen, Indiana, another city with a major increase in poverty, is heavily dependent on the auto industry — more than a third of the working population was employed in manufacturing between 2010 and 2012. According to Joe Frank at the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, this dependence had particularly dire consequences during the recession.

The Democrats are all Keynesians.  Who believe in government spending.  And keeping interest rates artificially low to stimulate the economy.  To encourage people to buy big expensive houses.  Just because interest rates are low.  So people did.  With mortgages so cheap everyone was getting them.  And as these buyers flooded the market housing prices soared.  Creating a great housing bubble.  Which collapsed when interest rates rose.  Resetting the rates on those subprime adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs).  Raising monthly payments.  Beyond what some people could afford.  Forcing them into bankruptcy.  Creating the subprime mortgage crisis.  And the collapse of housing prices.

The UAW made American cars so expensive people started buying the less expensive imports.  As most people don’t have UAW contracts giving them a fat paycheck and generous benefits.  Leaving them to get by on less than UAW workers.  Which meant they turned to the less costly imports.  Built by companies that didn’t have those great legacy costs of years of overly generous contracts that became unsustainable.  Pension costs and health care for retirees (which outnumbered active workers) forced GM and Chrysler to ask for a government bailout to avoid bankruptcy.  Asking the taxpayer to help them pay the generous pensions and health care costs of others.  Instead of bringing these benefits into line with the rest of America.

Democrats are Keynesians.  They believe in government intervention into the private sector economy.  And they protect their friends in unions to get their votes.  Raising costs for everyone else.  These policies, though, are just impoverishing American cities.  At least the ones dominated by unions and/or Democrats.


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Alberta Health Services privatizes some Pensions to Cut Health Care Costs

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 14th, 2013

Week in Review

Public sector pensions are pushing cities and states to bankruptcy.  The Detroit bankruptcy was due in large part to the staggering debt the city took on to meet current pension obligations (and health care cost for retirees).  While the pension fund remained woefully underfunded.  The Detroit bankruptcy may set a precedent for other debt-laden cities.  Who are drowning under the costs of their bloated public sectors.  As they’ve run out of room to raise taxes any further.  Which wasn’t a problem during the initial surge of public sector growth.  But now that those retirement rolls have grown so large cities and states have found those generous pensions to be just unsustainable.  Even in Canada (see Alberta Health Services privatizing Edmonton labs posted 12/11/2013 on CBC News).

Alberta Health Services is going ahead with its plan to privatize all of its diagnostic lab services in Edmonton…

The new lab will replace hospital labs operated by AHS and Covenant Health as well as the services provided by DynaLIFE…

No jobs will be lost and all staff positions will be protected by the new employer, AHS says.

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta represents about 75% of the 2,000 workers affected by the changeover.

Even though AHS claims wages won’t change, the union believes pensions will take a hit.

“This is going to a private provider,” said HSAA president Elisabeth Ballermann.

“The private provider by definition cannot participate in the pension plan that our public sector members are currently part of and that’s an enormous loss for those workers.”

A loss perhaps for 2000 workers.  But a win for the health care system in Alberta and the people who use it.  As the cost savings from privatizing these pension obligations will free up money to spend on health care.  Something to think about as Obamacare continues to rollout and destroy the private health insurance industry on its way to establishing national health care.  Nationalizing one-sixth of the U.S. economy.  Creating a windfall of new public sector workers to vote Democrat.  And unsustainable pension costs that will increase the cost of health care.  Which will lead to longer wait times and rationing.  As well as adding to the deficit and debt.  Which will, in time, lead to the same cost-cutting actions like Alberta is taking.  Or something a little more painful like they did in Detroit.


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LESSONS LEARNED #53: “The essence of politics is taking from the many and giving to the few.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 17th, 2011

Good Times Turned into Chronic Deficits and Punishing Debt

Two things have historically made government good at filling its coffers.  The power to tax.  And a growing population.  It’s a simple mathematical equation.  And each year it totals more.  As long as you have a growing population to tax you can sustain government spending for a long time.  All the while putting a little of those taxes aside to take care of you and yours.

Businesses call it economies of scale.  Sell more of a thing and the cost per thing goes down.  If you have $1 million in total costs and sell only 4 things, then each thing will have to sell for $250,000 just to break even.  If you sell 5 million things, then you only have to sell each thing for a nickel to break even.  If you sell more things you can charge less for each thing.  It’s sort of like that with taxes, too.  If you have a growing population (with an expanding birthrate), each succeeding generation will have a lot more tax payers than the previous one.  So a small tax rate on a growing population will continue to increase the amount of tax dollars flowing into the government’s coffers.  And a good time will be had by all.

But right now, the federal government, some states and some cities are struggling to balance their budgets.  Something happened.  What others would have described as the perfect Ponzi scheme became like a real one.  The money paying current benefits became larger than the current contributions.  And good times turned into chronic deficits and punishing debt.  So what happened?

Government Employees Grew 280% from 1946 to 2010

Well, to begin with, some people just got greedy.  They spent a lot of money.  Grew the size of government.  Put more and more people onto the public dole.  At all levels of government.  City.  State.  And federal.  And they based all of this growth on the most hopeful of economic assumptions.  That revenue (i.e., tax receipts) then would continue to grow at the same rate forever and ever.   So they grew government.  Gave themselves very generous pay and benefits.  Pension plans that they could never sustain in the private sector.  Job security.  And other good stuff those in the private sector just don’t get (more holidays, more paid vacation, better healthcare, etc.).  And why not?  They had the power to tax.  And an increasing population.  I mean, what could go wrong?

Well, things change.  Even in government.  In 1946 (about when FDR gave us Social Security), there was approximately 6 million government employees (federal, state and city).  Fast forward to 2010 and that number grew to 23 million.  That’s an increase of 280%.  That’s a huge transfer from the private sector to the public sector.  Which required an enormous amount of additional tax revenue.

Of course, if the population grew at a corresponding rate, then perhaps that growth can be justified.  Maybe they just hired more people to administer a growing population.  It’s either that.  Or they were just expanding the role of government into our lives.  Perhaps a look at some population data will answer that question.

Population Grew 118% and the Birthrate fell 31% from 1946 to 2010

The population in 1946 exceeded 141 million.  In 2010 it exceeded 308 million.  That’s an increase of approximately 118%.  Less than half of the growth rate in government jobs.  So, no, government hasn’t grown larger to keep pace with a growing population.  It has grown larger to expand its role into our lives.

The birthrate in 1946 was 20.4 births per thousand of population.  In 2010 the birthrate fell to 14 births per thousand of population.  That’s a decrease of 31%.  So while the population grew at 118% between 1946 and 2010, the number of births only increased approximately 50% (from 2.8 million to 4.3 million).  In other words, our current birth rate accounts for less than half of our population growth. 

So we have a public sector growing more than twice our population growth.  And we have a birthrate that is less than half of our population growth.  You put these two facts together and what does it tell you?  The growth of taxpayers to fund the public sector is decreasing while the public sector is increasing.  And this can mean only one thing.  Tax rates on the individual have to increase so fewer taxpayers can support more tax consumers (i.e., the public sector).

Payroll Taxes (Social Security and Medicare) Grew 665% from 1946 to 2010

To simplify the discussion, let’s look only at Social Security and Medicare.  In 1946 there was only Social Security.  And the payroll tax was 1%.  In 2010 we have both Social Security and Medicare.  The total payroll tax for these two is 7.65%.  That’s an increase of 665%.  If you earn $30,000 that comes to $2,295 today.  If the tax rate was at the 1946 level it would only be $300.  Giving you an additional $1,995 to spend.  (If you make $65,000, the numbers are $4,972.50, $650 and $4,322.50, respectively.)  Could you use another $1,995?  If you don’t think that’s a lot consider this.  We pay a lot more taxes than just Social Security and Medicare.  You add all of them up and it totals the price of a decent car.  A care that you pay for but never get to drive.

These numbers increased because costs went up at a greater rate than the number of new taxpayers.  Therefore, each individual taxpayer had to pay more.  This is a problem repeated at every level of government.  Government grew and expanded its role.  And its payrolls.  Based on population models used before birth control and abortion.  But then birthrates declined.  In the second half of the 20th century, new babies made up less than half of our new population.  Which explains the government’s earnest desire for blanket amnesty for all illegals in the country.  To make up for that declining birthrate.  And restore the population growth rate to the numbers the actuaries used in all their calculations to fund all that Big Government spending.

As noted, we pay more taxes than just Social Security and Medicare.  And they’re all going up.  For the same reasons.  Government overstepped its bounds.  Spent money under the most ideal assumptions.  And the moment a little reality entered into the economy their house of cards came tumbling down.  The big states and the big cities are all drowning under their public sector obligations.  They have pension obligations that are pushing them towards bankruptcy.  And the federal government has its own problems with Social Security and Medicare.

It’s Spending Cuts or Bust

It was a simple plan.  Tax a little from everyone.  Give generous benefits to the few you need to vote for you.  Live happily ever after.  But they overreached.  Grew government too big.  Just as the population growth rate took a nosedive.  They have raised taxes on the remaining taxpayers in the private sector about as high as they can go.  If they raise them anymore the greatest recession since the Great Depression may very well turn into another Great Depression.  So what to do?

Well, based on that simple mathematical equation, we have but two choices.  Increase the growth rate of the taxpaying population.  Or cut spending.  If we started today raising families of 10 plus kids, it would still take about 20 years (or more) before these new taxpayers start paying taxes.  But we may not have 20 years.  So that leaves the spending cuts.  Even blanket amnesty for illegals won’t help.  Because government spending is a function of the birthrate.  And sustained spending requires a sustained birthrate.  Amnesty won’t give you that.  So it’s spending cuts or bust.  Literally.


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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #45: “The bluest of cities in the bluest of states have the most activist governments, the deepest recessions and the most abject poverty.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 21st, 2010

Blue States Bleeding Red

We call it the Great Recession.  It started with the subprime mortgage crisis.  Then the dominoes started falling.  And unemployment rates started to climb.  So many people lost their jobs that it wasn’t only banks and auto companies staring into the abyss of bankruptcy.  Our city and states were, too.

But not all our cities and states.  Some were hanging in there during the Great Recession.  There was a pattern.  Sure, it was a rule with some exceptions, but a general rule all the same.  And if you looked at one of those red/blue electoral maps, you could see the states (and the cities) having the biggest financial troubles.  You just looked for the blue.

The blue states are the ‘Democrat’ states.  The red states are ‘Republican’.  And the states that are in the news with financial troubles tend to be the blue states.  The New England States.  The Mid-West states.  And the West Coast states.  The rate of business failures and high unemployment rates have hammered these states.  Taxable income plummeted.  Without the income to tax, tax revenue plummeted.  And these blue states are bleeding red.

Blue States and Unionized Public Sector Employees

These are the Big Government states.  Home for most of the nation’s liberal democrats.  Although liberal democrats make up only about 20% of the national population, most of them live in these states.  And when you pack a lot of this 20% into these small areas, their influence can reach a majority.  And they can control these cities and states.  And do.

These liberals are the guilty rich (anti-capitalist inheritors of great wealth).  Crony-capitalists (anti-capitalists who eschew the free market and bribe politicians in exchange for governmental favoritism).  Big Union (anti-capitalists who eschew the free market and seek legislation that favors them).  The celebrity rich (anti-capitalist movie stars, musicians, painters, artists, etc., who don’t live in the real world).  University professors (anti-capitalists who still have posters of Che Guevara up in their classrooms).  The mainstream media (anti-capitalists who want to shape opinion instead of practicing journalism).  And, of course, the poor and government-dependent.

And then you have public sector employees.  Unionized public sector employees.  And their ranks are growing.  They don’t work very hard.  But boy are they paid well.  And talk about fat benefits.  Pension plans that most can’t even imagine.  They have made themselves a privileged class.  And with their boss having the power to tax, that privileged class will be remaining privileged for a long time to come.  Unless a Great Recession comes along.

Much of Flyover Country not having any Budget Crises

What is flyover country?  It’s that are area of the country liberals fly over when traveling between the West Coast, the Big Union Mid-West, New England and, of course, Washington D.C.  It’s that area in between.  The red states.  You see, liberals fly over the red states because they don’t like them.  Or Republicans.

Because America is a center-right nation, and the liberals have concentrated in the blue states, that has left most of ‘fly over’ country conservative.  And what do conservatives NOT like?  Big Government.  So liberals don’t go where they’ve not welcomed.  For Big Government is the heart and soul of liberalism.

So the red states don’t have Big Government.  They don’t have masses of government-dependent people.  And they don’t have large public sectors.  Or public sector union employees.  Which means they don’t have huge Big Government budgets.  Or budget crises.

The Public Sector Out Paces the Private Sector in the Blue States

But the blue states do.  Their Big Cities are packed with government-dependent people.  And they have a huge public sector to cater to these people.  And a public sector union that pays this public sector very well.  They have pay and benefit packages that are to die for.

Of course, a public sector doesn’t make anything.  They have no goods or services that they can sell in the free market.  They have but one source of income.  Taxes.  And when times are good, taxes are good.  But when times are poor, so are taxes.

Part of the liberal democrat’s strategy to remain in power is to get as many people as possible dependent on government.  This helps make Democrat voters (people who vote Democrat because they are afraid of losing their government benefits).  And justifies their huge government budgets.  So they keep adding people to the public dole.  And keep growing their budgets.  It’s a foolproof plan.  As long as the private sector grows along with the public sector.  So the private sector can keep paying the taxes to support the public sector.  And the privileged class.

Big Government – The Road to Bankruptcy

But it doesn’t always work.  When businesses fail they don’t have any income.  So they can’t pay any income taxes.  And when a business fails people lose their jobs.  And their incomes.  So they don’t pay any income taxes either.  But it doesn’t end there.  Without any income, they can’t buy anything in the free market.  So other businesses see their sales decline.  And have to lay off employees.  And these laid-off people can’t buy anything in the free market.  So more businesses see their sales decline.  And they lay off people.  And on and on it goes.  Where does it stop?  Usually in a bad recession.  Or even a great one.

You add all of this up and what do you get?  Big cities with growing budgets (and growing pension obligations).  And shrinking tax revenue to pay for it.  Costs exceed revenues.  Ergo, bankruptcy.

And some of the states with the most generous public sector pay and benefits are California, Illinois and New York.   Some of the bluest of blue states.  And coincidentally, these are the states facing some of the biggest budget crises.  Actually, it’s no coincidence.  It’s the ultimate consequence of Big Government.  Bankruptcy.


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