The Public Sector and the Tax Base

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 3rd, 2013

Economics 101

All Government Bureaucracies Grow Bigger and Pay their People Very Well

Big cities throughout the United States are suffering financially.  They are drowning under the costs of their public sector employees.  For when the Great Recession hit tax revenues fell.  People lost jobs and paid less income taxes.  People out of work spent less in the local stores causing a fall in sales taxes.  People drove less and paid less gas taxes.  Home values plummeted, reducing property taxes.  Tax revenue fell at all levels of government.  Leaving the big cities unable to pay their bills.  With less help from the governments above them.  While their infrastructures crumbled.  And they struggled to furnish basic city services.

Governments don’t make anything.  They just have people doing things.  So there are little economies of scale.  Just a lot of people.  The public sector includes every worker in the city paid by tax revenue.  The mayor, city council, school teachers, police officers, firefighters, garbage collectors, boiler operators, electricians, janitors, building inspectors, meter readers, bus drivers, etc.   And all the civil servants and bureaucrats that push paper.  Requiring a huge payroll.  And lots of benefits.  In a large city with a population of 1.5 million those costs can look like this:

Public Sector Costs 1

All government bureaucracies have two things in common.  They always grow bigger.  And pay their people very well.  So the above table has three columns.  Showing the growth of the public sector.  (Assuming a constant population to simplify our math).  From 1% of the city population to 2% then to 3%.  So the number of city employees goes from 15,000 to 30,000 to 45,000.  By the time you add in pay, holiday pay, vacation pay, sick days and health insurance the active employee costs are huge.  Going from $1 billion to $2 billion to $3 billion.  Today it is not uncommon for a big city with a population of 1.5 million to have 45,000 public sector workers.  So we will build on that figure.  And add in retiree costs.

As City’s Population Declines so does its Tax Base

Another big perk of working in the public sector are the great pensions.  Something that has long since disappeared in the private sector.  While most of us have to put money away in a 401(k) public sector workers can count on a generous pension during a long retirement.  Perhaps getting as much as 80% of their base pay.  Plus they keep their health insurance.  Which is unlike the health insurance most of us get in the private sector.  For it covers everything.  With few co-pays.  And only the best name-brand pharmaceutical prescriptions.  This is why people want to work in the public sector.  And why they want to retire from the public sector.  Because no one else pays as well.

Public Sector Costs 2

Public sector workers retire long before their counterparts in the private sector.  Allowing them to live a long retirement.  And because they live so long into retirement the city ends up paying for almost as many retirees as they do active workers.  Putting great cost pressures on these cities as more of their workers retire.  Within as few as 2 decades the cost of retired workers can go from $648 million to $1.9 billion.   When we add this cost to the cost of their active workers we get the total cost of the public sector.

Public Sector Costs 3

As time passes and more people retire from the public sector we can see how the cost of the public sector (active and retired) rises from $3.7 billion to $4.4 billion to $5 billion.  Which, of course, the people living in the city have to pay.  The taxpayers.  They pay income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and a variety of other taxes and fees.  Who by the time the number of retirees reach 40,500 must pay $3,336 per year.  Or $278 per month.  Or $64.15 per week.  Or $9.16 each day.  Just to get a true feel of how much this is do the following exercise.  Each day take a $10 bill out of your wallet or purse and throw it away.  This will approximate the cost of the public sector you pay for.  Until the people start leaving the city.  And as the population declines so does the tax base.  Requiring each person to pay a larger share of the public sector cost.

To pay for an Expanding Government you need a Growing Population

If a city starts losing population it doesn’t reduce the need to pay the bloated public sector.  Both active and retired.  So the fewer people remaining in the city have to pay a larger share of the public sector cost.  Because the public sector union isn’t going to allow the city to lay off any workers.  So it’s up to the taxpayers.  But as the population shrinks it becomes more painful to do.

Public Sector Costs 4

By the time the population falls to 500,000 the amount of taxes a person must pay to support the public sector amounts to a house payment.  Or $192.46 per week.  Or $27.49 each day.  Can you imagine taking three $10 bills out of your wallet or purse every day just to throw them away?  Probably not.  Because no one would.  Cities just can’t keep increasing the tax burden on their people.  For there is a limit.  And when a city reaches it they start borrowing.  Which is how cities go into debt.  And flirt with bankruptcy.  Because of these bloated public sectors.  That grew when the cities grew.  But they didn’t shrink as their populations shrank.

We have ignored corporations in our exercise.  Which increase the tax base.  But we have also excluded additional costs.  Buildings, vehicles, equipment, housing assistance, food assistance, fuel for city vehicles, car insurance, property insurance, liability insurance, lawsuits, etc.  If we factor these things in the numbers will only look worse.  As the cost of the active and retired workers increases there’s less money to pay for the basic city services.  So they deteriorate.  Which when added to the higher taxes chase even more people out of the city.  Reducing the tax base further.  Leaving even less money for the basic city services.

When the population declines so does the city.  As the public sector workers consume a greater percentage of the shrinking tax base cities suffer increasing urban decay.  As there is little money for anything but the public sector workers and their benefits.  For when it comes to paying for government population is key.  You need a growing population to pay for expanding government.  To spread the costs of a bloated public sector over as many people as possible.  And you can’t do that with a declining population.  Which is why big cities flirt with bankruptcy during bad economic times.  For they can pay for their bloated public sectors only during the best of economic times.  And only during the best of economic times.

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Detroit’s Public Sector Unions may push the City into the Biggest Municipal Bankruptcy in U.S. History

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 16th, 2012

Week in Review

Michigan just became a Right to Work state in an effort to lure business into Michigan.  Whose high union costs have chased business away from Michigan.  Detroit, The Motor City, auto capital of the world, home of the Big Three, is a dying city.  While Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, Honda, etc, have built new auto plants in the United States not a one of them built in Michigan.  Because of their high union costs.  So Detroit has the Big Three.  But no one else.  And even two of the Big Three recently filed bankruptcy thanks to those union legacy costs (pensions and health care for retirees who outnumbered the active workforce).

So Michigan is bad.  But Detroit is worse.  They’ve lost so much industry that the number one and two employers in the city are the City of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools.  Both who have unions doing to the City of Detroit what the unions did to the Big Three (see Detroit has “serious financial problem”: Michigan treasurer by Ann Saphir posted 12/15/2012 on Reuters).

A check of Detroit’s finances has found a “serious financial problem” with the cash-strapped city, a step that could lead to the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history…

That official would have the power to put the city of 700,000 into Chapter 9 bankruptcy if other rescue plans are not feasible or effective.

Detroit, home of General Motors Co., has been hit by a steep population decline, years of severe budget deficits and escalating employee costs, all of which led state officials to begin an intervention process last year.

Detroit’s population peaked at 1,850,000 in 1950.  The city has since lost over half of its population.  First the jobs left.  Then the people.  During this time the size of city government grew.  As did the public sector union pay and benefit packages for those public sector workers.  The city’s costs soared as their tax base disappeared.  So it’s no surprise that the city is facing perhaps the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

At this point in time it’s probably not a question if Detroit will file bankruptcy.  But a question of when.  They’re going to have to do what the Left wants to do for people underwater in their mortgages.  And for students buried in student loan debt with no job prospects (because they got degrees in Philosophy, Religious Studies, Anthropology, Archeology, Area Ethnic Studies, Civilization Studies, Information Systems, etc.).  Forgive their debt.  So these people can crawl out from underneath their debt and return to some sense of normalcy in their lives.  But the Left will not endorse this same solution for Detroit.  Because the city’s debts just happen to be to the Left’s greatest campaign contributors and constituency.  Public sector unions.  The Left will screw banks and mortgage companies every day of the week.  But when it comes to the public sector unions they’d rather screw the taxpayer.

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The Most Expensive City will be Getting More Expensive as New York City raises Taxi and Limo Fares

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 15th, 2012

Week in Review

One of the most expensive cities to live in just got more expensive.  Or will get more expensive this September (see Cost of riding New York City taxi to jump 17 percent by Joseph O’Leary posted 7/12/2012 on Reuters).

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a 17 percent fare hike on Thursday, said Alan Fromberg, a spokesman for the commission. The change will take effect in September.

Gas prices are falling.  Because the economy is so bad.  Unemployment is stuck at 8.2%.  No one is spending money.  Few are packing the families into their cars for a long vacation.  As the rising food costs are taking a larger portion of family budgets.  One of the few areas improvements in productivity isn’t keeping inflation at bay.  Still, inflation is in the low single digits.  So with the horrible economic picture, the fall in gasoline prices and the relatively low inflation rate why are they raising fares by 17%?  For all of the above.

New York City is one of the highest tax locales in the country.  And when economic activity falls so does tax revenue.  The city is hemorrhaging money.  Because it’s a city dominated by public sector workers.  And public sector unions.  Who consume enormous amounts of tax revenue.  Raising taxi and limo fares raises taxi and limo company profits.  Which increases income tax revenue.  And it increases drivers’ incomes.  Which increases income tax revenue.  That is, as long as ridership doesn’t fall.  Which it may.  For this is yet one more reason not to go to New York City.  It’s just so costly to visit.  For once there you will be visiting the ATM early.  And often.  Especially if you travel by taxi.

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Even Democrats are Complaining about the High Cost of Government Workers Bankrupting their Cities and States

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 29th, 2012

Week in Review

So who isn’t paying their fair share?  I know who you’re probably thinking.  And if you are you’re wrong.  For here it is direct from a Democrat mayor’s mouth (see Steven Malanga: How Retirement Benefits May Sink the States by STEVEN MALANGA posted 4/27/2012 on The Wall Street Journal).

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently offered a stark assessment of the threat to his state’s future that is posed by mounting pension and retiree health-care bills for government workers. Unless Illinois enacts reform quickly, he said, the costs of these programs will force taxes so high that, “You won’t recruit a business, you won’t recruit a family to live here.”

We’re likely to hear more such worries in coming years. That’s because state and local governments across the country have accumulated several trillion dollars in unfunded retirement promises to public-sector workers, the costs of which will increasingly force taxes higher and crowd out other spending. Already businesses and residents are slowly starting to sit up and notice…

Government retiree costs are likely to play an increasing role in the competition among states for business and people, because these liabilities are not evenly distributed. Some states have enormous retiree obligations that they will somehow have to pay; others have enacted significant reforms, or never made lofty promises to their workers in the first place.

Indiana’s debt for unfunded retiree health-care benefits, for example, amounts to just $81 per person. Neighboring Illinois’s accumulated obligations for the same benefit average $3,399 per person…

Back in Illinois, Dana Levenson, Chicago’s former chief financial officer, has projected that the average city homeowner paying $3,000 in annual property taxes could see his tax bill rise within five years as much as $1,400. The reason: A 2010 Illinois law requires municipalities to raise the funding levels in their pension systems using property tax revenues but no additional contributions from government employees. The legislation prompted former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in December to warn residents that the increases might be so high, “you won’t be able to sell your house.”

What was that about the 1%?  Just who is it living off of the generosity of the 99%?  Who isn’t paying their fair share?  And is asking others to pay far more than their fair share?  Who is it that has pension and retiree health care plans worth several trillions of dollars?  All funded by tax dollars from the 99%?  As well as the 1%?  Our government workers.  That’s who.  Those people who have made themselves more equal than the 99%.  Even though they claim to be a part of the 99%.  While living more like the 1%.  But one thing you can say about the 1%.  They’re not bankrupting their cities and states like these government workers are.  Or destroying our lives to pay for their lives.

You want to talk class warfare?  Let’s talk class warfare.  The richest 1% pay approximately 30% of all federal income taxes.  The richest 10% pay approximately 70% of all federal income taxes.  And we don’t pay any of these rich people with our taxes.  They get it however they get it.  But they don’t get it from us.  The taxpayers.  So they providing a huge net good for us.  Paying the lion’s share of taxes.  And not taking our money from us.  And yet these are the people that we vilify.  While those who are harming us the most get a free pass.  Now that’s some clever class warfare.  Making it sound like it’s the rich who are oppressing the middle class.  While it is the wealthy government class oppressing the middle class.  And they do it very well.  You’ll hear people everywhere say that the government should stick it to the rich.  But they never say a word about these government workers who live a better life than they do.  Even though they are paying for that better life.  Through ever higher taxes.

So when your property taxes go up think about your retirement plans.  And though you may not have much be comforted in the fact that your government workers do.  Thanks to you.  So even though you may not be able to travel the world in your retirement you’ll know that somewhere a retired government worker is.  Because that’s only fair.  And being fair is important.  Fair share sacrifice.  That’s all they want.  As long as, of course, your share of sacrifice is greater than theirs.  The wealthy government class.

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Labour Supports Pay Freeze for Public Sector Workers

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Deficits have consequences.  Because you can’t just keep on borrowing money you don’t have.  So eventually the day comes when everyone realizes that they must live within their means.  Even political opponents (see Balls backs public sector pay freeze posted 1/14/2012 on the BBC News UK).

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has indicated Labour will support a pay freeze for public sector workers in order to help reduce the deficit.

Mr Balls told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that getting people into jobs must come before higher pay.

The UK’s deficit is about 10% of GDP.  Ditto for the US.  The UK’s debt is about 95% of GDP.  The US is about 100% of GDP.  In Reagan’s last year as US president it was only about 51% of GDP.

Deficits and debt are rising to dangerous levels.  They’re so high in the UK that the Labour party, the party of public sector workers, will support a freeze for public sector workers.  That’s serious.  For even in the US where the numbers are even worse the Democrats (the party of public sector workers) don’t dare to breathe such sentiments.  They still talk about making the rich pay their fair share of taxes.  They never talk about cutting spending.  Never.  Unless it’s defense spending.

The Brits are trying to do the responsible thing.  Even the political opposition is going along because it’s in the best interests of their country.  Suspending politics as usual at the highest levels.  It would be nice to see something like that in their former colony.  The United States.

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The Federal Debt and Public Sector Grow, American Exceptionalism Declines

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 4th, 2011

Obama sets Spending Record, Maxes out Uncle Sam’s Credit Card

As Congress battles over a budget, Timothy Geithner goes back to Congress and warns them that the world as we know it will end unless they increase the debt ceiling.  I’m paraphrasing, of course (see U.S. will hit debt ceiling by May 16, Geithner warns Congress by Jim Puzzanghera posted 4/4/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

The Treasury Department had estimated that the nation would reach its $14.29-trillion debt limit between April 5 and May 31…

The Obama administration is pushing Congress to increase the debt limit, as it has done 75 times since 1962. The nation has never failed to increase the limit, Geithner said.

But the nation has never spent money it doesn’t have like the Obama administration has.  After some 2 years in office Obama has added about $4.3 trillion to the national debt.  That’s pretty impressive for just two scant years.  And how does that compare with his predecessors?  George W. Bush‘s added $4.2 trillion in eight years.  Bill Clinton added $1.4 trillion in his eight years.  Ronald Reagan added $1.6 trillion in his eight years.  And Reagan is always attacked with the ‘sure he saved the economy and increased GDP but at what cost’ line implying he did it with reckless and irresponsible spending by mortgaging our future.  But Reagan’s debt was chump change compared to the Obama $4.3 trillion added in only 2 years.  Yet the Reagan debt was bad.  While the Obama debt is nothing to worry about.  Funny how that works. 

One thing for sure, Obama sure likes to spend other people’s money. 

Renewable Energy Subsidies are a Slush Fund for Democrats

So what are we spending so much money on?  Oh, lots and lots of things.  Some big (Obamacare).  Some small.  So small that when you look at it as a line item you say, sure, that’s a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s chump change.  Like the debt Reagan added rebuilding the American economy and winning the Cold War.  Or solar energy subsidies (see Get A Tax Break For Going Green In 2011 by Ashlea Ebeling posted 4/1/2011 on Forbes).

When [a retired couple], N.J., both 73, file their 2010 tax return this spring, they’ll be getting a $15,000 federal tax credit for going solar. They were expecting to get an additional $11,000 state rebate too, but newly-elected Republican Gov. Chris Christie raided the N.J. Clean Energy Fund last year to help balance the state budget, so the pot of rebate money ran dry. Yet even without the promised state rebate, [they] calculate that their $50,000 investment will be paid off in five years thanks to the federal tax credit and other incentives.

He’s already watching his meter send electricity he generates back to the power company; he figures he’ll save $1,600 a year in electricity bills. And he stands to get up to $6,500 a year for 15 years in state-legislated solar renewable energy certificates…

Okay, so we have a retired couple who could afford to spend $50,000 on solar panels that will never pay for themselves in energy savings unless they live another 32 years in retirement.  You know, that is an awful return on investment.  Which explains why no one is making this investment.  Unless the government gives them about $100,000 in the next 15 years on top of the $15,000 federal tax credit.  And the $11,000 state benefits.  All to save $1,600 a year.  What a scam.

This may stimulate the economy locally for a short time, but it just adds to the debt.  And the long term problems will be far greater than the short term benefits.  Then again, 73 year old people won’t be around to face those problems.  But you can bet that they will be voting for the party that just dropped a boatload of money into their laps to spend in their retirement years.  Let’s not forget that the senior population is growing greater than the younger population.  And they vote more.  So you can see that although the return on investment on solar energy is awful, it pays huge political dividends.  And that’s what it’s all about.  Not the environment.

Obamacare is a Slush Fund for Democrats

And speaking of really enjoying those retirement years, here’s a little pork buried in Obamacare just coming to light (see Uncovered: New $2 billion bailout in Obamacare by Byron York posted 3/31/2011 on The Examiner).

Investigators for the House Energy and Commerce Committee have discovered that a little-known provision in the national health care law has allowed the federal government to pay nearly $2 billion to unions, state public employee systems, and big corporations to subsidize health coverage costs for early retirees.

The legislation called for the program to spend a total of $5 billion, beginning in June 2010 — shortly after Obamacare was passed — and ending on January 1, 2014, as the system of national health care exchanges was scheduled to go into effect.

In other words, if you support Obamacare, we’ll take care of you.  As we always do.  And that’s why they fight for the public sector workers like they do.  They get a lot of union dues and foot soldiers.  In return the government throws them a bone.  Like an additional $5 billion in health care subsidies.

Where is the money going?  According to the new report, the biggest single recipient of an early-retiree bailout is the United Auto Workers, which has so far received $206,798,086.  Other big recipients include AT&T, which received $140,022,949, and Verizon, which received $91,702,538.  General Electric, in the news recently for not paying any U.S. taxes last year, received $36,607,818.  General Motors, recipient of a massive government bailout, received $19,002,669.

The program also paid large sums of money to state governments.  The Public Employees Retirement System of Ohio received $70,557,764; the Teacher Retirement System of Texas received $68,074,118; the California Public Employees Retirement System, or CalPERS, received $57,834,267; the Georgia Department of Community Health received $57,936,127; and the state of New York received $47,869,044.  Other states received lesser but still substantial sums.

But payments to individual states were dwarfed by the payout to the auto workers union, which received more than the states of New York, California, and Texas combined.  Other unions also received government funds, including the United Food and Commercial Workers, the United Mine Workers, and the Teamsters.

Remember the GM bailout?  Obama screwed the GM bond holders.  He called them greedy.  Humiliated them for trying to keep their contract rights.  The Obama administration sent these ‘first in line’ in bankruptcy to the end of the line.  Even behind the UAW who had no investment in GM.  Obama gave the UAW free shares of stock just for being who they were; contributors to the Democrat Party.  When the company went public again, the UAW was able to reap a fortune on that stock gift and fund their poorly funded pension fund.  And now this.  More tax dollars gifted to them for being good Democrat Party contributors.  This time to pay for health care costs of early retirees.  Lovely. 

Privileged life is good.  Obama takes care of the privileged.  And all you have to do is vote for him.  And give him a piece of your union dues.

The Public Sector Grows, the Private Sector Shrinks

But this government generosity is getting out of control.  People see the gravy train.  And they’re getting on it (see We’ve Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makers by Stephen Moore posted 4/1/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?

The problem with this trend is that the government doesn’t pay for these government workers.  The taxpayers do.  The people with private sector jobs.  And as the public sector (i.e., government) grows, the smaller the private sector gets.  Which has to fund an even greater public sector by ever greater taxes.  But the more taxes we pay the more sacrifices we have to make.  Our lives grow more austere.  While the public sector lives a far more comfortable life than ours.  The government will be the first to condemn this income disparity when they can attack some corporation.  But it’s a different story when the well-to-do are their own people.  So they try to hide this wealth transfer.  Well, they try to hide it from the makers.  Not the takers.

Don’t expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren’t willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands. Sadly, we could end up with a generation of Americans who want to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Public sector workers will bitch and moan about their jobs.  How they can earn more in the private sector.  Of course, they never leave the public sector.  Because the pay and benefits in the private sector suck compared to what they get in the public sector.  And no one ever fires them or lays them off.  That’s why they don’t ever give up those jobs.  Even college graduates have learned this.  And to guarantee those sweet jobs you know they will become lifetime Democrat voters.

Over the period 1970-2005, school spending per pupil, adjusted for inflation, doubled, while standardized achievement test scores were flat. Over roughly that same time period, public-school employment doubled per student, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington. That is what economists call negative productivity.

Why, then, is the answer to our educational woes always more spending?  Because there are a lot of teachers.  Who pay a lot of dues.  That go straight to the Democrat Party.  In exchange for more government spending on education.  Always for the children.  Yet the money never seems to make it to the classroom.  Based on the test scores.  But the money keeps flowing.  So the Democrat Party can always count on the teachers’ vote.

Most reasonable steps to restrain public-sector employment costs are smothered by the unions. Study after study has shown that states and cities could shave 20% to 40% off the cost of many services—fire fighting, public transportation, garbage collection, administrative functions, even prison operations—through competitive contracting to private providers. But unions have blocked many of those efforts. Public employees maintain that they are underpaid relative to equally qualified private-sector workers, yet they are deathly afraid of competitive bidding for government services.

So you could say these public sector workers are 20% to 40% overpaid, couldn’t you?  I mean, in the private sector, it’s the rare person who can demand 20% to 40% more than the going market salary or wage.  People just don’t choose to pay more.  Do you?  Do you hire a plumber whose rates are 20% to 40% higher than the going rate?  No, I doubt you do. I’ve even known union construction workers who hire nonunion workers to work at their house.  Because they, too, don’t want to pay more than they have to.  But public sector workers think they deserve this higher pay and benefits.  As does the federal government.  Who steps in to fight a governor (Scott Walker) who is trying to balance his state’s budget.  Why?  Because public sector workers are loyal Democrat voters.  And donors.  Via their automatically deducted union dues.

The Shining City upon a Hill to become Ordinary?

The national debt is growing out of control for a good reason.  Spending.  Now we’ve had spending in the past that was necessary.  But much of the spending in the last 2 years has had a higher purpose.  To fund the growing public sector.  And to buy loyal Democrat voters.  With the growth in entitlements consuming an ever larger part of the budget, that leaves little for the business of politics.  So they must borrow.  And borrow they do.  More than ever before.  They’ve added more in 2 years than George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan did in their 8-year terms.  And they’re begging Congress to raise the debt ceiling so they can keep on spending.

The future isn’t looking so bright.  Perhaps this marks the beginning of the end of American Exceptionalism.  The point on the historical timeline when we stopped being that shining city upon a hill.  When we became ordinary.  With our best days long behind us.  I hope not.  But it’s been done before.  Great civilizations have come and gone.  Done in by an ever growing public sector that bankrupts nations.  Even empires.  No one is immune.  Not even that shining city upon the hill.

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Wisconsin Takes a Step Forward, the UK Takes a Step Back

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 9th, 2011

 A Foul Stench Wafts across the Rheine

Empires come and go.  But one truly transformed the world.  And still is today.  The British Empire.  Their representative government, property rights and economic policies unleashed unimaginable growth and prosperity.  They gave us the Industrial Revolution.  And we’ve never looked back.  Great nations started as British seedlings.  Canada.  Australia.  India.  New Zealand.  To name a few.  And, of course, the United States.

Sadly, the UK strayed in the 20th century.  As many nations did.  Including the US.  Thanks to a foul stench that wafted across the Rheine.  Karl MarxFriedrich Engels.  They wrote a book.  The Communist Manifesto.  And their goal was to replace capitalism with socialism.  And then replace socialism with communism.  The ultimate welfare state.

The British government exploded in the 20th century.  They nationalized industries.  Raised taxes.  And empowered unions to the point that the nation was at their mercy.  If they didn’t get the pay raise they wanted you didn’t have any electricity.  Their strikes were notorious.  People called them the British Disease in the Seventies.  But help was on its way.

Thatcher and Reagan cut Taxes to Economic Prosperity

Margaret Thatcher was prime minister during the Eighties.  And she started turning the UK around.  Like her counterpart did in the US.  Ronald Reagan.  Both cut taxes.  And nearly doubled their tax receipts (see High income tax will cost the country dear by Telegraph View posted 3/9/2011 on the UK’s Telegraph).

Between 1979 and 2009, UK corporation tax rates fell by half, even as the revenue from the tax rose by half – hard evidence that lower taxes encourage economic activity and boost Treasury receipts.

People deride ‘trickle-down’ Reaganomics in the US but it worked.  And it worked in the UK, too.  Because jobs are everything.  If you don’t have jobs your economy goes into the toilet.  If you have jobs your economy soars.  It just doesn’t get simpler than that.  And how do you create jobs?  You give people a reason to be brilliant.  Give entrepreneurs an incentive to create something.  Let businesses be profitable and they will take every opportunity to grow their businesses.  To be even more profitable.  All the while creating jobs.  Every step of the way.  The more they grow the more jobs they create.  And the better life gets for everyone.

Of course, remove that incentive and it’s the opposite.  If you raise taxes you reduce profits.  And that removes incentive.  Well, they are raising taxes again in the UK.  And what will the genius entrepreneurs do?  Well, what would you do?

Behavioural changes prompted by the higher rate – with entrepreneurs departing for more benign tax regimes or devising ways of avoiding the new tax – are set to flatten economic growth and lead to a collapse in tax revenues. The think tank estimates that the cost to the Treasury over a decade could be as much as £350 billion… Why should wealth-creators stay here when almost two thirds of their income is taken from them? The answer is that they won’t.

History has shown that higher tax rates rarely bring in the money the government expects.  While lower tax rates bring in more money than any of the naysayers ever dreamed.  So why, then, do they keep raising taxes?  Politics.

The Deed is Done in Wisconsin

Big Government needs supporters.  With the wane of private sector unionization, it’s getting harder and harder to get people to support Big Government.  Because people who work and enjoy life have no need for government help.  So they need to find people who do.  Or create them.

Enter the public sector unions.  These people beg for high taxes.  Because they are paid with tax dollars.  So the more people in the public sector, the more people there are to support big government spending.  It’s a little of the old you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.  And to sweeten the deal, public sector workers not only get pretty decent pay, they get outrageous benefits.  All paid for courtesy of the taxpayer.

And this is what is at issue in Wisconsin.  The union was ready to cave on everything but the collective bargaining.  Because that’s how they pass the full cost of their benefits onto the taxpayer.  Without the taxpayer having any say in the matter.  Until now, that is (see G.O.P. Tactic Ends Stalemate in Wisconsin Union Fight by Monica Davey posted 3/9/2011 on The New York Times).

The bill makes significant changes to most public sector unions, limiting collective bargaining to matters of wages only and limiting raises to the Consumer Price Index unless the public approves higher raises in a referendum. It requires most unions to hold votes annually to determine whether most workers still wish to be members. And it ends the state’s collection of union dues from paychecks.

So now if they want a raise larger than the Consumer Price Index (as a lot of raises are determined in the private sector for COLA raises), they have to ask the taxpayer to approve the raise.  And you can see why they are against this.  They want to keep getting big raises without the people paying them having any say in the manner.

And the whole choice thing about staying in the union?  And making people write checks for their union dues?  Why, if people do that, some are not going to stay in the union.  Not all union members vote Democrat.  But nearly all union dues go to Democrat candidates.  So, of course, the unions don’t want any of these changes to come to pass.  Or government.  Because the little arrangement they had was a nice way to dump bushels of taxpayers’ money into Democrat pockets.  Often against their will.  Or without their knowledge.

Public Sector Union – A Vehicle to Steal Money from the Private Sector

Everyone knows what we need for economic prosperity.  Thatcher and Reagan showed how to do it in the Eighties.  And they turned around nations that were in a pretty sorry state.  Tax cuts spurred that economic activity.  And filled government coffers.  However, Thatcher cured the British Disease.  And Reagan fired the air traffic controllers.  They stood up to the unions.  And that choked off a lot of money funneled (i.e., laundered) to the opposition parties.

And this is what the Left fears in Wisconsin.  That responsible government beholden to the taxpayer may waft out from Wisconsin and infect other states.  Thus turning off the great spigot of coerced political contributions.

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The Struggle in Wisconsin is Similar to the French Revolution

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 5th, 2011

 Technology Kills Jobs and Unions

Here’s something that probably won’t bother a lot of people.  We may have fewer lawyers in the not so distant future.  Why?  Because technology is replacing them (see Technology Eats Lawyers by Douglas French posted 3/5/2011 on Ludwig von Mises Institute).

In 1900 America only had 100,000 lawyers, now there are somewhere around 1.2 million. However, lawyers are now the ones in the cross-hairs of technology’s death ray. Artificial intelligence has advanced to the point where “e-discovery” software can analyze documents faster and cheaper than humans.

“From a legal staffing viewpoint, it means that a lot of people who used to be allocated to conduct document review are no longer able to be billed out,” said Bill Herr, who as a lawyer at a major chemical company used to muster auditoriums of lawyers to read documents for weeks on end. “People get bored, people get headaches. Computers don’t.”

This new legal software is clever, allowing lawyers to determine the internal goings on within companies upon analyzing emails and other internal documents.

A computer replaces a lawyer?  Is that even possible?  A computer reads and interprets human language?  Nuance and slang?  Well, yeah.  Just ask Brad Rutter.  Or Ken Jennings.  Two of the biggest Jeopardy champions of all time.  Who lost to Watson.  A computer.

Technology marches on.  Always.  And it changes things.  Changes the world.

Back in 1900 over 40 percent of the America’s workforce was employed in agriculture. One hundred years later the percentage had fallen to less than two percent. What happened was technology. Tractors, balers and fertilizer meant that yours truly despite growing up in farm country didn’t get stuck down on the farm.

It’s happened to industry after industry and progress marches on. Any job that is mindless and repetitive, over time it’s likely going away. Some machine or technology will do it better and faster. And this is a great thing. Imagine what America would be like if almost half of us had to work on the farm producing food. Most of what we take for granted each day wouldn’t have even been thought of if half of us were slopping hogs and mending fences.

A century earlier most of us were farmers.  That’s why unions weren’t a significant political force around 1800.  Most were farming land they owned.  As the Industrial Revolution transformed America, cities grew.  People left farms to work in factories.  Following World War II, when Europe’s industries were in shambles, American industry exploded.  As did the power of unions.  It was the sweet-spot of the labor movement.  We rebuilt war-torn economies around the world.  Our factories were humming.  And they were organized.  The sky was the limit.  Because there was nowhere else to go.  So wage and benefit packages were very generous.  Then something happened.  The world’s economies recovered sometime in the 1960s.  All of a sudden, you could go somewhere else.  Not pay those high American prices.  And people did.

The unions grew strong when they could.  When there was no competition.  But when competition returned, the unions lost their power.  Because there was a limit to what they could demand.  You see, unlike before, businesses could not pass on higher and higher union costs to the consumer.  Companies that tried saw losses in market share.  So they had a choice.  Go out of business.  Replace people with robots.  Or outsource.  And they did all three.

Union membership in the private sector has declined since the ‘sweet-spot’ of organized labor.   From approximately 35% to less than 10%.  Interesting, though, this is not the case with public sector unions.  During the seventies, public sector workers belonging to a union jumped above 35%.  And has stayed there ever since.

Public Sector Unions:  Stealing from the Poor to Give to the Rich

So what’s the difference between the private sector and public sector that accounts for this divergence in union membership?  In a word, competition.  Where there is competition, union membership has declined.  Where there isn’t competition, union membership has grown and held steady.  Why?  Because of taxes.  States and municipalities have the power to tax.  And when they need more money for those generous salaries, health care and pension benefits, they go to the taxpayer. 

But there’s a problem.  You can’t keep raising taxes.  Especially when the people paying for the benefits have to sacrifice their own retirement and health care in the process.  And when we’re all living longer now (see How to fix the public sector pension system by Michael Johnson posted 3/5/2011 on the UK’s Telegraph).

There are two aspects to consider; affordability and fairness. A DB [defined benefit] pension provides the retiree with certainty of income until they die but, as the private sector has discovered, the cost of providing such certainty is now prohibitive, primarily because people are living longer in retirement. Indeed, the Government expects more than ten million people in the UK today to live to see their 100th birthday.

Private sector occupational pension provision has almost become a DB desert, replaced by defined contribution (DC) schemes, in which pensioners assume their own longevity risk. At retirement, unless a lifetime annuity is purchased (increasingly expensive), pensioners’ subsequent income is uncertain because they do not know how long they will live, nor how their assets will perform.

Conversely, public sector workers have access to valuable, state-provided longevity protection, care of their DB schemes (as well as no investment risk concerns). Their income is assured, irrespective of how long they live, but even after the introduction of higher employee contributions, tax-paying private sector workers would still be funding the bulk of the cost. It is unreasonable to expect them to assume, and pay for, the longevity risk of others, whilst not being able to enjoy a similar facility themselves. Furthermore, because our population is ageing, the number of workers supporting each pensioner is declining. Consequently, the tax burden is likely to rise, leaving our private sector workers with less to save for their own retirement…

Were such a DC framework for the public sector not to materialise, the Government would be tacitly signalling its acceptance that the quality of pension provision in the (wealth-creating) private sector is to remain second class.

And this is what the debate in Wisconsin is really about.  The ‘right’ for public sector unions to collective bargain isn’t about their salaries.  They are more than willing to give up some of that money.  It’s the benefits they’re worried about.  And what their ‘right’ of collective bargaining has given them.  That bargaining power has passed all those benefit costs onto the taxpayer.  Without the taxpayer’s consent.

This is indeed a class war.  Like there was in circa 1790 France.  Only the sans-culottes are the taxpayers.  And the ‘knee-breeches wearing’ aristocracy oppressing them are the public sector workers.  This development reminds me of a Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch.  When Dennis Moore steals from the rich to give to the poor.  First stealing lupines.  Then valuables.  After awhile, though, the rich become poor.  And the poor become rich.  This verse near the end of the sketch says it best in song.

Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore
Riding through the land
Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore
Without a merry band
He steals from the poor
And gives to the rich
Stupid bitch

After this verse a confused Moore is struck with the realization of what he’s done and says, “Blimey this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought.”

Yes it is.  Indeed.  And the taxpayers get poorer while the public sector gets richer.  Thanks to collective bargaining against the taxpayers.  Public sector unions.  Just like Dennis Moore.  That stupid bitch.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #55: “Liberals are all for trickle-down economics as long as the wealth trickles down from those who support liberals.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 1st, 2011

 Under Carter it was ‘in Government we Trust’

Mention Ronald Reagan in a room full of liberals and no doubt you’ll hear some derisive comment about trickle-down economics.  You see, liberals don’t like Reagan.  They liked Jimmy Carter.  But hated Ronald Reagan.  Because Reagan dared to say the king was wearing no clothes.  Metaphorically, of course.  But not Carter.  He clung onto the illusion of Big Government as the people’s savior.  Though a practicing Baptist, for Carter it was ‘in government we trust’.

Carter was a one term president.  Liberals may have liked him but the rest of the country didn’t.  Granted, he came into office with some pretty bad economic problems.  He can thank LBJ‘s Great Society for that.  The greatest explosion of government spending since FDR‘s New Deal.  And then Nixon decoupling the dollar from gold didn’t help.  The left doesn’t much care for Nixon, either.  Which is funny.  Because he governed as a liberal.  He spent money and grew government.  And when he decoupled the dollar from gold he called himself a Keynesian (i.e., a Big Government guy when it came to economics).  Carter’s misfortune was to follow all of this financial devastation.  Well, that, and the fact he didn’t have a clue about how to fix things.

Reagan did.  “Government isn’t the solution to our problems, government is the problem,” Reagan said in 1981.  And the warning Klaxons went off throughout liberal-land.   There was imminent danger.  And his name was Ronald Reagan.  You see, Carter did all the right things.  For those on the left.  And what did he get?  High inflation.  High interest rates.  And high unemployment.  They measured the economy with the misery index as we wallowed through the stagflation of the Carter years.  During the 1980 presidential campaign, Reagan asked the simple question heard round the world.  Are you better off now than you were 4 years ago?  Reagan went on to win the election.  So the answer was ‘no’.

Reagan Fixed the Economy and Fired Air Traffic Controllers

Reagan cut tax rates.  And the economy eventually exploded.  We said goodbye to stagflation.  And the misery index.  They were relics of the Carter years.  It was a new morning in America.  People had jobs.  They were happy.  Optimistic.  And this infuriated liberals.  Because Reagan’s conservatism flew into the face of everything they held dear.  And then came PATCO

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization.  A federal government union.  They went on strike in 1981.  Which was against the law.  Government unions could not go on strike.  The strike shut down much of air traffic in the U.S.  This was big.  No business travel.  No sports travel.  No vacations.  No mail.  A small group of some 11,000 controllers shut down air travel.  And greatly disrupted the economy.  Reagan ordered them back to work per the law.  They refused.  He fired them.  And the left howled.

So you can see why liberals hate Reagan.  He was a destroyer and debunker of liberalism.  And the people loved him.  He won reelection with 49 states.  The man was more popular than sliced bread.  Worse, people were happy.  Whistling a happy tune while they went on their merry way.  Which is all well and good if you’re one of the ones whistling.  But when you’re part of that tiny 20% of the population that wants to run the other 80%, there was nothing to whistle about.  Reagan had become liberal enemy number one.

Reaganomics Replaces Failed Keynesian Economic Policies

So they attacked.  Then.  And now.  And they zero in on those tax rate cuts.  Sure, they say, the tax cuts stimulated the economy, but at what cost?  Huge deficits and a skyrocketing debt.  This, of course, is not true.  The cuts in the tax rates nearly doubled tax receipts.  The Democrat House (Tip O’Neil and his fellow Democrats had the power of the purse) just went on a spending spree with all that cash pouring into Washington.  Remember, all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives.  Defense.  Entitlements.  And all discretionary spending.  And when tax receipts nearly doubled with cuts in the tax rates, it proved that Reagan was right.  And liberals were wrong.

But they keep repeating the lie.  Hoping that if people hear it enough people will believe it.  Then they move on to trickle-down economics.  Supply-side economics.  Reaganomics.  They love to disparage this term.  Despite the fact that under Reaganomics, the 1980s was one of the most prosperous periods in American history.  So what is supply-side economics?  Well, think of it this way.  When do you live better?  When you have a job?  Or don’t have a job?  It’s pretty hard to pay your bills if you don’t have a job.  You can’t buy gasoline.  Food.  Clothes.  Electronic toys.  Etc.  So I think most will agree that life is better when we have a job.  And where do jobs come from?  From businesses.  That are pursuing a profit.  If they can make a profit they expand their businesses.  And hire more people.  Thus creating more jobs.  And this is supply-side economics in a nutshell.  They’re economic policies that are business-friendly to encourage their growth.  So they will hire more people.

Makes sense.  To the sensible.  But not to a liberal.  Because liberals are Keynesians.  They want to redistribute the wealth.  Take money from the rich.  And give it to the poor.  They believe that is how you create economic activity.  By giving other people’s money to other people so they can spend it.  And we tried it.  Under LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter.  Didn’t work.  Liberals will blame everything under the sun why it didn’t work.  But never the ideology itself.  Which is flawed.  Because higher taxes reduce profits.  Which hinders business expansion.  Which hinders job creation.  Which hinders economic activity.  And this is exactly what happened under LBJ, Nixon, Ford and Carter.  Which is why Carter was a one term president.

Trickle-Down is Okay as long as it Fills Union Coffers

The funny thing is that the left often supports trickle-down economics.  Whenever they are supporting the UAW.  They support high pay and benefits for unskilled labor on the assembly line.  Because it stimulates the economy. Yes, we pay these people a lot.  But they go out and spend that money.  And that pumps a lot of money into the local economy.  We’ve all heard these arguments.  Whenever liberals are defending high union wages and benefits.  Of course, liberals got so greedy that they killed the golden goose.  Assembly plants left the country.  Robots replaced workers on the line.  The few jobs remaining have nice wage and benefit packages.  But at what cost?  Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost in the deal.  A terrible cost as jobs drive the economy.  The more the better.  While fewer higher-paid jobs just don’t help anyone but the few who have those jobs.

It’s the same thing with public sector workers.  No one has a better salary and benefit package.  For many it’s like getting two paychecks for one job.  For every dollar in pay they get something like $0.75 in benefits.  Mostly health care and pensions.  Teachers are often some of the greatest beneficiaries when you factor in all the time off they get.  There’s a reason why these public sector workers strike and never quit these ‘horrible’ jobs.  Because they can’t find a better job.  So when states and cities have trouble balancing their budgets because of out of control health care and pension costs they raise taxes.  Make the rest of us live on less.  To save these jobs.  For these good people.  Sure, we pay them a lot.  But they go out and spend that money.  And that pumps a lot of money into the local economy.

So that kind of trickle-down economics is okay.  But Reaganomics was nothing but tax breaks for the rich paid for by the working poor.  While fat union pay and benefits stimulated local economies.  A double standard?  Yes.  But there is a difference.  Trickle-down from job creators doesn’t generate a lot of union dues.  Trickle-down from union workers and the public sector do.  That’s why the liberals support unions.  Because liberals get a lot of that dues money.  And loyal foot soldiers to advance their agenda.

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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.

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