Monday, February 28, 2011

Mystery Money

This one is just too juicy to leave in the comments section. Sean is claiming that taxpayers pay nothing towards government union pensions, citing an article in Forbes.

Here is what he had to say: Denis, the workers have ALREADY AGREED to the PAYCUTS. Forbes: Wisconsin Lie Exposed - Taxpayers Actually Contribute Nothing to Employee Pensions:

Lets get this party started Sean. Where does the pension money come from?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

What A Bargain!

The scene: Government union guy sees attractive gal.

Government union guy: Hey good looking, how about a date, maybe a movie, some drinks and then, who knows...

Attractive gal: Get lost.

GUG: Hey wait a minute, don't just walk away. We can work this out.

AG: What the" %%$^&" is there to work out. Leave me alone.

GUG: You are being unreasonable. I have rights you know.

AG: Rights?

GUG: Ya, bargaining rights. Look, perhaps we started our relationship off on the wrong foot. Let's start over.

AG: Relationship? We have no relationship. Just go away.

GUG: Your not negotiating in good faith. Not even a counteroffer, like..... uh, coffee and a walk on the beach.

AG: Final offer, a kick in the groin.

GUG: Now you are just being unreasonable, denying my rights. Look, I just want to sit down and work out our differences. It would be a shame if we had to go to arbitration. That might not work out so well for ya. I'm just sayin.

AG: Arbitration?

GUG: Ya, I'd hate to go that route. I still think we can work this out. But if you continue to be unreasonable, well, an arbitrator will choose between our two final offers.

I could go on, but I will stop and explain things so Sean will understand. The exchange above is fictitious, false, made up, not true, and entirely a figment of my imagination. But is an attempt to illustrate the nonsense that is the "right" to negotiate. Whether it is an innocent woman, a business, a union, or our elected representatives, negotiations should only take place if both sides want to negotiate. What about consent? Anyone forced to negotiate is not free.

But hey, if bargaining is inevitable, lay back and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Party of Go

I have heard Dems called fleebaggers. How about this one: The party of go.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

On No Bid Union Contracts

Apparently Governor Walker has something in the budget allowing for some no bid contracts and the left is up in arms. On this score I would agree with the lefties as I am no fan of no bid contracts. However.....

When was the last time a government union was subjected to a competitive bid for their services? Union contracts are always no bid.

If it is wrong (and it is) for government to sell power plants without competitive bidding, wouldn't it also be wrong to purchase labor without competitive bidding?

How about a little consistency. Let us put an end to all no bid contracts.

Democrats to the Rescue

Imagine if their were a taxpayers union that was part of the negotiations for state services, tax rates, and labor contracts. And that they were allowed to deduct money automatically from all the citizens of State of Wisconsin, even those who disagreed with their message and agenda. At first this union did a fair job looking out for the taxpayers, but over the years things began to change. They gradually decided to throw their weight behind only one political party, the Republicans. They gave large quantities of cash to elect Republicans such that it became obvious that you needed the support of the taxpayers union even to think about running for office. And if you ever bucked the taxpayers union in any way, you could forget about reelection. Now suppose that the leaders of the taxpayers union became so powerful and so self interested that they began to really harm the state and the citizens they purported to serve. And that over the years they had gained such influence with the media that their claims that "its for the taxpayer" were never challenged and the health of the taxpayer never really considered. And just when the state was nearing insolvency, the states citizens threw out the Republican Party and elected Democrats to step in to restore fiscal sanity. After proposing modest changes to curb the power of the taxpayers union/Republican Party and pave the way for a more responsible state apparatus, the taxpayers union started to foment unrest in the state capitol. More ominously, they decided to forgo the democratic process that had worked so well for them in the past. They ordered their pawns in the Republican Party to break the law, flee the state, and disrupt procedure in Madison, creating chaos all along.

I may have an additional chapter to this story that I hope does not include caving to the demands of the taxpayers union.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Democratic Governance at Stake

My son went to school this week. All week. His teachers were there too. All of them. This has been going on week after week and year after year.

This continuity and predictability would not ordinarily be worthy of comment. But this has not been an ordinary week.

As we all know, thousands of public school teachers throughout the state left their jobs this week to join a protest. Meanwhile, thousands of private school teachers did their jobs this week.

Those private school teachers don't make as much money as their public school counterparts. Their health care plans are nowhere near as lavish. Neither are their pensions, assuming they even have them. But they showed up for work this week.

What's more, they seldom seem miserable or disgruntled to me. Now I don't think for a second that all is blissful behind the scenes of your average private school. Certainly some teachers feel that they should be getting more pay or better benefits. Some may think they are not recognized properly for their accomplishments. Some in management might be buffoons. Always there are problems and challenges.

The difference between the public sector and the private sector is how these problems are handled. At my sons school, they are handled one at a time and behind the scenes, with, I suspect, a guiding document such as policy manual. Egregious departures from policy would leave either party, management or labor, to answer to a board of directors.

The system seems to work pretty well. Despite not being able to offer as much money, benefits, or job protections as their public school counterparts, the school is always well staffed with dedicated professionals. Some teachers move on, some are nudged along, and some pushed, but a large number seem to stay for a long time, an indicator of general contentedness in my view. The same is true of the administrators.

At the end of the day, all the parties involved, and that includes parents and students, are working toward a common goal of educating children. If teachers don't perform, they improve or move on. If children don't study or behave adequately, they improve or move on. If administration makes too many poor decisions, parents send their children to another school.

There is a proper balance of power between the parties involved, without which the school would fail. If management gained enough power, for example, to pay themselves lavishly, tuition would increase beyond the level acceptable to parents, and they would stop paying. If any of the interested parties were empowered sufficiently to put their interests above the others and to the detriment of the mission, the school would decline and ultimately collapse.

Decline is well under way at our public schools and collapse may not be far in the offing. The reason is an imbalance of power and insufficient means to check said power.

Do parents have the power to reform public schools? In a word, no. At the end of the day, the school will still be in operation because their funding source is Madison, not parents. The school system needs to keep politicians happy. Politicians are kept happy with campaign contributions.

Does administration have the power to reform public schools? No. Obviously and at a minimum, reforming a school system would require an efficient way to remove elements detrimental to the mission of educating students. No such efficient means exists because of the successful collaboration between and the teachers union and politicians.

The school system simply can't reform itself. The balance of power is skewed heavily in favor of the teachers union. Parents are powerless. Administration is powerless and co-opted in any case by the teachers union agenda. The same is true of school boards. And arguably, especially evident this week, the Democratic party itself is a de facto arm of the teachers union.

But alas, the public at large can act as a check on the power of the teachers union and their allies. We have elections for just this purpose, among others. As it happens, we recently did have an election. The people of Wisconsin voted. They voted to empower the Republicans. Said Republicans are attempting to curb some of the power of government unions. They are doing so via the powers established by the people of Wisconsin and the constitution that we enacted. In short, they are making laws based on a democratic process agreed upon by all Wisconsinites.

All Wisconsinites...... well, except for the government unions and their allies on the extreme left. Unhappy with the results of an election and impending changes, they have enlisted their pawns, Democratic state senators, to flee the state and avoid a legitimate debate and vote on a critical matter to the state and, it now seems, our nation.

At issue for Wisconsin and indeed our country is nothing less than the survival of our system of governance. Will we keep our established system of governance or will it be government by mob rule?

I am hopeful that our Republicans have the strength and courage to withstand the pressures of the mob and to vote to curb the powers of the government unions, assuming that we still adhere to old fashioned notions like voting.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just Askin

I know a handful of fiscally conservative tea party types who are supporting Alderman Eric Marcus for mayor. Though I like his tenacity on some issues and that he seems to be despised by many on the council, I have not yet sipped the Kool-Aid. I have a few concerns but my main one is that he seems to be courting both tea party folks AND the municipal unions. Events in Madison this week suggest a wee bit of philosophic difference between these constituencies.

At some point Marcus will have to favor one group and disappoint the other. Last night at the city council was a perfect example. Marcus voted with the majority in support of a new contract for parks and public works employees to the delight I am sure of his new friends, Penny and Scott Sharp, the latter being president of local 67.

I have given my share of grief to Alderman Greg Helding in recent years, and deservedly so, but I commend him on his dissenting vote and this comment found in the Journal Times: "I have a feeling when we go to the state they will tell us, 'Well, we tried to help you out but you guys passed the contract that you didn't have to.'" Aldermen Maack, Wisneski, and Weidner also voted no citing "looming state cuts, decreasing property values and the burden on taxpayers..."

Our Republican lawmakers are in Madison in a fight to the death with state employees unions and for taxpayers. I am as proud of them as a first lady of her country, so I am more than a little perplexed that small government types are rallying behind Alderman Marcus. If any can explain the attraction, have at it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

On Limiting Collective Bargaining, Part 2

A comment I made to Sean concerning the 50% of teachers who quit the profession within five years:

Sean, I don't doubt the truth of your non-anecdotal fact about teachers quitting within five years. But let us think it through a bit. Since it is likely you can't, I will do it for you. Compensation for teachers in the public sector is back loaded. The payoff really comes later after many years of service. Initially, salaries are modest. But after a while, teachers cash in with higher salaries, the better jobs, pensions and free health care for life in many cases. So young teachers have to make a choice within a few years. Will I accept a relatively raw deal now for a big payoff years down the road? Some will, while the truly talented will in many cases move on to other professions where their value is not defined by the passage of time. It would be interesting to see how many teachers leave after they are well down that road. While many have probably quit in effect, they muddle through, bide their time and await the payoff. Not exactly the best system to secure great teachers, but what would you expect from collective bargaining?

On Limiting Collective Bargaining Power

So it seems that many teachers throughout the state will not show up for work today. Instead, they will be protesting in Madison over a proposal that would limit their collective bargaining power.

Some teachers will use personal days while others will just call in sick. In Racine today the district is making plans to deal with an unusual number of teacher absences. In Madison, teachers are planning a district wide coordinated absence so they can protest.

My guess is that your average teachers collective bargaining agreement is about the size of a federal health care bill. But apparently they have secured personal days such that they can skip school and protest while still being paid by Wisconsin taxpayers. In Madison, teachers seemingly feel confident that they can walk off the job without consequences. The union and their collectively bargained contract has their back.

In the real world, people can't just walk off the job without being fired or at least disciplined. And that is how it should be. But the teachers union, via collective bargaining, have won concessions that would (and have) destroyed private sector businesses. And the concessions they have won have already done serious damage to our education system while threatening the solvency of our state.

Who would have thought that teachers, by walking off the job, would present the best argument yet for limiting their collective bargaining power.

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Government Employees and Lambs

We are about to witness a huge upsurge of hysteria over Governor Walkers attempts to limit the power of state employees and their unions. So I began to ponder the purpose of unions and to what extent government employees should even need one.

My understanding is that unions formed initially in the private sector. Through a collective with a looming threat of strikes, unions sought to win a greater share of profits, improve working conditions etc.... when negotiating with ownership.

Public sector unionization lacks some key features of their private sector counterparts.

For starters, there is not a worker/owner dynamic battling with each other over profits. Rather than battling over a finite amount of money, ie profits, generated from the efforts of both parties, the government and government unions are battling over a huge and nearly limitless amount of money generated by OTHER people's efforts. This is a recipe for disaster for the other people.

Secondly, where is the worker vs owner dynamic with a government union? Are government workers mere employees or are they the government? In truth I suppose they are a mix of the two. To the extent that they are the government, it sort of begs the question: Why does government need to negotiate with itself?

Thirdly, is government an owner? As an advocate for small government, it is beginning to feel that way to me, but that is a subject for another day. Most of us would like to think that we, as in all of us, own or are in charge of government. And that would include public employees. As "owners," why would they need to negotiate with themselves?

Lets face it, there are three separate parties involved here with three separate goals. Public sector employees want whatever they can get. Elected officials want to be reelected. The rest of us want services delivered efficiently and cost effectively.

Only two of these parties are at the negotiating table. It reminds me a little of the quip about two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner. The difference being in our case as lambs that we don't even get a vote.

Yes, I know, the elected officials are there to represent us. But they are also there to represent government employees, also citizens deserving of representation. Since the goals and objectives of government employees and the lambs are rather different, this creates an unresolvable conflict for our representatives.

Furthermore, we mustn't forget the objectives of government officials. They want to get reelected. Getting reelected is not so easy when you drive a hard bargain with a large, powerful and political force such as government employees. The temptation surely is there to appease them at the expense of the lambs.

All of which leaves us with a growing government and a shrinking private sector, brought on by an unnecessary, unfair and ultimately self destructive imbalance of power which favors government employees over regular citizens. It is time to change this formula.

This is the opinion of one lamb with no vote. Thank you Governor Walker for looking out for me.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Walk the Walk

Yesterday I heard WRJN's Don Rosen argue that there is no difference between the government mandate that we buy clothes and the Obamacare mandate that we buy insurance.

Rosen could easily prove his point by walking around naked on Monument Square. When the police arrive to arrest/institutionalize him, he could pull out, from where I don't know, a receipt from Boston Store proving that he has purchased clothing.