The Locker Room

February 24, 2011

Why public-sector union employees are not likely to get the sympathy they expect

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:33 PM

Kent Osband explores the gap between public- and private-sector workers in the latest National Review:

The private sector is now rethinking its unrealistic optimism. It has to, since its asset valuations have tumbled. Payrolls are shrinking. Benefits are being cut back. Both management and workers are accepting that they have to work harder for less. Government is upping the pressure by hiking taxes, requiring banks to raise more capital, and demanding more objective risk reporting.

But the government is not applying these lessons to itself. On the contrary, the public sectorís tendency to discount the future too optimistically is growing. It is pledging ever more payoffs to its employees and wards and concealing more than ever their true costs, even as private-sector incomes fall. ...

... Average federal pay is distinctly higher than private-sector pay. After adjusting for part-time work and the cash value of payment in kind, the Commerce Departmentís Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reports a wage and salary premium in 2008 of 33 percent for the military and 58 percent for civilian government. It wasnít always that way. All of the military premium and nearly half the civilian premium were created between 2000 and 2005.

These premiums were needed to improve recruitment and retention. In 1997, the Congressional Budget Office concluded that the government paid 22 percent less than the private sector for similar jobs. Bolstering the military after 9/11 was also a priority.

For reasons of efficiency and fairness, the extra pay might have been coupled with reducing the job security and trimming the benefits that federal employees traditionally enjoy. It was not. On the contrary, the federal benefit edge has widened. ...

... What was intended as catch-up, then, is now in overdrive. In 2008, federal employees were relatively well insulated from the financial crisis. Their benefits were guaranteed, they bore little risk of layoff, and the thriving business of government buoyed housing valuations for D.C.-area residents. A sense of shared national burden would have called for public-sector restraint in 2009. Instead, as millions of private workers lost their jobs and real incomes declined, civilian federal salaries were boosted 3.9 percent. Not surprisingly, resignation rates for federal employees have sunk to less than a third of private-sector averages.

This information will surprise no one who has read this forum's discussion of public-sector unions.

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Freedoms we don't even realize we have, and the thieves who covet them

Posted by Jon Sanders at 2:10 PM

I wrote last week about the creepy "Every child, OUR child" mentality:

Depending on where you live, [busybodies using the coercive power of government] will be there forcibly preventing you from sending your child to the nearest or best local school, actively preventing you from having a menu of educational options, forcing you to strap your child in a car seat even when he's reached school age and can therefore ride the schoolbus which contains neither seat belts nor car seats, depriving you of places to shop to feed and clothe your child (e.g., "Wal-Mart oppresses the poor!"), dictating dietary restrictions and trying to shut down select restaurants, taking other economic choices from your family because of environmentalist nonsense (which they invariably say is out of concern for the children), et cetera ad nauseam.

Today I read, in an article about a study of unique baby names, that some countries dictate that parents must get governmental approval even for naming their children:

For instance, Denmark has a baby-naming rule list translated as the List over Personal Names. If a desired name is not on the list, a family can submit a written application to get consent from the Personal Names Committee under the auspices of the Danish Language Council. Names that aren't considered "personal names," including nicknames and "names, which can be feared to be a burden to the bearer," cannot expect to be approved, the committee states on its website.

Sweden, Hungary, Norway and other countries also have baby-naming laws.

Had you ever realized we have a freedom to name our own children, and that such a freedom -- without we remain vigilant -- could be taken from us? There are so many freedoms we don't even realize we have, which is why the Founders in their wisdom constructed the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

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A sitting governor for president?

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 2:06 PM

Roger Hedgecock, writing at Human Events, makes the case that a state-level chief executive has the best chance of steering the federal government back to a sustainable course:

Senators just don't make good Presidents. They don't run anything and their job is to bloviate endlessly on both sides of any discussion and pass laws that don't apply to them. Witness Barack Obama.

And does anyone Left or Right think John Kerry or Joe Biden or John McCain would have done any better? I don't. ...

... [W]ith Ronald Reagan (a two-term California governor when that state was still "Golden") as my model, I am looking for a fighting governor to run for President committed to restoring a constitutional republic, a free market economy, and a new era of individual responsibility.

Not for any abstract, philosophical reason. I believe that only this return to first principles, only this recommitment to individual liberty, will bring the economy back.

The wonderful genius of the American political system is that the Founders' seemed to have anticipated our needs. Just when confidence in the federal government's abilities and intentions has been shaken to the core, state governors have been elected to lead in a different direction.

In no particular order of preference, consider these governors and the news they have made: Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie, Rick Scott, John Kasich, Scott Walker, Brian Sandoval, Susana Martinez, Rick Perry, Haley Barbour, and Jan Brewer.

I believe that among these folks is the desperately needed next President of the United States.

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Obama's debt to unions

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 1:58 PM

Michael Barone's latest column posted at Human Events explores labor unions' "contributions" to society:

Everyone has priorities. During the past week, Barack Obama has found no time to condemn the attacks that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has launched on the Libyan people.

But he did find time to be interviewed by a Wisconsin television station and weigh in on the dispute between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the state's public employee unions. Walker was staging "an assault on unions," he said, and added that "public employee unions make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens."

Enormous contributions, yes -- to the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign. Unions, most of whose members are public employees, gave Democrats some $400 million in the 2008 election cycle. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the biggest public employee union, gave Democrats $90 million in the 2010 cycle.

Follow the money, Washington reporters like to say. The money in this case comes from taxpayers, present and future, who are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.

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NAEP science scores for cities: Charlotte does well

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 12:02 AM

In 2009, 17 urban districts participated in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science test. A representative sample of fourth- and eighth-grade public school students took the test.

Despite having neighborhood schools, black fourth-grade students in Charlotte/Mecklenburg had average science scores that were higher than the averages for the nation and other large cities.

Black eighth-grade students had scores that were statistically identical to the national average and higher than the average for other large cities.

Of course, the cities/districts involved in the study are not exactly comparable, i.e., district/city size and demographics vary significantly. But the ability to compare Charlotte's performance to national averages is useful.

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A libertarian anti-poverty program

Posted by George Leef at 11:18 AM

Economics professor Steve Horwitz writes about the first three steps he would take to reduce poverty in this Freeman article today.

There are many more things to do (actually, un-do, since the obstacles to the reduction of poverty are all government policies that should be repealed), but Steve gives a good start.

Statists manipulate sympathy for the poor to expand government. If you actually want to help the poor, you have to understand that coercion by the state hurts them vastly more than it helps. This is another instance of political deception -- people focus on a few visible benefits but miss the far greater (but hidden) costs.

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David Wu in tiger's grrrrreat!

Posted by Dr. Terry Stoops at 10:50 AM

So, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Oregon sent pictures of himself wearing a tiger costume to staff members. Who hasn't? But the Associated Press article takes it one step further.

[Rep. David] Wu, a Yale Law School graduate born in Taiwan, was first elected to the U.S. House in 1998. He's maintained a low profile in Congress, except for his occasional appearances in unflattering news stories.
Boom goes the dynamite!

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Needless educational credentials

Posted by George Leef at 09:22 AM

In this Washington Examiner piece lawyer Hans Bader, a Harvard Law School grad, argues that law school is unnecessary and that people who wish to go into legal practice should be allowed to study for the bar exam as they wish. Currently, in most states no one is permitted to take the bar exam without first getting a degree from an ABA-accredited law school.

Bader is right. Law school is a high barrier to entry that does not ensure competence, but simply drives way up the cost of entering the legal profession.
One result is that few lawyers can afford to take cases that involve low fees.

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Inflation revving up

Posted by George Leef at 08:16 AM

So argues economist Charles Kadlec in this Forbes article.

If you read the article, you find that Kadlec favors gold. You can therefore dismiss everything he says because, as Paul Krugman informs us, people like that are just racists.

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How low can Paul Krugman go?

Posted by George Leef at 08:02 AM

The New York Times columnist who serves as one of statism's most vicious advocates may have reached a new low in saying that people who favor sound money -- Rep. Ron Paul in particular -- are just trying to win votes from racist voters who long for a return to segregation. John Tamny shows what a baseless smear that is in this Real Clear Politics piece.

Impugning the supposed motives of those who disagree with you is one of the dirtiest of debating tactics. It shows how desperate the statists are to mislead people into thinking that Big Government is always good and its opponents are always evil.

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Democrats and populism

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 07:10 AM

Writing in the Washington Examiner, Timothy Carney examines Democrats' efforts to stir up populist opposition to government cutbacks:

The Obama campaign and other liberals are looking to tap into the populist current of today's politics and turn the Wisconsin union fight into a national issue in the 2012 election. While the liberals can wield rhetorical pitchforks and light political torches, they should realize that it's their guys who are living inside the castle today. Specifically, public-sector unions -- by many measures the most entrenched special interest in American politics -- are not fighting against The Man, which is to say the entrenched powers of government. In this struggle, The Man is the government unions, which are sitting in the smoky back room divvying up the spoils of a crooked racket. And cronyism -- not wealth -- is the object of today's populist ire.

The Left has misread the postbailout populist sentiment all along, assuming public anger was directed at the rich. But American anger, I suspect, is directed not at some people who have money or success, but at those who profit through cronyism and their connections to power.

In other words, anti-bailout anger is not anger at the rich, but anger at those unfairly getting rich -- at the taxpayer's expense.

Linkable Entry

New Carolina Journal Online features

Posted by Mitch Kokai at 06:56 AM

Don Carrington's latest Carolina Journal Online exclusive offers new information about the 2007 campaign flight for Gov. Beverly Perdue that has led to the felony indictment of a Perdue donor.

John Hood's Daily Journal questions why Democrats expect to make political gains by sticking up for Big Labor and Big Business.

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