Government unions vs American taxpayers

The recent posts about California's corrections union (prisons) and the impact it was having on the state, financially and politically, got me to thinking more about public unions nationwide. I found this article, and I quote its beginning lines:

The Washington Post reports today that “the daunting tower of national, state and local debt in the United States will reach a level this year unmatched just after World War II and already exceeds the size of the entire economy, according to government estimates.” But there are a number of big differences between our national debt now and the debt in 1946. The Post reports: “State and municipal governments from Sacramento to Madison to Harrisburg have racked up about $2.4 trillion in debt, or more than 15 percent of GDP.”

And even this total is understating the problem. Recent studies show that state and local governments are severely underestimating their pension and benefit promises, including a $574 billion shortfall for the nation’s top major cities and a possible $3.4 trillion shortfall for the states. The cause of these crippling pension and benefit obligations is no secret. The Post explains: “Public employees often enjoy more generous pension and health-care benefits, and these are at the root of the long-term budget problems confronting many states.”

How did this happen? Why did so many state and local governments not only spend too much today but promise future spending far beyond the means of taxpayers to pay for it? Government unions. And across the country, legislators and governors are beginning to fight back.


In addition, the public unions spend a lot of money lobbying government, supporting pro-labor political candiates, advocating higher taxes, and even influencing the public (the prison unions by advocating compulsory sentencing laws, for example). The liberal left (Democrats) encourage government growth and higher taxes in order to create sort of a "middle class" at taxpayer expense, yet obstruct the legitimate business community with silly rules and regulations, including higher taxes. They ignore the fact that it is the capitalists who truly create wealth, and support our economy, paying the taxes that the left loves to impose, collect, spend and redistribute as they see fit, killing the golden goose.

http://blog.heritage.org/2011/02/23/morning-bell-government-unions-vs-american-taxpayers/

Replies

  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,045 Senior Member
    They ignore the fact that it is the capitalists who truly create wealth, and support our economy, paying the taxes that the left loves to impose, collect, spend and redistribute as they see fit, killing the golden goose.
    Public sector unions are doing this in places like Wisconsin, Ohio and the New York county in which I was formerly employed. The quest for higher pay, benefits and perks are going to drain the public trough and collapse the system in which these people are dependent upon. The PBA in which I am a retired member of is actually endorsing liberal county officials for candidates in the upcoming election, because they know liberals will give unions what they want.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • alphasigmookiealphasigmookie Senior Member Posts: 8,570 Senior Member
    This is a bit of a tricky question with a lot of issues. As the son of a public school teacher and grandson of two public school teachers and a union auto worker I am naturally inclined to see the value in unions and the importance of public servants and believe that they deserve fair pay. That being said I am turned off by the corruption and political influence that unions can have and the fact that in many cases the unions themselves become self serving, more interested in protecting the union itself rather than fighting for the workers it is supposed to protect. Then again this is a risk in all institutions. These days the NRA seems to me to be more interested in scaring members into making donations rather than doing much to really protect gun rights. The absolute worst thing that could happen for the NRA is for all politicians to give up on gun control and confirm the 2A as an absolute individual right, because at that point they've won and the NRA has little reason to exist. Anyway enough of that, back to unions...

    Part of the issue isn't so much that public sector unions have been so successful at improving conditions for their workers, it's more that they've been able to protect them from serious cuts that have happened in much of the private sector. It used to be that defined benefit pensions were guaranteed to most workers public or private but most companies have dumped them or gone bankrupt and left their pension obligations for the government to cover (In case you didn't know, if a private company goes out of business and they have an underfunded pension the taxpayers have to pick up the bill). However states have been slower to dump their pensions which are frequently protected by the unions (the feds dropped most of their pension back in the 80's and moved to more of a 401k like system). The same thing applies to pay...it's not necessarily that public sector pay has skyrocketed in real terms it's just that private sector pay has been largely stagnant, especially for jobs not requiring a college degree for the past 3 decades. This leaves a situation where public sector is one of the last places for people to get stable, middle class jobs. The presence of these jobs can also exert some mild upward influence on wage rates in the private sector since they'll be competing for talent. In highly specialized areas or areas requiring significant education the private sector pay is actually much better and they are out-competing the public sector for the best talent (how many of the top college students study teaching rather than engineering, economics, or business? The answer is not many!).

    In the end the question becomes what should we do?

    Do we completely eliminate unions and drastically cut the pay and benefits of teachers, cops, firefighters, soldiers, and all other government employees?

    Should we allow unions to exist but limit their power and influence? Possibly reform them and work to eliminate policies that protect lazy and incompetent workers and implement policies to encourage or incentivise productive and talented workers?

    Do we fight to encourage business to improve private sector pay and benefits to help slow the hollowing out of the middle class so that relative government pay goes down?

    How do we prevent a race to the bottom where wages and benefits for all Americans (at least those in the former middle class) sink to the same levels seen in other developing countries we're competing with in the global economy? Unions were supposed to be that force, fighting for the rights of labor, but in their current form there are serious issues. Can we build new or better unions or other alternative institutions to protect the rights of workers? Do we eliminate them all together and hope for the best? I don't think these are easy questions.
    "Finding out that you have run out of toilet paper is a good example of lack of preparation, buying 10 years worth is silly"
    -DoctorWho
  • alphasigmookiealphasigmookie Senior Member Posts: 8,570 Senior Member
    Public sector unions are doing this in places like Wisconsin, Ohio and the New York county in which I was formerly employed. The quest for higher pay, benefits and perks are going to drain the public trough and collapse the system in which these people are dependent upon. The PBA in which I am a retired member of is actually endorsing liberal county officials for candidates in the upcoming election, because they know liberals will give unions what they want.

    As a former union member collecting a union pension I'm interested in your thoughts on a few things:

    Do you think that you deserved the pay and benefits that you earned?

    How is your pension?(not specifically, but generally)

    Do you think the next generation of workers deserve similar pay and benefits that you got?

    How much of a cut in pay and benefits would you have taken to help the county budget before you would have quit your job?

    How would you recommend your former department implement changes to perform their mission with a lesser burden on the taxpayers?
    "Finding out that you have run out of toilet paper is a good example of lack of preparation, buying 10 years worth is silly"
    -DoctorWho
  • breamfisherbreamfisher Senior Member Posts: 13,046 Senior Member
    I can tell you that the state gov. in FL went to its pension system so that lawmakers could get into the state pension system. Interestingly, those lawmakers allowed their pension to accrue at roughly the same rate as "high risk" employees: firefighters, police officers, corrections officers, etc. Meanwhile most other state employees retired at a lower annual rate. All that being said, the FL retirement system is one of the most stable systems in the nation, and despite the dire prediction of some, was not in danger of becoming overextended. Municipal retirements on the other hand...
    Overkill is underrated.
  • alphasigmookiealphasigmookie Senior Member Posts: 8,570 Senior Member
    Another issue with all these pension funds is they're usually not managed all that well and are a great target for Wallstreet fraud. At the poker table that is the market they are the big, fat whales! Google pension fund and fraud and you'll get a few months worth of reading.
    "Finding out that you have run out of toilet paper is a good example of lack of preparation, buying 10 years worth is silly"
    -DoctorWho
  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,045 Senior Member
    As a former union member collecting a union pension I'm interested in your thoughts on a few things:
    Technically, my pension is funded by NY State Police and Fire Pension System, which is paid for by local and state taxes. There is a pension fund manager who through the years has done a great job with investing the money to preserve the existing capital, so we are not going broke as in other states pension funds.
    Do you think that you deserved the pay and benefits that you earned?
    Anyone who becomes a cop or municipal fireman and puts his or her life on the line for the benefit of the public, they deserve all the pay and benefits they can negotiate for. I just feel that with the current economic situation, many municipal unions are not willing to take less of an increase in pay, or a reduction in spite of the current economy...including my former union. I understand their position, the cost of living is rising, but the tax-base is falling. Municipal workers and services provided were some of the reasons my county was the 2nd highest taxed in New York, and the third highest taxed in the Continental U.S. I think L.A. County CA was the only one higher.
    How is your pension?(not specifically, but generally)
    I retired with a disability pension, so it is a little better than a normal retirement. That said, 21 years later I'm living on a little more money than I retired on in 1990, due to COLA increases. Not great, but it pays the bills. All other money for toys like guns and motorcycles, I have had to work at jobs to pay for, and that I was physically able to do since I was restricted to mostly sit-down work.
    Do you think the next generation of workers deserve similar pay and benefits that you got?
    Yes, but during the period that I was working (1973-1990), the economy was better than it currently is now. If I was still there, and the county was in the dire straights it is currently in, I would most likely have a different view of it. Just to give this some perspective, total average pay for a cop with my years on the job including base, night differential, holiday pay and some overtime was about 52K-58K, depending on overtime worked. Now it is over 125K, if not more. This is not including Detectives, Sergeants and higher ranking officers.
    How much of a cut in pay and benefits would you have taken to help the county budget before you would have quit your job?
    I can't say for sure...I guess it would depend on the actual circumstances, but I don't think a pay cut would have been acceptable.
    How would you recommend your former department implement changes to perform their mission with a lesser burden on the taxpayers?
    They have already implemented reductions in police staffing by precinct, reduced workforce (by attrition), working on reducing the number of police precincts, pay give-backs, etc., but I'm no expert to say what they should be doing.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • alphasigmookiealphasigmookie Senior Member Posts: 8,570 Senior Member
    Thanks for your perspective on the issue. It's always easy to cut the budget by making someone else take a paycut or raise someone else's taxes. It seems we're going to continue to be faced with tough decisions on how much we're willing to pay for what. I have to say $125k for a cop does sound excessive, but $30k for a teacher with a master's degree is probably a bit low (what my Cousin makes in Cleveland). Finding a balance to pay our public servants fairly without bankrupting the city/county/state/country is going to be one of those tough choices.
    "Finding out that you have run out of toilet paper is a good example of lack of preparation, buying 10 years worth is silly"
    -DoctorWho
  • Make_My_DayMake_My_Day Senior Member Posts: 7,045 Senior Member
    I have to say $125k for a cop does sound excessive, but $30k for a teacher with a master's degree is probably a bit low (what my Cousin makes in Cleveland). Finding a balance to pay our public servants fairly without bankrupting the city/county/state/country is going to be one of those tough choices.
    I could be a little off on the exact number, but I think the 125k is about right. As I said in the previous post, our county was near the top taxed county with the near highest cost of living in the USA. We also had nearly the highest paid cops in the nation as well. My county on average was a very wealthy county in comparison to other areas. The citizens demanded the highest quality in professionalism and police service. The antics of police that are quoted in some of the posts in this forum would never have been tolerated in my department, at least not in those days. We had an Internal Affairs Bureau that were like Nazi's in their zeal to find crooked or otherwise misbehaving cops, so the fear of getting caught in wrongdoing was very high so there was not a lot of it going on. Around the time I was hired in 1973, the county required a 2 year college degree, no criminal convictions at all, and a near-perfect background check for entrance. The standards were much higher than in many Police Departments around the country. That's how our union was able to justify the increases in salary that I enjoyed over the years. I went from a base salary in 1973 of $9859 per year, to near what I said in the other post. I'm just telling you this to explain why we were paid so well.
    JOE MCCARTHY WAS RIGHT:
    THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW COMMUNISTS!
  • SirGeorgeKillianSirGeorgeKillian Senior Member Posts: 5,458 Senior Member
    I am a union member and guess what? My union cant bargan for higher pay. It is just there to protect me from the government breaking its own laws to screw me over.
    Unless life also hands you water and sugar, your lemonade is gonna suck!
    Wambli Ska wrote: »
    I'm in love with a Glock
  • NomadacNomadac Senior Member Posts: 890 Senior Member
    IMO Government Unions are doing the same thing to the taxpayers they have done to the private sector, that is destroying it. Look at all of the Private sector businesses that have failed on gone into bankruptcy that were unionized. Name one large business that went bankrupt that was not unionized compared to the same business that was? Why should taxpayers be held ransom by the Union bosses when negotiating union contracts bargained by corrupt elected officials that owe their election to Union contributions and lobbying?

    In some States retired union members receive 100% retirement pay of what they made when working. How can any government or private business pay someone that is not producing, but retired what they made when working and creating revenue? This is basic economics, it doesn't work.

    Compare what many municipal/federal, etc. retirees get during retirement vs. some of the airline employees have faced and now American Airline employees now face again.

    Look at today's news about the strikes/protests in England because the government wants to change the retirement benefits, because the government is going broke. Think it could not happen here?
  • blueslide88blueslide88 Member Posts: 273 Member
    The unions, in league with the Democrats, are trying to unseat Wisconsin governor Scott Walker by recall. They need about 540,000 voter signatures and likely will succeed to force another election. Republican Walker has balanced Wisconsin's budget by cutting billions of dollars including funds for education and medicaid.

    Another example of government unions and unions in general which will spend millions of dollars for political purposes, even upsetting legitimate elections.

    http://www.newsmax.com/Headline/walker-unions-wisconsin-recall/2011/12/01/id/419717

    Earlier this year, two Republican state senators lost recall elections while four others held on to their seats. Walker said he has to take his own recall seriously as organizers claim to have collected more than half the 540,000 signatures they need to force the issue to the ballot box.

    “The national big government union bosses in total, along with other groups, spent about $44 million on the six state Senate recall elections,” Walker told Newsmax during the Republican Governors Association conference in Orlando, Fla. “Putting that in context, I spent $13 million on my run for governor.”

    But he said the majority of Wisconsinites are fed up with the whole process. “Voters in Wisconsin are sick of it, they’re ready to move on."
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