22 February 2011

More on the union war

1) I don't think it was necessary or appropriate for Obama to inject into this one. Butt out. Let the local Democrats, or maybe the Democratic party, or its various advocates and surrogates fight it out. Your job is to be President, not to be a political Party's ace in the hole (other than at election time where your party may ride your coattails). Some of what pissed me off about Bush was the Rovian strategy that somehow being in high office was about establishing Republican hegemony over the federal government. I don't need/want a Democratic establishment copying the same strategy.

2) I don't want to hear comparisons to tyranny, comparisons to Egypt, complaints about corporations, or complaints that this isn't about money. A democratically elected government that favors policies that you don't like because a majority of people do is not tyranny. It's just something you have to provide better arguments against and hope to do better at the next election (or to stop the votes before it becomes law). It's not about Egypt where there was real tyranny, nor about opposing corporate power because we're talking about public workers here and not GM auto workers. And it's ALL about money. Shut the fuck up you are wrong because I'm not hearing other arguments which are not (like say, arguments about innovation). This includes Republicans arguing against the public sector unions just as much as it includes the teachers whining about "rights". Those rights are all about how to divide up costs and expenses (primarily because we have labour laws that accord to proper safe working conditions). "Benefits" are not, sadly, free or cheap. Ordinarily, these are the people who demonize private property rights, or the ability to bargain for them. I'm a little annoyed as a result to hear them now suddenly discover a need for private property rights when it benefits only their specific favored minority (unions).

3) I also don't want to hear that somehow this is going to fix the state's budgets (any of them, there are several fighting on this front). It might help somewhat. But there are usually bigger fish to fry than trying to torch the unions on bargaining rights. The biggest one of which is state health care expenses. Others might be tax revenues, economic growth being slow, currently high unemployment or social welfare costs, etc.

4) Another problem with the state's is their insistence on passing tax cuts in the midst of these recessions. State taxes have a lot less of Arthur Laffer to work with because they're almost always fairly low relative to the amount of money states spend on public services (because the federal government augments these services by providing funds for some of them, infrastructure, health care and education in particular). And targeting tax breaks don't seem like sensible policies to begin with. It is however arguable that these tax cuts, at least in Wisconsin, are better targeted at underprivileged groups, like the unemployed and sickly, by making exceptions for new hires by businesses, new businesses, and for health savings accounts. I have far more sympathy for the poor and downtrodden than for the middle class (ie, unionized public sector workers) when it comes to distributive social justice. In other words, this bad policy seems less bad than the alternative being proposed instead (give more influence and money to middle class people).

5) I still think the biggest concerns vis-a-vis the teachers in particular, along with the other major public sector unions, are abuse of the inflexibility of a system making it difficult to innovate new methods and also difficult to cull dead wood (such as, in Wisconsin, the cases of teachers lying about sick days). A more flexible system would allow bad teachers to be dismissed and fired, competitive schools to seek out better teachers from others. Such a system ultimately has very little to do with how teachers are paid, receive benefits, or how they bargain for their pay and benefits.
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