Hey, Wisconsin Public Employees –
February 19, 2011Posted by on
Walker wants public employees in Wisconsin to pay more for health care benefits and to contribute to their pension plans. Frankly, those are reasonable requests. Where he has largely run into trouble is the effort to end the collective bargaining rights of the various public employees.
Oh, is that all Walker wants? Walker only “ran into trouble” because he tried to end collective bargaining rights. I see. This doesn’t have anything to do with Walker taking it to the Legislators rather than the union. Good to know.
First, the need to pay more for health care and pensions. An increasingly number of Americans who work in the private sector are paying 50 percent or more of their health care costs. Yet when you look at government employees, many local and state governments are paying upwards of 80 percent to 90 percent of health care costs. I just do not think that unions will be able to win over the public when elected officials ask them to pay for an additional 5 percent to 10 percent of their health care costs.
Why would Roland Martin think changing the public employees benefit package to look like the private sector would be a good idea? Maybe because advocating something like this will NEVER impact him. Roland is a author and TV “journalist”, he doesn’t live like us in the un-washed masses.
Giving up benefits now to “do our share” means they are never coming back. Period. It is easy to rally the “have-nots” against the “haves” at a time like this, but the only guarantee in that scenario is that everyone will become “have-nevers”.
The public employees in Wisconsin and the people of the state would ultimately be better off if the public employees were laid off to the level the state can afford. (In Washington State the state employees have had days where they are laid-off. While it does reduce our cost in the state and reduce their pay, it doesn’t change thier benefits as much or reduce their hourly rate.) That would mean EVERYBODY suffers from the reduced government services but can feel really good about the cost savings. The people who want lower cost *SHOULD* get lower services. We aren’t helping ourselves AT ALL if we advocate pitting one group of middle class workers against another.
Here are some ideas to reduce the financial obligations in the state: Reduce the number of days government offices are open, increase class sizes, make parents purchase the construction paper and pencils. Have the kids and government workers wear sweaters everyday and lower the temperature in the buildings. Reduce the number of social workers and civil engineers. These options mean that all the people participate in helping to save money in the state with the added benefit that when money is better, they will be sure that the service levels are increased by increasing employees.
Don’t reduce the pay per person. That will hurt all of us when employment comes back (slowly) then all of those screaming for lower salaries and benefit packages for the public servants will end up being worse off than they were before. We will all get what they got, only it will be worse because public servants have always received lower pay in exchange for stable work and better benefits. Does anyone really think shifting more of the cost to the public servant will make their package look more like the rest of us in the private sector? I think it will just set the “high bar” for great benefits a little lower.
Reductions in the value of labor through benefit and pay cuts will NEVER come back. People forget that they lose the compounding of raises on their base amount and the compounding effect of reserving for retirement and interest. The cost is way more than the percentage of the initial reduction. Also remember that increasing the employee share of premiums, co-pays and deductibles reduces realized take home pay even further, with the most difficutly going to the sickest workers or people with kids.
The government should be the “premier” employer in a time like this because it will set that “high bar” for the salary and benefit packages of the jobs that get added back in when the economy improves.
Roland Martin is a privileged and coddled journalist with poor analytical skills. We’ve known that for years, this isn’t a good time to forget.