Hey, Wisconsin Public Employees –

Roland Martin thinks the public employee unions in Wisconsin should take one for the team.  (Hat Tip – Ralphb)

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.

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4 responses to “Hey, Wisconsin Public Employees –

  1. Lola-at-Large February 19, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Wow, while I appreciate your heartfelt concerns, and I do have some sympathy for the idea that the private sector should catch up instead of driving union wages and benefits down, I’m pretty shocked by some of your ideas. Some of them, such as fewer work days and larger class sizes, are ideas that the unions fought vociferously against, and why they find themselves in the plight they do now. others, such as temp reductions, seem straight out a Christmas Carol. Not sure I can get on board with Dickensian solutions.

    Thanks for the post. I do appreciate the dialogue, and respect bravely discussing it.

    • jjmtacoma February 19, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      I think the Federal Government set this up. They are underfunding schools and the state governments (lower than what they committed to previously) in order to “find” the money to conduct two wars AND hand out money to Wall Street. Austerity for the rest of us.

      “My” money saving suggestions are horrible and they will hurt everyone but that seems the most fair and sustainable long term. Ralphb found another interesting article showing the deficit spending by Walker was misrepresented by the “Progressives”. That deficit will actually hit Wisconsin next year. What will they do next year to balance that deficit? Ask the public employees to pay all their benefits or shoulder even more of the cost? If they manage to end collective bargaining, who will stand up for them? Who will stand up for the rest of us?

      I am concerned that the media is fueling a public sentiment that is promoting pushing the majority of the pain onto the public employees. That solution just won’t get the public outrage high enough AND it doesn’t place the “blame” in the right place. We are all fighting among ourselves for the crumbs that fall off the table.

      • Lola-at-Large February 19, 2011 at 1:02 pm

        That does seem to be the big pink elephant in the room, I agree. Certainly if we are to share the pain, the rich should be taxed and the defense budget cut, as well as agriculture. And those issues are being obscured by the union issue. There was a surprisingly lot of chatter about just those things in the days before the WI protests.

        That said, I’m frustrated by what myiq discussed in his post today, and what Somersby was talking about. The left is fighting this all wrong to highlight those issues. They are throwing a giant, dishonest tantrum. As somebody at Crawdad’s said on that thread, there’s a market for outrage, and Democrats are priming that pump. They’re confusing people and losing the argument as a result. They’re going to lose this and gain nothing in the process, because public opinion and history are all on Walker’s side.

  2. ralphb February 19, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    This is a very tiny fight in the more massive struggle for America. While I agree with Martin that what is being proposed in WI is somewhat reasonable, the entire debate is unreasonable. We will have to make cuts in federal and state spending, including some previously sacred cows I imagine, as well as raise taxes on everyone back to the Clinton levels or perhaps higher for some.

    We should modify the funding stream for Social Security by removing the current cap on income which is taxed and perhaps include non-payroll income in it. Same for Medicare funding. That would all be tremendously controversial and I’m sure would be the ruination of the entire world since most wealthy income is non-payroll and sheltered. Just doing that and cutting out the wars would take us back to Clinton level “problems” in less than 10 years. But it will not get done!

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