Why even Democrat state employees should only send Republicans to DC
Having just crowed at the dawn of last week’s Thank-God-Its Friday, we forwarded the link to Charles Krauthammer’s latest, as is usually our want, to our (usually) Astute Political Observer in Alabama. This former Democrat (post-Summer of 2001 conservative epiphany) and our conservative APO, while still a professing member of the Party of Jackson and JFK despite having cast only Bush and McCain votes for the presidency this millennium, had often shared an aversion for both President Barack Obama’s (see also Pelosi and Reid) reckless spending and anti-free market economic policies and the drift of the GOP to the left under Former Presidents Bush and the establishment Mark Levin-dubbed “Repewbicans”.
So it was with not a little shock that, in response to a column by the DeVine-Gamecock-dubbed “Master”, of Fox News/Special Report “The Panel” fame, outlining the likely influence of Paul Ryan as Vice President in returning the Republican Party to a more rightward Reaganesque trajectory, I received the following offering from my Alabama APO:
Who Ryan? Pleeeeeeeeeeze. The only reason I am voting for his team is that we have the worst sitting president in this country’s history. I am sure if elected (along with a republican congressional majority), I will not get any friendship love….my take home pay wasn’t effected by Obama but the repews in Montgomery hammered me. I can only imagine if Ryan and his ilk get control of the budget. The Romney/Ryan ticket has my vote but I don’t look for any financial favors from them.
From what this South Carolina Gamecock, who still occasionally votes to send Democrats to the State House and General Assembly, has been able to discern via Googling from our Stone Mountain of Georgia roost, the following appears to be the catalyst for our younger-than-age-65 APO’s decidedly un-astute observations above:
MONTGOMERY, Alabama — Base premiums under the State Employees’ Health Insurance Plan will rise slightly starting Jan. 1 for retirees younger than 65 but won’t change for roughly 36,000 state government employees, the plan’s oversight board voted today…But board members did not raise co-payments for doctor’s visits, lab services, prescriptions or other benefits, and they made no changes to deductibles that people must pay before insurance starts covering costs…
Most employees of state agencies, and of public schools and colleges, now contribute 5 percent of their paychecks for pension coverage. Under a law passed [in the Spring of 2011), that amount [rose] to 7.25 percent on Oct. 1  and [will rise to] 7.5 percent on Oct. 1, 2012…
Monthly base premiums for state agency employees, now and for next year, are $15 a month for single coverage and $205 a month for family coverage, which includes an employee, spouse and any dependent children. Nationwide, premiums paid last year by employees who had health insurance averaged $74.92 per month for single coverage and $333.08 per month for family coverage, according to The Kaiser Family Foundation in Menlo Park, Calif., and the Health Research and Educational Trust.
Under changes approved by the SEHIP board, starting Jan. 1 :
— The monthly base premium for single coverage for a retiree younger than 65 will rise from $196 to $206.
We are also advised that Alabama’s state pension fund is now only funded at 70% (compared to 100% in 2001 with the most significant drops occurring since 2010): “The situation is the result of investment losses RSA incurred during the recession, overly optimistic expectations during the prior boom years, fewer employees contributing to the fund and generous retirement deals.” State employees will increase their contributions to the pension fund from 5% to 7.5% of their pay beginning on October1, 2012.
My take home pay wasn’t effected by Obama. Oh really?
Of course, neither President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their fellow Ds nor House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and his fellow Rs in Washington, played any direct role in how Alabama’s GOP majorities in the state legislature and Republican governor have increased required contributions of state employees to their health care premiums and pension contributions to 7.5% (from 5%) each .
But are such policies, and especially the economic realities that require choices between raising taxes on non-state government employees or reducing the benefits of state employees, really “unaffected” by the policies of Obama? Of course not. The past, present and future take home pay of state employees are the result of a multiplicity of factors that include the general state of the national and their respective state economies; state and federal debt; and health care and health care insurance markets.
Two years before President Obama was inaugurated, his party took over Congress promising not only to repeal the Bush tax cuts, but also to raise taxes, increase business regulation and keep Fannie and Freddie in their too-big-to-fail “business” (i.e. “affordable housing racket), all in opposition to President Bush and congressional Republicans, including Paul Ryan. Within 20 months of the 2007 Democratic party takeover of Congress the housing bubble burst and the Great Recession began.
Prior to the Democratic Party takeover of Congress, the take home pay of state employees had been positively affected by a near 25-year Reagan/Newt/Clinton Recovery characterized by supply-side conservative economic policies that made it possible for state employees to have their health insurance and pensions subsidized by taxpayers to the tune of 95% in the first place. Few Democrats not named Bill Clinton (and then only at the behest of the first GOP-controlled House of Representatives in 40 years from 1994-2000), favored the policies of 1981-2006 that positively affected the take home pay of state employees.
Then comes President Obama and two years with a filibuster-proof Senate that gave D.C. Democrats carte blanche to affect all things economic, pension and health care from 2009-2010. The result: Stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, coal plant-bankrupting EPA regulations etc ad infinitum.
Does anyone really think that tripling in four years the budget deficits of eight years of Bush, doubling the national debt in four years, raising energy prices, running down the supply of doctors and forcing insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions and adult “children”, had no effect on the cost of state employee pensions and health care premiums (and thus, their take home pay), both directly via the specific legislation enacted and indirectly via the depressing effect of ObamaDem policies in lengthening the recession and producing the most anemic so-called “recovery” since the Great Depression? Not if they use their head for more than hat rack.
Imagining if Ryan and “his ilk” get control of the federal budget and whether to expect financial favors from them
Guess what Paul Ryan and the Republicans were doing the last four years? Voting against those destructive ObamaDem policies in the first instance and trying to repeal them after they were enacted. Wouldn’t we consider it to have been a “financial favor”, that would obviously have had a positive effect on the take-home pay of state employees, if Ryan Republicans hah had their way over the past 4-6 years? Obviously.
When Ryan Republicans together with those of the establishment variety controlled the federal budget, it was one-third smaller and take home pay for Alabama state employees was rising. If they regain control from ObamaDem spendthrifts with many establishment types replaced by Ryan-inspired tea partiers, one should expect a return to budget sanity, and the financial favors that naturally flow therefrom.
State employees don’t get to live in a universe defined only by what Democrat tax-raisers say and do. The state of Alabama exists within a United States of America bankrupted by Democrats (and yes, I know that Republicans have run deficits in D.C. as well, but after Democrats’ epic Obama debt dwarfing Bush’s and their complain every election cycle that the GOP spends and/or proposes to spend too little, so let’s not pretend that Democrats don’t regularly take spending gold medals by margins equivalent to Usain Bolt’s in the 100 meter dash), and even government employees eventually get effected by policies that make We the People poorer.
The repews in Montgomery hammered me
Hammered? Really? An average health insurance premium increase of $10 for a single employee under the age of 65, with the overall premium still less than 2/3 of the average premium of non-state employees, is considered being “hammered”? Mobile native and Atlanta Brave Hall of Famer Hammerin’ Hank Aaron didn’t earn the nickname by stroking 755 bloop singles. Even with the similar, and relatively puny 2.5% increase in employee pension contributions, Henry Aaron would need no hammer.
Want to see a real hammering? Check out what has happened to the state of affairs among non-state employees, which taxpayers pay 100% of their own insurance premiums and pensions as well as 90% of those of state employees: Skyrocketing unemployment, food stamp, welfare and disability rolls.
Liberal tax and spend policies have come home (to use a term dear to this gamecock’s heart) to roost on the backs of the unemployed, taxpayers and government employees. In the short run, and with narrow insight, one can imagine the Democrats as Santa taxing Peter to pay Paul with impunity as Rome burns, and decry Republicans called in to put out the fire.
Yes, state employees dependent on votes in Montgomery and the rest of America has been hammered all right, but not primarily by Republicans, and certainly not those of the Ryan ilk.
“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson
Atlanta Law & Politics columnist – Examiner.com
Charlotte Observer and Atlanta Journal-Constitution op-eds archived at Townhall.com.