So, the public employee unions and their lap cats the Democratic Party have drawn a line in the sand with a back hoe. Union membership and representation is a God given right and since Thomas Jefferson was a union organizer the right to organize and hold the American taxpayer hostage is somewhere in the Constitution. And I can guarantee that there is no shortage of judges who will have no trouble finding said "right". In the meantime, the Wisconson Democrats have discovered that if the Democrats have somehow been unable to either win or fix enough elections to hold majorities in state legislative bodies, they can leave the state and there will be no negtive consequences from the country club Republicans - including the Tea Party variety - and they can play the issue for the front pages and for time. The bottom line here is simple, the Democrats and the unions are at war. Republicans are just simple.
My bet is that Democrats and unions will "win" on the issue of contracts, wages, benefits and pensions. Please note the scare quotes. They're gonna "win" in court and in the short term, in the court of public opinion. The reason they'll win in court is because the judiciary is stacked, roughly right up to the SCOTUS, where eventually they'll lose. Eventually. Public opinion will sway their way because they are a lot like Chinese water torture, constantly repeating lies until people believe them. People will believe them because for the most part, they are products of the US unionize education system and can't do independent research or put two rational thoughts together in the same month. So, the Unions "win" and keep their money. Democrats "win" and keep their number one source of funds, taxpayer money passed through the hands of union members to their bosses to the DNC. I used scare quotes because, while they will almost certainly be able to work the courts and the voters for a while, they won't beat the fundamental laws of mathematics and economics.
That brings us to Costa Mesa, California. Costa Mesa is a city of about 117,000 people 37 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The median family income is a little more than $55,000 and three of the top five employers are colleges. I'm guessing that in nary a single one of those schools do they teach math, economics or reality. Costa Mesa is discovering the latter of these concepts. The City of Costa Mesa employs 472 folks serving the residents including police officers, fire fighters and all those other kinds of city workers. Oh, make that "employed".
In all, more than 210 of Costa Mesa’s 472 employees received notices that they might get pink slips.
Now let me be clear, the key word in that sentence is might. But for sure, there's going to be a fight. But the rubber has the possibility to meet the road big time. Remember those Costa Mesa residents? The ones who pay the taxes so those 472 "hard" working city employees salaries. And pony up for their health care benefits and their pensions. Their pensions. Gee, I wonder what kind of pension plans those taxpayers have. Hmmm.
According to city figures, for every dollar the city pays a police officer or firefighter, it must also set aside more than 40 cents to fund the employee’s pension. For every dollar paid a general employee, it must set aside 27 cents.
The average Costa Mesa police officer earned $105,000 in base overtime and certification pay in 2010, according to city records. The average firefighter earned $109,000 in base, overtime and certification pay last year.
You can read the rest of the article, it contains the standard level of whining that you'd expect on this issue. Actually, I'm shocked that they are only writing about cops and firefighters, there's not a single word about teachers in the piece.
I can't wait to see what happens. One interesting thing is that in the last election the Mayor Pro-Tem campaigned on getting the pension issues under control and bringing both reality and the laws of economics to bear in the city's finances. We'll see what happens, but that happens to be a good start. And, surprise surprise, the police and firefighters unions poured tons of dough-re-me into losing the election. I'm guessing they aren't done.
This issue is way bigger than Costa Mesa. In 2009 almost six in ten state and local pension funds were underfunded. You can bet that number isn't lower two years later and you can count on one hand the number of states, counties and cities that are actually doing - or trying to do - something about the big freight train headed through the tunnel right at us. That light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight on the train, not the sun.
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