Government Unions vs. Ohioans: Fight!

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) represents a marriage between union bosses and Democrats that barely benefits dues-paying members, and thoroughly screws everyone else.

Previously, on that hero:

The brokenness of Ohio’s current system cannot be overstated. When an agency votes to unionize – amid promises of unsustainable benefits – an extra layer of bureaucracy is permanently added between that agency and the taxpayers who fund it. Republicans cooperate with the union out of cowardice, and Democrats cooperate out of necessity; the AFSCME spends big, big bucks:

Wait, I’ve changed the subject! That outrageous Wall Street Journal chart uses national numbers, and it’s unfair to paint Ohio’s AFSCME affiliates with the same brush.

Maybe AFSCME Council 8 and AFSCME Local 11 truly exist to build solidarity among oppressed government workers. Maybe they’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul, while electing Pat to keep the scam running smoothly.

The latest available Department of Labor reports are for 2009. Campaign contribution data are from the Ohio Secretary of State.

Government Union Democrat campaign
contributions,
Jan. 1 2009 – Nov. 1 2010
Staff/Officers
with gross
pay > $70K
Staff/Officers
with gross
pay > $100K
AFSCME Council 8 $435,152.86 * 39 14
AFSCME Local 11 $518,327.86 * 41 3

* Updated 02-19-2011 to include contributions to Democratic candidate and Party committees

It’s possible that I’m clueless, but $70,000 is a lot of money for someone whose vocation is standing up for “the little guy.” Six figures is an amount of money that makes me feel a little sick, especially when I remember this is our money. Contrast their class warfare rhetoric with their paychecks, and it seems fair to conclude public union bosses treat dues-paying members less as clients than as convenient money launderers.

Need more numbers to think about when you see sad-sacks on the news holding “Save the Safety Net” signs, complaining that Ohioans won’t give more of our hard-earned dollars for their gilded retirement accounts or their salaries untethered to reality? In 2009, 1,812 state employees pulled down $100,000+. In 2010, 1,813 public school teachers were paid $100,000 or more. If times are tough for members lower on the totem pole, they should look to their wealthy union brothers for a hand.

Or, I could establish a new union! We’ll start by targeting the members of AFSCME Local 11 — 30,870 workers, as of their 2009 annual report. I won’t give a dime of the members’ money to politicians or Policy Matters Ohio (“a Cleveland research group,” in the words of The Columbus Dispatch), and as a matter of fact I won’t take dues at all. There: instant 1.25% raise for everyone! As bonuses I also won’t offer a Ponzi scheme retirement plan, or lobby for selfish, short-sighted policies that will make Ohio financially weaker.

Public employee collective bargaining in Ohio should be defined down dramatically, or repealed outright. Does the Ohio GOP have the stones to do it? Call your state senators and representatives!

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New DHS Terror Alert System

USA Today reported this afternoon that the color-coded Department of Homeland Security terror-alert system implemented after 9/11 will be phased out over the next three months:

The government will not abandon alerts completely. According to the Homeland Security briefing paper, the department may decide to issue specific warnings to local law enforcement agencies, airlines or businesses if it fears there is heightened risk of an attack. Or it could issue broader alerts through public announcements, it says.

Given Secretary Napolitano’s glowing record in charge of DHS, I’m sure the new system will be a big improvement.

Wait- what’s this? A sneak peek at the Department of Homeland Security’s new Homeland Security Advisory System?

Looks like they decided to reduce the number of levels on the chart. Makes sense, given how quickly prominent Progressives tie every random loon to some conservative who irritates them.

Also, it’s important to stay on message without overwhelming voters with the names of too many scary Republican fat-cats — and Congressman Ryan is in need of some good demonizin’!

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Old-Timey Civility

Though I try to give a wide berth to topics that have been run into the ground, I’ve read some interesting reactions to the recent hubbub about “tone” and “civility” and came across one I wanted to share. Victor Davis Hanson made a good point in a National Review Online article last week:

The hate-filled rhetoric [...] was cruel, lunatic, and illogical — and helped demonize President Bush as some sort of monster rather than the center-right moderate who had pressed for No Child Left Behind and the Medicare prescription-drug benefit, called for religious tolerance, warned against anti-Muslim violence after 9/11, won two bipartisan congressional authorizations for wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and implemented the largest medical-relief plan for Africa in U.S. history.

The history of American politics is chock-full of incivility, and Dubya is a prime example of the double standard at play. Obviously leftists get a pass on President Bush, because Progressivism is the vibrant, passionate antithesis to all the terrible things George W. Bush represents. Never mind that he represented those things because of the left’s unwavering belief in its own rhetoric. Today’s pleas for civility are an effort to silence opposition, plain and simple.

VDH’s mention of Bush and the leftist bile he endured reminded me of the only time I sent a letter to the school paper while I was at Miami. It was a couple weeks before the 2004 election, President Bush’s daughters had just visited campus for a campaign event, and the College Republicans were bringing Ann Coulter to Oxford.

Witty Op-Ed Mean Conservative Response
The Miami Student, 10-22-2004, page 13

The Miami Student, 10-22-2004, page 13
(Click to zoom; drag image to scroll)

The Miami Student, 10-26-2004, page 10

The Miami Student, 10-26-2004, page 10
(Click to zoom; drag image to scroll)

Who’s more “civil” – the hatemonger conservative, or the hipster journalism minor? A trivial example, sure. But even though Miami is a relatively conservative campus, The Miami Student‘s editors saw fit to print a sex fantasy attacking a conservative pundit and, for good measure, objectifying the president’s daughters. Imagine if we pulled a few autumn 2004 editorials from the student papers at Berkeley, Columbia, or NYU!

This is one of the great things about freedom of speech. Give a complete jackass ten minutes or a slot on the Opinion page, and he’ll say something closely resembling, “I am a complete jackass.”

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About Those Protestors…

Though I’m hardly the expert on protesting or political lobbying, it stands to reason that your goal is to look as “mainstream” and “broad-based” as possible when you’re agitating for something. With that in mind, who’s really behind the opposition to Governor Kasich’s stated goal of bridging Ohio’s budget deficit without raising taxes?

The contact person at OneOhioNow.org was kind enough to send a list of OneOhio Now’s endorsers, as of Jan. 16th. I hadn’t heard of many of the groups listed, so let’s see what they’re all about using the power of The Webs!

35 member groups, and 8 of them are unions. The others are a mix of Progressive think-tanks, Progressive lobbying groups, Progressive community organizers, and center-left charities. I kind of wish there was something interesting to say about this, but there’s not; if it walks like a leftist and talks like a leftist, who should be surprised that its member list is tilted way to the left?

The problem is not that the member groups of OneOhio Now are bad. The problem is that they’re wrongwrong about higher taxes being the solution to Ohio’s problems, and wrong to demand taxpayer funds for everything. Of the charities listed above, how much more good could be achieved if they devoted their lobbying energies elsewhere? Of the unions, how much dues money is wasted expanding the union bosses’ power?

More on that later…

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Union first, Students second

The Dispatch reports on a Columbus Board of Education decision:

Columbus school board member Stephanie Groce challenged two sacred principles of school unions yesterday by trying to insert into the district’s official lobbying agenda a plank that would remove seniority and the right to strike.

This did not go over well; in addition to an attempt by Groce to reduce opposition to private school vouchers, these items were voted down 5-2. Groce dares to say what must not be said, suggesting that the unions don’t put students first:

“It’s not an attack on the union,” Groce said after the meeting. “These are proposals that put the children first. … This is an opportunity to focus on policy, because we’re not getting any more (state) money.”

Focusing on policy is great, as long as the policy matches what the education unions want. Ask OneOhio Now, whose idea of focusing on policy is lobbying for our tax burden to rise in support of the unions.

Do I detect a hint of snark from the president of the Columbus Education Associaton?

[Groce's] plank to remove seniority-based layoffs said: “Any staffing decision that ignores quality and effectiveness is an insult to professional educators and an injustice to children.”

“Obviously, a majority of the board saw it differently,” Columbus Education Association President Rhonda Johnson said, after watching from the audience as Groce’s proposals were defeated.

I find it hard to argue with Groce that “Any staffing decision that ignores quality and effectiveness is an insult to professional educators and an injustice to children.” But to the education unions, any threat to tenure or suggestion of merit pay is like garlic-laced holy water to a vampire. The longer you stick around, the more you’ve paid in dues, so it matters little whether you’re good at your job. When it comes down to it, the Columbus Education Association marches to the beat of the NEA’s drum… which sounds something like this:

This is not to say that the concern of NEA and its affiliates with closing achievement gaps, reducing drop rate rates, improving teacher quality, and the like are unimportant or inappropriate. To the contrary these are the goals that guide the work we do. But they need not and must not be achieved at the expense of due process, employee rights, or collective bargaining.

Is it any wonder the unions want Kasich and the General Assembly to keep the gravy train running and otherwise leave education alone? Yesterday’s 5-2 decision by the Columbus school board reaffirms the common knowledge that, at least in our big cities, the unions run the districts. How’s that working? (Spoiler alert: Columbus City Schools met 5 of 26 Ohio Department of Education indicators for 2009-2010).

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A Big Enough Net

Last week I failed to mention one of my favorite arguments from government-for-all-seasons types. It’s reflected in the title of that Dispatch story I cited: Protesters rally to protect safety-net services.

What’s a “safety-net service,” exactly? Bulletproof tenure and longevity raises, come Hell or high water? Eighteen bucks an hour for data entry or filing paperwork? Generous defined-benefit retirement plans? Ted Strickland, co-founder of a new think tank called Innovation Ohio and newest member of the Washington, D.C. Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Project, had this to say upon passage of Obamacare:

No longer will insurance companies decide who gets quality health care in this country and who does not. [...] I applaud Congress for standing up for Ohioans’ right to affordable, quality health care. And I admire President Obama for his leadership in achieving comprehensive health care reform.

My ellipsis skips a lot of promises, but the first one alone is a bank-breaker. How is insurance really “insurance” if “insurers” have no control over their risk? Oh well; Strickland knows a thing or two about what government can and cannot afford. The health care bill is just the latest, largest example of politicians writing checks the taxpayers will be forced to cash.

This horrifying little graphic was featured in yesterday’s aptly titled USA Today story, Our view on public pensions: Lavish benefits hurt states:

USA Today pensions graphic

Keep that $19.5 billion unfunded liability in mind when you hear protesters bellowing about evil Republican cuts to the “safety net.” Should taxpayers suffer so unreasonable public pension promises can be kept? At some point, the entitlement and public employee safety net stopped being for safety and became just a net. A couple of charts from The Tax Foundation clarify Ohio’s recent history of taxation and spending:

Tax Foundation chart

Tax Foundation chart

Ohio politicians have fallen into a common trap: who wouldn’t be generous, given a bag of other people’s money? Governor Kasich is right to keep higher taxes off the table. As for the “safety net” and a certain audience’s insistence that it surround us all: charity’s a task ill-suited for government. The big question today is whether our new governor and the General Assembly can cut enough netting for Ohioans to stay here willingly!

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Unintentional Union Hilarity

A new political activist group in Ohio held what sounds like an entertaining protest at the Statehouse yesterday. From Dispatch.com:

“Cuts alone will only exacerbate the problems Ohioans already face,” said Col Owens, senior attorney with Legal Aid of Southwest Ohio.

His remarks came at a news conference to announce the formation of One Ohio Now, a coalition of more than 30 organizations pushing for a state tax hike.

Protesting for higher taxes. Cute! The Dispatch estimates a crowd of 300, which means an average of ten representatives from each of One Ohio Now’s member groups. Or, to quote SEIU 1199, “Nearly 600 people untied today [...]” Aside from the tie-free SEIU, which organizations were involved? The Dispatch story doesn’t link to a list, and there’s not one at OneOhioNow.org, but we can make some guesses.

Zach Schiller of Policy Matters Ohio, a Cleveland research group, said budget cuts not only hurt those who lose services or such benefits as health care, but they also cost jobs.

Dispatch columnist Catherine Candisky forgot the word “progressive” in the phrase “a progressive Cleveland research group.” The Buckeye Institute is a conservative think-tank, and is always identified as such. Policy Matters Ohio and The Buckeye Institute have differing opinions about the utility of government unions. They can’t both be right. Why not identify Policy Matters Ohio as a distinctly pro-union organization, Ms. Candisky?

Maybe other quotes from the story shed different light on One Ohio Now’s motives:

Bundled against the cold wind, Lolita Thomas, with Local 4501 of the Communications Workers of America, said she’s worried about additional job losses and wants state leaders to be mindful of the actions they take and how it will affect Ohioans.

A union member wants Ohioans to be taxed more to support union members. Next quote:

Barbara Shaner, associate executive director of the Ohio Association of School Business Officials, said “there needs to be a discussion beyond cuts only.”

Another union member ally [Update, 01-17-2011: A commenter notes that OASBO is not a union, though a quick perusal of the group's website lists the unions as collaborators, and their legislative priorities appear to match the NEA's.] wants Ohioans to be taxed more to support union members. Who would have guessed!

As of October 2010, The Tax Foundation rated Ohio’s business tax climate 46th. In fiscal year 2008, Ohioans had the 18th highest state and local tax burden per capita. When One Ohio Now wails about Governor Kasich’s policies hurting “Ohioans,” replace “Ohioans” with “unions” and you’ll know all there is to know about One Ohio Now.

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Knowing You’ve Made It

At risk of rehashing the Ricochet conversation Rob Long started last week about entertainers jumping all over Speaker Boehner (who, at the time, was just Congressman Boehner): did anyone watch SNL last night? I can remember John Boehner speaking in the cafeteria at Miami East High School; now he’s really made it.

I tuned in to SNL for The Black Keys, and by midnight was doubting my decision. The persistently underwhelming Weekend Update sketch featured an interview with Kristen Wiig as Nancy Pelosi and Bill Hader as John Boehner. Guess who played the punching bag?

As Conor Friedersdorf said in Rob’s thread, we conservatives do sometimes protest too much about attacks from New York and Hollywood liberals. Everyone loves to generalize (see what I did there?) and of course we’re more likely to notice memes that rub us the wrong way.

Still, the Weekend Update bit is enlightening: note how Pelosi and Boehner are mocked. For every second Wiig acts like an airhead, Hader spends twenty seconds sobbing. The crux of the bit is that Boehner will cry about anything… except for “millions of uninsured Americans.” Pelosi is attacked for – can you guess? – not explaining Obamacare better.

Even if late-night shows ridicule politicians on both sides of the aisle, the attacks almost always come from the left. With that in mind, should we be surprised the cruelest rhetoric is reserved for those furthest from the “correct” way of thinking? Regarding Conor’s suggestion that treatment is fairly equal: has history ever produced a politician who pitched more comedic softballs than Nancy Pelosi? Yet Pelosi is shown as a tiny bit of a ditz, while Boehner will be excoriated for years because he’s gotten too emotional on-camera.

On the bright side, the Keys closed with Tighten Up.

Cross-posted at Ricochet.com.

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The Bell Tolls for AFSCME

Since I last wrote about Ohio’s collective bargaining law for public employees, Governor-elect Kasich has hardly softened his stance on public unions:

“If they want to strike they should be fired,” Kasich said last week. “I really don’t favor the right to strike by any public employee. They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”

Stories of Kasich’s resolve abound, from the Dayton Daily News to The Toledo Blade to The New York Times. Lest readers assume John’s wandered off the reservation, Speaker Batchelder offers little reassurance to union enthusiasts:

Ohio House Speaker-elect William G. Batchelder, a Medina Republican who voted against the 1983 law, said he opposes the right of public-sector employees to strike.

”It’s difficult to make a case for the existing system,” Batchelder said. ”It’s difficult to argue that the government’s coercive power to tax ought to pay for a service that isn’t being rendered.”

Predictably, the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and every Progressive group under the sun have leapt to the defense of ORC 4117, a bad idea that’s as old as me. Their bleating is familiar: Republicans hate working Americans; unions protect helpless grunts toiling in the mines; unions aren’t to blame for out-of-control spending.

These were weak excuses back when President Obama was bailing out the UAW, and they’re completely pathetic when applied to government unions. One look at The Grand Bargain is Dead, The Buckeye Institute‘s report on public employee compensation, and the pro-union position disintegrates.

What do the AFL-CIO goons, Progressive policy advocates, and Democratic Party reps all have in common? Their position is indistinguishable from the Socialists’. Yes, that’s Socialist with a capital S:

The 23 labor and movement activists from cities throughout Ohio created the Buckeye Socialist Network (there will soon be a BuckeyeSocialist.org website). The Network’s first campaign is called DEFEND OHIO and will focus on defending public employees’ jobs and public services.

“Governor Kasich has unleashed a class war in Ohio,” said Dan La Botz. “And we intend to fight back. Kasich’s inauguration is the ideal occasion for Ohio’s working people to protest at the Capital in Columbus and to show the governor that he is going to face four years of fierce resistance by unions and social movements.

Ohio is $8 – $10 billion in the hole, but leftists from here to the moon will defend government bloat to the last. The Buckeye state could continue its slide in the direction of California, Illinois, Michigan, and New York – adding bureaucracy and driving out business until we go bankrupt – and the sort of people who were just steamrolled on November 2 would scream that “tax cuts for the wealthy” were to blame.

Crippling the ability of public unions to hold Ohio taxpayers hostage will not solve Ohio’s budget crisis – and, though you wouldn’t know it from listening to his detractors, Governor-elect Kasich has been clear about that. Nonetheless, it’s an important step to fiscal sanity. Faster, please… there’s plenty more to do.

I won’t pretend it took much convincing, but I’m with Matt Mayer of The Buckeye Institute: ORC 4117 should be repealed. Updates and revisions to Ohio’s civil service law – which itself occupies hundreds of pages – would ensure that all types of public worker are fairly treated and reasonably compensated. Just don’t expect the leeches who make themselves rich on member dues, or the interest groups they fund, to tell you anything resembling that simple truth.

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