Another Meme Bites the Dust

If you read comments on political stories at your local newspaper’s website, it doesn’t take long to recognize the same handful of right vs. left arguments popping up in every thread. Though paying much attention to these things would be ill-advised, one anti-Kasich talking point piqued my interest such that I submitted a public records request to the governor’s office.

It’s a simple criticism: Kasich pays his buddies too much at our expense! I’ve run across a few variations on this theme, most involving witty misspellings of the governor’s name. Given Ohio’s economy, Governor Kasich paying his staff more than Governor Strickland did would be fiscally imprudent and politically careless. Heck, I first ventured down the public union rabbit hole after learning that the unions’ anointed Secretary of State candidate was grossly overcompensating her administrative staff… so this complaint would resonate even with an awful conservative like me!

If it were true.

Governor Strickland

  • Staff: 79
  • Salary: $5,009,431
  • Salary w/benefits: $6,662,542

Governor Kasich (Current)

  • Staff: 67
  • Salary: $4,301,087
  • Salary w/benefits: $5,840,146

Governor Kasich (Planned)

  • Staff: 75 → 4 fewer than Strickland
  • Salary: $4,838,121 → $171,310 less than Strickland
  • Salary w/benefits: $6,434,701 → $227,841 less than Strickland

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics.

Kasich, Destroyer of the Working Class

Alternate title: “Things I learned at the We Are Ohio rally.”

This afternoon I took a brief trip downtown to the Senate Bill 5 referendum rally organized by We Are Ohio, a union group with similar goals, membership, and methods to OneOhio Now. What do they want? Taxes! Who will they take ’em from? You!

I snapped some photos of signs while at the Statehouse, but there wasn’t much remarkable going on between my arrival ~1:00 and the end of the last speech around 2:30. Speakers railed against tax cuts for the rich, sang the virtues of unhindered collective bargaining, and rehashed all the weak talking points OneOhio Now, the AFSCME, and the OEA have been pushing for months.

Workers' rights, the ubiquitous Solidarity Fist, and a teacher with awful grammar. This shot has it all.

Organizers did a good job of wrangling the craziest sign-wielders, but that didn’t prevent the crowd response chant of “WE ARE OHIO” and the near-omnipresent Solidarity Fist posters from being a little creepy.

And Turnaround Ted showed up. Anyone care? ...Anyone?

A summary of what awaits us when Senate Bill 5 takes effect:

  • The dedicated leaders among Ohio’s teachers, firefighters, police, and other civil servants will vanish into thin air.
  • Seriously – vanish! Without unions taking a cut of their pay, workers are incapable of both communication and cooperation.
  • School boards and government officials will no longer be elected by Ohio voters. So, they’ll be free to unleash all that evil they’ve been storing up.
  • Favoritism and politics – which have no impact now! – will pounce onto Ohio’s public workers like helpless lambs.
  • Public employees will be unable to speak to local TV and newspaper reporters about the horrors they’re forced to endure.
  • Ohio might not go bankrupt. This is the first sign that taxpayers are doing something immoral.

Here’s the full gallery of pictures from this afternoon…

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics.

Ted Strickland, Comedian

Following up on some AFSCME business, I came across a hysterical letter to the editor in the Wall Street Journal:

In each of our states, the sudden and precipitous decline in economic activity caused by the Great Recession led to a sharp decline in revenues. We struggled with the difficult and often agonizing decisions that were necessary to balance our budgets. Yet balance them we did, without depriving our workers and their unions of a voice.

Signed, Ted Strickland and three other past Democrat governors. Such bold, confident vision! Such leadership! “Yet balance them we did,” says Strickland. That statement should have been followed by an asterisk:

Strickland’s budget relies on an expected $3.4 billion in federal stimulus money.

Hey, at least Ted didn’t “[deprive] our workers and their unions of a voice” while he was papering over the problems with Ohio’s government. The governors’ letter closes with the usual boilerplate about Democratic values, which in this case amount to toeing the line of a constituency that gives Democrats bags and bags of cash.

Ted’s a busy man these days! He’s working on plans for giving us our Obamacare medicine, as head of the D.C. Bipartisan Policy Center’s Health Project. He’s helping fellow leftists found Innovation Ohio, a think-tank whose name combines the best of buzzwords and everyone’s favorite corporate welfare program. And he’s using the same multitasking prowess that helped him balance Ohio’s budget to work on his stand-up routine.

What Now, Ohio?

Despite all the frequent flier miles President Obama racked up reminding Ohio’s Democrats to vote for Democrats, the GOP swept just about everything on the ballot. Now what? There is the nagging question of a teensy deficit to deal with.

If Governor-elect Kasich and the state legislature are looking for easy targets, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) is a perfect place to start. The notion that government desk jockeys who are nigh-impervious to firing need union representation is laughable. Enthusiasm for handsomely compensating public employees is hardly at an all-time high among the public, and fiscal sanity has to begin somewhere.

Kasich has already said in no uncertain terms how he feels about the education unions:

During a speech before Ashtabula County Republicans in March 2009, Kasich talked about the need to “break the back of organized labor in the schools,” according to the Ashtabula Star Beacon. He did not back away from that quote last week, saying as he pushes ideas to change schools he has often clashed with teachers unions, who have “smeared my record and distorted it.”

If that’s the way our governor-to-be talked during a general election campaign, there’s no reason to believe he’ll mince words in January. There’s also no reason for Ohio’s House or Senate to pull punches – what are the union bosses going to do, support Republicans less? Ending the NEA’s stranglehold on Ohio schools will be a complicated, difficult process… but kneecapping the AFSCME is a no-brainer:

  • It’s economically responsible. Public unions represent coddled employees against their employers – the public.
  • It’s politically viable. Display one colorful chart of public vs. private sector pay and benefits, add in a list of some AFSCME shop’s recent contract demands, and you’re done before lunch.
  • It doesn’t hit opportunistic politicians in their pocketbooks. No Republican should expect union campaign contributions in a race where there’s a Democrat.

Talk is cheap; what can Ohio’s leaders actually do about the AFSCME?

Exempt More Public Employees from Collective Bargaining

ORC 4117.01(C) defines 17 employee types not covered by the provisions of Chapter 4117: Public Employees’ Collective Bargaining. ORC 4117.03 states that public employers are not prohibited from collective bargaining with 16 of the 17 exempted employee types. Modify 4117.01(C) to exempt any public employee who isn’t a cop, custodian, firefighter, or EMT, and modify 4117.03(C) to prevent collective bargaining between public employers and any employee listed in the 4117.01(C) exceptions.

Create Reasonable Limits to what Public Unions can Demand

ORC 4117.08(C) begins as follows…

Unless a public employer agrees otherwise in a collective bargaining agreement, nothing in Chapter 4117. of the Revised Code impairs the right and responsibility of each public employer to:

…and then lists 9 things a collective bargaining agreement should never “impair the right and responsibility” of a public employer to do. Strike everything up to and including the comma in 4117.08(C).

While we’re at it, add some commonsense restrictions to bargaining over salary and benefits. Preclude raises for public employees when unemployment in the county exceeds, say, 8% for six consecutive months. Set acceptable salary ranges for each employee classification, tied to inflation. Require employees to pay a certain percentage of health insurance premiums.

Cover ORC 4117 With a Coat, and Whack it with a Hammer

Chapter 4117 of the Ohio Revised Code is based on a flawed premise: that elected officials and their appointed minions can be counted on to protect the public’s interests and bargain in good faith with the AFSCME. Specifically, refer to 4117.20(A):

No person who is a member of the same local, state, national, or international organization as the employee organization with which the public employer is bargaining or who has an interest in the outcome of the bargaining, which interest is in conflict with the interest of the public employer, shall participate on behalf of the public employer in the collective bargaining process except that the person may, where entitled, vote on the ratification of an agreement.

Given the clout and campaign spending of the AFSCME, what public official doesn’t have an interest in the outcome of their office’s collective bargaining? Democrats know they’ve got a friend for life if they accede to the AFSCME’s demands, and have absolutely no incentive to discourage their employees from unionizing. Would you stop me from joining a club that takes my money and donates it to you? Republicans know that the AFSCME is forever turning their employees against them, and can hope to limit union opposition by giving some leeway.

Ohio’s new leadership should drastically redefine the collective bargaining rights ORC 4117 affords to state and local employees. Considering the no-nonsense approach Kasich has taken to stopping the 3C rail boondoggle dead in its unaffordable tracks, I think this is a real possibility. Nothing sharpens the mind like an eight billion dollar deficit! It also doesn’t hurt that The Buckeye Institute has done huge amounts of work analyzing public employment in the state.

I’m a higher education employee. I’m happy with my position, happy with my pay, and happy to look elsewhere if either of those things change. I also have too much time on my hands. Basically, if I had any power or influence I’d be the AFSCME’s worst enemy. Guess I’ll settle for sharing these suggestions with every Ohio politician I can reach!

[ Update, 11-18-2010: Had to rewrite much of this post after some snafu with resulted in my WordPress database no longer containing a bunch of revisions made between 1:15 and 2:30 AM on Nov. 11. Couldn’t tell you whether this version is better or worse, since a suitable mysqldump and an explanation are both things has failed to provide. ]

Working for (Several Percent of) You

Good news for anyone thinking about watching President Obama’s first State of the Union address at 9:00pm – you can skip it. How have I reached this conclusion? Obama’s speech will be followed by a Thursday announcement of $8billion in ‘stimulus’ funds being devoted to another idiotic liberal pet project:

President Obama is going to Florida on Thursday to reveal how his administration will divvy up $8 billion in high-speed rail funding, but the good news will whistle all the way up to the Buckeye State, say Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep Mary Jo Kilroy, D-Columbus.

Passenger rail is wonderful, because it gets citizens into government subsidized trains and out of those terrible, Gaia-killing automobiles. Amtrak has a proven, storied history and should be grown with taxpayer money at every opportunity… except that it doesn’t, and it shouldn’t:

According to a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) report in December 2004, Amtrak is by far the most heavily subsidized mode of travel in the U.S. Between its huge federal subsidies and its minuscule share of the intercity passenger market (less than 1 percent), Amtrak costs $210.31 per passenger per 1,000 miles, compared to $4.66 for intercity buses and $6.18 for commercial airlines in FY 2002.

Ok, so Amtrak makes a business of suckling at the public teat. But it’s for a good cause! Think of how many citizens will benefit from the several hundred million in pocket change our elected betters want to throw at this project!

An Amtrak study last fall said about 478,000 passengers would ride medium-speed trains connecting Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. The line would require about $17 million a year in subsides.

Based on the Amtrak estimate, a number of people less than 5% of Ohio’s population would use the system. 478,000 / 11,485,910 = 4.16%. Senator Sherrod Brown could not be happier with his ability to bring home the bacon:

“This is some of the best news we have had in a long time,” Brown said. “If I put my ear down to the rail I think I hear a train coming.”

If I put my ear down to the rail I think I hear a senator giddy about blowing taxpayer funds on something 95% of Ohioans won’t use. I’m sure it will create enough jobs to be worth $17,000,000 a year in subsidies, because liberals always carefully justify every expenditure.

Brown contends the federal stimulus spending on rail is evidence that the Obama administration wants to spend more on the nation’s infrastructure needs and less on “tax cuts for the rich and the war in Iraq.”

This is extremely encouraging. Put photos of his posterior, a hole in the ground, and a viable business plan in front of the Senator, and he can’t identify a single thing. He can, however, puke up some liberal boilerplate about that horrible George W. Bush cutting taxes and killing terrorists.