Debate, and discuss, just dont Bore me.
It comes out of YOUR Pocket
Published on July 1, 2011 By Dr Guy In Politics

How much do public unions cost you, the taxpayer?  There has been a lot of debate on the subject, even if they are doing anything for the people that pay their salary.  But the answer appears to be coming out now. $452 per STUDENT, at least for the teacher union.

Wisconsin recently threw out its collective bargaining agreement.  They said they had to in order to balance the budget.  The Unions screamed, as did Obama and many democrats.  Things got violent with union thugs beating up anyone that would not change with them about Gov Walker.  In the end, the Governor and legislature of Wisconsin won.  Then came the time for the bureaucrats to start putting pencil to paper and figuring out how to approach this "brave new world". 

The results are starting to come in.  One School district with 4200 students (Kaukauna), has realized a savings of $1.9 million dollars!  And they had only 400 teachers!  But the savings did not all come from the teachers paychecks.  Indeed, their gross pay has not changed.  But they are now required to pick up more of their health insurance costs and more of their retirement costs.  But that was just the tip of the iceberg apparently!  For when the collective bargaining agreement was broken, the district was free to shop its health insurance to other companies (in other words, they now had more than one provider).  Before, the agreement required them to deal solely with a Union arm, the WEA.  They notified the WEA they were going shopping, and all of a sudden, the WEA promised to match the lowest offer! Shazaam!  Do you think the WEA was gouging them before because they could?  Apparently Unions are greedier than those big bad corporations!

The savings from that little piece of legislation in one small district in Wisconsin amounts to $1.9 million.  Just think of how much the entire state is going to save!  A lot more than the deficit they once faced in the budget.  And this was without a single extra dollar of taxes being taken from ANYONEs pocket.

Unions cost you a lot more than you think.  And most of the time, the money is not for the members, but the fat cats and politicians that run them.


Comments (Page 1)
on Jul 01, 2011

Interesting perspective in that article, myfist0.  However, it has a logical flaw.  It assumes that the money belongs to the public employee to start with.

Let's use $100 as annual pay for argument's sake.  The union didn't negotiate a salary of $100, $5 of which would be put into a pension fund, leaving the employee with $95.  It negotiated a salary of $100 and wrung from the state (taxpayers) an additional $5 contribution to a pension fund 'on their behalf', which is clearly stated in the article itself.  That's not the state saying we're going to force you to take $5 of 'your' money and invest it in a pension fund.  That's the union negotiating a nice bene.

What Walker has done is whittle that bene down a tad by requiring public employees to contribute roughly 75 cents of 'their' $100, leaving them with $99.25 or so.  The state's taxpayers are still paying $4.25 into the pension fund.  By doing so, none of them lost their jobs.  Not so bad a trade-off, if you ask me - take a less than 1% effective pay cut (with no decrease in total pension contribution, BTW), or 100% pay cut and the end of any such contributions.

It should not be forgotten that these are taxpayer dollars from dollar #1, no matter what you call them, salary, pension, whatever.  Pretending that the pension funds are all 'employee' dollars to start with is nothing but semantics.  Furthermore, the public employment sector has been one of the only sectors to grow during the past 5 years.  Public employees are shielded from economic fluctuations (not to mention discipline) like no other workers.  You have to work really hard at it or step in it really deep to get canned from a civil service job.  It used to be that you accepted lower pay for greater job security in the public sector - lower reward for lower risk.  Not any more - these days public sector employees often make more than equivalent private sector employees, who have no such public employment protections or security.  Having no security is OK, that's the price of opportunity and no pretending that the laws of nature can be suspended will make it otherwise.

So, in case you can't yet tell, I still have a hard time mustering much sympathy for the 'plight' of Wisconsin public employees, despite this gentleman's argument.

on Jul 01, 2011

While I can agree with all of what you stated I tend to put these issues in as simplistic view possible. The wealthiest 2% vs the struggling 98%. It is a simple us vs them and we are fighting each other for what amounts to a pittance. Lets see the banksters and politicians lead by example and take the same percentage cuts. Actually even stop the raises and bonuses. Why not make it so that if politicians wants to raise their pay by 8% then raise the minimum wage by 8%. If politicians raise their pensions by 4% the social security gets raised 4%. It will never ever happen and you know it. Ours goes down and down and down so thiers can go up and up and up.

I am actually a little glad that they finally hit the teachers who will put forth their views of a failed system to the next generation of the pissed off unemployed. I would have kept them happy so they continue to teach the lie of how wonderful capitalism is.

EDIT:https://twitter.com/#!/SenatorSanders/status/85044734585880576

"The wealthiest 400 people in America now own more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans."

on Jul 02, 2011

myfist0
It is a simple us vs them

Therein lies the fallacy.  It's not a zero sum game.  People move in and out out that top income group freely.  It's not limited to a certain number of people.  The vast majority of the 'rich' in America have earned what they have, were not necessarily 'rich' 30 years ago, and have accumulated wealth without 'oppressing' anyone.  The Hugo Chavez's of the world get rich by oppressing people.  And to suggest that 98% of us are 'struggling' is disingenuous at best, quite ignorant at worst.

Who gets to decide what the right relative proportion of 'rich' and 'everybody else' is, anyway?  60/40?  70/30?  82/18?  98/2?  Where is the right ratio written?  Who is worthy of choosing winners & losers?

myfist0
I would have kept them happy so they continue to teach the lie of how wonderful capitalism is.

If only that were what they were doing.

You're right, though.  Capitalism is the worst economic system in the world, apart from all the others.  (I'm shamelessly borrowing that)

on Jul 02, 2011

Daiwa
Who is worthy of choosing winners & losers?

Emperor myfist0, that's who.   

After that I would make lobbying illegal and give some of the power to the people. No tax breaks for anyone. If they don't like it they are free to move the the island paradise of Haiti. 

EDIT: http://www.democracynow.org/2011/6/24/haiti_leaked_cables_expose_us_suppression

I do very much enjoy your replies Diawa. It is nice to have an intelligent person pointing out the flaws in my logic and that was one of Sir Winston's better moments.

If we are all agreed that it is a horrible system, can we not try to design another that does include the business incentive along with a curtain amount of moral obligation from the people that do get rich from the system not to have to get so rich that they will gladly turn the whole continent into Haiti. Putting an end to lobbying and massive campaign contributions would go a long way here as the government would be free to vote the conscience and not have to worry about a curtain lobby groups massive smear campaigns and large contributions to their yes man.

EDIT 2: I finally watched it all

and the rebuttal ... 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WT30c5qbk90

on Jul 02, 2011

Public sector employees should have never been allowed to unionize in the first place. They work for the taxpayers, are a part of the government, and as such have no "right" to collective bargaining. Somehow, somewhere, public sector employees lost sight of the fact that they work for the taxpayer and adopted the idea that the taxpayer works for them. They demand more and more of our money with diminishing returns for that money, mostly to feed the unions and their political agendas.

That said, I need to correct one point in your article.

WI didn't throw out the collective bargaining entirely. They excluded benefits from collective bargaining, salaries are still negotiable.

on Jul 02, 2011

MasonM
Public sector employees should have never been allowed to unionize in the first place. They work for the taxpayers, are a part of the government, and as such have no "right" to collective bargaining. Somehow, somewhere, public sector employees lost sight of the fact that they work for the taxpayer and adopted the idea that the taxpayer works for them. They demand more and more of our money with diminishing returns for that money, mostly to feed the unions and their political agendas.

I can somewhat agree with that but the point still stands that the people that had nothing to do with creating the economic crisis are the ones carrying all the burden to fix it. Trying to cure a flesh eating disease with band-aids. They are once again successful at drawing the publics attention away from a broken system and placing the blame on the middle class.

on Jul 02, 2011

Most people had nothing to do with creating the economic crisis.  And I repeat, the public sector has been the safest place to be during the economic crisis.  A tiny sliver of a percent of the unemployed have come from the public sector.

on Jul 03, 2011

myfist0

I can somewhat agree with that but the point still stands that the people that had nothing to do with creating the economic crisis are the ones carrying all the burden to fix it. Trying to cure a flesh eating disease with band-aids. They are once again successful at drawing the publics attention away from a broken system and placing the blame on the middle class.

The public sector employees are hardly carrying all of the burden to fix the economic situation. Corrupt government officials have been giving the public sector unions sweetheart deals in exchange for campaign funds and votes for far too long, and have created an unsustainable budget as a result. Frankly, I do not blame the public employees, but rather those corrupt elected officials.

The simple truth is that things can't continue down that primrose path of wonton spending without regard to the future consequences. It is either start cutting back on excessive spending, and that includes absurdly expensive public employee benefits seen nowhere in the private sector, or raise taxes to the point that we all hand over 100% of our incomes to the government bodies (not an option in my book).

This isn't about ideology, it is about cold, hard reality. States should start taking a good look at places like Texas, which has a solid economic situation and has enjoyed far more private sector job growth than all of the other states combined, and consider following their successful model.

on Jul 04, 2011

myfist0


http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/02/25/the-wisconsin-lie-exposed-taxpayers-actually-contribute-nothing-to-public-employee-pensions/
Looks to me like austerity measures have come to the good old US of A. 

Forbes got that one wrong.  As the link below points out: First the idea that the taxpayer isn't contributing any money to a pension that is funded by public-sector employee salaries is prima facie ridiculous.  Taxpayers are paying the salaries, the salaries are paying the pension -> Taxpayers are paying the pension.  And second, the part that would be paid out of the salary is instead contributed by the state.  So it's not "you get 100% of your salary, less this 6% that I'm putting into your pension for you"; it's "You get 100% of your salary, plus I'm giving you an extra 6% toward your pension."

http://biggovernment.com/kolson/2011/03/01/forbes-taxpayers-dont-fund-public-pensions-seriously/

As this second link points out, there are actually 2 different plans anyway (Wisconsin Retirement System and a deferred compensation plan), and Forbes incorrectly conflated the two.

http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/260785/iforbesis-wisconsin-pension-myth-christian-schneider

 

on Jul 04, 2011

You know what's really funny about all of this talk about public employees and their unions and benefits and retirement?  It's that pretty much all of the discussion is from people who have never been a public employee, because if they were one, they'd already know that all of these analysts only focus on a piece of the picture, rather then the whole, and the people getting all pissy about everything are a bunch of followers who believe everything their told rather then doing something crazy like, actually becoming one and finding out the facts for themselves.  My favorite argument has always been "My tax dollars pay your salary!"  Every single person who has said that line or some form of that line is a total clueless fucking idiot.  No offense meant, but it's the truth.

As a former public employee from my younger days, now private sector worker, I can see that most of you are looking at this out of spite and ignorance more then anything.  You hear tax dollars, wasteful spending, and look how much better their retirement is then ours and you go ape shit over it.  You're an idiot.  Hear me out and I'll prove to you that you're an idiot.  Don't confuse Teachers Unions with the bulk of public sector jobs.  They are the exception because in our society, we've given a lot to teachers because they educate our children and we do so without ever bothering to fact check and verify that's what the real problems are that's being solved by the initiatives pushed through the legislature.  This is not a normal situation for most public employees.  How many times have you just pushed a law through that ensures the state or federal government pays it's sewer department workers fair and equal wages?  Oh that's right, it's never happened.  NEVER.  Public employees must be allowed to unionize to ensure this themselves, since obviously, you the tax payer and voter doesn't give a damned one way or another about their health and safety.  As long as you flush the toilet and the shit disappears, you're happy, and not once is there ever a thought in your mind about Jim and Joe who not only inspected your sewer system at great risk to their own health and well being, but also found a break which could affect your health and well being and had it fixed by Dave, Fred, and George before it did have any affect on you, whom you also have never given one flying fuck about except to tell them where they can shove that truck of theirs that's blocking the street and the foul smell you have to deal with while they work on fixing the problem.  Seriously...  You think it's you the tax payer that made it mandatory that all public agency workers who could at any point in the course of their duties come into contact with feces must get a hepatitis B shot in order to be cleared to work?  You really think that?  No.  You didn't have anything to do with that at all.  The unions protecting public agency workers did that.  Ear muffs and filter masks for every park maintenance worker that's operating a ride on mower for hours a day every day.  I suppose you the tax payer thinks that was your doing as well.  Nope.  Union again.  How about making rubberized gloves a part of the standard uniform for city light and power workers to protect them from electrocution.  That was state assembly bill what now?  Oh that's right, the public employee unions did that one too.  So remind me why public employees shouldn't be allowed to unionize again?  Because they can bargain collectively and that makes you mad?  Seems to me that since you're not willing to protect their health and safety by voting on laws that would do just that, that you really have no right to bitch about them bargaining collectively.

The truth about public sector jobs is that NO, we don't actually work for the public.  No matter how much you or anyone else wants to believe that we do, no matter how much you try to spin things, the truth is we do not.  We work for the government agency who in turn works for the public.  Your taxes pay the government agency to operate, not the employee to do their assigned job.  The agency pays it's employees just as any other corporation would, not you or your tax dollars.  Say you're out buying something from home depot.  You pay their price.  The monies they got from your sale over the price they paid goes out to cover the cost of their operation and the rest is profit to be given to the owner(s).  The difference is, home depot has an actual product to sell you to earn income to cover costs and make a profit, a government agency has taxes as it's primary source of income because the product provided, (roads, water, sewer, gas, garbage collection, electrical, fire, police, medical, parks, bus service, libraries, etc.) are things expected to be provided by the agency at all times, with little or no cost to the individual.  And those are just the tangible things, not the policies and laws that give you a safe, happy community, or the incentives that attract business to come to your town and stay, clean air to breath, clean water to drink...  Any extra finances left over after operating costs are covered, and salaries are paid, those do not go to anybody.  There is no such thing as a profit.  They are instead turned into capital improvement projects that make your city yet a better place.  This is why looking at the finances for a public agency are so confusing.  People read the books as if it was a for profit corporation, when the reality is, that it is a zero profit corporation.  All monies are always spent, period.  Legislators in turn take this information and say, look, guys, we're broke, we need more money.  See, look at our books, not even a penny left over.  And you the public buys into that shit.  They pass a bill along to finance some pet project of theirs that really has no business being done in the first place, but you suckers eat it all up anyway because hey, the books show the city is broke.  The media doesn't help any either because if a city budgets more for a project then what's expected to cover cost overruns and delays, everyone is labeled as extortionists or wasteful spenders, and when they budget properly, but cost overruns and delays and the cost of materials change if it's a multiyear project, then the city is really in trouble because at that point, they really are broke and begging for more money and the media labels them as incompetent.  It's a no win situation for project managers.

Now you might say, 'hey, that's not right, my city sells me a product that I have to pay a lot for, I have a water bill I get every month', and that is true, I get one too, amongst many others.  But that bill pays for the resource that you actually used and the costs associated with getting that resource to you at all times of the day.  It pays for the water, the pipes and pumps for the delivery of the service, and the chemicals that treat the water supply in the storage tanks, not the men and women who installed the piping or the tractor used for digging, or the fuel used by the dump truck that hauled the broken up asphalt away when the street got torn apart, or those that maintain the pumps and filters and treatment plants or the computers and software and sensors and meters and laboratories that constantly test everything that ensure you have safe and reliable access to that resource 24 hours a day, 7 days a week...  No, the government agency pays for all of that stuff at no cost to you.

So sure, you can say for example, my annual income building and maintaining roads was $100 and the taxpayer put another $5 on top of that for my pension...  You can spin it that way all you want and you'd be lying about it the entire time, but here's the real deal.  A private sector job, doing the exact same work, that employee made $130.  And another thing is, that private sector company doing the work, got paid with your tax dollars too by the government agency, so technically, you just shelled out $130 instead of $105 in tax monies if you want to continue with the bullshit spin job of saying your taxes are the employee's paycheck.  Plus as an added bonus, that private sector company operates between this time and that time, unlike the government agency that operates 24/7.  Trust me, I know, I got phone calls at all hours from people complaining about stuff wrong with the service that was being provided and had to go out and fix it.  Mind you, this is work on top of my normal hours, not every public employee get's paid overtime, in fact, most do not.  Once you reach a certain level within the agency, or as part of the CBA you agreed to for your specific job, you become salary rather then hourly.  That means if you work 40 hours a week or 60, you still only get paid for 40.  If you work less then 40, you get paid less.  Ain't that a bitch.  So who shows up to assess the damage of a sink hole that opened up in the ground at 3am, or to clear out that state highway that had a mudslide caused by the rain at midnight?  Not that private sector guy.  He's at home watching it on his TV when he wakes up just like you.  That public sector guy that everyone bitches about getting paid with their tax dollars?  He's out there working his ass off so that the inconvenience to your life is as little as possible by the time you wake up.

Now you could also say, hey, my gas service is provided by a private sector company, and they have people that will come out if I call at 3pm or at 3am.  What about that?  And this is true as well.  But they don't have to.  They do the 3am deal as a service to you, more then likely because it's part of their franchise agreement with the city they are working in to keep a monopoly and not allow competition in.  Also, more times then not, you pay extra for it you have them come out outside of normal operating hours.  The public agency fellow who comes out?  He costs you exactly $0 to do everything he can to make you happy and resolve your issue.  And he's not even allowed to take a tip for doing a good job.  Yeah, that's right, in the private sector, if someone tips, you, you get to keep it unless company policy specifically states otherwise.  In the public sector, you must turn that tip over to the agency you work for so that they can divide it up equally to all of the employees or just add it to the account holding all of the finances that pay the general operating costs and give it out to no one.  If you get caught taking tips and not turning them in, you get fired.  Some wise ass got the strange idea that tipping the guy a couple days before Christmas, a guy who collects your garbage every Tuesday morning rain or shine is to be considered bribing a public official and thus it's illegal (which is an actual law which is why the public employee can be fired for it), unless it's shared with all members of the agency.

Here's another difference.  Private sector company.  You don't like how things are being handled, you complain to their hotline, maybe even bitch up a storm to one of their people working some counter in some building...  At the end of the day, all of your complaining has accomplished is nothing.  Maybe, just maybe, some low grade entry level person get's fired.  But let's be real, that person wasn't the problem.  They're just the scape goat to satisfy you, and it probably doesn't even fix the underlying issue to the problem.  Now let's look at that public sector guy.  You're not happy with the service provided.  Guess what you do?  You call your council member or the Mayor if the city isn't so huge that they actually take your calls, or you go to that big building known better as City Hall.  You complain to them and tell them you'll make sure they don't get voted for on the next election.  Now they're on a mission to please you because the vote you and your friends and family and neighbors provide, that's important to them.  They really do want that.  They 'pass along' (which usually involves a phone call with lots of screaming and yelling because of the earful they just got and subsequent ass kissing they had to give back to you) their concerns to the city manager or the department director directly if there is no city manager or they aren't available.  That director will call the employee in and rip them a new one because of the earful they just got and subsequent ass kissing they had to give back.  (Been on the receiving end of that one a few times.)  The point of all of this?  Private sector service, you have no control over no matter how much you complain, public sector service, right or wrong, your angry call get's several people bitched out and usually disciplinary action if it's an actual problem, and policies to prevent it from happening again even if it's a pure bullshit issue.  So, sure, spin it that your taxes are that paycheck.  You have control over the situation just as if you were the big boss anyway.  Go ahead, spin spin spin.

But let's get back to that pension plan.  It's not that the employee makes $100 and the taxpayer puts in $5 more on top of it, it's that the employee get's paid by a rate scale.  In actuality, we actually get paid $115 from the agency according to that scale (which is all public record, btw, unlike the private sector.  Go to your local city's website and look up pay grades for employees, you can see every last one of them).  It's still less then that private sector guy, and we still only see $100 of it.  That extra $5 you think you're paying, you're not paying that as extra.  That's monies owed to the employee anyway, it just never goes to the employee in the first place, unlike it would in the private sector.  Those $15 dollars that we don't ever get to see in our paychecks, they go to, guess what?  A special account created by the city to cover our health and medical benefits, AND wait for it!  YOUR social security and welfare!  That $5 you feel you paid as extra, that's really money earned by the public employee that was in essence, given back to you.  Why does the public employee not complain about this situation since clearly the employee is being severely shafted in pay by comparison to his private sector counterpart?  Because the public agency operates 24/7 and must guarantee the service is provided to you.  The public employee takes the pay cut because he or she is guaranteed a job the next day and a paycheck at the end of the pay cycle, unlike the private sector guy who can be terminated at the whims of his employer and be replaced by someone else.  The public sector guy has money from DAY 1 taken away from him to cover health benefits and retirement, unlike the private sector guy who may opt out at any time, or doesn't put in enough to carry them through retirement and thus they become a burden on the tax payer.  The private sector is left up to their own designs to put monies away for retirement.  In the public sector, you don't have a choice.  It's mandatory.  You can of course, always take more money away from yourself and put in more, but you can never put in less then the mandated amount...  Which is far more then the private sector.  So spin spin spin spin it all you want that your taxes are paying my retirement, but just think of this, if that were true, then your taxes paid for my retirement now while I'm working, rather then later, when I'm not.  Because I'm covered, I had no choice in the matter, unlike the private sector guy.

 

 

 

So if you do still feel it's your tax dollars being paid directly to that employee, which is completely absurd, and that their retirement is too good of a deal, go get yourself a public sector job and hopefully you'll have to deal with morons like you all day which will then hopefully make you change your mind and start thinking that these men and women actually don't get paid enough for the crap they have to put up with from you and the elected officials they work for.

 

 

on Jul 04, 2011

Stant123
You know what's really funny about all of this talk about public employees and their unions and benefits and retirement? It's that pretty much all of the discussion is from people who have never been a public employee, because if they were one, they'd already know that all of these analysts only focus on a piece of the picture, rather then the whole, and the people getting all pissy about everything are a bunch of followers who believe everything their told rather then doing something crazy like, actually becoming one and finding out the facts for themselves. My favorite argument has always been "My tax dollars pay your salary!" Every single person who has said that line or some form of that line is a total clueless fucking idiot. No offense meant, but it's the truth.

As a former public employee from my younger days, now private sector worker, I can see that most of you are looking at this out of spite and ignorance more then anything.

That much persuaded me that what followed did not merit continued reading.

on Jul 04, 2011

Too bad, you're missing out.

 

All it really proves is that the minute you start reading something you don't care to read, you ignore the rest of it regardless of what it has to say.

 

Pretty much, the entire thing I wrote is all proof to DR.Guy's very last sentence in the OP, and certain other issues with people's perceptions.

on Jul 04, 2011

Stant123
Too bad, you're missing out.

I suspect not.

on Jul 04, 2011

 Nice rant Stant.     Glad to have you join in.   Come join in some more of these hot topics.

Reminds me of people rating movies that never watched them. 

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