March 11, 2011

Opposition To Outrageous Pay And Benefits For Public Employees Isnít Class Envy

My friend Darren over at Right on the Left Coast usually agree on things, but I take issue with him on this one about the recent labor unrest in Wisconsin and elsewhere.

As I said, it's usually the Left that plays the class envy card. Lately, though, I'm hearing from my own people on the Right. "Public workers get pensions that private citizens can only dream of." Whether that's true or not, and whether that should be changed or not, those are legitimate points of debate. When I read between the lines, though, what I hear is, "I don't have those, so you shouldn't, either, and I'm going to vilify you until you don't have them, either."

If Daren were writing about employees of private firms, I might agree with him. It is, ultimately, a private matter that we, as citizens, have no place in determining. For us to try to limit wages, benefits and pensions for such employees is clearly not our business.

But , as has been said time and again in recent weeks, the situation of public employees and their wages, pensions, and benefits is different. Those are, by any definition, our business. After all, public employees work for all of us. It is therefore perfectly proper for us to express concerns and raise questions about the wages, pensions and benefits in their case, BECAUSE THEY WORK FOR US. And I say that as someone who is a public employee.

Now to the degree that there is an element of ďI donít have those, so you shouldnít. . . ď in the recent objections, I think it can be a legitimate position that is devoid of class envy. After all, ought public employees be better compensated than is the norm the citizens who pay taxes to support their compensation packages? Ought these employees, who due to civil service and tenure regulations have greater employment security than those in the private sector, also be guaranteed raises, benefits, and pensions of a sort that are not seen by private sector workers whose taxes make up the bulk of the money that pays for those things? Are they public SERVANTS or public MASTERS? Who is the boss in this relationship Ė the public or the employees? Is it envy, or is it a desire to reestablish the proper order of things in the relationship?

Not, mind you, that I am suggesting that most public employees are overpaid or that benefits are too high. But as a public employee, I know that the source of my pay and benefits is the taxpayer. When times were good, we were generally rewarded with improvements in pay, and efforts to improve benefits. While none of us want to see pay cuts, we have to recognize that some give on benefits is a necessity. After all, are we truly entitled to significantly better than what our employers, the taxpayers have for themselves? We who are public servants ought not consider ourselves to be a pampered privileged class, nor is it our place to claim first rights to the wages and salaries of our employers that are extracted through taxation. Such an attitude is un-American.

But I will agree with Daren on a couple of points. He is correct when he notes that the conservative philosophy is superior to that of the unionists. And beyond that he is correct when he says we must not ďcrawl into the gutter and manufacture our own 2-Minute Hate just because of the visceral rush it provides.Ē In that he is right. As deep a contempt as we may have for the left-wing philosophy and the words and deeds of many leaders and some followers of those malignant ideals, we must not stoop to duplicate their tactics. That is why I sometimes cringe when I see my fellow conservatives recommending that we adopt Alinskyite tactics in the name of conservatism. After all, we must let the better angels of our nature guide us as we do battle on the field of ideas. And while that means that we are engaged in the intellectual analog of our nationís asymmetrical warfare against the forces of jihadi Islam, we lose both the battle and the moral high ground if we fail to uphold our own values as we do so.

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The system is rigged. The people who rigged the system are complaining that finally we tax payers are tired of having our pockets picked. The states and cities are broke, everything is collapsing on our heads. Half the people I know are out of work and/or lost their homes. And the good school teachers of Wisconsin think that $102k a year is not enough for 9 months work.

Here is what will happen. The unions may indeed win this. They might get the Republicans voted out in a recall or get some judge to overturn something in their favor. But what these spoiled public workers don't seem to understand is the present course is unsustainable. If they fix it now MAYBE, we citizens, we tax payers will survive. If the unions win I give it a few more years and then bankruptcy and anarchy. There is a very real limit to taxation. Today I and most citizens pay our taxes and try to live our lives. Eventually at the rate we are going the taxes will exceed our ability to pay and we will drop out. The rich, the wise and the lucky will move or at least move their assets where the bloodsuckers can't get to it. And then what?? Maybe then we will have the massive poverty and chaos the unions/Marxists/Socialists want so they can start their revolution and turn us into the Russia of the West. Oh happy day...

|| Posted by GoneWithTheWind, March 11, 2011 04:35 PM ||

The people who really get screwed over by the public unions are not "the rich," since for the most part it is not hard for them to establish residency in Florida or Tennessee or some such and avoid the more onerous taxation burdens of a state. And "the rich" can afford the insurance if their property is stolen, or a better security system, if police departments are cut back (and resources spent investigating property crimes are the first to go...). When the state or municipality cannot afford to provide the basic services, because the funds are going to senior bureaucrats at the top, and/or to fund their health care and pensions, and they've effectively "hit top" in terms of how high they can tax, the biggest bite is felt by those at the bottom. (Of course, I'm above-average in private sector compensation, and I'm anti-government-union, so I suppose I disprove my own thesis, but then again, I also attend City Council meetings to complain about budgetary waste).

Oh, and, of course, a lot of those pension benefits, work rules, etc. are enshrined in law, and even some state constitutions (eg Illinois), quite unlike standard private contracts where you need to have an exchange of valuable consideration, meeting of the minds, and can be excused for impossibility of performance.

Ultimately, you have state actors who agreed to crappy deals with other state actors, who seek to enrich such state actors using their state coercive powers and to bail themselves out of their crappy deals, all so that they can stay in power long enough to make more crappy deals.

The anger that results isn't "class envy," it is rightly a demand to drain the swamp, and then proceed to accountability and justice...

|| Posted by Dee G, March 13, 2011 11:25 AM ||
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