In our Liberty Update commentary last week, we noted the many failures of Barack Obama as president…
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Stat of the Day: Terrible Deterioration of Race Relations Under Obama

In our Liberty Update commentary last week, we noted the many failures of Barack Obama as president over the past eight years.  Today, as the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a Washington Post-ABC News survey shows just how disastrously race relations have declined under his watch:

In a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans think race relations are 'generally bad.' Shortly after Obama took office, that number was 22 percent. In the same time period, those who think race relations are 'generally good' plummeted from 66 percent to 32 percent." Of his failures and disastrous legacy, this may be the most depressing.…[more]

January 16, 2017 • 02:13 pm

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Public Unions, Collective Bargaining Drive California’s Deficit Print
By Ashton Ellis
Thursday, November 29 2012
California government workers enjoy a compensation premium 30 percent higher than their in-state private sector counterparts. Half of that premium comes from the generous retirement benefits negotiated by public employee unions.

Flush with an estimated $6 billion in new annual tax revenues after voters passed Proposition 30, California Governor Jerry Brown is claiming victory over the state’s chronic budget deficit.  But Brown’s failure to reform two of the main drivers of overspending – public employee unions and their collective bargaining rights – will mean continuing deficits are here to stay. 

A new study by the Pacific Research Institute explains why. 

In 2011, outside research cited in the PRI study revealed that California government workers enjoy a compensation premium 30 percent higher than their in-state private sector counterparts.  Half of that premium comes from the generous retirement benefits negotiated by public employee unions. 

These taxpayer-funded windfalls include early retirement options that let able-bodied union members stop working in their 50s to collect as much as 90 percent of their final salary each year for the rest of their lives.  Moreover, because of provisions that allow members to “spike” their final salary amount by working exorbitant amounts of overtime during their last year, the cost to taxpayers of a public employee’s retirement can easily result in a decades-long boon based on abusing the system. 

The remaining 15 percent premium stems from the immensely stronger job security government workers have in relation to peers in the private sector.  Simply put, you can’t fire a public employee for poor performance.  Civil service laws and byzantine union grievance procedures protect the incompetent from accountability.  That kind of job security is worth a lot of money, and it shows.  You’ll be hard pressed to find any vested California public employee willing to leave a job even if they hate it.  The salary and benefits are just too good. 

So, while union spokesmen argue, correctly, that wages are slightly lower for public employees compared to similar jobs in the private sector, they refuse to justify an overall compensation package that is 30 percent richer than anything available to similar workers in the business world. 

But how could they?  At the same time California’s public compensation premium is rising, the value of public services is declining.  As noted in the PRI study, the achievement gap is widening between California’s public school system and other states.  Investment in infrastructure like roads, bridges, highways, airports, ports and water facilities “has declined significantly in part because the compensation and retirement costs of current and retired employees is overburdening the state.”  In other words, unions and their bloated compensation packages are crowding out investment in the very public goods the state budget is supposed to fund. 

Yet California voters were sold a very different story by Governor Brown to pass Prop 30.  In the run-up to the election, Brown claimed that higher taxes were necessary to fill the budget shortfall, or else he would be forced to cut funding to schools, health care providers and the mentally ill.  What he didn’t say is that failure to reduce the excessively generous 30 percent compensation premium means leaving untouched two of the biggest drivers in state overspending. 

According to Wayne Winegarden, the author of the PRI study, California’s laws regulating public employee union activity need immediate reform.  As mentioned above, California allows union members to spike – i.e. distort – their final salary, allowing them to artificially inflate the value of their retirement.  State law also permits public employees to strike, and to force the formation of a union through card check; an end-run around the democratic principle of a secret ballot. 

The other cost driver is the legal requirement to bargain collectively with public employees.  Originally, collective bargaining was justified by union members in private companies on the grounds that they deserve to get more of the profits they help generate.  But as James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation observes, “Government workers, however, don’t generate profits.  They merely negotiate for more tax money.” 

With expensive campaign advertising to support Brown’s Prop 30, that’s exactly what California’s public employee unions did with the state’s voters.  Having won at the polls, it’s too bad that $6 billion in new tax receipts every year won’t do a thing to stop unions from growing their compensation packages, while crowding out essential services.

Question of the Week   
Which one of the following was simultaneously a member of the House of Representatives, a U.S. Senator-elect and U.S. President-elect?
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Quote of the Day   
 
"Not since 1980 --” or perhaps 1932 -- has such a political revolution hit the banks of the Potomac River. Donald Trump comes into the White House with a bright, clear mandate to make wholesale changes to every aspect of the federal government. From the darkest corners of the bloated federal bureaucracy to the bright marble columns of the Supreme Court, Mr. Trump's mandate is as broad as it is dramatic…[more]
 
 
—Charles Hurt, The Washington Times
— Charles Hurt, The Washington Times
 
Liberty Poll   

If ObamaCare repeal and replacement begin immediately, but take 2 to 3 years to fully implement, will you consider the promises of President Trump and the Republican Congress to be met?