Category Archive 'Government-employee Unions'

03 Mar 2011

Unionized Teachers: The Results Compared

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Iowahawk catches Paul Krugman lying with figures and nails his slimy hide to the barn door.

Please pardon this brief departure from my normal folderol, but every so often a member of the chattering class issues a nugget of stupidity so egregious that no amount of mockery will suffice. Particularly when the issuer of said stupidity holds a Nobel Prize.

Case in point: Paul Krugman. The Times’ staff economics blowhard recently typed, re the state of education in Texas:

    And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

Similarly, The Economist passes on what appears to be the cut-‘n’-paste lefty factoid du jour:

    Only 5 states do not have collective bargaining for educators and have deemed it illegal. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores are as follows:

    South Carolina – 50th
    North Carolina – 49th
    Georgia – 48th
    Texas – 47th
    Virginia – 44th

    If you are wondering, Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is ranked 2nd in the country.

The point being, I suppose, is that unionized teachers stand as a thin chalk-stained line keeping Wisconsin from descending into the dystopian non-union educational hellscape of Texas. Interesting, if it wasn’t complete bullshit. …

[A] state’s “average ACT/SAT” is, for all intents and purposes, a proxy for the percent of white people who live there. In fact, the lion’s share of state-to-state variance in test scores is accounted for by differences in ethnic composition. Minority students – regardless of state residence – tend to score lower than white students on standardized test, and the higher the proportion of minority students in a state the lower its overall test scores tend to be.

Please note: this has nothing to do with innate ability or aptitude. Quite to the contrary, I believe the test gap between minority students and white students can be attributed to differences in socioeconomic status. And poverty. And yes, racism. And yes, family structure. Whatever combination of reasons, the gap exists, and it’s mathematical sophistry to compare the combined average test scores in a state like Wisconsin (4% black, 4% Hispanic) with a state like Texas (12% black, 30% Hispanic). …

So how does brokeass, dumbass, redneck Texas stack up against progressive unionized Wisconsin?

2009 4th Grade Math

White students: Texas 254, Wisconsin 250 (national average 248)
Black students: Texas 231, Wisconsin 217 (national 222)
Hispanic students: Texas 233, Wisconsin 228 (national 227)

2009 8th Grade Math

White students: Texas 301, Wisconsin 294 (national 294)
Black students: Texas 272, Wisconsin 254 (national 260)
Hispanic students: Texas 277, Wisconsin 268 (national 260)

2009 4th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 232, Wisconsin 227 (national 229)
Black students: Texas 213, Wisconsin 192 (national 204)
Hispanic students: Texas 210, Wisconsin 202 (national 204)

2009 8th Grade Reading

White students: Texas 273, Wisconsin 271 (national 271)
Black students: Texas 249, Wisconsin 238 (national 245)
Hispanic students: Texas 251, Wisconsin 250 (national 248)

2009 4th Grade Science

White students: Texas 168, Wisconsin 164 (national 162)
Black students: Texas 139, Wisconsin 121 (national 127)
Hispanic students: Wisconsin 138, Texas 136 (national 130)

2009 8th Grade Science

White students: Texas 167, Wisconsin 165 (national 161)
Black students: Texas 133, Wisconsin 120 (national 125)
Hispanic students: Texas 141, Wisconsin 134 (national 131)

To recap: white students in Texas perform better than white students in Wisconsin, black students in Texas perform better than black students in Wisconsin, Hispanic students in Texas perform better than Hispanic students in Wisconsin.

02 Mar 2011

Things Turn Ugly in Wisconsin

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Union demonstrators chanting “Shame! Shame!” (rather hyperbolically and monotonously, I thought), and eventually “You Suck!”, hounded and ultimately trapped GOP State Senator Glenn Grothman near the doors of one of the entrances to the Badger State’s Capitol. (around 2:50)

It was beginning to look like the mob was close to attacking the white-haired state senator, when Democratic Rep. Brett Hulsey (wearing orange pro-union t-shirt) interposed himself between Grothman and the mob and managed to hold them off, as alarmed demonstration leaders in the rear hastily changed the chanting to “Peace-ful, Peace-ful.”

Remember Congressman Mike Capuano’s (D-8thMA) February 22nd statement that “Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.”?

Capuano’s rhetorical call to spill blood in the cause of Unionism (later retracted and apologized for, after the comment received national attention) might very easily have been responded to in reality yesterday. Republican legislators had better take to approaching the capitol with bodyguards or police escorts.

28 Feb 2011

Why Public Employee Unions Should Be Illegal

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W.W., in the Economist, makes the case against public employee unions.

As Max Weber taught, the state is an institution distinguished by its claim to a “monopoly on the legitimate use of violence”. The principal task of political philosophy is to give an account of the conditions under which it is morally legitimate or justified for an exclusive group of people to get things done by threatening and applying coercion to the rest of the inhabitants of a certain territory. On the dominant liberal account, several things need to be true before some small subset of a population can be justified in pushing the rest of us around. First, it needs to solve a problem to which there is no voluntary or non-coercive solution. According to the standard story, only the artful application of credible threats of violence can deliver certain “public goods” without which we would all be worse off. This is, by and large, what the state is for. Of course, any state powerful enough to deliver the public goods and protect our rights is powerful enough to violate them. We each have ample reason to reject the authority of any state that does not rely on the oversight and authorisation of those of us at the business end of police batons. The government of the state must take a form that minimises the chances of the abuse of state violence. According to both liberal theory and history, some form of representative democracy seems to be the ticket.

While the liberal-democratic state has proven better than the known alternatives, it creates a number of serious problems on the way to solving others. Among the greatest of these problems is maintaining a system of public finance that does not stray outside the bounds of liberal legitimacy. The power to tax and spend is necessary for the performance of the democratic state’s legitimate functions, but it is also a ready tool of exploitation and distributive injustice. An ideally legitimate state does nothing people can do better on voluntary terms, and it takes no more from people in taxes than is necessary to finance necessary public goods. But this is a moral target we never hit because the strategic logic of redistributive democracy reliably errs in the direction of expansion of services, deficit spending, and the abuse of taxpayers and other not-very-organised constituencies at the hands of highly-organised special interests. If we are concerned to minimise exploitation—if we care about the extent to which state violence is public-spirited and not merely criminal—we must go out of our way to acknowledge and guard against the abuses of fiscal democracy.

It is in the context of these concerns that we must consider the function of public-sector unions. If they do anything at all, it is to protect their members’ claims on future government revenue from democratic discretion—to limit the power of the elected representatives of the democratic public to set the terms on which union-members will receive transfers from taxpayers. That these transfers come to workers in the form of compensation for services rendered the government seems to confuse a lot people. This is, I think, why people on both sides of the debate are distracted by the question of whether government workers are or are not “overpaid”. To my mind, the real question is whether government workers should be granted special legal powers that (a) are unavailable to other groups whose welfare also turns on transfers from the treasury, or on the size of compulsory transfers from their bank accounts to the treasury, and (b) limit democratic sovereignty over the distribution of the burdens and benefits of the system of public finance.

I would argue on liberal grounds that justice demands limits on democratic sovereignty over budgetary matters precisely to avoid the exploitative redistribution that otherwise occurs. That’s why I support constitutionalising nondiscrimination requirements on fiscal policy, among other reforms. My principled objection to public-sector unions is that their powers limit democratic sovereignty over taxation and public spending in a way that advantages some citizens at the expence of others—in a way that makes fiscal exploitation more, not less likely.

23 Feb 2011

Unionized Government Employees

Jonah Goldberg explains how government employees were allowed to unionize and why government employee unions need to be outlawed once again.

Traditional, private sector unions were born out of an often bloody adversarial relationship between labor and management. It’s been said that during World War I, U.S. soldiers had better odds of surviving on the front lines than miners did in West Virginia coal mines. Mine disasters were frequent; hazardous conditions were the norm. In 1907, the Monongah mine explosion claimed the lives of 362 West Virginia miners. Day-to-day life often resembled serfdom, with management controlling vast swaths of the miners’ lives. And before unionization and many New Deal-era reforms, Washington had little power to reform conditions by legislation.

Meanwhile, government unions have no such narrative on their side. Do you recall the Great DMV cave-in of 1959? How about the travails of second-grade teachers recounted in Upton Sinclair’s famous schoolhouse sequel to “The Jungle”? No? Don’t feel bad, because no such horror stories exist.

Government workers were making good salaries in 1962 when President Kennedy lifted, by executive order (so much for democracy), the federal ban on government unions. Civil service regulations and similar laws had guaranteed good working conditions for generations.

The argument for public unionization wasn’t moral, economic or intellectual. It was rankly political.

Traditional organized labor, the backbone of the Democratic Party, was beginning to lose ground. As Daniel DiSalvo wrote in “The Trouble with Public Sector Unions,” in the fall issue of National Affairs, JFK saw how in states such as New York and Wisconsin, where public unions were already in place, local liberal pols benefited politically and financially. He took the idea national.

The plan worked. Public union membership skyrocketed and government union support for the party of government skyrocketed with it. From 1989 to 2004, AFSCME — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — gave nearly $40 million to candidates in federal elections, with 98.5% going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Why would local government unions give so much in federal elections? Because government workers have an inherent interest in boosting the amount of federal tax dollars their local governments get. Put simply, people in the government business support the party of government.

And this gets to the real insidiousness of government unions. Wisconsin labor officials fairly note that they’ve acceded to many of their governor’s specific demands — that workers contribute to their pensions and healthcare costs, for example. But they don’t want to lose the right to collective bargaining.

But that is exactly what they need to lose.

Private sector unions fight with management over an equitable distribution of profits. Government unions negotiate with politicians over taxpayer money, putting the public interest at odds with union interests and, as we’ve seen in states such as California and Wisconsin, exploding the cost of government. The labor-politician negotiations can’t be fair when the unions can put so much money into campaign spending. Victor Gotbaum, a leader in the New York City chapter of AFSCME, summed up the problem in 1975 when he boasted, “We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.”

This is why FDR believed that “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” and why even George Meany, the first head of the AFL-CIO, held that it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

As it turns out, it’s not impossible; it’s just terribly unwise. It creates a dysfunctional system where for some, growing government becomes its own reward. You can find evidence of this dysfunction everywhere.

My wife and I used to live in a small town at the northeastern end of Fairfield County, Connecticut. When we bought our house, the real estate tax was about $1500 a year. After two decades of residence, we were paying more than $8000 a year.

Our town’s budget consisted of very little beyond school costs, but our school system was a complex and ever-growing empire with a large administration whose costs rose relentlessly, in good times and bad, at a reliable rate of 8-12% per annum.

People used to describe the kind of town we resided in as a bedroom community, referring to the fact that the residential population was comprised predominantly of commuters, who typically had to travel somewhere between three quarters of an hour to two hours to and from work every day. The population of our town arrived at home in the early evening weeknights exhausted and retired early to get up for the next day’s commute.

The political class and vested interests could do anything they liked politically, simply by scheduling the town meeting on a weeknight. To the meeting would come the well-organized representatives of school spending, elected school board members, teachers and administrators, and ambitious parents eager to throw more of other people’s money at their children’s education. They were never opposed by more than a handful of old timers approaching retirement age attempting to hold the fiscal line.

Trying to control spending was an exercise in futility, because if the town actually got up on its hind feet and rejected the budget incorporating the proposed school teachers’ and administrators’ contract, a state law (passed quietly by an obliging democrat-controlled legislature) mandated binding arbitration. The arbitration board was, of course, made up of retired school teachers, democrat political figures, and social activists, so going to arbitration would, at best, amount to a token slice being removed from everything the unions asked for. And that was that.

School budgets and taxes rose inexorably, and the character of our town and its region changed ineradicably. Older residents soon found it impossible to afford to live in retirement in Fairfield County communities like ours. The real estate taxes were just too high. They sold out and moved to cheaper, and usually sunnier, locations. Eventually, we did, too.

19 Feb 2011

The Battle of Madison


40,000 angry protestors flocked to the Wisconsin capital yesterday

Walter Russell Mead explains the nature of the struggle currently underway in Wisconsin, and predicts that however this particular battle goes, a necessary revolution is underway, a war has begun which the left is certain to lose.

[I]t’s just possible that the disturbances in Madison, Wisconsin mark what will ultimately prove to be a bigger turning point in world history.

In the heart of Blue State America, we are seeing a challenge to some of the fundamental assumptions behind the progressive state, and we could conceivably be watching both the birth pangs of a new social model and the first big step in America’s transformation into a true 21st century economy. …
The problem is that the way we do government in this country has to change — and it will have to change in ways that put the interests of those who don’t have government jobs ahead of those who do. The number of people employed by government is going to have to shrink; much more work will have to be done by many fewer hands — and many tasks historically done in government bureaucracies by life-tenured employees will be done by private sector workers employed by outside contractors. Nor can government workers enjoy pension plans and health benefits better than those widely available in the private sector; the days of defined benefit pensions for government workers are drawing rapidly to a close.

The Battle of Madison is part of a national struggle over the future of American society. The public sector unions and their allies believe in what I’ve called liberalism 4.0, the twentieth century’s dominant set of progressive ideas. It was the ideology of a society made up of big unions, big corporations and big government. The Big Three car companies, Big Three networks and the Big One phone company (back when AT&T had a legal monopoly on providing telephone service) were held in check by government regulation and union power rather than by free competition.

Technological change, global competition, and the rise of a more dynamic economy have wrecked the old social model, but old institutions, old habits of mind and old interest groups don’t disappear overnight. In many ways, public sector unions and government employees are the last great citadel of the Blue Social Model and what we see in Madison (as well as Ohio and Tennessee) is a way of life fighting for survival in the last ditch. We should not be surprised that the battle is fierce, the tactics ruthless, the polarization intense: this is not just a struggle between interest groups, it is a conflict over basic ideas about how the world does or should work.

Regardless of what happens in Madison this week, it is a hopeless battle. 4.0 liberalism and the Blue Social Model aren’t immoral and they helped many Americans enjoy roughly two generations of unprecedented prosperity — but they are unworkable in the contemporary world. States that don’t make the kind of changes that Wisconsin seeks will face the problems that loyally blue Illinois does now: staggering pension bills that undermine the state’s credit and cripple its ability to attract and hold business. An article in the New York Times, that bastion of blue thinking, mocks Illinois’ latest plan to pay its current pension bill with a $3.7 billion bond issue. Note reporters Mary Williams Walsh and Michael Cooper, Illinois “is essentially paying a single year’s bill by adding to its already heavy debt load. That short-term thinking is not unlike Americans taking out home equity loans to pay for cars and vacations before the housing bust.”

However much money the public sector unions fling into the maw of Democratic party politics, the old system is going down.

Hat tip to Bird Dog.

18 Feb 2011

Democrats Run and Hide


Frank J. thinks Governor Walker is making a mistake in trying to find those missing democrat state legislators.

The left’s tactics have gotten increasingly odd as they get less and less popular, and now when confronted with state budget problems they’ve settled on running and hiding. Strangely, Walker has sent the police to find them, but I don’t get why. I guess they’re needed to finalize the bill, but there has to be some way around that. It’s just when you hear the Democrat legislators have fled your state, it’s really odd that your first response would be, “How do I get them back?” The smarter response is, “Can we nationalize this?” We need to find what laws will get Democrats to flee from all the other states and what will cause Obama to leave the White House and run and hide. And if these chase away the Democrats bills are passed in every state, eventually the Democrats will have no option but to flee to Canada — and they’ll probably be much happier there. We certainly will be. And you know what happens when all Democrats flee to Canada? That’s right: We’ve won the future.


Charles Martin reveals that those democrats selected a rendezvous at Rockford, Illinois which features a restaurant called “The Tilted Kilt,” a Scottish-motif equivalent of Hooters.

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