I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Very Clueless Tom Moran

Sometimes Tom Moran gets it; but then, he'll write another ill-informed and poorly-constructed column in the Star-Ledger, and I'll start to lose my mind:
So let’s look at collective bargaining, starting with the good stuff. Bargaining is what gave us an eight-hour workday, weekends off, basic workplace safety and wages that helped build the middle class in America. We owe all that to the unions, and they did it at the bargaining table.

But those gains were made by private sector unions. And the public sector is different in key ways.
Uh, Tom, the reason public sector unions were late to the gig is that they had so much trouble organizing to begin with.  Plenty of states still won't even allow public workers to organize, let alone bargain. So, yes, all credit due to private sector unions - we should have many more of them - but let's understand why the public sector wasn't as large a part of those gains.
For one, public worker unions have political power and can hand pick the people on the other side of the bargaining table. With money and volunteers, they can dominate local politics, especially in low-turnout elections.

This happens all over New Jersey. In Edison, for example, the police union is the big dog in town and the result is an average cop salary of more than $100,000.
If that's true, why do study after study after study show that public workers make LESS than their private sector counterparts when accounting for education and experience? And, yes, that includes benefits.

Further: what makes you think Edison would get the same talent coming to join their police force if they offered less compensation? Would they get the same quality of cop if they paid $80,000? $50,000? Who are you to draw that line? Let the market decide, Tom, as it already has.

And do you think unions shouldn't be able to participate the same way corporations participate in the political process?
Another big difference: Governments don’t go bankrupt, or move to Mexico. When auto workers negotiate with GM, they know that if they get greedy, they could lose it all. The cops in Edison have no such fears. So why not press for that deal that gives you and your family free health care for life?
First of all, governments do go bankrupt: ask Iceland. Second, the cops in Edison are TAXPAYERS, and, as such, have no interest in screwing themselves, their town, or their state.

But what's most bothersome here, however, is that Moran gives us a false, lazy choice: bankrupting the government vs. health care for public workers. If Moran would take a second to consider that:

  • We have massive income inequity
  • We are taxed at historically low rates
  • Health care inflation has exploded
  • Every other nation in the industrialized world pays half of what we pay for health care
he'd realize how absurd his construction is. Getting cops to pay more for overpriced health care doesn't solve the central issue: that health care is overpriced. Control the costs, and you solve the problem; too bad Tom can't see that.
Here’s one final difference: In the public sector, the people who pay the bills are the common folk, not the fat cats. The class-warfare language of the private labor movement doesn’t fit here.

Ask yourself this: Is it progressive to ask a senior on a fixed income to pay higher property taxes so that a cop or teacher can avoid paying a reasonable share of their health costs? 
No; it's "progressive" to make the "common folk" pay less and the "fat cats" pay more of the bill! Which is the entire point Moran misses: health care costs haven't been contained, and taxation is regressive, because of the "fat cats" - not the cops and the teachers.

I don't know if Moran has been asleep for the last couple of weeks, but, over and over again, Steve Sweeney and the Christiecrats tried to push through proposals in the benefits "reform" bill that ONLY served to enrich their political patrons like George Norcross. I don't know how much more of a clue Moran needs to figure out what's really going on here. This bill entrenches the status quo of obscene health care profits; it does NOTHING to control costs.

But Moran lives in a fantasy world:
This reform doesn’t actually kill bargaining over health care; it suspends that right for four years. It pushes the “reset” button so that these costs can be contained.
HOW? How are they "contained"? Show me one thing - ANYTHING - in this bill that "contains" costs.

You can't, Tom: there isn't anything. All that this bill has to really save money for the taxpayers are unicorns and rainbows and happy, pretty ponies galloping around poor, lost, little Tommy's head, chanting: "Toolkit! Toolkit! Toolkit!"

One last thing:
Yes, it is a heavy hand, and a last resort after watching teachers refuse a pay freeze, and watching cops in Newark and Camden refuse to give up benefits even in the face of mass layoffs. Wowkanech may love that system, but the mayors and school boards, not so. 
I am getting damn sick and tired of dealing with this unserious, lazy crap. I've been over the pay freeze about a billion times on this blog. Moran insists on hanging on to this lie - yes, it's a lie - even though it's been disproved over and over again.

As for the cops: Camden Mayor Dana Redd wanted the cops to take a 20% pay cut.  They had agreed to a wage freeze. So stop it with that garbage, too.

Tom Moran is probably more responsible than anyone else in the NJ punditocracy for taking people's eye off the real fiscal problems dogging this state. If it wasn't for Bob Braun, some good work at times by his reporting staff, the occasional guest column that tells the truth, and the Sudoku, I'd have stopped reading his rag a long time ago.

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