Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Arizona Republic has a long and sordid history of anti-unionism dating back to when conservative newspaper mogul Eugene C. Pulliam (grandfather of former Vice President Dan Quayle) was the publisher of the Arizona Republic and Phoenix Gazette.
Pulliam and Barry Goldwater encouraged the development of the anti-union John Birch Society in the Phoenix area in the 1950s until this extremist group became too uncomfortable for establisment Republicans (the business community), and William F. Buckley and others kicked the Birchers out of the Republican Party.
For a history, see "Origins of the Conservative Ascendancy: Barry Goldwater's Early Senate Career and the De-legitimization of Organized Labor," by Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, The Journal of American History (2008).
The Arizona Republic today published an editorial opinion that is an anti-union diatribe. GOP win in Wisconsin a win for states. The intellectual dishonesty in this opinion is shocking. The editorial is the opinion of only the individual who wrote it; he or she should claim ownership of it. I am confident this diatribe does not reflect the consensus or even majority opinion of the editors of the Arizona Republic.
The economic argument of GOP win in Wisconsin a win for states boils down to this:
[T]he consequences for taxpayers in states facing enormous structural budget deficits are just as enormous - and more promising as a result of the newly signed law. Had Republicans in Wisconsin faltered, the prospects for any state gaining control of long-term employee costs would have turned bleak.
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Conceptually at least, the need to rein in the rapid expansion of government payrolls and benefits packages - especially those benefits - is becoming an acknowledged fact.
Yes, there are a lot of reasons virtually every state now is facing enormous deficits. Many of those reasons - like indigent health care and other welfare costs, as well as the revenue-depleting effects of the recession - have nothing to do with benefits paid to state employees. But a rapidly growing portion of the burden on state taxpayers is directly attributable to those growing costs.
First, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker did not face a public employee pension crisis. Wisconsin's pension fund for public employees is among the nation's strongest, according to a report by the nonpartisan Pew Center for the States. The Pew report, issued last year, concluded that Wisconsin is a "national leader in managing its long-term liabilities for both pension and retiree health care."
Secondly, the states do not face a public employee pension crisis. McClatchy News recently examined this conservative talking point du jour and explained Why employee pensions aren't bankrupting states:
From state legislatures to Congress to tea party rallies, [to the Arizona Republic] a vocal backlash is rising against what are perceived as too-generous retirement benefits for state and local government workers. However, that widespread perception doesn't match reality.
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[T]he short answer is that there's simply no evidence that state pensions are the current burden to public finances that their critics claim.
Pension contributions from state and local employers aren't blowing up budgets. They amount to just 2.9 percent of state spending, on average, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the figure a bit higher at 3.8 percent.
Though there's no direct comparison, state and local pension contributions approximate the burden shouldered by private companies. The nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute estimates that retirement funding for private employers amounts to about 3.5 percent of employee compensation.
Nor are state and local government pension funds broke. They're underfunded, in large measure because — like the investments held in 401(k) plans by American private-sector employees — they sunk along with the entire stock market during the Great Recession of 2007-2009. And like 401(k) plans, the investments made by public-sector pension plans are increasingly on firmer footing as the rising tide on Wall Street lifts all boats.
Boston College researchers project that if the assets in state and local pension plans were frozen tomorrow and there was no more growth in investment returns, there'd still be enough money in most state plans to pay benefits for years to come.
"On average, with the assets on hand today, plans are able to pay annual benefits at their current level for another 13 years. This assumes, pessimistically, that plans make no future pension contributions and there is no growth in assets," said Jean-Pierre Aubry, a researcher specializing in state and local pensions for the nonpartisan Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
In 2006, when the economy was humming before the financial crisis began, the value of assets in state and local pension funds covered promised benefits for a period of just over 19 years.
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"On the whole, the pension system isn't bankrupting every state in the country," Aubry said.
Please take note that the above-referenced studies are from nonpartisan research institutes. Unlike the single source cited by the author of this editorial opinion: University of Arkansas's Robert M. Costrell, Professor of Department of Education Reform and Economics, and the Endowed Chair in Education Accountability at the University of Arkansas:
Professor Costrell has both an academic and policy-making background. His academic career has featured seminal publications on the economic theory of educational standards, income distribution and testing, and teacher pensions, as well as school finance litigation. These have appeared in the American Economic Review, the Journal of Political Economy, and Education Finance and Policy, as well as general interest publications, such as Brookings Papers on Education Policy and Education Next.
As education advisor to Governor Mitt Romney, he helped develop the governor’s comprehensive education reform proposal of 2005, and also led the reforms of the state's district and charter funding formulas. In 2003, Dr. Costrell’s extensive expert testimony in Massachusetts’ school finance case (Hancock v. Driscoll) proved critical to the successful defense of that state's education reform program. He represented the administration on the Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (2001-03) and the Massachusetts School Building Authority (2005-06).
Dr. Costrell has served on the U.S. Department of Education’s Advisory Council on Education Statistics, appointed by Secretary Paige (2001-02) and the National Technical Advisory Council for NCLB (2008-09), appointed by Secretary Spellings.
Dr. Costrell is a consevative economist and policymaker with a very definite partisan conservative view, as is self-evident from his Wall Street Journal opinion referenced in the editorial opinion, Oh, To Be a Teacher in Wisconsin - WSJ.com.
And citing that "liberal rag," the New York Times editorial in an aside? Lame.
The author concludes that "No one wishes to 'blame' hardworking teachers, police and firefighters for their states' budget woes," but then does exactly that in the very next sentence: "But the benefits their union contracts have piled on to the backs of taxpayers most assuredly are part of what's to blame."
The author claims "the Wisconsin law is but one small step toward fixing the problem." Really?
Entirely absent from this opinion is an honest discussion of how this law came into being. The Wisconsin Assembly held a "flash vote" that was open for only a few seconds to permit Republicans to vote on the bill, but denied one-third of the Assembly an opportunity to vote, including most Democrats who were raising objections to a breach of procedure from the floor. This was followed by the coup d'etat in the Wisconsin senate where Republicans violated senate rules and Wisconsin's open-meetings law. Perhaps the author should read the Arizona Republic today. Wis. district attorney files suit vs. union law:
Republican lawmakers violated Wisconsin's open-meetings law when they amended a contentious plan that bars most public employees from collective bargaining, a Madison prosecutor alleged in a lawsuit Wednesday.
Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne's legal challenge is the second from a county official since Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law Friday. Ozanne filed his lawsuit after Democrats in the Wisconsin Assembly alleged Republican leaders didn't give enough public notice that a committee planned to meet to amend the bill.
Ozanne, a Democrat, wants a judge to void the law and issue an emergency order blocking the secretary of state from publishing the law, which would prevent it from taking effect.
Considering this is Sunshine Week, one would think this editor would be concerned about the violation of Wisconsin's open-meetings law in the interest of transparency in government. I recall that the Arizona Republic has editorialed on several occasions about violations of open-meetings laws. Why not now?
But the author's intellectually dishonest diatribe did not end there. Oh no. The author devolved into a philosophical discussion of the rights of man and civil rights for workers -- you have none according to this author. Worker's civil rights are mere "hyperbole":
In fact, public unions and their advocates most certainly may lose political power as a result of the Wisconsin law. And unionized public employees may face a future that promises less lucrative benefits. But their fate most certainly is not a matter of civil rights, much less an epochal violation of such rights.
A civil right is a right all citizens enjoy. Only a small fraction of U.S. workers are represented collectively when bargaining for pay and benefits. Only about 26 of the 50 states permit collective bargaining for most of their state and local employees, while 22 states, including Arizona, have right-to-work laws that forbid requiring workers to join unions.
Perhaps this anti-union conservative needs a refresher course from "Saint" Ronnie Reagan, whom I assume the author worships. Ronald Reagan: one of the most elemental human rights is the right to belong to a free trade union:
Reagan was the only president in American history to have belonged to a union, the AFL-CIO affiliated Screen Actors Guild. And he even served six terms as president of the organized labor group. Additionally, Reagan was a staunch advocate for the collective bargaining rights of one of the world’s most famous and most influential trade unions, Poland’s Solidarity movement.
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During his Christmas address to the nation on December 23, 1981, President Reagan condemned the Soviet-backed Polish crackdowns on labor unions, promoting the “basic right of free trade unions and to strike”:
REAGAN: The Polish government has trampled underfoot to the UN Charter and Helsinki accords. It has even broken the Gdańsk Agreement of 1980 by which the Polish government recognized the basic right of free trade unions and to strike.
In a radio address given the following October, the former president escalated his rhetoric. Reagan condemned the Polish government’s outlawing of Solidarity, and attacked it for making it “clear they never had any intention of restoring one of the most elemental human rights — the right to belong to a free trade union”:
REAGAN: Ever since martial law was brutally imposed last December, Polish authorities have been assuring the world that they’re interested in a genuine reconciliation with the Polish people. But the Polish regime’s action yesterday reveals the hollowness of its promises. By outlawing Solidarity, a free trade organization to which an overwhelming majority of Polish workers and farmers belong, they have made it clear that they never had any intention of restoring one of the most elemental human rights—the right to belong to a free trade union.
The fact that American conservatives have long sought to deny this "elemental human right - the right to belong to a free trade union" to workers in America does not mean the right does not exist. It simply means that conservatives are dismissive of the rights of their fellow man and would deny them their rights. That speaks volumes about the author.
P.S. The editor also does not mention in this opinion the fundamental legal rights of contract law, nor the fiduciary obligations of trustees to manage a pension fund for the benefit of the beneficiaries. All Americans possess legal rights to sue for breach of contract, impairment of contract rights, and breach of fiduciary duties. This editor appears to be of the opinion that union contracts are somehow special, that the state is free to breach contracts, impair contract rights, and breach fiduciary duties by executive fiat. This editor would deny fundamental legal rights to Americans simply because they belong to a union. That also speaks volumes about the author.
UPDATE: Bonus video, h/t T Jarrell:
Ronald Reagan: "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost."