Defending the Public Scapegoat

America’s conservatives have been going on lately about public workers. We need to cut the government workforce. We need to reduce their incomes. We need to gut their too-generous benefits packages. All of this as part of the necessary austerity measures that will balance federal and state budgets, and lead to prosperity for all.

This seems to be scapegoating more than anything else. Put aside that this won’t come close to balancing anyone’s budgets—the dollars involved are miniscule. Put aside a possible ploy to make government work less attractive, so we get less-skilled people filling these roles—the Right seems dedicated to proving government doesn’t work, by breaking it. But let us put all of that aside.

The suggestion that we should underpay our public workforce, give them substandard benefits, and then reduce the number of people we ask to do these difficult jobs, is not merely a stunningly bad idea. Not only will it have little appreciable affect on any state or federal budgets, other than throwing perhaps hundreds of thousands of people out of work, thus stressing our safety net even more. Not only will it make public services less efficient (picture disgruntled police, firefighters, air traffic controllers—is that what America really needs?). Worse than this—the arguments supporting this idea are fundamentally dishonest.

Robert Reich

In a recent opinion piece, one of America’s foremost political economists, Robert Reich, addresses this Right Wing argument for cutting the pay and benefits of public workers. In brief:

  • The Right likes to argue that government workers are overpaid. They’re not. Workers in the private sector, with comparable education, generally earn more than public workers.
  • The Right complains about “excessive” public worker pensions. In truth, Reich argues, there’s nothing “excessive” about them. As Reich puts it, “After a career with annual pay averaging less than $45,000, the typical newly retired public employee receives a pension of $19,000 a year. Few would call that overly generous.” And most of that comes from the government workers themselves, who contribute to their own pension fund.
  • The Right claims that public worker unions are bankrupting state budgets. In point of fact, there is no particular relationship between states that have budget problems right now, and states that have powerful public worker unions. Reich lists states with strong unions that are doing well, and ones without that have severe budget problems.
  • The Right likes to tell us that public workers should tighten their belts in hard economic times, just like everyone else. They’re correct about this. That’s why pay for federal workers (and many state workers) has been frozen. Public workers are sacrificing, and it is dishonest to claim they’re not.

The reality is probably more nuanced than either side admits. For example, government workers have often traded an increase in pay for more job security or better benefits. Unions often do this, too. And the benefits of public workers are better, in some respects, than for many workers in the private sector. For example, I’m old enough to have a pension, even though I’ve never worked as a public employee. Ever fewer American private-sector workers can say that.

Still, if Reich is right, there is a legitimate question to ask. Why should conservatives argue for a “solution” that solves nothing, and whose premise is easily proven to be false?

My opinion: Because this isn’t about public employees. It’s about a larger social objective.

Public workers earn more than the average American worker, because they are better educated. American business interests want to lower labor costs in general. Lowering pay in the public sector gives employers leverage over workers in the private sector, because it reduces the options of employees. This is particularly true for educated employees. If the value of an education is lowered, then fewer people will seek an education.

Reich points out that public pensions really cannot be called “excessive.” But perhaps the real objection to public pensions isn’t the size of the pensions. It is the mere existence of the pensions. In an era when employers want to cut employee benefits, they want to make pensions look like something American workers shouldn’t have at all. Any pension will be labeled “excessive,” so this benefit—which used to be an expected standard—can be eliminated entirely.

The complaint about public worker unions isn’t about state or federal budgets. Public unions do not appear to harm public budgets to any significant degree. No, the complaint is about collective bargaining. Employers don’t like allowing employees to have a say in the conditions of their employment. It’s really about condemning the very notion of unions.

And the suggestion that Federal workers should “tighten their belts” is a generalized attack on the American worker. We all should agree to lower pay, reduced benefits, fewer safety regulations.

This whole anti-public-worker gimmick is really about distracting Americans from our actual problems, and from remedies that might truly address them. It’s about scapegoating public workers, which plays into the “government is bad” Tea Party meme, while hiding the real villains here, people like the billionaire Koch brothers who are funding the Tea Party. It’s about disempowering workers in general, and the middle class in particular, to keep America’s wealth flowing upward to the richest few percent.

It’s merely another example of the divide-and-conquer class warfare strategy of the far Right. It’s time they get called out on it.

About dcpetterson

D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of Rune Song and of the novels Still Life and A Melancholy Humour. He lives with his wife, a dog, a cat, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun.
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118 Responses to Defending the Public Scapegoat

  1. Bart DePalma says:

    Reich has always been a master at qualified misdirection. Reich provides no authority for his claims, but let us assume they are true and read closely what he writes:

    The Right likes to argue that government workers are overpaid. They’re not. Workers in the private sector, with comparable education, generally earn more than public workers.

    Reich is not comparing the same jobs, but rather the workers’ credentialing. A college graduate taking a clerk’s job does not justify higher pay.

    More importantly, Reich is not talking about the total compensation package, but rather just the pay. Government compensation package is weighted towards benefits.

    The Right complains about “excessive” public worker pensions. In truth, Reich argues, there’s nothing “excessive” about them. As Reich puts it, “After a career with annual pay averaging less than $45,000, the typical newly retired public employee receives a pension of $19,000 a year. Few would call that overly generous.” And most of that comes from the government workers themselves, who contribute to their own pension fund.

    Where does this mythical public employee work? Certainly not in the federal government or any of the Blue states like CA, IL or NY in overspending hell.

    The Right claims that public worker unions are bankrupting state budgets. In point of fact, there is no particular relationship between states that have budget problems right now, and states that have powerful public worker unions. Reich lists states with strong unions that are doing well, and ones without that have severe budget problems.

    Note the deft shift away from compensation to unions.

    Public unions per se are not the cause of the problem. The problem is hiring too many government workers at compensation packages larger than that paid by the private sector.

    Union contribution to this problem comes from using their dues to elect Dem legislatures who will repay the kindness with richer compensation packages, or in the cases where public employee unions are allowed to strike. Without Dem legislatures to overcompensate public employees, however, this cycle breaks down. This is why overcompensation problems are concentrated primarily in Blue states and more recently in the federal government under the Dem Congress.

  2. Mule Rider says:

    This entire article was garbage and was nothing but baseless assertions built on empty platitudes.

    It doesn’t dignify a response until the author does a better job of delivering a fact-based analysis.

  3. shortchain says:

    So far we have two comments that have nothing but ad hominem attacks. For example,

    “Reich has always been a master at qualified misdirection.”

    Let me offer a counter ad hominem: if these two commenters dislike it, it probably contains a great deal of truth and reality.

    Bart: “Reich is not comparing the same jobs,”

    This was discussed here in the past, and I commented here, where Bart surely read it. He erroneously suggests that the people with college degrees are “clerks” — and so deserve no pay commensurate with their education. This is false. You can go check it out for yourself, if you search for a description of all categories of government jobs, and how they have changed over the years. The short answer is that lower-level jobs have been largely outsourced, leaving management, contract tracking, etc, in government. Those jobs are, relatively, higher paid jobs.

    And here, where Bart says: “Where does this mythical public employee work? Certainly not in the federal government or any of the Blue states like CA, IL or NY in overspending hell.”

    He has no evidence except his fevered imagination for asserting this. I know many government employees, including in these states. To my certain knowledge, they don’t make this kind of money. Perhaps he can produce evidence, but I suspect it will be the usual sort of anecdotal BS that convinces him of generalities.

    Then Bart says: “Note the deft shift away from compensation to unions.”

    He then claims that the problem isn’t unions. No, it’s unions who support Democratic party candidates, who then give money to the unions. In other words, it’s unions, not unions.

    Of course, since Reich was speaking of the obvious and very prominent effort on the part of the right wing to demonize SEIU and other public unions, this wasn’t a “shift” away from anything but pointing out the emptiness, both intellectually and morally, of such attacks.

  4. shortchain says:

    Sorry, “this kind of money” should be “the kind of money Bart suggests”, in relation to government compensation.

  5. Mule Rider says:

    “So far we have two comments that have nothing but ad hominem attacks.”

    And I reiterate that we have a very content-free post that masquerades as “fact-based” analysis when it’s nothing more than dc regurgitating a few talking points from Robert Reich (with no citations or other verifications of the veracity of those claims) surrounded by his own opinions and empty platitudes projecting a mindset onto conservatives with one broad stroke that he simply cannot prove.

    Sorry, this post fails miserably on numerous counts. Michael Weiss regularly posts articles that I would score a 7, 8, or 9 out of 10 for content and substance. I’d grade this no higher than a 2.

  6. Mule Rider says:

    Question for the group:

    Has anyone here actually worked for the federal government?

    I did for nearly 3 years. And, boy, the stories I can tell.

    Rampant waste, numerous employees receiving bloated salaries making far more than they deserve or could earn in the private sector, and many people with jobs that shouldn’t even have them.

  7. shortchain says:

    MR,

    I have worked for the federal government on a few occasions and for a long stint I worked as a contract researcher for the DoD with a GoCo.

    I’ve also worked for decades as a college professor and as a researcher for private industry.

    Based on my experience, “Rampant waste, numerous employees receiving bloated salaries making far more than they deserve” runs across the gamut of all types of organizations, public and private.

    As every manager knows, if you have an organization where more than 30 percent is pulling their weight, you are lucky. My experience with the government is that the ratio is about the same.

  8. Bart DePalma says:

    BD: “Reich is not comparing the same jobs, but rather the workers’ credentialing. A college graduate taking a clerk’s job does not justify higher pay.”

    SC: He erroneously suggests that the people with college degrees are “clerks” — and so deserve no pay commensurate with their education. This is false.

    Workers in the non-unionized private sector are paid by work performance, not by the credentials they hold or for merely warming a seat in a job.

    It is rather common for college graduates to initially take jobs below their credentialing and then work their way up. My MBA credentialed wife worked as an administrative assistant and then gained progressively more demanding positions.

    The vast majority of the jobs in the bureaucracy are glorified clerks. Who do you think administers our government behemoth from DMV to licenses to taxes? You do not require a college education to perform the vast majority of ministerial tasks.

    BD: “Where does this mythical public employee work? Certainly not in the federal government or any of the Blue states like CA, IL or NY in overspending hell.”

    SC: He has no evidence except his fevered imagination for asserting this.

    Here are the averages for the Feds, state & local and private employees:

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/income/2010-08-10-1Afedpay10_ST_N.htm

    The CA, NY or IL public employees almost certainly receive more than the state and local average, which already outstrips private pay. Federal pay is utterly insane.

  9. Bartbuster says:

    Mule Rider, why do you hate our military?

  10. drfunguy says:

    @MR
    I worked for the Federal Government for ten years.
    Compensation was definitely below comparable private sector jobs but, if you got permanent status, job security was better. That is a big if and I frequently saw abuse of hiring regs in order to keep people in temporary positions. As a supervisor I was definitely frustrated by how difficult it was to discipline employees; on the other hand there were other supervisors from whom employees needed protection (“I am going to make a project of [harassing] them [until they quit]“; actual quote).

  11. drfunguy says:

    “Reich is not comparing the same jobs, …”
    And neither does the USAToday link.

  12. Bartbuster says:

    It’s funny how federal employees are lazy and overpaid right up until the moment they join the US military. Then they become some of the finest people ever to walk the planet.

  13. shortchain says:

    Bart says “Workers in the non-unionized private sector are paid by work performance, not by the credentials they hold”

    — Absolutely, which is why we see so many people as lawyers, doctors, scientists, etc, etc, etc, who have not matriculated from the appropriate schools.

    This reminds me: did anybody else read the recent report that pointed out that, if you want to be a CEO of a major corporation, you had better have an MBA from one of four schools?

    Bart also apparently believes his wife’s experience qualifies as data that trumps all other statistics. Then he gives us: “The vast majority of the jobs in the bureaucracy are glorified clerks.”

    In other words, with no other data than the voices in his head he is prepared to authoritatively denigrate hundreds of thousands of workers. There’s a term for someone who believes, as a matter of faith, that a whole class of people are sub-par. Oh, that’s right: bigot. Which is what Bart is. By his own words he is condemned.

    The last time he introduced the USA Today study is when I produced the evidence that the study did not consider the difference in workforce. Which, as he knows, destroys his argument.

    But he still repeats his argument. Classic Bart.

  14. Number Seven says:

    So when we want the wealthy to pay higher taxes, that is punishment, but lowering the pay of public service workers is just fine?

    Why do people on the right want to punish the average joe sixpack because he was able, through a Union, to negotiate a living wage?

    If anything, this should be a call for the average worker for unionization.

  15. Number Seven says:

    Question for the group:

    Has anyone here actually worked for the private sector?

    I did for nearly 18 years. And, boy, the stories I can tell.

    Rampant waste, numerous employees receiving bloated salaries making far more than they deserve or could earn under federal employment, and many people with jobs that shouldn’t even have them.

    I fixed it for you, Mule.

  16. Mule Rider says:

    “As every manager knows, if you have an organization where more than 30 percent is pulling their weight, you are lucky.”

    That might fly at some companies but not here (at my current job). There’s no way we could afford to have that much dead weight. We might be an exception, but I feel at least 90-95 percent of our company is pulling their weight. Simply too much has to be done and at a high quality for incompetent people to get by.

    “My experience with the government is that the ratio is about the same.”

    Sorry, but we”ve had different experiences. There are definitely some qualified and talented people in government, but incompetence/apathy is far more pervasive, in my opinion. I felt like maybe 50-60 percent of my fellow gov’t employees were “pulling their weight.”

    “Mule Rider, why do you hate our military?”

    First of all, I don’t. And, second of all, I have no idea how you would interpret that based on anything I said above or in any other post.

    Have you stopped beating your wife?

  17. Mule Rider says:

    “It’s funny how federal employees are lazy and overpaid right up until the moment they join the US military. Then they become some of the finest people ever to walk the planet.”

    You won’t find me engaging in that cognitive dissonance. I fully recognize there is waste, bloat, incompetence, etc. in our US military, just as it is in the civilian workforce. And that’s why I’m as much a proponent as anybody of cutting defense spending.

    I will say, though, that it’s easier for people to be more sympathetic towards someone who’s willing to put their life on the line to defend the country versus someone sitting at a cubicle in front of a computer somewhere. Just sayin’.

    “I fixed it for you, Mule.”

    Nah, just two different experiences from two different people.

  18. Bartbuster says:

    I have no idea how you would interpret that based on anything I said above or in any other post.

    Members of the military are federal employees, Mule. And you don’t appear to have a lot of respect for federal employees.

  19. shiloh says:

    Indeed #7 as personal anecdotes are always an outstanding debate tactic lol as I too have worked both sides of the fence ie USN and JTPA for the govt. ~ and acct./manufacturing in the real world so to speak.

    Of course nowadays, if you haven’t noticed $$$ is tight in both ie many state/city govts. are deficit spending soooo if you aren’t efficient/effective you’re toast, unless of course you’re a friend/relative of the boss.

    And small businesses are struggling to survive in the cheney/bush economy created 2001/2009 so again, work efficiency is a must as they try to balance the ledger.

    but, but, but Wall St. bankers and stockbrokers, corporate lobbyists and health care industry CEO’s etc. are doing quite nicely thank you very much ~ go figure!

    >

    Again, no charge for my keen grasp of the obvious and as a useful debating tool :-P if one is gonna use a personal anecdote in a debate setting, it would behoove one to start w/As an aside as anecdotes are pretty much useless in trying to win a debate.

    >

    As an aside, I got out of the Navy June 1988 and July 1988 the U.S.S. Vincennes incident occurred as they fired two radar-guided missiles and shot down an Iran Air Airbus A300 civilian airliner over the Strait of Hormuz, killing all 290 passengers on board.

    Oops! as I told my mom at the time ~ see, I get out of the navy and everything turns to shit!

    btw, Dutch was C-in-C at the time …

    carry on

  20. Rob H. says:

    So who is this “The Right” of which you speak? Does he have a name? Or is it just “The Right”? Is it Mr. Right?

  21. Mule Rider says:

    “Members of the military are federal employees, Mule. And you don’t appear to have a lot of respect for federal employees.”

    First of all, not having a lot of respect for something isn’t the same as “hating” it, which is what you accused me of. Second, it’s not a respect issue. I have a lot of respect for the majority of federal employees. Most are hard-working, competenet, and deserving of their job/salary. I just made an observation that I feel you are more likely to find un-qualified and overpaid employees – as well as other forms of waste – in a government work setting than in the private sector. I can point out where I think something is inefficient and employs too many people unecessarily without being disrespectful.

  22. dcpetterson says:

    Bart said:
    Here are the averages for the Feds, state & local and private employees:

    But Reich already answered this. The stats you linked do not take education into account. And the very article you linked said,

    Public employee unions say the compensation gap reflects the increasingly high level of skill and education required for most federal jobs and the government contracting out lower-paid jobs to the private sector in recent years.

    So you haven’t actually disputed any of the points made about the reasons for the differences in average compensation. You have merely repeated the conservative argument, which has been effectively countered.

    Next deflection?

  23. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    barted: “Workers in the non-unionized private sector are paid by work performance

    THAT explains why we have SO MANY CEO’s getting paid TENS and HUNDREDS of MILLIONS in compensation when their companies performance falls short of market and industry averages. (Bob Nardelli comes to mind right off the bat).

    Maybe that’s not a good example.

  24. dcpetterson says:

    Mule Rider said:
    Sorry, but we”ve had different experiences.

    Which is why these anecdotal stories do not substitute for data. If you can provide hard numbers to prove that public sector workers are lazier, less efficient, less competent, whatever, that might be useful. Otherwise, the accusation is not relevant, and only furnishes an example of the scapegoating of public sector workers that my article spoke about.

  25. shortchain says:

    How does one measure the productivity of the modern government employee, whose work likely consists of contract supervision, review meetings, reading reports, and making decisions on how to assign future contracts?

    That’s what NASA was like after Nixon and Ford got done with it. (I put in some time there, but had no interest in staying, after it became obvious that all the interesting work was being done by contractors.) It remains almost entirely that way today.

    That’s what it was like in the DoD also, when I contracted for them. For them, it was all contract supervision, sitting in meetings, and reading reports. Way too much of that for me as a manager, too — but much worse for them.

    My respect for the people I worked with was significant (with certain exceptions). People who can stand that kind of work — and do it diligently and reliably — year in and year out aren’t found on every street corner.

    On the other hand in private industry the people who were most successful (in my experience) were the ones who sucked up to management the best. But then, I’ve always worked in R&D, often in basic research, and measuring the productivity of us types has always strained the abilities of the bean counters…and perhaps you can’t tell, but I have to admit that sucking up to, or even tolerating, jerks — isn’t one of my skills.

    So anybody who says “productivity of government employees is low” is probably using a questionable definition of productivity in a circumstance where productivity is damned hard to measure.

  26. Mule Rider says:

    “Which is why these anecdotal stories do not substitute for data.”

    Agreed. And neither do baseless assertions (accusing all conservatives of scapegoating federal employees with a broad stroke), empty platitudes (in defending federal employees as being deserving of their job/salary), or regurgitating the talking points of a former Labor Secretary substitute for data. Yet that is what your entire article is built upon. YOU are the one defending federal employees, yet you DO NOT show in the least that there isn’t waste or bloated salaries in government. The burden of proof is on YOU, not me. Look, there’s a reason we – the public – can hold federal employee salaries (and the very existence of their jobs) under more scrutiny than a company in the private sector. I can choose whether or not to do business with XYZ Inc. (assuming it isn’t a monopoly), but I can’t choose not to pay taxes. So, as a taxpayer, I want to make sure my tax dollars are well and properly spent. Is that too much to ask? Again, XYZ Inc. can do their thing for all I care, but I don’t do business with them unless I have to, and if they’re full of waste, fraud, abuse, bloated salaries, incompetence, etc., then they should, in due time, assuming a properly competitive market, be driven out of business by companies that are more efficient and better managed.

    “If you can provide hard numbers to prove that public sector workers are lazier, less efficient, less competent, whatever, that might be useful.”

    Why don’t you provide hard numbers to prove that public sector employees are more motivated, more efficient, more competent, etc. and that might be useful. But you haven’t done that. You’ve defended an entire sector – one we’re FORCED to fund with our taxpayer dollars – without any supportive evidence. Again, I say, if we’re going to be forced to fund these jobs with our tax money, I don’t see why they shouldn’t come under scrutiny from time to time, nor do I see where it’s such a stretch for them to justify the existence of their job or what their pay is by showing how productive, competent, efficient, useful, etc. they are.

    “Otherwise, the accusation is not relevant, and only furnishes an example of the scapegoating of public sector workers that my article spoke about”

    And your defense is irrelevant because it’s not based on facts, just opinions and baseless assertions. I’m not scapegoating anything. I’m asking for a little more scrutiny of our federal employees that we’re FORCED to fund with taxpayer dollars. Is that too much to ask? And is it too much to ask you to provide a little data to justify those jobs and their pay?

    So far you have failed miserably.

  27. Rob H. says:

    THAT explains why we have SO MANY CEO’s getting paid TENS and HUNDREDS of MILLIONS in compensation when their companies performance falls short of market and industry averages. (Bob Nardelli comes to mind right off the bat).

    You can choose not to do business with those companies, but I can’t choose not to pay my taxes.

  28. Rob H. says:

    Also, this whole argument is a straw man. You set up what “the right” says, with no references, not even a name, and then tear it down. In fact Reich’s piece does the same thing.

    The Right likes to argue that government workers are overpaid.
    The Right complains about “excessive” public worker pensions.
    The Right claims that public worker unions are bankrupting state budgets.
    The Right likes to tell us that public workers should tighten their belts in hard economic times, just like everyone else.

    This whole thing is just a big exercise in logical fallacy.

  29. Mule Rider says:

    “You can choose not to do business with those companies, but I can’t choose not to pay my taxes.”

    Exactly! And great minds think alike….:)

    “This whole thing is just a big exercise in logical fallacy.”

    Agreed. And the funny thing is, I’ve heard many people who consider themselves as being part of “The Left” make those same arguments that Reich says come from “The Right.”

  30. dcpetterson says:

    Rob,

    “The Right” has been pretty well represented here. If you want to know who is saying we should cut the salaries and benefits of public employees, please ask Mule and Bart who they have been listening to. They have certainly been making those arguments on this very thread.

    Mule,
    YOU are the one defending federal employees, yet you DO NOT show in the least that there isn’t waste or bloated salaries in government.

    I never claimed there was no waste or bloat. I claimed only that conservatives have not made their case, because the arguments they’ve used are either unproven, or easily countered.

    The burden of proof is on YOU, not me.

    I’m not sure what you’re asking me to prove. Conservatives have been saying we should cut the salaries and benefits of public employees. They have said we should do this because A) public employees are overpaid compared to private sector employees, B) the benefits (particularly pensions) of public sector employees are “excessive,” C) public employee unions are having a bad effect on state and federal budgets, and / or D) it’s just the right thing for public sector employees to “tighten their belts” during an economic downturn. These arguments have all been effectively countered.

    You are now making an additional argument — that public sector employees are less deserving of they pay they get, because they are less efficient than private sector employees. You are free to offer some evidence of this claim.

  31. Brian says:

    This is just more anecdotal evidence, but graduate students largely receive approximately the same stipend ($22-29k/year). The differences are usually due to living expenses and difficulty getting into the program. MIT students, for example, are often considered the poorest of all of us. We’re all paid by the university (unless on a fellowship), so many of us are paid by the state, and thus, state employees. If you were to include the tuition waiver we receive, private graduate students are awarded much more in compensation than public school students.

    I don’t know of any lists or comparisons, so anecdotal evidence is all I have to offer.

    Not saying this is what is happening with grown ups, but for us lowly young folk, this is how it works.

  32. dcpetterson says:

    On the idea of whether we’re FORCED to fund federal employees with taxpayer dollars.

    We’re not. We the People have decided to fund them. We the People can change Our minds in the next election. This is not a dictatorship.

    We are each making arguments to support our differing positions — which is what we’re supposed to do in a free and open society. I am simply asking you to support the argument for cutting the salaries and benefits of public employees. I have provided counters to the arguments that have been offered so far, and asked for some data for some of the claims that have been made in support of those arguments. If you are unable to support your position, then perhaps you should reconsider it.

  33. shortchain says:

    Excuse me, but you may decide not to use any of BP’s oil or other products — but, since oil is a fungible commodity, you are still paying their salaries unless you use no oil or oil products.

    Much of our society is based on fungible products: cars, pretty much all things electronic, and the rest is made with fungible products (try to find something that wasn’t made from petroleum products). The rest, such as financial products, rest on agreements between banks, or credit agencies. Try and get along with the credit agencies and see how far you get. Take a look at your credit card. Oh, I know you’ve got one. And I’d bet it says BankOfAmerica on it. Did you choose to do business with them?

    The idea that we can avoid helping to pay the bloated salaries of CEOs is an idiot’s bliss.

  34. shiloh says:

    Rob H. ~ “You can choose not to do business with those companies, but I can’t choose not to pay my taxes.”

    Totally not true of course, as anyone can choose to not pay their taxes for whatever reason ie protest, etc. and then suffer the legal consequences or not …

    Some may even go to jail ie Wesley Snipes :-P

    >

    Indeed, as America has a long history of citizen protest against the govt. both passive and aggressive!

    carry on

  35. Rob H. says:

    “We’re not. We the People have decided to fund them. We the People can change Our minds in the next election. This is not a dictatorship.”

    This is true and is a fair point. If California wants to pay its public employees a lot more than other states, the people of California can do that, and while I may not like it, I have to admit that the majority of Californians evidently do.

    However, I think it’s been pretty clearly demonstrated that California’s public pension system is in serious danger of going bankrupt, and taking the state with it. What happens then? A lot of people with no pensions? Or is the federal government going to be expected to bail them out? If they are, who voted for that? Nobody. I think the majority of Americans would be resolutely opposed to bailing out a pension system that was fundamentally flawed from the get-go, a system they had nothing to do with creating and never agreed to support if it failed.

  36. Rob H. says:

    Shiloh, you promised me you were going to avoid me.

  37. shiloh says:

    No Rob H. as my exact words were:

    And don’t worry Rob as I will do my best, honest, to avoid you in the future so you can’t use me as a crutch er deflection.

    So again, like Bartles, you have a reading comprehension problem!

    take care

  38. Rob H. says:

    You’re doing it wrong.

  39. shiloh says:

    Rob H. ~ You’re doing it wrong.

    ?!?

    Assuming said post is addressed to me …

  40. shortchain says:

    For RobH, who asks “who is this right” that is demonizing the public employees and public unions:

    Do a google search using “SEIU” and pretty much any conservative commentator you care to list. Or just “SEIU national review”. or “SEIU Michele Bachmann” or: “public employee pension” and Michele Bachmann.

    Apparently, RobhH doesn’t keep up on these things. Representative Bachmann is, after all, the chair of the Teaper caucus in the House of Representatives.

  41. Mule Rider says:

    dc,

    You make one disturbingly hollow comment after another…

    ““The Right” has been pretty well represented here. If you want to know who is saying we should cut the salaries and benefits of public employees, please ask Mule and Bart who they have been listening to. They have certainly been making those arguments on this very thread.”

    So you’ve overheard two of us talk about this? How many voting age people live in the US again? Like 200 million? Small sample xize much? As I said, I’ve heard people from “The Left” making the same arguments that Reich ascribed to “The Right.”

    “These arguments have all been effectively countered.”

    No, unfortunately for you, they haven’t. You’ve offered spin, opinions, and baseless assertions, but little to nothing in the way of facts. And it’s hard to counter anything effectively with such fact-less analysis.

    “You are now making an additional argument — that public sector employees are less deserving of they pay they get, because they are less efficient than private sector employees. You are free to offer some evidence of this claim.”

    You are free to offer evidence that they are more efficient than private sector employees or deserving of what they got. So far, you haven’t.

    “We’re not. We the People have decided to fund them.”

    Okay, I see you want to play the circular logic/sophistry card again and twist this into “the government is really just us.” Well, first of all, I’m not one of “The People” who has decided to fund government employees as much as they are, but my assertion that I STILL have to pay taxes to fund what everyone else wants stands true. I can’t refuse just because I don’t want as many federal employees on the payroll or for them to be paid as much as they are. But accepting your premise that it’s really just “We the People” that decide, then what problem do you have with “We the People” deciding to fund fewer government employees with reduced salaries/benefits? I mean, you’re saying I should just accept it because it’s what “We the People” have decided. So why can’t you decide to accept it when “We the People” decide to do something different for a change?

    “I am simply asking you to support the argument for cutting the salaries and benefits of public employees.”

    And I’m asking you to support an argument for why salaries and benefits for public employees are adequate and should not be cut.

    “I have provided counters to the arguments that have been offered so far,”

    No, you haven’t. You’ve countered nothing. You made the argument but your entire post/premise was content-free.

    “and asked for some data for some of the claims that have been made in support of those arguments.”

    And we’ve asked for some data to back up your claims, and those requests have fallen on deaf ears. You’ve offered nothing substantive. The best you’ve done is say it’s because “We the People” decided to fund gov’t employees and their salaries/benefits but that logic blows up in your face because “We the People” can decide there are too many employees and/or they are being paid too much.

    “If you are unable to support your position, then perhaps you should reconsider it.”

    As miserably as you’re failing to produce a cogent argument to support your position and as badly as I’m eviscerating you, I’d like to think that you would/should reconsider your position, but I’m nowhere naive enought to believe that it will happen.

  42. Rob H. says:

    Yes yes, you and your truther friends are so sophisticated and urbane.

  43. Rob H. says:

    Do a google search using “SEIU” and pretty much any conservative commentator you care to list. Or just “SEIU national review”. or “SEIU Michele Bachmann” or: “public employee pension” and Michele Bachmann.

    Now it’s my job to write the piece?

    Really, to find such a poorly supported straw man on a blog is one thing, but Reich’s piece is an embarrassment. If this is what the left thinks is an intellectual I’m really going to have to revisit my opinion of their intelligence.

  44. shiloh says:

    Dow up 12040.16 +148.23‎ (1.25%‎) today!

    carry on

  45. dcpetterson says:

    Mule:
    And I’m asking you to support an argument for why salaries and benefits for public employees are adequate and should not be cut.

    That wasn’t my premise. I did not claim they should not be cut. There were arguments made as to why the salaries and benefits should be cut. I addressed those arguments, and referenced the data and logic Robert Reich provided. If you wish to offer additional arguments in support of cutting the salary or benefits of public employees, please do. (You have, for example, claimed they are less deserving than are private employees, but have offered no data to back up that assertion.)

    I additionally offered an opinion as to why public employees are being singled out as desirable targets for pay or benefit cuts. You are welcome also to also offer your own opinion on that question.

  46. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    OK, play a little game here.

    Not that I expect Rob or Bart to have any meaningful constructive arguments, just more of the bullshit evasion, deflection and plain old talking point regurgitation.

    Too much outlay for gummint employees? Well since the bulk of those are teachers, let’s cut their pay and retirement and, since we are so goddamn happy with the quality of education, let’s cut THAT budget, say, 20% as well. Then we can really compete with the Indians and Chinese!

    Since the next largest group is law enforcement and firemen, whack THEIR pay and benes! So what? They can go over in THEIR minds if the danger of not coming home after their shift is worth less. If they don’t want to work for less, piss on ‘emm. Let ‘em go out and get something else in the market.

    Bitch some about the lines down at DMV? Screw it! We’ll pay THEM less as well, and don’t give a shit if WE have to stand in line an extra hour!!!

    And fuck those folks down in the Inspection departments. If we cut THEM back and THEY bail, we can ALWAYS trust the builders to meet all the codes. So what if an occasional building collapses or burns to the ground? What are the odds we or our family might be in THAT structure when it does?

    Hey, go for it!!!!!

  47. Mule Rider says:

    “That wasn’t my premise. I did not claim they should not be cut.”

    Then why are you “calling out” those who think they should? Either you think there should be cuts or you don’t. Anyone with any common sense reading your piece would come to the conclusion that you’re against cuts in government employment and their pay.

    “There were arguments made as to why the salaries and benefits should be cut.”

    Yes, an argument set up in the form of a strawman and applied generically to those on “The Right.” Last I checked, it was President Obama – yes, the Democratic President Obama – that was proposing a freeze on federal salaries and wages the next few years and is asking for a review of government agencies to bring about more efficiency. So either Obama is part of “The Right” or the argument and who is making it is much more nuanced than you’re making it out to be.

    “I addressed those arguments,”

    If you want to call it that….

    “and referenced the data”

    which was minimal to non-existent…

    “and logic Robert Reich provided.”

    which has already been torn to shreds.

    “If you wish to offer additional arguments in support of cutting the salary or benefits of public employees, please do. (You have, for example, claimed they are less deserving than are private employees, but have offered no data to back up that assertion.)”

    My data point is $1.3 trillion….or $1.5 trillion….or whatever the g-damn figure is that we’re spending in excess of what we’re taking in….we need to cut government or hike taxes or both. I don’t think a tax hike alone will get even close to accounting for the shortfall, so I believe there should be cuts….and I believe a good “cut” would be to eliminate unecessary/wasteful positions in government or to cut the salaries of positions that are earning far more than they would in the private sector. Is that too much to ask?

    The next data point, which admittedly I don’t have an immediate link to but is common knowledge and is repeated often by you lefties in here, is that real wages in the private sector have been flat or declining for several years now. Government employees have almost, without fail, received a COLA each year, and depending on the job, regular grade (i.e. GS-09 to GS-10) and step (i.e. GS-0901 to GS-0902) increases add to their raise. The step increase comes every 1/2/3 years in most instances and adds a nice little cushion even when fed employees aren’t getting a grade increase. There hasn’t been any regular guaranteed raise in the private sector like that nor has it happened for decades consecutively. Fed salaries have accelerated at a faster rate than comparable private sector salaries, and some balance needs to be restored.

    “I additionally offered an opinion as to why public employees are being singled out as desirable targets for pay or benefit cuts.”

    Glad you admitted some (or most?) of what you spewed was opinion.

    “You are welcome also to also offer your own opinion on that question.”

    I have. And I’ll continue to shoot yours down.

  48. shortchain says:

    RobH.

    Ah, I see. You ask who “this right” is — and then when I show you how to find out, you insist that I must also chew up the information and pre-digest it for you, as you are unable or too busy to do a google search.

    Fine. Newt Gingrich. Here’s an article that discusses it, with links to other articles.

  49. Mule Rider says:

    dc (or anyone else), if you really want to challenge yourself on the topic, please read this:

    http://reason.org/news/show/public-sector-private-sector-salary

    The author appears reasonably fair to both sides of this debate. By the way, that site is considered to be fairly libertarian.

  50. Rob H. says:

    It’s funny, I came here because someone said on another site that you folks wanted “intelligent conservatives” to debate with. Clearly this is not the case. Whenever someone brings up a valid point you get nasty and insulting. This blog post and the supporting Reich opinion piece are pure crap – unadulterated nonsense with no support, easily proven to be nothing but a series of straw man arguments. An intelligent conservative is the last thing you want here. What you want is more liberals to tell you how smart you are and how dumb, ignorant and brainwashed conservatives are.

    Really, most of you are just pathetic.

  51. shiloh says:

    “intelligent conservatives” is the key!

    Rob H. if you know of any, let us know …

    TIA

  52. Bartstalker says:

    Love the new civility.

  53. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Rob H barted: “Whenever someone brings up a valid point you get nasty and insulting.

    No sir, I challenged your citation as to direct evidentiary value, asking if you had a quote from the person talked about by both Gibson and Olbermann that could verify YOUR claim. I then asked if it was possible for you to produce some other example that could be independently verified. (“Sorry if I reject the example you cite. Listening to the entire piece, all that is there is a “he said/he said”. Perhaps if you can get the statement from the MSNBC president that would corroborate Mr Gibson’s position, I would agree to your citation as valid. Until that time, you just have a unsubstantiated allegation from someone with an axe to grind against Olbermann.
    Surely you have better evidence with independent corroboration that you can cite, what with all these errors you believe Olbermann has made..
    “)

    (BTW, the “someone” at the dinner was the president of MSNBC, Olbermann’s boss. Can you not understand that perhaps HE is the one who related the Gibson conversation with Gibson? That Olbermann was giving HIS side of the conversation? That side being counter to Gibson’s relating? This is why I wanted you to provide another example, still waiting, to prove your assertion.)

    YOU, sir, declined to do. And somewhat snottily, if I may say so. (“Wait, you’ve been waiting a couple of hours for me for what? I gave you an example. You may contest the example, but I gave it, so don’t portray it as an example of someone hiding from you.
    In fact I don’t think anything other than Ted Kennedy rising from the grave and proclaiming “I am a McCarthyist!” will satisfy you as proof that the left uses the same tactics as the right, but I’ll give it one final go.
    “)

    Michael apologized to you (“Rob, Oh, right. I should have looked back again. My apologies.“)

    And this AFTER you redefined “McCarthyism” into your OWN definition to fit YOUR preconceived ideological notions.

    Since then you have done practically nothing except bart. (verb: active. to refuse to debate with direct proofs, instead using false and misleading assertions, ideological talking points and diversions.)

    Anytime you wish to debate with direct proofs, we can do so, even if, ultimately have to agree to disagree.

    But the tactics YOU have decided to utilize earn nothing but the slings and arrows of contempt.

  54. Rob H. says:

    “Since then you have done practically nothing except bart. (verb: active. to refuse to debate with direct proofs, instead using false and misleading assertions, ideological talking points and diversions.)”

    What are you talking about? This whole blog post is a “bart”. None of it is supported in any way.

    You don’t see that? You are truly ideologically blinded, and there is no point in painting a picture for someone who will not see.

  55. Rob H. says:

    Anyway, actually this is my fault. I heard “Reasonable Political Discourse”, and I thought maybe that was possible here, but in an unmoderated comments section, it’s just not possible to keep the trolls out. Oh well, the search goes on…

  56. shortchain says:

    MR,

    Thanks for the link. I notice that the author never really says one way or the other, but he keeps raising questions — which he never answers in favor of the public employees. While the author tries to give an appearance of being fair to both sides, take a look at the way he says things. For example his statement: “not all college degrees are equal.” (Repeated a few times.) He then admits he has no information about how college degrees might be different between public and private employees — but he speculates anyway that public employees might be overpaid anyway, because, apparently, they have inferior degrees. (How “libertarian” of him.)

    He then says: “It may be that state and local governments hire more educated people not because job duties demand more education, but rather simply because they can, as they have access to the public’s money and, as such, government budgets are not so constrained as private firms’ budgets.”

    Umm, sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Uber-libertarian, but at one of the private companies I used to work at, the very public attitude of the management was that it cost the same to hire a BS and a PhD, so they hired PhD’s. Please note that an employee costs a lot more than their salary. The only reason to hire the lowest-educated person is if you are going to use them up and spit them out. If you are going to develop an employee over a career, you probably are better off with the highest-educated person you can hire.

    He follows his mistake by simply spouting “what everybody knows” as if that were automatically true. No data to back up his claims. In fact, the only data in the entire piece is one graph, that shows

    Here’s another tidbit a bit farther down: “Even on an hour-for-hour basis, one would expect private sector workers to be more productive due to the lack of competitive forces in government. ” Taking this as gospel, without any data to bolster it, or even quantify it, he then runs with it.

    The entire piece is filled with the likes of these fact-free riffs on what the author thinks “everybody knows”.

    This is not analysis. This is “bias confirmation”, and is not worth the bits used to construct it. Either give us data or don’t pretend that there’s any reason to believe you.

    It may be true that public employees are overcompensated, or get pensions that are too generous. So far I don’t see any reason to believe it. Yet, as we have seen, there are not a few on the right who have every intention of using public employees as a means of gaining political power.

  57. shortchain says:

    (Continued) The only graph in the piece shows that the number of public employees has continued to rise while the private sector employment has crashed. Except that, although they are both graphed on what appear to be the same axes, the private sector and public sector are actually on different scales!

    This is simply deliberately confusing. Not to mention that he seems to want people to think that, when private-sector employment goes down, public-sector employment should also drop. Why? Should we also fire oil company employees when there is a downturn in purchases of electronics?

  58. Bart DePalma says:

    Does anyone here disagree with the following reforms?

    1) Government should compensate its employees at or below the compensation for private employees doing substantially the same work.

    2) Government should abandon defined benefit retirement plans and convert to defined contribution plans as has the private sector,

    3) Government should abandon retiree medical insurance and let them use Medicare like everyone else, and

    4) Government employee unions should not be able to strike or make campaign contributions in cash or in kind for any political party.

  59. Bartstalker says:

    Baghdad, that sounds like a great plan if you want all your fed employees to be criminals and homeless people.

  60. Brian says:

    Bart,

    Regarding your first point, why should government employees be paid less than their private sector counterparts? I understand the equal part, but the “or below” part confuses me. Can you elaborate?

  61. shortchain says:

    Bart,

    Why do we need “or below” if we specify “at”?

    The government has already largely gone to defined contribution plans for new employees — except for Congress. It’s more complicated than a simple A or B, but nobody relying on the pension is going to be rolling in gravy. here’s some more information.

    I don’t think the medical insurance for retirees is all that great either.

    There is already a provision for any government union being unable to strike if it is vital to security.

    So you want to take away the free speech rights of government employees but unlimited speech (AKA political spending) for corporations is hunky dory?

  62. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Specifically as written>

    I disagree. SC and Brian make good points.

    Try again.

  63. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Bart, as one who thinks they know something about the free market, why can’t you understand that ALL employers are in competition for the same labor. Dependant on the market, the location and the job, public employers have to compete, and sometimes outbid, the private employer to get a quality employee.

    Why are you against free market principles with such an inane “reform” as your first?

  64. Mule Rider says:

    “Regarding your first point, why should government employees be paid less than their private sector counterparts? I understand the equal part, but the “or below” part confuses me. Can you elaborate?”

    I’ll take a stab and offer a reason why they should. If gov’t employees get to enjoy the kind of job security that keeps them from getting fired for pretty much everything short of murder and molesting schoolchildren, then I think it’s only a fair tradeoff that they accept a slight discount in wages and benefits.

    Just an opinion, for what it’s worth. Those are still allowed, right?

  65. Mule Rider says:

    “Dependant on the market, the location and the job, public employers have to compete, and sometimes outbid, the private employer to get a quality employee.”

    The problem is, from the conservative/libertarian angle, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, is that the public sector gets to compete with taxpayer dollars and it sometimes appears they are “bidding” on potential employees as if they have a limitless budget with little or no constraints. A private employer has a fixed budget and knows it’s restricted in what it can offer.

  66. shortchain says:

    MR,

    I’ve got no problem with an opinion expressed as such — and your opinion is welcome in my book. Expressed as fact, not as much.

    Why not require a reformation of civil service to make it easier to fire an incompetent or seriously under-performing employee? (Of course, that was done several years ago.)

    There are procedure problems with the requirement that government employees be compensated at or under the going rate:
    a) how will that be determined?
    b) suppose the average wage for a job goes down, as has happened recently. Should a government employee’s salary be reduced to match? (The average wage for a job can go down significantly more than any individual’s salary because people leave and are replaced by lower-paying new hires, so you would be lowering public employee’s pay beyond what any private employee would suffer. Is that really fair?)

  67. Bartbuster says:

    Mule Rider, is that why public defenders make big money compared to lawyers working for law firms?

  68. dcpetterson says:

    One of the arguments in favor of huge compensation packages for corporate officers is that corporations want to attract the best people. They need to pay their top management a lot of money, so the best people will come to work for them.

    Do we really want to have anyone but the best working in the public sector? Why should we settle for second-best? Why should we put our most vital services in the hands of anyone other than the best we can get? And if we want the best, don’t we need to pay for them? How can anyone object to attracting the most capable people into public service?

    Public employees are already paid less than private-sector counterparts with comparable education. Why do we want to further punish people for being patriotic enough to devote their lives in service to our country?

    In answer to one point raised above — California does not have a problem with public employee pensions. It has a problem with revenue. California has been starving its public sector for years, refusing to pay for the services that its people wanted. If it had had a sane tax policy for the last couple of decades, it’d be in a lot better shape now. You could point to any item in the California budget — if you cut that item, California’s deficit shrinks. The only reason to single out public employee pensions is if you don’t want people to have pensions.

    As for the question of public sector employee having gotten cost of living increases, whereas the income of the public sector has been flat for a decade — this is not an argument for punishing our dedicated public servants because they made good choices. It is, rather, an argument for doing something other than the supply-side policies that crippled our economy and prevented the rest of us from improving our lot.

  69. dcpetterson says:

    Rob H, I’m not sure what your point is about “the Right.” Are you trying to say that conservatives, as a rule, do not advocate reducing public employee salaries or benefits, or the number of public employees in general?

  70. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Mule Rider,

    Your opinion is quite valuable. We appreciate that you voice it and would never deny you that right. At the same time, you must have the same courtesy for other’s opinions.

    We can disagree and argue in favor of one or reasonably attack another, as long as in the end we can agree to disagree.

    The time a problem arises is when someone attempts to substitute their opinion as an incontrovertible fact. That’s when the trouble begins.

  71. drfunguy says:

    @MR
    “the public sector gets to compete with taxpayer dollars and it sometimes appears they are “bidding” on potential employees as if they have a limitless budget with little or no constraints.”
    I don’t know what kind of position you had with the feds but I was a program manager (in three different agencies) and worked on the management team for a 100+ employee unit. I _never_ felt like I had a limitless budget, in fact it was always shrinking due to increased overhead. We always hired at the lowest grade we could justify, and in many disciplines believed we couldn’t compete with the private sector. So I don’t buy your argument, based on my personal experience in managing budgets (up to a couple million a year) and hiring (and supervising) personnel, up to the GS-13 level, in the US govt.

  72. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    dc,

    It’s because Bart is anti-free market when it comes to hiring and retaining employees.

  73. drfunguy says:

    Re. an earlier comment about ‘defined benefit retirement plans’ I don’t think those have existed, outside of congress and maybe law enforcement, since ca. 1983. Anyone raising that as an issue is completely uninformed.

  74. dcpetterson says:

    Mule,
    I believe a good “cut” would be to eliminate unecessary/wasteful positions in government or to cut the salaries of positions that are earning far more than they would in the private sector.

    Out of curiosity, do you have any suggestions for determining which positions are unnecessary or wasteful? Do you have any method of clarifying what someone would earn in the private sector as contrasted with the public sector? Do you have any estimates for how much money this would save? (Please be sure to figure in the costs of unemployment compensation for those whose jobs you’ve eliminated, also retraining costs to find them new jobs. Also lost tax revenue and reduced economic activity from the people whose salaries you’ve cut.) Also please provide a description of the services that will no longer be provided, and the economic and humanitarian costs of that.

    If you don’t have any such estimates, why do you feel your suggestion is worthwhile? How do you know it would make a net positive difference, short term or long term, to our society and our nation?

  75. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Mule Rider said: “The problem is, from the conservative/libertarian angle, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, is that the public sector gets to compete with taxpayer dollars and it sometimes appears they are “bidding” on potential employees as if they have a limitless budget with little or no constraints. A private employer has a fixed budget and knows it’s restricted in what it can offer.

    1)If you think for ONE MILLISECOND that government agencies DON’T have budgets to which they MUST adhere, you are SADLY misinformed.

    2) From a conservative/libertarian viewpoint what is the issue with the free market just because we are talking about public vs private sectors? Should a state government tell a general contractor that they will only pay 80% of the GC’s bid on a construction project simply because it is a state government building? Do you or do you not believe in free markets? Do you or do you not want the best possible employee in a particular position, if for no other reason than efficiency? How much more do you want to financially strangle corrections officers? Police? Your daughter’s 5th grade teacher?

    That’s the path you are traveling.

  76. Bart DePalma says:

    Folks are posing excellent questions…

    Brian says: Regarding your first point, why should government employees be paid less than their private sector counterparts?

    In cases where the government position creates less economic value than a similar position in the private sector. This is a judgment call for legislators and not a vital component of the reform.

    If you want to accept a reform where government employees are compensated the same, but not less or more than comparable private employees, this would still be an improvement over the status quo.

    Max: Bart, as one who thinks they know something about the free market, why can’t you understand that ALL employers are in competition for the same labor. Dependant on the market, the location and the job, public employers have to compete, and sometimes outbid, the private employer to get a quality employee.

    Why would we want the government to tax business to deny the business the best workers?

    Why are you against free market principles with such an inane “reform” as your first?

    In a free economy, one business may not tax its competitor to raise money for the purpose of outbidding the taxed business for the best employees. Why should the government?

    dcpetterson says: Do we really want to have anyone but the best working in the public sector?

    Yes.

    An efficient economy compensates workers based upon their productivity. This provides an incentive for the best workers to go where they can be the most productive.

    Governments do not produce wealth. At best, the government enables the private economy to be more efficient so that its additional wealth creation exceeds the cost of the government program. Basic public safety, legal and infrastructure programs fall under this category. Everything else falls on a slippery slope of falling ROIs to negative impacts on the economy.

    On average, then, we want the private economy to attract the best workers where they can be the most productive.

    drfunguy says: Re. an earlier comment about ‘defined benefit retirement plans’ I don’t think those have existed, outside of congress and maybe law enforcement, since ca. 1983. Anyone raising that as an issue is completely uninformed.

    We are dealing with just this issue in CO.

  77. dcpetterson says:

    @Bart
    On average, then, we want the private economy to attract the best workers where they can be the most productive.

    I understand that you want less-effective people working in the public sector, so you can continue to claim that the public sector is less effective. Personally, since I’m paying their salary, I want to hire the best people I can get. Especially when we’re talking about teachers and police and air traffic controllers … and, in fact, every other public position I can think of.

    I don’t want someone incompetent to be delivering my mail — or even making me wait to get my driver’s license renewed. Why should we want the people who can’t get hired anywhere else to do these jobs? Is it just to make certain the public remains pissed off?

    Your meme that “government produces no wealth” has been debunked many times, so I won’t bother to do so again. Not worth rehashing that bit of nonsense. But I will point out “production of wealth” is not the only reason to hire someone into public service. Making sure we don’t get attacked by terrorists is a better reason. Or insuring that our food is wholesome. Or insuring that the banks aren’t ripping you off. Or hell, even fighting in foreign wars. In all these cases, I’d rather have the best we can get.

    So I reject your underlying premise about “wealth creation” being the only consideration in this matter. Thus, I find your argument unconvincing. I still don’t want to waste my tax money on paying anyone other than the best I can get.

  78. shortchain says:

    According to Bart we should pay judges nothing. (There are no judges in the private sector, hence they must be worthless.)

    We should pay meat inspectors, game wardens, and park rangers nothing (again, no private sector equivalents, hence no pay.)

    The rest of Bart’s comment is insane right-wing blather. The only way to make sense of it is to accept as received knowledge that all government is bad. Therefore, hiring the cheapest incompetent is the “best” thing to do. Yeah, that’ll be a good idea in picking your nuclear inspectors.

  79. Bartbuster says:

    Governments do not produce wealth

    Neither do lawyers. I assume you won’t mind if we pass a few laws to limit your pay?

  80. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Bart’s reply is demonstrative of an intentionally ignorant or simply stupid person. The latter cannot be helped. The former is so ideologically blind as to be beyond help.

    Bart, I am STILL waiting of a confirmed quote by any of the developers of the Park51 community center that state the center will “celebrate 9/11″.

    We know it is planned to have a memorial to the victims, Christians, Jews and Muslims. But we want your proof of this “celebration”.

  81. drfunguy says:

    Barted: drfunguy says: Re. an earlier comment about ‘defined benefit retirement plans’ I don’t think those have existed, outside of congress and maybe law enforcement, since ca. 1983. Anyone raising that as an issue is completely uninformed.
    We are dealing with just this issue in CO

    Perhaps I was mistaken, I thought we were talking about the federal government.
    To be precise, anyone raising the issue of ‘defined benefit retirement plans’ (which you have done previously Bart) for non-congress-critter (and maybe a very few other exceptional) federal employees is completely uninformed.

    BTW regarding your fourth idiot proposal:4) Government employee unions should not be able to strike or make campaign contributions in cash or in kind for any political party.
    What happened to the First Amendment?

  82. Number Seven says:

    Stay tuned, same bart channel, same bart time…

    He will repeat the same talking points, WAM, BAM, POW.

    Que the Batman theme song……

  83. GROG says:

    Max said: Bart, I am STILL waiting of a confirmed quote by any of the developers of the Park51 community center that state the center will “celebrate 9/11″.

    Max, I am STILL waiting for you to find ANYONE on the entire internet who thinks Bush’s average budget deficit was $763 billion. Surely you can find someone who shares your claim.

  84. shortchain says:

    GROG,

    I agree with Max. Now, will you give us your opinion about whether public employees are being made scapegoats??

  85. Bart DePalma says:

    Oh well, so much for the intelligent conversation. Hope springs eternal…

  86. shortchain says:

    Bart,

    For intelligent conversation, both parties have to be at least minimally informed about the current state of affairs. Since you obviously have no idea what current federal retirement and current federal pay actually really breaks down, you aren’t capable of intelligent conversation on the topic.

  87. Bartbuster says:

    Blankshot, how low do you think we should set the pay for lawyers, given that they don’t produce any wealth? I figure you are probably worth as much as the greeter at Walmart. Does anyone know how much they make?

  88. NotImpressed says:

    GROG, was there something wrong with Max’s math? It looked right to me.

  89. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Opportunity just keeps on knocking, Bart. Take off those earpods, at least turn the volumn down, and answer the door.

    GROG, in a poker game, simply laying down your cards face-up and saying nothing is permitted, as the cards speak for themselves. In the case of Bush created Debt, the numbers spoke, not me. I simply laid down the cards. And with shiloh’s comment, you got your wish.

    Now move on, or go back to that thread and post a proof in rebuttal that is consistent with your earlier statements, or else simply STFU. I remain,

    your humble servant, sir.

  90. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Oops! earpods = earbuds

    Sorry.

    GROG, with NotImpressed’s comment, your wish has been doubled. See comment above.

  91. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    errata #2 I said shiloh, I meant shortchain. shiloh had agreed during the thread. Guess that makes 3.

    Lesson: GROG, shiloh and I disagree on the “cause” of the War between the States. We have gone back and forth, once for an entire day. We each put forth our arguments and NEVER got snarky with one another. We can agree to disagree because we each can see that the other can look at the same thing and see it a bit differently. We can then have honest and passionate beliefs in our positions, but still be friends at the end.

    Learn something from that.

    (Although we agree to disagree, that STILL don’t make the damn yankee correct. While I am persistent, he is obstinate. [not to mention fatter and uglier than I]))

  92. meridian630 says:

    “ll take a stab and offer a reason why they should. If gov’t employees get to enjoy the kind of job security that keeps them from getting fired for pretty much everything short of murder and molesting schoolchildren, then I think it’s only a fair tradeoff that they accept a slight discount in wages and benefits.”

    This comment is so breathtakingly stupid that I could not refrain from commenting. I have worked for the federal government for 13 years. The DOJ and US District Court to be exact. I have personally observed, in that amount of time, approximately 20 people either being fired or forced to resign for a multitude of reasons. The most common; abusing sick leave, constant tardiness, and general ineptitude. All of these things which would also get you fired in the so-called private sector. (Exception, the general ineptitude is a prerequisite for promotion if you run a Wall Street bank or financial firm.)

    Furthermore, I have seen people fired for things that probably would NOT cost you your job in the private sector; minor arrests (DUI) and what the agency deems undesirable associations (people that you may spend time with outside of work). These are the two most apparent ones I can think of off the top of my head, I am sure there are others.

    “Workers in the non-unionized private sector are paid by work performance, not by the credentials they hold or for merely warming a seat in a job.”

    So are workers in the federal government genius. If you watched anything other than Faux News you would know this. Furthermore, working for the government and being paid with taxpayer $$ prohibits us from receiving any type of financial bonus, ever, for any reason. Instead, as a reward for performance, they give you additional paid vacation time.

    “The vast majority of the jobs in the bureaucracy are glorified clerks. Who do you think administers our government behemoth from DMV to licenses to taxes? You do not require a college education to perform the vast majority of ministerial tasks.”

    Some type of actual factual basis for this please? Don’t bother with anything from Fox, Heritage Foundation, AEI or any other right wing “think”tank.

    I have a Master’s degree and my job constitutes far more responsibilities than that of a “glorified clerk.” I am responsible for the supervision of approx 60 federal inmates being released from the federal prison system, many of whom have arrest records and violent histories dating back in excess of 30 years.

    I can assure you that you would not last one single day at my job. So, instead of sitting at your computer, day and night (because you are always posting on here!) pontificating about how the world should be, from your narrow-minded, ignorant, intolerant perspective fueled undoubtedly by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck (nary a college degree between those three!) why don’t you stick to something you might actually be able to argue about intelligently.

    Whatever that might be….

  93. shiloh says:

    errata #3 Max as “our” argument, if one can call it such was re: the Atlantic slave trade ie was the South proud of their history ~ my rebuttal, yes as they fought the American Civil War over states rights ie slavery.

    The ’cause of said war was not discussed, at least by me. Again, my dad was a Civil War buff/expert, so no need for me to participate in settled history.

    ok, ok, the South is still fighting said war ie sore losers …

    >

    Re: friends/snark ~ politics can be a full contact sport and heavy armour may be required, especially if you are a winger who feels Reps should never lose a presidential election regardless, like Bartles.

    ie Obama’s election was Bart’s worst nightmare, not just a Dem winning, but an African/American ~ Gasp!

    >

    Having discussed all of this previously Dems are just better losers than Reps, myself comin’ of age during Nixon/Humphrey and Nixon/McGovern got used to defeat at an early age as life goes on, but Bartles came of age during Reagan and has the conquer/rule mindset/mentality which has him totally discombobulated when it comes to rational debating as he must apologize/deflect ad nauseam for Dutch/Bush41/cheney/bush daily. So much so he is frequently standing on his head w/his pretzel logic. As always, we feel for him w/our endless progressive empathy!

    Also previously discussed folks said I look like Fred MacMurray/Ronald Reagan lol so if they are considered ugly, c’est la vie, whereas my USN weight hovered around 165/170, nowadays 180 and I’m 6′ tall.

    TMI :-P

    >

    So Max, there ‘ya go again …

    Did I mention Reps/winger trolls/teabaggers are just frickin’ sore losers and act accordingly once they lose ie 24/7 disingenuous sarcasm to go with their usual hate speak, fear mongering, misinformation. And they never deviate from said scenario as it has been successful for them previously in presidential elections. They always need a boogeyman! ie limbo, winger talk radio and fixednoise, beck, billo, hannity ~ be afraid, be very afraid …

    carry on

  94. Mule Rider says:

    “This comment is so breathtakingly stupid that I could not refrain from commenting.”

    No, what’s “breathtakingly stupid” is you substituting anecdotal evidence for facts and trying to draw a conclusion from that. Read the article I linked -http://reason.org/news/show/public-sector-private-sector-salary – and you can find it in several other places, but the turnover ratio for government workers – be it federal, state (and substantially so in a place such as CA that considerably overpays its state employees), local – is far lower than it is in the private sector. This means that people in gov’t are either getting fired far less frequently than their private sector counterparts or that they’re much less willing to transfer out of that job (no doubt because of its cushiness) once they get it. Actually, it’s probably a combination of both. Either way you slice it, it boils down to two words – JOB SECURITY.

    You’re entitled to your own ignorant opinion, but you’re not titled to your own FACTS, and the FACTS say that once people get in a gov’t job, they move from it at a far lower rate than their private sector counterparts, be it from getting fired or of their own volition.

    “I have worked for the federal government for 13 years. The DOJ and US District Court to be exact. I have personally observed, in that amount of time, approximately 20 people either being fired or forced to resign for a multitude of reasons. The most common; abusing sick leave, constant tardiness, and general ineptitude. All of these things which would also get you fired in the so-called private sector. ”

    And here’s the anecdotal evidence, which is worth about two squirrel turds in analyzing the macro picture. But since you went down that route, I can counter with one of my own that says just the opposite. I worked for a federal agency for 3 years that had roughly 1500 employees. I don’t recall ANYONE being terminated the entire time I was there. Yet, in my estimation, at least 25 percent of those employed in that agency didn’t have adequate enough skills to carry out their day-to-day duties (although they weren’t completely worthless) and an additional 10-15 percent were so incompetent I was surprised they could spell their name correctly. They “abused sick leave,” were “constantly tardy,” were most definitely “inept,” and some even had their brushes with the law yet none were fired, and it was rare to see a formal reprimand. Personal experiences aside, you don’t have a counter to the FACT that the turnover rate is far less in a gov’t job than it is in private industry. I repeat, in case you are deaf, that’s JOB SECURITY.

    “(Exception, the general ineptitude is a prerequisite for promotion if you run a Wall Street bank or financial firm.)”

    And now we see your true colors by this unecessary swipe at private industry – and the financial sector, in particular – with a baseless accusation built on conjecture.

    You want me to argue that incompetence and malfeasance doesn’t sometimes get rewarded in the private sector? Well, to be honest, I can’t. But all we can ask is that those people be punished when they break the law, and even when they don’t, their actions be made know to the point that people can stop doing business with them.

    But we can hold directly accountable the federal employees that we are funding with our tax dollars.

  95. dcpetterson says:

    meridian630 , thank you for providing us something of your knowledge and expertise.

    I think we have witnessed precisely the kind of scapegoating my article spoke about. I think the conservative commenters did an admirable job of attempting to demonize public sector workers s an excuse for cutting their wages and benefits — without being able to show any positive benefit from doing so.

    The question I ask is, Why does this demonization occur? What’s the purpose behind making public workers into a despised class? I can’t think of any reasons other than what I proposed: A) as a way of distracting Americans from considering real possible solutions to the issues that face us; and B) as part of the general attempt to discredit effective and necessary governance (mostly as a check on coporatist excesses, including the desire to cut wages and benefits generally for us all).

    Thank you again for your timely and informative comment.

  96. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Yea, yea, yea, shiloh. Actually, I was going back to last year on the old 538. When I had to drag out Lincoln’s 1st inaugural speech, the Emancipation Proclamation, the CSA Constitution, Memminger’s Declaration of the Immediate Causes . . ., etc. to make the case that the Compact Theory and the States Righters of the day were the disease while slavery was a symptom. Mainly to let today’s 10thers know that the matter has been settled so hush your whining As long a slavery is on the front burner, the 10thers will say that THAT was the only thing settled in April 1865. ‘Member that? (Maybe not, what with you so much older than I as well!)

    What with all them yankees moving down to the sunbelt, I’ve just one thing to say:

    “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”

  97. Bart DePalma says:

    BD: “Workers in the non-unionized private sector are paid by work performance, not by the credentials they hold or for merely warming a seat in a job.”

    meridian630 says: So are workers in the federal government genius.

    Outside of the nationalized auto companies and various government owned utilities, government does not produce a good or service for sale in the marketplace. Thus, government workers generally cannot be measured by how well they produce such a good or service. Government employees can only be judged by how well they meet government established goals, not how economically productive they are.

    BD: “The vast majority of the jobs in the bureaucracy are glorified clerks. Who do you think administers our government behemoth from DMV to licenses to taxes? You do not require a college education to perform the vast majority of ministerial tasks.”

    meridian630 says: Some type of actual factual basis for this please? I have a Master’s degree and my job constitutes far more responsibilities than that of a “glorified clerk.” I am responsible for the supervision of approx 60 federal inmates being released from the federal prison system, many of whom have arrest records and violent histories dating back in excess of 30 years.

    OK, you sound like a parole officer, which makes you a clerk and a law enforcement officer. What education in your undergraduate and especially masters work trained you for this position? I have never met a parole or probation officer whose work (as opposed to employer job description) required more than an associate degree in law enforcement and attendance at an appropriate academy.

    Do not take unnecessary offense. We are hitting on one of my pet peeves here – over education and credentialing.

    Let’s take my profession for example. In America, you have to complete undergraduate and legal graduate work over 7 years to become an attorney under government and bar set guidelines. At least half of that education is wasted on unrelated topics. In Germany, an attorney requires an undergraduate education in law, which is more than ample.

    Attorneys, like law enforcement officers, learn most of their craft on the job.

    I can assure you that you would not last one single day at my job.

    And I assure you hero that your job is no more dangerous than my service as infantry in combat. If we are through with the uber-manly pissing contest, let’s get back to the issues at hand.

  98. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    barted: “________”

    Bart, if you can get your index finger out of your nose long enough, we’re STILL waiting for a quote from any of the Park51 developers that say the site will “celebrate 9/11″.

  99. Mule Rider says:

    “meridian630 , thank you for providing us something of your knowledge and expertise. ”

    Funny that his anecdotal evidence is considered “knowledge and expertise” while mine is considered right-wing blather.

    Funny that my articles and links with FACTS on the matter are ignored yet the ignorant and baseless opinions that form the entire premise of this article stand as an “effective counter to conservative scapegoating.”

    You people are hopeless.

  100. Bart DePalma says:

    Max aka Birdpilot says: we’re STILL waiting for a quote from any of the Park51 developers that say the site will “celebrate 9/11″.

    You will have a long time to wait unless wikileaks has something. Such an admission would hardly make the mosque application process or getting construction crews to work on the mosque any easier.

  101. NotImpressed says:

    So, Mr. DePalma. you admit that this “celebrating 9/11″ farce is your own paranoid invention, based only on your desire to hate and to create a right wing talking point out of thin air. Thank you for that admission.

  102. Bartbuster says:

    You will have a long time to wait unless wikileaks has something. Such an admission would hardly make the mosque application process or getting construction crews to work on the mosque any easier.

    Which would seem to indicate that your claims are nothing but wingnut fabrications.

  103. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Bart DePalma says:
    February 2, 2011 at 11:26
    Max aka Birdpilot says: we’re STILL waiting for a quote from any of the Park51 developers that say the site will “celebrate 9/11″.

    You will have a long time to wait unless wikileaks has something. Such an admission would hardly make the mosque application process or getting construction crews to work on the mosque any easier.

    Thank you for admitting ONE of your statements was an out and out lie. Perhaps this honest streak will continue henceforth.

  104. dcpetterson says:

    BD: “Workers in the non-unionized private sector are paid by work performance, not by the credentials they hold or for merely warming a seat in a job.”

    meridian630 says: So are workers in the federal government genius.

    BD: Outside of the nationalized auto companies and various government owned utilities, government does not produce a good or service for sale in the marketplace. Thus, government workers generally cannot be measured by how well they produce such a good or service. Government employees can only be judged by how well they meet government established goals, not how economically productive they are.

    I had to quote this whole exchange to illustrate how BDP moved the goalposts in his eagerness to demonize our dedicated public servants.

    Bart, first you claimed that public workers are not evaluated on “job performance,” but by “the credentials they hold or for merely warming a seat in a job.” When caught out on this absurdity, you changed it to “how well they produce .. a good or service.” You are, of course still wrong, because the whole point of public service is to produce a service — and that is precisely what they are evaluated on.

    At any rate, it has been many times pointed out already that judging public employees by their economic activity is absurd. We might as well pay CEOs or lawyers based on how well they reduce pollution, or put out household fires, or direct air traffic. You are intentionally applying a meaningless standard, because it is your desire to paint public workers as useless fripperies.

    The question is — Why are you engaged in this anti-public-service crusade? Why do you so despise the dedicated and patriotic people who hold our nation together?

  105. shiloh says:

    Max, was thinkin’ of that previous Civil War discussion as I was makin’ my post. Again I did not participate in said discussion other than trivia ie Antietam was the bloodiest battle and John Wilkes Booth had joined the VA volunteer militia and was present at the hanging of abolitionist leader John Brown who led an unsuccessful insurrection at Harpers Ferry.

    Political Wiz was the main poster in said thread arguing, if memory serves, the main reason for the war wasn’t necessarily slavery er states rights.

    Again, the ’cause of the American Civil War is settled history, Texas trying to revise American history books notwithstanding …

    take care

  106. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    ^
    ^<<<<———-Political Wiz

  107. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    shiloh “Again, the ’cause of the American Civil War is settled history,

    Correct. Which is why those people, including Texas’ Perry, who forget that the Civil War settled that the Compact Theory was null and void, are trying today to revive it.

    Forget not that the Emancipation Proclamation DID NOT end slavery where it existed in any “northern”, or border state or in southern territory that had already surrendered to the Union Army. “. . . on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; . . .

    Slavery did NOT end in the United States until the ratification of Amendment XIII in December 1865, 8 months after Appomattox.

  108. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    All of which has nothing to do with public sector employees today.

  109. Bartbuster says:

    Slavery did NOT end in the United States until the ratification of Amendment XIII in December 1865, 8 months after Appomattox.

    If Amendment XIII were passed in December 1860, do you think the South would have freed the slaves and avoided the war?

  110. shortchain says:

    I don’t know about the unrest in Egypt, but the Civil War is spreading.

  111. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    bb, see my comment on the other thread.

    Enough off topic.

    Write a guest column on the subject and we can produce full arguments.

  112. Brian says:

    “I’ll take a stab and offer a reason why they should. If gov’t employees get to enjoy the kind of job security that keeps them from getting fired for pretty much everything short of murder and molesting schoolchildren, then I think it’s only a fair tradeoff that they accept a slight discount in wages and benefits.

    Just an opinion, for what it’s worth. Those are still allowed, right?”

    Sorry for the late response, forgot I had posted on this thread. That sounds quite reasonable to me. I’ve heard people in San Diego are paid a little less than everyone else because they’re happier being in San Diego than elsewhere in the country. I can agree with carrying that logic over to job security as well.

    Not entirely sure when this became a Civil War thread.

  113. drfunguy says:

    @MR
    Your linked article does not appear to support you conclusion that government workers are overpaid.
    Thie actual data is: ” state government workers earn an average of 11.4 percent less than private-sector workers of similar education and work experience and local government workers earn 12.0 percent less. Due to the greater benefits received by public sector workers, the gap narrows when these benefits are factored in, to 6.8 percent and 7.4 percent, respectively.”
    They then make a bunch of editorial comments that are unsupported about the relative efficiency of public and private sector workers.
    As for firings in federal agencies I worked in organizations much smaller than 1500 and saw at least five terminations in my few years so I wouldn’t assume that your experience is typical. Not to say there isn’t greater job security in (especially federal) government service, but there are also fewer opportunities for advancement, no bonuses and as shown above lower pay for similar education levels.
    Government employees _are_ often scapegoated; a County Commissioner in rural Utah telling me I was unqualified to do my job. I never had to put up with that kind of crap in the private sector.

  114. drfunguy says:

    @DC
    “What’s the purpose behind making public workers into a despised class?…
    A) as a way of distracting Americans from considering real possible solutions to the issues that face us; and B) as part of the general attempt to discredit effective and necessary governance…”
    I pick C, both.

  115. Brian,
    I believe what we’re searching for here is the concept of the “total compensation package,” which includes both tangibles and intangibles. Some of the intangibles include job security, opportunity for advancement, and expectations of work and/or behavior outside of normal working hours. In economists’ terms, we’re looking at the utility of the compensation.

    Starting around the time of the Reagan administration, the public began to look more deeply at the public employees’ salaries, which shifted increases in compensation to other areas. The same sort of thing happened with senior executives when compensation above $1M (I think) was taxed at a very high rate; suddenly, they got free cars, housing, corporate jets, and the like.

    Over time, many of the non-salary compensations became extremely valuable.

    During the 1990s, it was harder to find people willing to work in the public sector, since the private sector was paying so well. That balance shifted in the other direction starting in the W administration, and has remained so ever since. That’s not to say that public employees have a cushy existence, but I suspect that they are unaware of just how bad it has gotten in the private sector over the past decade, with the exception of a minor boom in technology going on in the Bay Area.

  116. Mule Rider says:

    “Your linked article does not appear to support you conclusion that government workers are overpaid.”

    And I didn’t suggest that it supported that conclusion. I said that it tended to give both sides somewhat of a fair shake. I challenged dc to read it because he’s pretty far out on the fringe in his stance. I’m trying to take a moderate/pragmatic approach, not being dogmatic that cuts are necessary, per se, but that it would behoove us to maybe trim a few areas of obvious excess. DC seems to be pretty defensive of the government employe, and he’s got a pretty thick set of partisan blinders on to shield him from the obvious.

  117. dcpetterson says:

    Mule, I read the article. shortchain at 15:19 did a great critique, and I really had nothing substantive to add.

  118. Mule Rider says:

    “….and I really had nothing substantive to add.”

    You didn’t have anything substantive to add or contribute when you got the ball rolling on this topic by posting this article. I said it above and I’ll say it again, you’re post is nothing but content-free and fact-less bloviations, talking points (mostly regurgitated from Robert Reich), and straw men.

    It was an epic failure.

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