Posts tagged: unions

Daniel Patrick Moynihan

By , February 28, 2011 11:50 am

The New York post has a column today about the prescience of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, one of my favorite people.

According to writer Bob McManus, Moynihan saw the future of public unions, and it was not rosey.

“[NYU economics professor William J.] Baumol started out by asking himself why the costs of the performing arts always seemed to be rising” Moynihan wrote. “I remarked that if you want a Dixieland band for a campaign rally today, you will need the same [number of] players you would have needed at the beginning of the century. Productivity just hasn’t changed much.”

But per-player costs — salaries and benefits — had risen dramatically, and the price of that Dixieland band along with them.

So, too, the price of health care, the senator argued. An already labor-intensive industry was becoming even more so with each technological advance — driving per-patient productivity ever lower and overall costs inexorably higher.

The same, he said, is true of what he termed the “stagnant [public-sector] services” — including “education high and low, welfare, the arts, legal services, the police. This means that the [costs] of the public sector will continue to grow.”

Moynihan had an eye for what seems obvious today. And he was not shy about telling others what he saw, a trait that served him well–and impressed me–when he served as the U.S.’s ambassador to the United Nations.

My cousin, then an aide to Senator Alan Simpson, once arranged a tour of the Capitol for me. The highlight was when a door swung open as I walked by, revealing Senator Moynihan, bow tie and all, talking to someone behind what had been closed doors.

The Democrats–hell, the Republicans–could use someone like him right now.

With No Evident Sense of Irony

By , February 25, 2011 9:09 am

Paul Krugman is at it again. In a piece titled Shock Doctrine, U.S.A., he sees all sorts of connections between what’s happening in Madison and what happened in Baghdad in 2003. And of course, there’s the obligatory reference to Bush. Can’t have a Governor Scott Walker walking around without a Bush stamped on his forehead like a scarlet letter. That mission accomplished, he takes off in a way that only an op-ed writer cum Nobel laureate can–a laureate with no sense of irony.

Referencing Naomi Klein’s best-selling book “The Shock Doctrine,” he argues that Paul Bremer’s push for privatization in Iraq

was part of a broader pattern. From Chile in the 1970s onward, [Klein] suggested, right-wing ideologues have exploited crises to push through an agenda that has nothing to do with resolving those crises, and everything to do with imposing their vision of a harsher, more unequal, less democratic society.

Ahem, comments by the newly elected Mayor of Chicago come to mind, but that doesn’t count, I suppose, because his and his boss’s multi-trillion dollar exploitation of a crises imposed a vision of a less harsh (for some), more equal (for some), more democratic (for some) society. But I digress.

Krugman continues,

In recent weeks, Madison has been the scene of large demonstrations against the governor’s budget bill, which would deny collective-bargaining rights to public-sector workers. Gov. Scott Walker claims that he needs to pass his bill to deal with the state’s fiscal problems. But his attack on unions has nothing to do with the budget. In fact, those unions have already indicated their willingness to make substantial financial concessions — an offer the governor has rejected.

What he means by the attack on unions having nothing to do with the budget is that . . . hell, I have no idea what he means. If collective bargaining has no impact on Wisconsin’s budget, then union members have been getting screwed by their leaders for a long, long time.

He continues,

What’s happening in Wisconsin is, instead, a power grab — an attempt to exploit the fiscal crisis to destroy the last major counterweight to the political power of corporations and the wealthy.

Pot to kettle and more. Where are the corporations and the wealthy in the drama in Madison? Last I checked, we were talking about public employee unions protesting against the state government, which gets its political power from average Joe Wisconsin.

And the power grab goes beyond union-busting. The bill in question is 144 pages long, and there are some extraordinary things hidden deep inside.

Only 144 pages long? Not over 1,000? And there are some extraordinary things hidden in there too? Really?

I’m out of time, but you get the idea. But if you don’t, let me take you to the 3rd from the last paragraph in Krugman’s piece, the paragraph where he trots some other allegedly evil doers out on to the stage, out from the shadows for all conspiracy theorists to see,

If this [the push for privatization of state-owned power plants] sounds to you like a perfect setup for cronyism and profiteering — remember those missing billions in Iraq? — you’re not alone. Indeed, there are enough suspicious minds out there that Koch Industries, owned by the billionaire brothers who are playing such a large role in Mr. Walker’s anti-union push, felt compelled to issue a denial that it’s interested in purchasing any of those power plants. Are you reassured?

And the left criticizes Glenn Beck. At least he apologizes occasionally.

We’re All Neighbors Now

By , February 17, 2011 9:22 am

This almost needs no comment. The New York Times reports on the protests in Wisconsin over Governor Walker’s move to “sharply curtail the collective bargaining rights and slash benefits for most public sector workers in the state”:

The battle in Wisconsin, which some view as a precursor to similar fights in other states, was drawing attention around the country, including from Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said he planned to talk to Mr. Walker by telephone on Thursday. “Where we’re fighting each other, where we’re divisive, where we’re demonizing or vilifying any group, including unions, I don’t think that helps us get where we need to go as a country,” Mr. Duncan told CNN on Thursday morning.

President Obama also weighed in during an interview Wednesday with a Wisconsin TV station, “I think it’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers.”

But, I guess, bankers and corporate executives are not.

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