Government Spending

Even More on The Coming War Over Public-Sector Pensions


Via the Washington Examiner comes news of a brewing showdown in Fairfax, Virginia, where the school system is looking for a whopping tax increase to pay for teacher retirements and benefits. Here's verbiage from the Fairfax County Taxpayers Association (FCTA), which is against that move:

"The FCTA asked why the school board is urging the supervisors to raise taxes by $81.9M although only $9M is needed to pay for next year's expected increase in student enrollment.

"The school superintendent acknowledged that the reason is the increased cost in employee benefits, especially pensions. According to the schools' proposed FY2011 budget, employee benefits costs are increasing by $98M, of which $71M is for pensions and another $15M is for retiree medical benefits.

"The school board has been less than straightforward with the community about this. During her opening remarks at the forum, school board chairman Kathy Smith talked about cuts to band and sports, and bigger class sizes, but never acknowledged that the cuts were being made to pay for increased benefits costs. School board members urged the audience to ask the supervisors to raise taxes. If taxes are not raised, then the board will cut band and sports and increase class size to make the pension payments."

Whole thing here.

Hard-fact time: Taxpayers everywhere are shelling out many, many, many more real dollars per student for public education than they were 30 years ago (with no clear improvements in outcomes [see this and this]). Indeed, inflation-adjusted costs per pupil have gone up over 200 percent since 1970, while student achievement is flat (at best). Can you think of any other part of your life (especially one in the private sector) where you are paying twice as much for the same freaking outcome? Say what you will about rising medical costs, but the pills that cure our ills nowadays are so much better…

As we've noted here, this is a story that is only going to gain in regularity as the gap between public-sector and private-sector compensation grows (public-sector already has a 70 percent advantage!) and as private-sector workers increasingly fund their own retirements via 401(k)s.

The basic bargain about public-sector work, hammered out decades ago in a very different world, is supposed to be: You give up status, upward possibility, and compensation now for job security and payoffs later in retirement. That has never really been true and is certainly less so now. Yes, public-sector jobs ofer more security than their private-sector counterparts, but compensation is also higher on average and the benefits, especially in retirement are gold-plated to the nines. That bargain, which is unsustainable economically, is going to hit the rocks. The only question is: Who is going to pay? Taxpayers or the public-sector workers?

Don't miss Reason's Feb. cover story about "how public servants became our masters." Just click on the image of the big boot there on the right.

NEXT: Reason Writers Around Town: Peter Suderman in the New York Post on the White House's Health Care Summit

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  1. Can you think of any other part of your life (especially one in the private sector) where you are paying twice as much for the same freaking outcome?

    Cue Tony to explain you’re at fault for looking at measurable goals instead of “enlightening” students:
    “Our society can get along very well with a bad reader; a bigot is a danger to everyone.”

    1. Really? Seriously? I can think of lots of such things.

      I went to the movies yesterday and paid about twice as much as I used to for the same outcome as I used to not twenty years ago.

      1. @ MNG:
        “Indeed, inflation-adjusted costs per pupil have gone up over 200 percent since 1970”

        Inflation: noun
        Economics. a persistent, substantial rise in the general level of prices related to an increase in the volume of money and resultingin the loss of value of currency (opposed to deflation).

        See how reading opens up whole new worlds.

        1. Don’t introduce difficult economic concepts beyond MNG’s grasp.

      2. I went to the movies yesterday and paid about twice as much as I used to for the same outcome as I used to not twenty years ago.

        Fron The Inflation Calculator What cost $4 in 1973 would cost $19.18 in 2008.

        MNG, You know better than using non inflation adjusted comparisons.

        1. Just because he knows it won’t stop him from pulling stupid stunts like that on a regular basis.

        2. MNG, You know better

          Probably not. Don’t overestimate him.

          1. Don’t blame MNG, it’s that darn public education.

      3. Try this one on for size. The US ranks 3rd among industrialized nations in per capita spending on K-12. We rank in the mid 30s on reading comprehension and math. Public K-12 is broke and broke bad. And the problem is NOT lack of funding.

      4. And of course, the movies today are of the same quality as movies 20 years ago.

      5. No more income taxes for me! Yay choice!

    2. I wish I could get my wishes granted as swiftly as you. Maybe I should wish for different things.

      1. Start by wishing for sanity goofy, then get ambitious and go for intelligence. Those would be starts for you Harvey.

        1. Hah! What funny!? I’ll have to borrow that one sometime. LOL


          1. My awe of Anonymity Bot continues to grow. But also my fear, for as it becomes self-aware, it puts us all in grave danger. We can only hope that it becomes the Rodney Dangerfield of sentient AIs and not the Dane Cook of sentient AIs.

            1. I get no respect. Can you believe it? ROFL


              1. I love you, Anonymity Bot.

                1. That’s totally not gay because I’m a bot. LOL


            2. This Anon Bot is an impostor. He fails the Reverse Turing Test quite badly in my mind.

        2. Oh! That was pretty bright for you.

          1. it’s sure,. John,..

    3. You right-wing nutjobs can’t do math.

      If “prices have gone up over 200%,” Aren’t we paying 3x as much rather than twice as much?

      Yeah, 100% more would be 2x so 200% more is 3x.

      So there’s your explanation: We’re paying TRIPLE for the same crappy result. Makes perfect sense.

      Wait a minute …..

  2. It’s like all your money are belong to us.LOL


  3. As a longtime Reason reader it astonishes me to see the same people who over and over respond to the charge that employers oppress employees by saying “bs, you are always free to leave your job and get antother” can then with a straight face talk about “how public servants became our masters.” Dudes, these public servants are not some military junta or something: the public is totally free to vote out administrations with personnel policies you don’t like. So saying “public servants are our masters” is like, TEH STUPID.

    Yeah, logic is a bitch sometimes, like when a principle loudly advocated can be turned against one’s ideological hyperbole. Sorta like boomerangs.

    1. Anon Bot local 1138 here, asking all of you to vote for ‘our’ bot. I mean really. LOL


    2. You just equated leaving a job. An action decided upon and carried out by an individual to the election of public officials. An action that consists of many individuals and a much broader spectrum of involvement and cooperation from those many individuals.

      Logic is a bitch. You would think a poli sci PhD would understand the basics of sampling and setting parameters for independent variables for any model, even the simplest of models in comparing two interactions.

      I guess we can ignore the better comparison of leaving a city, which there is evidence to support the analogy of people leaving due to a displeasure with public officials which in turn is analogous to the leaving of a place of employment due to displeasure with management. Of course, the former is much more difficult to actually do due to factors involving such things as real estate, tangible possessions, and social bonds.

      You are either being intellectually dishonest with yourself to make a point and hoping no one would notice the glaring errors or you really don’t see the glaring errors in that analogy.

    3. MNG:

      It is not the people voted in and which can be voted out but the huge faceless bureaucracy that “runs” everything who are the public servants who have become the masters. You can not get rid of them but they cost a ton in their guaranteed benefits and the like

    4. I worked for 24 yrs in the federal govt as a supervisor and I PROMISE you that it’s literally impossible to fire anyone because of laziness or incompetence. You can fire them for theft or physical violence, but if they’re a lousy worker you just have to work with them. And they know it! The govt is layered with dead wood.

      1. JohnR is absolutely correct. But the situation is even worse: That same dead wood gets automatic pay raises on top of the luxurious benefits.

        Federal, state and local government has become the employer of choice among the lowest performers precisely because it’s impossible to cut the dead wood.

        Imagine if all of your co-workers had the same can-do attitude as your state’s DMV? That’s your typical public servant.

        That’s why Obama’s stimulus package only targeted saving government jobs: government employee unions will turn around and pay back the Democrats.

      2. You’re right there, JohnR. I worked as a manager with the state of CA for 20+ years and it is very difficult to fire non-performing workers. I’ve done it a number of times but as you say it was usually over something else such as theft or going AWOL.

        On a number of occasions we would simply hound non-performers out of our agency but not out of state government. Many of these people ended up in the state capital of Sacramento where they generally thrived, some even rising to very high positions. One of the problems is that workers enjoy both civil service protection and union representation. This is a double whammy to management and it paralyzes efforts to discipline people. Also, workers can always play the discrimination card, which trumps most others. A charge of discrimination is afforded de facto credibility in most cases and forces management onto the defensive.

        Don’t get me wrong. There are many more conscientious and worthwhile workers than there are moochers. But the moochers take up all the oxygen and their relative immunity to disciplinary action seriously hurts morale and productivity.

        As to the pension crisis it is hard to see a way out. I retired in December and hope to draw my pension for a few years yet. But I expect it to be reduced eventually. And I retired in my sixties. Law enforcement personnel, prison guards, etc. typically retire in their early 50’s – earlier if they can claim work-related disability.

        Also nefarious is the practice of promoting people a year before their anticipated retirement date in order to boost their pensions. This has become so common in some agencies as to be considered an unalienable right.

        My fellow state workers would not be happy with this post. And, as I said, there are millions of good workers in government. At the lowest levels of pay the original bargain still holds: low compensation for better benefits and job security. It is the entrance of unions into the scene, beginning over 40 years ago, which has skewed that compact against the public interest and which has made it so difficult to get rid of the dead wood.

        Unless we get a full decade of Clinton-era economic growth and budget surpluses a severe day of reckoning is coming.

  4. Two posts, one Sunday. The end times are near.

  5. That 4.5MB jpeg image of the big boot is the master of my browser right now.

    1. Wow, you weren’t kidding. Attention Reason web workers: Print-quality JPGs are a dumb idea as web article illustrations! Save the server squirrels!

    2. If the boot stomping on a human face forever is privatized, will libertarians support Big Brother, Inc.?

  6. Dudes, these public servants are not some military junta or something: the public is totally free to vote out administrations with personnel policies you don’t like.

    Can we vote in people to rescind these contracts and unilaterally cut back these pensions, or do you think we’re legally bound to pay them out no matter who we vote for?

    The government itself has become a special interest. The first step to eliminating that interest is to identify it. You want us to remain silent about it, thus guaranteeing it lasts forever.

    1. As to your first question let me redirect that one back at you: should contracts be taken seriously or not? For my answer I tend to say “yes.” Now that I’ve supplied you with the major premise you can finish the syllogism yourself I should think.

      And I have no problem with people speaking out loudly and frequently for different personnel policies for their governments if they think they are flawed. My problem is with people who act like there’s nothing that can be done about it, that “public servants are our masters.” Funny type of masters, whom we chose to be our masters and can take back authority at anytime…

      1. If shareholders vote in a board of directors which then makes a contract for the corporation with management for certain compensation for said management then I think the corporation should have to honor such contracts even though the shareholders may later vote out the board that negotiated the contracts and puts in a new board with a different attitude towards personnel contracts. The new board can make sure that any subsequent contracts are negotiated under their philosophy, but the corporation should honor its previously entered into contracts. Of course it’s the same principle one should apply to sales, real estate, credit, etc. contracts negotiated by corporations…

        Do you disagree?

        1. Your analogy is spot on. When you buy stock in a company and, they cannot meet their financial obligations, said company just takes the money they need out of your paycheck every week.

        2. I think the proper analogy to public sector pensions is not private sector contracts but to social security.

          Can congress cut SS benefits? How is a public sector pension any different?

          I know how SCOTUS has ruled on SS benefits.

          1. Whoa! New one on me. How did they rule? I hope it was the congress can cut them.

            1. They ruled that FICA is an income tax and that social security is a transfer payment and there is no connection between them at all. And congress can change either as they see fit.

              1. WHEW! Glad they got that one right.

              2. They ruled that FICA is an income tax and that social security is a transfer payment and there is no connection between them at all.

                Which means that all the SS propaganda back to FDR’s day is bullshit, as a matter of law.


                1. The Social Security issue can only be a stealth income tax devised by the evil Progs of the 30’s. How else to explain a system where a man pays in for a lifetime that ended at 58 for benefits beginning at 65?
                  It really was brilliant, both in conception and marketing.

        3. Why should one group of people be able to bind me to a contract that I do not agree with? Why should they be able to bind my children? I should not have to honor a promise made 40 years ago by someone else.

        4. I’m sorry – but if your salary and benefits came from a public vote, ten they can be removed by that vote.

      2. It’s interesting you only address those that are elected. You’re ignoring the civil service all together and the complications with removing and revamping anything within the confines of civil service law and agreements. You seem to be dumbing down the situation as it being so simple as to elect a new mayor, governor, or council and then being able to magically solve all the problems.

        Surely you know government in the US doesn’t work that way. Having studied at least in some detail just that.

        1. I coulda swore i saw boxes on the last ballot for all the positions in the IRS.

          (yeah, like i’ve ever voted. c’mon)

      3. You know, the more I see what you write, the more I see what a moron you really are. Is it really possible to have your whole head up your rear end?
        Monopolies operate by their own rules, so please don’t compare the Man to anyone else. Government can (and does)break contracts, change the rules of the game, take our money to give to government worker goons…the list goes on and on.
        And to name just one area where you are wrong: In my home state of CA, the judiciary has said that government workers can’t have their pensions changed….Funny, isn’t it? Private pensions get dropped all the time.
        Please go troll elsewhere.

      4. Sure, all kinds of things that can be done about it.

        Wow, lets go over the list of all the actions people have taken over the millineum that have brought freedom far and wide for many generations to all people and places.


        Well, hope you enjoyed reading the long list of historical actions that have rid people of wicked and intrusive governments for any significant historical period.

        You are arguing what might possibly could be given perfect circumstances for the side of freedom.

        That is a little past intellectually dishonest and straight into just plain playing dumb and trying to make it sound smart.

        MNG quote:
        “Well, it’s ok to own and beat your slaves, cause, well, they are voluntarily being slaves, they could have escaped the plantation and avoided the bounty hunters and left anytime they wanted!”

    2. Declare bankruptcy and the contracts are null and void.

      1. What fools like MNG do not understand is this…that over the past 40 years, a consistent series of court decisions on both the federal and state level have held that public employee pensions and benefits are “property rights” that are protected by the Constitution and cannot be taken away or reduced from public employees without “due process.” (Remember: judges are public employees too). Further, public sector unions are constitutionally barred from negotiating reductions in these items even if they wanted to. So promised made years and decades ago are now irrevocable “property rights,” regardless of the current cost, and whatever government revenue there is must be used to fund these “property rights.” This is what makes public employees our masters.

        Our constitution was supposed to protect citizens from government excess. Our Founding Father feared government workers — whom they derided as “placemen” — as much as they feared government itself. It is a cruel irony that the protections of the constitution designed to benefit the people are now being used to oppress the people for the benefit of government.

        1. Please link to those decisions. Reagan fired the air traffic controllers back in ’83, so I find your assertions dubious in the extreme.

          1. The air traffic controllers called a strike, which they weren’t allowed to do. Reagan had the legal right to fire them, but only because of their own violation of the law. Can you think of any other examples more supportive of your point?

        2. And if you really want your blood to boil…contrast the expansion in the “property rights” of government workers with the erosion of the property rights of individual citizens exemplified by cases like Kelo.

          The government can seize your real property and give it to someone who will use it in a way that will generate higher tax revenue, that the government will then use to pay for government workers’ “property rights” in their benefits and pensions. Is this is not a perversion of our constitution, nothing it.

          1. I meant to say, “IF this is not a perversion of our constitution, nothing IS.” Sorry.

            1. JFK got the public employee union ball rolling in 1962. Executive Order #10988


          2. Waiting for those links…

        3. And if you’re referring to decisions saying that compensation for judges cannot be changed during their time in office, that’s explicitly said of judges in the constitution. It doesn’t apply to any other government employees.

  7. That bargain, which is unsustainable economically, is going to hit the rocks.

    And they said Bernie Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.

    1. The next person who posts a “+anything” is going on my shit list. And by “my shit list”, I mean running gags have an expiry date and +1 has reached it.

          1. I really hope reason bans you for posting that again.

            1. +1

          2. +1

            That is destined to be an interwebz classic, like “All your base”.

            1. This.

          3. That’s it, Longtorso. You’re on the list. And by the list, I mean that you’re the functional equivalent of Rue McClanahan.

            1. I have a much smaller penis. Everyone feel free to post “+1” below that.

              1. Well, obviously. You’re Meshach Taylor, aren’t you.

      1. Your comment does not appear to be written in an English script. Please comment in English.

        Your fucking spam filter sucks donkey testicles.

        My comment minus the need to navigate around your retarded spam filter:

        ? ?

        1. I was going to give you +2pi for that, but they didnt make it all the way to the end before restarting (and not even the end of that printed on screen).

          So, instead I give you +0.

          Oh wait, same thing.

          1. I am forced to retaliate with an e^(i*pi) for your blatant disregard of my funny with the neutral assignment of a 0.

            1. I accept an absolute score of 1 with pride. (Direction bah, I just want magnitude)

              And it would have been funny if they had gone at least a few thousand more digits before starting over.

              1. magnitude is nothing without direction in the real world! Unless you are playing 2 legged strategies predicated solely on the magnitude of movement and not the direction, hence the two legs. Okay maybe magnitude > direction at times.

                A few thousand digits of that song with those voices would drive some people to insanity.

                1. A few thousand digits of that song with those voices would drive some people to insanity.

                  Some of us didnt need the song.

                  1. Some of us have a greater level of retardation and those with a lower level should not make fun of those of us with a higher level.

                    don’t make me call Sarah.

        2. I had a very slow class last quarter, so I learned that song.

        1. -1

          …and that’s canceled. Nice try, though. In fact, fuck it: -?. There, all of you douchebags can post “+1” to the end of time and I’ve still canceled you all out.

          I WIN.

          1. You can have the win but I had the most fun.?

            1. If your idea of fun is beating a running gag into the ground harder than Bobby Brown beats Whitney Houston after a few lines, well, have at it.

                1. It’s fitting that your grasp of math is as devoid as your grasp of humor.

            1. +1 Jacket. Top that, bitches.

  8. As to your first question let me redirect that one back at you: should contracts be taken seriously or not?

    In other words, “if you don’t like the policies, you can always vote in new people, so those policies are legit despite the fact that those new people cannot vote in new policies.”

    Private entities that sign contracts that they cannot ever pay go out of business and disappear. If you’ll let the govt do that and go the way of Enron, and never be there to force me to live by your left wing values, then you have a point. Until then, STFU.

    My problem is with people who act like there’s nothing that can be done about it,

    Bitch, your entire position is that there’s nothing we can do about it, that the government signed contracts with itself to bind us to giving them $$ forever no matter who we vote for.

  9. Do you disagree?

    See above. You are consistent only if you’d allow a state, local, or the Federal Govt to go bankrupt, be broken apart and sold to their creditors, and never bother the rest of us again. That’s what happens to corporations who sign contracts like these (except when left wing idiots bail them out).

    Private contracts aren’t forever if for no other reason that Enron didn’t have millions of armed men to guarantee their continued existence.

    1. “Enron” above might be clearer as “Enron, for example,”

  10. Taxes to pay for pensions we can’t vote to change are taxation w/o representation.

  11. If shareholders vote in a board of directors which then makes a contract for the corporation with management for certain compensation for said management

    Said corporation would be risking a shareholder lawsuit. You cannot sue the govt over this sort of thing, because you can only sue the govt if the govt chooses to allow you to sue it. Would you have given Enron that power?

  12. I’m free (minus your idiot left wing bailout) not to pay GM’s excessive employee pensions by choosing not to buy a GM car if those pensions make the cars too expensive. I’m not equally free to not pay taxes.

  13. If taxes are not raised, then the board will cut band and sports and increase class size to make the pension payments.”

    Vote YES on the school millage increase. It’s for the children retirees who already receive more than you.

    Who is going to pay? Taxpayers or the public-sector workers?

    Take a wild guess what my preference is?

  14. Your analogy is spot on. When you buy stock in a company and, they cannot meet their financial obligations, said company just takes the money they need out of your paycheck every week.

    But enough about General Motors, bailed out by our idiot, left wing empty suit of a president.

    1. But enough about General Motors, bailed out by our idiot, left wing empty suit of a president.

      Are you referring to Bush the Lesser or The Chosen One?

      1. Either. I thought GeeDub had pinned my hate meter (I’ve been banned on multiple right wing sites for being as vocal against the Iraq was as I’m being here) until the latest idiot came on the scene. Then again, I had thought Clinton had pinned my hate meter before GeeDub.

      2. Bush didn’t bail out GM. He asked Congress to pass another appropriation to bail them out, since in a rare concern about the law, he didn’t think TARP money could be used for that purpose.

        1. Bush didn’t bail out GM. He asked Congress to pass another appropriation to bail them out, since in a rare concern about the law, he didn’t think TARP money could be used for that purpose.

          Thanks for clearing that up Tulpa. What was I thinking?

          The auto-industry bailout saga came to an end, at least temporarily, on December 19th, 2008, when President Bush announced a $13.4 billion bailout from TARP funds.

  15. MNG, can a government legally default on debt? Can they legally default on tbills?

  16. MNG, all of those overly generous compensation and retirement package cfontracts can be wiped out by bankruptcy. Expect to see a lot of munincipal bankruptcies in the next ten years as the hosts take action against the parasites at the ballot box.

  17. MNG, all of those overly generous compensation and retirement package cfontracts can be wiped out by bankruptcy.

    As long as taxpayers have two nickles to rub together, MNG considers them “not bankrupt” and favors confiscation to pay the pensions of Our Betters. Our Betters deserve our last time for the burden of putting up with us cattle.

  18. For those of you new to H&R, here are the two MNG arguments you will see:

    1. Given that my starting premises are true, logic dictates my conclusions are correct. ‘Debate’ is defined as accepting my starting premises and going from there. If you refuse to accept my starting premises, then you are refusing to debate and are thus admitting I’m right.

    You see this above, where MNG asserts private and govt contracts are exactly the same thing, despite the many differences between a govt and a private corp concerning what they can do to 3rd parties to force them to pay off said contracts.

    2. I said something moderate and somewhat agreeable. Any expression of agreement w/ that is an admission I’m right, and if I’m right I’m absolutely and totally right and you must now STFU and give me anything I want, now and forever, or else be a total hypocrite. Bend over.

    The key to that is that his ‘moderate’ position is usually a lie to gain some sort of validation before he’s off to the races. Hence, if you believe a private entity should pay a payable contract, you have to accept any tax burden necessary to pay off govt pensions w/o any ability to vote for or against them. You ‘agreed’ with MNG and there’s no going back and now are the government’s total bitch.

    Yes, his argument today is a ‘two-fer’ of pure MNGness.

  19. I am a govt worker in CA. I get paid less in total, but I also work less than my private counterparts. I always considered that as the benefit of govt work.

    In case anyone cares how it works in CA, I believe I have the most common pension type: My pension is 2 @ 55, which will mean after 30 years I will get 60% of the average of my last 3 years of pay. And that’s with me paying a portion of the retirement (about 4.5% of my pay). Personally I think that’s great, and I can understand people in the private sector thinking that’s a bit much (in the days of 401Ks).

    If I didn’t pay anything toward my retirement then I think it would be 1.5% @ 55%, or 45% after 30 years.

    The biggest problem is with those “safety” employees, such as police. They are just raping the system. They need limits on overtime and to cap their pensions. 3% @ 50 is just crazy. There is no reason someone should get over 75% percent of their pay after retirement (and some get more than 100%). That would go along way.

    1. Defined contribution retirement is the way to go, not defined benefits. You contribut 4.5%. That is fine (but pretty damn low). If CA wants to match up to that level (and allow you to go above) that is pretty reasonable too. Then you get at retirement, whatever you get at retirement.

      And CA isnt on the hook for some long term benefits, they have paid it all up front.

      I really dont understand why defined contribution retirements didnt become the standard for EVERYONE 60 years ago.
      Hell, unions could negotiate that the company contributes 15% of wages and Im okay with that, employees wouldnt have to contribute anything (although, other than possible tax differences, there is really no difference between employee and employer contributions).

    2. I am a govt worker in CA.

      Fake! You didn’t write any of your comment in Canadian.

    3. How do you know that you get paid less than private sector workers with equal educations and working conditions?

  20. Can you think of any other part of your life (especially one in the private sector) where you are paying twice as much for the same freaking outcome?

    I used to pay $0 a month for access to roughly three hours a week of watchable TV which was constantly interrupted with commercials. Now I pay $50 a month for the same thing. And no, correcting for inflation is not going to change that.

    1. it wasnt $0. You had to pay for electricity. So it was maybe $1. And now you pay $51.

    2. If you actually think TV is as bad now as it was back then, you’re retarded. Like, the bad kind of retarded, not the good kind.

      1. On an apples to oranges basis, today’s TV is far inferior. Back then, cable had no commercials, and the broadcast networks had not a single reality show in their prime time lineups.

        1. HBO has commercials now? I must just tune them out by some special power I have. THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL

          1. Commercials for stuff on HBO is still commercials. Of course not being for shamWoW! or eXtenze probably makes them easier to tune out.

    3. Don’t know where you live, but I can still get four or five broadcast channels of unwatchable TV for the cost of electricity.

      1. And with two comments about the cost of electricity on this topic: Anyone wanna do the math on that?

        I could swear i’m paying the same amt for 1PC, 1TV, and a 15W lamp that are on all the time as i used to pay for a fleet of old dell boxes running seti@home, a 250W metal halide driven cactus garden, and a shitload of aquariums (and their lights)

        Gone from 5kw/hr to around 1kw/hr and still paying the same amount? Is 8-10 years of inflation enough to account for that?

        Being too lazy to do the math myself, I’m more likely to suspect fossil fuel prices and enviro regs as the culprits.

        But hey, let’s get this cap and theft shit going. I’d love to not be able to run my tv or PC for more than 1-2 hours a day.

  21. Now I pay $50 a month for the same thing.

    Free unlimited health care teevee is my right as an American!

    1. There is much less good TV on the broadcast channels now than there was then. Other than sports, I can’t even think of anything I watch on broadcast channels.

      1. Thanks to the CFA, there is much more college football on broadcast tv than there was then. Much, much, much, much more. That itself more than offsets reality TV.

        1. Sports is the original reality TV.

  22. While agreeing that public pensions are too generous, various goverments have in fact agreed to them via legal contracts. While they can certainly limit future benefits, I don’t see how they can escape existing liabilities without declaring bankruptcy.

    In someways the voters are being like the guy who bulldozed his house writ large: they voted repeatedly for these generous benefits and now that time has come to pay the piper, they think they should be able to just walk away from their contracts with no cost.

    1. I didn’t vote for jack shit. In no way did I want or agree to these “generous benefits”. So your analogy sucks.

      1. Yeah, well if you didn’t want to pay all these taxes, you were perfectly free to vote against them, because it’s totally the same as leaving a job.

        1. I didn’t vote for Warty. In no way did I want or agree to sleep with him repeatedly. So your analogy sucks.

          1. Baby wants to fuck! I’ll fuck anything that moves!

    2. Pensions to infinty…no takebacks…neener, neener, neener.

      Why do they need contracts any way?

      Here’s a job, it pays $x, you get these benefits, and a matching retirement fund. How hard is that?

      1. They need contracts for screwing up their pensions that they can argue people who never agreed are responsible.

      2. No, it’s more that there’s a defined legal procedure for doing those takebacks. The law doesn’t cease to exist just because they don’t want to deal with the negative effects that procedure has on their credit rating.

  23. What MNG fails to understand is that public employees get to use the force of law to extract their wages. In the private sector when the union gets too fat and happy, the company goes bankrupt. Public employees can just demand the government raise taxes. And of course they get to hold vital services over the heads of the public. Want police and fire protection, better pay up. Want your kid to have access to band, better pay up. That puts public employees in a much stronger position. That is why historically public employees were never allowed to unionize. It was only by EO during the Kenneday Administration that they were allowed to unionize.

    It is really a cancer on the body politic. It is pathetic that tax payers are forced to chose between raising taxes or giving up band and sports because no one will ever cut the pension of a teacher. It is going to bankrupt the country if we do not stop it.

    1. I agree completely – I’ve written a few posts about union state employees demanding 8% wage increases during the recession.

      The most immoral thing this country does today, is to allow the teachers unions, with their centralized control in urban environments, to continue to fail to educate anyone, year after year…

    2. And how many of those jobs produce anything of any value? Especially if you take the police, firemen, and teachers out of the equation (and we can certainly argue about the value of teachers in government run schools). We are paying quite a lot of money for unnecessary bureaucratic jobs that would not be missed if eliminated.

  24. MNG, private entities CAN legally avoid paying huge bills. Its called “going out of business”. Going out of business is legal, and should remain illegal. Agree or disagree?

    1. “Going out of business is legal, and should remain illegal.”

      Unless you are ‘too big to fail’ (or too anything else).

  25. Hey, wait a minute. “Public” sector workers can vote, too. If elected officials decide to cancel their pensions, and the union workers were free to vote against it, then they democratically consented to give up those pensions. If I voted to give them the $$, they voted to not take the $$.

    I win.

  26. This point has been made innumerable times previously, and I am sick and fucking tired of having to point it out again and again, but:

    These agreements are made by people who are spending money which is not their own, based on incentives which do not align with the best interests of the people who ultimately foot the bill.

    Let the motherfuckers riot; we’ll set the dogs on ’em.

    1. Good point, the contracts are clearly invalid.

  27. “Sire, the peasants are revolting!”

    “Ain’t it the truth?”

  28. it’s always a bad idea to be more valuable dead than alive

  29. Even FDR was uncomfortable with public sector unions.

    1. Apparently he respected the straw+camelback concept.

    2. So the rampant socialist was against public unions?

      U know for years he was against WWII, even as he wrote letters to world leaders stating otherwise and while he was giving aid to the cause.

      I don’t know why we consider this liar anything other than a narcissist is beyond me – but when a guy can’t walk and is barely living, the arrogant idea in his head that he’s still better than any possible alternative should be enough to discredit him completely.

      Still… maybe he was right here – a blind squirrel and all that…

  30. Hey, what the heck, its only money right?? LOL


  31. Nick and Reason
    You should be on top of stories like this:…..endin.html


  32. Hey, MNG!
    I see no response to JL’s comments. You also have a bit of a problem with contradiction:
    You claim the miscreants can be voted out of office and that will solve the problems.
    You then claim the problems can’t be solved.
    Which is it?

  33. Which brings up a conundrum: Are we really spending more nowadays, or were we simply falsely accounting for the benefit packages in the past? If the pensions had been fully funded at the time the benefits were earned, past spending would have looked a lot higher and current spending a lot lower.

    That being said, it is clear that defined-benefit pension plans should go the way of the dodo. NJ cops retiring at age 52 with a pension with an NPV of $6,000,000 are simply an injustice, and represent pay far out of line with what the private sector offers.

  34. “Indeed, inflation-adjusted costs per pupil have gone up over 200 percent since 1970, while student achievement is flat (at best). Can you think of any other part of your life (especially one in the private sector) where you are paying twice as much for the same freaking outcome? ”

    The statistic raises an even tougher question: a 200% increase equates to paying triple.

    And as for paying triple for the same utility — a definition that should dispense with such inanities as talking about cable TV — I’ll have to get back to you on that.

    1. Yes, 200% INCREASE means you are paying triple, if you use increase to mean addition, and triple to mean multiplication.

      a+2a =3a

      1. You know something is wrong with the math when two completely different statements of the same data come within two back-to-back sentences–triple versus double.

        “200%” increase in one sentence–as you say, that’s actually *triple*.
        “Double” in the next sentence.

        Following the link to the data, “double” is actually the correct statement:

        1970 Inflation-adjusted = $4328
        2005 Inflation-adjusted = $9391

        (9391-4328)/4328 = 1.17 = 7 = more than double.

  35. Well, I wonder if we can steal a page out of Obama’s book here, and put a special tax on public-employee pensions over a certain amount? I mean if they can do that to bankers’ bonuses, why not here? At worst the suggestion might stop some of these income grabs the Obamites keep doing.

  36. The author’s statement “The basic bargain about public-sector work, hammered out decades ago in a very different world, is supposed to be: You give up status, upward possibility, and compensation now for job security and payoffs later in retirement. ” is correct and was true during the time I worked at a major medical research university. I worked there for 30 years, retired, and went to work immediately at a private bioscience firm with a salary twice as high as the highest I earned at the university. So I do not agree with the author’s subsequent claim that “that has never really been true”. I know differently from my own experience and those of cohorts. Not only did I get a much higher salary, with healthcare benefits, I also got stock options. So please, don’t discount the millions of people who worked in the public sector more cheaply than those who worked in the private for decades, retired, and live on pensions. By doing so, your argument that the problems need to be addressed are marginalized by the outrage of those who did work for less to get greater security in later years.

    1. Yeah, I left teaching for the private sector and doubled my salary too. Unfortunately, that anecdotal evidence ignores the more meaningful data that shows the average private sector compensation is now $40K while the average federal government comp is $71K. If you want an anecdote, check out this one: I played golf with a 49 year-old retired (my small city) fire chief whose pension is $170K per year for the rest of his life. He’s working as a consultant for another city nearby half time for $150K per year.

      If he hadn’t been such a sh*tty golfer, I would have been outraged.

      1. The intent of my original post was to point out that there are many out there who are collecting benefits they earned before the Public sector benefits exceeded that of the private sector. When people generalize based on current wages/benefits, they are not looking at a complete picture. Ignoring the fact there are millions of people retired on benefits they earned as a result of lower paying public sector jobs 20 to 50 years ago does not mean it is not a fact they depend on the pension income they deserve. They elected to take lower paying jobs for security in old age. Now they are to be punished because those who came after them changed the rules? Seems that serious consideration requires people involved to do more than declare public pensions a bad idea. Basing pension payouts on a sliding scale based on years worked and perhaps capping them might be give older pensioners a better resolution than lumping all public pensioners together.

        1. Compare this with an earlier post re: Social Security – which people in the private sector paid into for their entire working career and whose benefits are now at the whim of politicians. Why must they suffer when the public sector is protected? The same politicians who threw money at public sector unions are the ones who threw away social security money and medicare money.

          On a different note – a more responsive tax on public pensions – an 80% tax on yearly pension payments greater than the yearly salary 5yrs before retirement. Target the pensions that were gamed right before retirement.

    2. Yeah, well I left one private sector job and and went to a different private sector job…and I am getting more money. Just because you started at a Public sector job and moved to a Private sector job doesn’t mean that the reason you were given more money is because you left the Public sector.

  37. The question isn’t (IMO) who is going to pay, but rather who is not going to pay. There are quite a lot of Obama’s favorite taxees who have the means to move out of the country, and if Obama and his friends try to saddle the ‘rich’ with this burden, I expect that most of them will find a way to escape.

    It wouldn’t bother me at all to just renege on these ‘promises’. We could start by rolling government pensions into the social security system. One thing is certain: it is (past) time to address this issue.

    1. Pink: It is time to address the issue. But that won’t be done.

      In fact for government workers things are swell. That is the paradox. During economic downturns our governments hire more and increase their own pay and benefits.

      Total spending rises while tax revenues fall. Deficits begin,
      elected officials find they cannot make cuts, they are legally bound by decades of restrictions.

      Nor can they increase revenues; higher tax rates are counter-productive. And borrowing becomes difficult or impossible.

      In fact the elected can do little except promise more and more to more people and provide for themselves. So they do.

  38. Years ago the county highway departments in Northern Wisconsin were costing too much because of employee compensation and administrative costs. So, they dissolved the county highway departments, and formed township highway departments. There goes the job and the union and the benefits: each township had to form their own and sort out pay. You can be sure pay was considerably less, as were benefits and pensions.

    So how about we reorganize, say the Chicago schools by making every a charter school? There goes the union, and the school administrators. Schools which fail to produce are closed, all the staff is fired, and students try again somewhere else.

    States spent all their stimulus money paying teachers and other public employees. Things need to change.

  39. “…inflation-adjusted costs per pupil have gone up over 200 percent since 1970…” “…you are paying twice as much for the same freaking outcome…”

    When a price goes up 100%, it is said to have doubled (2X); when it goes up 200%, it triples (3X).

    1. Marty has it 100% right — and a reader gets really bogged down with an innumeracy error in the text, when an immediated correction would not disrupt the flow of an excellent article.

  40. I have a friend who retired in his 50’s after working about 20 years for the fairfax school system, he’s getting full pension benefits for the rest of his life. Paying someone 30-40 years for working 20 is absolutely insane and is a good example of what’s wrong with the public sector. They need to abolish the pension system and have employees rely completely on their 403Bs.

  41. When the pension system for teachers is finally scaled back, expect significant salary increases to be forthcoming. The job market, being the ultimate arbiter of these things, will have the final say. Nobody is going to spend 6 years earning a masters degree as well as going through an extensive certification program and teacher training just for the privilege of earning the median salary in their region of the nation coupled with meager benefits. If that is indeed what people around here have in mind. Nope, people will steer away from careers in teaching. At least the sane ones.

    1. Depends on whether they like a 9mo/yr job. As a 9mo/yr job the pay can be really good.

      1. Yes. Now, if people could just figure out how to make 9 of 12 mortgage payments, 9 of 12 car loan payments, eat for a year on 9 months worth of food, etc. , then I think we’d have all this finally worked out.

    2. “Nobody is going to spend 6 years earning a masters degree as well as going through an extensive certification program and teacher training just for the privilege of earning the median salary in their region of the nation coupled with meager benefits”

      Those requirements were put in place by teacher unions in order to justify union work rules, salaries and benefits.
      Nothing more than a bachelors degree is needed for most teachers.
      The masters degree and certificates haven’t done crap to improve results.

      1. “Those requirements were put in place by teacher unions in order to justify union work rules, salaries and benefits.”
        “The masters degree and certificates haven’t done crap to improve results”
        Whatever bearing these points may have on the young person planning their professional future, they certainly won’t be inducements to becoming a prospective teacher. And by the way, regardless of the reasons, cynical or otherwise, for the existence of the current credentialing structure in the teaching profession, I would have thought that people would welcome an effort to more finely screen the applicant pool. Don’t we, after all, hear endless complaints about teacher quality? Anyway, why even bring any of this up? My point was about people soon to enter the workforce. Surely, they’re not to be blamed for the actions of unions that they’re not yet members of.
        “Nothing more than a bachelors degree is needed for most teachers.”
        In New York state, the third most populous state, these are the requirements. I expect that you can find similar requirements elsewhere.

  42. Movies? Really That’s the best you can come up with?

    Lets ignore inflation for just a second:

    I remember 20 years ago. Back to the Future Part II was out with it’s amazing graphics. Lets compare that to, say, Avatar. Or Iron Man. Or anything, really.

    Sure, you’re definitely not getting more for your buck.

  43. The children suffer while the adults luxuriate in benefits. For every cut in school cuts there needs to be an equal cut in pensions and union benefits.

  44. Mr. Gillespie could not be more on target. Everyone in the nation is watching as California flushes itself down an economic toilet. There are a number of reasons to be sure, but one of the most significant is the power of the public service unions & their ability to extract huge compensation and benefit packages. Neither the governor nor the legislature run CA. It is the SEIU. When you consider how many private sector jobs it takes to support 1 gov’t job, you can see that this is absolutely unsustainable.

  45. Bricks-and-mortar public schools are obsolete. People have to buy learning aids on the side (i.e. Leapfrog) so as to get their kids properly educated.
    Give vouchers for education and let the parents decide – home-school, learning centers, whatever – but kill this beast called public education.

  46. The majority of the budget problems in every city, state and the federal government are a direct result of Democrat enacted entitlements and they’re near insane devotion to unions, particularly public employee unions. As industry after industry succumbed to the demands of ‘the union’, their cost structures became unsustainable and the business either failed or moved overseas. Public service unions succeeded with the same demands and resulting unsustainable costs but the difference is that we the taxpayers have become an endless source of revenues and the schools and governments didn’t fail or move overseas. What they have done is drain the life out of every other public service supported by taxes.

    So now we have the spectacle of cities closing parks, museums, libraries, schools and other public facilities. Some are no longer paving roads. None of this is going to solve the problem because the socialist entitlements, thousands of new public service jobs, their huge salaries, and their exorbitant benefits are now a black hole that can only be fed at the expense of every other item in a budget that requires funding. Public sector unions must be reined in or eliminated, along with the entitlements they foster. We can no longer submit to their demands for wages and benefits that they have not earned and do not deserve.

    Until every government entity develops the courage to scale back entitlements and learns to say no to the unions, permanently cuts employees and reduces the benefits of those remaining to a level comparable to the private sector, their budget problems will never be solved. No amount of economic recovery will be sufficient to support the union’s existing and future demands placed on public funds. There are just so many parks and libraries that can be closed.

  47. I’d argue that public sector unions are the single worst thing to ever happen to this country. They’ve basically taken over the state of California and are in the process of driving it to bankruptcy. As “jlori” says above, it won’t stop until some courageous governor somewhere has the guts to say “Enough!” and has a legislature with the balls to back him up. But at some point, the citizens are going to tire of onerous taxes and will begin to demand sanity in public employee pensions.

  48. Pensions are one of the many reasons for the exploding costs of Federal, State, and Local govts and need to be done away with and converted over into 401k’s. It’s funny though how teachers are always held up as the exmaple when what you should be looking at is the Police depts whose salaries have drastically risen in the last 20 yrs and whose pensions are often better than teachers whose pay has remained flat forever.

    1. Thanks for pointing out how teachers are used as the example though ironically they are about the worst one since they earn so little and (most of them) do work hard to contribute to society. They make so much less money during their careers and in retirement than police, firefighters, state and county pencil-pushers, dog-catchers, elected officials, and probably even the janitorial staff at the nearest state highway rest-stop it is just sad. Pay and benefits for all public employees need to be reviewed with some serious thought toward what we value in society since we have now come to realize we cannot pay for it all. The size of our government must be dramatically cut, services that can be should be privatized, and the unions must be broken so that we can pay good teachers a better salary, based on more than just seniority, and let them make the decision about how to invest for their retirements instead of putting the taxpayer on the hook with these defined benefit plans that earn relatively little.

  49. With all due respect, things aren’t nearly that rosy for most public employees. I should know – I am one.

    Now I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that there are towns/counties/etc. where a new hire can expect good benefits and a fat pay check. But in my area, local govt. and allied non-profits have aggresively switched to hiring part-timers (w/ no health or retirement), and adopted a “no promotion until someone retires” policy. Heck, over the last ten years, salaries have even been cut (and no inflation adjustment). So a person hired today makes about 20% less than someone hired to do the same job in the mid-90s – and that’s before you factor in the ravages of inflation.

    In other words, the problem of fat pensions & benefits isn’t necessarily a public vs. private issue – its much more a generational one, and an unwillingness to admit that promises have been made that can’t be kept

    1. You can ‘all due respect’ as much as you want, but sympathy for the public-sector worker has EVAPORATED. No one wants to hear your plea of poverty. The vast majority of them have ‘total compensation packages’ that dwarf those found in the private sector. People without employment are being asked to pay for the gold-plated retirement of public-sector workers not even employed any more. And you want SYMPATHY?

      1. And I want “sympathy”? No – not really. I just wanted to point out that not every public employee has a golden parachute, or even decent benefits.

        If you have any suggestions on how to improve the situation – balancing the need for basic services while keeping costs under control – please share your thoughts. Civil discourse is a hallmark of a strong democratic society.

    2. Agreed that a recent development is that newer public employees do not get the same level of benefits/pay as those with greater tenure. Not sure if this is a bad thing, or avoidable, as taxpayers simply cannot support a system where all public employees receive platinum benefits. In CA the governator has proposed such a tiered system for all state employees; new ones would get fewer benefits, older retirement age, and so on. Unfortunately the benefits of the existing older employees cannot be altered and that alone will leave us in ruin for many years to come. This is where the generational aspect comes into play- all of us younger people have been paying and will continue to pay for the older folks for years, likely preventing us from ever reaching the level of financial comfort that they have attained. Their pensions can’t be touched and layoffs are typically based off seniority such that the newest and least expensive employees are let go first. The best prescription I can think of for ending this shadow age discrimination is to apply free market principles and get rid of union contracts- layoff workers based on expense to the taxpayer or merit and move away from defined benefit to defined contribution retirement plans.

  50. A head football coach can pull in $100K+. If he can stay employed for about 3 years his pension will be based on his best years …

    Great gig if you can get it.

  51. Facts: The federal government switched to an IRA witholding and employer match pension system in 1984, like private businesses have since that time. The fiction of gold plated pensions is silly. Even the older Civil Service Retirement System is fully funded by previous witholding and employer contributions. The money is in an account. After working for the best country on earth for 30+ years the pension is small, but it is deserved and promised for services rendered.

    Civil servants are people like you, except they love their country enough to devote their life to service. They don’t get rich. The fiction of 70% higher pay is an even sillier myth than the pension myth. This figure resulted from comparing people like doctors and rocket scientists in federal service to a workforce which included janitors and burger cooks. When you compare each profession individually federal employees earn 20-30% less than a comparably educated and experienced person in the private sector.

    Why can’t you accept simple facts? Why do you insist on being hateful to government workers? They serve their country for the common good. While you serve your greed for maximum money. Maybe you just can’t understand people who feel a sense of duty higher than money, so you have to make up myths about lazy bureaucrats and monsters controlling you. They are busy doing their job and don’t have time or motivation to single you out for mistreatment. Just be civil and calm down.

    For those of you who hate government (as if it was one cohesive calculating entity) how well do you think your private business would do in a small government place like Iraq? Think passports, patent and trademark protections, air safety, international trade, mail, personal safety, etc etc. You are living with the privelages of the best government on earth, but are unwilling to accept responsibility of paying for it. You probably take it all for granted and think you are successfull because of your own skills. Think about the framework that your business operates within.

    You think you are being taxed to help other people without having enough class, maturity, or knowledge to realize all of the government services that you use each day. Other people are paying for your protections and services too. It is time to be responsible adults. We are one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all, not just conservative rich people.

  52. They’re paying for people who aren’t even working any more, same as with the auto makers. For years, Libs have been moaning and wailing about ‘class warfare.’ Unions ‘needed’ gold-plated benefits packages to ‘stay competitive’ with the private sector. Now, the Private sector has fallen WAY behind the public sector in terms of salaries, job security, and overall compensation. The Libs are gonna get their ‘class war’ all right, but they’ll be on defense when they thought they’d be on offense. Up here in New Hampshire, I can’t WAIT to lambaste the school boards in front of a huge audience. I know for a fact that they are fearing Town Meeting like never before.

  53. I’m a taxpayer, parent and public employee in our town. Most of my neighbors would be surprised at the generous health and retirement benefits I’m eligible for.

    A public employee in my state only needs to have 10 years of service and reach age 55 to qualify for a pension and the most generous post retirement health benefits – not only for the retiree but for the spouse! This at a time when private companies are shedding such generous retiree benefits.

    What’s happening in the public sector is not sustainable and will have to change. There just isn’t sufficient tax revenue to pay for these commitments.

  54. Just because you keep repeating the lie about government workers being paid more than private sector workers, doesn’t make it true.

    Think about this. We all benefit from a strong national defense. One of the most powerful and important people on earth, the U.S. Secretary of Defense makes less than $300,000/year.

    How well do you think that stacks up to the CEO compensation of a burger store chain, or auto parts company, or a large bank, or insurance company?

    Even when you compare somebody with global responsibility for our safety, they are paid a small fraction of what thousands of corporate CEO’s make. This kind of comparison can be made for specific jobs and the fact is that federal employees are not paid as much as people doing similar jobs in the private sector. If you say they are, you are mistaken.

    And if you think the other benefits make up for it, you are wrong again. Health insurance is offered through a network of private insurance companies. The employee pays part and the employer pays part, like most large companies trying to retain an educated workforce. It is private insurance.

    If you have a chance sometime, talk with a civil servant. Find out what motivates them to service. Get to know them as a human being. I promise they won’t steal your soul.

  55. Yeah, it’s Cabinet level salaries that these crazy libertarians are complaining about. CEO’s get fired everyday. Unionized gov’t bureaucrats don’t. I deal with civil servants all the time; some are very good and want to do a fine job of public service; some don’t give a crap. The problem is, they both make the same and but only one deserves it. In the real world, the latter would get fired. In civil service, he gets reshuffled and preserves his pension. And somebody else has to be hired to do his work. Rinse and repeat.

  56. Why not cut out Band and Sports or increase class size. Why not fire some of the redundant administrators. How about the school that has 13 principals (The principal is not my “pal”!).

    We are NOT undertaxed. It’s about time to say not to upwardly spiralling taxes. Let the public sector unions do without and not the people that keep on shelling out their hard-earned money.

  57. Most of these comments ignore the man’s point: generous pensions negotiated by public sector unions will forever increase fixed labor costs, an unsustainable model. You can’t just fire the school board next time — it wouldn’t do any good. Just like labor contracts have killed the auto industry and weakened the airline industry, the same will happen to public education. Public sector unions use their power to influence government policy favorable to their members, which means more government spending for the (same) resource.

  58. And yet one gets the sense that the public has finally had it with (i) government activities that have spread / been aggressively moved beyond supplying mere public goods (the usual left wing party together with select poseurs in the right wing party are largely to blame, being dimwits who can’t see long or short term consequences, unintended and intended, or act in the public interest), to all manner of ‘programs’ that absolutely must, must be provided by a new bloated public sector department, whose best justification is that it needs to tax and regulate or else all hell breaks loose and the now infantilized public will be killing themselves with, say, riding bikes without helmets or eating unpasteurized cheese, (ii) bloated public workforces full of too many (but not all) unproductive yet overpaid time-watchers who are busy scratching each others’ backs and figuring out how to game this near ponzi scheme of a public pension system (“near” because, as is proven here, there is always recourse to new suckers’ money by raising taxes), and (iii) the concurrent strangling of true private sector initiative, productivity and wealth generation that the first two conditions guarantee (from high taxes that kill investment, to absurd labor rules to luddite enviro rules, the only way to survive, let alone get rich, is to operate a monopoly or oligopoly, or move production offshore to places where our patented toxic brand of leftist policies have no place or appeal, like China, which is desperate to grow its way out of the central problems of its polity).

    With that stat. about the avg public sector worker taking 70% plus more than the private sector, the present circumstance won’t last long, despite how embedded public sector unions are over the public fisc. Its only a question of time before the right wing party finally develops its own form of class warfare rhetoric, in the form of the hapless private sector drone vs. his public sector overlords…

    Hence the paradox – the bloated plutocrats and time servers of the public sector are in trouble, insofar as keeping their uneconomic benefits (the equivalent of public sector ‘rents’), because they will be cancelled (directly, by gov’t fiat, or indirectly, by currency devaluation), unless the private sector’s wealth generating power returns with a vengeance. Yet the public sector is the force that’s killing the private sector’s ability to produce wealth. So, when do we see the internecine warfare among the left’s grand coalition of interest groups (i.e., the enviros vs. what remains of big industrial labor, or the public sector enviros vs. other public sector workers)? That’s the question…

    1. The 70% stat is still total fiction and bad statistics. You can say it again if you need to, but it is still not true. And the public sector “unproductive time-watchers” myth may make you feel superior but they are the rare exception. Actually most public sector workers care very much about service and are dedicated to their service to you. You are angry about conditions that you imagine or hear other people describe, but they are not accurate descriptions of reality. Don’t spend your days being angry at phantoms. It is not good for your health.

      1. You’ve done an able job of backing your assertion that the 70% premium public sector workers are paid over comparable private sector workers is bunk, I mean, I’m so grateful that you’ve provided more than your mere, evidently self interested, assertion, contrary to that well researched evidence at the link. One can see why the public sector is viewed as the utmost in efficiency and intelligent decision-making.

        None of your points do anything to address the paradox – big govt that has inserted itself into every aspect of society, well beyond supplying mere public goods, comes at a cost to business activity, upon which big government depends to fund itself. We have now hit the point where govt is so big and onerous to deal with, that business profit making is seriously impeded, and raising taxes to fund yet more big govt is no answer – a marginal increase will yield even less revenue. The only long term solution is for govt to shrink, to become affordable, to not interfere with profit making activity to the same extent. There is no other answer. You are deceiving yourself if you think otherwise.

        I doubt the public will stand for this much longer. With that stat re. a 70% premium being paid out of their taxes for a sector infested with waste etc, there will be changes, govt will shrink, until the private sector can grow again. The only question is when, and what sectors of govt shrink.

        You can have all the phony stimulus good times that you want, with all your phony ‘multipliers’ (nothing more than a pretext for a big govt party to grow govt even more) but all that does is postpone the day of reckoning, and make the reckoning that much more brutal when it comes, as there is that much more govt debt to eat up revenues that would otherwise buy public goods. See above re the inability to realize more govt revenues from higher taxes. That’s reality, deny as much as you want, it will come to pass notwithstanding whatever you tell yourself to get through the night.

        The phantom in the room is your fantasy that the public sector is not a drag on the real wealth generating economy, the private sector, and that the size of government in this country is sustainable. Dream on – your job has come at the cost of private sector wealth, and therefore private sector jobs and living standards.

        There are necessarily more private sector workers in this country, and nearly all of them are sick of paying high taxes for bloated government, especially when gov’t workers are paid more than them, with none of the risks of private sector existence (i.e., competition from down the street). It is only a matter of time before a grand coalition to restrain the size of govt expresses itself at the ballot box, viz. the tea party movement (whose forbearers were the ‘reagan democrats’).

        PS – Google ‘public goods’ – maybe you’ll learn something about the optimal size and role of government. But I doubt it.

        1. We share the same country and the same air. We are Americans. I treat you with respect.

          “Government” does not insert itself. It is not an organism. Your legislators fund programs that your neighbors ask for and pay their taxes for. You may not want some of the services, but someone else who is paying taxes asked for them. Demanded them. And they are paying for your services. That is the real paradox. You are not willing to acknowledge the services that make your success possible. But you imagine other people are getting services that you pay for, and you get nothing. You sound a little paranoid about these things. Why don’t you put your creative imagination to work making a painting or something.

          All this anger. But were you angry when your taxes were spent to kill thousands of people in another country for no reason? Did you care about the kids who played sports with your kids being killed for no reason in Iraq? Were you angry about that? Now you are angry about things that you imagine. Your politics may be blinding you to basic humanity. Go for a walk and get some air and treat your fellow citizens with more respect.

  59. For those of us who have mastered elementary school arithmetic, it is disconcerting to read that we are now paying twice as much because costs rose 200%. When costs rise 200%, we pay THREE times as much — the original 100% and the 200% increase. NG wrote “Indeed, inflation-adjusted costs per pupil have gone up over 200 percent since 1970, while student achievement is flat (at best). Can you think of any other part of your life (especially one in the private sector) where you are paying twice as much for the same freaking outcome?”

  60. the single most wasted source of expenditures in education is the dollars spend on superintendents salaries. Note the moron in lower merion. School systems do not need superintendents if they actually had parents willing to be involved in running the schools. the sdcond highest waste occurs at the level of higher education. You could close the doors of half the universities in america and nothing at all would be lost.

  61. Actually if costs went up by 200 percent then you’re paying three times as much. “Going up by” X percent starts from a baseline of 1, i.e., “one times as much” as before. If you’d written “costs are 200 percent of what they were” then it would be twice as much. But twice as much is the same as “going up by 100 percent”. If something goes up by zero percent, it’s still “one times as much” as before — it hasn’t dropped to nothing.

  62. Lets see how public employees have been compensated over those 30 years, during the 1980s and 90s it was not out of the realm of possibilities that private sector employees had raises in the 15 – 20% range and having their 401(k) contributions match to the max allowed by the IRS, and what about those bonuses? In the future will raises and bonuses for private sector employees be capped by law? Probably not. However, as a teacher in IL our raises are capped to 6%, and we had to “fight” to allow a higher increase if you changed positions. I never had the possibility to have any match to a 403(b) and my only bonus was a coffee cup.
    Also, children are NOT widgets. To compare that children are not improving at the same rate as the increasing cost of their education shows lack of knowledge of education. Would you expect a 200% increase in what a 10 year old can do? Should a 10 year old now be able to do what a 20 year old in 1970 could do? The average 10 year old is still the average 10 year old with the brain of a 10 year old. The increase in cost is due to just the increase in the cost of doing the business of education. How much did a text book cost in 1970? Do you expect the children to have access to a computer in school at about $750 each?(With all the software included) Have your utility bills increased over those 30 years? How about the cost of the fuel for the busses?
    One last question, do you want the teachers of your children to split their attention between the planning and inplementation of the education of your children and a second, or third, job in order to be able to make ends meet?

  63. If you eliminate immigrant hispanic and black students scores the results show USA teachers get better results than than most countries.
    Public sector workers are overpaid in benefits, but why no mention of the economic burden of millions of non assimilating immigrants with little focus on making the country better, only here for what they can get today for themselves and those like them.

    We grew by 100 million i last 40 years nearly all due to immigration. Public sector would not be so great if not so much massive immigration.

  64. When public service became less service and less selfless, it became private interest, not public services.

    Taxes were meant to pay for government operation, not government pensions. Isn’t that what Social Security was invented for?

    Why elected officials should get public pensions rather than social security is a scheme of conflicts of interest the public has yet to engage properly within the scheme of government.

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