Greenhut: No vacation from union outrages
There's nothing like a visit to awe-inspiring natural wonders – i.e., the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Lake Powell – to get one's mind off of politics and onto more transcendent issues. And I love it when the toughest choice of the day is whether to opt for the red sauce or the green sauce on my burrito.
All vacations come to an end, although not quite as abruptly as my trip earlier this month. Who would have thought that it would be cooler in Needles than in my Diamond Bar neighborhood last Saturday, or that the electricity would have gone out in all the houses on my side of the street?
The electricity problem ended my week of blissful nonpolitical thoughts. Although an investor-owned utility, Southern California Edison is a regulated monopoly, and as such functions largely as would any government agency. SCE's recorded message assured me that the agency was working hard to fix the problem, even though there were no workers on my street dealing with the disabled transformer.
I figured that SCE really stands for Shades of the Communist Era. As if we lived in the old Soviet Eastern Bloc, my neighbors and I adopted a fatalistic approach, figuring the gods of the electricity bureaucracy would get to our houses when they got to them. In the world of government and government-enforced monopolies, there's no sense fighting the bureaucracy. We enjoyed a neighbor's swimming pool and made the best of it for nearly two days.
Oh, yeah, and I caught up with what I missed by reading the newspapers.
There was plenty of news, but pretty much the same old depressing story of waste, fraud and everything else one would expect in a world of unruly government.
Locally, the same government-worker unions that secured a 62 percent retroactive spike in their pensions two years ago, after promising to take no salary hikes (for two years) and to pay for any excess costs if their pension spike doesn't pencil out, are bragging that they got a new 4.5 percent pay hike they secured from the county and that they won't have to pay any extra pension costs even though the spike did not pencil out.
The Orange County Board of Supervisors will vote on this Tuesday. Three Republican supervisors who rammed0 the pension gift of funds in 2004 – Bill Campbell, Jim Silva and Tom Wilson – are likely to support this new anti-taxpayer deal.
Listen to Nick Berardino, the union chief, boasting to his members in a recent e-mail (hat tip to OCBlog for posting it) that this is an "outstanding one-year deal." The deal also allows an additional $8 million "to be used for special market adjustments for classes that have fallen behind the labor market," according to Berardino.
No matter how bad the news about increasing pension liabilities, the politicians keep widening the Grand Canyon-sized disparity between the government sector and the private sector, with private-sector workers depending on 401-k's and their savings to survive in retirement, and government workers retiring with 80 percent to 100 percent of their union-inflated pay forever.
This salary reopener could have been delayed another year, and the county could have pushed for significant cost-sharing to make up for the massive pension deficit caused in part by the pension spike. But why bother when the union seems to own the Board of Supervisors? I see a constant ratcheting up of pay and benefits for government workers. One year they give up raises in exchange for a pension hike, and then the next year they lobby for large pay raises. It will be back to pension increases the next time around. This creates inflation. Union defenders focus on the "needs" of the workers, without ever thinking about anyone else. Berardino signs his e-mail, "In Solidarity." Who will stand in solidarity with the taxpayer?
One agency follows another, and while those in the private sector are dealing with reduced pension plans and stable pay, the government workers get it all because decisions about them are made by politicians who don't worry about how to pay for things, whereas decisions in the private sector ultimately must face bottom-line pressures: No profits, no jobs.
Other stuff happened, too, while I was away, such as the resignation of Capistrano Unified School District Superintendent James Fleming. Hooray. The Register reported that he had compiled a Nixonian enemies list of those who supported a school board recall. Before I left, I read that our new registrar of voters, Neal Kelley, illegally provided signature information to Fleming's district. While I was gone, the L.A. Times reported that Kelley also provided info to the district about the progress of the recall – information he didn't share with the other side. Such acts of illegality and favoritism undermine the sense of fairness that is essential in a registrar's office.
Maybe Kelley will follow the lead of Fleming and resign, which would at least cap a week of disturbing but typical news with something positive. By the way, the Grand Canyon was shockingly impressive. The only thing more impressive would be to see some accountability when government officials and politicians waste your tax dollars, abuse your rights and put their own agendas and employees above the citizenry.
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