Posts Tagged ‘diverted’

Public Unions To Govmt Budgets Like Kryptonite To Superman

January 25, 2010

Warning: do not read this if you don’t want your eyeballs to shoot out of your skull like bullets.

JANUARY 22, 2010, 11:19 P.M. ET

Public Employee Unions Are Sinking California
Months after closing its last budget gap, the Golden State is $20 billion in the red.

By STEVEN GREENHUT

An old friend of mine has a saying, “Even the worm learns.” Prod one several hundred times, he says, and it will learn to avoid the prodder. As California enters its annual budget drama, I can’t help but wonder if the wisdom of the elected politicians here in the state capital equals that of the earthworm.

The state is in a precarious position, with a 12.3% unemployment rate (more than two points higher than the national average) and a budget $20 billion in the red (only months after the last budget fix closed a large deficit). Productive Californians are leaving for states with less-punishing regulatory and tax regimes. Yet so far there isn’t a broad consensus to do much about those who have prodded the state into its current position: public employee unions that drive costs up and fight to block spending cuts.

Earlier this month, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a budget that calls for a $6.9 billion handout from Washington (unlikely to be forthcoming) and vows to protect current education funding, 40% of the state’s budget. He does want to eliminate the Calworks welfare-to-work program and enact a 5% pay cut for state employees. These are reasonable ideas, but also politically unlikely.

CCgreenhut

Associated Press – Los Angeles County employees rally for a new contract.


As the Sacramento Bee’s veteran columnist Dan Walters recently put it, the governor’s budget is “disconnected from economic and political reality.” Mr. Walters suspects what will happen next: “Most likely, [the governor] and lawmakers will, to use his own phrase, ‘kick the can down the road’ with some more accounting tricks and other gimmicks, and dump the mess on whoever is ill-fated to become governor a year hence.”

Mr. Walters’ Jan. 10 column was fittingly titled, “Schwarzenegger Reverts to Fantasy with Budget Proposal.” Shortly before releasing his budget, the governor and Democratic state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg held a self-congratulatory news conference. Mr. Steinberg used the spotlight to bemoan what he deemed to be unfair attacks on California. Mr. Schwarzenegger told a hokey story about his pet pig and pony working together to break into the dog’s food. It was an example, he said, of how “last year, we here in this room did some great things working together.”

Meanwhile, activists are fast at work. For example, the Bay Area Council, a moderate business organization, is pushing for a constitutional convention to reshape California’s textbook-sized constitution. The council’s aim is to ditch a constitutional provision that requires a two-thirds vote in the legislature to pass budgets. Other reforms being proposed include a plan to institute a part-time legislature and another plan to require legislators to pass drug tests. None of these ideas will ratchet down state spending.

To do that California needs to take on its public employee unions.

Approximately 85% of the state’s 235,000 employees (not including higher education employees) are unionized. As the governor noted during his $83 billion budget roll-out, over the past decade pension costs for public employees increased 2,000%. State revenues increased only 24% over the same period. A Schwarzenegger adviser wrote in the San Jose Mercury News in the past few days that, “This year alone, $3 billion was diverted to pension costs from other programs.” There are now more than 15,000 government retirees statewide who receive pensions that exceed $100,000 a year, according to the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility.

Many of these retirees are former police officers, firefighters, and prison guards who can retire at age 50 with a pension that equals 90% of their final year’s pay. The pensions for these (and all other retirees) increase each year with inflation and are guaranteed by taxpayers forever—regardless of what happens in the economy or whether the state’s pensions funds have been fully funded (which they haven’t been).

A 2008 state commission pegged California’s unfunded pension liability at $63.5 billion, which will be amortized over several decades. That liability, released before the precipitous drop in stock-market and real-estate values, certainly will soar.

One idea gaining traction is to create a two-tier pension system to offer lesser benefits to new employees. That’s a good start, but it would still leave tens of thousands of state employees in line to receive lucrative benefits that the state must find future revenues to pay for. Another is to enact paycheck protections that require union officials to get permission from their members before spending union dues on politics (something that would undercut union power).

My hope is that these and other reforms find support in unlikely places. Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, a well-known liberal voice, recently wrote this in the San Francisco Chronicle: “The deal used to be that civil servants were paid less than private sector workers in exchange for an understanding that they had job security for life. But we politicians—pushed by our friends in labor—gradually expanded pay and benefits . . . while keeping the job protections and layering on incredibly generous retirement packages. . . . [A]t some point, someone is going to have to get honest about the fact.”

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, another prominent liberal Democrat, told a legislative hearing in October that public employee pensions would “bankrupt” the state. And the chief actuary for the California Public Employees Retirement System has called the current pension situation “unsustainable.”

As the state careens toward insolvency, these remarks are the first sign that some people are learning the lesson of the earthworm.

Mr. Greenhut is director of the Pacific Research Institute’s journalism center and author of the new book “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation” (The Forum Press).

I’m left aghast at the thought that unions across the country are literally spending hundreds of billions of dollars for political campaigns while passing off their health care and retirement costs to taxpayers.

Pension costs increased 2,000% while revenues increased only 24% – and the unions that inflicted this hell on us continue to run massive political campaigns to collect more and more and more while we drown trying to sustain a dying system.

Again and again, Obama has demonstrated that he is a bought-and-paid-for slave to the union agendaIn Obama’s own words:

“Your agenda has been my agenda in the United States Senate.  Before debating health care, I talked to Andy Stern and SEIU members.”

“We are going to paint the nation purple with SEIU.”

In his latest act of betrayal of the vast majority of the American people who are NOT unionized, Obama handed out $59 billion to the unions in yet another subsidized sweetheart deal.

I want you to understand in no uncertain terms: America is very nearly doomed.  When it dies, it will be due to Democrats and their hellish, selfish policies.

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Biden Reveals Obama Administration Treating Afghanistan As Political Problem

October 19, 2009

The money quote in the New York Times’ story on Joe Biden’s view on Afghanistan:

Beyond Mr. Biden’s strategic concerns, some who participated in administration deliberations earlier this year said he was keenly aware that the country, and particularly his party’s liberal base, was growing tired of the war and might not accept many more years of extensive American commitment.

“I think a big part of it is, the vice president’s reading of the Democratic Party is this is not sustainable,” said Bruce O. Riedel, who led the administration’s review [of Afghanistan] early this year. “That’s a part of the process that’s a legitimate question for a president — if I do this, can I sustain it with political support at home? That was the argument the vice president was making back in the winter.”

For any Democrat who ever wants to claim that Bush or Cheney “politicized the war,” remember this and shut the hell up.

Biden is saying, “If we send more troops to augment our force, we won’t get the votes we want.  And our votes are a lot more important than our troops, aren’t they?”

Biden, apparently Obama’s new new “expert” on Afghanistan, is described in the New York Times as being “deeply pessimistic” about the war.  I’m reminded of when Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proclaimed defeat in Iraq.  Cut and run cowards will ever be cut and run cowards.

I’m also reminded of Democrat House Majority Whip Representative James Clyburn saying that good news in Iraq amounted to a problem for Democrats.  It was a “problem” only because the Democrats were more interested in their demagoguery and political games than they were in our soldiers’ lives or the victory they were trying to win for the country.

Joe Biden is an “expert” in foreign policy the way I am an “expert” in neurosurgery: no one in their right mind would ever want me doing it.  The Times story continues:

But Mr. Riedel said the public could be persuaded to stick by the war with a well-articulated argument by the president. And others, more harshly, argue that Mr. Biden’s judgment on foreign policy has often been off base.

They point out that he voted against the successful Persian Gulf war of 1991, voted for the Iraq invasion of 2003, proposed dividing Iraq into three sections in 2006 and opposed the additional troops credited by many with turning Iraq around in 2007.

“When was the last time Biden was right about anything?” Thomas E. Ricks, a military writer, wrote in a blog on Sept. 24. Mr. Ricks is affiliated with the Center for a New American Security, a research organization founded by Democrats.

Stacked up against Biden are people who actually have some kind of basic clue about military reality — men like General David Petraeus, General Stan McChrystal (the nation’s foremost special operations expert who would know better than anyone if the counter-terrorism strategy favored by Biden would work), and General Dan McNeil (who has served as commander in Afghanistan in multiple capacities).

Charles Krauthammer a) slams Biden’s incompetence to make such decisions in juxtaposition to the incredible competence of the generals who profoundly disagree with Biden; and b) slams the incredibly cynical Obama strategy to create a new “expert” to justify his undermining of his generals and his troops:

KRAUTHAMMER: I think it’s hard to believe this sudden media inflation of the wisdom of Joe Biden is accidental. It’s clear that there is a debate inside the White House.

You got McChrystal, a man of incredible authority and stature, who says you got to go this way with a heavy troop involvement, and you’ve got Petraeus, the man who saved Iraq, saying the same, saying otherwise we’re going to lose.

And the administration obviously is resisting, and it has to have a champion of the other side, and it’s the hapless vice president. So some way you have to inflate his status and to make it at least somebody that will be a credible alternative.

I’m not sure that the Biden plan is a plan. It’s an idea, and the administration obviously in its leaks is tending towards the Biden idea. But it needs to have some stature on that side, and that’s why I’m little bit skeptical about the discovery of the vast storage of military wisdom in a guy, if you remember, opposed the Gulf War and opposed the surge and supported the Iraq war, which he now says was one of the great mistakes of American history — 0 for three.

Obama will lose more than twice as many American soldiers this year than George Bush lost last year.  And his strategy seems to be to blame George Bush rather than honor his own repeatedly publicly stated commitment to the security of Afghanistan.

Even liberals are now publicly calling Obama the “whiner-in-chief.”  The Washington Post is asking, “Does Obama have the backbone?” and pointing out that:

This is the president we now have: He inspires lots of affection but not a lot of awe.

The sorry fact of the matter is that terrorists don’t have a lot of respect for affection, but only for the awe that Obama is woefully lacking.

They are resurgent, because they believe they have a weakling in the White House that they can intimidate and defeat.

And I fear that they are right.

I am actually updating this before I even publish it, but the loathsome extent of Democrats’ playing with the war like a toy to benefit themselves is further revealed in a Washington Times article entitled, “U.S. troop funds diverted to pet projects“:

Senators diverted $2.6 billion in funds in a defense spending bill to pet projects largely at the expense of accounts that pay for fuel, ammunition and training for U.S. troops, including those fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to an analysis.

Among the 778 such projects, known as earmarks, packed into the bill: $25 million for a new World War II museum at the University of New Orleans and $20 million to launch an educational institute named after the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

While earmarks are hardly new in Washington, “in 30 years on Capitol Hill, I never saw Congress mangle the defense budget as badly as this year,” said Winslow Wheeler, a former Senate staffer who worked on defense funding and oversight for both Republicans and Democrats. He is now a senior fellow at the Center for Defense Information, an independent research organization.

What can you even say to such treasonous betrayal of our troops?