Category Archives: Unions

Your Incredibly Stupid Progressive Economic Propaganda for the Day

There is so much economic ignorance/stupidity in this video (below), I wouldn’t even know where to begin. John Maynard Keynes himself would probably be embarrassed by this video courtesy of the California* Federation of Teachers and narrated by the great economist of our time Ed Asner.

I don’t have much else to say about this video right now, it’s too easy (though feel free to rip it apart here…or defend it). Actually, I am in the planning stages of writing a book that challenges this sort of mentality (I’m shooting for a release date about May 2013). I’m hoping Liberty Papers readers will buy it; I will have discounts for Liberty Papers readers.

And now for your, um…enjoyment[?]: Tax the Rich: An animated fairy tale**

WARNING: This is 7 minutes and 50 seconds of your life you will never get back.

*Oh yes, the state of California which is being run by people with this kind of mentality! Yeah, their economic policies have been working great, haven’t they?

**Fairy tale is actually a very good description.

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Atlas Shrugged Part II in Theaters This Weekend

Atlas Shrugged Part II is opening this weekend. Want to check it out? Follow this link to find a theater near you.

And now, the official Atlas Shrugged Part II trailer:

Accountability, responsibility, risk, metrics, unions, markets… What about education?

As has been discussed here recently, Chicago teachers are striking, even though they already make an average salary nearly double that of the average Chicago family, and are being offered a 16% raise over four years.

I dunno about you, but as a free market partcipant in our economy today, that sounds like a pretty good deal.

Well, first thing is they’re asking for a 30% raise over four years… but that’s really just a negotiating point, and one they don’t expect to get. If it were just about the raise, I’d guess they’d take the 16%.

It’s not.

It’s not really about the money; it’s that the teachers new contract attempts, in even the tiniest way, to add some accountability and performance measures to the teachers contracts.

… and the teachers unions can’t give even a millimeter on this issue. Not one millimeter, not ever. Because if they do, their rigid seniority system collapses, and they lose power.

Here’s a fun fact: a lot of younger teachers don’t mind the idea of performance standards, and they actually LIKE the idea of merit pay, performance bonueses etc… It’s not a foreign idea for them, because all their friends who live in the real world market economy have that sort of thing.

Recently, in Idaho, the commissioner of education managed to get teacher tenure eliminated, and performance based bonuses (note, not performance based salaries or hiring or firing, just bonuses) passed as commission regulations, and then when they were challenged in lawsuits, via statute approved by public referendum.

In response, the teachers unions sponsored an unsuccessful attempt to have the commissioner (who is now serving as one of the two lead advisors on education to the Romney campaign) recalled. So unsuccessful in fact the numbers indicate basically no-one voted for the recall but teachers and their immediate families.

This year, they managed to get enough signatures together to get a repeal effort on the merit pay rules on the ballot as a referendum; polling on which indicates it will fail miserably. Meanwhile, the teachers unions are both suing to prevent the policies from being implemented AND SIMULTANEOUSLY suing to force the department of education to distribute the bonus money, but on a seniority basis.

Trying to have their cake and eat it too.

I don’t understand how much more clear it could be that this has nothing to do with the wellbeing of our children, or about good teachers; it’s about protecting union rules, and union rule…

BUT, there are certainly good, well meaning people, who really do believe that we shouldn’t put performance standards on teachers… That it’s somehow “unfair” or impossible, or just not a good idea etc…

“You can’t hold teachers accountable for the performance of their students, there’s too much they can’t control. Their home lives, their parents, poverty… Good teachers could be penalized simply for having bad students). It’s not fair”

Common refrain from teachers, and from those who support their position in this… After all you wouldn’t want to be evaluated on someone elses efforts and abilities right?

Well… I am. Most likely you are too.

In the free market, we are held accountable for other people performance and decisions etc… all the time.

As an individual contributor, my performance is measured not only by my own efforts, abilities, and success; but that of my group, my manager, and my company as a whole.

As a manager, I am held entirely accountable for someone elses performance. I have tools to motivate them, help them perform better etc… But still, I have to deal with the performance that other people give me. I have to have the skill to use that performance in the best possible way.

“But you can fire your low performing employees”.

Really?

Ever worked in corporate America? Or had a real job of any kind?

So long as my employees meet bare minimum standards, and don’t actually commit a crime (or violate major HR policies), I’m not getting rid of my low performers. It’s up to me, to make them meet the standards I need for my group to be successful.

In sales, you are held accountable for other people actions, decisions, and performance as well. You don’t get to control your customers decisions, and how much they buy from you is dependent more on their performance than yours.

Yes, a skilled salesperson with a good support team will sell more than an unskilled one; and that’s as it should be… but its still entirely dependent on someone elses performance and decisions. A good sales guy can’t get a customer who doesn’t have the money for the product, to buy the product… or at least not more than once.

Good sales managers understand this. They set account and territory sales expectations based on a reasonable evaluation of the possible performance of those accounts. If they don’t then they won’t get any decent sales people to work for them, and they’ll constantly churn sales people making these accounts and territories perform even worse.

What matters in evaluating your ability as a salesperson isn’t your absolute sales, it’s your performance in comparison to other sales people with a similar situation. IF you perform well, then good managers will put you on difficult accounts that have the potential to perform better, and reward you if you make them perform up to potential.

At least if you have a decent management team.

At that point you’re at the mercy of having a good boss, who understands that relative performance is a better judge of your capability than absolute performance…

Just like teachers need to be.

Holding teachers accountable, doesn’t mean that all teachers should be held to arbitrary and universal standards. Teachers that teach all “remedial” students can’t be held to the same standard of performance as those who teach all honors students…

And NO-ONE IS SUGGESTING ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

Or at least no-one serious, with credibility, who should be listened to.

Calling for “standardized testing and accountability” isn’t calling for teachers to make poor students perform at the level of honors students. It’s calling for teachers of all levels of students to perform no worse than average against other teachers of similar levels of students; and to measure improvement in those students over time, compared to other teachers of the same level of students.

How is that unreasonable?

Only those with the irrational… even stupid… belief that teaching is some kind of special “calling” performed only by special people who must be protected from the market forces that the rest of us must cope with; could possibly justify that sort of thinking, with any kind of intellectual honesty.

They generally apply the same sort of thinking to artists, who must be protected from the horrible taste of the masses etc…

Yeah… If we did that, then teachers would be at the mercy of having competent managers, who knew how to evaluate performance.

Just like the rest of us.

In fact… The only time I ever see a serious proposal that teachers should be evaluated by absolute and arbitrary standards… It’s coming from lefties or teachers; because they are trying to “avoid bias” or “avoid subjectivity” etc… etc… etc…

Holding teachers accountable also means holding administrators and school systems accountable. It means making them participate in the market that the rest of us are forced to.

If you have a poorly managed school, good teachers won’t go there.

IF good teachers won’t go there, then good students won’t go there… IF they’re given the option that is…

Oh… wait a second… Hey… that might just be…

And of course, if we allowed that, then the unions would lose…

Oh… hey, that might just be…

Ya think maybe…

Teaching is a job, just like any other. It’s a job that has more benefits than most. These days, it’s even a job that pays more than most. It’s a job that has a lot more security than most. It’s a job that has more garbage and BS and heartbreak than most. It’s a job that’s harder than most. It’s a job that’s a lot more important than most…

Great teachers can do more to help children be successful than anything other than great parents…

But it’s still a job.

Teachers aren’t superheroes, they aren’t artists, they are workers… just like the rest of us.

Teachers don’t need to be protected from the real world, they need to be a part of it, and accountable to it… just like the rest of us.

Maybe if they were, there would be a lot more good teachers, and a lot less bad ones.

Maybe if they our were, our children would be a lot better off.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Are the Striking Teachers’ Demands in Chicago Reasonable? You Tell Me

The teacher strike in Chicago has entered its third day. This is one of the few facts the MSM is reporting along with the fact that the city and the union are far from reaching an agreement. What is missing from much of the coverage is what are their demands? Sure, the MSM reports that the teachers want to be “respected,” paid more, and have smaller class sizes, among other demands but compared to what?

According to NRO’s John Fund, the average annual salary of Chicago teachers is $76,000 before benefits. The highest teacher salary in the nation. Oh, but maybe the cost of living is higher than the rest of the nation! Maybe, maybe not but it also might be worth noting that the average Chicago family earns about $47,000 annually. The teachers were offered a 16% raise over the next four years – a salary of $88,000 by my math*, and the teachers rejected it as it’s still not enough. This doesn’t even take into account that the teachers only pay 3% of their healthcare costs, work 9 or so months out of the year, and are eligible to retire in their fifties with a pension. Yet we are told these poor, poor public servants are underpaid.

Okay, maybe these teachers are actually worth $88,000 a year. Maybe the Chicago teachers are just that good? Fund also points out that 15% of fourth graders can read proficiently and 56% of Chicago area freshman graduate. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 79% government educated Chicago eighth graders cannot read at grade level and 80% not grade-level proficient at math.

Are these government school teachers really getting such a raw deal? You tell me.

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Recovered from the Memory Hole: Rep. Paul Ryan Urges Congress to Pass TARP

Mitt Romney has selected Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) as his running mate with great fanfare among conservatives. Paul Ryan, someone with some fiscal sanity on a major political ticket who can offer an alternative to President Obama and his big government, big spending ways.

Well, not so fast. Not too long after the news of Ryan being selected as Romney’s running mate hit the wires, this little gem was recovered from the memory hole:

Well, maybe this is an anomaly. I wish it were. In addition to supporting TARP, Ryan supported the auto bailout, Medicare Part D, and voted against repealing Davis-Bacon. Ryan is also a war hawk and his record on civil liberties isn’t any better. Extending the Patriot Act, supporting the indefinite detention of American citizens provisions of the NDAA, and voting to create the Department of Homeland Security are but a few examples.

To put it another way, Paul Ryan is no Ron Paul, or even Rand Paul for that matter.

Polls Show Encouraging Signs in the Cause of Liberty

Just yesterday, the Libertarian Party celebrated its 40th Anniversary. In that time, no LP presidential candidate has come close to winning and few have won any office higher than at the city or county level. As someone who would like America to return to a much freer and prosperous place, it’s very easy to become discouraged. But is it possible that perhaps maybe more of our fellow citizens are finally coming around to our way of thinking? Can Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and other libertarian leaning Republicans win the struggle for the soul of the Republican Party?

According to a Gallup Poll released yesterday, 64% of a sample of 1,012 adults they polled said that “big government was the biggest threat to the country in the future” compared to 26% who said big business, and 10% who said big labor was the biggest threat. Surprisingly (to me at least), it was those who identified themselves as Democrats, who had the greatest increase in adopting this view, up 16% from the poll Gallup took in 2009, 48% now say big government is the biggest threat. What is even more remarkable is this increase happened while their guy is in the Oval Office.

Gallup’s bottom line conclusion from the poll:

Americans’ concerns about the threat of big government are near record-high levels. The Occupy Wall Street movement, focused on “fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations,” has drawn much attention and a large following. Still, the majority of Americans do not view big business as the greatest threat to the country when asked to choose among big business, big government, and big labor. In fact, Americans’ concerns about big business have declined significantly since 2009.

Additionally, while Occupy Wall Street isn’t necessarily affiliated with a particular party, its anti-big business message may not be resonating with majorities in any party. Republicans, independents, and now close to half of Democrats are more concerned about the threat of big government than that coming from big business.

Music to my Libertarian ears!

On the presidential campaign front, here’s another nugget of encouraging news in a recent PPP poll in Iowa: Newt Gingrich 22%, Ron Paul 21%, Mitt Romney 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%, Rick Santorum at 8%, Jon Huntsman at 5%, and Gary Johnson at 1%.

Perhaps Gov. Gary Johnson holds the key to Ron Paul closing the gap in Iowa (and perhaps elsewhere). Gov. Johnson has been publicly flirting with the idea of dropping the GOP like a bad habit and running for the Libertarian Party nomination for some time now (hey, if the Republican establishment wants to treat him like a 3rd party candidate, maybe he should become a 3rd party candidate). As much as I hate to say it, the establishment has prevailed against Johnson and his supporters in this stage of the campaign. The time has come IMHO for Johnson supporters to encourage the governor to drop out of the Republican primary contest and throw his full support behind Ron Paul (while gearing up for the LP contest in the event Paul doesn’t get the GOP nomination).

Now that I am firmly 100% in the Ron Paul camp, a word of warning: the GOP establishment isn’t taking too kindly to Ron Paul’s recent success. It’s going to get nasty the more success he has (and the more nasty the attacks become, the more we know his message is resonating). Here’s one example of what I mean.

If Ron Paul can somehow overcome the establishment and win the nomination, perhaps some of the Democrats and independents who aren’t too thrilled with Obama’s atrocious civil liberties record can help put Paul into the Whitehouse. Not an easy task to be sure but probably our best (probably only) hope of slaying the dragon of big government and restoring liberty to America.

***UPDATE***
I somehow missed this story but apparently, Gov. Johnson has requested that his name be removed from Michigan primary ballot (his request was denied).

Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, had been running as a Republican, but was denied access to most of the party’s televised debates and recently announced he would seek the Libertarian Party nomination instead.

Johnson’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment, and it was unclear how Johnson’s decision would affect his effort to qualify as a Libertarian. Gendreau said Michigan law prohibits a candidate whose name appears on a primary ballot, and fails to win the nomination, to appear under another party banner in the general election.

Don’t Bother with the Fine Print, Just Pass the Bill

The title of this post ought to be a red flag no matter who the president is or what your political persuasion. President Obama is demanding that congress pass his “American Jobs Act” in front of supportive crowds of people who I am sure have taken the time to read the whole bill and understand its contents. This bill should be passed “immediately” and with “No games, no politics, no delays,” so sayeth our dear leader.

I can’t help but think of another piece of legislation that had to be passed “immediately” and “without delay” nearly ten years ago in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The piece of legislation I am referring to of course was the USA PATRIOT Act. I mean what’s not to like? The bill has the words “USA” and “PATRIOT” in them and would make our country safer because the law would give law enforcement the tools needed to fight terrorism.

One of the tools the PATRIOT Act (Sec 213), a.k.a. “sneak and peek” provided law enforcement the ability to delay notification of search warrants of someone suspected of a “criminal offense.” Between 2006 and 2009, this provision must have been used many hundreds or thousands of times against suspected terrorists, right? Try 15 times. This same provision was used 122 in fraud cases and 1,618 times in drug related cases.

Is this what supporters of the PATRIOT Act had in mind when most of them didn’t even read the bill?

So we’ve been down this road before – pass a bill with a name that no one would be comfortable voting against. To vote against the PATRIOT Act might suggest to voters that you are somehow unpatriotic as voting against Obama’s jobs bill will undoubtedly be used in campaign ads to say opponents are “obstructionists” or are not willing to “put politics aside” in order to “put Americans back to work.” And don’t even get me started on all the bad laws that have been passed using names of dead children.

But who is really playing political games here? I think the answer quite clearly is President Obama in this case. He knows damn well that if the economy is still in the shape it is come Election Day he has very little chance of winning a second term unless he can find some way to successfully pin the blame his political opponents. He knows that raising taxes is a nonstarter for Republicans – particularly Tea Party Republicans. There may be some good things in his bill that should be passed (the Devil is in the details of course) that Republicans can support but if it’s all or nothing, the answer will be nothing.

President Obama is counting on the nothing so he can say it’s the House Republicans’ fault that the economy hasn’t recovered. This class warfare rhetoric plays very well on college campuses and union rallies. The worst thing that could happen from Obama’s perspective is if the Republicans call his bluff, pass the bill, and the bill fails to provide the results he claims his bill will achieve (though as a political calculation, it may be a wash as Tea Party voters in-particular would not be pleased either).

The worst thing the congress could do for this economy would be to pass this bill as hastily as the PATRIOT Act was a decade ago. The best thing congress could do is for its members to actually read the bill and have a rational discussion* and debate it line by line. Whether Obama’s intentions are for good or ill, there will be seen and unforeseen consequences if the bill does pass. A top down approach (as I think this bill is) is rarely if ever a good recipe for an economy. No one is smart enough to plan the economy, not even the brain trust of the Obama administration (this should be obvious by now).

Just because the president says his bill will create jobs doesn’t make it so.
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Kevin Drum’s Guest Bloggers Upholding The [ahem] Fine Standards He Has Created There

Kevin Drum is on vacation this week. While I thought that might leave me without boneheaded material to criticize, I’m afraid he’s found guest bloggers as credible and clueless as himself. Today we have Andy Kroll, who wants to delve into meta-debates about rights and entitlements with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

But the statement that really jumped out from Walker’s interview is his own perception of the bargaining fight:

“They defined it as a rights issue. It’s not a rights issue. It’s an expensive entitlement.”

What’s his first step to show how wrong Walker is? Well, he skips right to the United Nations, a body whose Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that you can use your rights as long as you don’t do so in a way “contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations” (Art. 29, Sec 3). He starts there and follows on with a lot of other legally-created privileges that he calls rights:

Hmm. I’m pretty sure the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, passed by the UN after World War II (and drafted and adopted by the US), says that collective bargaining is in fact a human right. Oh, yes, there it is, in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration:

4. Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Then there’s the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) here in the US, which “explicitly grants employees the right to collectively bargain and join trade unions,” according to the scholars at Cornell University Law School. Or as the National Labor Relations Board’s website puts it, the NLRA “protects employees’ rights to act together, with or without a union, to improve working terms and conditions, including wages and benefits.”

All of this analysis has one critical flaw: it doesn’t properly recognize that there are multiple kinds of rights, and that a right which the government shall not deny is, well, slightly different than one that it grants. I left the below in a comment to that Kroll’s post at the original site:

Are you even familiar with the distinction between “negative rights” and “positive rights”?

Negative rights are rights that you have unless someone else infringes upon them. You have a right to life, but not to force others to produce the food and shelter you need to live. You have the right to freedom of speech, but not the right to force anyone to listen (or, in the case of blogging, to force a blog to print your comments to a post). A right to healthcare or education — if you define it as me not being stopped by government or highway robbers from freely purchasing health or education services on an open market from a willing seller — is a negative right.

Positive rights are rights that require someone else to procure them to you. A right to healthcare — if you assume that those who can’t afford care should be covered by “society” — is a positive right. A right to an education — if you assume it should be paid for by government taxes — is a positive right. A right to food — if you define it as foodstamps for the indigent — is a positive right. *ALL* positive rights can be described as “entitlements”, as they’re what we as a society might define all people are entitled to be provided to them if they cannot do it themselves.

A “right” to organizing a union is a positive right (inasmuch as it restricts and employer’s ability to fire people for trying to exercise it). If we so choose, in our democratic society, that people should be allowed to unionize to counterbalance what may be perceived as in unfair labor advantage to the employer, we can call it a “right” all we want, but it’s a positive right, not a negative right. As such, calling it an “expensive entitlement” doesn’t seem all that out of the ordinary. I don’t see any real disconnect in what Walker said.

Now, I was a bit unclear in that final paragraph. What I intended to say was this: The right to form a union is a negative right. It is inherent in the right to freedom of association. The right to collective bargaining is a negative right. It is inherent in the right to freedom of speech. As you point out (and as I intended to), it becomes a positive right when we write laws or regulations forcing businesses to the other side of the table. Forcing an employer to actually deal with them on those collective terms is the “entitlement” of that positive right.

Andy Kroll waded into deep water here, and it’s clear he didn’t want to recognize that. It’s also potentially true that Gov. Walker did the same — the original linked article doesn’t make clear whether Walker’s statement about entitlement had deeper context. Kroll is trying to use one line from an already snipped interview to make Gov. Walker sound like a simpleton who doesn’t understand the nature of rights. In doing so, Kroll only proves that to be the case about himself.

Auto Bailout; Can’t Prove A Counterfactual, But You Can Infer

So the big debate is whether the gov’t should sell their post-IPO shares in GM. At current prices, they’d [unsurprisingly] be losing money on the sale, compared to the amount put up in the bailout.

So we have to ask — was it worth it? To determine that, we can’t base our entire calculation on the return of the bailout. A bailout is offered with the expectation that you might not get *any* return — you bail to prevent the craft from sinking; anything else is gravy. So to determine the worth of the bailout, we have to ask what would have happened in the absence of a bailout. Thankfully, the Center for Automotive Research released their prediction back in 2008:

Researchers at the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor, Michigan, estimate the impact on the U.S. economy would be substantial were all—or even half—of the three Detroit-based automotive manufacturers’ U.S. facilities to cease operations. The immediate shock to the economy would be felt well beyond the Detroit Three companies, negatively impacting the U.S. operations of international manufacturers and suppliers as well. Nearly 3 million jobs would be lost in the first year if there is a 100 percent reduction in Detroit Three U.S. operations.

“Our model estimates that a complete shutdown of Detroit Three U.S. production would have a major impact on the U.S. economy in terms of lost wages, reductions in social security receipts, personal income taxes paid, and an increase in transfer payments,” said Sean McAlinden, CAR chief economist and the study’s leader. “The government stands to lose on the level of $60 billion in the first year alone, and the three year total is well over $156 billion.”

Yikes! Sounds bad!

But would the automakers “cease operations”? Would they disappear into an economic black hole, never to be seen again, with only confused and unemployed UAW workers left behind like the un-Raptured masses?

Or would they, as Warren of Coyote Blog suggested way back when, be freed from working for an unproductive corporate environment and re-deployed in ways that their contributions will actually generate value?

So what if GM dies? Letting the GM’s of the world die is one of the best possible things we can do for our economy and the wealth of our nation. Assuming GM’s DNA has a less than one multiplier, then releasing GM’s assets from GM’s control actually increases value. Talented engineers, after some admittedly painful personal dislocation, find jobs designing things people want and value. Their output has more value, which in the long run helps everyone, including themselves.

I can’t find the specific post, but he has another where he suggests that if GM were even to face liquidation, it would not entail the loss of GM’s assets, much of its workforce, or its supply chain. The failure of GM [or Chrysler] would be painful, but fundamentally going through a serious bankruptcy [and/or liquidation] would free GM from its worst corporate problems, possibly returning them to a point where they actually generated value from their operations rather than losses.

Liquidation, of course, is the worst-case scenario. And there were plenty of folks suggesting that liquidation was impossible in the 2008-2010 era, because credit markets had seized and there was NO way anyone in the world would have the capital to buy up assets. But is it true?

Nope. Not at all. You need look no farther than Nortel. Nortel was a MAJOR telecommunications company, existing in one form or another since the late 1800’s, back in the days of the first telephone. It was built into an absolutely enormous conglomerate during the technology boom of the 1990’s, but like many companies in that sector, fell on hard times after the tech crash. They fought through bailouts in 2003 and 2009, but ultimately they declared bankruptcy right in the heart of the credit crunch, hoped to escape intact, but eventually had to go through liquidation. Between then and today, Nortel has basically ceased to exist. A look at the Wikipedia page for the liquidation results suggests that seized credit markets didn’t exactly stop them from finding buyers for their assets.

As an engineer who has dealt with what used to be Nortel and is now a collection of disparate companies that have purchased their assets, I can attest that Nortel has not “ceased operations”. That’s not to say that the changes over the last few years have been pain-free. There has been dislocation, there have been layoffs, and from my discussions with former Nortel employees as well as being a supplier, many things have changed. Fundamentally, though, Nortel’s business units are still in operations under different names. Many Nortel engineers are still employed within the same organization, only with a different letterhead on their business card. And as a supplier, I can say that the disruptions at Nortel have not put all of their suppliers out of business. Being a supplier has become more difficult in many ways — largely because the companies that bought Nortel units are run more efficiently than Nortel was, and this means that supplier competition is tougher — but that is fundamentally a good thing.

Would the experience of Nortel be the same as a potential GM or Chrysler bankruptcy? Obviously, it’s impossible to prove a counterfactual. But that also doesn’t mean that we should accept the claim that bailouts “saved the US auto industry” at face value. Had GM or Chrysler gone bankrupt, it’s likely that their various brands would have been picked up on the open market at various discount rates. Some might have been purchased for their own brand value, others might be purchased to use their factories and design engineers to produce vehicles under different nameplates.

One thinks, then, that the fear was not that the American auto industry would evaporate. The fear, instead, was that the psychological pride of having the “Big Three” would disappear. They didn’t care about jobs, they cared that Americans might be employed working for Toyota rather than for GM. It was nationalism, not economics, that drove decisions. As a result, the US taxpayer is going to prop up a manufacturer with a history of failure and little incentive to change (since one bailout can easily become two or three) solely in order to be able to say that GM still exists. You didn’t save an industry, America. You saved your ego.
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Overheated Rhetoric or Terroristic Threats?

Just about this time a month ago, Tea Partiers and those of us who support things like cutting spending were accused of using “overheated rhetoric” in the immediate aftermath of the attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords among others. Sarah Palin was blamed by Leftwing pundits for inspiring the gunman because she had “crosshairs” on a campaign map which included Giffords’ district in Tucson, AZ. Remember that?

Now fast forward to the public sector union protests in Wisconsin which overwhelmingly supports Democrats. I think Andrew Klavan of Pajamasmedia captures the violence and overheated rhetoric by these union members quite nicely in this video.

Remember, these are some of the very people who lectured Sarah Palin and the Tea Party just a month ago.

It gets better.

Republican Senators in Wisconsin have also started receiving death threats for daring to stand up against the union thugs. The following is one such e-mail:

Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for
more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.

WE want to make this perfectly clear. Because of your actions today and in the past couple of weeks I and the group of people that are working with me have decided that we’ve had enough. We feel that you and the people that support the dictator have to die. We have tried many other ways of dealing with your corruption but you have taken things too far and we will not stand for it any longer. So, this is how it’s going to happen: I as well as many
others know where you and your family live, it’s a matter of public records. We have all planned to assult you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. However, we decided that we wouldn’t leave it there. We also have decided that this may not be enough to send the message to you since you are so “high” on Koch and have decided that you are now going to single handedly make this a dictatorship instead of a demorcratic process. So we have also built several bombs that we have placed in various locations around the areas in which we know that you frequent. This includes, your house, your car, the state capitol, and well I won’t tell you all of them because that’s just no fun. Since we know that you are not smart enough to figure out why this is happening to you we have decided to make it perfectly clear to you. If you and your goonies feel that it’s necessary to strip the rights of 300,000 people and ruin their lives, making them unable to feed, clothe, and provide the necessities to their families and themselves then We Will “get rid of” (in which I mean kill) you. Please understand that this does not include the heroic Rep. Senator that risked everything to go aganist what you and your goonies wanted him to do. We feel
that it’s worth our lives to do this, because we would be saving the lives of 300,000 people. Please make your peace with God as soon as possible and say goodbye to your loved ones we will not wait any longer. YOU WILL DIE!!!!
Reply Reply to all Forward

What do glass houses and catapults sell for these days?

Hat tip: Boortz

Promises, Promises

What’s at stake in most unions? Promises. Laborers in non-union workplaces are offered very few promises. Typically employment is by contract for a specified (and individual) wage that can be severed at any time by either party for [mostly] any reason.

Unions negotiate additional layers of promises. Those promises may be specific regimented work rules, harmonization of wages across workers, significant curtailing of right to fire workers without significant justification, etc. Those promises may also extend out into future guarantees, such as a specific pension guaranteed in perpetuity once a certain term of employment is reached. Some of these promises may be reasonable, some may not. Unions are not an unqualified good or an unqualified ill.

The problem with such long-term promises as pension guarantees, though, is that they assume a static world which doesn’t exist. These guarantees must be funded long-term, or changing conditions may make them impossible to fulfill.

Herein, then, lies the difference between private-sector and public-sector unions:

In the private sector, if the cost of fulfilling promises becomes so great that a company can no longer meet the needs of their customers at a certain price, competition will arise and those customers will go elsewhere. If every GM car, as the Cincinnati Enquirer suggests, has its price increased by $2500 due to the UAW, I very well may choose to buy a cheaper Hyundai because I don’t view it as my responsibility to fund the promises made by GM. Further, if GM cuts corners in quality and reliability to meet the price point of that cheaper Hyundai, I am even less likely to buy their cars. The changing business conditions of market competition ensure there is a natural check on promises offered — a sheep can be shorn many times, but skinned only once.

In the public sector, however, the cost of fulfilling promises can be enforced at the barrel of a gun. Revenue is not derived from free choice or competition*. Whether I choose to support the teachers’ union by sending my child to their school, I’m still on the hook to pay for it. Checks on the power of government to fulfill its promises consist only of dramatic democratic action or entire government fiscal collapse. One is occurring in Wisconsin; the other in Greece. A sheep can be shorn many times; individuals within the flock may be skinned from time to time; but government fiscal problems are the equivalent of poisoning the flock’s water supply.
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Comment of the Day: “Education” Edition

Re: “Don’t Forget Your Homework…or Your Miranda Card”

Liberalism in the United States has, over the past forty years, been usurped by the socialist agenda. Our public schools are little more than indoctrination camps for the pacification of future generations.

At the same time, conservatism in the United States has been usurped by war-hawks and fundamentalist christians. Our funding for education has been marginalized, contributing to the growth of the socialist mind-set among educators and educational administrators, as well as contributing to the general ignorance of the populace concerning historical precedent for current affairs, and critical analysis of future prospects for avoiding past mistakes.

They simply do not have the funds to broaden educational horizons for students, and due to the changes in both liberalism and conservatism, have instead created lock-down facilities much like concentration camps which institutionally discourage free thought, free discourse and the development of critical thinking skills.

The continuation of this trend will erode what little is left of truly American society, turning us into a nation of frightened chattel animals whose sole purpose will be to provide revenue and labor for a totalitarian state, and predatory industry owned by the wealthy few, whose political machinations are directly contributing to this end.

Comment by Ken — February 25, 2011 @ 8:48 am

While I don’t agree entirely* with Ken’s comment, he does raise some interesting points. There certainly is a collectivist mindset that is pervasive in our culture on the Left and the Right and I think Ken has successfully identified them.

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Unjustified self-righteousness

Apparently, a member of the Denver teachers union thinks she knows what work is:

That’s your problem. You’re an entrepreneur, so you don’t work. You don’t know what work is until you get into an educational area.

Warren over at Coyote Blog replies:

Yep, some day I will have to stop loafing around and take on a brutal assistant principal job somewhere. All I have to worry about is that every dollar I own (and more) is invested in my business and could disappear at any time if I make a mistake

Now, as an IT professional, my viewpoint on hard work is a little more extreme than most. Fifty hours, the point at which every teacher at that protest would be complaining bitterly, is a moderate week for me. My worst work week topped out at just under 100 hours. To put that number in perspective, remember that a week is only 168 hours long. My worst continuous stretch was 42 hours straight of emergency work. Why work so hard? Because I’ve got customers who are impacted if things aren’t working. Because development delays can cost companies thousands of dollars a day.

Compare that to the life of a teacher, and that’s pretty damned rough. Compare that to truly high-stress, high-demand professions, and it’s not that bad. I wouldn’t trade places with a power company lineman who has to labor under potentially-lethal conditions and extreme pressure to get people’s power back on in an emergency. Nor would I trade places with an ER doctor or nurse who works long hours tending to sick and shattered people. Nor would I trade places with a harbor pilot or air traffic controller, who run the risk of causing massive damage with a moment of inattention.

Millions of people in this country do jobs that make teaching look like a cakewalk. Now, in a perfect world, that quote from a teacher wouldn’t cause someone like me the least bit of offense. But it’s an imperfect world where this teacher is using completely unjustified self-righteousness as a weapon to stifle debate on the issue of public sector compensation. I find that offensive.

There’s More Missing from the Collective Bargaining Debate for Government Workers than Democrat Legislators

In all the coverage I’ve read, listened to, and watched concerning the public sector unions in Wisconsin and elsewhere, there is one term that is usually very much present in the political debate that seems to be conspicuously absent: special interests.

Special interests, we are so often told, have a very corrupting influence on our system of government. Special interest groups send lobbyists to Washington and the state capitals to influence legislation (usually via the tax code) in such a way that if the special interests were not part of the system, elected officials would be more inclined to represent “the people.” People from both the Left and the Right make this argument (though it seems to be made more by those on the Left) and hold up examples of the groups which are opposed to their policies as special interests; special interest groups they agree with are almost never described as such.

So far as I have noticed, proponents of either side in neither government nor in the MSM has called these public sector unions by this term. Why not?

Surely these unions qualify as special interest groups as they pour millions of dollars into the coffers of (mostly) Democrat campaigns? Can anyone argue that these unions, whether one thinks for good or ill*, don’t have a very strong influence on these politicians? Why else would Democrat legislators go AWOL if they were not scared to death of losing their power due to unhappy union leaders? This is not how legislators normally behave. Under normal circumstances, those who disagree with a bill cast their votes against the bill even when they know that they are going to be on the losing end. Under normal circumstances, the losing side doesn’t take their ball and go home.

Why shouldn’t the Democrats be condemned for caving to special interest groups as would be the case if it were Republican legislators who left their state in fear of losing support from their special interest groups?

The truth of the matter is there will always be special interest groups that will try to influence public policy as long as there is a republic. And why shouldn’t there be? Anyone who runs a business that is subject to government regulation would be very foolish not to try to participate in the system (if not, those who would regulate their business would be at an advantage). The only way to reduce the power of these special interests would be for the state and federal governments to restrict their law making and regulations to the confines of their constitutions.

But for the sake of clarity and honesty, let’s not pretend that unions are anything other than what they are: powerful special interest groups that are no more saintly than any other special interest group.

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Why Public Sector Unions Are Worse Than Private Sector Unions

Kevin Drum, as usual, gets it wrong on public sector unions:

Public sector unions are a lot like that: conservatives don’t like them in the first place, and crippling them would also seriously cut into a major funding source for the Democratic Party. It’s another twofer. And as Surowiecki notes, they’re a ripe target right now.

I left the below comment over there:

I’m as free-market libertarian as they come, but yet I understand the potential benefits of private sector unions. If a union is smart, they position themselves as creating value both for workers and for the employer — i.e. a union can take the place of eseentially an outsourced HR division from the employer. By doing so, the union through collective bargaining can take the responsibility to negotiate individual salaries (obviously this is most important in jobs where individual workers have low differentiation) and work conditions. Collective bargaining has a place.

But there’s a key — in the private sector, there is always a profit/loss number. The employer has a constraint on behavior in that if he cannot generate enough revenue to pay his workers and still make a profit, he must either cut costs or go out of business. Thus, sometimes he has a responsibility to the company to tell the union “No” with regards to a request. A union that understands this and works with an employer (i.e. the exact opposite of UAW behavior) to find solutions that protect the workers and helps the employer stay in business adds value. A union that won’t acknowledge a symbiotic relationship with the employer, or an employer who fails to say “No” when necessary will be punished by the market — and the Big Three & UAW are perfect examples of both.

The problem with public-sector unions is that there is no profit/loss. The unions are in a position of power because “management” (i.e. politicians) are not punished for their failure to say “No”. In fact, the story of politics is promising the moon and figuring out a way to deliver later, whether it be a promise to the voters or a promise to the unions. Coupled with a media that is typically pro-unionization (after all, what reporter wants to be seen as “anti-worker”), and the politician WILL be punished by public opinion for standing up to the union and saying no. All the incentives align not to have a union and politicians form a symbiotic relationship to be both efficient and responsible, the incentives align for the union & politician to push for the most lavish benefits possible, and put the taxpayer on the hook. Then, when the excrement hits the air circulation device, they scream about cuts to pension programs and fall back on their tried-and-true response, raising taxes.

The reason that “the Right” is so against public sector unions may partially be due to an overall anti-union sentiment. However, they’ve got ample reasons to be especially critical of public sector unions, as the natural check on their outrageous demands (i.e. the market) doesn’t exist for government.

James O’Keefe Taking Aim at NJ Teachers Union

Noted for his role in taking down ACORN, gonzo filmmaker James O’Keefe is at it again. The Daily Caller provides an overview:

O’Keefe, best known as the force behind last year’s ACORN scandal, said the first video was shot at a meeting of the New Jersey Education Association in August. Entitled Teachers Gone Wild, the tape shows people identified as teachers speaking in what appears to be a hotel lounge, as well as in a conference room. O’Keefe says the video was gathered by a “team of videographers,” whom he and his colleagues at Veritas Visuals hooked up with hidden microphones and cameras. O’Keefe says the journalists “weren’t in costumes.”

In one video, Alissa Ploshnick, who is identified as a special educator at Passaic Public Schools, seems to verify the worst suspicions of education reformers. “It’s really hard to fire a tenured teacher,” she says. “It’s really hard – like you seriously have to be in the hallway fucking somebody.”

As an example, Ploshnick said, “we had a teacher that just recently was like – you NIGGER,” adding that the teacher was demoted, but is still teaching.

O’Keefe is organizing an event Monday in front of New Jersey’s statehouse in Trenton to call for that specific teacher’s identification – and dismissal.

“The time has come to put party politics aside and put our children first,” said Darryl M. Brooks, former New Jersey Senate candidate and long time community activist, stated in a release announcing today’s news conference. “I am tired of the pandering we hear every election cycle from our elected officials that we need to improve our education system, while nothing gets done. We continue to fall further and further behind other nations around the world when it comes to education, our schools continue to crumble, and our children, especially in the inner cities are being shortchanged. To add insult to injury must we now endure teachers calling students the N word, while the NJEA stands by and does nothing but protect one of their own.”

“Their office building directly across from the Statehouse in Trenton is called ‘The Kremlin,'” added a political consultant friend of mine who has worked a lot in New Jersey.

Here’s the first video. The Liberty Papers has been informed that additional video will be released soon. Additional information located here.

UPDATE: Here’s the second video:

Comment Of The Day

This is actually a comment at Hit & Run, but I hadn’t seen this juxtaposition before.

The other thing I always find hilarious is how so many anti-immigration Republicans are so anti-union, when they use the same arguments against immigrants that unions use against non-union workers.

In both cases, the impetus is the same: “I’ve already got mine, and everyone else can go screw.”

Obama Makes Highways More Dangerous

Barack Obama’s recent dictatorial decision to once again break his campaign promise on raising taxes byraising tariffs on Chinese made tires in order to payback political allies in organized labor is already having some consequences.

First of all, Obama has probably ignited a new trade tensions that may cause a trade war between the US and China. The last time a global trade war broke, well….the Great Depression was a result. The Asian and US stock markets were down this morning on the news.

More importantly, it seems that Barack Obama may be putting American lives at risk on the highway. Consumer Reports’ official blog had a writeup that was interesting to say the least.

The Obama administration on Friday imposed a new 35-percent tax on tires made in China. That includes many of the S- and T-rated tires in our recent upcoming tire test of all-season passenger car tires. More than half of the top 10-rated tires in the November issue are imported from China.

The tariff is likely to increase prices on tires for consumers at least in the short term, as China is by far the largest tire producer in the world. Also, some tire models could be harder to find temporarily if manufacturers decide to switch production to another low cost country.

China’s crime apparently was that it built low cost tires which are better in quality than tires made by Obama-supporting union thugs. The United Steelworkers Mafia couldn’t have that so they decide to try and eliminate the competition.

Average Americans may pay for this blatant act of political pandering…with their lives in some cases.

Because the tire industry is very competitive, tiremakers may not be able to pass the price whole price increase along to consumers for long. But we at Consumer Reports are concerned that the higher tariff may indirectly compromise safety by giving consumers incentive to delay replacing worn tires. The move is likely to put some pressure on consumers, but more on tire manufacturers.

In addition to the lost jobs at our ports and among our importers when China retaliates and/or as a direct result of this tax increase, in addition to higher tire prices, in addition to the economic and diplomatic damage this has caused, in addition to the clear example of old style political payback behind closed doors and without public input, this tax increase may prove fatal for some Americans who will have accidents that will be caused by worn tires that they could not replace because they cannot afford them.

“Hope and change” indeed.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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