Politics: Easy Money

By Jeffrey Bradley

With Big Government about to crest and crush us, it’s timely examining what unions do for and to taxpayers by way of advocacy for tax-and-spend increases across the country (including Florida), which pose a conflict of interest hurtful to taxpayers because, you know, the money for unionized government wages comes from us.

It’s no secret the private sector is in the grip of contraction and adjustment while government workers hardly feel the pinch. This data was not winkled out of the air but compiled by the US Department of Labor, the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees, even that bastion of Gomperism, the AFL–CIO.

States in fact have raised $24 billion in taxes this year, highest since 1979. Even where folks come to reinvent themselves—Miami Beach, we mean—there’s reason for worry as state after state raises the income tax on higher earners. So no matter how you came by your funny money, if you’re a millionaire, better take care. (California formed a special upper tax-bracket should you think of escaping there).

Worse and worser: factor in those federal taxes and zappa-dappa-do, a whole bunch of people are suddenly gonna be facing higher tax rates than any socialized country in Europe… and what about
those Bush tax cuts expiring?

Here’s another chilling fact: for the first time ever, more union members work for the government than for the private sector. Take the US Postal Service, which now employs 3x more unionistas than the American automobile industry—oops!, that’s now part of the government, too.
7.6 million unionized government workers (52% of total US union membership) can’t strike by law, so instead they use their union dues to lobby for job-protection and compensation. Meaning that while your average state worker only makes comparable wages to someone working in the private sector they earn a ton more in health and pension benefits and are just about immune from getting fired.
In fact, so many now receive solid health benefits that they themselves contribute little to, and such generous pensions (collectable in their 50s), that states and local municipalities face a $3.1 trillion funding shortfall. That money comes from taxpayers—that’s us, Gertrude—and the more of it the government collects the more employees it can hire at higher pay. This is called “job security”, but when Al Capone did it in Chicago (surprise!), it was called racketeering.

It works like this. State and local governments automatically deduct union dues from taxpayer wages to pay for lobbying… whether you like it or not. The AFL-CIO, for instance, spent a quarter of its $47 million budget on “friendly” political campaigns and on lobbying. In Florida, in 2009, the Education Association unsuccessfully lobbied for a 1% tax increase in the state sales, while labor unions spent $1.3 million attempting, and failing, to defeat a 2008 ballot initiative expanding the property tax exemption.

On it goes, with the political all-rounders selling the idea that dirty money, bloated budgets, insider deals and special-interest money are “just politics” (despite the people wanting their voices heard loud and clear for doing differrent). In the end, we’re left with a lot of blowhard phony-baloney of nothing getting done but now costing twice as much not to do so.

Highly paid city administrators wedded to their positions are as corrosive as unions demanding “no layoffs.” Here on the Beach City Hall is as large as it ever was. Yet, with building permits down and application fees up, processing time has doubled. The only sane conclusion is that these and other bloated departments reflect staffing levels equal to those of the 2007 boom times. Why?

Commissioner Libbin recently called for discussions concerning cutting the budget to begin again this week, which is reminiscent of a Groundhog’s Day process looping endlessly.

Where’s Bill Murray when we need him?

The commissioner got it half right, which means he got it half wrong. Savings realized should not be sent as “dividends” to taxpayers ala Dermer givebacks. Rather, trim the government and start making decisions—earlier rather than later—for 2011-2012 better than were made this year. And, when reductions are identified, savings should begin immediately, with money squirreled away to fill inevitable gaps of future budgeting. Finally, extra money taken into the general fund from the Parking Department, or from any other reserve fund, should be returned posthaste there. Better yet, put them to work building rapid transit.

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