Tuesday, May 11, 2010

They Work for Whom?

Public Employees rallied yesterday at the capitol in Albany against the governor's plan to furlough them for one day a week because of the state's drastic budget shortfall: "About 2,000 state employees staged a raucous and angry rally outside the State Capitol on Monday to protest Gov. David A. Paterson’s plan to furlough most of the state work force for one day next week. Mr. Paterson says the move is necessary to keep the state from running out of money, but public employee unions assert that furloughs would be illegal. Workers booed, heckled, and even cursed Mr. Paterson, egged on by union leaders who took turns at a microphone to denounce and mock the governor in a display of personal vitriol unusual even by Albany standards."

What the state workers fail to realize is that we can no longer afford their excessive salaries and pension benefits-the state is going into a Greek-like downward spiral. And the venom spewed yesterday, could be a double edged sword that could be used against them in the upcoming election cycle-because the grass roots folks are beginning to understand that we are running out of money.

And this is true on all levels of government-as Reason's Matt Welch points out: "Today may be terrible, but tomorrow is going to be much worse, at least as measured by such metrics as deficits, debt, and entitlement spending. In an April speech, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke laid out the misery that awaits us. “The arithmetic is, unfortunately, quite clear,” he said. “To avoid large and unsustainable budget deficits, the nation will ultimately have to choose among higher taxes, modifications to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, less spending on everything else from education to defense, or some combination of the above.”

And it's worse at the local level: "States, counties, and municipalities, lacking Bernanke’s ability to print money, do not have the luxury of “beginning now to develop a credible plan” for the future. They are flat out of money in the present. But they too refuse to face reality." That is why, the protest yesterday has an unreal quality to it.

As City Room reports: "Other speakers described the furlough plan as a “scam” and “an incredibly stupid idea,” arguing that the state would save more money by replacing independent contractors with unionized workers. Protesters waved signs reading “Cut the waste, not the workers,” “I Love NY, It’s Gov. Paterson I Can’t Stand,” and “Where Is Your 20% Pay Cut, Governor?” (In fact, Mr. Paterson voluntarily gave back 10 percent of his own salary last year.)"

Yeah right, more state employees with full benefit packages-a great way to lower the size and scope and cost of Leviathan. Of course, California is the poster child for this kind of irresponsibility-but NY ain't too far behind. Reason tells it like it is: "California, it cannot be stressed enough, isn’t necessarily worse than anywhere else; it’s just bigger (and louder). A Reason Foundation study of state spending increases during the comparatively good times of 2002 to 2007 found the Golden State to be in the middle of the pack on a percentage basis. And even after two-plus years of crisis, with unrelenting headlines about “annihilating” cuts, state bureaucracies remain bloated."

But sure, get rid of the independent contractors: "Surveying the fiscal wreckage at the end of 2009, Business Week’s Joe Mysak found that the 50 states had cut their combined payrolls that year by a minuscule 0.25 percent. Mysak’s conclusion: “Politicians everywhere are talking about layoffs, of course. They have been talking about eliminating jobs, often in threatening tones, since at least January. As the numbers show, for most, it’s just talk.”

We need a cold dose of fiscal discipline-and the federal stimulus was as therapeutic for the states as a drunken celebration, followed by a two week blackout bender. What NY State needs now are leaders who will draw a line in the sand and say, "Enough is enough." Because if they don't. we'll soon see 20,000 tax payers descend on the capitol demanding accountability.