Archive for February, 2011

Unions in Politics

Steven Malanga, in the Wall Street Journal, explains how big the stakes are for the Democratic Party:

Public unions are also among the biggest players in national politics. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme) has been the third-biggest contributor to federal campaigns over the past 20 years, having given $43 million. The National Education Association is number eight with $31 million in contributions, while the SEIU—half of whose 2.2 million members are government workers—is No. 10, with $29 million in campaign donations.

Unlike businesses and industry groups that are also big givers but tend to split their donations between the parties, some 95% of government workers’ donations has gone to the Democratic Party, whose members are far more likely to favor raising taxes and boosting spending than are members of the Republican Party.

Michelle Malkin applies this to Wisconsin, showing us that the Wisconsin Education Association is Wisconsin’s chief lobbying organization:

Power Line gives us the national numbers (noting that the Koch brothers the Left loves to rail about are nowhere near this list:

Look at all those unions! And at all those donkeys. That’s what the fight in Wisconsin is about. As Micheal Barone puts it, “public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.”


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Oof! Less readers, uninspired writers. What is to become of all those blogs? As my son replied to one of my text messages to him, TL/DNR  (“too long, did not read”), but I will comment on it anyway. From the NY Times article …

Blogs went largely unchallenged until Facebook reshaped consumer behavior with its all-purpose hub for posting everything social. Twitter, which allows messages of no longer than 140 characters, also contributed to the upheaval. No longer did Internet users need a blog to connect with the world. They could instead post quick updates to complain about the weather, link to articles that infuriated them, comment on news events, share photos or promote some cause — all the things a blog was intended to do. Indeed, small talk shifted in large part to social networking, said Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer, a women’s blog network. Still, blogs remain a home of more meaty discussions, she said. “If you’re looking for substantive conversation, you turn to blogs,” Ms. Camahort Page said. “You aren’t going to find it on Facebook, and you aren’t going to find it in 140 characters on Twitter.”

Well, off to the grocery store, I will tweet what happens there.

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Why Wisconsin?

Given that the cuts Governor Walker is requesting are so small—as this cartoon nicely illustrates—and leave Wisconsin public employees still very well off compared to their peers in other states, what is the fight in Wisconsin really all about? Others have identified large themes one can see in this conflict: whether we will choose to embrace decline or fight it (Victor Davis Hanson); a “battle for the soul of America” (Roger Kimball). I think they’re right. But I see a context that others seem not to be noticing. The unions and the Democratic Party, for many years, have managed to inflate their political strength artificially. The Wisconsin reforms threaten their ability to do that.
Politico finds the key element in the struggle:

Yet another element of the legislation could have even greater political consequences. The Republican [bill] would end the automatic deduction from their workers paychecks and make the unions collect the dues themselves, a move that would almost surely result in less cash flowing into labor coffers. It would block unions from collecting money from consenting wokers’ paychecks for political operations, and it would force annual elections on whether state workers even want a union, a lethal threat to public-sector labor.

Throughout the 1980s, the Democrats controlled the House despite attracting fewer votes in House races, collectively, than the Republicans. How did they do it? Redistricting. They gerrymandered aggressively to maximize their electoral advantage. Eventually, the Democrats lost their ability to do that by losing enough at the state level. But they retained a large advantage. Unions, and increasingly public sector unions, which were legalized in most states in the 1960s, collected vast sums in dues from their members. Much of that money ended up in the coffers of the Democratic Party. The Supreme Court ruled in Communications Workers v. Beck (1988) that requiring workers to contribute to a political cause or party in this way violated their constitutional rights. The Court insisted that workers be required to take action to authorize political contributions. One of Bill Clinton’s first acts as President was to issue an executive order refusing to implement the Beck decision, which has consequently had little impact. (George W. Bush didn’t order implementation of Beck, thinking that he could work with Democrats in Washington as he had in Austin. That was a serious mistake.)
Obama, of course, has no interest in implementing Beck. The unconstitutional flow of cash into Democratic accounts thus continues. The Wisconsin bill, however, challenges that bit of graft by ending automatic deductions and forcing annual elections. Employees now have to go through a difficult process to reclaim the (large) portion of their dues that goes to political action, and they risk their jobs to do so. Under the Wisconsin reforms, it would be much easier for employees to opt out of the political portion of their dues. Strong arm tactics used against them to compel such contributions could easily provoke rejection at the next annual election. So, the power of the unions to compel their members to contribute to the Democrats would be limited.
The Democrats are drawing the battle line in Wisconsin, in short, because their strategy requires them, unconstitutionally, to compel contributions from union members who would never do so in the absence of compulsion. Freedom, justice, and the Constitution all line up on Governor Walker’s side. On the side? Well, some key ones are at an undisclosed location in northern Illinois. Another is in the White House.

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In Trouble with Arithmetic

This chart puts our budgetary situation as clearly as anything I’ve seen.

And keep in mind that the projections in the President’s budget are almost certainly too optimistic, assuming economic growth significantly higher than we’ve been experiencing or historically have any right to assume.

As Keith Hennessey remarks,

Three things should jump out at you from the future portion of this graph:

  • The red and blue lines diverge enormously, and the gap grows over time.
  • The blue line is flat while the red line slopes upward.
  • Both the red and blue lines shift upward significantly.

The first means larger and larger deficits as far as the eye can see—something financial markets simply will not allow to happen. The second means that federal spending is out of control, not just last year or this year, but as far as the eye can see. The third means that the federal government is playing, and will be playing, a much greater role than it has in the past. That entails that private enterprises will be playing a much smaller role than they have in the past. Since those private enterprises create jobs, create new technologies, and pay for the entire structure, that’s not a good thing. Megan McArdle: “I’m starting to think that it’s time to panic.” Or as Andrew Sullivan put it: “Obama To The Next Generation: Screw You, Suckers.”

Dick Morris points out the damage that the Obama administration has already done. He has a chart that shows how much change, and how little hope, Obama has brought to a variety of economic variables. Look at the whole thing. Some highlights: Since January 2009, when Obama took office,

  • The price of gasoline is up 70%.
  • The price of West Texas crude oil is up 136%.
  • The price of gold is up 60.5%.
  • The price of corn is up 78%.
  • The price of sugar is up 165%.
  • Unemployment is up 24%.
  • Black unemployment is up 25%.
  • Real household income is down .7%.
  • The number of food stamp recipients is up 35%.
  • The number of long-term unemployed is up 146%.
  • The number of people living in poverty is up 9.5%.
  • The money supply (M1) is up 18%.
  • The national debt is up 32%.
  • The U.S. has fallen from 5th to 9th on the Economic Freedom index.

Here’s my interpretation of the President’s budget: “Let’s keep doing exactly what’s produced those results!”

Meanwhile, the administration won’t even send an economist to Capitol Hill to defend the stimulus program.

Here’s another look at just the spending side:

Richard Fernandez has it exactly right. “Obama’s budget isn’t in trouble with Congress. It’s in trouble with arithmetic.”

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Twitter, if anything, seems to bring out the creeps, and shines a light on their obnoxious natures. This guy needs to be sent packing, sacked, fired, and publicly embarrassed. But will NYU do anything?

Thanks to National Review for noticing.

UPDATE:   Eyeblast.tv has story that the twit has resigned and that NYU has accepted his resignation.

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The Drudge headline says it all: the U.S. national debt is now the size of the entire United States economy. This is a photo of the national debt clock taken last month:

According to President Obama, it will top $15 trillion by year’s end. This, to follow up on my last post, was a shot of the clock in April 2007:

We’ve gone from $8.6 trillion to almost $15 trillion in less than four years. You can see the latest numbers at the U.S. National Debt clock. Each citizen’s share of the national debt is now almost $46,000. That comes to almost $128,000 per taxpayer.

This year’s debt is going to be around $1.6 trillion, and the President’s budget promises to add much more over the coming years. There is a very neat graphical way to explore the budget on that site, which shows where the money’s going:

Obviously long-term success in fighting this trend will require tackling entitlements. But notice how large the welfare section (called ‘Income Security’) is. Education and Job Training, Transportation, and Other Government Programs together make up quite a large portion as well. So, the problem isn’t all due to health care and Social Security.

UPDATE: Sarah Palin writes:

The fine print reveals a White House proposal to increase taxes by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. If you want to know how minuscule their proposed $775 million-a-year budget “cuts” really are, please look at this chart. The proposed cuts are so insignificant – less than 1/10 of 1% of this year’s $1.65 trillion budget deficit – that they are essentially invisible on the pie chart. That speaks volumes about today’s budget.

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Cutting the Budget

Congress is just beginning to tackle the essential task of cutting the federal budget. Republicans have proposed to cut $100 billion over the remainder of this fiscal year; already Democrats and allied pundits are screaming that these cuts are Draconian. In fact, they’re far too small. Look at the trend in federal spending and the vast increases under Obama:



Let’s look at this per household. Spending since 2007 has increased dramatically, almost 25%:

Here’s a simple thought: go back to 2007 levels! Democrats at the time were complaining about the fiscal profligacy of the Republicans. There was a broad consensus on both left and right that the 2007 spending levels were too high. But returning to them now would drop federal spending about 20%.

Let’s set aside entitlements and think just about discretionary programs for a moment. Cutting them back to 2007 levels, even after adjusting for inflation, would cut discretionary spending 40%, or about $400 billion dollars. Admittedly, it’s almost halfway through the fiscal year; perhaps a 20% cutback now, and a further 20% cutback in October, would be a reasonable approach. Draconian? Irresponsible? But remember, it’s just returning to levels that were agreed to be too high.



Look at those annual growth levels: 9% in 2009, and almost 12% in 2010! And that’s occurred during a time when most people have had to cut back.

Kudos to the Republicans: $100 billion is a good start. But it’s only a start. Let’s cut another $300 billion for the fiscal year that begins in October. And I mean real cuts, not cuts from projected increases.

“But that will cut programs that matter!” I doubt it. But even if it does, there’s a simple answer. There’s no money. We can’t continue to borrow money the way we have over the past two years. Look at the almost incredible increase in the deficit, and the projected increase in the national debt over the next decade if we stay on this course.

Anyone who isn’t afraid doesn’t understand the situation.

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