Saturday, February 20, 2010

Government is not an IPOD

You knew this was coming. Scott Walker's low-tax "leadership" leads to an attempt to give mid-year paycuts to County employees under contract.

Read some of the comments below. You can spot the clueless ones when they start saying "In tough times, all parties should tighten their belts, just like the private sector." The problem with that thinking is that government services do NOT have lower demand when the economy suffers, because people still use the parks, people still need law enforcement on the street, and there is an added amount of people in need of financial assistance due to higher unemployment and lower wages. In the private sector, expenses and hiring occurs when demand for a product is high, why isn't it the same for the public sector if they should treated the same...RIGHT?

Of course, that last part is in jest, as people don't like to see taxes go up when they're struggling, but it proves the flaw in the "run it like a business" argument. Government is NOT a business. It delivers services that might not be cost-effective to improve the choices available to citizens, and improve the chances of businesses succeeding. It delivers services like education to children, health care, food stamps, green space, and transportation that private operators would never offer due to cost-effectiveness reasons, but are requirements for a functioning society and any sort of improving quality of life. And government has an extra layer of accountability to the taxpayer that profit-driven corporations will never have, and therefore requires that its provision of services be looked after in a closer manner, and operated more responsibly than their private sector counterparts.

There's no question Milwaukee County workers have some benefits that are out of whack with what many people get in their jobs. But they also give up some of the pay that would come with it, and do thankless jobs like social work that the majority people are too unqualified and uninterested in doing, but are requirements for the world we live in. Walker could have shown legitimate leadership by negotiating in good faith, and offered items such as required contributions to employee pensions and lowered benefits in the future (or an encouragement of early retirement).

This is what Tom Barrett did in the City of Milwaukee for the 2010 budget (I know, I was there), and got the needed concessions out of most City workers with fewer furlough days, and no major holes in the budget deficit. Now, the City still has structural issues in its budget, but they were lessened in this latest round of negotiations, because THE MAYOR'S OFFICE DECIDED TO NEGOTIATE AND GOT SOME OF WHAT THEY WANTED. Walker has decided to score political points with suburb boys instead of work with the unions, and the County workers have rightfully told him to shove it. The Milw. County union's act is no different than corporations shopping their facilities to local communities, trying to score any tax break they can at the expense of everyone else in that town. Strangely, angry white man radio ignores those people who work for the best deal, I suppose because they have money and white collars, while dumping on people who perform real work and have blue collars that are trying to do the same thing.

I agree that unions have to understand they can't have it all, just like corporates should. But demonizing your workers and trying to play games with their jobs is not the way to get anything done as an employer, and a very telling sign of the type of disaster someone like Walker would be as the head of a McDonald's (if he ever had a private sector job), and he's worse of being head of something we DO need, like government services.

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