Posts Tagged 'Democrats'

Needed: A New Unionism

In Mother Jones (of all places), Kevin Drum has posted an interesting argument about the need for private sector unions to concentrate on wages and benefits rather than work rules.  This alone is an example of pretty creative thinking for laborites, but it still misses the mark.

Unionism in the private sector is not just down; it’s almost out. Membership has been falling steadily for half a century and is now circling the drain, with membership at 6.9% of the workforce. In 1953 it was 36%.

This disastrous decline has been partly masked by the simultaneous growth of unions in the public sector. While private unions sank, public ones climbed from near-zero in the 1950’s to around 36%, where it has held steady since 1980. Decline has also been disguised by the growing political power of the union movement, as its electoral organizing skills have improved even as membership organizing has languished.

Why the decline? Why have private sector workers stopped joining unions?

The unions have a ready answer: it’s too hard to organize because employers cheat. They scare and intimidate and fire workers who try to organize.

Undoubtedly true, in too many cases. Union-busting consultants have a bag of anti-union tricks that can certainly make certification elections hard to win.

But that just begs the question. Why only now? Didn’t employers know these tricks during all the years unions were growing? Didn’t Henry Ford know how to intimidate workers? Didn’t the steel companies? Didn’t construction firms? Coal-mine operators? The Mohawk Valley Formula for union-busting dates back to 1936.

So why are so many unions now stymied by employer opposition?

Other possible explanations for union decline abound. Many heavily unionized manufacturing and textile industries have moved jobs overseas in search of lower costs.

But other industries that are largely homebound have not been organized in their place.

And in fact many newer industries (high-tech, for instance) are often fairly good employers, offering decent benefits and workplace flexibility in a conscious effort to attract a happy, productive, and non-union workforce.

Private sector unions may be short of members, but not of excuses.

Continue reading ‘Needed: A New Unionism’

The Inevitable Wisconsin

by Hans Moleman

In the words of Young Frankenstein’s Inspector Kemp, “A riot iss an ogly think.”  So is the Wisconsin shootout; ugly – but inevitable.

The unions had to be expecting a tough time with their new Governor Walker. No doubt they anticipated a difficult negotiation – “hard bargaining”, as the governor cut labor costs to balance the budget.  Instead, they found themselves facing political forces who actually intend to put an end to them.

Unions have always decried every effort to rollback labor costs or union power as “union-busting.” Now their past rhetorical excesses have caught up with them, as they confront the real thing.  (Cf “Wolf, the Boy who Cried…”)

At first it looked as if Walker was indeed bargaining hard.  Rolling back pensions, increasing employee contributions, and making labor accept it as a compromise by agreeing not to end collective bargaining outright.  And there would be the peace, as Don Barzini would say.

Well, gentlemen may cry “peace, peace,” but there is no peace.  Before it could be seen if Walker was a “let’s make a deal” type, Democrats abandoned the state and the unions seized the Capitol to bully the governor and Republicans. They in turn found a parliamentary bypass and passed the bill to strip bargaining rights. The budget, with its real benefit reductions and budget cuts is still pending.  But the unions appear to have used up most of their ammo, so their hopes cannot be high.

The fight was foreordained, if not in Wisconsin then somewhere nearby.  Since the 1930’s, unions have struggled over their relation to politics, politicians, and especially political parties.  Early on it came down to a simple question: whether to seek friends in both parties, or to throw in wholeheartedly with the Democrats. Continue reading ‘The Inevitable Wisconsin’

Obamacare, Medicare, and Rationing

I am looking at a Heritage Foundation chart entitled “Entitlements Will Consume All Tax Revenues by 2052”.  It is, as one might expect from the Heritage Foundation, persuasive and thought-provoking.  It shows the extent to which entitlement growth (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) will engulf and devour all current revenues in 40 years. Persuasive.

But the chart shows something else that the Heritagers did not note.  Medicare, not Social Security or Medicaid, is the really exploding entitlement.

By my eyeballing of the chart, Social Security now consumes about 5% of GDP, and by 2052 it will rise to a bit over 6%.  Medicaid, currently under 2%, may rise to about 4%.

Compare those numbers to Medicare: currently at 3% of GDP, it will mushroom to 14% of GDP

In other words, Social Security cost will grow 20% faster than GDP;  Medicaid cost will grow 100% faster than GDP;  But Medicare will grow 366% FASTER THAN GDP!

Currently, Social Security costs as much as Medicaid plus Medicare.  In 40 years, Medicare will cost 40% MORE than Social Security PLUS Medicaid! 

The INCREASE in Medicare is more than the TOTAL current cost of the other two!

Since I’m running out of exclamation points, I’ll cut to the chase.  If Medicare costs are not controlled, the other two entitlements barely matter. 

All of which brings us to Obamacare.  The push for health care reform was driven by two things. The scandal of having a sizeable number of Americans uninsured was the primary rhetorical point. But the main driver was in fact the explosive cost of health care, translated for most people into the cost of health insurance.  For workers, the cost of health insurance has been the primary drag on wage growth for several decades.  For employers, it has hurt profits.  Unless costs are controlled, “fringe benefits” will overtake wages for most employees and employers. Continue reading ‘Obamacare, Medicare, and Rationing’

Agnostic about Genocide?

My friend Ben Finiti talks of having become a political agnostic, uncomfortable taking sides on many of the most contentious issues of our time. I feel the same – up to a point. I agree that many questions (stimulus, bailouts, immigration, health care, etc.) offer at least two sides with plausible concerns, relevant facts, and about the same level of good- and bad-faith arguments.  To invest in one position, I must do one of two things. I must decide that I know what this is all about and am sufficiently informed, disinterested, and dispassionate to be able to say which position should prevail. Or I must use my affiliations as guides to my positions (“My friends/family/party are for it, so that must be the right position.”) Like Ben, I find it increasingly difficult to do either on most issues.

But not on all issues. In the Middle East and around the world today, a struggle of titanic proportions is taking shape. The battles are still small by 20th-century standards. In Afghanistan and Iraq, US troops fight in the field.  Around the globe, security forces try to thwart murderous terrorists before they can strike at civilian targets.  Under multiculturalist banners, unassimilable immigrants demand recognition of Sharia law, accommodation of “honor killings”, and punishment for anti-Islamic speech. Continue reading ‘Agnostic about Genocide?’

Obama’s Isolationism Unveiled

OUTREACH TO ENEMIES, PUSHBACK TO ALLIES

Health Care Reform and the recession have kept America’s attention firmly riveted on the new administration’s domestic direction.   But something much bigger is happening in the world, and it is going largely unnoticed.

The sole superpower is withdrawing from world affairs.

It is quickly becoming clear that President Obama’s foreign policy has a simple but astonishing goal: to rid us of both enemies and allies. Continue reading ‘Obama’s Isolationism Unveiled’

NEA and The Party: The NCLB Saga

You probably read the story: “NEA Slams Obama’s School Reform Plan”.  This is a type of story that occurs predictably after every election:  “Supporters unhappy with something ‘their’ president proposes”. 

 Groups such as unions, that fight for their members’ interests, must inevitably find themselves opposing actions they think are detrimental.  That’s the advocacy business.

 And everyone knows NEA is such a group, right?

 The question is anything but rhetorical.  Consider the ongoing saga of NCLB, the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001. Continue reading ‘NEA and The Party: The NCLB Saga’

Fouad Ajami explains Obama

Fouad Ajami, writing in the Wall Street Journal, gives a breathtaking summary of the Obama presidency so far.  His overview: “a political economy of redistribution and a foreign policy of American penance.”

He compares Obama with Reagan; in both elections, Americans were losing faith in their country.  Reagan embodied and re-asserted that faith, while Obama promised to fix America and make it worthy of our faith.

This is an excellent analysis.  Read it.  Now!


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