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David A. Schwinghammer

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George Will, facing integrity deficit.
By David A. Schwinghammer
Last edited: Thursday, December 30, 2010
Posted: Thursday, December 30, 2010



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David A. Schwinghammer

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Will blames public employees for state and local deficits.



George Will is an excellent writer, at least he was before he noticed Rush Limbaugh (a congenital idiot in comparison) was worth four hundred million and Glenn Beck was making something like forty million a year. Will must have been outraged that he was being outdone financially by these two shock jocks. Oh, well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

This might explain why Will insists on touting the party line concerning climate change, despite 97% of climatologists agreeing that it has ties to human behavior (burning all that coal and using so much oil). Then there’s the eleven inches of rain in Southern California, a similar amount causing floods in Nashville, and the Snowmageddon incident in Washington D.C. last year, which Beck insisted was proof that global warming was a myth.
Scientists patiently explained the difference between climate and weather and the increased amount of water vapor in the atmosphere as a result of carbon-based fuels, but Planet Beck was unmoved.

Anyway, now Will is into misinterpreting statistics. He’s bothered by the huge deficits the states are forced to deal with. Apparently it’s all the fault of public employees’ unions and the incompetent governments who negotiated their deals. Will is touting the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act, sponsored by fellow Republican Devin Nunes of California who claims 80 cents of every government dollar goes to pay government employees salaries and benefits. Let’s get this straight. No
regulation for corporate raiders and Wall Street sharks, but Public employees can’t be trusted. We’re talking police officers, firemen, teachers, school janitors and lunch ladies. They’re lucky if they make $60,000 a year; the Cadillac health insurance plans were a negotiating ploy on the part of the state, who could get group rates insurance for their employees instead of paying them higher salaries. Meanwhile public employee pension funds are deep in the hole, not because they invested in Wall Street’s derivatives scam and because of the recession (caused by mortgage brokers’ shenanigans) but because the unions somehow pulled one over on the voters. Let me ask you, Who are the most respected occupations in the country? I would imagine firemen, cops, and teachers are way up there, and political hacks and commentators are somewhere below used car salesmen.

George Will claims the federal government heavily regulates corporate pensions. A federal agency, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, copes with insolvent ones. I imagine he’s talking about pensions negotiated with private companies by unions. If one of these corporations went bankrupt they could just walk away and not pay the pensions. Sounds like that might have been a democratic idea if recent GOP behavior is any indication. Meanwhile the Republican party is working diligently to eliminate all corporate pensions, except for the executive ones of course. Will and his fellow fear mongers are worried that the various states will ask the federal government for handouts to pay for the pension deficits. Don’t even kid yourself. Those bailouts for Wall Street banks that Bush arranged and that huge stimulus package of Obama’s were Wall Street’s idea. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner is a product of Wall Street. There won’t be any bailouts for public employee pensions, not with a huge Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

Let’s get real, shall we. What’s really going on here is an attempt to discredit some of the larger unions. Public employee unions and teachers unions are overwhelmingly democratic. Teachers even provide campaign workers during elections. Another reason for this antipathy is that any law such as the Public Employee Pension Transparency Act weakens the federal government. Several red states have threatened nullification of Obama’s Health Care law and one notable governor even threatened secession. Watch all of this states’ rights stuff go away if and when a Republican is elected president. Remember the Florida Supreme Court, which allowed the Bush/Gore recount to continue? Where were states’ rights then?

Nunes’ bill “would stipulate that state and local governments are entirely responsible for their pension obligations and the federal government will provide no bailouts." One more instance of Republicans “painting themselves into a corner.” Didn’t this all happen once before in 1929 when the Stock Market crashed and the Republicans insisted their was nothing they could do? When you eliminate your options (no new taxes etc.), you’re asking for the roof to cave in as it did in 1929 when the Republican president was slow to act. Republicans do this a lot. Check out the Tea Partiers goal that requires each new law to name the section of the Constitution that allows it. Problem is there’s nothing in the Constitution that says you have to.

George Will further states that municipalities throughout the country are $574 billion in the hole and states are $3.3 trillion in arrears. He claims that all but eight states would be delinquent by 2030. But that’s assuming they don’t raise taxes, increase employee contributions, and God forbid, the economy improves. But you just don’t raise taxes if you’re a political hack. We’ll lose jobs. We’ll lose jobs anyway if what’s happening in the Far East is any indication. US corporations are sitting on something like four trillion dollars, but they’re in the process of creating one million new jobs in the emerging nations of the Far East where the middle class is growing by leaps and bounds. If those jobs were added to our work force, unemployment would go down to 8.6. And these people call themselves patriots. If you call them traitors, you’re starting a class war. But the class war isn’t against the rich, it’s the other way around. How else do you explain the increasing gap between the rich and the poor? One of Obama’s corporate critics recently maintained that his only obligation was to his stockholders. What about his customers and his workers? That’s like a major league ballplayer claiming he owes the fans nothing. After AIG got their big bailout, they kept right on paying bonuses to their executives, claiming there was a contractual obligation. Since when are bonuses contractual? Wall Street chairman complain that they have to pay high salaries to keep good people when these “good people” were responsible for the meltdown in the first place.

Will also claims that California is in hot water because of high benefits for public employees. He uses San Francisco as an example, where he says the city is spending $400 million a year in public employee pensions, up from $175 million in 2005. The citizens recently turned down Proposition B, “which would have required city employees to contribute up to ten percent of their salaries to the pension plans and pay half their health care premiums.” Essentially Will says they will get what they deserve when the city goes bankrupt. What he doesn’t explain is why those pensions are so much more costly. Does it have anything to do with health care? You know, that industry the GOP fought so valiantly to protect. While the Health Care debate was going on, California Blue Cross petitioned to raise their premiums by three thousand dollars per year. When the Democrats argued that a high percentage of health care costs resulted from unnecessary tests being performed on critical patients in the last six months of their lives, Republicans called that section of the Health Care proposal “death panels.” If the new Health Care legislation isn’t derailed by nullification and the activist judges on the Supreme Court, those city expenses just might go down because there will be options in the Health Care industry resulting fro the new law.

If George Will were honest, he would admit that municipal and state pension deficits don’t have a lot to do with poor decisions made by democratic (and Republican) governments who negotiated those contracts. After all, there wasn’t much of a problem before the last Wall Street meltdown and the recent Great Recession. Put the blame where it belongs: capitalist America is always conniving to get the upper hand on government regulation (and when their conniving backfires as it did with the mortgage bubble, they scream bloody murder for a bailout. They‘re too big to fail, you know). They just did it again when the Supreme Court ruled that corporations had the same First Amendment rights as individual citizens. They then contributed money through front groups like Minnesota’s ironically titled Minnesota Forward and the US Chamber of Commerce, resulting in a landslide victory in the House of Representatives and in state legislatures. There goes Oversight Committee chairman Henry Waxman who might have been able to call some of these people on the carpet. You’ll notice the price of gas is over three dollars again. Might that have something to do with newly emboldened commodities brokers who are back to their old tricks? They’re now predicting five dollars a gallon, despite Americans driving less and using less carbon-based fuels. They insist prices are rising because China is using more oil, but the U.S. has crazy oil reserves and twice as much natural gas as Saudi Arabia has oil.

Once upon a time, George Will was a young journalist who’d been taught to look at both sides of an issue, maintain objectivity and include both sides in his articles. Whatever happened to that boy? Just once I’d like to see a column about all the crazies in the Republican party: John Birch Society members, Libertarian conspiracy theorists, White Supremacists, Christian militia members (think Timothy McVeigh), southern segregationists, Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, Fox News, the Texas School Board ad infinitum. 

Dave Schwinghammer's published novel, SOLDIER'S GAP, is available, used and new, at Amazon.com.

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Reviewed by m j hollingshead 1/1/2011
interesting read

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David A. Schwinghammer



Soldier's Gap

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