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Sarasota Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011 7 years ago

My View

by: Rod Thomson

The start of the year is the perfect time to identify some cozy relationships in government that benefit the few at the expense of the many.

So here are three ideas to shake up the costly status quo to improve the most lives.

Defang government unions
It does not understate it to say these are becoming one of the great threats to the republic. Just look at California, a state dominated by public-sector unions that are so powerful they hold the state assembly and governor hostage on many issues. The state teeters on bankruptcy and collapse, and the unions demand more.

Government unions are relatively new. The feds did not allow them until 1962. Since then, the growth has been astonishing, mirroring the growth in government at the federal, state and local levels.

There are 8 million government-sector union members compared to 7.4 million in the private sector — the first time in history government unions surpassed their private counterparts.

They use forced dues to exert enormous political clout. Just one union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, spent nearly $90 million on just the mid-term elections this past November.

The rest of us are limited to a pittance, but unions can spend as much as they can extricate from members.

There is a voracious cycle at work here. That money goes to elect politicians who will expand government — thereby expanding government employee unions — and provide greater pay, benefits and security.
Those politicians follow through growing government jobs and pay, the government unions get even more money, they effect the election of more politicians to give them more power, and so on.

The only losers are everyone else, and we lose big time as tax dollars work against taxpayers.

Federal workers earn 22% more in pay than their private-sector equivalents. With benefits, the difference shoots up to 40% more. And during the recession, when millions of Americans lost their jobs, federal employment rose. It always rises, and the unions just get richer and more powerful and more intransigent.
America’s 50 largest cities have underfunded pensions of more than half a trillion dollars to ameliorate their government union monsters, but the unions want more. This is not sustainable.

To defang government unions, take away their campaign financing privileges and begin privatizing more government operations to diffuse their strength. And soon.

Place school blame
On parents and cultures, first. The best teachers in the best educational structures will always be hamstrung by students who are unprepared to learn.

Among the problems: mothers with children from multiple fathers; boys with no male figure to emulate; live-in boyfriends — all of this supported by the tax money of the working culture — drug money instead of food money; little if any training and discipline that would allow children to prosper in school; and, particularly in the black community, a culture that says if a black student tries to excel he is an Oreo. How does good teaching climb out of that hole?

Cut off the government support systems that have allowed such a horrendous devolution of the family.
On teachers unions, second. Most educational observers and many educators will quietly, and off the record, admit that school unions hamper nearly every serious reform. Getting rid of bad teachers is all but impossible. Shoot, even a criminal record at times is not enough to get rid of losers plopped in front of classrooms.

School unions exist to get more money and more benefits and better job security for their members. That is their function, not educating children. They are so powerful now that they can virtually rig elections, as they did in the spring by spending enormous amounts of money and getting thousands of voters out to extend the school tax that almost entirely went into union members’ pockets.

To defang them, see previous item.

On a feminized structure and curriculum, third. Little boys were meant to romp and play and wrestle and hunt and conquer and break and repair. In other words, physically do! But schools are set up right from the beginning for them to sit quietly for hours on end, which is much more attuned to girls’ physiology.
Check out grades and dropout rates. Boys and girls are different. Get over it. For the younger grades particularly, have boys-only and girls-only schools and class options that are aimed at the gender strengths.

Students, fourth. At some point, we are all responsible for our actions, and can no longer look back and blame upbringing and surroundings. The opportunity is there for all, even those handicapped by the above.

Cut government, be happier!
Examining the newest U.S. Census figures, number-cruncher Michael Barone points out that “growth tends to be stronger where taxes are lower. Seven of the nine states that do not levy an income tax grew faster than the national average. The other two, South Dakota and New Hampshire, had the fastest growth in their regions.”

Altogether, Barone writes, 35% of the nation’s total population growth occurred in these nine non-taxing states, which accounted for just 19% of total population at the beginning of the decade.

People move to places where they think they will have a greater chance at happiness. The feet have spoken.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature need to cut government and cut it some more, reducing government’s ability to take and spend and regulate. And they need to create an atmosphere where businesses and employees can prosper.

In short, you know the mantra: Get government the heck out of the way.

Rod Thomson is executive editor of the Gulf Coast Business Review and can be reached at [email protected].


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