(Centennial Fellow) After I blogged the other day about who really won in the Ohio ballot fight over public employee unions, over at News21, my kids who live there sent a related piece published in Columbus by the mayor of a nearby small town, entitled "A few tweaks could improve collective bargaining." They commended it to me as "thoughtful."
My reaction was that (a) the mayor had indeed written a thoughtful piece, but that (b) I still can't share his faith in binding arbitration. A city’s elected leadership should not be barred from deciding to take a strike or instituting a lock-out. So, in that view, one might argue that the mayor is nibbling around the edges. I do understand, though, that he was writing from a position materially weakened by the election (Issue 2 on the Ohio ballot on November 8) and, perhaps, attempting to get some cheese out of the trap.
If a business executive and/or board of directors agrees to a labor contract that is economically ruinous, sooner or later the executive, the board or the entire company is gone.
Yeah, I know it took decades for reality (read, foreign competition) to catch up to Detroit’s Big Three and their chummy relationship with the United Auto Workers. Thanks to taxpayer bailouts, Chrysler has beaten that rule of failure at least twice, GMC at least once, but even the latter had its CEO fired by Pres. Obama while he (Obama) was shamelessly – illegally, I think – stripping creditors in order to maintain the pensions, wages and other benefits of unionized workers.
Elected officials and bodies almost never have any such reckoning, in major part on account of being gone for other reasons (term limits, election defeats, etc.) before the fat lady sings. To the contrary, their incentive is far more to acquiesce in employee union demands and thereby enjoy the goodwill (and re-election campaign assistance!) of the employees’ union leaders – a vicious circle that is a clear conflict of interest.
Take away this ruinously misplaced union power. I believe public employee unions should be no more than societies of individuals exercising a First Amendment right “peaceably to assemble.” Without exception, strikes by public employees should be outlawed.
Elected officials and/or elected bodies (city councils, county commissions, state legislatures, etc.) should enjoy restoration of full authority to determine – without collective bargaining – public employees’ wages and conditions of employment. Public employees’ only influence should be in the decisions individuals make to become and remain employed, and their right as citizens to petition (i.e., lobby) for their interests.
(Denver Post, March 27) A useful new verb was coined the other day when Republicans joined Democrats to propose higher pension contributions by public employees and a union boss called it a “blatant attempt to Wisconsinize the Colorado budget process.” What a great idea, thought many a tired and worried taxpayer. Wisconsinize away, legislators – what took you so long?
Statewide unemployment is record-awful, and metro Denver unemployment worse still. Why shouldn’t these job-secure teachers and state workers kick in a little more toward their comfy (but now shaky) retirement plans? As recession maintains its grip despite cheery official statistics, the dirty secret is out: Government employees at all levels across the land are better compensated than you and me in the private sector.
So, yes, by all means. Colorado should not only Wisconsinize downward its public pay and benefit packages, along with the union bargaining leverage that drives them. It should also New Jersey-ize transportation, Florida-ize health care, Utah-ize the schools, and Texas-ize the tax system. Other states are making hard choices for fiscal survival and economic revival – and doing it on the spending side, not with revenue grabs. We can too.
“Colorado cannot expect to grow its way out of its budget problems,” warned Charlie Brown, veteran of decades on the legislative staff and now head of DU’s fiscal think tank, in a much-noticed report last month. Our state has a revenue problem as well as a spending problem, agrees Henry Sobanet, budget director for Gov. John Hickenlooper. But do we really? It depends on your assumptions.
Former state Rep. Penn Pfiffner starts his fiscal slide show with a chart showing that total state spending from taxes, fees, and federal funds has never decreased in modern times. Never. Pfiffner is now with the Independence Institute, and he directed their Citizens Budget project, which published a “road map for sustainable government in Colorado” several weeks ago.
Working from a projected $1 billion gap between the trend lines for revenue and spending, his citizen budgeteers identified specific, realistic savings in K-12 education, health care, corrections, higher education, transportation, and pensions that would more than balance the budget – and bend the spending curve down in future years, so the structural deficit identified in DU’s study wouldn’t persist.
The resulting 168-page book (of which I peer-reviewed a chapter) plows through grainy detail in department after department until your eyes ache. No rosy generalities or unspecified “waste, fraud, and abuse” cuts for this corps of academicians and experts. No throwing grandma out in the snow, either. Their roadmap could actually get us home, provided we’re grown up enough to follow it.
“To assume,” says a bad pun and good proverb, “can make an ass of U and me.” Pfiffner and company reject the assumed inevitability of Sobanet’s revenue deficiency and Brown’s grimly rising graphs for spending on schools, prisons, and Medicaid out to 2025. They assume instead that we control our own destiny, in the problem of over-government as in every other area of political life – and all history is on their side.
Liberals such as Sen. Rollie Heath are so sure revenue is the problem that they want to raise income taxes and sales taxes. Conservatives such as Jon Caldara, who funded the Pfiffner counter-budget, are so sure it’s not that they’re proposing a tax cut. Reduce income taxes in the face of a doomsday deficit? How Reaganistically visionary. How Wisconsinish.
But then, Texas has no income tax at all, and it’s booming. Utah schools outperform Colorado with much larger classes. Florida Gov. Rick Scott turned down big money from Obama for a health-insurance exchange (which some Republicans here seem to want). New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie nixed that expensive tunnel. Grownups can do this stuff. Now is the time.
('76 Contributor) Much attention has been given to the generally acknowledged fact that public union members enjoy higher wages and more generous benefits compared to their private sector counterparts. But this disparity is even greater when viewed from the perspective of net, after-tax income.
Compare the percent of total compensation including benefits that is taxable for the average Wisconsin school teacher compared to private sector employees. Based on average Wisconsin teacher average compensation figures cited on the Dennis Miller Show last week:
· Taxable wage average is about $58k (annualized to 12 months that’s about $77K, before a health holidays, sick days, personal day allowance)
· Total Comp Package is about $105k (that’s $47k in compensation that is not taxed)
· Therefore, the Taxable portion of total comp package is only 55%
As a small business owner who provides health insurance and matches tax deferred savings, I observe that my PRIVATE sector employees pay tax on about 75-80% of their total comp package. While my comparison maybe anecdotal, it point to an unfairness. Most of our “public servants” pay dramatically less tax (as a percentage of total comp) than private sector employees. We dumb private sector employees and employers have limits on 401(k)s and SEPs. Most of us cannot hit the maximum contribution limits; yet, our “public servants” get nearly half of their comp on a tax-free basis!
So when you hear stories of low salaries for public union members, a closer look at net, after tax value of total comp, especially when divided by the number of work days, tells a dramatically different story.
The high-stakes battle to determine whether the people will serve government or government will serve the people is unfolding in state capitols.
Wisconsin is the tip of the iceberg. Though not as fiscally imperiled as California or Illinois, Wisconsin is symbolic — the birthplace of government employee unions, once considered illegitimate even by liberal icons like FDR and the AFL-CIO.
“All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining . . . cannot be transplanted into public service,” Roosevelt said.
In the private sector, unions bargain for a share of profits. If management agrees to conditions that are too expensive, the market punishes both sides with lost profits and lost jobs and rewards competitors.
Today, unions would be dinosaurs without government employees, who constitute more than half of all union membership.
“Unions are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what (government) always wants to do anyway – grow,” writes George Will. “Governments, not disciplined by the need to make a profit, extract government employees’ salaries from taxpayers.”
With political contributions, unions reward politicians for making expensive promises at the expense of taxpayers – including future generations of taxpayers who cannot vote today but will be stuck with the bill tomorrow.
So, ask yourself, Mr. or Mrs. Taxpayer, do you think you have more clout with government than government employees’ unions?
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker grasps the stakes of the battle. He wants union members to make reasonable contributions toward their pensions — they currently pay less than 1% of salary — and health care. By limiting unions’ bargaining authority to wages, Walker would remove the temptation of unions and their legislator puppets to make pension promises that will be paid by future generations of taxpayers and government workers.
Walker is not alone. Ohio is set to pass similar legislation, and Indiana and Missouri governors curtailed government unions’ bargaining power through executive orders about the same time former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter did just the opposite.
Here in Colorado, taxpayers and government workers are already paying dearly to bail out the government pension plan, PERA, from an unfunded liability of $27 billion – equivalent to four full years of state income and sales taxes.
When the latest bailout is fully implemented, state and local governments, including school districts, will pay more than $700 million a year in perpetuity – taken from worker wages, school classrooms and other budget priorities – solely to pay down PERA’s deficit. In addition, workers and employers contribute another $1.5 billion annually to support PERA’s existing benefit structure.
At a time when the state is pondering a $375 million reduction in K-12 education spending, PERA’s costly benefit structure can be ignored no longer. In fact, the New York Times recently called the state pension plan the most expensive in the nation.
Another inescapable problem is the relentless growth of entitlement spending and the cost of federal mandates – most recently ObamaCare, which locks in minimum levels of Medicare and Medicaid spending.
From 2000 to 2010, Colorado’s general fund budget increased by 47% or $2.4 billion. Health care and welfare grew by 61% ($856 million); K-12 spending by 59% ($998 million); corrections, 75% ($436 million). That left $90 million over 10 years for all other programs.
Although tax revenues haven’t grown in the past three years, “fees” increased by $756 million and 3,400 state workers were added to the payroll.
Now Colorado Senate Democrats want to raise taxes by $500 million a year. Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp counters, “Colorado government has a revenue shortfall because Colorado’s families and businesses have a revenue shortfall.”
Winston Churchill reminded that governments that seek to tax themselves into prosperity are “like a man standing in a bucket trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
Government, after all, is supported by the private-sector economy – not vice versa.
Mark Hillman served as Colorado Senate majority Leader and State Treasurer. He is now the Republican National Committeeman for Colorado, and a Centennial Institute Fellow. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.
Very possibly the principal casualty of the tidal wave of red ink now engulfing almost all states will be the legendary political clout of public sector unions, and the most consequential collateral damage may be the greatly weakened re-election prospects of Barack Obama. As highlighted by the dramatic events in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and many less visible arenas public sector unions are facing a rolling tide of crisis that threatens their very existence. As a result their considerable influence, money, and manpower in the next twenty months will be principally focused not on re-electing Obama but rather a desperate state by state battle for their own survival. From a union perspective a new Republican president is a small threat compared to the body blows they are being dealt by new Republican Governors like Christie, Walker, and Kasich. Particularly alarming to the unions is that they are suffering almost as much damage from their friends as from their foes. Though less visible in the media the budgets presented by Democratic governors Cuomo of New York, Hickenlooper of Colorado, and others are quite as draconian (i.e. realistic) as those of their Republican counterparts. The President of the New York State Union of Teachers (NYSUT) called Cuomo’s proposed $ 1.6 billion cut to education “our union’s biggest disaster in forty years.” No one sees the gravity of this threat more clearly than Barrack Obama. His intemperate denunciation of Wisconsin Republicans for conducting “an assault on unions” and his swift dispatch of men and money from the Democratic national Committee and his own political machine- “Organizing for America”- to swell the ranks of protestors in Madison was clear evidence that he fully recognized his own political vulnerability. It is greatly ironic that these events validate the well documented opposition to public sector unions by the greatest heroes of the Democratic Party and the Labor Movement- Franklin Roosevelt and George Meany- who foresaw that “government unions” would ultimately undermine and discredit both government and unions.
Just two years ago it would have been impossible to anticipate today’s scenario. Then, the unions in a spirit of electoral triumphalism, were demanding that the Democratic President and Congress repay their support by making the infamous “Card Check” bill the law of the land thereby conscripting tens of thousands of new union members who would be required to contribute tens of millions of new dollars to expand union power even further. This union dream of enhanced power never came to pass because at that seminal hour in American history a far mightier power was sweeping the country: Fiscal Disaster. Suddenly the reality for unions was not expansion but contraction. In eighteen months the Recession eliminated 600,000 union jobs. Overall union membership- 34% of the workforce in 1955- fell to an all-time low of 11.8% in 2010. While private sector union membership hit all-time lows (6.9% of the work force) that threatened extinction for some, the public sector unions counted on their political clout for preservation. This faith seemed justified when the Democrats rammed through the pork mountain called “Stimulus” and other legislative largesse, but the strategy backfired when the states used the money to backfill their 2010 operating budgets thereby causing deficits for subsequent years to balloon exponentially. Finally, the seismic 2010 election saw the defeat of more union backed candidates than in any election in the history of the labor movement. This union rout proved most deadly at the critical gubernatorial and state legislative level. There a host of newly sworn in state officials faced mountainous budget deficits and the certain knowledge that these yawning fiscal gaps could not be bridged without confronting at every level bloated union contracts and the collective bargaining straitjackets that spawned them. The outcomes of these innumerable state and local level battles will vary greatly depending on the extent of fiscal calamity, relevant law, political tradition, union track record, public mood, and the skill of the participants. What is absolutely certain is that unions will never be the same, and that the tide is rapidly running out on their once awesome political clout. The effects of these events will ripple across American history for years to come. Hopefully the end result will be a politically healthier, and a financially sounder country, one which can sustain the promise of America for our children and theirs far into the future.
William Moloney is a former Colorado Education Commissioner (1997-2007) and now a Centennial Institute Fellow. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, and Human Events. He lives in Colorado.
(Denver Post, Jan. 23) The indignation was feverish. Teacher-union partisans trembled. Elaine Berman, a State Board of Education member from Denver, boycotted. Mary Johnson, an education consultant from Colorado Springs, raged. “A person known for nearly total lack of support for public education” was “bamboozling” Coloradans.
The miscreant was William Moloney, our state’s past Education Commissioner under both parties from 1997 to 2007. He had been invited back on Jan. 13 by State Board chairman Bob Schaffer to testify on school reform. His crime was not burning books or blowing up buses; it was pointing out the obvious.
He had come, Moloney began, to talk about “three incontestable realities concerning which America has been in denial for decades,” but which “the hammer blows of impending financial disaster” have now brought home to everyone. (Or almost everyone; financial disaster doesn’t faze the Johnsons of this world.)
Reality 1, said the former commissioner, is that America’s schools perform poorly in world rankings and when measured against their own past performance. U.S. seventeen-year-olds have made NO progress in math and reading scores over the past 40 years, even as per-pupil spending in real dollars has doubled.
Reality 2 is the unsustainable level of educational costs in this country. We’re near top dollar on international comparisons, reported Moloney. Worse, public schools in Colorado spend 60 percent more than in Utah and 80 percent more than parochial schools in Denver – while trailing both of them academically.
But Reality 3 is good news, the witness told his former employers: “There are abundant models of better educational performance coupled with lower cost, even some within walking distance” of the Berman-boycotted boardroom at 201 E. Colfax. The days of school spending as an unquestioned, unmonitored entitlement may be numbered.
Perhaps most promising in the magnitude of savings and the chance to do more with less, he added, is the evidence that America has begun to break “the national obsession with class-size reduction, an expensive and counterproductive policy that has never been shown to improve learning performance.” Examples exist in Florida, California, and locally in Aurora and Jefferson County.
Marcia Neal, the State Board of Education vice chairman, thanked Moloney for his “excellent work” on the policy research (available from the Centennial Institute, where I work, at Centennialccu.org). “There is very little we can argue with,” concluded Neal.
Impatient parents and weary taxpayers can expect fierce argument, however, from Beverly Ingle, Henry Roman, and Brenda Smith. You’ve never heard of this tough political triad; obscurity is to their advantage. But if Johnson and Berman want to know who is really bamboozling us into the insanity of doing the same thing in schools decade after decade, gold-plating it, and expecting different results, talk to them.
They head Colorado’s three largest teacher unions: the CEA, the AFT, and the Denver Classroom Teachers. The confession of the late Al Shanker, AFT national president, is their guilty secret: “When school children start paying union dues, I’ll start representing their interests.” Class-size reduction (read: ever more employees with ever less to do) is their cash cow. That’s why genuine school reform terrifies them.
So, will the Swalm bill for tuition tax credits and the Spence bill for outsourcing noninstructional costs, together worth $300 million in deficit reduction, succeed this year? Will reformer Laura Boggs survive on the Jeffco school board, and reformer Nate Easley on the Denver school board? Will national reform leader Michelle Rhee, featured in “Waiting for Superman,” be welcomed here by Hickenlooper as governors have welcomed her in Florida and New Jersey?
Or will the mindless labor mentality of Samuel Gompers, “More,” continue at our kids’ expense? It all depends on who gets traction: Moloney, Schaffer, and Neal, or Ingle, Roman, and Smith.
Given the difficult, courageous, and ultimately successful legislative battle they just waged, the supporters of Colorado’s landmark teacher tenure reform bill –SB-191- should not be denied a brief moment of celebration over an initiative that is already winning high praise across the nation. Nonetheless in the cold light of morning they must surely be aware that the greatest obstacles to the implementation of this potentially transformational law yet lie ahead. They should also be under no illusions about the skill and tenacity which teacher unions will exhibit in their continuing opposition to SB-191. Similarly they should be aware of the sad fate of other past reform initiatives that began with much fanfare but ended in failure. As with all complex and far-reaching legislation “The Devil is in the Details” for SB-191. As it begins the journey from Governor’s signature to statewide implementation in 2013-14 SB-191 will move from the bright spotlight of media attention and public awareness to the less illuminated precincts of an intricate process of recommendations by the governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness defining “what is an effective teacher”, review and approval of same by the State Board of Education and the Legislature, and pilot programs in several school districts in 2012-13. At each stage of this process SB-191 will be susceptible to “improvements” and at each stage union influence will be anything but absent. Another major obstacle is the matter of who will pay for this reform. Without question the lure of millions of federal dollars attached to the Race To The Top program (RTTT) was a substantial motivator for cash strapped Colorado to pass SB-191. Visions of the six hundred million dollars divided between Delaware and Tennessee in the first round of funding understandably weighed heavily with legislators completing a season of brutal budget cuts and anticipating even more severe cuts next year. While SB-191 will certainly burnish Colorado’s reform credentials, future RTTT funding is no slam dunk. It should be remembered that a major reason cited by the U.S. Dept. of Education in its’ awards to Delaware and Tennessee was those states had near 100% pledges of support from their local teacher unions.
As the Washington Post pointed out in an article entitled “In Race to the Top, It Helps to Wear the Union Label” several other reform friendly states- including Colorado- were marked down precisely because they lacked such pledges. Very instructive is the recent experience of Florida where the legislature passed a sweeping teacher quality bill which included merit pay and the phasing out of tenure. The President of the Florida Teachers Union (FEA) bluntly warned that the State’s application for round two RTTT dollars was doomed if that bill became law. Soon thereafter Republican Governor Charlie Crist vetoed the bill giving as one of his reasons that he didn’t want to jeopardize Florida’s chances for RTTT funding.
Among those testifying against SB-191 was the President of the National Education Association. In the NEA’s view they may have lost a battle in Colorado, but they know they will get another turn at bat in Washington where political appointees will set the rules, select the reviewers, name winners, and allocate dollars in all future rounds of RTTT funding. In this context one is reminded of the words of the legendary teacher union leader Albert Shanker when his opposition to teacher reform was criticized as “not thinking about the kids.” Said Shanker with brutal candor, “I’ll start worrying about the kids when kids start paying dues to the union.” In the end however those legislators who voted for SB-191, particularly those Democrats who courageously crossed the aisle at considerable risk to themselves, did not do so for the money, or political advantage, or because this was a perfect piece of legislation. Rather they acted because it was a reasonable address to one of the greatest deficiencies plaguing American public education- the lack of effective mechanisms of teacher assessment which strike a decent balance between the rights of educators and the needs of children. In doing so they manifested something we used to call civic virtue. For this they deserve not just our praise, but more importantly our strong support as they seek to shepherd this still fragile initiative forward to successful realization.
Centennial Fellow William Moloney was Colorado Education Commissioner, 1997-2007. His columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, and Baltimore Sun.
('76 Contributor) On Feb. 23 I had the opportunity to testify before the House Committee on Finance, Colorado General Assembly, in support of HB 10-1296, sponsored by Representative Spencer Swalm and Senator Josh Penry. Joining me to testify in support of the bill were Jacque Graham, Principal at Inner City School and Theresa Gallegos, whose child benefits from an ACE scholarship.The idea behind HB 1296 came from former U.S. Senator Hank Brown, and it would provide low-income families with an annual $1,000 tax credit for enrolling their child in a private school. The bill would also provide a grant of $1,000 to any public school that loses a student to a private school as a consequence of the tax creditRegrettably, the bill was killed on a Party line vote, six to five, despite the compelling testimony of Jacque Graham and Theresa Gallegos, and the leadership of Representative SwalmIt is unfortunate, as the bill would have given low-income families a tremendous financial incentive to send their child to a private school, reduced public school class sizes as more children took advantage of the tax credit, and provided public schools with a $1,000 grant to help them give the children that remain behind a better quality education. The bill would have even had a positive fiscal impact on our state, with a savings of $4.9 million in the first year, $8.7 million in the second year, and as much as $36 million in ten years, according to the official fiscal note prepared by Legislative Council.It's hard to imagine rejecting a bill that would do so much:* Provide a much-needed financial benefit to low-income families;* Allow low-income children to attend quality private schools;* Support public schools with a $1,000 grant for not teaching a child who left for private school;* Save the State of Colorado millions of dollars during one of the worst recessions in our history and at a time when the Legislature is proposing to cut K-12 education spending.During the hearing several comments stood out to me as particularly alarming:* The full-time lobbyist for the Colorado Education Association (the teacher's union) testified against the bill, stating that the legislation "doesn't support public education." This statement perfectly sums up what is wrong with the CEA. The lobbyist was right that the bill's intent was not to support public education, even though it would have provided each school $1,000 for every child they lost. The bill was intended to support children, not the bureaucracy of our public education system... and shouldn't that be the point?* Other representatives who voted "no" agreed with the CEA lobbyist, saying the bill "undermined" public education. I never would have imagined that giving a public school $1,000 for every child that leaves their school would be seen as undermining public schools. After all, most of the children who would choose to leave would do so because the public school wasn't effective. Talk about rewarding failure!While it was frustrating to watch this bill go down in defeat, I was proud to represent the Alliance for Choice in Education and share with the committee some of the amazing things that are happening through our organization. ACE will continue to provide these low-income children with immediate relief from failing public schools, and we will continue to support efforts to extend school choice to every child in Colorado.The author is executive director of the Alliance for Choice in Education, a Denver-based scholarship program to help disadvantaged parents choose better schools for their children.
('76 Editor) I asked former Treasurer Mark Hillman what sort of genuine PERA stabilization bill he would file if the two of us were still state senators, in light of his concern expressed in the previous post that the current bipartisan Senate Bill 1 doesn't get at the root of the problem. He recommended the following three steps:
* Raise the retirement age to 67 for anyone who hasn't been in a PERA-covered job for more than 5 years.
* Give everyone the option to put their money into a DC plan.
* Put into statute that, from this point forward, if PERA's funds fail to meet the 30-year amortization requirement, that constitutes an "actuarial emergency" and it's up to the PERA board to produce permanent benefit reductions that restore the 30-year amortization schedule.
By the way, Hillman has just published an excellent overview of how Bill Ritter and Colorado Democrats have shredded both the budget and the constitution since 2006. The paper is called "A Billion Reasons Why Colorado Taxpayers Need Protection." He wrote it for the Rocky Mountain Foundation, the new group headed by our friend Tom Tancredo.
Heading into the 2008 elections, the Democratic Party reeled in a whopper of a catch, $385,000,000, from 57 different organized labor unions. In Q&A at Issue Friday on July 17, I misquoted that figure as coming just from the UAW and just to the Obama campaign. My apologies to that day’s attendees for the delay filing this correction; I was searching for the facts.
Several articles, including those noted at the end of this post, provided interesting information on campaign giving (with expectations in return) to the Democratic Party. In fact, according to OpenSecrets.org, the campaign finance monitoring website, that $385 million represents 20% of the total campaign funds raised for all Democrats at the national level. (Totals and percentages derived from this table at OpenSecrets.) One dollar of every five in the party’s overall resources came from union coffers. No wonder Dems have worked so hard on card check and on featherbedding for the autoworkers.
The practice of payola is far from original by any party in political history. Americans must pay attention to the flow of money and votes over time, as the direct relationship will not change while our voting public allows PACs, Lobby groups, NGOs, or interest groups by any name, to act as their representative to our elected officials. A representative democracy is supposed to represent the will of the voters. Yet, how many voting citizens did our trusted representatives ask? Were you asked? I was not. I did not get to vote, nor did I get to voice my opinion.
Not one elected official, their office, their staff, their helpers...NOT ONE asked me how I would vote, or for that matter, asked anyone that I know.
I did not get a phone call, digital message, flyer, comment card, hometown meeting, neighborhood walk and doorbell / hand-shake conversation, brochure, whistle stop, convention, or an airplane banner fly-by at a ball game.... However, I did experience each of these political media formats during the campaign asking for my vote in the election. Therefore, I know the venues exist, and I know my name is on the lists, and I know each of my so-called representatives has the capability use these tools to know the will of the voters in their district. At least, when they care to know.
In fairness to all Americans, this question is critical, “Did you get to vote on the largest government stimulus package in history?” If not, why not? Just who is the democracy that is being represented? It is neither me, nor my neighbors.
Our system allows for this type of ramrod voting, but I would have preferred a public vote. People know best what is best for their needs and will vote in the best interest of their family, friends, employer, and community. People who are empowered to make a difference often do so. People, who know their vote, effort, energy, or money is wasted, often do not bother.
Kudos to any organized group that has figured out how to be represented in this adaptation of a representative democracy. True representation ought not to, should not, cannot, must not, and for heaven’s sake better not be financially motivated – except that... it is. Worse, everyone with access to media worldwide knows this embarrassing truth about America’s current form of democracy.
The distance America has drifted from the original intent of the constitution and truly represented votes is sickening. A call for our elected officials to return to grass roots, hometown-level, look-me-in-the-eye level representation is far past due. What distances did representatives travel by foot or horse-drawn carriage in the early days of American politics to know the will of the people? As far as needed, I suspect. What distance from behind their state office desk or from Washington do they now travel to know even one voter’s opinion that is not in a position to contribute financially? As far as their digital rolodex for the lobbyist’s cell number, I suspect.
Nobel Laureate for his work in Welfare Economics, Amatyra Sen, writes the following in a Wall Street Journal commentary, "Democracy Isn't 'Western'": “In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela describes how influenced he was, as a boy, by seeing the democratic nature of the proceedings of the meetings that were held in his home town: ‘Everyone who wanted to speak did so. It was democracy in its purest form. There may have been a hierarchy of importance among the speakers, but everyone was heard, chief and subject, warrior and medicine man, shopkeeper and farmer, landowner and laborer.’"
How far has America drifted away from democracy? Too far. Embarrassingly far.
Tamara Hannaway, Associate Professor of Economics at Colorado Christian University and Ph.D Student at CU Denver’s School of Public Affairs. Her research areas are governance, corruption, and inequality, and the effects of Soviet influence on human development.
Big Labor has one big hope (and $385 million to sell it) AFL-CIO, SEIU go all out to pass organizing law ending secret ballots By Neil Roland September 1, 2008 EThttp://www.financialweek.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080901/REG/309019974/0/FREE“Given the stakes, it's hardly surprising that organized labor is splashing massive amounts of cash on the election. The AFL-CIO and its 56 member unions plan to spend a whopping $300 million to support Democrats in the presidential and congressional campaigns this fall and produce about 250,000 volunteers. The breakaway Service Employees International Union plans to pitch in another $85 million.”
Big Three Bailout? Not So FastDeclan McCullagh Says A Better Solution Is To Let The Automakers Declare Bankruptcyhttp://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/12/politics/otherpeoplesmoney/main4595068.shtml
“One explanation for Washington's haste is that while bankruptcy would alter union contracts, a bailout probably won't. The labor movement spent, according to Financial Week...a whopping $385 million to elect Obama and other Democrats last week. Nobody writes such large checks without expecting something: now it's payback time.”
Development as Freedom, an important book by Sen“Amartya Sen is Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University and was until recently the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has served as President of the Econometric Society, the Indian Economic Association, the American Economic Association and the International Economic Association.”URL for Sen’s Harvard site is: http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/sen
Stats at a Glancehttp://www.opensecrets.org/index.php “OpenSecrets.org is your nonpartisan guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy. Whether you’re a voter, journalist, activist, student or interested citizen, use our free site to shine light on your government. Count cash and make change.”