By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Would you tax yourself for better public worker benefits?
Placeholder Image
The party is over.

Now we must do whatever is possible not to choke to death on our financial excess.

That is the message that we all need to get drummed into our heads.

It wasn't a super overheated and unattainable housing bubble that got us into the economic mess but pure unadulterated over consumption mixed in with a shake or two of greed and a dose of putting short-term gains ahead of long-term stability.

That is why public employee unions trying to portray themselves as the whipping boy and/or scapegoat for our economic ills is just plain wrong. It was a lot of things working in concert including many in the public sector not paying anything - or very little -toward their health care costs and retirement.

And if they want to blame someone for getting them to where we are now, they can simply thank their own leadership and lobbyists for the effective job they did in greasing the campaigns of candidates for various offices especially at the state level who never thought twice about kowtowing to public union demands for better benefits at little or no cost.

They may not think so but public employees on a whole have it a heck of a lot better than the private sector. It's been years since their pay lagged behind the private sector which was always the justification for better benefits and better retirement plans.

The private sector definitely got hit with furlough, reduced hours, and increased contributions to health and retirement long before the public sector did in the current economic malaise. The public sector also has to worry about their jobs being outsourced overseas - something that government workers don't need to worry about. The private sector also experienced massive layoffs and elimination of jobs sooner and on a much grander scale than the public sector.

It's because of the way tax revenues flow. The impact of the economic downturn hit government about two years behind everyone else. Government's recovery - if you want to call it that - will also lag behind everyone else.

But there is one real big difference beside how much the public sector pays for benefits compared to private sector workers and that is comprehension - or at least an open admission - of what's going on.

It's a brave new world. Virtually everyone employed in the private sector seems to understand that. Things will never go back to the way they were during the housing bubble. Not only is it unsustainable but as the money was rolling in many spent not just the excess cash on hand but took on an extremely high debt load as well. Home buyers did it. Corporations did it. And government did it.

The Wisconsin proposal - even without the wording that it would eliminate collective bargaining - would essentially do that in what it's asking the legislature in the state to do which is null and void employment agreements by requiring public employees to pay part of their pension and health benefit costs that they never agreed to cover out of their own pockets.

The stance of the public employee unions ironically may not help them at all.

It is focusing so much attention on the pension and benefit aspect of government's budget woes - and it is a big one - that they are greatly reducing the chance of anyone voting for new taxes. Why as a voter would you want to extend temporary taxes or put new taxes in place just so public employees can have better retirement benefits?

The choice that government on all levels - except for the federal government as it doesn't have to sweat small details such as balancing budgets - will be left with if employees don't pick up some of their benefits tab is to simply layoff employees.

And even with reduced services it is still going to be hard to rally voters to support tax increases as it is abundantly clear at this point thanks to the Wisconsin circus that a tax hike is all about protecting public sector jobs and Lexus-style benefits at little or no cost to the government employee than it is about providing public services.

It isn't shaping up to be a fight over deplorable work conditions or slave wages in Wisconsin and elsewhere. Instead it is all about protecting the bottom financial line of public employees.

And that is going to be an extremely hard sell at the ballot box.