Not as a libertarians, but as a good government fiscal conservatives, who value government and government programs, how might we respond to charges of right wing radicalism? How might we respond to charges that we are biased against working people, or want to destroy the middle class, or are a tool of the super-rich? If you want to keep good government programs, but want to make government more financially efficient, how to respond to charges of resenting government workers, or wanting to change the deal on government workers, or not appreciating government workers? Focusing on the state and local government entities here in sunny California, here are some thoughts:
(1) Public employees used to take jobs that paid less than private sector jobs. Up until about 20 years ago, the trade-off was clear: Government workers exchanged a lower salary for better benefits, a pension that was better than social security, and job security. This was a fair exchange, and the system worked just fine.
(2) Over the past 20 years, during the economically unsustainable internet bubble followed by the real-estate bubble, public sector unions stirred up envy among public sector employees, prodding them into demanding unsustainable increases to their compensation to match the private sector. Since these bubbles have burst, these unions use their nearly absolute power over California’s state and local politicians to maintain unsustainable levels of public sector employee compensation.
(3) We now have a situation where public employees have, in most cases, better base salaries than in the private sector, and enhanced pension benefits that now are about five times as generous as social security.
(4) It is absurd for anyone to compare public sector workers to the wealthy. Of course wealthy people will have more wealth than middle class workers. Public sector workers need to compare themselves to private sector workers. In California, the private sector worker makes, on average, about half as much in total compensation than the public sector worker. It strains credulity – and is downright arrogant – to suggest this entire differential can be attributed to superior education and skills.
(5) The people who are being denied a chance to experience upward mobility are the private sector small businesspeople who create jobs, and the people who they hire. Entrepreneurs personally carry legal liability and financial risk for their businesses. They work all the time. When the economy strains under the financial enslavement caused by the partnership of Wall Street banks with government debtors, private sector businesses can’t thrive, and their employees make less.
(6) The wealthy are not right-wing or left-wing. There is as much money donated to left wing causes by wealthy individuals as to right wing causes. The distortion in our democracy is not caused by wealthy individuals, who are ideologically diverse and whose contributions benefit both sides of political and economic questions.
(7) It is necessary to make a distinction between wealthy entrepreneurs who create products and services people voluntarily consume and which improve people’s lives, and wealthy bankers and financial middlemen who have used their political influence to overbuild their industry and become a drain on the economic health of America.
(8) The biggest source of funds to Wall Street bankers and financial middlemen, by far, is the deficit spending of governments. When a government issues bonds, the money goes through Wall Street. When a government pension fund expropriates taxpayer’s money, the beneficiaries are Wall Street brokerages.
(9) The agenda of public sector unions is perfectly aligned with the goals of Wall Street banks. Create bigger government payrolls and pay government employees more. Borrow money and raise taxes to accomplish this. Issue interest bearing bonds to cover deficits and transfer tax revenue into pension fund accounts.
While arguing for more efficient government, it is important to explain how government spending impacts the middle class private sector worker who now has to pay half of their income in taxes (sales, property, income, and “hidden taxes” buried in every utility and telecom bill) so that middle class government employees can earn twice what they make, while Wall Street bankers get obscenely rich managing the government debt and government employee pension funds. And while having no bias against the wealthy, it is necessary to make a distinction between wealthy people who have earned their wealth through entrepreneurship, and those who are wealthy because they are part of the Wall Street cabal that enables and profits from the unionized government bias to tax, spend, and borrow.
Edward Ring is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. He is also a senior fellow with the Center for American Greatness, and a regular contributor to the California Globe. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Economist, Forbes, and other media outlets.
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