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  • Public Sector Unions Are Killing California

    William Voegeli writes in City Journal:

    Before 1990, [California and Texas] grew much faster than the rest of the country. Since then, only Texas has continued to do so. While its share of the nation’s population has steadily increased, from 6.8 percent in 1990 to 7.9 percent in 2007, California’s has barely budged, from 12 percent to 12.1 percent.

    Unpacking the numbers is even more revealing—and, for California, disturbing. The biggest contrast between the two states shows up in “net internal migration,” the demographer’s term for the difference between the number of Americans who move into a state from another and the number who move out of it to another. Between April 1, 2000, and June 30, 2007, an average of 3,247 more Americans moved out of California than into it every week, according to the Census Bureau. Over the same period, Texas saw a net gain, in an average week, of 1,544 people.

    So why are Americans, predominantly middle class Americans, fleeing California?

    The biggest factor accounting for California’s loss of population to the other 49 states, bond ratings that would embarrass Chrysler or GM, and state politics contentious and feckless enough to shame a banana republic, has to be its public sector’s diminishing willingness and capacity to fulfill its promises to taxpayers.

    According to a report issued earlier this year by McKinsey & Company, Texas students “are, on average, one to two years of learning ahead of California students of the same age,” though expenditures per public school student are 12 percent higher in California.

    And why is the public sector so inefficient in California? Voegeli again, this time in the Claremont Review of Books:

    Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee says California’s “public employee unions wield immense—even hegemonic—influence” over the Democratic majorities in the state legislature. … No other political entity comes close to the unions’ ability to produce effective, sophisticated get-out-the-vote campaigns with hundreds of experienced workers. According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Teachers Association, the state affiliate of the National Education Association, “has deep pockets, a militia of more than 300,000 members to call on and a track record of making or breaking political careers.”

    And once compliant politicians are in office, what do public sector unions lobby for?

    It’s neither a coincidence nor a surprise, then, that California’s government employees receive higher compensation than those in any other state. The Census Bureau’s latest figures cover the year 2006, and show that California’s local government employees were paid at an average annual rate of $60,780, 33% above the national average. … California’s public workers receive more, often significantly more, than government employees in other states with high living costs. Californians who work for local governments were paid 7.7%, 9.1%, 11.5%, and 21.4% more than their counterparts in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts respectively.

    Overall government spending also skyrockets when public sector unions are in control:

    Adjusted for inflation, California’s per-capita outlays increased by 21.7% between 1992 and 2006; the increase for the other 49 states and the District of Columbia was 18.2%. What’s striking is that California is an exception to the pattern we were told to expect in Statistics 101, the regression to the mean. The states where inflation-adjusted, per-capita government outlays grew the fastest between 1992 and 2006 were, generally speaking, ones where those outlays were among the lowest to begin with. Conversely, of the ten states that had the highest per-capita public expenditures in 1991-92, California and Wyoming are the only two that saw those expenditures, adjusted for inflation, grow faster than the national average over the next 14 years.

    Back to Voegeli’s City Journal piece:

    James Madison would have to revise—or possibly burn—Federalist No. 10 if he were forced to account for the new phenomenon of the government itself becoming the faction decisively shaping its own policy and conduct. This faction dominates because it’s playing a much longer game than the politicians who come and go, not to mention the citizens who rarely read the enormous owner’s manual for the Rube Goldberg machine they feed with their dollars. They rarely stay outraged long enough to make a difference.

    The public sector union takeover of government is not confined to California. As Heritage fellow James Sherk reported earlier this year, for the first time in history most union members work for the government, not the private sector. The days when “union member” meant an American working in a steel plant, or coal mine, or auto factory are gone. Today, unions are dependent on government, not the private sector, for their livelihood. Therefore, unions have little interest in private sector job growth. Private sector jobs don’t help fund political campaigns. But government jobs do. The change in incentives has been devastating to American taxpayers. Manhattan Institute senior fellow Steven Malanga explains why:

    In the private sector … employers who are too generous with pay and benefits will be punished. In the public sector, however, more union members means more voters. And more voters means more dollars for political campaigns to elect sympathetic politicians who will enact higher taxes to foot the bill for the upward arc of government spending on workers.

    This is why you see big labor supporting Obamacare and cap and trade taxes. Private sector job growth does nothing to increase union dues … only the further expansion of government does. The result in California has been high taxes, poor services, and a disappearing middle class. But at least Californians can still move to Texas. After the Obama administration is done with our country, we’ll have no place left to move to.

    Posted in Economics [slideshow_deploy]

    46 Responses to Public Sector Unions Are Killing California

    1. ronnie benjamin says:

      I am not surprised at all about this report. that is why i believe california will sink faster than any other states n terms of economy and the population. anytime a liberal political entity governs any state – it sinks and it is only propped up by taxes untill there is no more to collect from the people and the businesses it taxes. i work for a local county in california and i have seen fellow workers who believe the liberal talking points. and it stems from the foolish belief that they are safe from this economic problems as long as they work for the government.

    2. ash Ga. says:

      Does not surprise me. Unions will destroy what is left of the economy.

    3. B.F.S., Texas says:

      I just don't understand how as a society we even allow public sector Unions the right to exist. How can it be in the interest of the public at large for a Union to exist who's purpose is to agitate for it's members a larger share of the "company profits" and more concessions that benefit their members when the "company profits" are not profits at all, it is our hard earned tax money that they are attempting to steal more of by this lobbying?

    4. Freedom of Speech, T says:

      Moving to Texas is any American's right. I would just hope those who move here do not bring the same mentality with them that ruined California. We have enough growing left wingers to contend with.

    5. Randy,SA TX says:

      Why would anyone blame the unions for this? people plz remember that it takes 2 signatures for a contract to be valid.dont hate unions.

    6. Conservative Mama says:

      @Randy,SA TX: Many employees of California public sector unions do not have a choice whether or not they join. If they choose to get a job within the public sector, they generally have to join the associated union. Granted, it is their choice to seek employment there… but don't say that it takes two… the unions are underhanded and I do not understand how membership in a union can be mandated, particularly in a publicly-funded, government run enterprise… Preposterous!

    7. Concerned in Alabama says:

      We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg. California is first, others will follow. I live in Alabama and the state teachers union is the strongest lobby in the state. Yet, our state is continually ranked at the bottom of the national rankings. Nationally what have the unions done for the american workers in recent years? They have contributed to the demise of the automotive industry, the garment industry, the petro-chemical industry, the paper industry and the transportation industry. Factories, Mills and Plants have closed and americans have lost their jobs. Yet the unions have refused to budge. Unions once had their place, today they are dinosaurs and need to move aside. Help america recover, instead of helping us sink.

    8. Lester Beers - San D says:

      If you wonder why Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" is selling so well,you haven't read it!

    9. randy,sa tx says:

      Mama r u telling me tht employees r forced to join a union? my union helped me and our work force with better pay and with reasonable health care.that would b unheard of without my union.I'm a proud union member.dont discredit all unions.

    10. judy, Richland, WA says:

      The unions demanded so much that they destroyed 4 out of 5 nuclear power plants in Washington state.

    11. S.S. Wellington, Flo says:

      I can speak from experience, Unions the way they are now only serve to push up wages artificially and do not allow personal initiative in the workplace.

      When I worked for the Teamsters it was commom knowledge that part of our dues was going to get Democrats' elected.

      That was my experience and many of my ex-union friends feel the same today.

    12. Daver Ft. Worth says:

      Self-sustaining death spirals are never pretty to watch when they involve people and principals we care about. Our prayers are with you–

      Regarding unions–historically they were "necessitated" by the poor conditions management inflicted on workers. Not exactly sure how that translates to the post OSHA, tenured, civil servant benefit packages present today in all states, and especially California.

      As Reagan fired all of the air-traffic controllers, I'd like to see Arnold start picking off and firing groups of unionized workers and replacing them with some of the 14% already on the public dole. Thus killing 3 birds with 1 stone. Ah–Dare to dream!

      I don't suppose any of those unionized teachers spend anytime teaching that it was the growth of unions that eventually led Europe to Socialization? Didn't think so.

      Twas a great ride while it lasted!

    13. Joyce, Las Vegas says:

      Unions were started for a good reason. However, they have grown to be a major problem for the economies of our states. California has a ton of problems and unions are just one of them. Their regulations on industry have driven out businesses, their handling of illegal aliens has helped bankrupt their state. Their liberal leanings toward socialism will be their destruction. Hopefully our country will wake up before it is our destruction as well.

    14. Da Dog says:

      The trail leads to politicians, as usual. Nothing here but corruption in the voting process. Until politicians who sell not only their own soul, but those of the American people, for votes and power are severly punished, we can expect nothing more. Simply more reason for a complete change in the American political process – a revolt of such.

    15. Lloyd Scallan - New says:

      Randy – Unions are continuing to destroy our ecomony. You want proof? The Seafarers union destroyed the American flage merchant marine. The ship owners were forced to change vessel's regeststration to foreign flags to avoid the unreasonable union demands that increased operation expences ten fold. NAFTA is one of the major reasons our jobs are being out-sourced to other countries? UAW is the reason we pay absurd prices of US made vehicles that are still inferior. Then they still get pay checks when they go on strike. The NEA protects unqualified teachers. These "teachers" are destroying our

      childern's education by teaching LIES about our

      founding fathers and the principals that made this country the light of freedom. Instead this teach songs that praise the socialist Obama. Need more reasons? There are hundreds.

    16. Diamond ND says:

      Unions are equally corrupt as the mafia.

    17. jack,ca says:

      it all comes down to the mentality of the union members.it is[what can i get at the expense of someone else]

    18. Ben C, Ann Arbor says:

      A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.

      Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency

      Alexander Tytler. Scottish historian quoting from others.

      It is the government unions that have discovered how to vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. At some point soon the unions (and federal employees) will need to be held accounable for their actions otherwise Tytler's statement will sadly become true and out standard of living will rapidly decline.

    19. Randy,SA TX says:

      i work for a company with a union and they have help bulid this company from the ground up and remain to b the best company to work for.they higher our wages and give us reasonable health care withouth unions are wages would be stagnant.And please dont blame naft on the union.we were the ones fighting to discredit naft.

    20. Texas Conservative says:

      Rick Perry > Kay Bailey Hutchison.

      Keep Texas on track. We don't need a Washington RINO running our state.

    21. Rich, Whistler, BC says:

      The US should ban political contributions from unions and corporations as Canada has done. That would eliminate the attractiveness of earmarks that are included by the thousands in spending bills and the quid pro quo of money flowing back to politicians. Until that happens, the power of public sector unions will increase and result in the bankrupting of governments large and small.

    22. charles adams says:

      The problem with our public schools is multifaceted. However, If the largest culprits were dealt with tremendous academic gains would be realized. The culprits are; the unreasonable hurdles to dismissing ineffective teachers, the inability to sufficiently award exceptional teachers, the upgrading of teacher preparation programs that emphasize academic proficiency and guided practice in basic classroom management skills. Following this should evolve the obvious need to demand constructive parental support for their children and their school and the elevating of the status of teaching both monetarily and through public sentiment.

      The need for effective administrators is another topic.

    23. philip says:


    24. Don Harper, Lubbock, says:

      I agree with Rich. Ban political contributions from non-human entities. Once polititians are no longer beholden to unions and corporations, we might have a chance for smaller, less intrusive gov't.

    25. Carol, TX says:

      I was born and raised in Southern California, I moved here to Texas a little over a year ago, and yes Randy, if you take a job working in the public sector in California (public school teacher, nurse for a county or state facility, etc) you are required to join the union as terms of your employment. The conservatives in the California legislature tried to get a bill passed to change the current retirement system to participitory plan, more like what the private sector has. Currently, public sector pensions are paid for by the tax payors. It was voted down, thanks to the media campaign by the unions. I am so glad I am out of there. Pretty soon the only people living in California will be the very wealthy and the very poor, who will supported by the very rich. The middle class will be gone.

    26. Angus, Missouri says:

      Anyone who believes that any type of union is an asset to our society today is a very uniformed person. I was a member for over 20 years and have dealt with them for the past 20. They are violent, corrupt, and without question have done more to make America not competitive that any other type of influence. Unions should never be allowed to represent any government workers anywhere at any time.

      PS: The unions elected Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton created NAFTA!

    27. Will, CA says:

      California leads the Nation in many respects. Our unsustainable ways will have to be changed at some point in the future. Whether this occurs before or after bankruptcy is the only question. Hopefully our nation learns from whatever fate Californians have signed themselves up for with our union dominated, leftist legislature.

    28. Normca says:

      The unions will be growing and spreading as long as Obama does his pay back. Next; TSA. Arnold replaced another Liberal whose name is Grey Davis. Arnold with the severe lack of ability simply continued down the same road after he eliminated his chief campaign goal and what grabbed us; the car tax [which has skyrocketed this year]. Arnold was going to implement a health ins plan for illegal aliens before the crunch hit him. Now he objects to the Senate plan. Hey Arnold; its not your plan, so its not okay ? The big difference between Arnold and Ronald Reagan [both actors] is Mr. Reagan was sensible, had knowledge of government and not weak, like the "Girly Man" that Arnold turned out to be. Arnold's motto; can't we all just get along. To a liberal in Sacramento – getting along and compromising is 95% for the Lib and the the rest for you.

    29. Al, The Villages, Fl says:

      It strikes me that what this says it that we, the people, must take hold of the reins – tell our legislators that they must ban public employee unions or we will vote them out. (Better do it before there are more union members than non union member voters.)

    30. Guy, South Carolina says:

      This is an excellent article that further exposes the truth of unions. I was a union member for years and one day I "woke UP." The union bosses are fat cats with little ones under them who do their dirty works. It's all about ME, in the unions. They preach US, but in the end it is the ME that represents the union greed. These (union) big guys are borderline felons and truth be told are probably over that line. Finally, the true shame is that these unions are in front of many of our children"s classrooms, where our children's education suffer in the hands of forced stupidity.

    31. ED, SA, TX says:

      I work for a non union company that provides good benefits and continues to grow despite the economic downturn. Compare that with General Motors which, in 1960 had 390,000 blue collar employees and now has about 38,000. You can't blame it all on NAFTA and poor management. If your company pays $70.00 per hour in labor costs and a competitor pays $50.00, guess who's likely to sell the most products and hire more workers. Goverment doesn't produce any wealth, yet goverment employee unions keep demanding and getting a larger share of the tax payers' wealth. With a 12 trillon dollar deficit and 70 trillion in unfunded liabilities, the well is eventually going to go dry. Who's going to pay the bills then?

    32. Les kansas says:

      Carol, Don't be too hard on Randy. You can tell by his blog that he is a product of one of those unionized teachers associations. he be doin'gud!

    33. dan,florida says:

      Some well thought out comments here.The majority are not in favor of Unions in the Public Sector. I whole heartedly support this concept. Having lived in California for many years, I know first hand what the entitlement mentality of the elected officials in California has done to the middle class and the role the Public Sector Unions play in keeping them in office. I loved living in California from a lifestyle persective but we simply could not afford to live there anymore.

    34. SAMUEL, AMERICA says:

      The non- union workers are paying for the union wages of all teachers, their benefits, their jobs are for life. Once you join the teachers union, you are there for life.

      All government jobs are paid for by the mean anti-government jobs. We will continue to pay for their failure.

      I have tried working with the union plants. The unions are destroying manufacturing in AMERICA.

      All they do is sit on their behinds and wait for union bosses.

    35. Drew Page, IL says:

      Teachers unions learned long ago that it generally takes two working parents to support a family. When teachers threaten to strike, parents of school age children panic.

      Over the past 15 years, I've attended a number of school board meetings here in Illinois. Typically they are poorly attended by the public, with only a few in attendance. However, let there be a threatened strike at a school district and it is not uncommon for a hundred or more angry parents showing up to shout out their displeasure, not at the teacher's union, but at the school board, who are elected from the local community. Comments such as "We pay taxes for teachers to teach our kids." "I don't care what it costs, get the teachers back in the classroom."

      Those last few words, "I don't care what it costs…" are all a school board needs to hear to cave in to teacher union demands. Taxpayers who have no school age children don't bother to attend these meetings. They only react when their taxes are increased to support the increased teacher salaries and benefit packages. Most people don't realize that teacher's pensions here in Illinois equal 75% of a teacher's of their highest 3-years annual salary, typically the last three years. The same thing applies to school administrators, principals, asst. principals and superintendents.

      Up to a year ago, if a teacher or superindentent gave a three year advance notice of retirement, they were given pay raises of from 15% to 20% for each of the last three years of their employment. A teacher with a master degree, with 30 years of service could be earning $80,000 to $100,00 or more per year. In the 3rd year prior to retirement, even at $80,000 annual salary, a 15% raise would amount to $12,000 and a $92,000 salary. In the 2nd prior year to retirement another 15% raise would equal $13,800 and an annual sa;ary of $105,800. In the last year prior to retirement, another 15% would amount to $15,870 and a last year salary of $120,670.

      A teacher or school administrator, with 30 years of service, in Illinois can retire at age 55 with the full pension benefits of 75% of their average highest three years of salary for the rest of their lives. Using the example quoted above, a person's average salary over the past three years would amount to $106,156 and the annual pension benefit would be $79,617., nearly identical to the $80,000 salary earned during the fourth year prior to retirement.

      Now consider the impact of these type of raises on a superintendent's salary of $250,000 a year or more. Illinois has almost 900 school districts — and everyone of them has a superintendent. Sometimes, a "school district" is made up of only one school, right next door to another school district with only one school.

      The supreme irony of all of this is that our previous governor, the ubiquitous Rod Blagojevich, whose last campaign was heavily financed by the IEA (Illinois Education Ass'n), put an end to this practice, limiting raises for school teachers and administrators in their last three years of employment to no more than 6%.

      Before feeling too sorry for the union, remember that a teacher's contract in Illinois calls for only 180 days of work per year mand after 5 years with a given district the teacher is granted tenure (guaranteed employment). In most instances, health benefits for teachers are very rich and are paid for either entirely by the school boards or with very limited contributions.

      Upon their retirement, the Illinois Teacher's Retirement System provides an array of health insurance options at rates subsidized by the taxpayers of Illinois. If a retired teacher chooses an HMO plan, the state picks up 75% of the cost. If a PPO plan is chosen, the state picks up 50% of the cost.

      Don't you just love it when you hear the endless chant of "we need to put more money in education"?

      To be fair, the school districts in Cook and "collar counties" surrounding Chicago are much higher paying than those in Central and Southern Illinois, but then again so is their cost of living.

    36. kim CA says:

      Unions is destroy America & corruption. They control Liberal Dems. Congress. They destroy school systems and brain wash children to communism. That were result of vote at 2008 with 68% of youth rock the vote. Mostly The youth didn't understood about history, freedom, liberty or political. They didn't realize how much important and consequence of their vote will affect their country, their families & their future. I wish we are the people can put on the ballot 'Ban all Unions'

    37. Tough Love says:

      All the previous financial tsunamis wil pale when compared to the Civil War shortly to erupt between the Public Sector "haves" and the Private Sector "have-nots".

    38. Jim Riordan Santa A says:

      Great story on public sector unions. The Forum Press published PLUNDER, How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting The Nation by Steven Greenhut. Can I send you a review copy? What address?

    39. Sharon, San Mateo, C says:

      It's unfortunate that so many comments here are just a knee jerk reaction to a very biased article. The main reason why California is in trouble has nothing to do with its unions but more to do with the unsustainable policy of Prop 13 and the 2/3 vote needed to pass a budget.

      If it were not for unions, most of you would barely be making minimum wage. Matter of fact, there may not even be a minimum wage. Like that you don't have to work 12 hour days? Thank the unions.

      You're all so brainwashed by the corporate mentality and richest and most powerful 1% to think unions are the problem when in reality, they're greed is.

    40. upthecreek says:

      "Public Sector Unions Are Killing California"

      correction … they have already Killed Taxifornia

    41. Sydney Rienstra says:

      Don Harper from Lubbock nailed it. Political contributions should only come from individual donations – not unions, associations, etc., but from just little old you and me. Union bosses and politicians would be far less corrupt and small businesses would flourish.

    42. Pingback: The Palmdale Water District And What's Wrong With This Country, This State And Los Angeles County | Antelope Valley Pulse

    43. kenneth wynder says:

      Nice article, but i thought your last paragraph was just another person blaming our current president for something our last administration screwed up. But of course he was without reproach. I wonder why?

    44. Ron D - Southern Cal says:

      >>>Once polititians are no longer beholden to unions and corporations, we might have a chance for smaller, less intrusive gov’t.<<

      In regards to Don Harper's comment (above), California just elected a Governor who is 100% beholden to CA unions. Do you think we're going to get substantive change here? Sure, and I've got some ocean front property in Arizona to sell you!

    45. pat says:

      I cannot believe how the media has blinded people towards unions. Many people are making dumb comments based on what they hear over the media which is controlled by big business and politicians. People are currently losing their rights, safety, days off and we are being sold out by big business and politicians who are owned by big business.
      I see people losing their rights, but are to blinded to see. Most who comment on unions have never belonged to a union, so how are you commenting . WAKE UP

    46. Roger G Portland OR says:

      Wow!!! Circle the wagons boys. I have never heard such a frightened bunch of prattle. Unfettered business destroys the US economy and that little fellow in Ash GA is worried that unions are going to destroy what remains of the economy. Wall Street is doing great with all the money the Bush White House so that they would have lending liquidity. Oh yeah they didn't lend it. Have you seen the stock market? It has doubled its value since the bottom of the crash and you guys are running around like chicken little. You like Texas ? Move there. You all remind me of the right to freeload (right to work) movement. Happy to work under a union contract but unwilling to pay to have it negotiated. Happy to have your fat pulled out of the fire by the union grievance but to pay union dues? Oh no that violates my right to get service for free. It wasn't unions that destroyed the economy and got a bailout. Keep pointing that finger, you got four pointing back at you. The decline in imports and exports and an overall kneed in the groin national economy is more responsible for California's woes than public sector unions. You guys are scared silly. Where are all the bold Titans of industry, and why did they leave us with these scared little boys? Don't pee yourselves. Obama's rising tide will lift your boats too.

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