February 7, 2011. Florida newspapers align themselves with reactionary voices to join fight against teachers, police, firefighters; Editors “want Florida’s public employees to be paid on a par with those in our ‘low-wage, boom-bust, service economy’.”
View original post at flapolitics.com.
(Sun Feb 06, 2011)
The attack on public employees by the Chamber/AIF/League of Cities aligned editorial boards of Florida’s newspaper companies – including the so-called “liberal newspapers – has continued for years. A version of the following , concededly crude post appeared here three years ago.
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The Orlando Sentinel editors believe Florida state and local governments’ financial problems can be traced to the “fatter paychecks of government workers”. These charming experts in public finance, in a delightfully titled editorial – Fattening Up: Local and state governments are overly generous to employees – complain that public employees are compensated too well. The editors make three (3) points, which we address in detail below.
As their first argument, the editors hit us with their best punch:
the wages of city and county workers in Florida grew by more than 20 percent between 2001 and 2006, and the average salaries of all local government workers is now higher than those who work for businesses.
The editors find it outrageous that
the average pay for city and county workers in Florida in 2006 was nearly $41,000 compared to about $38,000 for businesses. … Wow. So much for the struggling public employee[*].
Of course, the figures used by the editors for “comparison” include the minimum wages and miserly benefits received by “service workers” who dominate Florida’s private sector economy, as well as the wages (and in most cases the complete absence of benefits) of part-time and temporary workers.
Ironically, these lower private sector wages also include the unskilled and semi-skilled jobs formerly performed by government workers, which have in recent years been subcontracted out to private companies paying even lower wages and providing fewer (if any) benefits than the public sector.
Overpaid SWAT Team member, whose salary exceeds the average of “those who work for businesses”, prepares to rescue taxpayer held hostage
That leaves Florida governments employing for the most part workers performing core government functions, like state troopers, nursing home inspectors, corrections officers, paramedics, lift station mechanics, firefighters (including Bomb and Arson squads, Hazmat teams, forest firefighters, and High Angle Rescue Teams), building inspectors, fish and wildlife officers, environmental protection inspectors, and, municipal police officers/deputies (including Hostage Rescue, Tactical and SWAT teams), FDLE special agents, and … oh yeah, those wildly overpaid teachers. Do the Sentinel editors really want the wages and benefits of these critical employees compared to, and reduced to the level of, the wages and benefits received by workers struggling in Florida’s largely service sector economy? Apparently they do. Indeed, a Sentinel columnist recently (and correctly) characterized Florida’s economy as a “low-wage, boom-bust, service economy that has plagued us since the first bungalow went up in St. Augustine.” Plainly, the Sentinel editors want Florida’s public employees to be paid on a par with those in our “low-wage, boom-bust, service economy”. Nice.
The editorial board’s second argument is that many public employees have the unmitigated temerity to enjoy real pensions, to wit: defined benefit plans, as opposed to defined contribution plans. In this connection, the Sentinel editors praise the fact that the private sector has “replaced expensive [defined benefit] pensions with [cheap defined contribution] 401(k) plans,” and complain that “few governments have done the same.”
Selfish Tactical team officers, with “platinum benefit packages”, prepare to assault meth lab operation in taxpayers’ neighborhood
Of course, the slum lord**, union bashing***, and scab supplying**** hypocrites*****, like the owners and operators of the Orlando Sentinel hate defined benefit retirement plans. Toeing the Chamber line, the editors support replacing defined benefit (DB) plans – which are part of what the editors refer to as “platinum benefit packages” – with defined contribution (DC) plans. The editors urge the elimination of DB plans because: (1) DB plans are cheap, and, depending how they are structured, the employer is actually never required by law to pay anything (e.g., matching contributions) into the plan; (2) the employee bears all the risk in a defined contribution plan; (3) even if the employer contributes something, it can unilaterally cease their contributions (no matter how meager) at any time (that is, if the employees are not unionized); and (4) defined contribution plans do not guarantee that an employee will receive any particular retirement benefit (have you looked at your 401(k) plan’s performance lately?) Oh yeah, did we mention that DC plans are real cheap.
Forest firefighter “fattening up” on “overly generous” benefits as she prepares to enter inferno in state forest enjoyed by taxpayers
The editors third “argument” is that public employers have not gutted health insurance benefits: they write that “while businesses cut back on health-insurance benefits … few governments have done the same.” You read that right, the editors actually argue that health-insurance benefits should be “cut back”. The reason that, because the private sector – in the absence of a strong union movement – has been able to shift most if not all health care costs to employees (after all, there is no law requiring employers to provide health insurance at all), government should do the same. Taking this “argument” to its logical conclusion, why not eliminate public employee employee health insurance in its entirety – after all, wouldn’t that be cheaper for the taxpayer, at least in the (very) short run. The bottom line is that the Sentinel editors believe that the public sector – which, unlike most of the private sector, actually treats its employees with a modicum of decency – is a drag on the private sector’s ability (including the Sentinel in its capacity of an employer) to unrestrainedly exploit employees for the sake of making a buck.
We know and accept that corporate America is an amoral machine that cares nothing about anything else but profit, but one would hope that our society – acting through its elective representatives – would care about something greater than joining Florida’s private sector in its race to the bottom. The Sentinel editorial board does not share that hope.
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* Could these be the same faux “struggling public employees” the Sentinel acknowledged a couple of weeks ago could not afford to buy a home in Orange County? “A study by the county’s 2006 task force showed that most homes were far out of the price range of 75 percent of all Orange County residents. … The market leaves … police, firefighters and other workers with few options.”[No longer available online].
** The Tribune Company’s new owner is a “real estate mogul [sic]”, with a wide wingnut streak: “the mention of Hillary Clinton’s name prompted him to use a four-letter obscenity to describe her.” More here: “The Orlando Sentinel editors are at it again“.
**** During a strike involving a Tribune Company newspaper [the Baltimore Sun] a few years back, “guess where Tribune’s finding its [reporter and editor] scabs? ‘Florida is supplying them with a lot,’ says one Sentinel source”.
Indeed, “potential scabs are offered Sun pay on top of their normal salary — more than double their pay, for scabs coming from regional papers like the Sentinel — plus per-diem expenses and even security to deal with the hecklers.” “Send in the scabs“.
By the way, we all can agree on what a scab is, can’t we? No less a figure than Jack London, described as “the most successful writer in America in the early 20th Century” – and presumably someone for whom the Sentinel writers have some respect – is attributed with putting it this way (as quoted by the U.S. Supreme Court):
The Scab “After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, He had some awful substance left with which He made a scab.” “A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.” “When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and Angels weep in Heaven, and the Devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out.” “No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with. Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his Master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab has not.” “Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver. Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British Army.
The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer.” “Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country; a SCAB is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.”
***** The Orlando Sentinel has editorialized long and hard against newspapers being subject to lawsuits for so-called “false light” torts, while at the very same time the Sentinel’s lawyers were threatening another newspaper with, you guessed it, a “false light” lawsuit. “Oh … The Hypocrisy“.