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Topic: Andy Stern

A No Good, Rotten Time for Big Labor

Big Labor is having a tough time. You’d think that after spending millions in hard and soft money to get Obama and a Democratic Congress elected, they’d be flying high. But alas, the public’s approval of labor unions has never been lower. And unions’ No. 1 priority — card check — never even came to a vote. Many of the beneficiaries of Big Labor cash are going to get swept out in November. And now this:

The FBI and U.S. Labor Department are looking into two deals involving Andy Stern — over a six-figure book contract given to the former head of the Service Employees International Union and payments to a labor leader convicted on separate fraud charges, a source familiar with the case told Fox News on Tuesday.

Alejandro Stephens, who was sentenced early this month to four months in prison and three months of home confinement for defrauding a non-profit organization in “bogus consulting agreements,” is former president of SEIU local 660 in Los Angeles.

Questioning of Stern, who is a member of President Obama’s debt commission, revolve around whether he paid Stephens $150,000 to do nothing as the local union boss. Stephens and Stern met with federal agents this summer to answer questions about the relationship.

Do you think it might be a good idea to take Stern off the commission?

As with many liberal groups and activists, Big Labor is experiencing the worst of times. Would you have imagined this two years ago?

Big Labor is having a tough time. You’d think that after spending millions in hard and soft money to get Obama and a Democratic Congress elected, they’d be flying high. But alas, the public’s approval of labor unions has never been lower. And unions’ No. 1 priority — card check — never even came to a vote. Many of the beneficiaries of Big Labor cash are going to get swept out in November. And now this:

The FBI and U.S. Labor Department are looking into two deals involving Andy Stern — over a six-figure book contract given to the former head of the Service Employees International Union and payments to a labor leader convicted on separate fraud charges, a source familiar with the case told Fox News on Tuesday.

Alejandro Stephens, who was sentenced early this month to four months in prison and three months of home confinement for defrauding a non-profit organization in “bogus consulting agreements,” is former president of SEIU local 660 in Los Angeles.

Questioning of Stern, who is a member of President Obama’s debt commission, revolve around whether he paid Stephens $150,000 to do nothing as the local union boss. Stephens and Stern met with federal agents this summer to answer questions about the relationship.

Do you think it might be a good idea to take Stern off the commission?

As with many liberal groups and activists, Big Labor is experiencing the worst of times. Would you have imagined this two years ago?

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Re: Becker Defeated

Regarding the defeat of Harold Craig Becker’s nomination, the Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

Democrats Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln joined with Republicans to block cloture on a closely watched vote on the appointment of a lawyer for Andy Stern’s Service Employees International Union to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. … The message from yesterday’s cloture motion is sobering for the White House and its union allies. Support for their antigrowth agenda, from universal health care to easier unionization rules, is collapsing on the Hill almost as quickly as in the country at large.

True, but it is equally true that a number of Democrats in competitive races went to the mat for that anti-growth agenda on Becker, just as they have on a series of items on Obama’s far-Left agenda. Voting for cloture and for Becker were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and of course, Harry Reid of Nevada. Voters back home may wonder why it is that these self-styled moderates cast votes for Big Labor’s favorite lawyer, who thinks, surprisingly enough, just like the Big Labor bosses. (“Among the nominees for the three open seats on the five-member board, his views stood out for their radicalism. In a law review article, Mr. Becker said the NLRB could rewrite union-election rules to favor labor by fiat—for example, by removing the requirement for a secret ballot.”)

But now the ball is in Obama’s court. Does he install Becker, thereby exposing the Big Labor toadyism of his administration and highlighting the faux centrism of Bennet, Bayh, Reid, and others? Or does he take this as a sign that there is a limited appetite for his extreme vision and equally extreme appointees? There is always reason to hope that, finally, Obama will notice the blinking warning lights (Go back! Even your own party can’t defend you!). But if he didn’t take the Scott Brown win to heart, he’s probably not all that impressed that his NLRB nominee didn’t get through.

Regarding the defeat of Harold Craig Becker’s nomination, the Wall Street Journal‘s editors observe:

Democrats Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln joined with Republicans to block cloture on a closely watched vote on the appointment of a lawyer for Andy Stern’s Service Employees International Union to a seat on the National Labor Relations Board. … The message from yesterday’s cloture motion is sobering for the White House and its union allies. Support for their antigrowth agenda, from universal health care to easier unionization rules, is collapsing on the Hill almost as quickly as in the country at large.

True, but it is equally true that a number of Democrats in competitive races went to the mat for that anti-growth agenda on Becker, just as they have on a series of items on Obama’s far-Left agenda. Voting for cloture and for Becker were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Evan Bayh of Indiana, and of course, Harry Reid of Nevada. Voters back home may wonder why it is that these self-styled moderates cast votes for Big Labor’s favorite lawyer, who thinks, surprisingly enough, just like the Big Labor bosses. (“Among the nominees for the three open seats on the five-member board, his views stood out for their radicalism. In a law review article, Mr. Becker said the NLRB could rewrite union-election rules to favor labor by fiat—for example, by removing the requirement for a secret ballot.”)

But now the ball is in Obama’s court. Does he install Becker, thereby exposing the Big Labor toadyism of his administration and highlighting the faux centrism of Bennet, Bayh, Reid, and others? Or does he take this as a sign that there is a limited appetite for his extreme vision and equally extreme appointees? There is always reason to hope that, finally, Obama will notice the blinking warning lights (Go back! Even your own party can’t defend you!). But if he didn’t take the Scott Brown win to heart, he’s probably not all that impressed that his NLRB nominee didn’t get through.

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The Engine of Spending

As Jennifer referred to this morning, Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not happy with the idea of scaling back health-care “reform.” It is not exactly hard to see why Stern is upset. He represents over one million health-care workers. He also represents over a million government workers and a government takeover of health care is very much in his interest.

Andy Stern and the SEIU are the exemplars of the modern union movement, as the old union movement, personified by Walter Reuther and John L. Lewis, that was so influential in the mid-20th century is a shadow of its former self. Union membership peaked in the early 1950′s at about 35 percent of the nation’s workforce, virtually all of them in the private sector. It’s been declining ever since and is now at 7.2 percent of the workforce in the private sector, about where it was in 1900. What has been growing is union membership among government workers and non-profits such as hospitals: 37.4 percent of the public sector workforce is now unionized and these public-sector workers now constitute more than 50 percent of all union members.

As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal made clear on Thursday, this is a very dangerous situation. The public service unions have acquired disproportionate political influence, pouring millions in dues money (more than $100 million in 2008) into political campaigns to elect Democrats, the party of government. They pour millions more into ads opposing any reform in government spending, even in states on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushing for higher taxes instead. In Massachusetts public safety spending is up by 139 percent in the last twenty years, education up by 44 percent, Medicaid up by 163 percent.

A big part of the problem is that the laws in place that cover collective bargaining were devised in the 1930′s when public-sector unions didn’t exist. A corporation is a wealth-creation machine and collective bargaining is a negotiation over how to divide the profits between stockholders and labor. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain, they will injure the goose that lays the profit eggs. If labor is paid too much, the company will be less competitive. If it is paid too little, good workers will leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But in the public sector, unions and the bureaucrats who negotiate with them are playing with someone else’s money (yours, to be precise), and have overlapping interests in spending more of it. Bureaucrats, after all, measure their prestige by the size of the budget they control and the number of people who report to them.

The result has been an explosion in public-sector compensation. Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have Cadillac health plans and retirement benefits far above the private sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector. Many can retire at age 50.

The public-sector unions have become the engine behind ballooning state and federal budgets. There will be no cure for excess government spending until their power is decisively curbed. It would be a winning issue for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The Democratic candidate, deeply beholden to Andy Stern, who has visited the White House more than anyone else not in government since Obama has been in office, will be very hard pressed to defend against such an attack but will have no option but to try.

As Jennifer referred to this morning, Andy Stern, the head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is not happy with the idea of scaling back health-care “reform.” It is not exactly hard to see why Stern is upset. He represents over one million health-care workers. He also represents over a million government workers and a government takeover of health care is very much in his interest.

Andy Stern and the SEIU are the exemplars of the modern union movement, as the old union movement, personified by Walter Reuther and John L. Lewis, that was so influential in the mid-20th century is a shadow of its former self. Union membership peaked in the early 1950′s at about 35 percent of the nation’s workforce, virtually all of them in the private sector. It’s been declining ever since and is now at 7.2 percent of the workforce in the private sector, about where it was in 1900. What has been growing is union membership among government workers and non-profits such as hospitals: 37.4 percent of the public sector workforce is now unionized and these public-sector workers now constitute more than 50 percent of all union members.

As Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal made clear on Thursday, this is a very dangerous situation. The public service unions have acquired disproportionate political influence, pouring millions in dues money (more than $100 million in 2008) into political campaigns to elect Democrats, the party of government. They pour millions more into ads opposing any reform in government spending, even in states on the brink of bankruptcy, and pushing for higher taxes instead. In Massachusetts public safety spending is up by 139 percent in the last twenty years, education up by 44 percent, Medicaid up by 163 percent.

A big part of the problem is that the laws in place that cover collective bargaining were devised in the 1930′s when public-sector unions didn’t exist. A corporation is a wealth-creation machine and collective bargaining is a negotiation over how to divide the profits between stockholders and labor. Each side knows that if they drive too hard a bargain, they will injure the goose that lays the profit eggs. If labor is paid too much, the company will be less competitive. If it is paid too little, good workers will leave for better-paying jobs elsewhere. But in the public sector, unions and the bureaucrats who negotiate with them are playing with someone else’s money (yours, to be precise), and have overlapping interests in spending more of it. Bureaucrats, after all, measure their prestige by the size of the budget they control and the number of people who report to them.

The result has been an explosion in public-sector compensation. Federal workers now earn, in wages and benefits, about twice what their private-sector equivalents get paid. State workers often have Cadillac health plans and retirement benefits far above the private sector average: 80 percent of public-sector workers have pension benefits, only 50 percent in the private sector. Many can retire at age 50.

The public-sector unions have become the engine behind ballooning state and federal budgets. There will be no cure for excess government spending until their power is decisively curbed. It would be a winning issue for a Republican presidential candidate in 2012. The Democratic candidate, deeply beholden to Andy Stern, who has visited the White House more than anyone else not in government since Obama has been in office, will be very hard pressed to defend against such an attack but will have no option but to try.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.’”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them – unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

In a must-read piece, Richard Haass, a self-described “card carrying realist,” gives up on “engagement,” declares himself to be a neocon when it comes to Iran and supports regime change there: “The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.” Actually, the only “realistic” policy at this point is regime change.

More data for the Obami to ignore on how “dissatisfaction with the direction of the country, antipathy toward federal government activism and opposition to the Democrats’ health-care proposals” lifted Scott Brown to victory: “Health care topped jobs and the economy as the most important issue driving Massachusetts voters, but among Brown voters, ‘the way Washington is working’ ran a close second to the economy and jobs as a factor. Overall, just 43 percent of Massachusetts voters say they support the health-care proposals advanced by Obama and congressional Democrats; 48 percent oppose them. Among Brown’s supporters, however, eight in 10 said they were opposed to the measures, 66 percent of them strongly so.’”

Now Sen. Chris Dodd says the Democrats should take a break from health-care reform — “a breather for a month, six weeks, and quietly go back and say the door’s open again.”

For once the voters are with Dodd: “Sixty-one percent (61%) of U.S. voters say Congress should drop health care reform and focus on more immediate ways to improve the economy and create jobs.”

Not enough votes to confirm Ben Bernanke? Kind of seems as though all the wheels are coming off the bus.

In politics, winning is always better than losing: “The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) says Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts has yielded more interest and commitments from potential GOP House candidates to run for Congress in the midterms this year. . . . The Brown victory should give Republicans momentum going into 2010, as it will likely spur Republican political donations and conservative activism, as well as preventing Democrats from passing much of their agenda and putting President Obama and congressional Democratic leaders into a defensive mode. An influx of Republican House candidates would be an added boon.”

When it rains, it pours. Big Labor deserting the Democrats? “SEIU chief Andy Stern took a hard shot at Dem leaders just now for considering a scaled-down health care bill, strongly hinting that labor might not work as hard for Dem candidates in 2010 if they failed to deliver real and comprehensive reform.” Can’t blame them – unions spent millions and millions electing Obama as well as the Democratic congressional majorities and what have the Democrats delivered?

Seems as though union voters are already deserting the Democrats: “Republican Scott Brown’s victory in the Massachusetts Senate race was lifted by strong support from union households, in a sign of trouble for President Barack Obama and Democrats who are counting on union support in the 2010 midterm elections. A poll conducted on behalf of the AFL-CIO found that 49% of Massachusetts union households supported Mr. Brown in Tuesday’s voting, while 46% supported Democrat Martha Coakley.”

Obama complains of running into a “buzz saw” of opposition in Congress. Has no one ever disagreed with him? Did he expect everyone to simply sign on? I guess the presidency is really hard.

From the New York Times: “A Tennessee man accused of killing a soldier outside a Little Rock, Ark., military recruiting station last year has asked a judge to change his plea to guilty, claiming for the first time that he is affiliated with a Yemen-based affiliate of Al Qaeda. . .If evidence emerges that his claim is true, it will give the June 1, 2009, shooting in Little Rock new significance at a time when Yemen is being more closely scrutinized as a source of terrorist plots against the United States. Mr. Muhammad, 24, a Muslim convert from Memphis, spent about 16 months in Yemen starting in the fall of 2007, ostensibly teaching English and learning Arabic.”

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Promises? What Promises?

Union bosses are having a get-together with the president today to discuss his broken promise not to tax those families who make less than $250,000. They will meet behind closed doors, violating the promise to C-SPAN that we’d watch them all sit around a big table to work out the details. But for tough guys, these Big Labor fellas seem awfully wimpy, as this report explains:

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told The Hill on Friday that the final bill would likely include some form of the excise tax.“When you have a president who says he wants to incorporate it and a Senate that says it wants to incorporate it and some in the House who say they want to incorporate it, it’s hard to look that in the face and say we can just win this outright,” Stern said.

I wonder how their members feel about that. Millions and millions of dollars were taken from union members’ pockets to be spent in direct contributions and soft-money expenditures to elect Democrats to Congress and Obama to the White House. And what they get for that is nothing — worse than nothing. Union members already have health care. What they’re now going to get are tax increases. Or perhaps they’ll instead see those generous health-care benefits slashed to avoid the excise tax (so much for “guaranteeing” to keep the health plan you have). Meanwhile, unemployment is in double digits and employers aren’t anxious to hire anyone — union or nonunion. What exactly have union members gotten from Washington and from their own leaders?

And if union leaders succeed in trimming the tax, if not eliminating it, what then? Well, other Americans are going to get smacked because the money has to come from somewhere:

The Senate bill would raise about $150 billion from 2013 to 2019 by taxing employer-provided health plans costing more than $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. Labor officials, citing an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, claim this would hit nearly 31 million households by 2019. But limiting the excise tax would require Senate and House negotiators to find alternative sources of revenue to fund healthcare reform.

Who’s the likely victim? Well, it seems that “labor leaders may push for a bigger increase in the Medicare Hospital Insurance tax.” Because we haven’t stuck it to health-care providers or endangered the fiscal viability of Medicare enough, I suppose.

Well, Democrats are bound and determined to push something through. Now the only question, it seems, is determining which groups will hate the bill more: union members, seniors, young people (forced to buy insurance), the Left, the Right, good-government types, independents, or tax-hike opponents. So many groups, so many grievances.

Union bosses are having a get-together with the president today to discuss his broken promise not to tax those families who make less than $250,000. They will meet behind closed doors, violating the promise to C-SPAN that we’d watch them all sit around a big table to work out the details. But for tough guys, these Big Labor fellas seem awfully wimpy, as this report explains:

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), told The Hill on Friday that the final bill would likely include some form of the excise tax.“When you have a president who says he wants to incorporate it and a Senate that says it wants to incorporate it and some in the House who say they want to incorporate it, it’s hard to look that in the face and say we can just win this outright,” Stern said.

I wonder how their members feel about that. Millions and millions of dollars were taken from union members’ pockets to be spent in direct contributions and soft-money expenditures to elect Democrats to Congress and Obama to the White House. And what they get for that is nothing — worse than nothing. Union members already have health care. What they’re now going to get are tax increases. Or perhaps they’ll instead see those generous health-care benefits slashed to avoid the excise tax (so much for “guaranteeing” to keep the health plan you have). Meanwhile, unemployment is in double digits and employers aren’t anxious to hire anyone — union or nonunion. What exactly have union members gotten from Washington and from their own leaders?

And if union leaders succeed in trimming the tax, if not eliminating it, what then? Well, other Americans are going to get smacked because the money has to come from somewhere:

The Senate bill would raise about $150 billion from 2013 to 2019 by taxing employer-provided health plans costing more than $8,500 for individuals and $23,000 for families. Labor officials, citing an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation, claim this would hit nearly 31 million households by 2019. But limiting the excise tax would require Senate and House negotiators to find alternative sources of revenue to fund healthcare reform.

Who’s the likely victim? Well, it seems that “labor leaders may push for a bigger increase in the Medicare Hospital Insurance tax.” Because we haven’t stuck it to health-care providers or endangered the fiscal viability of Medicare enough, I suppose.

Well, Democrats are bound and determined to push something through. Now the only question, it seems, is determining which groups will hate the bill more: union members, seniors, young people (forced to buy insurance), the Left, the Right, good-government types, independents, or tax-hike opponents. So many groups, so many grievances.

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Why State Budgets Are so Deep in the Red

A clear majority of the public, according to Rasmussen, thinks that the federal government should not bail out the state of California but rather let it declare bankruptcy. Even when told that the state might have to slash welfare and medical care for the disabled and elderly and cut state salaries by 14 percent, 53 percent favored that outcome over a federal bailout. Only 33 percent want the feds to help.

Bloated state payrolls are a large part of the problem with state budgets. While revenues have stagnated or fallen, employees have not been laid off, and salaries and benefits have continued to increase. These expenses now make up half of all state spending. As a Cato Institute report makes clear, state employees make out much better than do private-sector ones. In total compensation, state and local workers earn $1.45 for every dollar private workers earn. State workers get $2.18 in health benefits for every one dollar their private-sector counterparts earn. For every dollar in defined-benefit pension benefits given to private-sector workers, public-sector workers get $6.95. Some states allow workers to retire early, begin to collect a pension, and then go back to work for the state at their old job, earning a salary as well as a pension.

Federal workers do even better, earning more than twice what equivalent private-sector workers do. No wonder the ratio of government workers to the total population has been steadily falling. In 1940 there were about 31 Americans for every government worker. By 1970 the ratio was 18.5-to-1. Today it is 13.7-to-1. In this decade, the number of government workers exceeded the number of those in manufacturing. Part of the reason for that, of course, has been the great increase in productivity in manufacturing in recent decades. No such productivity increase in government, however.

And the most frequent non-governmental visitor to the White House since Obama became President? Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.8 million mostly government workers. It’s the largest and fastest growing union in the country. Its political clout is legendary, thanks to $60 million in contributions in the last election cycle and the ability to turn out large numbers of union workers at rallies.

The states cannot hope to regain fiscal health until the wages and benefits of state works are more nearly in line with those of the private sector.

A clear majority of the public, according to Rasmussen, thinks that the federal government should not bail out the state of California but rather let it declare bankruptcy. Even when told that the state might have to slash welfare and medical care for the disabled and elderly and cut state salaries by 14 percent, 53 percent favored that outcome over a federal bailout. Only 33 percent want the feds to help.

Bloated state payrolls are a large part of the problem with state budgets. While revenues have stagnated or fallen, employees have not been laid off, and salaries and benefits have continued to increase. These expenses now make up half of all state spending. As a Cato Institute report makes clear, state employees make out much better than do private-sector ones. In total compensation, state and local workers earn $1.45 for every dollar private workers earn. State workers get $2.18 in health benefits for every one dollar their private-sector counterparts earn. For every dollar in defined-benefit pension benefits given to private-sector workers, public-sector workers get $6.95. Some states allow workers to retire early, begin to collect a pension, and then go back to work for the state at their old job, earning a salary as well as a pension.

Federal workers do even better, earning more than twice what equivalent private-sector workers do. No wonder the ratio of government workers to the total population has been steadily falling. In 1940 there were about 31 Americans for every government worker. By 1970 the ratio was 18.5-to-1. Today it is 13.7-to-1. In this decade, the number of government workers exceeded the number of those in manufacturing. Part of the reason for that, of course, has been the great increase in productivity in manufacturing in recent decades. No such productivity increase in government, however.

And the most frequent non-governmental visitor to the White House since Obama became President? Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.8 million mostly government workers. It’s the largest and fastest growing union in the country. Its political clout is legendary, thanks to $60 million in contributions in the last election cycle and the ability to turn out large numbers of union workers at rallies.

The states cannot hope to regain fiscal health until the wages and benefits of state works are more nearly in line with those of the private sector.

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