Saturday, February 19, 2011

SAR #11050

The de facto role of the US armed forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing. Ralph Peters

Reality Check: Wisconsin Governor Walker claims that public employees salaries and pensions are responsible for the budget crisis, and that crushing the unions is the only possible solution. But, the budget “crisis” is a $200 million shortfall over two years, $117 million of which is due to three bills Walker and the GOP passed last month. The $3 billion shortfall he cites is of his own making. Wisconsin state employees do not have his alleged “extremely generous benefits packages”, and in fact get paid about 5% less than equally experienced and educated private sector workers.

Match The Following:Pair up the country with the type of violence used to put down pro-democracy protests: Bahrain, Iraq, Libya, Wisconsin and Yemen, with Batons, Grenades, Shotguns, Tear Gas and Water Cannons. Which are not US allies?

Rhetorical Question: Could rising food prices spark an Egyptian-style upheaval in Africa?

There You Go Again: Just as the stock markets are reaching post crash highs and the only way is up, up, up, along comes those Gallop poll folks reporting that unemployment is up to 10% in mid-February, and underemployment has reached 19.6% again. Plus the percentage of people 55 and over in the work force (42%) is the highest level in 35 years – they don't dare retire as long as the long knives are threatening Social Security.

Easy Does It: "The Solution in Afghanistan: Get Out"

The Wording: A new study concludes that human activities have "likely made intense precipitation stronger, on average, over the second half of the 20th century,” explaining that "The observed change cannot be explained by natural fluctuations of the climate system alone."

Kinder, Gentler: Complaining that “all currently fielded non-leathal ammunition is single shot”, the US Army says it “has a requirement for rapid-fire non-leathal” weapons and is seeking bids for a “rubber bullet” machine gun.

Vocabulary Test: Use the word 'agnotology' (culturally-induced ignorance) in a sentence. Extra credit for working in the word 'shibboleth'. Usual prizes.

Now They Tell Me: The question: Why Does College Cost So Much? The answer: “The service often is the time of the service provider, and you cannot use less of the provider’s time without compromising the quality of the service. Also, the service providers … are highly educated, highly skilled workers. In the last quarter of the last century, economic forces generated rapidly increasing wages for highly educated, highly skilled workers. The combination of these two factors, slow productivity growth and rapidly expanding wages, results in rapidly rising prices.” Translation: Because they can get away with it.

Parallels: Do some members of the American Capitalist Financial system make as much off illegal drugs as they do from war and ongoing Pentagon contracts?

Baby It's Coal Outside: A Harvard professor reports that if public health costs are included in the cost of coal, along with the environmental damage done by mining – and ignoring the eventual costs to us all from global warming – the coal industry inflicts a $345 billion in hidden costs on the public every year.

Disconnect:Part of the problem with the US economy is that large numbers of Americans believe “that the government is responsible for what happens” to them. As sophisticated investors know, this is incorrect. The government is responsible only for what happens to AIG and Goldman Sachs.


Anonymous said...

Reality Check:

A Wisconsin teacher is paid on average 86K in salary and benefits. They work 180-185 days a year. Let's walk the streets of Madison and see how many people think that's a better deal than they're private sector job. I'm crying my eyes out.

BTW, Joe Klein at time penned this post: Even he gets it.


CKMichaelson said...

RBM - The subject is "Wisconsin State Public Employees". Not teachers exclusively and in no state I know of are teachers state employees - they work for the local school districts.

Anonymous said...


In NJ the teachers pension is in the hands of the State DOE. I believe that towns pay the teachers pension to the state.

Either way the reason the teachers are all in a snit is that the states want to crush the teachers unions as they have gotten to powerful around the nation.


CKMichaelson said...

RBM - Yes,the public employee unions are being targeted in Wisconsin in the name of budgetary constraints, even though the budget problems are mainly of the current governor's making. To conflate "teachers unions" with public employee unions is somewhat misleading. The teachers unions negotiate with he school districts, not the state (again, my experience) and the state has an agency that runs the combined state teacher pension system (my former brother in law used to run one such)But the argument is against public employee unions and in that guise the GOP is attacking all unions.

I was just pointing out that the whole discussion is one of religious beliefs, not of any particular adherence to fact and reason. And I think the point remains self-evident, both in Wisconsin and in Washington.


Anonymous said...


Agreed. I'd love to see more complete private/public "earnings". One done State by State that takes into account Pay, holidays, medical contributions and pensions/401Ks. But, I'd also like to see the "value" of the 20 year retirement with full pension and fully paid medical benefits.

I really believe that the disconnect between private and public employee's perceptions rest on this last number. Ex: The 50 year old cop that retires with full pension and paid bene's that takes the 80K consulting position for the next 15 years. I think it's the follow on job that adds tremendous value to his benefits that needs to be calculated.


CKMichaelson said...

I was just reading some of the nonsense over at Mish's blog entry on unions as the spawn of the devil and got to wondering why when discussing the early retirement and generous pensions of fireman, police and to some degree 30-year teachers, it is all the union's fault.

No one seems to stop to consider that it was the politicians at the local and state level who were at the very least willing co-conspirators in doling out the goodies.

And the envy factor: If you think retiring teachers, firemen and such - or state highway department truck drivers for that matter - have it pretty damned good while you have to struggle on, why did you not go to the Police Academy, or get your masters degree in K-12 education?

The promises were there when these folks signed up, at (currently) a contract is still a contract - although that may soon change and a contract's validity may come to depend on party membership...


john patrick said...

What is a union? A defined boundary around a self-interest.

In the days of plenty, few put away for a rainy day. It's not just the unions, but rather our entire system.

Democracy works great for spending the treasury, but not so well when it comes to doling out frugality and sacrifice. Greed can muster an entire team of followers, but few throw their lot in with someone doing without.

A community that shares both play and pain can do great things. But, greed (and the business model of past) cannot create.

Thanks again, CK. For the daily writeup.

CKMichaelson said...

Well, damn! Someone's been paying attention, and I quote: "A community that shares both play and pain can do great things."

'Tis the Tragedy of the Commons, writ large. All 'me' and no 'we' - no matter who the me and we are - simple does not work.


john patrick said...

If one (for a moment) thinks in terms of having a thousand years ahead of oneself, instead of 30-60 years, then it makes sense to do thing that are infinitely sustainable and build to even greater things.

Much of what we do is based on preserving the 30-60 years ahead of us. Or, getting to the final gate intact and comfortable.

Fear is incapable of creating, anything. It is unable to tap into the "force" that drives to a greater goodness.

Trying to sustain much of what we have now, is like trying to sustain a bad storm. And, I've yet to see someone scale a storm back to a simple gale.

All we can do, is participate in the things that have been around long before we put feet on the ground.

There is humor. As the frogs warn of the coming stork. To eat them. Are we any different?

Drew said...

Yes I know you address who the actual employer of teachers is CKM, but still...

I have a problem with the idea that someone who is "just a teacher" couldn't make $75,000 - $90,000 a year. Many teachers have multiple degrees and are constantly taking addtional college course because they are required to maintain teaching certificates. Those college courses are rarely reimbursed by the school district.

Try offering someone with a BA, two MAs, and 10 years experience $75,000 and require them to pay for the additional schooling that the job requires in the private sector and you'll get to hear them laughing all the way to their next interview.

CKMichaelson said...

Agreed, Drew. No one - or damned few - is "just a teacher". Teaching is one of the very few professions where everyone who isn't one knows better how to do it than those who do it every day, armed with a couple of advanced degrees and lots of extra training.

The fact that only 70% of teachers are tenured (and many states require only 3 years to reach tenure) means that about 10% of all those who spent four years training to be a teacher find out that it is too damned hard to do for the pittance they are paid and leave withing a couple of years. Tenure is supposed to be part of the "pay package", just as 20 year retirement is for soldiers, cops, and firemen.

But the current fuss is not about pay - it is part of the far right's agenda to punish those Democratic leaning public employees for voting Democratic. How's that going to work out for them, do ya' think?


Drew said...

Not my work:

Are you sick of highly paid teachers?
Teachers' hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work 9 or10 months a year! It's time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do - babysit!
We can get that for less than minimum wage.
That's right. Let's give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and plan-- that equals 6 1/2 hours).
Each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day...maybe 30? So that's $19.50 x 30 = $585.00 a day.

However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.

That's $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).
What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master's degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6 1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.

Wait a minute -- there's something wrong here! There sure is!

The average teacher's salary (nation wide) is $50,000. $50,000/180 days = $277.77/per day/30 students=$9.25/6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student--a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!) WHAT A DEAL!!!!