Pensions, Protests, Spin & Ugly Realities

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Perhaps nothing reveals the problematic story out of Wisconsin better than the fact that the far right, because of their dependency on FOX, has been ignoring the fact that the Painter’s Union offered to clean up the capitol building for free.  From Politicus USA comes the rather fascinating story, that highlights The Pink Flamingo’s post.

“…After days of Fox and Walker propagating the false meme that the protesters left the Capitol with $7.5 million of damages, it turns out that it will only cost around $350,000 to repair any damage. Or it could have been free, had Walker taken the Painters Union up on their offer to clean the Capitol with volunteer union members.

Naturally, Walker’s PR firm Fox News jumped on the Walker administrations’ later-retracted and just down right silly estimate that it would cost “$7.5 million” to clean the Capitol after those nasty little anarchists were besmirching it with their yucky first amendment rights. This protracted poutrage opened the door for some pro tea talk, with Fox and Friends pointing out that some guy from the Tea Party offered to take out “the trash,” but throughout the days of outrage over the messy protesters meme, neither Walker nor Fox said a peep about the Painters Union offer to clean any real mess for free….”

And – that is the real problem.  We’ve become so complacent and trusting of fair and balanced that we conservatives are NOT getting the full story.  We’re getting an editorial spin that is out of control, and not conducive to helping the GOP.

This is not a rant about the increasingly extreme libertarian tendencies of FOX, designed to reflect the libertarian politics of it’s owner, Rupert Murdock.  Rather it is a commentary on how we are being led like sheep, to the slaughter.

If  you think all is sweetness and light in Wisconsin, then you might want to take a look at the latest polling where Scott Walker is in trouble.  Ironically, the polling is starting to reflect the same comments The Pink Flamingo has been hearing.  People are very uncomfortable when it comes to taking out negotiated public service pensions that are part of a contract.

There is just something tawdry about it.

The libertarian/tea party mime is that public service pensions and salaries are destroying the country.  That is just plain bull you know what.  Perhaps the problem is not the pensions, but the fact that there are far to public service workers.

“...In a Feb. 23 radio interview, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., called federal stimulus efforts to rescue the economy “essentially a federal bailout of public employee unions.” Nunes described money owed to state pensioners as a crisis “about ready to happen.”

Except that two out of every three public-sector workers aren’t union members.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January that 31.1 percent of state public-sector workers were unionized in 2010, compared with 26.8 percent of federal government employees. The highest percentage of unionization, 43.3 percent, was found in local government, where police officers and firefighters work. Teachers can fall into either state systems or local government.

Ironically, in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker is trying to weaken public-sector unions and reduce pension benefits, he’s exempted police and firefighters, who are among the most unionized public employees. And Wisconsin’s public-sector pension plan still has enough assets today to cover more than 18 years of benefits.

The most recent Public Fund Survey by the National Association of State Retirement Administrators showed that, on average, state and local pensions were 78.9 percent funded, with about $688 billion in unfunded promises to pensioners. Critics suggest that the real number is at least $1 trillion or higher, using less-optimistic market assumptions.

The unfunded liabilities would be a problem if all state and local retirees went into retirement at once, but they won’t. Nor will state governments go out of business and hand underfunded pension plans over to a federal regulator, as happens in the private sector. State and local governments are ongoing enterprises….”

Governments have exploded.  So have costs. The Pink Flamingo suspects that if the government was not so big, and so over-reaching, we would not be having this problem.

Perhaps it might be smart not to cut the pensions, but raise the retirement age to 70 where it is possible.  For cops and firefighters, instead of raising the retirement age, raise the age when they can begin to collect a pension.  Everyone knows these guys get other jobs when they retire.

One of the problems is the fact that people are living longer and are healthier.  We don’t need to retire at 65 and don’t need social security and medicare at 65.  Raise the durn age to 70 and be done with it.

Why must people who do work in the public sector be subjected this new libertarian harassment?  Perhaps they aren’t the problem, but the growth of government is the problem.  What about eliminating duplicate organizations?  From what The Pink Flamingo gathers that alone would cut more money than anything so far proposed.

Then there is the stupidity.  There are literally the sacred cows.  There is the corruption and the incompetence.

“…As head of a $5.7-billion, taxpayer-funded program to rebuild the college campuses, Eisenberg commanded attention. But his plan for energy independence was seriously flawed.

He overestimated how much power the colleges could generate. He underestimated the cost. And he poured millions of dollars into designs for projects that proved so impractical or unpopular they were never built.

These and other blunders cost nearly $10 million that could have paid for new classrooms, laboratories and other college facilities, a Times investigation found….”

There is also the inconvenient truth that oil fuels our modern world and the idiotic environmental freaks have done a tremendous amount of damage to our economy by controlling where and when we drill for oil.  You add this to the unrest in the Middle East, and the patronizing demands of the far left that we not drill here, but rather pollute the third world, and we have an economic mess. (H/T ARRA News Service)

Is it possible that one of the real problems we are facing is not the public sector pensions but the idiocy that is our energy policy?

“...The Obama administration says it may have to reject seven permits for deep-water drilling that have become the subject of high-profile legal and political battles if a federal judge in New Orleans forces the government to make a quick decision on the applications.

In court filings late Friday, the Interior Department said the permit applications are flawed or incomplete, and that Judge Martin Feldman’s order that it decide on them before the end of the month disrupts the normal back-and-forth negotiations between oil companies and federal regulators.

The government asked the judge to stay his order while it appeals his ruling, which was made in mid-February.

The appeal comes just days after the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement issued its first new deep-water drilling permit since an explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon on April 20 killed 11 workers and set off the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

In mid-February, Judge Feldman called the slow movement of permits “increasingly inexcusable” and ordered the government to act on five permits within 30 days. A later ruling added two additional permits.

Lawyers for London-based Ensco PLC, a global drilling company which brought the lawsuit, didn’t respond to a request for comment late Friday.

The slowdown in Gulf of Mexico oil and gas drilling activity has become in recent weeks a political issue, with Republican politicians seizing on rising oil and gasoline prices to charge the Obama administration with needlessly delaying permits….”

Why are we not formulating a policy of natural gas powered vehicles?

“…For each of the four countries, knocking oil off its pedestal is no longer a theoretical proposition but a reality in the making. But despite the lip service our own politicians pay to the need to reduce our oil dependence, none of the solutions offered by Iran, Brazil, China and Israel are even under consideration in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Just go down the list. Natural-gas vehicles are nowhere to be seen. Brazilian sugar-cane ethanol is barred from the country by a steep 54-cent-per-gallon import tariff, courtesy of ethanol protectionists and their representatives in Congress. (No tariff is imposed on imported oil, of course.) For similar reasons, flex-fuel cars sold in the United States are certified to run only on ethanol, keeping methanol and other viable biofuels off the market—even though they are cheaper and can be made from a wealth of coal and biomass resources.

The kind of electric cars deployed in Israel have never returned to U.S. showrooms since General Motors’ mass crushing of its EV1—the subject of the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” It’s time to get serious. Policies such as “drill more” and “drive smaller cars” all keep us running on petroleum. At best, they buy us a few more years of complacency, while ensuring a much worse dependence down the road when America’s conventional oil reserves are even more depleted—whether or not we drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The hard truth is that real energy independence can be achieved only through fuel choice and competition. That competition cannot take place as long as (according to the Department of Transportation) we continue to put 16 million new cars that run only on petroleum on our roads every year, each with an average street life of 16.8 years—thereby locking ourselves into decades more of petroleum dependence.

So let’s remember the old saying: When in a hole, stop digging. If every new car sold in the United States were a flex-fuel vehicle and if millions of Americans could plug in their electric cars, gasoline would be facing fierce competition at the pump and the socket. Moreover, our money would have migrated from Exxon to Pepco, from the Middle East to the Midwest—as well as to scores of poor, biomass-producing countries in Africa, Latin America and South Asia, including the few countries that don’t yet hate our guts. This, and no other, is the road to independence….”

Several years ago The Pink Flamingo wrote that the high gas prices of 2008 were one of the reasons we were having an economic downturn.  Now we are looking at another.  The economic downturn of 2008 is what has caused so many jobs to go south and destroyed the tax base of so many states, counties, and cities. Why not admit that is the REAL problem and not pensions.

Real News Blog

Why aren’t we getting our oil from Canada or from the US?

The attack on public sector pensions is something quite new.  Interestingly, back in 2002, the Cato Institute did a piece on the fact that corporate pensions were being turned into 401Ks because they were safer for the employee.  Maybe this is what needs to be done with public service pensions.

Then there is this very strange desire for states to use their own currency, gold and silver.  This is a recipe for disaster, brought on by the far right.  Then again, the far right, like the far left, is devoid of wisdom and historical reference.

A year ago Michael Yglesias wrote:

Yglesias

Anyone who doesn’t think our world is a mess is crazy.  It would be intellectually dishonest not to admit part of the problem – a large part – is about energy dependence upon the despots of the world.  We live in a nation where people are more interested in their own agenda than what is best for the country.  Because of Soros money, the far left is farther left and more polarized than ever. Because of FOX and the talking radio heads, the far right has turned tea party and is more polarized than ever.

The tea party “patriots” are incapable of individual thought or altruistic action.  They are all determined that their version of what is right is the only possible version.

The far left is incapable of individual thought or altruism.  They are determined that their version of what is right is the only possible version.

When good men like Lindsey Graham or George W. Bush attempt to lead, to do what is right for the nation, they are vilified.   The only politicians who appear to be “trusted” are people like Michele Bachman, Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul and his little boy Rand.  If a politician is not approved by the seriously disturbed Glenn Beck (who is in it only for the big bucks) then the right tries to destroy them.  The same thing happens on the left.

It is not about ask not what you can do for your country, but it is all about what your country can do for you.  The whole terrifying part of this is that conservatives, people who are alleged to be able to think for themselves, have surrendered.  They are becoming as brain dead as the far left.

We’re screwed.

I don’t know about you, but The Pink Flamingo is not very upbeat about our chances as a nation.  It is not because of Barack Obama, but because of the response to him by the far right and the libertarian right.  They are as dangerous as is the far left.

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