1. Republican Governors versus Public Employee Unions. In a battle begun by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are reminding the people of their states of that old truism: there are no free lunches. When Christie wanted the N.J. teachers to increase their share of health insurance premiums by 1.5%, he got death threats. Now, in Wisconsin, teachers and other public employees have been out en masse protesting Gov. Walker's proposal that they contribute 5.8% to their pensions and 12.6% to their health insurance. The Unions say they have conceded the issues, and are now fighting over the right to maintain collective bargaining for themselves. Putting aside for a moment the issue of whether or not public employees, as public servants paid by the taxpayers, should even have that right, let's see what collective bargaining has wrought.
According to the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 19-20, 2011) the following reflects the differences in public vs. private employment (with the figures for public employees first): $26.25 per hour on average vs. $19.68; 99% get some retirement benefits vs. 74%; 99% get medical benefits vs. 86%; 98% get sick leave vs. 74%; 11 paid holidays vs. 8; and 11% paid to their own insurance premiums vs. 20%. So the question is: what makes public employees more important than those in the private sector? Why should a person who works in the private sector, already making on average less than public employees, pay either wholly or in part for their own retirement and health insurance, and then have to pay for the public employees' as well? Why isn't everyone on a level playing field? The answer is CORRUPTION!
The unions, especially the public employee ones, have become the fund raising arm of the Democratic Party. The unions contribute millions to help democrats get elected; and the Dems return the favor by granting big salaries and huge benefits in return. Only they do it with taxpayer money. (If they did this in the private sector, people would be going to jail.) While Wisconsin's state pension plan provides that the state will contribute 6.8%, and employees contribute 6.2%, that does not necessarily happen. The reason is that through COLLECTIVE BARGAINING (more properly referred to as collusion) some districts (like Milwaukee) pay the entire 13%.
And while lifetime medical care often accompanies pensions in the public sector, it is rare indeed in the private sector.
So what will Jerry Brown do in California? His first proposed budget does not even address the pension issue. California's projected budget deficit is $25.4 billion, far and away the highest in the nation. And what do we have to show for our spending spree? "12.6% unemployment; public schools ranking near the bottom in math and science; a business climate ranked by CEOs as last for jobs and business growth; the highest gasoline tax and combined sales, local and state income taxes that are among the nation's steepest." (According to Victor Davis Hanson in the 2/14/11 Investor's Business Daily.) Although Mr. Hanson notes that we do have "30% of the national welfare load" with only 12% of the population.
Even the LA Times, in their lead editorial of 2/26/11, notes that many state and local government employees were promised pensions that the public could not afford (citing a report just issued by the Little Hoover Commission). According to the Commission: "pension costs will crush government." The Times recognizes that "the more tax dollars governments have to devote to pensions, the more they'll have to take from other programs or from taxpayers. That means more layoffs or pay cuts for public employees, higher taxes, fewer services, or all of the above." But the Times is part of the problem as they consistently support democrat candidates for the legislature, the same party that has gotten us into this mess. They even note that in 1999 the Legislature reduced the public employees' retirement age, and increased their pensions - retroactively. Yet it is almost guaranteed that the Times will endorse more democrats for the Legislature in 2012.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of governors are asking the Feds for waivers from some of the requirements of Medicaid (Medical in California). According to Peter Suderman, in an article in the 2/15/11 Wall Street Journal, Medicaid now takes about 21% of total state expenditures. He states that Medicaid covers a whopping 53 million people and costs $373.9 billion per year - with states expected to pay one-half of the tab. The states need the waivers because of their increasing budgetary problems. Of course, the Feds have no money either, with a $14 TRILLION debt.
Yet, Obama's proposed budget does nothing to address the major issues of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Even Erksine Bowles, Democrat appointed to be co-chair of Obama's fiscal commission, said Obama's budget goes "nowhere near where they will have to go to resolve our fiscal nightmare." (Per Michael Barone in the 2/17/11 Wall Street Journal.) I think Obama is playing politics and waiting to see if the Republicans' proposed cuts are supported by the public. If not, he will make it a big campaign issue in 2012. So much for a new way of doing business in D.C. So much for Hope and Change. So I say: Let's hear it for the Republican Governors! They are the only ones giving us real Hope and Change.
2. The Middle East. It appears one Middle Eastern dictator after the next may be falling. Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and others. While the left hails these developments as a blow for freedom, we on the right (and the more sensible ones on the left) know that we must be cautiously optimistic. Citing a Pew Research poll, the 2/11/11 IBD lead editorial gives some frightening statistics regarding Egyptians: 95% prefer that Islam "play a large role in politics;" "84% favor the death penalty for people who leave the muslim faith; 82% support stoning adulterers; 77% think thieves should have their hands cut off; 54% support a law segregating women from men in the workplace; 54% believe suicide bombings that kill civilians can be justified; and nearly half support the terrorist group Hamas."
As seems typical now in the area of foreign affairs, the Obama Administration is either way over their heads, totally incompetent, or simply on the wrong side. Take your pick. As noted by Bret Stephens in the 2/15/11 Wall Street Journal, our Director of National Intelligence told the Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was "largely secular." What a moron! This is the man that heads all of our "intelligence" agencies. This is what happens when Obama puts politics, political correctness, and his naive and distorted view of the world ahead of realty. It explains why the head of NASA would say NASA's mission is outreach to the Muslim World. It explains why Obama said all Israeli "settlements" in the West Bank - even part of Jerusalem - are "illegitimate."
So what does the Muslim Brotherhood really have to say? Per Mr. Stephens, Kamal al-Hilbawi, one of the leaders, said he "thinks highly of a country...that confronts Western hegemony, and is scientifically and technologically advanced. Unfortunately, these characteristics can be found only in The ISLAMIC Republic of Iran." (Emphasis added.) And then we have this comment from Muhammad Badie, supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood: "Resistance is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny. The improvement and change that the (Muslim) nation seeks can only be attained...by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death as the enemies pursue life." DEATH OVER LIFE!
It is fair to ask just where this President's sensibilities lie. Why did Obama have the then president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) give a prayer as part of his inauguration cermonies? The ISNA is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, itself an offshoot of the Brotherhood. Why did Obama send his close friend and top adviser Valerie Jarrett to be keynote speaker at the ISNA's 2009 convention? If Obama's goal was to win hearts and minds, it did not work. Even though he spoke to the muslim world from Cairo, 82% of Egyptians dislike the USA, per the above-referenced Pew poll. So maybe Obama is just letting us know which side he is on.
The early signs in Egypt are certainly not all positive. For the first time in decades Iranian warships have been allowed to pass through the Suez Canal. Clearly, the proximity of these ships to Israel poses a direct threat to that country. (Does Obama, with all of the unrest in the Arab world, even now understand that Israel is our closest and best ally in the region?) Hamas, perhaps feeling emboldened, launched a missile attack on Beersheva, a city considerably further from the Gaza border than previous targets.
Meanwhile, the palestinians say the "peace talks" are dead, and will be pushing for a UN resolution granting them statehood. Undoubtedly, they see they can use the push for "democracy" in the region to their advantage. They have lined up eight Latin American countries, and are now wooing the European countries for their support. Needless to say, they will have the support of the 57 muslim countries in the world. It will not be difficult for them to get the UN to support them. After all, 155 out of the total of 192 member countries at the UN voted just last year to elect Libya to the Human Rights Council. Did those 155 countries think Qaddafi actually supported human rights until he started killing his fellow countrymen in the streets? How many would make the same vote today?
It would behoove the O. team to remember that "democracy" is simply a process. The real goal is liberty. Democracy may be the best process to ensure liberty, but it is far from being a guarantee.