I guess it is my fault for expecting you to honor your promise

Public Sector pensions have become the latest target of the Republican party. If one were to believe the right wing reports, the pensions of public employees are destroying the state budgets. That is a vast misstatement. The truth of the matter is this:
Pension contributions from state and local employers aren’t themselves blowing up budgets. They amount to 2.9 percent of state government spending on average, according to the National Association of State Retirement Administrators. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College puts the figure at 3.8 percent.

The most recent Public Fund Survey by Brainard’s group showed that, on average, state and local pensions were 78.9 percent funded, with about $688 billion in unfunded promises to pensioners. The unfunded liabilities would be a problem if all state and local retirees went into retirement at once, but they won’t.

What will happen though, is if bills such as the one proposed by Florida’s TEA party governor come to pass, is that large numbers of public employees will retire on the eve of the law becoming effective. The TEA party backed governor has proposed a law that would cut retirement benefits in half for many public employees. The large numbers of employees who would retire before such a law takes effect would cause large fiscal strains on the pension funds, and would actually cause the funds to destabilize.

Of course, in making the public employees and their pensions into the scapegoat, they distract taxpayers from the real issues:
In 2010 (pdf alert), public pensions in Florida were $743 million, or 1% of the budget. Medicaid costs $20.5 billion, or 29% of the budget. Education is 52% of the budget. Free lunches for poor school kids? $800 million. The new arena that was built in Orlando for the basketball team? $480 million. With all of that, why are public pensions being blamed for breaking the budget?

Another factor that the Republicans have not considered is this: When firefighters and paramedics get too old to jump out of firetrucks and ambulances at 2 in the morning, they frequently retire, and get jobs teaching at the fire academy or in a community college as an adjunct instructor. This is where the next generation of paramedics and firefighters are made. These adjunct instructors are cheaper than hiring full time instructors, and the students benefit from the experiences and knowledge that the retired instructors bring to the classroom. Under the proposed law, retired employees would be prohibited from working in a government job once they are receiving a pension. This means that community colleges and fire academies will lose these instructors. What will THAT cost?

Sit down and shut up

There are many people who claim that public employees should not have the right to collectively bargain. There are two examples in my own list of blogs that I regularly read.This post is about why I disagree:

For starters, what is collective bargaining? Collective bargaining is where a large group of people band together to bargain (collectively) with another group of people. Examples of this include public employees banding together to form a union. This union then sends representatives to negotiate working conditions with their employer, the taxpayer. The taxpayer himself has formed a collective unit that appoints representatives to negotiate on their behalf. The representatives of the taxpayers then negotiate with the representatives of their employees, and a deal is reached.

By using their representatives to prohibit the employees from being able to negotiate, the taxpayers seek to gain an unfair advantage over the employees by making sure that they are the only ones at the table. A “take it or leave it” approach, if you will.

Aside from the moral issue, there is the constitutional one. How can you prohibit one group of citizens from exercising their First Amendment right to associate with others and petition their government for a redress of grievances while allowing others to do the same? How is the right of groups like the TEA party, NRA, AARP, or NORML to collectively lobby for government largess for their members any more valid than the right of the IAFF, FOP, or NEA to do the same for THEIR members? Does the mere act of drawing a government paycheck negate your constitutional rights? Or does it only count when it is your own ox being gored?

I am not arguing in this post that the pay and benefits of any given public employee are appropriate for the position, all I am saying is that denying any group the right to negotiate those benefits is the equivalent of telling them to sit down and shut up. Certainly not the behavior of a free society. “I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend with my life your right to say it.” is a mere platitude to both the Liberal Left and the Conservative Right. To both of those camps, your right to speak is dependent on what you have to say.

This happened to me

I know the cartoon is funny, but something similar happened to me about five years ago. We were dispatched to a reported drug overdose at one of our local Hispanic night clubs. (For those who are unaware, more than 45% of the local population speaks Spanish as a primary language. There is no shortage of Spanish dance clubs around Central Florida.) A young lady had called 911 to report that she and her friend were in the restroom of the club, and her friend had overdosed on an unknown drug. When we arrived on scene in the rig with all of the emergency lights flashing, I got out and went to enter the club.

The bouncer at the door told me that I had to pay the cover charge in order to enter. Thinking that he was kidding, I laughed. He blocked the door. Pointing to my uniform, I told him that I was there on official business and brushed past him. No sooner did I enter the restroom, when I was jumped by four bouncers who carried me out through the club, with the patrons of the club shouting at me, “Get out Gringo,” and yelling Spanish obscenities. The bouncers threw me out the door, and told me that whites were not allowed inside.

I called for Police backup, and got no fewer than 15 Deputies. We wound up treating our patient, and the Manager (and his bouncers) got a lecture from the cops. No arrests were made.

Government workers

No one knows how hard it is to get a government worker to do something any better than another government worker. We have a printer in our report room for two computers to share. It was connected with a USB cable, and depending on who needs to print, we had to plug the cable into one computer or the other. This printer is also a network capable printer, and I saw no reason why we had to continually move the cable. I pointed this out to the chief one day, and he ordered IT to come out and make the change. So, IT came out about two weeks later, removed the USB cable and plugged it into the city network.

The printer didn’t work. They never installed and mapped the printer on the computers that needed it. Computers sitting right next to the printer. I put in a work order and was told how to map the printer. I didn’t have the administrator privileges to make the changes, and IT is always stuffy about users messing with settings. Everything is locked out on the computers. This is the email I sent, sending a copy to everyone in the chain of command, even the chief:

Ever since IT installed the new printer in the station, the printer has not worked. I contacted IT this morning, and they said that each individual person who uses that computer has to map the printer for their use, or the printer will not work. We have never had to do this before, and I am not sure how workable that solution is, especially considering that we have been told many times that we are not to be making changes to department computers, and cannot make the changes without administrator privileges. Is there a way to get this printer working that does not involve every employee who uses it having to make changes?

IT responded with:

Hey, I have this link for you that installs it. So if you could forward this to anyone who needs it. First delete the printer that is there now. Then you will need to click the link below. You will need to agree or open and it will install for you. The printer que box will pop up once it has installed. All you need to do is close it and you are finished. Call me if you still have an issue. The reason you need to load this is because network printers are per profile not pc. But this link will make it easy for everyone to load.

Of course the link didn’t work. No one had the permissions to use the link. Look, if you are in IT and you fix it so no one can make changes to the computers except you, then don’t be angry when people expect you to actually come out and make those changes. Anyway, I got everyone who uses those computers to send a “Reply to all” that they could mot make it work. After the Chief got about 30 emails on the subject, he finally replied with this:

IT *will* correct this issue so you do NOT have to do what he’s saying….the “shared” printer is supposed to be automatically mapped to all the computers in the station. 

 The problem with all government jobs is that it is too hard to get rid of the dead weight. I say this as a government employee who is constantly frustrated at the things other government employees get away with.

Sometimes I amaze myself

I am giving myself a pat on the back. I posted about the fire department in Tennessee this morning. Uncle posts about an attack on Libertarianism at this site here. In this site, the blogger posts:

This fire is a the result of libertarian land. In libertarian land, collective action is forbidden so taxes cannot pay for fire departments. Without taxes, you must rely on the voluntary subscription to services (or after the fact fees, but for something like firefighting that requires a large and constant maintenance cost, after the fact fees aren’t going to be enough to keep a fire department active). If you must rely on a voluntary subscription service, then you must discourage free loaders. If you must discourage free loaders, then you must let the homes of the poor, or unlucky or plan stupid burn to the ground.

 To which, I posted this reply:

Of course, you have the alternative: You turn the $75 fee into a property tax, and anyone who doesn’t pay has his house foreclosed on and taken away by the taxing authority to pay the taxes.

This taxing authority also needs staffing, and so hires personnel to handle the taxes. With this new overhead, the previously voluntary $75 fee is now a mandatory $150 tax.

If you do not pay, they take your house. When they send the sheriff to your house to evict you, if you resist, he activates the SWAT team, and they gun you down. Then they raise the tax to $250 so they can cover the expenses of the SWAT team.

Isn’t that much better?

Yes, the Libertarian way is heartless and cruel, and the collectivist way at least insured that the house didn’t burn down. The owners are dead or homeless, but at least the house didn’t burn down.

Edited to add: This is an email response to this post:

No. The police in Europe will never kill you, in Europe we don`t do that any more, you Americans probably do. You Americans just don`t get it do you; You can`t run a whole country the same way as a McDonalds restaurant!

Ok, I guess Americans know best, you have the best systems and don`t need to be lectured by anyone about anything. You are simply the best, right? 

 This guy doesn’t understand that there are only two ways to conduct any sort of business: By force, or by voluntary cooperation. If I refuse to pay my taxes, how else can the government force me to pay, except through force? If I resist their force with force of my own, do you think the cops are going to give up, or will they increase the force they employ until I submit?

It Figures

I am currently taking a class on Administrative Law. That is, it covers the laws and regulations that govern administrative agencies like the FCC, FAA, and local ones like the Fire Department.

We were discussing a situation in class, and our assignment was to find a solution for the problem, as if we were the person in charge. I found one that accomplished the goal, and still respected the rights of the people involved. Another student’s solution was a gross violation of the law, and of the rights of the people involved.

I pointed out that his solution was a violation of the Constitutional rights of the people involved. His reply to me was “So what? Let the lawyers worry about that. The broke the rules, they need to accept whatever happens.”

Guess where he works? Homeland Security.

Defenseless fish in a barrel

Shooters like defenseless victims. The recent suicide at the University of Texas is proof yet again that gun free zones do not work. Many, including myself, would like to see Colleges and Universities removed from the list of places where I cannot carry a firearm. After all, I can carry a firearm nearly anywhere else I would like to go, so what is it about a campus that will convert me from law abiding citizen to raging killer?

Have you ever noticed that these sorts of events only happen where the shooter knows that due to law or policy, there will be no armed resistance? Police say that armed citizens would only confuse what are potentially chaotic situations because the police would not know who the bad guys are versus the good guys.I call bullshit on that. Why? Because police unions supported LEOSA, which is a law allowing police and retired police to carry concealed weapons nationwide, with few restrictions. How can a responding cop tell the difference between a shooter and a plainclothed, retired cop with a gun? Exactly.

John Woods, a UT graduate student who organized an anti-gun rally last year, disagreed. He said that having more guns on campus wouldn’t improve security.
“If there were multiple students running around with guns, it would’ve made the police’s job a lot harder this morning,” Woods said Tuesday. He was a student at Virginia Tech University in 2007 when a gunman killed 32 people, including Woods’ girlfriend. 

 Because having an unarmed victim zone at Virginia Tech worked out so well. The law banning carry didn’t stop the VT shooter, why would it? John Woods, other than being an unarmed, defenseless target, what experience do you have that would support your stupid, idiotic opinion?

What the police are demanding is that YOU are disarmed, so that they can enter the scene and not have to make a decision based on intelligence and reason, they merely want to be able to shoot everyone who appears to have a weapon.

The criminals have guns. The cops have guns. In the middle are the defenseless students, fish in a barrel.