Pensions are America's Ticking Time Bomb

You know the union bosses' spending and benefits orgy is coming to an end when liberals like Fareed Zakaria of Time Magazine recognize the dangers unfunded pensions that union activists and pro-big labor politicians have created: "A day after Governor Scott Walker won his recall election, the New York Times wrote, "The biggest political lesson from Wisconsin may be that the overwhelming dominance of money on the Republican side will continue to haunt Democrats." Democrats have drawn much the same conclusion. "You've got a handful of self-interested billionaires who are trying to leverage their money across the country," said David Axelrod, Barack Obama's senior campaign strategist. "Does that concern me? Of course that concerns me." Warren Buffett calls the costs of public-sector retirees a "time bomb." They are the single biggest threat to the U.S.'s fiscal health. If the U.S. is going to face a Greek-style crisis, it will not be at the federal level but rather with state and local governments. The numbers are staggering. In California, total pension liabilities--the money the state is legally required to pay its public-sector retirees--are 30 times its annual budget deficit. Annual pension costs rose by 2,000% from 1999 to 2009. In Illinois, they are already 15% of general revenue and growing. Ohio's pension liabilities are now 35% of the state's entire GDP.

Pensions are America's Ticking Time Bomb

You know the union bosses' spending and benefits orgy is coming to an end when liberals like Fareed Zakaria of Time Magazine recognize the dangers unfunded pensions that union activists and pro-big labor politicians have created: "A day after Governor Scott Walker won his recall election, the New York Times wrote, "The biggest political lesson from Wisconsin may be that the overwhelming dominance of money on the Republican side will continue to haunt Democrats." Democrats have drawn much the same conclusion. "You've got a handful of self-interested billionaires who are trying to leverage their money across the country," said David Axelrod, Barack Obama's senior campaign strategist. "Does that concern me? Of course that concerns me." Warren Buffett calls the costs of public-sector retirees a "time bomb." They are the single biggest threat to the U.S.'s fiscal health. If the U.S. is going to face a Greek-style crisis, it will not be at the federal level but rather with state and local governments. The numbers are staggering. In California, total pension liabilities--the money the state is legally required to pay its public-sector retirees--are 30 times its annual budget deficit. Annual pension costs rose by 2,000% from 1999 to 2009. In Illinois, they are already 15% of general revenue and growing. Ohio's pension liabilities are now 35% of the state's entire GDP.

Why Illinois is Going Broke

Why Illinois is Going Broke

The Chicago Tribune has published a remarkable editorial about the depth of coercive unionization has taken hold among government employees in the state: Across the country, union membership has plunged during the last few decades. Just 6.9 percent of the private-sector workforce is in a labor union today. Organized labor is stronger in the public sector, with unions representing 37 percent of the government workforce. And then there is Illinois. Try to find a state worker who isn't in a union. It's almost impossible. Nearly 96 percent of the state government workforce is unionized. Yes, almost everybody. Bosses, middle managers, front-line workers. Gov. Pat Quinn exacerbated the situation by cutting an election-year deal in 2010 with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The deal guaranteed union workers would not be laid off through June 2012. That meant nonunion workers got stuck with forced furlough days, layoffs and no pay raises. In some cases, they watched the union employees who worked beneath them pass them up on the pay scale. (Recall that, as the ink was drying on this agreement, AFSCME rewarded Quinn with its election endorsement. Don't you love coincidences? Those moments when like-minded people find one another?)

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's Union Only PLA Squashed

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's Union Only PLA Squashed

From Virginia State Senator Mark D. Obenshain: Big Labor must be reeling after the one-two punch they just received-first they were pummeled in Wisconsin and now organized labor has beat a major retreat here in Virginia. On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) finally took Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) off the table for the Dulles Rail project, voting 11-1 to scrap PLA incentives for bidders. But let's not mince words: these weren't just run-of-the mill "incentives"; they were a bid scoring bonus that would have effectively made the project union-only, locking out Virginia's non-unionized contractors. Virginia is a Right to Work state with a 96% non-union workforce. The Project Labor Agreement that MWAA wanted would have run up costs and limited competition, to the great disadvantage of Virginia companies and Virginia workers. Earlier this year, I patroned SB 242, legislation prohibiting state agencies and recipients of state assistance from mandating PLAs for Virginia and Virginia-assisted construction projects. The bill passed both chambers and has been signed by Governor McDonnell.

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's Union Only PLA Squashed

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority's Union Only PLA Squashed

From Virginia State Senator Mark D. Obenshain: Big Labor must be reeling after the one-two punch they just received-first they were pummeled in Wisconsin and now organized labor has beat a major retreat here in Virginia. On Wednesday, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) finally took Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) off the table for the Dulles Rail project, voting 11-1 to scrap PLA incentives for bidders. But let's not mince words: these weren't just run-of-the mill "incentives"; they were a bid scoring bonus that would have effectively made the project union-only, locking out Virginia's non-unionized contractors. Virginia is a Right to Work state with a 96% non-union workforce. The Project Labor Agreement that MWAA wanted would have run up costs and limited competition, to the great disadvantage of Virginia companies and Virginia workers. Earlier this year, I patroned SB 242, legislation prohibiting state agencies and recipients of state assistance from mandating PLAs for Virginia and Virginia-assisted construction projects. The bill passed both chambers and has been signed by Governor McDonnell.

Big Labor Flying Too Close to the Sun

Big Labor Flying Too Close to the Sun

Fox All Star and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer discusses the meaning of the Wisconsin recall election and how taxpayers have finally had enough of Big Labor's power and pocketbook grabs while union bosses claimed mythical societal benefits arose from forced-dues: Tuesday, June 5, 2012, will be remembered as the beginning of the long decline of the public-sector union. It will follow, and parallel, the shrinking of private-sector unions, now down to less than 7 percent of American workers. The abject failure of the unions to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — the first such failure in U.S. history — marks the Icarus moment of government-union power. Wax wings melted, there’s nowhere to go but down. The ultimate significance of Walker’s union reforms has been largely misunderstood. At first, the issue was curtailing outrageous union benefits, far beyond those of the ordinary Wisconsin taxpayer. That became a nonissue when the unions quickly realized that trying to defend the indefensible would render them toxic for the real fight to come. But as the recall campaign progressed, the Democrats stopped talking about bargaining rights. It was a losing issue. Walker was able to make the case that years of corrupt union-politician back-scratching had been bankrupting the state. The real threat behind all this, however, was that the new law ended automatic government collection of union dues. That was the unexpressed and politically inexpressible issue. That was the reason the unions finally decided to gamble on a high-risk recall. Without the thumb of the state tilting the scale by coerced collection, union membership became truly voluntary. Result? Newly freed members rushed for the exits. In less than one year, -AFSCME, the second-largest public-sector union in Wisconsin, has lost more than 50 percent of its membership.