Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How the public employees unions have destroyed California

Steve Malenga writes the history of the growth of the public employee unions in California. Reading it has the feel of watching a horror movie where you know that lots of terrible stuff is going to happen and nothing seems to prevent the havoc that the monster is wreaking.
The camera focuses on an official of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), California’s largest public-employee union, sitting in a legislative chamber and speaking into a microphone. “We helped to get you into office, and we got a good memory,” she says matter-of-factly to the elected officials outside the shot. “Come November, if you don’t back our program, we’ll get you out of office.’

The video has become a sensation among California taxpayer groups for its vivid depiction of the audacious power that public-sector unions wield in their state. The unions’ political triumphs have molded a California in which government workers thrive at the expense of a struggling private sector. The state’s public school teachers are the highest-paid in the nation. Its prison guards can easily earn six-figure salaries. State workers routinely retire at 55 with pensions higher than their base pay for most of their working life. Meanwhile, what was once the most prosperous state now suffers from an unemployment rate far steeper than the nation’s and a flood of firms and jobs escaping high taxes and stifling regulations. This toxic combination—high public-sector employee costs and sagging economic fortunes—has produced recurring budget crises in Sacramento and in virtually every municipality in the state.
California seems so far gone that I don't know that any politician or group of politicians can bring it back. As long as the unions have the power to vote in politicians who then turn around and pay them back by giving them benefits that bankrupt the state nothing can change. Pensions and salaries are in place and there seems to be nothing that can scale them back.

Other states need to study what has happened in California and learn the lessons of the disaster that the unions and their subservient politicians have made of what was once such a vibrant economy.