Monday, May 21, 2012

Living in the Kafkaesque world Democrats endorse

The WSJ is absolutely correct to evoke Kafka in depicting the bizarre desire of Jerry Brown to continue building the high-speed train that is supposed to run from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The state is going broke, the project is set to cost way more than budgeted, and federal government isn't about to pay the difference.
Transportation experts warn that the 500-mile bullet train from San Francisco to Los Angeles could cost more than $100 billion, though the Governor pegs the price at a mere $68 billion. The state has $12.3 billion in pocket, $9 billion from the state and $3.3 billion from the feds, but Mr. Brown hasn't a clue where he'll get the rest. Maybe he's hoping Facebook will buy the train, though he'll have a hard time convincing Mark Zuckerberg that it's worth 100 Instagrams.

In 2008 voters approved $9 billion in bonds for construction under the pretense that the train would cost only $33 billion and be financed primarily by the federal government and private enterprise. Investors, however, won't put up any money because the rail authority's business plans are too risky. Rail companies have refused to operate the train without a revenue guarantee, which the ballot initiative prohibits. Even contractors are declining to bid on the project because they're worried they won't get paid.

Mr. Brown is hoping that Washington will pony up more than $50 billion, but the feds have committed only $3.3 billion so far—and Republicans intend to claw it back if they take the Senate and White House this fall. If that happens, the state won't have enough money to complete its first 130-mile segment in the lightly populated Central Valley, which in any event wouldn't be operable since the state can't afford to electrify the tracks.
This is the sort of fantasy that liberals live in. Where do they think the money is going to come from? And why, with all the fiscal calamities that the state is facing would this be the boondoggle that they choose to pour money away on? It's all so that the Obama administration could have a demonstration project for their claims on green energy whether the people in state involved want the train or not.

But California Democrats aren't the only silly politicians living in a Kafkaesque world. Look to Wisconsin and their teachers unions which achieve power through their support of Democratic politicians to grant them benefits. These are the public employees who are so outraged at Scott Walker's attempts to scale back their power.
They argue, first, that public workers just wanted to "have a voice" in their employment. But public-school teachers are more than welcome to participate in school-board meetings or sit down with principals to discuss how to achieve better results. What unions really want is legal standing to sue employers and prevent any changes—in wages, hours or other conditions of employment—unwanted by their members. Their call to continue combative litigation hardly promotes the kind of statewide unity that they, and Mr. Barrett, have called for.

Public employers deal with thousands of grievances that result in discussion, negotiation, mediation and arbitration. In 2010, the last full year before the reforms, the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission issued 129 decisions in cases that went to a full hearing. That is a lot of litigation.

Unions frequently abuse their standing to sue. In 2009, during the height of the recession, many government agencies furloughed employees to save taxpayer money. In Milwaukee County, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees successfully sued to prevent this—and won $6 million in back pay and interest, at a time when every local government was drowning in red ink.

In 2006, the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) sued the Cedarburg School District for terminating a teacher who had viewed pornography on his school computer. An arbitrator initially reinstated the teacher and awarded back pay. Only after much time and expense did the Wisconsin Court of Appeal uphold the termination.

In the past year, WEAC again fought the termination of a teacher who had viewed and shared pornography on his school computer in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District. An arbitrator recently reinstated and awarded back pay of over $200,000 to that teacher. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the district spent over $300,000 in legal fees in its failed attempt to fire him.
These are the public employees who seem to think they've descended into some new fascist dictatorship if they don't have those sorts of employment guarantees. Forget the children; it's all about them.
Public workers without collective-bargaining rights will hardly be subject to the whims of tyrannical bosses. There are ample protections for all employees—the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Civil Rights Act and many more.

Employees have considerably more legal protection now than when Wisconsin first gave collective-bargaining rights to public unions in 1959. All employees have standing to sue in state and federal court if their rights are violated. If government agencies go too far, voters can vote out board members. Noticeably absent from the debate thus far are examples of a school district running roughshod over teachers.
They don't care about their students or about the taxpayers who are suffering during the recession, but would have to pony up big bucks to pay what the unions demand. And now they've forced the state to pay millions of dollars in this recall effort against Scott Walker even though the Democrats aren't mentioning the causus belli that led to the entire revolt last year. They realize that those reforms have been successful and relatively popular so they can't even mention the topic.

These Democrats truly have designed a Kafkaesque world and they just want us to pay for it.