15 April 2011

Dark days ahead for Illinois

Your humble narrator has been taking some heat lately. The reason? Some of my co-workers don't agree with my position of standing with and supporting Governor Scott Walker. The complaint is that they see that what Walker is doing to the public sector unions in Wisconsin will set a precedent that would allow other governors to go around dismantling unions around the country.

While I can see the concern of my FOP brethren, you should know that Walker's main focus is the Labor Leviathan of the Wisconsin Education Association (WNA) - an affiliate of the powerful National Education Association (NEA).

By now you should be familiar with what's going in Wisconsin. The powerful SEIU, AFT, NFT, NEA and WEA unions are doing what they do best: Agitate, complain and bully. This battle is not about 'worker's right' or collective bargaining issues. It is about the one neglected and abused component of government - The Taxpayer. As the American Thinker points out:"Wisconsin's ongoing crisis is exposing the channeling of taxpayer money to unions, and thence to Democrats. Taxpayers are being swindled by a system in which their interests come second.

And yes folks, it is about the taxpayer. The taxpayers in Wisconsin and (hopefully) in Illinois are saying "Enough!" When you have less than 5% of employees in a labor pool as part of public sector unions, you have to ask yourself,"Why are we - the 95% of workers - taking it in the neck?"

After all, to hear the heated rhetoric coming from the organizers and their apparatchiks in the media, you'd think that Governor Walker asked the teachers to do something outrageous.

Well, Governor Walker didn't make an outrageous demand. He simply asked that Wisconsin teachers, and the 300,000 state workers, contribute a little bit to their health care and a little bit to their retirement accounts. All in an attempt at reigning in the state's spending. Because the fact is - Wisconsin is in sad financial shape. He asked that teachers contribute 5% to their retirement, and 12.5% to their health insurance. Right now they pay nothing toward their retirement, and 6.5% to their health insurance.

As bad as Wisconsin is financially, Illinois is WORSE. At least Wisconsin has the benefit of a conservative steward who wants to do the hard work to protect and nurture his constituents. In Illinois we have Quinn; who is beholden to only one faction - the unions.

In Illinois we spend $16,000 per student, on average per year. Chicago Public schools have a budget of $5.238 billion for the 2009-2010 school year. They have approximately 409,000 students, and 29,000 teachers. I have the budget for Steinmetz High school, and in 2006 their operating budget was $17,000,000. Times that by 614 k-12 Chicago public and you can see why we're bleeding money. Wisconsin literally has ONE teacher making over $100,000 per year. In Illinois we have 6,500 of them.

80-90% of school budgets are labor costs, because the dirty little secret is that our teachers get paid very well. They work 8 months per year, they work 5 to 6 hours per day and have multiple days off every academic year for 'report card day' or 'administrative meetings.'

What do we get for all that money that gets shuffled down the black hole of education? We get very little. Only half of the high school students in the nation's 50 largest cities are graduating in four years, with a figure as low as 25% in Detroit. According to the 2009 PISA the US ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in math. This in spite of, "spend[ing] more per student than any nation in the PISA study except Luxembourg."

Keep in mind that there are about 900 school districts in Illinois.

And you think this is all about "the kids?" Sorry to disabuse you of your delusions but it is about power, influence and keeping a corrupt and inefficient system spitting out paycheck and donations to the unions.

The Unions' primary job is to get as much for their membership as they can. If their policies bankrupt or impair the host, so be it. They are funneling monies into political activities that disconnect the taxpayer from the cause. In essence, the scam is that the taxpayer is financing his own theft. From the American Thinker article:

On average, public sector unions such as AFSCME, NEA, and SEIU nationally give anywhere from 98 to 99% of their contributions to Democrats. Moreover, union contributions constitute a relatively large share of the monies Democrat candidates receive.

AFSCME alone contributed about $84,000.00 to Democrats in Wisconsin's 2010 elections, with about half of that sum going to the current Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, who was Walker's opponent in the gubernatorial race. Of the fourteen Democrats in the state Senate, one took no money from any PAC, while of the thirteen others, ten received at least a third of their monies from union PACS, while five of these got over 50%, with one of those who's a member of three separate unions getting a cool 73% from union coffers.

The taxpayers of Wisconsin elected Governor Scott Walker with the promise that he would begin to reduce his states' spending. The biggest costs to the tax payer are the public sector unions. Check out this link which shows the top 100 State pensions (99 are educators).

The reason is just what we talked about above; taxpayers subsidize government workers and then the unions - subsidized by the dues of the union members - begin to represent the workers and, demand more and more for their constituents. So the taxpayer ends up paying for cushy jobs, Cadillac medical plans, and luxuriant retirement plans, while more and more of the private sector employees see reductions in pay, benefits and retirement plans.

The teachers are a classic example of out-of-control union leadership. Here's the retiring president of the NEA at a 2009 at his farewell address. Notice that he defines where his priorities are; and it's not about 'the kids' and their welfare:

Yes ... it's all about the power, the influence and throttling the taxpayer. Even the Left's demi-god FDR thought public sector unions were a bad idea:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service....Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.

Full letter here.

As I said before, the problem with unionizing the public sector is that the taxpayer funds the employees. The public sector employees who unionize then use their bargaining power to garner more and more benefits and pay raises for themselves - even though there is no commensurate increases in services. The private sector couldn't operate in this manner because the stockholders hold the board and managers responsible for the operations and financial condition of the entity. With government there is no accountability. They are technically accountable to US - the taxpayer - but it is it is a custom more honored in the breach than the observance.

Just look at how the Leftists in government continue to push their socialist agenda DESPITE the majority of people rejecting those agenda initiatives: ObamaCare, Cap and Trade, TARP, SNAP, bailouts of AIG and Leahman brothers.

the Pension Transparency Act passes in congress, we'll finally see what Illinois' TRUE unfunded liability is in regards to public sector unions. It's currently estimated that the liability for Illinois will approach $200 billion of unpaid obligations. The PTA aims at "would require states to furnish annual reports to the Treasury on the status of their pension funds. If they fail to do so, state and local governments would be barred from issuing tax-exempt bonds, which they use to finance infrastructure and other projects." We desperately need transparency because our leadership in Illinois cannot continue to increase taxes in order to get their financial house in order. Governor Quinn pledged to not raise taxes, then turned around and increased tax rates by 66%. We have companies fleeing in droves and evenPeoria based heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is talking about going to a state with a more pro-business atmosphere.

Let's break down the numbers:
* One-half of your property tax payments go to fund education.

* As of March 2011, Illinois has $4.515 billion in unpaid bills. Illinois could face a $22 billion deficit in 5 years.

What does a $22 billion deficit look like in comparison?
-> Three times more than the proposed general funds budget for all school districts in Illinois;
-> Ten times more than the proposed budget for every university, every community college and all student financial aid;
-> Two times what the state spends on health care for the poor;
-> Sixteen times more than the state spends on the entire prison system.

* The Family Taxpayers Foundation states: almost 100 drivers' education teachers made over $100,000 per year. What does a driver educator in the private sector make per year? $30k?

* In Illinois we spend $16,000 per student per year statewide in K-12.

* In Wisconsin ONE educator makes over $100,000 per year. In Illinois we have 6,500 educators who make more than $100,000.

* CPS spends $60 million per year on "Safe Passage". In 22 "underserved" communities, parents are paid to stand on a corner wearing a bright yellow vest. You think that that will deter a shooting? WBEZ claims that it will also include $25 million in federal stimulus funds. They have a list of the organizations that are getting money from this program. What a waste.

* Mandatory school breakfasts are now being ordered for all K-12 public schools. the Tribune claims that this will be a "cash cow for CPS" because they can bill the USDA (your TAXDOLLARS) and get $1.76 back from a $1.00 outlay. It's still going to cost tens of millions per year, and take away valuable class time from the children's learning day. Not to mention the PARENTS should be giving their kids' breakfast; not the schools.

Illinois is the worst state in the union on job creation:

This is just a small picture of how gloomy the financial condition of Illinois is. Right now we, the taxpayers, are being told "shut up, pay these inordinate taxes and like it!" Well I say "Hell No!" Our political system in Illinois is like a casino. A casino is designed to do only one thing: separate you from your money. Illinois is just that - a corrupted system filled with powerful politicians and unions that seek to do just that. It is estimated that Illinois' unfunded liabilities are almost $200 billion.

Remember that during the Blago trial, it was introduced in open court that a campaign contributor was rewarded for his donations with the State Director of Finance seat. A job that pays $75,000. And that type of cronyism occurs time and time again; especially in Chicago.

This state is pay-to-play but the only ones getting played are us! We need new leadership that is rooted in conservative principles. Join your local Tea Party today and ask how you can get involved. Here's a good link to visit. You can also check out Champion news for more useful information.