Tag Archives: consumer price index

In Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s ‘fiscal responsibility’ looks like Pinkerton porn

Gee, it all seems so harmless . .

Walker, you might have heard, wants some changes in how Wisconsin deals with unions. He wants state employees to pay 5.8% of their salaries toward their pensions (they pay almost nothing now) and he wants them to cover 12.6% of their health care premiums (their share would go up from $79 a month to about $200; the average private-sector sap pays about $330).

I’m not buying anything that comes at the top of a piece recalling “beet-faced union crowds” and claiming FDR would have cheered Walker. Roosevelt was no fan of government unions, true, but he would have been appalled at the way the rich have destroyed the fiscal health of the country. And while they were attacking the working class, he’d have been pointing out the destruction wrought by American “Economic Royalists.”

But one thing’s for sure: Walker doesn’t want a little money here and there from the government employee and teachers unions. He wants to kill them. The proof is in his “Budget Repair” bill. This is it, via Ezra Klein:

Walker tries to sell the change in collective bargaining as modest. “State and local employees could continue to bargain for base pay, they would not be able to bargain over other compensation measures.” But that’s not really true. Read down a bit further and you’ll find that “total wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by referendum.” In other words, they couldn’t bargain for wages to rise faster than inflation.

And that pittance is all they’d be allowed to bargain for. So if they’re underpaid, which they probably are, tough shit for eternity. You’d never be able to get more money than a tiny bump that keeps pace with inflation. Sure, you might miss that raise and lag in the race with the cost of living, and that, too, would be permanent. This isn’t remotely legitimately bargaining for wages, it’s begging for scraps. And it gets worse:

“Contracts would be limited to one year and wages would be frozen until the new contract is settled. Collective bargaining units are required to take annual votes to maintain certification as a union. Employers would be prohibited from collecting union dues and members of collective bargaining units would not be required to pay dues.” These rules have nothing to do with pension costs or even bargaining. They’re just about weakening unions: They make it harder for unions to collect dues from members, to negotiate stable contracts or to survive a bad year.

Exactly. This has zero to do with Wisconsin’s budget. This is clearly an angry, obsessive attack on folks the Governor doesn’t like. It’s a giant “Screw You.” Union negotiators, you’ll have to fight it out with the government every year, but you’ll have to get re-certified first, every year, and you can only collect members’ dues one individual at a time. And, of course, the best you could ever do for your people is get just enough money to stay even with inflation.

Can you imagine the same fate befalling you as an individual worker? You’d have to first elect yourself as a negotiator every year, but to do so you’d pay hundreds of dollars (I think AFSCME yearly dues are around $600), and that would only give you the right to fight it out with your employer for a raise equivalent to the Consumer Price Index. For 2010, that was 1.6%. If you’re making 50K, that’s $800. That’s the grand total of all the economic power your ‘union’ will ever wield after Walker gets done with you. Honestly, it spells the death of these unions.

Walker is just a nasty, vindictive bastard out to make a name for himself among Conservatives by whacking people they hate. If he were honestly concerned about the budget, he could’ve begun negotiating with the unions a while ago. He also could’ve concocted the legislation as a weapon — going on multiple interviews and posting editorials across Wisconsin calling it a necessity in order later to force the unions to accept painful rollbacks. Instead, he’s ramming this stripping of economic rights through the legislature with as little discussion as possible because he wants it done.

Meanwhile, those other unionized drains on the government’s finances, the police and the firefighters? Walker exempted them all. Because they vote Republican, of course. Some fiscal parasites are perfectly fine.


Tundra bimbo Sarah Palin highlights her economic bona fides with boners

It’s been — what? — 7 days since the midterm election? So there are now barely 103 weeks to get your Presidential campaign message straight. And Sarah Palin is definitely, absolutely, without-an-atom-of-a-doubt running for President.

She covets the most powerful position on the planet. How do I know? How could anyone be sure? Because when she starts throwing around terms like ‘quantitative easing’, she’s either going for big laughs or going at national voters’ requirement for candidate gravitas. For me, she hit the former on the noggin:

I’m deeply concerned about the Federal Reserve’s plans to buy up anywhere from $600 billion to as much as $1 trillion of government securities. The technical term for it is “quantitative easing.” It means our government is pumping money into the banking system by buying up treasury bonds.

And you thought your dog couldn’t talk?

What’s the end game here? Where will all this money printing on an unprecedented scale take us? Do we have any guarantees that QE2 won’t be followed by QE3, 4, and 5, until eventually – inevitably – no one will want to buy our debt anymore?

“Hey, Dave, could you let me out now?”

When Germany, a country that knows a thing or two about the dangers of inflation, warns us to think again, maybe it’s time for Chairman Bernanke to cease and desist.

When Africa, a country that knows a thing or two about the dangers of ravenously ambitious white politicians . .

Okay, you get the idea. Well, the Wall Street Journal very politely swatted at her sudden economic ‘expertise’:

. . Palin tries to draw the concerns about quantitative easing to inflation today and falls short. She says, “everyone who ever goes out shopping for groceries knows that prices have risen significantly over the past year or so. Pump priming would push them even higher.”

Grocery prices haven’t risen all that significantly, in fact. The consumer price index’s measure of food and beverages for the first nine months of this year showed average annual inflation of less than 0.6%, the slowest pace on record (since the Labor Department started keeping this measure in 1968).

Oops. You can’t fake the numbers: food and beverage price inflation is at its lowest in decades. Palin’s reflexive need to provoke a random bit of populist anger has done her a disservice in the realm of fractions and graphs.

It’s at this point she should just absorb the critique and sharpen her game, but you know she won’t. Instead, we get this encore of comedy:

Do Wall Street Journal Reporters Read the Wall Street Journal?
Sarah Palin on Monday, November 8, 2010 at 4:58pm

Ever since 2008, people seem inordinately interested in my reading habits. Among various newspapers, magazines, and local Alaskan papers, I read the Wall Street Journal.

Now she wants to answer Katie Couric? Somewhat puzzling she’d suddenly pull this rabbit out of her own internet hat. But excelsior gravitas, I suppose. It recalls the great Otto West/Wanda Gershwitz debate where Otto claimed apes didn’t read philosophy. “Yes they do, Otto. They just don’t understand it.”

Apes also don’t write their own Facebook page screeds. But when you back anybody into a factual corner, what can they really do? And, to be clear, I’m not talking about the WSJ cornering Palin. I’m talking about an over-wrought Palin menacing her poor Facebook blog-monkey. What’s a monkey to do?

So, imagine my dismay when I read an article by Sudeep Reddy in today’s Wall Street Journal . .

He writes: “Grocery prices haven’t risen all that significantly, in fact.” Really? That’s odd, because just last Thursday, November 4, I read an article in Mr. Reddy’s own Wall Street Journal titled “Food Sellers Grit Teeth, Raise Prices: Packagers and Supermarkets Pressured to Pass Along Rising Costs, Even as Consumers Pinch Pennies.”

The article noted that “an inflationary tide is beginning to ripple through America’s supermarkets and restaurants…Prices of staples including milk, beef, coffee, cocoa and sugar have risen sharply in recent months.”

If you look at the sections I bolded, you can crunch all the economic ‘data’ yourself.

We may have lost the House, but we’ve gained a Sarah Palin on the campaign warpath. Watching a talentless neurotic like her try to construct a facade of both intellectual heft and frontier whimsy will be a joy.