Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Amazing: California teachers challenge forced payment of union dues

Dad sent me this article from the Washington Free Beacon. It’s good news!

Excerpt:

A group of California teachers is preparing for a Supreme Court battle to overturn forced union dues in a groundbreaking lawsuits filed in June.

For nearly three decades, the Supreme Court has allowed closed-shop unionism, in which public employees must pay dues to labor groups handling collective bargaining negotiations.

The Supreme Court established Beck Rights in 1988 allowing workers to opt out of union dues for political activities, while continuing to pay for union negotiating expenses. The teachers are hoping to take that battle one step further by putting an end to all coercive union dues.

Ten California schoolteachers are challenging California’s policy of forcing all public employees to pay union dues for collective bargaining. The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is aiding their suit. The CIR views the issue through the lens of the Constitution, rather than as a contest of labor policy.

“Our efforts are not anti-union; we are trying to solidify the First Amendment rights of public employees to freely assemble,” CIR president Terry Pell said.

The plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction on Tuesday asking the court to waive the teachers’ union dues during the ongoing trial. Pell is certain the motion will fail, which is all the better for the plaintiffs because it will “fast-track” the litigation to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually the Supreme Court.

“This is a piece of strategic litigation—we’re trying to get the issue of compulsory union dues to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible,” he said. “We know that lower courts can’t overrule Supreme Court precedent, but this will expedite us through the system.”

The Roberts court opened the door to ending coercive unionism last year when it ruled 5-4 that Service Employees International Union improperly charged non-union members for political activities. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, said the forced dues on non-union members were “indefensible”

One of the biggest problems with California is the stranglehold that public sector unions have on the state. This would be a good first step to getting the state to turn around. Even liberals stop paying dues when it’s not mandatory, because they want to keep their own money just like anyone does.

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The US postal service and Amtrak: which one will go bankrupt first?

Will it be the USPS? (H/T Wes)

Excerpt:

Inspector general David Williams says cash-strapped service, saddled with debt and low revenues, is in ‘very serious trouble’.

The chief postal watchdog has warned that the troubled US Postal Service will go out of business this year unless Congress acts to rescue it.

David Williams, the inspector general of the USPS, says the service is in “very serious trouble”, after five years lumbered with heavy debt and falling revenues.

In an interview with the Guardian, Williams warns that Congress, which has been distracted by November’s elections and the fiscal cliff crisis, must act this year to save the service.

The USPS lost over $16bn last year, and has lost about $41bn over the past five years, according to Robert Taub, a vice-chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Or will it be Amtrak?

Excerpt:

Amtrak triumphantly proclaimed 2012 to be a success. The reason? It posted a loss of only $361 million for the year. That’s its smallest operating loss since 1975, amid growing ridership along the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston. Although this represents progress in the right direction, Amtrak is still not worth what it costs American taxpayers.

Amtrak has never been profitable. From its outset in 1971, it has been backed by taxpayers with billions of dollars in direct aid and loans. Over the past three years alone, Amtrak has received more than $4.4 billion in federal aid, and it still was not able to finish any of those years in the black.

[...]But after more than 40 years of government funding, $4.4 billion in aid over the past three years should be particularly disconcerting. Rail transportation is not becoming cheaper because of government investment in the market; to the contrary, the price has gone up, especially as compared with other major public works projects.

[...]Rather than successfully spurring on American business, Amtrak provides slower trains at higher prices. It is a symbol of government waste because it fails to make any progress toward self-sufficiency and fails to innovate.

It is time to admit this train has left the station. Amtrak cannot and will not be run efficiently with the backstop of government funding behind it. Someday, a public-private partnership on railroads could be in the American interest, as it has been in the past. But for Amtrak, the government should shut off the spigot.

Or will Obama just borrow a few more trillion from your children, so that his public sector supporters in USPS and Amtrak can continue to vote for socialism?

The funny thing about this is that we could sell these wasteful government-owned organizations and privatize their functions. Then we wouldn’t have to sink more and more taxpayer money in public sector boondoggles.

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Surprise! Social Security ran a $47.8 billion dollar deficit in 2012

CNS News reports.

Excerpt:

The Social Security program ran a $47.8 billion deficit in fiscal 2012 as the program brought in $725.429 billion in cash and paid $773.247 for benefits and overhead expenses, according to official data published by Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration also released new data revealing that the number of workers collecting disability benefits hit a record 8,827,795 in December–up from 8,805,353 in November.

The overall number of Social Security program beneficiaries—including retired workers, dependent family members and survivors and disabled workers and their dependent family members—also hit a record in December, climbing from 56,658,978 in November to 56,758,185 in December.

In 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there was an average of 112.556 million full-time workers in the United States, of whom 17.806 million worked full-time for local, state or federal government. That left an average of only 94.750 million full-time private sector workers in the country.

That means that for every 1.67 Americans who worked full-time in the private sector in 2011, there is now 1 person collecting benefits from the Social Security administration.

There are about 310 million people in the United States.

Now consider that the same people who make you wait in line at the post office and the department of motor vehicles are teaching your children in public schools. What are the children learning there? Are they learning marketable skills so that they will be able to get private sector jobs and pay for these programs? No, they are learning about recreational sex, global warming, feminism, gay activism and other leftist dogma. They learn how to feel offended, how to blame men, how to blame white people, how to blame job creators (“the rich”), and how to blame the our armed forces.

We have borrowed over one trillion dollars from future generations to pay for these entitlement programs, and there is no reason to believe that a bunch of brainwashed children will be up to the task of paying for those entitlements. We shouldn’t be aborting 1 million unborn children a year either – we should be marrying and raising them with two opposite sex parents. The welfare state is just not sustainable when we destroy the supply line of new law-abiding productive workers. We have a growing public sector parasite feeding on a shrinking private sector host. It just won’t work for much longer.

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Will raising taxes on the rich help the economy and create more jobs?

The presidents of my two favorite think tanks, Arthur Brooks (AEI) and Edwin Feulner (Heritage) explain in this USA Today editorial.

Excerpt: (links removed)

First, there is no evidence that tax increases will actually solve our troubles. On the contrary, years of data from around the world show that when nations try to solve a fiscal crisis primarily by raising tax revenues, they tend to fail. In contrast, fiscal approaches based on entitlement reform and spending cuts tend to succeed.

American Enterprise Institute economists Kevin Hassett, Andrew Biggs and Matthew Jensen examined the experiences of 21 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries between 1970 and 2007. They found that countries with successful fiscal reforms, on average, closed 85% of their budget gaps with spending cuts. The countries with failed reforms, on average, relied at least 50% on tax increases. President Obama’s strategy falls firmly in the latter camp. After discounting the accounting tricks that create fictitious spending cuts, the president’s plan would impose about $3 in tax hikes for every $1 in spending cuts.

That is, his approach would probably land America in the “failed attempt” column. Five years down the line, we would be in the same fiscal mess we are in today, just with higher taxes and a bigger government.

Second, tax hikes aimed at small segments of the population wouldn’t raise much in revenues. Consider the “Buffett Rule” that the president spent many months promoting. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, it would raise about $47 billion over a decade. The federal government currently spends about $4 billion more per day than it takes in. The Buffett Rule, then, would raise about enough next year to cover 28 hours of government overspending. Heritage Foundation economist Curtis Dubay finds that closing the deficit solely by raising the two highest tax brackets would require hiking them to 159% and 166%, respectively.

Third, as economists and business executives have noted repeatedly, raising taxes on families earning over $250,000 per year is effectively a massive tax hike on small businesses. Most small businesses today organize as S-corporations or other pass-through entities; their income is taxed as personal income. A study by Ernst and Young shows that Obama’s proposed tax hike would force these small businesses to eliminate about 710,000 jobs. Moreover, these households already bear a great deal of tax liability. According to the most recent Internal Revenue Service data, those earning $250,000 and above — roughly 2% of all taxpayers — earn 22% of income, but pay 45% of all federal income taxes.

Simply put, increasing tax rates on the wealthy is not a serious approach to solving America’s fiscal woes. The problem is purely one of excessive spending, not inadequate taxing.

Revenues haven’t changed substantially over the last decade, but government spending is way, way up. That’s what’s causing us to go into debt – massive government spending on turtle tunnels and Solyndra. We can do better than socialism.

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Mark Steyn: Americans must choose between low taxes and big government

I noticed that John Hawkins at Right Wing News had come up with his list of the top conservative commentators, and guess who is at the top of the list? Canadian writer Mark Steyn.

Here’s Mark Steyn writing in Investors Business Daily.

Excerpt:

According to the most recent (2009) OECD statistics: Government expenditures per person in France, $18,866.00; in the U.S., $19,266.00. That’s adjusted for purchasing-power parity, and yes, no comparison is perfect, but did you ever think the difference between America and the cheese-eating surrender monkeys would come down to quibbling over the fine print?

In that sense, the federal debt might be better understood as an American Self-Delusion Index, measuring the ever-widening gap between the national mythology (a republic of limited government and self-reliant citizens) and the reality (a 21st century cradle-to-grave nanny state in which Democrats boast,  “Government is the only thing we do together”).

Generally speaking, functioning societies make good-faith efforts to raise what they spend, subject to fluctuations in economic fortune: Government spending in Australia is 33.1% of GDP, and tax revenues are 27.1%. Likewise, government spending in Norway is 46.4% and revenues are 41% — a shortfall, but in the ballpark. Government spending in the U.S. is 42.2%, but revenues are 24% — the widest spending/taxing gulf in any major economy.

So the agonizing over our annual trillion-plus deficits overlooks the obvious solution: Given that we’re spending like Norwegians, why don’t we just pay Norwegian tax rates? No danger of that. If Jews earn like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans, Americans are taxed like Puerto Ricans but vote like Scandinavians.

We already have a more severely redistributive taxation system than Europe in which the wealthiest 20% of Americans pay 70% of income tax while the poorest 20% shoulder just three-fifths of 1%. By comparison, the Norwegian tax burden is relatively equitably distributed.

Yet Obama now wishes “the rich” to pay their “fair share” — presumably 80% or 90%. After all, as Warren Buffett pointed out in the New York Times last week, the Forbes 400 richest Americans have a combined wealth of $1.7 trillion. That sounds a lot, and once upon a time it was. But today, if you confiscated every penny the Forbes 400 have, it would be enough to cover just over one year’s federal deficit. And after that you’re back to square one.

It’s not that “the rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” it’s that America isn’t. A majority of the electorate has voted itself a size of government it’s not willing to pay for.

[...]So given that the ruling party will not permit spending cuts, what should Republicans do? If I were John Boehner, I’d say: “Clearly there’s no mandate for small government in the election results. So, if you milquetoast pantywaist sad-sack excuses for the sorriest bunch of so-called Americans who ever lived want to vote for Swede-sized statism, it’s time to pony up.”

And this view is shared by many conservative commentators.

Marc Thiessen wants the Republicans to let the Bush tax cuts expire for everyone:

During the campaign, President Obama repeatedly told us how he wants to “go back to the income tax rates we were paying under Bill Clinton — back when our economy created nearly 23 million new jobs, the biggest budget surplus in history, and plenty of millionaires to boot.” Well if the Clinton tax rates were so great, let’s go back to all of the Clinton rates and relive the booming ’90s.

At least going back to the Clinton rates would put more people on the tax rolls, and give more Americans a stake in constraining government spending. It would also force all Americans — including the middle class — to pay for growing government services, instead of borrowing the money from China and passing the costs on to the next generation.

Americans had a choice this November, and they voted for bigger government. Rather shielding voters from the consequences of their decisions, let them pay for it.

And now he’s being backed up by Charles Krauthammer:

Why are the Republicans playing along? Because it is assumed that Obama has the upper hand. Unless Republicans acquiesce and get the best deal they can right now, tax rates will rise across the board on Jan. 1, and the GOP will be left without any bargaining chips.

But what about Obama? If we all cliff-dive, he gets to preside over yet another recession. It will wreck his second term. Sure, Republicans will get blamed. But Obama is never running again. He cares about his legacy. You think he wants a second term with a double-dip recession, 9 percent unemployment and a totally gridlocked Congress? Republicans have to stop playing as if they have no cards.

Obama is claiming an electoral mandate to raise taxes on the top 2 percent. Perhaps, but remember those incessant campaign ads promising a return to the economic nirvana of the Clinton years? Well, George W. Bush cut rates across the board, not just for the top 2 percent. Going back to the Clinton rates means middle-class tax hikes that yield four times the revenue that you get from just the rich.

So give Obama the full Clinton. Let him live with that. And with what also lies on the other side of the cliff: 28 million Americans newly subject to the ruinous alternative minimum tax.

Republicans must stop acting like supplicants. If Obama so loves those Clinton rates, Republicans should say: Then go over the cliff and have them all.

That’s my view as well. Americans voted for big government, and now we must pay for it. Maybe next time, we will put the remote control down and pay attention to the issues.

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