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View Diary: Book review: Bill Fletcher, Jr.'s 'They're Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths about Unions' (72 comments)

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  •  Re (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bobtmn
    As long as unions number one job is representing their members public sector and private sector unions have much more in common than apart.
    Against who, though?

    Private sector unions represent against company management and shareholders.

    Public sector unions represent against all taxpayers in a town/city/state regardless of their economic strata. It's a zero-sum game. If your police/fire/teachers get a raise, it must (mathematically) come along with a pay cut for private sector workers in an area.

    In the public sector, the owners are taxpayers, and they have all the same incentives any other company owner has (get services as cost effectively as possible).

    (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
    Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

    by Sparhawk on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 12:27:14 PM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  There are some problems with your analogy (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wasatch, Calamity Jean

      This kind of argument is made all the time - but it doesn't reflect the entire reality of the situation.

      The money earned by public sector employees goes right back into their communities - they have to buy food, housing, goods and services, etc. If you look at the current recession, one of the things that's been holding back recovery is all of the public sector employees who've been laid off or taken pay cuts. They have no money to spend at at time when the economy is suffering a real lack of demand.

      And what people 'save' in lower taxes is more than made up by the cost of obtaining services from the private sector to replace what the public sector used to provide.

      This is what gets left out of these discussions too often: public sector work isn't done to make a profit; the private sector won't do anything unless it's for profit.

      In the public sector, the owners are taxpayers, and they have all the same incentives any other company owner has (get services as cost effectively as possible).
      But - those owners are also customers as well. And once they turn to the private sector, they're no longer owners - just customers from whom a profit has to be extracted. They've just raised their own costs for nothing.

      Now you can argue that private sector profits get recycled into the community as well - to some extent. Typically, their employees are paid less well than public sector employees so they have less money to spend. And as the private sector is increasingly about bigger and bigger corporations, those profits tend to get sucked out of the community and sent off to shareholders and management a long ways off. (Think Big Box Stores versus locally owned and operated small businesses.)

      "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

      by xaxnar on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 12:53:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Re (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bobtmn
        The money earned by public sector employees goes right back into their communities - they have to buy food, housing, goods and services, etc. If you look at the current recession, one of the things that's been holding back recovery is all of the public sector employees who've been laid off or taken pay cuts. They have no money to spend at at time when the economy is suffering a real lack of demand.
        I don't buy this. A community these days is pretty much defined by what it imports and what it exports. Paying public sector workers more basically diverts imports that would have gone to the private sector to public sector workers. Public sector workers do not produce exports. It's a net loss (for everyone except the public workers). Many public services are like auto insurance to most people. Do you need them? Sure, but I'm not exactly planning to spend huge amounts of cash on it.

        You could argue that the service-level private businesses (restaurants, etc) benefit from the higher public salaries, but that basically just makes the restaurants "public businesses".

        Export businesses are really the only thing that matters to a community. Factories, high-tech design centers, tourism, etc. If money from outside the community is coming in, you're on the positive side of the ledger. Those services pay for the whole party. Everything else is a loss.

        But - those owners are also customers as well. And once they turn to the private sector, they're no longer owners - just customers from whom a profit has to be extracted. They've just raised their own costs for nothing.
        If in fact their costs have been raised. Lots of big corporations outsource operations every day. Most companies don't run their own cafeterias, clean their own floors, sometimes not even owning their own buildings.

        If outsourcing these items wasn't cheaper than not doing so, these big companies wouldn't do it. You think Intel, Apple, etc likes giving free money away? And if outsourcing (or not outsourcing) is demonstrated to be more cost effective, I would argue that elected officials have a fiduciary duty to their constituents to use the more cost-effective route, just like a corporation would do.

        Now you can argue that private sector profits get recycled into the community as well - to some extent. Typically, their employees are paid less well than public sector employees so they have less money to spend. And as the private sector is increasingly about bigger and bigger corporations, those profits tend to get sucked out of the community and sent off to shareholders and management a long ways off. (Think Big Box Stores versus locally owned and operated small businesses.)
        The public sector is paid for by the private sector. Paying police more (all other things being equal) just makes those Best Buy workers poorer. Corporate wages are controlled by the market. All public workers are paid for out of export-oriented private business, and typically by the employees themselves. There is no other source of money available.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 01:20:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  You're still not getting it (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sparhawk, davethefave, 6412093, nicolemm

          But I admire your tenacity.

          The public sector is paid for by the private sector. Paying police more (all other things being equal) just makes those Best Buy workers poorer.
          The either/or logic is what's throwing you off here, that and some pretty simplistic assumptions. Public and private sectors overlap; public sector employees pay taxes too. The private sector makes use of public sector services all the time.

          The cop getting paid more making the Best Buy worker poorer ignores the Best Buy worker losing his/her job because the laid-off cop is no longer a customer and store sales are down.

          Corporate wages are controlled by the market. All public workers are paid for out of export-oriented private business, and typically by the employees themselves. There is no other source of money available.
          As long as you believe that, there's no point in continuing this discussion because you've just retreated behind a tautology.

          "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

          by xaxnar on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 01:46:34 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It isn't a tautology (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            bobtmn

            It's just fundamental math. Imports = exports, always. The wealth of your community is generated by what it exports. The more it exports, the more it imports and the richer you are. All the internal machinations of how much is divvied up where do not change this fact.

            Why is Detroit failing? Because its private sector is failing. A robust private sector can support a robust public sector. The reverse is not true: a large public sector and a small private sector simply leads to decay and failure.

            Interestingly, private unions do help with this process by encouraging the corporation or owners of the business to keep money generated by the business local to the area in question. But public unions do not help with this: how can they? Public wealth is derived from the export wealth.

            The cop getting paid more making the Best Buy worker poorer ignores the Best Buy worker losing his/her job because the laid-off cop is no longer a customer and store sales are down.
            Neither the cop nor the Best Buy worker are in export-oriented business. Both of them subsist off of whatever the town actually does for industry, be it a factory, high tech design center, tourism, what have you.

            The Best Buy worker gets laid off when the factory shuts down, just like the cop does, as a flow down from the lost factory jobs that are the real economic driver in the community. Now sure, some of the non-export "businesses" like Best Buy or the police will patronize each other's services, but that's not really the driver.

            If you cut the cop's salary (assuming no tradeoff in service level), the taxpaying export factory workers get a better deal. That's a net gain for them. It isn't the factory workers' responsibility to shoulder the burden of maintaining a local economy. They just want whatever local economy serves their needs. Pissing extra money away on unnecessary services doesn't help them.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 02:09:25 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  So, it seems like your argument is (0+ / 0-)

              The public sector can only grow at the expense of the private sector.

              "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

              by xaxnar on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 02:22:25 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  That's an oversimplification (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                bobtmn

                You obviously need police or else you can't run a business. But any growth in police beyond what is necessary is obviously a dead loss, like paying for a $50k insurance policy on a $20k car. Same with road crews, pavement, parking enforcement, etc. Hire the people you need at salaries you need to pay to get them.

                The Best Buy business will exist if there is organic demand for it. It won't if there isn't any, but the organic demand is driven (ultimately) by the local export business.

                Also, the (federal) government does other useful work, like basic public R&D funding, that helps build private sector wealth. Most private companies who aren't Google or Xerox are too small and profit-oriented to be able to do random "this probably won't be useful soon but let's study it anyway" type of research. However, that work does grow the economy and government investment is generally a good idea.

                Also, health care is a dead bang economic loser (globally, but it could be an export business locally like it is in Boston). However, the government can help make it less of a loser by properly implemented systems like universal health care.

                But generally, as far as your typical locality, your statement is generally correct. Increases in the public sector can occur concurrently with increases in the private sector, assuming there is a need for it. But growth in the public sector alone must mean contraction in the private sector. There is no mathematical way it can be otherwise.

                (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
                Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

                by Sparhawk on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 02:37:01 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  Collective buying power does not go up (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk
        The money earned by public sector employees goes right back into their communities - they have to buy food, housing, goods and services, etc. If you look at the current recession, one of the things that's been holding back recovery is all of the public sector employees who've been laid off or taken pay cuts. They have no money to spend at at time when the economy is suffering a real lack of demand.
        A public sector employee who is able to go into a restaurant and buy a meal and bottle of wine is exactly offset by the loss of that option by others who paid the wages.    One individual has more money to spend because others have less.   The community as a whole has the same amount of money, just divided up differently.

        There is a joke along the lines that when Bill Gates walks into any bar, the average customer is a billionaire.  This argument that money grows by being transferred is the same.

        Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

        by bobtmn on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 02:53:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Here we go again (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nicolemm

          It sounds like the arguments made all the time to support austerity, and the evidence to date is that it just does not work. And we've gotten a long way from the original point of this diary, which is a discussion about union myths.

          While you're obsessing that every dollar paid out to a government employee must come out of the pocket of a private sector employee via taxes thus killing jobs etc. etc., you're completely overlooking the other side of the question - the way the private sector divides up the pie in the first place.

          The damn pie has grown in the last 3 decades, but the private sector (and public sector) employees have NOT seen their slices get any bigger. Instead, money that used to go into wages and benefits even before taxes were collected has increasingly been diverted from hourly and salaried workers into management and investors.  And the people in those categories have been paying less and less of their share of taxes even as they've been cutting wages and benefits for their workers - and putting more of the tax burden on them.

          We're not in trouble because the government is taking too much in taxes - we're in trouble because the private sector is stiffing its workers and eliminating their jobs. Pay them more and they'd automatically end up paying more in taxes from part of that increase, and they'd need less government help as well.

          Describing this as simply private sector versus public sector and talking about imports versus exports is imposing a structure that does not adequately describe the situation.

          "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

          by xaxnar on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 03:53:49 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Agree about private sector (0+ / 0-)

            I totally agree that the private sector worker has been stiffed in the last 30 years.     What I don't agree with is that public sector unionization helps them in any way.  

            In fact, I believe it hurts them, because  public sector unions are MUCH stronger, and they organize in their own interests because they do not want to carry the burden of representing the interests of the less powerful.  

            This is why we saw public sector workers come out in opposition to single payer health care or medicare-for-all.   They did not want to lose the "golden plans" they had negotiated.  They clung to this position even though it left everyone else worse off.

            Fletcher is currently the director of field services for the American Federation of Government Employees.
            The "Myth" that I started with is the myth that public sector unions are the same as private sector unions.   The author does not see that as a myth, but I do.

            Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

            by bobtmn on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 08:44:08 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

        •  Without public sector employees (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          6412093, nicolemm, Dirtandiron

          like me, you wouldn't be able to read the fucking menu to order your meal and wine.

          Yeah, there's a difference between private/public. The members of public sector unions perform jobs that are far, far  more important to society than most private jobs of any type (teachers are more important to society than just about any job you can name outside of the medical field.)

          So, yeah, if you're capable of reading the menu and then calculating your tip, thank a teacher. And then STFU about your taxes going to pay for it.

          "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

          by ChurchofBruce on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 05:57:42 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Re (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            6412093, bobtmn, soros
            Yeah, there's a difference between private/public. The members of public sector unions perform jobs that are far, far  more important to society than most private jobs of any type (teachers are more important to society than just about any job you can name outside of the medical field.)
            This position is very arrogant. Without the guys who keep the water pumps running, you couldn't have schools, right?

            Without pencil and pen and computer designers and manufacturers, how would you run your school?

            I'm not arguing that education isn't important, but come on people.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 08:06:52 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  This is not about who is more important (0+ / 0-)

            My position in this argument is that public sector union members act arrogantly towards the private sector workers who support them, and use the power of withholding essential services to increase their share of the pie.    

            You're right that I learned to read from teachers, but back in the sixties, they were not union teachers, so it is irrelevant to public sector unions.

            This chicken/egg argument can go on forever, but where would teachers and unions be today without people like me who developed the computer systems that allow them to communicate at sites like Daily Kos?

            So, if you are capable of typing into a computer and pressing SEND, thank the private sector worker that makes it possible.

            Religion gives men the strength to do what should not be done.

            by bobtmn on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 08:26:27 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Uhm (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Dirtandiron

              since I attended a very good high school where I learned a lot way back in Ye Olden Days before anybody ever had a computer..yeah. Do they make things easier? Hell, yes. Are they necessary for teaching (especially what I teach, English)? Hell, no. You want me to give special props to Guttenburg, I'll be glad to--but computers? That's a convenience, not a necessity--not for teaching. Hell, I think it's more necessary for political organizing than teaching! My seniors, who are doing Canterbury Tales at the moment, have books. Real, actual, print books. Again, all hosannahs to Guttenburg.

              My teachers in the 70s were public union teachers, here in MA. Here's a fun task for you--check out every rating of school effectiveness by state. Then check out the percentage of public teachers in that state who are unionized. They correlate. There are plenty of states with no or few public teacher's unions--and the vast majority of them are on the bottom of the effectiveness scale. Meanwhile, my home state of MA consistently ranks top 3 in effectiveness (trading with VT and CA) and is 99% unionized (both VT and CA are about 90% unionized). That's not a fluke.

              The lowest unionized states? A huge swath across the south--you know, AL, MS, TX, etc--all those states that show up at the bottom of the school effectiveness lists.

              "Maybe: it's a vicious little word that could slay me"--Sara Bareilles

              by ChurchofBruce on Mon Nov 12, 2012 at 10:51:35 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Economics is not a zero sum game (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10

      unless people don't ever spend their money.  But they do, so it's not.

      Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

      by David Kaib on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 01:27:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  For any area (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bobtmn

        Imports must equal exports. Export-oriented private business covers the whole tab, always.

        Private unions can help capture more of the wealth from these activities for a community. Public unions don't do that, because they can't.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 01:36:54 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Public union members spend money (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          6412093

          where they live. That drives the economy where they live.  They live where they work.  

          Thankfully I don't think these facts or their relevance elude most people.

          Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity. Notes on a Theory

          by David Kaib on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 03:15:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  They don't produce exports (0+ / 0-)

            Exports are the only thing that drives the economy where you live. Everything else is a cost.

            (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
            Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

            by Sparhawk on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 03:37:40 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  but we don't get to negotiate with taxpayers (3+ / 0-)

      we negotiate with management, many of whom identify with corporate managers

      my neighbor's taxes may pay my salary but she has no say over whether I get my step increases or if the manager bullying a coworker should be allowed to continue doing so

      -7.75, -6.05 And these wars; they can't be won Does anyone know or care how they begun?-Matt Bellamy

      by nicolemm on Sun Nov 11, 2012 at 09:30:39 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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