A shocking editorial in the liberal NY Times

Yes, the Sunday columns by Glenn Cook and myself explored the topic of ballooning public employee salaries and benefits, mentioning some of the same sources. Nothing surprising there. It’s been a hot topic of late.

But I was shocked, shocked I tell you, to open to the editorial page of the bastion of liberalism and find a lengthy editorial calling for public employee pay and benefits to be reined in. I had to check the folio line at the top to make sure I was reading The New York Times.

Of course, the editorial took great pains to insist the paper was not being anti-union or anti-worker and that the disparity in pay and benefits should not be used as a “cynical pretext to crush unions.” Nay, nay, not the NYT.

“New York does not need that sort of destructive game playing,” the editorial states. “What it needs is a sober examination of the high costs of wages and benefits, and some serious proposals to rein them in while remaining fair to hard-working government employees.” It is about time they sober up after the binge.

Then in a single paragraph the paper addresses part of what caused the problem — and it sounds remarkably like the law of compounding:

“Last April, in the midst of one of the worst financial crises that New York and the nation have ever faced, the state’s unionized workers got a 4 percent pay raise that cost $400 million. It came on top of 3 percent raises in each of the previous three years. These raises were negotiated long before the recession began, by a Legislature that routinely gave in to unions that remain among the biggest political contributors in Albany.”

One alert reader thought it reminded him of Charles Dickens’ depiction of a rainy day on Chancery Lane: “Foot passengers, jostling one another's umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.” (I told him I’d steal it.)

The gray lady goes on to point out that in 2009, before the latest raise, the average wage for a full-time state government employee was $63,382, well above the state’s average personal income of $46,957, which I presume was driven up by all those well-paid state government salaries and those in the private sector are paid even less.

And that’s before they addressed the pension plan, the cost of which has increased 15 times in a decade.

Talk about sweet. And the Times did: “In 2000, employee pensions cost New York State taxpayers $100 million. They now cost $1.5 billion, and will be more than $2 billion in 2014. Wall Street’s troubles are a big part of that. But so are state politics. The Legislature, ever eager to curry favor with powerful unions, added sweeteners to pensions and allowed employees to stop making contributions after 10 years.”

Of course, the Times could not stop at a mere call to pull this gravy train over to a siding. No, they had to call for a tax hike on the rich, who, after all, escaped a federal tax hike this year and should not go unpunished for that.

They can’t change all their spots.