The goings-on in Wisconsin demonstrate the budget woes that vex state and local governments. Unsustainable public employee union contracts, however, are a symptom of the underlying problem.
And what is the problem?
Well, take a look at this story in the Review-Journal this morning detailing a rally of public employee unions. The story details the basics of the rally from big labor’s point of view (it’s Wall Street’s doing, not union’s). It then runs down some of the bills set to be introduced in the Nevada Legislature, which are modest at best compared to Wisconsin.
No where do I hear enough Nevadans talking about rendering service to Nevada taxpayers. Everything is about how much pay and benefits we give those who deliver the service.
Listen to the debate with the teacher’s union. It’s never really about how we deliver a better education. It’s always about how much more we need to pay teachers. It’s never about firm oversight to make sure students are getting motivated and qualified teachers. It’s always about making sure every teacher we have gets taken care of, no matter how poor a teacher they are. There are plenty of very good teachers in Nevada, don’t get me wrong. But talk privately with any principal at any school and he/she will tell you immediately which teachers have no business being teachers anymore. But nothing’s done about substandard teachers because we’re all caught in a system that is designed only to protect and benefit teachers, not educate students.
And on a local level, I’m weary of listening to the fire fighter union conversation about pay, benefits and work rules. Where is the discussion about effective and efficient fire protection service for the people. If firemen have work rules so whacky that some firemen can work the system to be "sick" almost every fifth shift, then besides a discussion about employee and management honesty, where is the champion who asks the hard question on behalf of taxpayers — how many motivated firemen does it really take to deliver the service needed?
Are we overpaying by 25%, 50%? Who knows? Because the focus is always on the well-being of the people who provide the public service, and never on the efficiency of the service rendered.
My point this morning is simply this: If big labor and elected officials of both parties started every conversation with "What’s best for taxpayers?", we’d be way, way better off.