Monday, April 11, 2011

Surprise: A curmudgeon finds fodder in a pol's letter to the editor

Sometimes politicians would be better off if they didn't try to put a spin on a partisan issue.

Case in point is State Rep. Al Landis' recent letter to the editor in The Times-Reporter in which he defends his vote for Senate Bill 5 with a declaration that he is committed to Ohio taxpayers and the bill "is a necessary measure for maintaining the services that local governments provide for communities. Raising taxes on the unemployed and underemployed who struggle to pay bills was not an option."

He then goes on to say that the bill, now a law, does not eliminate collective bargaining for Ohio's 360,000 unionized public sector workers, including cops, firefighters and school teachers.

"It does not mandate cuts in pay or benefits, or eliminate pensions," he said.

Well, in my mind, it does, at least in some cases. Forcing all public union members to contribute at least 15 percent of their salaries toward the cost of their benefit packages is, in fact, a pay cut if they were paying less than 15 percent beforehand.

In addition, eliminating the leverage of strikes by public union members and allowing the legislative authority of a political entity to be the final decider in a wage dispute strips bare the ability of a union to collectively bargain.

Landis might call what's left in the wake of Senate Bill 5 "collective bargaining," but I don't.

That's not to say there weren't issues with Ohio's collective bargaining law. There were. Binding arbitration, which gave authority to an unrelated third party over taxpayers' money, was wrong. And the provision should have been corrected long ago.

Other issues that could have been addressed include sick leave payouts and accumulated vacation pay.

Instead, Gov. John Kasich declared war on public employees, beginning with his rant against a police officer who pulled him over on Rt. 315 in Columbus. And the Republican Party, with Landis in tow, followed right along.

The result of Kasich's hardball politics is further polarization of the masses within Ohio. I don't know whether it's a war on the middle class, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a public union employee who doesn't think so.

And then there are the unintended consequences. What are we telling Ohio's best and brightest kids who might have wanted to grow up to be a cop, a firefighter or even a teacher? Will we as parents push them in other directions? Out of the state perhaps?

A friend asked me if I thought a referendum on the new anti-collective bargaining law would be successful. I don't have an answer to that yet. I know there are a lot of people out there who think public employees have it too easy, especially now because private sector employers aren't sharing the wealth with their employees like they once did. Call it the jealousy factor.

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Some further reading on the subject:

-- Plain Dealer and Columbus Dispatch columnist Thomas Suddes isn't making any predictions on whether a referendum would be successful. You can read his column here.

-- Most big city mayors in Ohio don't like the state's new anti-collective bargaining law. A Plain Dealer story explains most of those mayors are Democrats.

* * *
One of the dumber things being proposed in this state is the requirement that voters produce photo identification cards before they cast their ballots in primary or general elections.

In all my years of covering elections in this state, I don't remember an election being thrown because of significant voter fraud. Indeed, if there is one documented case of that occurring in Tuscarawas County in the last 40 years, I'd be surprised.

The law now requires voters to show a driver's license, or utility bill, or some other document that confirms the voter is whom he/she claims to be.

It works. So, now some our legislators in all their wisdom want to fix a system that appears not to be broken.

The local paper pointed to a case in Indiana as reason to approve such a law in Ohio. Apparently Indiana's top elections official was indicted for intentionally voting in the wrong precinct.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why that case underscores the need for a voter photo ID law in Ohio. But maybe I missed something.

* * *
For those who think the newspaper business is dead, just look at the price of a share of stock in the Washington Post Co. It closed Monday at $440.68.

Pretty good, huh?

Last week, an analyst was discussing the company on CNBC. The questioner asked him what the value of the newspaper was to the company, which, according to Google, is a diversified education and media company.

"It's worthless," he said.

* * *
I hate to be pessimistic but there seem to be forces at work that will pin us down economically, at least in Ohio, for some time to come.

The collective bargaining law, while it may have no immediate obvious impact, might keep those 360,000 public employees from being too free with their money. That means the uncertainty that now envelops them will keep them from purchasing big ticket items, including homes and cars. (There's that middle class thing...)

Add to that the skyrocketing gasoline prices, which will order a shifting of priorities in many other people's lives, forcing them to cut back on purchasing across the board.

And, of course, as government budgets tighten, people whose employment is connected to entitlement programs (easy targets for the Tea Party) might be out of work sooner rather than later. They, too, will be subtracted from the ranks of healthy consumers.

Then there's the Medicaid and Medicare funding crisis that is putting a crimp on hospitals and health care facilities and ultimately on their employees.

I'm told by people who ought to know that there is virtually no housing construction under way in Tuscarawas County. There were about a dozen real estate transfers in Saturday's paper and about half appear to be connected to foreclosure actions.

That's horrible.

Perhaps new Chamber Director Scott Robinson can bring together our best and brightest for a little roundtable discussion about what needs to be done to move Tuscarawas County out of the economic doldrums.

Only our future is at stake.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The dictator's plan..

Some people have more money than other people. I don't think that's fair so I'm doing to do something about it because I'm the dictator, I decree that all those who work shall kick back to the dictator 7% of all they are paid. Your boss will too. No, I don't care how much you need the money. And yes I know, you folks earning minimum wage can least afford a near 10% tax on your meager earnings, but hey, I'm the dictator. And I dictate that certain people...let's say old people...are going to get your money. And best thing is, they'll get your money whether they need it or not. That's right peasants, even the lowest earning of you will be taxed by your dictator so I can give it to rich old people. In fact the majority of old people who'll I'll be giving the money to have way more than you do. This sounds so good I decree that you and your boss will kick in another 3% of everything you earn to pay the old people's medical bills. Whether they need your money or not I'm going to take if from you and give it to them. These area great ideas. Let's give them a name. How about Social Security and Medicare! Now get out there and work hard. I figure that more than half the dictator's total budget is going to be spent giving your money to old people, whether they need it or not. After all, even the dictator needs to get at least one vote to stay in office.

Your dictator