Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: October 25, 2011


Who is robbing whom here?

We’ve been treated to stories of “greed” and supposed corporate misbehavior by the OWS crowd, but here’s a story that ought to make you furious, especially if you’re an Illinois taxpayer:

Two lobbyists with no prior teaching experience were allowed to count their years as union employees toward a state teacher pension once they served a single day of subbing in 2007, a Tribune/WGN-TV investigation has found.

Steven Preckwinkle, the political director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and fellow union lobbyist David Piccioli were the only people who took advantage of a small window opened by lawmakers a few months earlier.

Obviously any number of people are culpable.  The lawmakers, of course.  But the two who took advantage of this legal loophole are simply morally reprehensible people who took advantage of the system for personal gain without earning what they will receive.

The legislation enabled union officials to get into the state teachers pension fund and count their previous years as union employees after quickly obtaining teaching certificates and working in a classroom. They just had to do it before the bill was signed into law.

So seeing an opportunity to cash in without actually having to do any real teaching, they quickly got teaching certificates and substitute taught for one day.   One day.  They were paid $93 for the day.

The result from that day?  Probably over $100,000 a year in pension payments:

Preckwinkle’s one day of subbing qualified him to become a participant in the state teachers pension fund, allowing him to pick up 16 years of previous union work and nearly five more years since he joined. He’s 59, and at age 60 he’ll be eligible for a state pension based on the four-highest consecutive years of his last 10 years of work.

His paycheck fluctuates as a union lobbyist, but pension records show his earnings in the last school year were at least $245,000. Based on his salary history so far, he could earn a pension of about $108,000 a year, more than double what the average teacher receives.

Meanwhile, as you might guess, the pension fund is horribly underfunded and teachers who’ve spent a career in the classroom stand to get less than half what these two will get.

The union finds no real problem with what its two paid lobbyists did:

A spokesman for the Illinois Federation of Teachers emphasized that the lobbyists’ actions were legal and that they made "individual decisions."

Even so, union President Dan Montgomery said the deal Preckwinkle and Piccioli landed "should never be allowed again." But the union, which provides its employees with a private 401(k)-type plan, is standing by the lobbyists’ right to have access to the public pension.

"They entered TRS under the law and are participating members of TRS. As a TRS employer, the IFT is required to make the payments to TRS," the union said in a statement.

Of course we all know that legal and moral are only the same by coincidence.  These two scoundrels knew precisely what they were doing and did what they did with malice aforethought.  This was a bid to cash in while doing nothing.  And of course, cheats like them are more than happy – along with the union – to stand behind the façade of legality.

And oh, by the way, it should never happen again because the law was changed after these two grifters cashed in.

Always looking out for the little guy and making sure he gets a square deal, those union guys.

HT: Duane Lester

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


OWS is a “teachable moment”

The Washington Time carries an editorial that discusses the ongoing Occupy protests and it contains a paragraph which I think is a good summary of why I want these things to go on and on and on:

Your efforts serve to paint a clear contrast between the two sides currently waging war for the future of America. On one side are those who believe in the income redistribution of socialism and feel entitled to “social justice,” fueled by a victim complex instilled in them by the very politicians who create and perpetuate their dependence. On the other side are the independent, self-respecting, hardworking Americans whose income and old-fashioned values of personal responsibility sit squarely in the cross hairs of the slackers and the Democratic Party that coddles them.

Many Americans are frustrated with the situation we now find ourselves.  And they want things changed, obviously.  But you have to ask yourself, as you look around, do I want it overthrown?  

In other words is the current system such that it needs to be entirely replaced?  That’s the Occupy movement’s belief.  It is, essentially, an anti-capitalist movement.  And that becomes clearer every day they thrash around looking for something fresh to scream about to keep themselves in the eye of the media.

For instance, today we hear about the announcement that the group who launched OWS is calling for a “Robin Hood tax”:

An anti-capitalist group which sparked the Occupy Wall Street movement has called for global protests Saturday to demand that leaders of the Group of 20 (G20) nations impose a "Robin Hood tax" on financial transactions and currency trades.

[…]

"Let’s send them a clear message: We want you to slow down some of that $1.3 trillion easy money that’s sloshing around the global casino each day—enough cash to fund every social program and environmental initiative in the world," the activist group said on its website,www.adbusters.org.

[…]

"As the movement matures, let’s consider a response to our critics," Adbusters said on its website. "Let’s occupy the core of our global system. Let’s dethrone the greed that defines this new century."

Take in the language.

“Casinos”.  “Robin Hood Tax”.  The inference are all quite clear.

That’s not the language that will endear a movement to most Americans.  Most Americans are not going to embrace an ideology that would condone redistribution like the OWS folks are talking about.  But that’s what continues to emerge as their answer to the world’s problems. 

The “greed that defines the new century” provides the communication power for their outreach among any number of other things. They have no clue what it might be like without that system though.   It is this system that has built the unprecedented wealth and standard of living that no “Robin Hood” could ever match.  But in reality, “Robin Hood” is a central character in their brave new world.  Robin Hood is government.

Their ignorance about how economies work knows no bounds apparently.  And they demonstrate that point fairly regularly.  Most Americans know what caused the wealth, affluence and power we enjoy, and it wasn’t redistribution of wealth through government.  In fact, as some polls have shown, it isn’t “Wall Street” most Americans blame for this – it is the very institution that OWS is calling on to impose the Robin Hood tax.

We often hear people talk about “teachable moments” when situations present themselves.   OWS is just such a moment.  It brings together a collection of misfits, malcontents and economic luddites whose entire mantra boils down to “we want what you have and that’s fair”.

Most people divest themselves of that nonsense when they’re about 7. 

Others like those involved in OWS are apparently forever slow learners.

And they therefore provide us with a wealth of “teachable moments” about why what they want doesn’t and won’t ever work.  That’s worth having them around for a while.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Economic statistics for 25 Oct 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

In retail sales, ICSC-Goldman Store Sales fell to a 2.4% year on year rate, while Redbook reports 4.1%. Both are slightly below trend.

Case-Shiller data show no change in housing prices for the month, a sign that home prices may finally be bottoming out. The previous three months have see drops of -0.1%. Prices are still down -3.8% from last year. Conversely, according to the FHFA, house prices fell -0.1% in August, ending a string of four monthly gains in a row, after rising 0.1% last month.

The consumer confidence index fell 6.6 points in October to 39.8 on declines in consumer assessments of both current and future conditions.

Manufacturing is contracting for the fourth month in a row in the Richmond Fed district where the manufacturing index is unchanged at -6.

State Street’s confidence index for institutional investors rose 7points in October to 96.7, but remains below 100, still showing a bias towards a demand for safety.

~
Dale Franks
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Looking for Ronald Reagan

A poll out today shows that even with all the early debates and attention GOP presidential candidates have gotten to this point, most Republican voters remain uncommitted:

About eight in 10 Republican primary voters say it is still too early to tell whom they will support, and just four in 10 say they have been paying a lot of attention to the 2012 presidential campaign, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Herman Cain, the former restaurant executive, is riding a wave of support among Republican primary voters that has placed him in a statistical dead heat with rival Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, in a race that has been characterized by momentum swings among the candidates.

The poll found Mr. Cain with the highest level of support, with 25 percent of Republican primary voters, and Mr. Romney with 21 percent. This difference is within the poll’s margin of sampling error.

Adding to the fluidity of the contest, about one in 10 Republican primary voters say they would like to see someone else nominated.

As bad as President Obama might be, it is clear that there is no particular love to be found for the present Republican field.   Perry has all but imploded, Bachman continues to marginalize herself, Paul has a rabid but small contingent of supporters but can never seem to get beyond that, Gingrich has way too much baggage, Santorum is a marginal candidate at best and Mitt Romney is the nominee of last resort.

The reason, in my opinion, that Herman Cain has risen in the polls is because he comes from a background of business success.  He reflects a desire by many to have someone who can take the reins of the government and steer in such a way that it becomes a help to our economy, not a hindrance and drag.  His increased support speaks to a desire for someone in office with economic and business experience.  

But I think there’s also a great desire, so far unfulfilled, for someone who has a clear vision that can be articulated and that captures the imagination and revives the spirit.  And while Cain may fill the practical side of the equation, at least to an acceptable extent, he’s not been able to fulfill the “vision quest” part.   As gifted an orator as he might be and despite the fact he’s got practical and successful business he’s not been able to persuade enough Republican voters to come to his side to put him in the unassailable lead.

And of course neither have any of the others.

Republicans are still looking for Ronald Reagan.  A man or woman who can not only lift the malaise but lift the spirit as well.   Who can not only apply practical principled solutions to our problems but make America feel good about itself again. 

Right now, that person isn’t yet in the race, or if he or she is, they’ve not emerged as such.   This country is in desperate want of inspiration, reassurance and practical experience.   The current candidates just aren’t measuring up to that want or need.   Thus the poll results.

Is there a Ronald Regan out there?  Is there a candidate that will finally step forward and fulfill those voter wants as Reagan did when running against Jimmy Carter.

I often wonder what the outcome might have been had any of these candidates running for the GOP nomination today had been the choice against Carter.  I’m not so sure Carter would have lost.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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