Your righteous anger isn’t enough

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269 Responses

  1. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Ryan, this was excellent. I can’t speak for WI, of course, but you could take this message to Oregon and it would be right on target. The best of all of our recall posts, IMO.Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Thanks, Tod!
      I wasn’t sure if it was just too personal a view for discussion here, but I felt like so much discussion on Walker’s money advantage was obscuring any discussion of the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s failures.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Plinko says:

        Well, mind you this is me talking – the guy that writes everything from a purposefully personal perspective.

        But still, it was really fantastic; plus having the reactions of someone who went through the experience rather than just bunch of guys reacting to stuff they saw in the news is what we’d have with every big issue were we able.

        Keep submitting stuff.Report

  2. Avatar Kazzy says:

    “The real lesson of Wisconsin is an important one for members of all parties: your righteous anger motivates you, not others. Winning the middle requires having something to vote for, not just to vote against.”

    This reminds me of a great quote that Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered when opting to endorse Andrew Cuomo over Carl Paladino during the 2010 NY Gubernatorial race. Paladino attempted to ride the Tea Party wave to victory, building his campaign on two primary points: opposition to the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’; and anger. One of his taglines was “I’m mad as hell” and one series of yard signs said, “I’m mad, too, Carl!” Other than those two talking points, he really didn’t offer much. In electing to endorse Cuomo, Bloomberg said:

    “New Yorkers are angry at Albany and I think for good reason but anger is not a governing strategy. We need real change. We need new strategies, we need independent leadership. We need someone who has the guts to take on entrenched interests, and the skill to work in partnership with the legislature to get big things done. And I feel very strongly about this, I think that Andrew Cuomo is that person.”

    I’m not particularly fond of Bloomberg (as evidenced by some of my comments on Will’s post about his proposed soda ban), but I think that quote, the first sentence in particular, summed up the difference between movements intended to make real change and those that lack substance.Report

  3. Avatar mac says:

    it’s hardly a surprise that the guy that couldn’t beat Walker the first try couldn’t beat him in a rematch.
    Still this election counts as a Dem win. They had two goals: get rid of Walker and retake the state senate. Winning either one would count as a political win, as the Republicans would no longer control all three houses.
    They picked up one seat im the senate: the Republicans failed to keep their majority. That counts as a winner and a loser by any reasonable metric.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to mac says:

      I heard that the democrats never intended to unseat Walker in the first place. The idea that that was one of the goals is one of the lies that Republican operatives spread in order to change expectations for the election… and it looks like it took.Report

    • Avatar Plinko in reply to mac says:

      Mac, thanks for bringing up the state senate. I wanted to find a way to discusss that a little more but couldn’t work it in.
      When we see Republicans spiking the football and gloating about Walker’s victory, remember that this fight also cost them a significant legislative majority and will require Gov. Walker to significantly temper his agenda for the remainder of his term.
      Regarding Tom Barrett, you need to remember that he won the primary – maybe the ultimate cause of the failure of the gubernatorial recall was a shortage of viable talent in the party to run against Walker in the first place. Kathleen Falk would have been an even more miserable choice.
      Yes, the time from the primary to election was quite short, but it was well-known that the recall was coming for more than a year in advance. It seems to me the state party utterly failed to make a plan to win such a big gamble and that’s on them.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill Mobile in reply to Plinko says:

        Plinko, aren’t there more elections set five months from now, between now and when the legislature reconvenes?Report

        • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

          The reason why winning the State Senate was important even if it’s not in session before the November elections is that there’s a pretty good chance based on prior history that if Walker had won _and_ kept the Senate, he would’ve called a Special Session to pass more right-wing stuff because “the voters have spoken blah blah.”Report

          • Apparently Jesse hasn’t got the memo, Brother Plinko.Report

          • Avatar Trumwill Mobile in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

            Jesse, but absent the recall, there’d be no “mandate”. Seems to me that taking the senate mostly qualifies as cut losses rather than material gains. Not that it’s valueless, but it still strikes me as kind of a hollow victory, since it mitigated events they themselves put into motion. (Unless a special session was likely to happen without the recall?)Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

              I’m not arguing it’s a great victory. I’m just saying it was a loss, but not a complete destruction.

              Plus, there’s the argument that without the first set of recalls (that put a moderate-ish GOPer as the 17th person in a 17-16 majority), Walker would’ve passed even more stuff, so you needed to try to recall Walker if you were also recalling members of the Senate since it was his ideology they were voting for.

              Now, once can argue and say that the recall vote should’ve been on Election Day instead of a random day in the summer, there should’ve been a different candidate, and so on, but just focusing on the Senate would’ve been a fool’s bargain in my view even if you did lose the Gubernatorial recall.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                I would add that when you have enough people put you up for a recall, your survival is not the “sweeping victory” for your side that the right is claiming.Report

              • Avatar Plinko in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                On the other hand, Tod, if the U.S. had similar recall laws as Wisconsin, is there any doubt in your mind that one could find 32 million eligible voters to sign up to force President Obama into a recall election?
                And if he won that election with a slight increase in his margin of victory, that Democrats wouldn’t be crowing about that mandate? Would they be wrong to?Report

        • Avatar Plinko in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

          Yes, but the State Senate is on 4-year terms, so not everyone is up for re-election. The 16 senators up for election are made up of 10 D’s and 6 R’s, two of those Democratic State Senators won recall elections in 2011 so it’s a good question to see if the Democrats can hold the Senate. Surely it will be easier for those two Democratic incumbents to win from the seat than if those recalls had failed.
          Most of the other 8 are from pretty Blue districts IIRC.

          I think there is a point to Jesse’s comment below, but it would depend on if the counterfactual future November would feature winds blowing for or against the Democratic challengers. If for them, there’s no doubt in my mind that a special session would have been called – stuff like that has happened every time the state government looks to change hands for a while now when either Democrats or Republicans get a chance. If against, I don’t think it happens.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Plinko says:

            One by one, states will implement Walker’s public union reforms and they’ll break:

            “More than one-third of the Wisconsin members of the American Federation of Teachers quit, reported The Wall Street Journal. At the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, one of the state’s largest unions, the hemorrhaging was worse: AFSCME’s Wisconsin rolls shrank by more than 34,000 over the past year, a 55 percent nose-dive.”

            It only takes one shot, and a significant minority of the members head for the exits. 2012 was the high-water mark for public unions–public sentiment is strongly against them [see also the elections in San Diego@67% and San Jose@70%]

            http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/07/us/politics/san-diego-and-san-jose-pass-pension-cuts.html?pagewanted=all

            and in Wisconsin many of their own members quit when their dues are no longer automatically collected by the state.

            Had Walker been recalled and fully repudiated, the public unions could have held their line. But now it’s downhill from here.

            I’ll add that anger is the petrol for the most activist of the left, and their childish if not thuggish behavior in Madison was a fishing disgrace. [Such behavior would have permanently discredited the Tea Party, and deservedly so.] But take away this anger, I dunno what the left has remaining to make it go: again this election was a high-water mark for union-left organizing, activism, and shoeleather.

            The worm turned, and surely part of Walker’s victory must be viewed as a repudiation of Alinskyism, for lack of a better term.

            I think Ryan Buck is correct here that the left will need an affirmative message to survive, but I don’t know if it’s part of the left-to-far left’s wiring. Obama 2008 was certainly an affirmative message; I’m not sure about 2012, the strategy for which looks to be attacking Romney more than affirming the Obama presidency.

            We shall see.Report

            • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              The game has been played well by the right. Take away people’s retirement security in the private sector in the name of survival as you profit handsomely, then turn them against those in the public sector who still have one.Report

              • That rhetoric. Isn’t. Working, Jesse. That was the point, and I think Mr. Buck’s as well. The left can bounce that kind of talk around its echo chamber, but out in the real world, it’s “Who’s going to pay for it?”

                And you do realize that these recall elections that cost the taxpayers millions were all because Walker made state employees pay 6-12% of their own benefits.

                The large majority of rest of us do not see that as draconian. [See San Diego, San Jose.] the unfunded pension liabilities are simply off the charts.

                What a meany! Some years ago, they paid .2 of one percent, but in recent years had contributed NOTHING for their own retirement. Gov. Walker persuaded the Legislature to pass “Act 10” requiring that they contribute 5.9 percent of their salary for their pension.
                He also increased the employee contribution for health insurance from 4.35 percent of the premium paid by the state, to 12.6 percent, while the state paid 87.4 percent, or $13,972 per worker annually. Employees suddenly had to pay $308 million a year for their pensions and health care, due to Act 10. That made them furious.
                Yet according to a study by Jason Richwine of the Heritage Foundation and Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute, even with the increased contributions by public workers, “pension benefits for Wisconsin public employees are roughly 4.5 times” larger than private sector Wisconsin workers.

                ..

                Taxpayers delivered a clear message: no more public sector free lunches.
                They delivered a similar message on the same day in San Diego, America’s eighth largest city with 1.3 million residents and San Jose, the 10th largest U.S. city (946,000 people).
                By a whopping 70 percent vote in both cities, the public changed the retirement plans for new public employees from open-ended entitlements to 401(k)-style retirement plans that caps what taxpayers are on the hook for.
                Why? San Diego’s pension benefits cost $87 million in 2004, but $233.6 million this year. Similarly, San Jose’s pension costs jumped from $73 million a year a decade ago to $245 million — accounting for more than half of city payroll!
                Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                And you do realize that these recall elections that cost the taxpayers millions were all because Walker made state employees pay 6-12% of their own benefits.

                And 25 years ago, nobody at all paid that exorbitant of a rate.

                Rationally, the private sector workers got screwed first, then the Republicans went to turn them against the private sector employees. Walker’s “divide and conquer” strategy on a national level.

                That’s what is really happening. How many scandals have there been in the private sector in the last decade revolving around raided pension funds by firms like Bain? More than I care to count.

                The question that private sector workers should be asking isn’t “why do public sector employees have better benefits” while leaving off the added “while being paid less in salary than private sector employees.” It ought to be why is it that private sector workers have been getting fucked for the last 25 years by the 0.01 percent?.Report

              • Avatar dhex in reply to M.A. says:

                “then turn them against those in the public sector who still have one.”

                except for cops, corrections, etc.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to dhex says:

                “Divide and conquer.” Walker’s stated strategy.

                First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

                Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

                Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

                Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to dhex says:

                It’s a Wisconsocaust!Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                here I thought it was because of nuclear power plants. what do i know?Report

            • Avatar Liberty60 in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

              And as everyone’s wages decline, and the workers become increasingly desperate, willing to forgoe any semblance of negotiating power, as the wealth increasingly becomes concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, well then, by golly, things will be wonderful in America.Report

  4. Avatar Roger says:

    I live right down the road from the Wisconsin border and spend a couple of months a year in San Diego, but for the life of me have never heard even a faint semblance of a logical argument for why taxpayers would want to allow a special interest group in cahoots with politicians to siphon tax dollars into sweetheart union pensions. Is there actually an argument, or are you guys just fighting for your side?

    One of my best friends is the vice president of a private sector union in San Diego, and he is mad as hell at the abuse public officials have inflicted on tax payers in that city.Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Roger says:

      I think I just hit my bingo card. So many keywords, so little substance.

      Let me rewrite it a bit for you.

      for the life of me have never heard even a faint semblance of a logical argument for why private workers would want to allow a special interest group in cahoots with politicians to siphon tax dollars into CEO-level golden parachutes and stock manipulation scams while simultaneously destroying the right to unionize, the right to strike, the right to bargain collectively, the 40 hour workweek, minimum vacation and sick leave accrual and the ability to actually use it, the right not to be fired without just cause, the contractual right to receive what was promised in deferred compensation of all sorts, and the right to be paid equally regardless of gender or race for the same work. Is there actually an argument, or are you guys just fighting for your side?

      I’m fighting for the majority, the 99.99%. Who the hell are you fighting for, the Kochs and the Waltons?Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to M.A. says:

        No, MA, I meant an actual argument. I am not fighting for a side. I am for stopping the fighting. I believe in voluntary interactions. Not force. Not their side and our side.

        I have no idea what the Kochs, walton’s and CEOs have to do with public sector unions. Nor do I know where you concocted these imaginary rights from. Could you try to answer the question?Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Roger says:

          I have no idea what the Kochs, walton’s and CEOs have to do with public sector unions.

          Really?

          Here’s a starting primer. What do the Kochs, Waltons and CEOs have to do with public sector unions?

          The Waltons are defendants in the largest ongoing discrimination lawsuit in US history, and through strategic payoffs have managed to engage in massive discrimination against women while escaping judgement in the courts.

          The Kochs have bankrolled, at least in part, almost all of the pushes to make “right to work” (read: right to abuse) state laws across the US. Walker’s “divide and conquer” strategy comes to you courtesy of this abusive conglomerate with the Kochs at the helm.

          As for “imaginary rights”, please join us in the 21st century and leave the 19th century’s sweatshop labor attitude behind. Thanks.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to M.A. says:

            MA,

            Ok, I take it you are incapable of making an argument. Thanks.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Roger says:

              I take it you are incapable of showing a soul or an ounce of humanity.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to M.A. says:

                Namecalling is what people resort to when they are unable to provide actual arguments for normative claims.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Murali says:

                There was nothing of substance in his first post, and then there was “Ok, I take it you are incapable of making an argument. Thanks.

                And then there’s this steaming pile: “why taxpayers would want to allow a special interest group in cahoots with politicians to siphon tax dollars into sweetheart union pensions”

                Wake me to watch Roger’s head explode the next time one of the greedy pension-fund-robbers in his city holds them up for a new baseball or football stadium to be paid for on the taxpayer’s dime, I’m done with this level of rank dishonesty and I’m definitely done humoring the types of people who start out with namecalling and ad-hominem attacks as their mode of discourse.

                He has YET to define what he calls “union abuses.” TVD dodges the question in a dodge, dive, dip, duck, and dodge level of evasion. That’s because claiming there are “union abuses” is a great talking point without an ounce of substance to back it up, and I’m sick and tired of seeing that false claim from the right wing go unchallenged.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to M.A. says:

                The very nature and operation of unions can be problematic. Unions are basically labour cartels. Individual workers try to cooperate with eachother so as to increase their monopoly power. If all the workers can simultaneously threaten to strike or quit if wages are not increased, employers have no choice but to sit up and notice. If all unions did was try to form cartels like this, they wouldn’t be so problematic. However, s with any cartel, in any competitive market with low barriers to entry, cartelisation cannot be maintained as there are lots of incentives to defect. Employers can always hire others who are willing to sell their labour at a lower price. Unions recognise this and so desire laws that would force employers to recognise them as the sole representative of the workers. This is problematic because to force employees who don’t want to unionise or employers who don’t want unions to associate with them violates their freedom of association.

                Anyway, my comment was directed more at your claim about there being a right to a 40 hr work week or a right to a minimum wage etc. Roger was challenging you on such claims and you just resorted to calling him names.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Murali says:

                Each and every one of the laws I listed exists in either modern U.S. law or U.S. state laws. Most of them are also facets of European laws.

                If you want to see what society looks like without them, move to Somalia.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to Murali says:

                This seems to lead to a collective action problem facing workers. If workers can band together they increase they power but that does require laws that support unions. If a shop isn’t a “union shop” then it has no power. While that might be good for individuals who may be able to do better, the mass of workers will have less power. For many people a union is the only way to get some power in dealing with their employer. Unions are especially valuable for lower skilled workers who have little bargaining power on their own. I’ve seen plenty of non-union business who hire low skilled workers. They might as well moo.

                fwiw people throw around the word “right” for too often. I couldn’t’ care less whether we say their is a right to a 40 hour week or not. Is it a good idea; Should the gov. do something about it; What are the consequence of having, or not having, a 40 hour week are the questions that far more important and totally avoided by the rights discussion.Report

              • Avatar Plinko in reply to Murali says:

                Freedom of association is a right to associate, not a requirement that others associate with you on your terms.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

                I am interested in why public service workers believe they cannot be treated fairly by the state government? The “fair” rate is the rate at which nobody else is willing to do the same or better job for less. If government workers are demanding something above the fair rate, then taxpayers have a legitimate complaint. They are being hosed.

                I have absolutely no idea what the 99% angle has to do with this situation. Last I checked, the tax payers are the 99%. It is the tax payers who are being required to pay above market rates.

                Like Kazzy, I think unions are a great idea as long as they are voluntary. If they are not voluntary and optional, then they are just a source of coercive exploitation. If I became a teacher or fireman I would gracefully refuse membership. If you force membership on me, I will feel violated. If I was a taxpayer and found that unions and politicians had set up a sweetheart deal to give huge pensions that are paid out of my lower salary, I would feel violated.

                Does this make sense? What is the argument for this kind of exploitation?Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Murali says:

                Each and every one of the laws I listed exists in either modern U.S. law or U.S. state laws. Most of them are also facets of European laws.

                If you want to see what society looks like without them, move to Somalia.

                I live in Singapore. There is no minimum wage in singapore. For workers earning less than $1600 a month, there is a 44 hr work week. (Its not clear that such a regulation actuallybenefits lower income workers). As far as I can tell, there is nothing that requires employers to engage with unions. i.e. AFAIK singapore is a right to work country. Individual employers are free to hire non-union workers. The closest thing to a union shop are businesses run by NTUC. On paper, they are worker cooperatives, but in practice are just like any other corporation (except fors ome unhealthy government linkage). On the other hand, a lot of trade disputes are settled by an employer’s union, employee’s union and the ministry of manpower.

                In fact, singapore is a fairly anti-union place. It is illegal for employees in a large number of industries to strike. Of course it also similarly illegal for employers in said industries to lock workers out.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

                MA-

                Do you realize the ultimate consequences of much of what you propose? If you raise the minimum wage and institute a weekly cap on worker hours, companies are going to end up spending a lot more on labor costs. These costs get passed on to consumers. Who does this harm? Low income folks. How do you think Walmart keeps its prices low? Who shops at Walmart? Who is most harmed if Walmart prices start looking like Whole Food prices? The only way you stop all of *that* is to institute price controls and/or cap profits. Or hope for folks to do it out of the goodness of their heart. I’m not sure which approach is more fatally flawed.

                Is it pretty? Do I like that that is the reality? No. But it is. At least for now. And the line of thinking and argument you’ve taken here sure as hell ain’t doing anything to make it any less ugly.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Murali says:

                Roger:

                I am interested in why public service workers believe they cannot be treated fairly by the state government?

                People like you in elected office. Nobody honest and noncriminal can afford to run.

                The “fair” rate is the rate at which nobody else is willing to do the same or better job for less. If government workers are demanding something above the fair rate, then taxpayers have a legitimate complaint. They are being hosed.

                As it stands government employees are generally paid less than the “private market” for an equivalent position, so your argument is meaningless. The “taxpayers” aren’t getting hosed.

                I have absolutely no idea what the 99% angle has to do with this situation.

                Then you’re even more clueless than I imagined or you’re being deliberately dense. Weren’t you and your cohorts screaming about “the percent of people who don’t pay income taxes” just last month? Then when you get to localities it’s got a lot to do with property taxes, which many people don’t pay directly – they wind up having it added on as part of their rent before the slumlords pay it, and when those taxes get cut the savings are never ever passed on to the hoi polloi.

                Likewise for businesses. When’s a business tax cut ever resulted in a pay raise for anyone but CEO-land? Never, that’s when.

                Like Kazzy, I think unions are a great idea as long as they are voluntary.

                That’d be because you are an FYIGM-style free rider happy to take the benefits of a collective bargaining contract while not contributing and being involved.

                If they are not voluntary and optional, then they are just a source of coercive exploitation.

                Or they provide a benefit, and it’s unfair to have YOU be a leeching, disgusting free-rider who takes the benefit without participating.

                f I became a teacher or fireman I would gracefully refuse membership. If you force membership on me, I will feel violated. If I was a taxpayer and found that unions and politicians had set up a sweetheart deal to give huge pensions that are paid out of my lower salary, I would feel violated.

                Does this make sense? What is the argument for this kind of exploitation?

                FREE RIDER PROBLEM. What, are you so insanely dense that you cannot understand this fundamentally simple concept?

                It’s not exploitation. If you don’t participate, YOU are the problem and YOU are the exploiter. If you don’t want to participate? Move somewhere that doesn’t have unions. I suggest Somalia. Or take a job at somewhere else, but don’t get the benefit of a union that negotiates fair practices, fair wages, fair retirement benefits, and will stand up for you when there’s a problem.

                You’re a freaking thief if you go in, take the benefit, and don’t participate in the system. TPoFYIGM in action.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

                MA-

                You realize that non-members are not entitled to union-negotiated benefits unless employers agree to offer them, right? And that non-members are not afforded the same protections as members? There are costs associated with not joining the union, which are shouldered solely by the non-members electing to remain independent.

                If I fuck up on the job, there is no rubber room for me. I’m fired. Plain and simple. I don’t have tenure. I negotiate my contract independently each and every year.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Murali says:

                Kazzy,

                If you raise the minimum wage and institute a weekly cap on worker hours, companies are going to end up spending a lot more on labor costs.

                The same arguments were made against child labor laws. Along with “oh my god it’s a communist plot.”

                These costs get passed on to consumers. Who does this harm? Low income folks. How do you think Walmart keeps its prices low? Who shops at Walmart?

                The Wal-Mart model is the modern “company store” in action. Everything wrong with commerce in the past 2 decades can be seen in how Wal-Mart runs. And there are other stores with similar product lines, better workplace environments, and better treatment of employees that somehow manage to stay in business and do well.

                Who shops at Walmart? Who is most harmed if Walmart prices start looking like Whole Food prices?

                People who might be eating real food instead of potato chips by the forklift load?

                The only way you stop all of *that* is to institute price controls and/or cap profits. Or hope for folks to do it out of the goodness of their heart. I’m not sure which approach is more fatally flawed.

                Price Controls? Profit caps? Suggested and implemented by Republicans often. Around here every time the price of gas goes up they start in on it along with threats to “investigate” whichever crosses the dime line for “price gouging.”

                I wouldn’t blink or cry to see a limit placed on the salaries and golden-parachute or stock-option compensation given to upper management. Say, no more than 10x what their lowest employee is paid. We already saw that after the golden parachutes were all funded by taxpayer money in bailout land.

                Hey, why isn’t Roger offended by that? He’s mad at teachers who make 50k or less a year, but he can’t get off his self-righteous ass to complain about the billionaires who actually defrauded the taxpayers.

                Is it pretty? Do I like that that is the reality? No. But it is. At least for now. And the line of thinking and argument you’ve taken here sure as hell ain’t doing anything to make it any less ugly.

                The average workweek in the USA is 55 hours today, up from 40 in the 1970s. The rate of dual-income married households is up more than 25% in the same time period. Americans are getting worked to death and stressed to death; the increases in heart disease and obesity track quite closely to these figures.

                What’s “ugly” is the rise of right-to-work states and the constant fight against regulations that would save people from this sort of abuse. And it is abuse, perpetrated from the top down.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Murali says:

                You realize that non-members are not entitled to union-negotiated benefits unless employers agree to offer them, right?

                If you’re basing your salary on what others in your field are paid, or others in your company at similar jobs, then you’re getting a benefit out of union negotiations.

                If your workplace is reorganized with regard to better safety, you got a benefit from union negotiations.

                If you are receiving the same leave time accrual, and getting the same system of applying for leave and getting it approved, you got a benefit from union negotiations.

                This is impossible to disentangle. If there’s a union, and they have negotiated, you got the benefit. If you’re not a member, and you’re not participating, you’re a free-rider.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

                Dear mom,

                I know you are living off a fixed income and doing whatever is necessary to make ends meet, but according to my good friend MA, you should just accept the San Diego tax increases necessary to fund government service pensions today and in the future. Either that or you should move to Somalia. Quit being a leeching, disgusting, free rider.

                Love,
                Your son, RogerReport

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Murali says:

                Exactly *HOW MUCH* are we allowed to hold against free-riders?

                This is a question I’ve never seen sufficiently answered.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

                Exactly *HOW MUCH* are we allowed to hold against free-riders?

                Enough to eliminate the ‘free’ part?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Murali says:

                Dear Roger’s Mom,

                You should actually blame conservatives and libertarians like your son who think it’s a good thing to continually cut taxes and give sweetheart deals to businesses instead of getting the revenues you need for the future.

                Or, you can blame unions for the fact they want what they were promised – like those Wall Street bankers who got the bonuses they were promised after sending the economy into the dirt.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Murali says:

                Enough to eliminate the ‘free’ part?

                Let’s start passing legislation.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

                Ahhh, yes. Another teachable moment.

                Nice!Report

              • Avatar Herb in reply to Murali says:

                “Anyway, my comment was directed more at your claim about there being a right to a 40 hr work week or a right to a minimum wage etc.”

                I would invite anyone interested in the history of the 40 hour work week or minimum wage or labor protections to investigate the early history of the industrial revolution. These things did not bubble out of the ether. They were responses to exploitative practices which, even if you’re philosophically inclined to accept them, were untenable.

                People died to make sure you weren’t working from sun-up to sundown, to make sure you’re getting paid for the work you do, to make sure you’re not risking your life when you show up for work. (Wikipedia has an article on the Colorado Labor Wars. Check it out for a primer of what I’m talking about.)

                I guess for me it all comes down to this: I’d be more sympathetic to employers who don’t want to associate with unions if those employers weren’t so exploitative. Indeed, I see the local union rep saying something like, “I get it. You don’t want to negotiate with my union. Well I don’t want to shop at your company store.”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Murali says:

                “People died to make sure you weren’t working from sun-up to sundown”

                People died to keep Hitler from taking over the world, but that doesn’t mean we should still be killing Germans today.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

                Dear Jesse,

                My son was raised to reject privileges granted by government to private interests. He would strongly oppose bail outs of wall street or special deals of any type. Indeed, I brought him up to value strong limits on governments to avoid such temptations for abuse.

                Can you please clarify what tax reductions I have been getting in San Diego? Better yet, can you clarify why it is that I should be on the hook to give better benefits and higher pay to government workers than I ever made?

                If I do choose to move (based upon MAs suggestion I am considering it) who is going to pay for those pension guarantees that were never funded? I volunteer you and MA.

                Roger’s MomReport

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

                Herb,

                I disagree with your logic and history.

                First, you guys need to drop the arguments that this is about private sector unions. We are talking about unfunded public service pensions being forced unwiitingly upon taxpayers, or future taxpayers.

                Actually, higher wages, safer working conditions, shorter hours and better benefits DID bubble out of the ether. They are part of the miracle of human productivity. As people specialize, cooperate and compete they raise productivity. This allows us to produce more, better, more efficiently. This leads to the ability to make more in fewer hours under safer working conditions.

                Unions don’t produce products and services. Workers do, in cooperation with managers, capital and entrepreneurs. All unions do, absent coercion which will destroy economic efficiency, is bargain collectively for the terms of their fair share of the pie. This fair share is set based upon market rates, that is, the rate at which nobody else will do the same job for less. ( By terms, the union can indeed exchange less pay for safer conditions in a logical and efficient fashion. This is a form of value creation, assuming workers prefer the negotiated package and union costs over what they could negotiate on their own)

                The idea that better working conditions came primarliy from a union struggle is romantic revisionism and is based upon economic myths. At most, unions allowed workers to trade off one form of compensation for another.

                We also have different definitions of exploitation. To you this seems to be defined as “offering someone a job” or perhaps just offering them one at terms which are not acceptable to you. To me, exploitation involves coercion, deception or force. In a free market, employees choose which company to work for among thousands of competing alternatives. In general, job offers are a good thing and can be expected to benefit both the worker and the employer.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Murali says:

                The 40 hour week arises from the private sector union and not from government legislation. I’m getting sick and tired of these fact-free rebuttals.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Murali says:

                Blaise,
                This thread is too long and strung out, and it is not clear who you are refuting. I am pretty sure it isn’t me, as I never suggested it was legislated.

                MA,
                Every once in a while you throw out something that is worthy of a response, but in general I quit responding because you are just flaming an imaginary version of me. As such I’ve tuned you out. Sorry.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Murali says:

                In the time since I submitted my first guest column, I have yet to see Roger offer a single fact. He’s good at slinging insults and trolling, but that’s about it.

                Case in point where Roger says:
                Actually, higher wages, safer working conditions, shorter hours and better benefits DID bubble out of the ether.

                No. It didn’t. It started with working unions in Europe and then made its way to America.

                And with that I rest my case. Roger isn’t here to offer factual debate, he’s just here to troll.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Murali says:

                “Move to Somalia” is the Libertarian Godwin.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Murali says:

                The ironic part about M.A.’s posts is that he’s the one calling other people trolls.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Murali says:

                Duck: you’re the reference troll implementation.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

                @M.A.,
                “Who shops at Walmart? Who is most harmed if Walmart prices start looking like Whole Food prices?”

                People who might be eating real food instead of potato chips by the forklift load?

                Wow, we didn’t just see a little liberal class bias against the working class there, did we?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

                M.A. actually addresses something I’ve been pondering lately, why “public” employees need unions. After all, from the liberal perspective, government is supposed to be superior to the free market, so I can get why liberals would want unions in the private sector, but it’s not so clear why, then, they would be needed in that superior form of organization, the government. M.A.’s response is that they’re necessary because the wrong type of politicians get into office, and they’re unfair to public employees.

                Let’s accept that answer at face value and run with it, ignoring all questions about what counts as unfair, who’s the wrong type of politician, etc. Just work with his answer.

                So, given that we’re likely to have the wrong type of politicians in office, what is the basis for liberals’ confidence that government will work to counteract the problems of the market? Based on M.A.’s argument, it sounds like the case is that government will recapitulate the problems of the market, no?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Murali says:

                JH-

                MA is making me rethink ever designating myself a liberal…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali says:

                Based on M.A.’s argument, it sounds like the case is that government will recapitulate the problems of the market, no?

                I don’t think the argument is that government will recapitulate the problems of the market but rather that it may . And if so, then public CB is justified on the same grounds as private CB.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Murali says:

                “MA is making me rethink ever designating myself a liberal.”

                Which is why it’s so hilarious that he’s calling other people trolls.

                The troll that provokes only flames in response is not the true troll.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Murali says:

                Stillwater,

                But apparently the likelihood is high enough that collective bargaining is not something public employees would rationally forgo, so the difference with the market seems functionally minimal.

                FWIW, that’s much the point of view I take, so I’m not saying M.A. is wrong.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

      Roger-

      There are legitimate concerns about the lack of checks-and-balances that exist when public sector unions negotiate with elected and unelected officials. I don’t know that banning unions and/or collective bargaining is the way to go. Rather, a more effective system of checks-and-balances would seem to be the right course. Though I won’t pretend to know what that system should look like.Report

      • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy,

        Yeah, that makes sense. Certainly I would agree that there are other ways to balance public srrvice abuses other than banning unions or prohibiting all collective bargaining. Indeed I think voluntary unions are a great idea for some people. Personally, I can’t imagine ever joining one, but that is just me. I’m fine with others joining just so long as I am neither forced to or required to pay dues against my will.

        Are you aware of what the argument is for the continuing the union abuses in San Diego and Wisconsin?Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

          I don’t know what specific “union abuses” were happening in SD or WI, so I won’t really comment on them. If you flesh them out, I’m happy to weigh in (though I won’t necessarily endorse any argument in favor of whatever the union was doing).

          The primary reason I am opposed to banning unions and/or collective bargaining is it seems to be a fundamental violation of the right to free assembly and association. Like you, I have real issues with any requirements that people join a union or that employers hire from within unions.Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy says:

            I don’t know what specific “union abuses” were happening in SD or WI

            Let me spell it out for you:

            – Teachers being paid a fair wage and fair benefits.
            – Cops and firefighters being paid a fair wage and benefits, with an option to supplement their pensions by taking deferred compensation. Most cops do this, and they accrue to the maximum pension benefits under formula by staying with the city or at least the state throughout their careers.
            – Other public officials – the secretaries, the document preparers, the DMV workers, animal control workers, traffic engineers, even the lower level elected positions – do similar things. Public employees tend to remain public employees. Part of it is that the government is actually an equal opportunity employer, instead of lying about it, and so winds up hiring a lot of people who otherwise don’t get hired like disabled vets and single mothers. Part of it is that the government tends to hire a lot of minorities. Part of it is that many government employees were hired in the 1970s or even 1980s and saw the job they were entering as a full career, as opposed to the “switch jobs every two years” culture we have today in the younger generation and the private sector nurtured by a complete destruction of the idea of employer respect for employees.

            That’s what Roger and TVD consider “abuses.” And it sickens me to see TPoFYIGM treating more than 99% of the citizens of this country that way.Report

            • Avatar karl in reply to M.A. says:

              Well said.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to M.A. says:

              Fair Wages and Benefits like it was the 1950s, back when the labor force was artificially constrained because it was okay to refuse to hire women and blacks and atheists, and we’d just got done blowing up most of the civilized world so there was a lot of work to rebuild it, and there were thousands of jobs in the military-industrial complex that kept the Russians from coming over the pole and wiping us all out.Report

          • Avatar Plinko in reply to Kazzy says:

            A good overview of the Milwaukee County pension scandal:
            http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/29483804.html
            As far as I know, there are no ‘scandals’ in WI beyond this and the current political fight over public employee’s loss of statutory bargaining rights.

            As I called out below, While America Aged spends about a third of it’s length explaining what happened in San Diego – the political and budgetary fallout is still occurring. It also spends time on GM and then on the New York Transit Workers Association.

            Neither of these are anti-union screeds. Neither of these situations are necessarily indicative of what must happen once you have public sector unions, but they are quite illustrative of the risks that come with poorly managed and monitored institutions.

            Hand waving these sort of things as ‘no big deal’ is not doing liberalism any favors. I worry about anyone who, upon hearing these stories, believes they are not a big deal to the citizens of those communities.Report

        • Avatar Plinko in reply to Roger says:

          Wisconsin’s abuses were limited entirely to severe mismanagement and corruption in Milwaukee county. In both that case and in San Diego, the blame lies with those city officials that bankrupted their constituent’s future so they could put up false claims about fiscal solvency and loudly proclaim how they’d cut taxes and balanced the budgets, all while piling up massive future expenses off the books.
          It’s silly to blame unions for wanting and taking generous pay and benefit terms, what’s needed are stricter laws and accountability for those entrusted with taxpayer finances.Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to Plinko says:

            Plinko,

            I completely agree that it is a shame where hard working government workers have the rug taken out from under them. But aren’t the union officials to blame as well?

            This just highlights the problem. It is too easy for politicians and unions to bury costs in the future and deliver lucrative, but inherently wrong payouts to government unions. This is a recipe for abuse, and the politicians and union bosses are gonna make out and the taxpayers and workers are gonna have their hearts broken.

            To unite politicians and unions within a government monopoly is likely to lead to taxpayer and worker fleecing.Report

            • Avatar Plinko in reply to Roger says:

              I see you, Roger. But it’s too easy to throw our hands up, no amount of cutting of government is going to end the necessity of some government employees, if we put it that way, it’s intractable. It’s also quite true that the same abuses were rampant with a lot of big corporations, it’s not a feature of government per se but of limited time horizons for accountability.
              Stricter accounting standards would almost largely be sufficient in and of themselves, if taxpayers and shareholders were required to be given more complete pictures of the plans, I believe a lot of these abuses would never have happened or been severely curtailed.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Plinko says:

                Plinko,
                I am not throwing my hands up or recommending no government workers. I am suggesting an organized special interest group teamed with politicians against tax payers is problematic in definition.

                The differences between private and public are:
                1. Private firms have standards on pension funding that they maintain by diverting returns to stockholders, who chose to invest in this company
                2. Private firms compete with better managed companies, and consumers can immediately shift to wisely managed ones
                3. Private ones don’t face the problem of concentrated benefits and distributed, opaque costs.Report

              • Avatar Plinko in reply to Roger says:

                Roger, you and I are probably closer in perspective on this than with a lot of people in the thread.

                I will say that 1 and 2 are mostly true but didn’t seem to prevent several major firms from making very similar errors and putting their companies at risk and destroying some of them (GM is exhibit A) and they are clearly vulnerable to 3.

                Fortunately for their shareholders, most of them figured out the problem in the 80s and started eliminating or altering their pension programs significantly, which is why I will likely never have one.
                It’s only recently that those same problems are starting to get into the consciousness of the public and our elected/appointed officials.

                We have a long way to go in terms of getting our heads on straight as a nation about pensions and retirement funding in general.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Plinko says:

                The private pension model ceased to be viable when it became clear, back in the 80s, that paid-up pension funds were irresistible targets for leveraged buyouts. To the company, the pension fund is an asset dedicated to paying future obligations. To the LBO artist, it’s a big wad of cash. Thus the company is now worth more dismembered than as a going concern.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Roger says:

              You have yet to describe what you mean by “inherently wrong” or “abuses.” Still dodging, no doubt.Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Roger says:

      I’m in a mood today, I suppose, but to heck with it. I’m tired of completely baseless nonsense like I saw you write here.

      Republicans have referred to “greedy, lazy teachers.” They’ve referred to “a special interest group in cahoots with politicians” who are “siphon[ing] tax dollars into sweetheart union pensions.”

      And all of this describing a group of people – schoolteachers – whose only request is to be paid a fair wage enough to raise their own children while providing taxpayer-provided daycare and at the same time attempting to educate the spoiled, self-righteous, morally bankrupt brats that neanderthals like you keep breeding.

      You want to know why “pensions” are so high for counties compared to the private sector? Because cops and firefighters generally take deferred payment options unavailable to the private sector, stay in the same county for 30-4o years accruing pension benefits. In the private sector, pensions were phased out by the greedy 0.01% in favor of “investment options” like 401(k)s that all crashed when the market crashed. In the private sector, most employees today don’t even manage to stay at their jobs long enough to become vested in a company’s equal-contribution scheme at the few companies that haven’t discontinued theirs.

      Republicans’ plan for everyone’s retirement is “just win the lottery.” Or “try to beat the market with investment options”, which amounts to the same thing. It’s not sane, nor is it fiscally sound, but they’ve managed to sell it to enough mentally deficient imbeciles that they can use it in the inevitable “me me me mine mine mine” screams that repeat every election cycle.

      I’m tired of debating this, because your arguments are so divorced from reality that there really is no point in continuing further and anything else is just making me more and more angry at the utterly selfish greed and completely sociopathic hatred for your fellow human beings that your posts show. I’ll offer a new acronym as my final contribution: TPoSoE is now TPoFYIGM.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

        MA-

        Besides your tactics being foolish and indefensible, you are now making some ignorant position statements.

        I am a teacher, but not a member of a union (I teacher in an independent school). Many things that unions push for have nothing to do with providing quality education to children or with helping teachers to raise their children. A teachers union functions just like every other union… protect the jobs and interests of their members. While on the face of it, this is a noble goal that all of us strive for, whether through a union or on our union, the way that many unions (teachers and non-teachers, public and private alike) seek it is very problematic. Read up on “rubber rooms” in NYC and the union’s objection to expediting hearings to see one example of some of the bad that some unions engage in.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy says:

          Demanding that a class of people take what amounts to an approximate 10% wage cut and then still blaming them for a state’s budget woes? Publicly stating that the goal is to “divide and conquer” a state to impose a slavery-analogue “right to work” dynamic?

          Taking hefty kickback money for selling a state’s public utilities to a private entity for pennies on the dollar?

          Denuding the private sector, irreparably harming an entire generation of Americans, and then telling them that the people to blame are “the unions” and calling the people who work for the government “greedy” even as the investments of private workers all over the country are destroyed in an economic firestorm caused by the rampant deregulation that the 0.01% bought with bribery money?

          And my tactics are “foolish and indefensible”?

          I’ve seen the reports on “rubber rooms”, and all other sorts of imagined abuses that people can dream up to complain about unions. I’ve also seen the levels of abuse that go on in “right to work” states, where employees can be fired for the most frivolous things. “Right To Work” is the Republican dog-whistle for legally allowed racism, sexism, and discrimination against gays just as “states’ rights” was 50 years ago. Watch a young woman cry her way home after losing her job because the boss considers ear piercings “un-christian” and tell me with a straight face that worker protection laws and unions aren’t needed.

          TPoFYIGM.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

            MA-

            I never said that worker protection laws or unions aren’t needed. In fact, if you read my other statements to Roger, you’d see that I believe banning unions and/or collective bargaining as an infringement on the right to free association and assembly. I’m no enemy of unions. But I also don’t believe we get anywhere by viewing the world as myopically black and white as you do. Unions aren’t all good. They aren’t all bad. They should be encouraged to do the good that they do and discouraged or criticized for the bad.

            Rubber rooms are a very real thing. And they exist as a result of collective bargaining. Their intention was to ensure that teachers accused of misconduct get a fair shake. Rather than being fired without a hearing, “rubber rooms” were created to keep teachers employed while they waited for their hearing and/or appeals. At one point, the average wait for a hearing was two years, meaning teachers were collecting a salary for sitting around doing nothing; bad teachers who were guilty weren’t being fired and good teachers who were wrongly accused weren’t being allowed to clear their names and get back into the classroom. But all the union saw was the prospects of teachers being fired. So when the school district proposed accelerating the process, the union balked. This was a major failing and embarrassment. Eliminate the rubber rooms and all the bad teachers getting paid to do nothing and, hey, look at that, more money to give to teachers and to fund benefits and pensions. But, nope, couldn’t suffer a job loss.

            Reality, MA. This happens. Yes, I know that workers are abused and that is a damn shame. I am not defending any of that. But you are blindly defending unions without even considering what it is you are defending. And when people point that out to you, you stick your fingers in your ears and shout them down.Report

            • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy says:

              At one point, the average wait for a hearing was two years, meaning teachers were collecting a salary for sitting around doing nothing; bad teachers who were guilty weren’t being fired and good teachers who were wrongly accused weren’t being allowed to clear their names and get back into the classroom. But all the union saw was the prospects of teachers being fired. So when the school district proposed accelerating the process, the union balked.

              And I’ve been doing some more research on this. It seems the district and state had started a “task force” designed to pick off teachers, as well as hiring new principals with orders to start building cases against certain teachers. A number of the teachers targeted were either also union representatives for their districts, or longstanding teachers with seniority. And many of the teachers targeted already had lawsuits pending against the state for various infractions and employment violations.

              You complain that the union balked at expedited hearings. From where I can see it, the only reason the wait period got so long is that the state was conducting its own little pogroms, doing their level best to weed out union representatives and teachers with seniority in a cynical ploy not dissimilar to the old BELL System scams to defraud workers and block them from becoming vested in retirement programs. The state flooded the system with teachers, some of whom may have been incompetent but many of whom were targeted for reasons of age (illegal age discrimination, but we know it happens) or because of their positions in union hierarchy.

              Reality. This happens. And there are two sides to every story, and you and Roger aren’t even being honest about yours.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                This is what I’m talking about, in simple terms easier to read than the court documents.

                And the state, trying to target elderly teachers and engage in illegal age discrimination, was doing it and continues to.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

                A link to a situation you claim is similar is not evidence of your position.

                And you do realize that, generally speaking, I am more onyour side than Roger’s. But you make “our” side look like total jackasses.Report

            • Avatar Herb in reply to Kazzy says:

              I’ve heard this rubber room stuff come up before, but it never seems to be acknowledged that the rubber room policy (which no doubt sucks) is the result of an agreement unique to that situation, not the inevitable result of union involvement.

              It seems like a lot of anti-union folks seem to think that once the union gets recognized, the rubber rooms start opening up. Not the case.Report

        • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Kazzy says:

          I only want my union to do a handful of things for me and it does them. They are:

          1) Work to keep my compensation as in line as possible with a similar work/ education in the private sector. Teachers, by education and experience, are paid a fraction of what the same person makes “in the real world”.

          2) Protect me from random, unfair, or unethical firings. I don’t want a rubber room (we don’t have in this district and we fire people guilty of misconduct pretty quickly). But if a parent calls angry at me for some perceived slight, I want a fair chance to be heard, not handed a box and told to clear out my desk.

          3) Advocate for best teaching practices over cost saving. Sure you can save money by putting 35 kids in a class room and then telling a teacher “find ways to teach all of them at once”. You get better teaching with 25 kids in a room and those kids have enough commonalities in ability and prior knowledge that instruction can be targeted. Our union works towards that.

          But that as it is, unions have to be all or nothing. You can’t have some people in a building/ district in it, and some not. If the union negotiates for class sizes capped at 30 kids, do you think they’re going to simply put 35 kids in your room because you’re not in the union? IF we negotiate for better medical coverage as part of our compensation, (which most of us accept the lower pay because the “Cadillac benefits” helped balance that out), are they just going to pay someone else less? By much?

          I’m very curious what is “Fair” when I as a union member pay $200 for dues to get the benefits of collective bargaining and you simply get to enjoy the benefits….Report

          • Avatar Roger in reply to A Teacher says:

            Teacher,

            Wages are set by supply and demand within the framework of total productivity within the market. ( higher productivity markets have higher comparative advantage premiums and thus everyone tends to make more, even the relatively unskilled). If wages are lower then seems appropriate for teachers it is because more people value this line of employment. They are thus willing to do the job for less, and thus pulling down wages. Placing coercive barriers that prevent these people from getting jobs is morally reprehensible and economically inefficient. It is s subtle or opaque form of exploitation. Economists refer to this as rent seeking.

            Unions are one way to protect you from employer actions which you disagree with. Another way is to choose a school district or school which has a reputation for treating its employees fairly. That is what those of us that worked in the private sector did. We interviewed with companies that have good reputations. In thirty years, I was never once exploited. If I had been, I would have left and taken my productive capabilities elsewhere.

            I am skeptical that unions are fighting much for the welfare of students. If they are, economic theory would suggest a better path. Just allow the consumer (parents) to choose the school and the terms that best meet their needs. This will introduce competition into the system and lead to the schools responding to the customer, as opposed to the employee.

            I would be fine of being given a choice. I can join the union and get this package, or I can stay independent and get this package. If you try to use force to make me join against my will, again YOU are the exploiter.

            Stop trying to use force and coercion to make others do what you want, especially where it violates basic economic common sense. Play nice.Report

            • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Roger says:

              Hmm… some interesting points. Let’s play ball.

              “If you feel underpaid it’s because you either need to go where the money’s better or you need to deal with the fact that people don’t value what you do enough to pay more for it. Also higher productivity helps raise value and wages.”

              Part of the problem with this model is that our “customers” don’t often know the value of the product while they’re receiving it. Yes there are rubrics related to how a given current group of students is doing, but a lot of our lessons are longer term than that. Some classes (Intro Algebra or Composition) are really setup classes for later education, and it’s not until you’re in those situations that you realize just how valuable a given kind of education is.

              Also, parents do not directly pay teachers for teaching children. If I were a private tutor that would make sense. Your kid’s test scores go up, I’m clearly good, pay up. However, my paycheck comes from a fun that is administered by a school board that is supposed to represent the will “of the people”. However, it is, quite often, the case where school boards and communities are also at odds. Attend a meeting where the Board wants to close a few schools down in a community.

              I will not, however, argue about the fact that if people are willing to do it for less it deflates wages. But therein lies a problem:

              Teaching takes time to get good at. We could have people come through, fresh out of a college, unsure what they want to do and think “hey I’ll try teaching for a while, how bad can it be?” They’ll happily take a low wage just to get some money while they sort out what they ~Really~ want to do. Think about the opening of Mr. Holland’s Opus: Composer takes job teaching music so he has (chuckle) more time to write his Opus. So we’ve got all these kids coming in and driving down wages.

              And then ~leaving~ in one or two years when they realize “OMG This is SUXXX!” The vocation is not, generally, benefited by that kind of roll over. It takes time and investment to get good at all the systems we have to navigate. Perhaps the fix is to raise the barrier of entry, only we can’t do that because we want “Highly Trained” teachers too. Right now the move is to LOWER the bar, not raise it.

              “If you want to be treated fairly, only work for people who treat you fairly.”

              There are a few things to think about here but let me put it to you this way:

              A few years ago we had a class go through 5 teachers in 6 months. The first teacher left at midterms to relocate with her husband. We had, of the next 4 subs, 1 quit and 2 fired. The one who quit did not even give notice; she just didn’t show up and called at 7am to say she’d had it. Now, in an office setting we’d have a meeting to reassign tasks during the hiring process, and move on. But we can’t just “reassign” 30 kids per hour times 5 hours of kids to other teachers while we sort this out.

              And you know who suffered? The students. I had them the following year and their prior knowledge was non-existant. I spent as much time teaching concepts from the previous course as I did the current one. It was rough. When we want protections from willy-nilly firings it’s not just for ourselves but because of the nature of the job.

              Also, the courts tend to move very very slowly when it comes to wrongful discharge. A friend was asked to remove a piece of religious iconary by the principal. He refused citing first ammendment protections. He was sent home for insubordination. In a wrongful discharge case, they could end up siding with him but in that time his students would have had to be assigned sub’s, he’d be out of work, and all other manner of wackiness would follow when it simply didn’t need to be if there were a better system beyond “Fire me and sort it out in the courts.”

              “Parents just need more choices and that will fix it all”.

              First, go back to my first comment: The benefits of good teaching aren’t often known during the classes themselves. It can take years for someone to really realize just how awesome a teacher (or coach or mentor) was in being hard on them as a youth. Playing the “Let them go where they like” can easily create a system where Very Well Intentioned parents end up hurting their kids by finding them teachers/ schools which do not challenge, do not prepare but instead make everyone “feel good.”

              Also the idea of choice is based on something that is also very impractical for the vast majority of families: Choice.

              I want to make burger’s tonight. So where do I get my hamburger meat? I can go to the chain grocery store, I can go to the specialty meat market or I can stop at the convience store and get some frozen patties out of their freezer. I have all of these within roughly equal distance to my house.

              Now a real conesouir of burgers will insist on nothing but ~the best~. So that individual may be willing to drive the distance to get the hormone free, free range, hand ground hamburger meat. But most of us will stick with the stuff nearby.

              Which in the case of schools does not leave much choice. Yes some parents will find a way to get their kid to the “best” school. However for a working family that’s rarely an option. In fact looking at the fall, for my wife and I get our two kids to elementary school and daycare we have to plan as though we’re about to storm Omaha Beach. And the morning is looking like it will have that kind of precision. “0545 your shower time, go go go. I’ve got the bottle in the warmer. 0615 we have to move X to dressing station. Wheels up at 0622. Let’s GO people!”

              There is also the issue that school of choice and “competition” rarely compare apples to apples. In a given year student quality/ preparation/ etc can vary wildly. If a school shows a particular ACT average do you know ~why~? Can you say for sure that it’s the quality of the school and not a product of the parent involvement, student prior knowledge, and other community support?

              Teaching is not building cars. It’s not selling TV’s. Education, at large, is ~not~ your typical service product. Trying to treat it as one is why this country’s education system is slipping. It’s not the fix.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to A Teacher says:

                Teacher,

                I kept looking for where I wrote what you quoted. I get it now that your quotes are your interpretation or summary of what I wrote. Ok.

                I understand and agree that the consumers do not have anything even close to perfect information on the quality of their kids education. That is part of the value of an expert such as yourself. A free market solution would be to allow parents to choose, allow experts such as yourself to educate and market yourselves and your reputation. In an open market, it isn’t one part of the system that changes, it would become a new system. It would, however, never run perfectly. Just a lot better, imo.

                Similarly, if parents chose their kids education, do you really believe they would choose a school with high turnover and inexperienced teachers? I wouldn’t, would you? You point it out yourself that the customer is the one who suffers, and that as an expert in the field you know it. In the free market, we build successful, consumer-oriented strategies around this kind of insight. Free market schools would hire people with expertise like mine to show them the way. ( I led teams that created, designed, implemented and marketed consumer products and services). I would be like a kid in a candy store working in the education field.

                Your point on the local nature of schools is similarly stuck in the current system paradigm. There is no reason that competition cannot start within the current infrastructure. Where it evolves to nobody can predict. To be specific, one of many possibilities is that companies could compete for existing class slots, or supply their own class via a portable.

                A free market in education would lead to better teachers, better teaching and a healthier, more prosperous society which demands even better teachers and pays them better to boot. Education and health care are the two industries that have been hijacked by progressives and various special interests ( who thrive off paternalistic progressive bureaucracies). They are the two most dysfunctional industries in America.

                Progressive ideology is the death of progress.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Roger says:

                The free market solves all problems. If it doesn’t solve all problems, it wasn’t really a free market. Or they weren’t really problems.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to MikeSchilling says:

                Perhaps if we had better technocrats, our programs would deliver better returns.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

                Roger, I’ll concede that public education is historically part of the ‘progressive’ program. But healthcare? If anything, healthcare in the US is determined by private interests and private profit motive and the resulting dysfunction is why why government is necessary.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater says:

                The number one thing that bugs me is not knowing how much innovation comes from “private profit” organizations compared to the more socialized organizations.

                The biggest breakthroughs in diabetes, breast cancer, cholesterol, stroke, hormone disorders, neonatal science… all that. Where did they come from?

                I don’t know the answer (but my suspicion is that they came from the US (but I *WOULD* think that)).

                *IF* my intuition is right, does that mean anything at all?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Jaybird says:

                Hiya! I work for one of the largest independent health care organizations in the country. We’re a nonprofit. I could probably drop you ten things that would make your day, that we did in the past ten years. One or two of them might even be from our insurance wing.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

                Stillwater,

                I am suggesting that tens of thousands of pages of regulations, cronyism, massive overlapping bureaucracies, tax disincentives, cost control, central redesign, the separation of payment from benefit and redistribution are what I define as Progressive nirvana. I recognize that in reality the republicans have done almost as much of this damage as the democrats.

                Jaybird, I remember reading an article that the vast majority of pharmaceutical breakthroughs still come from US firms. I think it was on Megan McCardle’s (ex)blog Socialization of the industry should solve that “problem”.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

                Roger, I think you’re confusing things here. What you’re describing isn’t the result of progressives or even consistent with the progressive agenda. It’s the result of individual and corporate non-ideological self-interest. Everyone who’s in the for-profit game shares one overriding goal: to make more profits. So it’s no surprise that they purchase favors on the legislative and enforcement side to achive that goal. I don’t know how that can be eliminated without dismantling government completely. (See my comment to Plinko.)Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                Stillwater,
                math and metrics are my best guess. it’s no surprise that the more scientifically related bureacracies are less bureacratic than others.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Stillwater,

                The pursuit of profits in reasonably unfettered markets does not lead to anything like the health care industry. I see this as exactly what emerges from the progressive, top down over-regulated progressive and crony capitalism agenda, whether intended or not. Poorly managed interference disturbs the market, creating problems, which leads to more interference, which leads to massive regulatory bureaucracies, which are then captured by various special interest groups, which seek massive rents and privilege, which leads to high prices, scarcity and unaffordability and reduced innovation.

                This is the horror story libertarians tell their kids every night… You better be good or the Obamacare Bureaucrat will get you while you sleep.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                Roger,
                do you say the same thing about the widescale abandonment of housing /flood insurance in the coastal south?

                Where does it blasted well MANDATE that 15% of Americans ought to be refused individual health care plans because they Had A Baby????

                How about refused health care plans for Major Depressive Disorder (since cleared up oh, ten years ago, and caused by a death in the family)?????

                Lastly, where does it say that a trip to the emergency room for a spontaneous abortion ought not to get covered and instead classed as a “abortion, hence voluntary and not covered”???

                The libertarians have a lot of blood on their hands. I can go on if you’d like.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                because we’re all for denying health insurance for c-sections! 20 years after, even!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                Yammering about how progressives have doomed progress — where do you get such nonsense? There is a wonderful yardstick for measuring a student’s progress, it’s called a report card. Parents have to sign it.

                As for choice, that’s another non-starter. Every modern nation state features public education and educational standards for private schools and home schooling. Who’s going to take the autistic kids? Once, this nation viewed public education as an investment in our society: illiterate people are a drag on the economy. That’s why the Middle East is in such a fucked-up state of affairs, about half the people are illiterate so nobody can put in a factory. In some countries, it’s even worse. Saddam Hussein imposed literacy on Iraq and it became a middle class country. Now Iraq’s educational system is all screwed up again, it’s a Third World country now.

                Investing in a society is a larger problem than producer-consumer. I’m starting a new consultancy. I don’t want experienced people: I’m the experience. I’m picking up top-shelf talent out of the community college, training them to do things the right way. Without that resource pool, I’d be fucked. So would half the code shops around here.

                I’d very much like to see more K-12 education conducted online. That way teachers could eliminate homework and just trot the kids through daily tiered exams, mastering each level and them promoted to the next level. The teacher intervenes where each kid gets stuck: say a kid could be doing well enough in algebra until he reaches the binomial theorem. The teacher and student go one-on-one, the kid gets over that hump and progresses up the ladder. Not much different than a game level, really.

                You have it exactly backward. Companies will only go where there’s a pool of educated talent. Don’t expect the market to solve this mess. It hasn’t and it won’t.Report

              • Avatar A Teacher in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Of course you’d make great coders with that system but they’d be wretched horrible at doing much else. All that screen time and next to no intervention would translate to a pool of isolated anti-social test takers.

                The report card is a very dicey measure of student progress given how easy it is to fix grades. Even now we’ve got a horrible problem with grade inflation because student grades are becoming more and more a measure of teacher than students, so the incentive to grade easy and teach ~directly~ to test questions is at an all time high.

                Also, online schools suck. I had the honor to mentor an online class, meaning I had 40 kids in a computer lab all doing online classes. Most of them failed to finish their course work in a timely fashion, and no amount of intervention could keep them on track. When they got stuck they didn’t ask for help or even accept help. Most of them turned to using their time to find ways to game the system. One student would copy and paste entire pages from Wikepedia into her answer boxes rather than read the assignments.

                Online schools are great for a very very small group. A group that doesn’t need any school at all, just access to information and they’ll self learn.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to A Teacher says:

                I don’t know what context your online class might have been, so I won’t hazard a guess. This much I do know, I wrote a system that worked and consulted on several others. My setup was in-classroom. A non-responsive student set off an alert on the teacher desk. Most of the time, the teacher walked around in the computer lab, keeping an eye on the situation, often pulling a group out for instruction based on where they were on the trails.

                Every kid also knew where every other kid was on the trails, too. This encouraged teamwork with kids on the same trail.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to A Teacher says:

                My (admittedly limited) experience with online learning differs from yours greatly. I was actually a skeptic (for most students, most of the time) until I saw it in action.Report

              • Avatar A Teacher in reply to A Teacher says:

                Our program was 40 kids in a computer lab with 1 teacher. Of the 40 kids, 2-3 would be taking the same class as each other. If a student was off task there was no penalty other than “You’re falling behind you should catch up” said by various people up through the principal. I spent most of the year playing wack-a-mole with them to keep them on task.

                One student, as I noted, “finished” her course by copy/pasting wikipedia articles into the text boxes for her homework, which hit all of the key words and got her full credit. When I discovered she was doing this, her solution was to … keep doing it. When I cited her for cheating, I was told that I should tell her to stop and continue to reset the assignments. She did not stop. She did not finish the class either, mostly because she kept having her homework reset by me.

                Another student collaborated with friends to get the answers to all of the practice tests, from which the main tests were drawn. For a given test he had a list of the first 3 words of each question, and the first 3 words of the right answer. Took some doing but .. there you are.

                Becuase our online classroom was intended to be worked on at home, there is also a thriving cottage industry here for “Do my class for me”. For about $50 an hour an honors student will log in for you and do your class. This frees up lots of time for Call of Duty and weed.

                At least here it’s been nothing but abject failure to all but the most motivated of students. Now where students are trying and working and ~want~ to get ahead it works great. But most of our kids (80%) put their heads down for the lectures, and then guess and check their way through asignments.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to A Teacher says:

                Teacher,

                The history of technology reveals there are often decades between the creation of a workable new technological solution and it’s widespread use. Some of this involves the incremental improvements and tweaks to the technology, but another element is that society takes a lot of time to adapt to some technologies.

                In other words, it could be that computer assisted technology is a great efficiency and effectiveness tool for teachers, but only after we develop the institutional and organizational or even cultural framework to leverage it.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Blaise,

                My guess is that some states will eventually experiment with free market solutions and we will see how they perform over time. Give it enough freedom and ten or fifteen years…

                The last data I saw is that in absolute dollars our spending on education has tripled over the past generation and our results have tread water. I agree computers will make a big impact.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                Please. We had a system like that for centuries. We’ve still got it in many countries. There’s a semblance of public education for six years. Thereafter, it’s all private. And, of course, Guatemala is a mess. There’s your Free Market in action. The terminus of capitalism, wherein the shortages would be divided among the peasants.

                With Roger’s version, we wouldn’t even get those six years. It would all be private and we’d all be worse than Guatemala.

                It never seems to occur to these folks who wax indignant about the cost of education what the cost of ignorance might look like.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Roger says:

                “It never seems to occur to these folks who wax indignant about the cost of education what the cost of ignorance might look like.”

                You assume that they don’t believe we’re seeing that cost right now. Why would they be so hot about education reform if they thought American education was doing just fine?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                Much of the increase in education funding over the past few decades is related to special education funding. The federal government has mandated certain things but offers little support to states and municipalities in meeting the funding needs.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Roger says:

                Actually, most people consistently actually rate their own school pretty well, with few exceptions. They just think every other school is crap. They want education reform for all the other schools, but everything is working fine in their neighborhood.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                Roger,
                free market == race to bottom.
                also equals catholics as lowest bidders.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Mitt Romney wants to make sure there are less teachers, all over.

                I just sat through 3 hours of radio of right wing zealots screaming about how in our local schools, education = “liberal indoctrination.”

                As near as I can tell, the right wing has actually come to the point where deliberate ignorance and hatred of learning is something they prize.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue in reply to M.A. says:

                I just sat through 3 hours of radio of right wing zealots screaming…

                Are you getting paid for this? Do you hate yourself? With your anger issues, that sort of activity can’t be good for your blood pressure.Report

              • Avatar A Teacher in reply to M.A. says:

                One problem is that it’s easy to find one or two data points of teachers who over-reach, over-step, or just plain make bad judgement calls and then blow them up as the majority.

                I know I’ve made professional mistakes. I’ve let my mouth get ahead of my brain and then stood there wishing desperatly for a “Restore Quick Save” hotkey to press. And teaching is a profession that largely draws liberal thinking people, so if someone goes off on a tangent about a particular political ideology it’s more likely to be left than right.

                It’s shame though because I don’t teach dogma. I don’t teach philosophy. I just try to teach Math, and with it some Aristotelian logic. That’s it. Do I share my political views? When asked outside of lessons, sure. But I never present them as “the Way”, only as “my Way.”

                Truth is, most commentators don’t know or care what school is really like. They know all they need to know because they went to school once upon a time and they can always find one or two data points to call in, say they’re a teacher and then go on and on about how horrible their commie co-workers are, or how much the union has done nothing for them.

                I hate that my job requires the kind of protections that the union has to fight for. Now more than ever we need those safeties against knee jerk firings and discipline because parents more than ever feel entitled not just to information but an active say. It’s one thing to have a customer/client on the phone demanding your resignation because they hate the code you wrote; it’s another to have them saying that you’re “ruining their child’s love of history!” The stakes are so much higher when it’s “The Children” but it’s even more important, for those very children, that we not destroy the core relationships that make classrooms work.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to M.A. says:

                One problem is that it’s easy to find one or two data points of teachers who over-reach, over-step, or just plain make bad judgement calls and then blow them up as the majority.

                The original plan with my analyzing talk radio shows was to find out if this was the case regarding those shows. I’ve a lot of left-leaning friends who are in the “Faux News” and “right-wing media conspiracy” camps. I wanted to find out if it was a matter of cherry-picking, of getting only the weird stuff through filters like Media Matters, or if the views of hosts and callers alike were consistently on the level presented.

                25 distinct radio programs later, it seems like they were right. The theory by Conor about modular thinking is almost spot-on, and I’ve witnessed a number of discussions in which the host has to quickly provide the necessary mode switch to the audience in order to minimize the almost certain cognitive dissonance issues that would otherwise follow.

                I’ve heard the phrase “manufactured outrage machine” used to describe the shows I’m checking, and it’s not far off. Today’s topic du jour is the “Fast & Furious” ATF program scandal, with a few Republican committee members making talk-show rounds about their plan to rig Eric Holder up on a scarecrow cross or something for his “failure to turn over all documents in relation to” a Bush-era, 2006-created program that was originally named Operation Wide Receiver.

                Somehow, I get the feeling the Bush Email Controversy may be involved here. Not that I suppose it matters; politically motivated hearings about events for which most of the documentation is public record make for great fodder in an echo chamber. For instance, one of the committee members was screaming about how “Eric Holder won’t even tell us who authorized this.” 30 seconds of Google searching, I find that the signatory approval on the January 2010 round of the program, which allowed the “Fast & Furious” segment to occur, was Dennis K. Burke, US Attorney for the District of Arizona.

                The cherry-picking is bad enough, the flat-out lying is unforgivable. And what saddens me is the number of people who are actively proud of listening to nothing but talk radio and echo chamber outlets and being completely uninformed about the other side save for the misrepresentations made about them by the hosts.

                It even extends to that inveterate bigot Roger, whose rhetoric has gone far beyond the pale. I lost all patience with his rank bigotry about the time he started phrasing everything as teachers, firefighters, policemen, and other public sector employees “against the taxpayers.” As if public employees didn’t pay taxes too, aren’t citizens as much as everyone else, and weren’t entitled to vote or seek fair compensation and wages.Report

              • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Roger says:

                Okay that was pretty reasonable. But here’s something that is tricky:

                How do we pay for an educational consultant/ marketeer when we’re already cutting and cutting and cutting? My most challenging classes were at 35 kids this year. Next year our average is 33 kids per class. I could, quite possibly have a room with 40 unruly sophomores in it next year. And you want to cut teachers to hire people who are going to help sell the school?

                And some schools will do that. Already we’re seeing a rise in this area of the suburban school with more and more parents coming out here, putting kids in the ‘burbs and then expecting miracles. And we’re left with students with no prior knowledge that we have to turn into recruiting opportunities on their own because their test scores don’t help us any. I kid you not I had a student 11th grade, passed math every year at his old school look at me and say he couldn’t even start figuring out “the total is 110. One of angles is 60. What is the other angle?”

                I dunno. You’re talking about the kind of overhaul that is beyond massive. It’s cultural. It’s societal. What we know of as School would have to end….

                Not that it’s a bad plan.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to A Teacher says:

                Teacher

                I agree it is massive, cultural and societal. As such it can’t even be designed. It would need to be discovered by experimentation, and for that we would need an open, trial and error system. I believe in building open ended, experimental systems that can evolve over time and potentially progress.Report

              • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Roger says:

                Sweet!

                Now who wants to volunteer their kid for the experiment?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Roger says:

                Why do we need volunteers when you can just defund the public schools in less-than-great areas and shift the money to charter and private schools, many of whom are donors to candidates.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Lol.

                One big experiment is usually worse than lots of smaller decentralized ones. I just finished rereading Axelrod and Cohen’s book on Harnessing Complexity. This was one of their key insights. In complex dynamic systems, a single centralized solution will usually fail catastrophically, and it is important to have a variety of competing and cooperating decentralized experiments.

                Blaise does not believe in decentralization though.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                With education: I believe two things. Students are easily motivated by small goals. Teachers are motivated when they have mandate.

                I believe in small goals. I taught a classroom of sixth graders the rudiments of first-order calculus in two hours, on a bet with the school principal. I borrowed a tennis ball machine from the country club, two surveyor’s tapes, a protractor and some graph paper. The machine was set up to 45 degrees and shot ten balls. The boys would run out and stand where a ball fell. The girls would run out with the surveyor’s tape and graph the coordinate set. Once we had enough data, we started in computing firing tables for the tennis ball machine, working at various angles and speeds.

                I brought in a construction engineer and taught that same classroom how to calculate loads for joists and rafters. Showed ’em math in the real world, with a theodolite and a laser rangefinder, calculating transits. See, all three of my kids went through that sixth grade classroom at one point or another and I made sure they could do practical math and calculus.

                Want to fix the classroom of tomorrow? Give teachers the mandate to do the needful in their own classrooms and quit treating them like idiots. Oh, and hold the parents accountable for their kids. I’m so sick of the demonising of the public school teacher. They’re regulated within an inch of their lives. All this crazy talk about how this can’t be designed. That’s just ignorant. Not only has it been designed, it’s been overdesigned to the point where it can’t be implemented. Education has become a political football, everyone wants to stick his nasty finger up the teacher’s ass and wiggle it around.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                Roger,
                Blaise is from Wisconsin. Minnesota has done great giant gobs of research into Social Work, which has propagated, with various degrees of success, into other places.

                All I mostly object to is the idea that you gotta use private people to do small scale experiments.

                We’ve got a truck that is a Mobile Science Lab — I figure it does pretty good work, at pretty low cost.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                Harnessing complexity. Heh, heh. I do dynamical systems, specifically for policy derivation.

                Forget Axelrod and Cohen’s book on Harnessing Complexity. There’s nothing in there about dynamical systems or even complexity for that matter. It doesn’t address complexity.

                Here’s an actual book which might inform those who are interested in the rudiments of complexity. It’s a bit old but it’s readable. Melanie Mitchell’s Complexity, a Guided Tour is a useful guide to the perplexed.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Blaise,

                Is there any cool job you haven’t done? Cowboy? Stunt car driver? Porno puffer?

                I’ve had enough conversations with you on decentralized competitive cooperative systems to assure myself that it is useless to try to engage you on the topic. You still think markets are centrally managed.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                As for this One Big Experiment over and against Many Small Experiments, that’s both innumerate and unscientific. This sort of dumbassery is why some people shouldn’t be trusted to use words like Complexity. Such people never got through first semester statistics and remain blankly ignorant of probability.

                A small experiment proves nothing. Only large experiments prove anything. Large experiments give us a sufficient sample size.

                What these assholes are trying to say, (though they lack the requisite vocabulary) is “Let’s not impose order on this problem, or trust qualified teaching professionals to do their jobs, they’re the villains of this story, not its heroes. We’ll just wish in one hand and shit in the other and hey fucking presto maybe this problem will go away if we sacrifice the public school system on the altar of the god of markets.”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                Oh stop whining, you ignoramus. Coming in here babbling about Harnessing Complexity and telling us small experiments are better than large ones. Peddle your simplistic hooey where someone might take you seriously.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                Roger,
                Pretty sure Blaise has never sold black steel.
                Also (fairly) sure he’s never been blackmailed, nor been a blackmailer.

                And I haven’t actually heard him claim to do much in the way of engineering — which is odd, when you think about it.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Blaise,

                The libertarians of the League have actually started a little contest. We are competing to see who can get you to call them an idiot first on each post.

                We get one point for the first “idiot”, two points for every “moron”, five points for “dumbassery” and the jackpot of ten points for every “blithering numbskull”.

                So far I am in third place, right behind Hanley, who is a distant second, trailing Density Duck by an amazing 147 points.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Duck… How many points do I get for “babbling, hooey-peddling ignoramus?”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                A contest, huh? Anyone care to dispute the validity of small experiments against large experiments? Coming around here, peddling some management tome about Harnessing Complexity, farting out great clouds of methane and telling us about trial and error experiments. I’ll call them like I see them, Roger and I’ll call you what comes to mind when you start in on this pseudoscientific bullshit.

                Nobody harnesses complexity. As I said, a few semesters of stats and prob will cure these little delusions.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                Blaise,
                few people write self-modifying code… but those who do are working in a chaotic system pretty efficiently.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Roger says:

                Large-scale experiments are going to yield more accurate measurements, and with small-scale pilot programs you always have to worry about scalability, but large-scale can come at a pretty significant cost: if a reform sucks, it sucks everywhere. Before taking on something nationally, or even state-wide (unless it’s a small state, and only then if it’s a small state that desperately needs to do something), I’d prefer it be deployed in a more limited environment. Then expand it, then expand it again, monitoring its effects.

                There are a whole lot of things I’d like to see tried, but I’d like them to be tried in a limited capacity before rolled out to larger ones.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                @Kimmi: Beyond calculating V I and R and some pump requirements for a few solar panel projects, I trust the EE guys to stay on their side of the robot’s DIO lines and I’ll stay on my side. Come to think of it, I ran all my schematics for the solar work past a EE.

                Here’s the problem with this Education by Experiment philosophy: there are logical endpoints for an educational phase. They usually terminate in examinations but we’d really prefer the student master the material enough to use it in life. If we’re going to conduct educational examinations in any meaningful sense, we have to impose metrics on it and that really does push us back into the Land o’ SAT and ACT and GRE and all the rest of ’em. While those metrics are in place, let’s just get them on track to pass those exams and use what time is left to teach them anything worth learning.

                There’s no magic to teaching anything in life: it all comes down to motivation and goals. Some people learn by example. Others do fine with reference material. People learn in different ways. Part of the problem is finding out how people learn and work within those channels. And everyone has different strong suits, those need to be challenged.

                The one meaningful predictor for educational success is parental involvement. Some kids don’t have that support. They should be given that support. Part of education ought to involve tutoring other kids: nothing proves mastery of a subject so much as being able to teach it. The one room schoolhouse used to work along those lines.

                While the state continues to treat education as a political football and parents remain unaccountable for their children’s progress, we shall never see any improvement. We shall continue to see the Confederacy of Dunces rise up to blame the teacher, blame the government, blame anyone but themselves for failing to observe education is the primary investment we can make in the future of our nation. When I see teachers treated with the same respect we afford the military, then I’ll know something has changed with these jackasses. I’m not holding my breath waiting for it, either.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                Small scale experimentation in education is rife with bad experiments. What works in one classroom will NOT work in another. Some teachers are just plain better than others. Some student populations are substantially worse than others.

                Reform is a euphemism for More Political Buggery of the Educational Process. Every year it was the same tiresome ritual, this year we’re going for inclusion of the bilingual classroom, next year the mainstream classroom teacher complains loudly enough to where they go back to a segregated room. Principals and teachers have absolutely no say-so in their own classrooms, all their educational mandates come down like the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai and every year Moses gets to look down at the people, dancing naked in front of the Golden Calf and it’s a never-ending sad-sack soap opera with Moah Directives from On High and these schools are made to jump through all these NCLB hoops and when they fail, all the teachers get fired and the school closes down and opens up with fresh administrators and fresh teachers and the same kids walk back in the door and they’re still failing and nobody can do anything about it.

                Screw all this talk about Experiments. We’re not going there, not while the political process has control of educational policy and these Bible Bangers are hell-bent on teaching our children nonsense and damning the teachers all the while. Quit dreaming about it. We can build really effective video instruction to get these kids to jump through the hoops and watch them while they do it and it’s not one bit different than what I did with soldiers in Basic Training all those years ago. While teachers lack mandate in their own classrooms it’s all going to shit and ruin. Let’s face some facts here: it comes down to NCLB testing and SAT and ACT. So teach that stuff and we’ll just ram it down their throats like so many geese whose livers are going to end up in jars of of foie gras.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Roger says:

                Roger
                I want to join the game considering all the different name Blaise has called me? How many point will I get for being called a ninny and a REMF?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

                Why don’t you lot just get greased and lie in a big old pile and writhe around in your own fact-free and darkly obscene pity party? And get a room while you do. And plenty of plastic drop cloths.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

                “fact free”

                Oh, Blaise, if you only knew just how much your claims to have the facts makes me wonder if the post-modernists are right about there being no fact-value distinction.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                What is a REMF?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Roger says:

                Rear Echelon Mother (Friend)Report

              • Avatar A Teacher in reply to Roger says:

                Do you guys know what I do less of every year? Innovate.

                Do you know what I do more of every year? Drill and Kill.

                Here’s a problem. Here’s the formula. Here’s how you get the answer. Repeat.

                Why? Because I have to cover 12 chapters in 40 weeks. I have to give standardized tests on those chapters, the bulk of which is mutliple choice modeled on the ACT. I have to show that this objective is “covered” and that this “group” is having needs met in way that’s consistant only there are 10 of those groups so I do what I can in the broadest way to check that box on the audit form.

                Teaching used to be about tennis ball shooters and labs and art and exploring. Now it’s about the shortest path to covering the topic so we can get another one in.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Roger says:

                Teaching used to be about tennis ball shooters and labs and art and exploring. Now it’s about the shortest path to covering the topic so we can get another one in.

                Imagine what you could do if the schools were adequately funded, with enough teachers to give attention to the special-needs kids, enough teachers to truly subject-specialize and innovate, and enough time in the day to not just force multiple-guess testing regurgitation and give the kids a grounding in art, music, and cultural creativity.

                Oh wait. Art, music and cultural creativity are “communist plots.” Before long you’ll have the kids singing “This land is your land, this land is my land” instead of Deutschland Uber Alles… er, “God Bless America.”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Roger says:

                “Teaching used to be about tennis ball shooters and labs and art and exploring. ”

                Teaching, past the fourth grade, used to be about making the smartest ten percent of children even smarter.

                Ever since the latter half of the 20th century, though, it’s been about keeping kids off the streets until they’re old enough to join the workforce legally.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to A Teacher says:

                The answer is pretty straightforward. I run a language school, teaching Spanish and K’iche’ in Guatemala. The student walks in the door, he’s given a TOEFL-type Spanish competency test. The teacher goes through the test, works out where to start with the student and off they go.

                So maybe the student has mastered some of the imperfect forms but can’t form the past imperfect. Work there.

                Math could easily be set up as a computer-based subject. So could most subjects. Even subjects that require all-teacher grading can be set up on this model. The current model is batshit crazy. It’s as if we’re climbing a mountain: we rope all the kids together and up we go. So a few kids aren’t even acclimatised to the altitude, they’re being dragged along. The kids who are doing well are held back by the kids who can’t. And every year, like it or not, here comes the last few weeks of the school year, a few kids are still alive and the rest are all frozen corpses still tied to the rope.

                So what, one kid didn’t meet up with elementary trigonometry. Set up his training curriculum to start in that section. When he’s gotten ten correct answers in a row of the sort where the total is [T] and one angle is [A], what is the [O] angle, you can know he’s mastered it and you can set him up on another tutorial trail. The entirety of mathematics can be similarly structured, so you can at least be sure each kid has mastered each trail before setting him off on another higher trail which is dependent upon the previous one.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to BlaiseP says:

                that assumes we ought to be teaching them 1900’s math.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Math arises historically and generally that’s the way it’s taught, too. The farther the students get in math the closer to present times they come.

                I’d change a lot about how math and science are taught, especially math. Too much emphasis on impractical algebra. Teaches them to hate math. Make all examples practical and realistic: and no, the train does not leave the station at 30 mph. Gary Larsen of Far Side did a cartoon about Hell’s Library, vast tomes of word problems. Get the students through the rudiments of the binomial theorem then it’s off to calculus, where things get interesting.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “When he’s gotten ten correct answers in a row of the sort where the total is [T] and one angle is [A], what is the [O] angle, you can know he’s mastered it and you can set him up on another tutorial trail. ”

                But are you teaching math, or are you teaching a recipe?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “Our children are learning to answer questions, but they’re not learning-learning.”

                Redstone’s school district (and I would imagine many others – they didn’t invent their textbook) addressed this with “mental math” (the cluster method). My experience with it was that it actually demonstrates understanding the logistics of a multiplication problem (for instance), but so rarely seems to demonstrate the correct answer. It’s extremely error-prone.

                I was taught the traditional algorithmic method (“carry the two…”) and eventually started using the cluster method on my own for problems when it was easier to figure out in my head than Carry The Two (even if I didn’t know, at first, why I was carrying the two).

                I have some views on where the answer-learning vs. learning-learning distinction comes from, but they’re not very charitable.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Get the students through the rudiments of the binomial theorem

                Why? The only thing I use it for is a rough approximation of suit distributions. (“Four trumps out, that’s 1-4-6-4-1, so a 3-1 split is about 50%, and 2-2 is about 6/16, call it 40%.”)

                Unless you’re educating people to be master crinimals.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to M.A. says:

        So that’s what Harvey Danger is up to these days; they’re blogging!Report

  5. Avatar Rod says:

    Lots of moving parts to this and people want to spin this various ways. But the story I’m getting that seems consistent with both the election results and the exit polling is that a significant number of people who would otherwise have voted for Barrett instead voted for Walker–or simply stayed home–because they didn’t believe that recalls should be used for reasons less than actual criminal acts or clear corruption. So if this had been a normal cycle gubernatorial election–and perhaps if the Dems had put up a better candidate than the one that lost last time around–the results would have been different. After all, Obama is still leading by a good margin.

    There’s a reason why the DNC and Obama camp didn’t put resources into this race; they saw it as a losing proposition and didn’t want that to reflect on the race in November.

    I would have liked to seen Walker get booted but the reality is most of the damage has already been done and recalling him at this point wouldn’t do much practical good. The Wisconsin House would still be controlled by Republicans so it’s not like the legislation that’s been passed could get reversed anyway.

    And it all sets a horrible precedent. Almost as bad as the shameful spectacle that Newty and crew put on during the Clinton years.Report

  6. Avatar Anderson says:

    “The real lesson of Wisconsin is an important one for members of all parties: your righteous anger motivates you, not others. Winning the middle requires having something to vote for, not just to vote against.”

    I kind of agree with this statement, but, let’s be real, anger at a tough economy or at an incumbent who’s been around long enough to be a “Beltway inside” is often enough to oust a politician (re: many 2010 elections). It’s not like the middle is full of reasonable politicos anyway, ala The Myth of the Independent Voter.

    Besides that, though, what could Barrett’s campaign have said as a positive, electable vision for the future? My first thought is: Restore collective bargaining for all public sector unions? Doubt it, as this would certainly cost the state money in union pensions. So there would have to be an implicit agreement to raise taxes and/or rollback the taxes Walker has lowered…But this is America, nobody has ever won by campaigning on tax increases (dare I invoke Mondale?) So what other policy vision could Barrett have gone with? I get the impression the middle of the electorate didn’t like the way Walker steamrolled the unions at the time, but now that time has passed and taxes haven’t gone up and the state’s finances are in better shape and nothing else controversial has happened and they feel the overall economy is getting a little better…maybe they just didn’t see it as worth the effort.Report

  7. Avatar Plinko says:

    For anyone interested in getting an excellent primer on pension fiascos, both public and private sector, that treats all sides fairly well, I recommend picking up Roger Lowenstein’s While America Aged.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Plinko says:

      I am staying out of this, by and large, but one of the things that I find particularly disconcerting about public sector pensions is… it becomes a very easy way for one politician to make promises that another politician is going to have to figure out how to foot the bill for. That’s my more general problem with the backloaded pay system that MA refers to.

      This also applies to the private sector, when one CEO can make a promise to keep the union from striking and a later CEO can be stuck carrying the load.

      I know that there are supposed to be controls on this, money set aside and all, but it’s not clear to me how sufficient it is or can be. The USPS’s sounds more sufficient than most, and is criticized for it. I’d be more interested in information on this, if anyone has any (preferably from a source that can refrain calling people names).Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Will Truman says:

        I think the problem with the USPS system is they had to prepay into their pension which nobody else is required to do so their problem looks bad when its more the result of an onerous requirement.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to greginak says:

          The post office’s problem is simpler than that.

          Congressional accounting. Congress under Dubya Bush found out that the USPS had a surplus in their retiree funding and… stole it.Report

        • Avatar Trumwill Mobile in reply to greginak says:

          Greg, the fact that setting the money aside is considered onerous is what I mean: Should we be making promises that keeping reserves to pay for is consideredx onerous? That’s a recipe for one exec to make a promise someone else has to fund. That’s what makes me so uncomfortable about backloaded compensation.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

            but as i understand nobody else ever has to to do what the USPS has to do with their pensions. Business don’t have to do it. If i’m wrong somebody please correct me. Why should the USPS be singled out with a requirement nobody else has. There might be a reason nobody else has to prepay all their pensions.

            I’m don’t think i’m understanding the concern about backloaded compensation. That’s what pensions are. How else should retirement be funded? SS? Pensions? What else? I undertand the concern about pension funds not be paid into in the present time leading to problems in the future. I don’t see getting rid of pensions as a solution to that.Report

            • Avatar Plinko in reply to greginak says:

              Well, Social Security isn’t backloaded.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

              There might be a reason nobody else has to prepay all their pensions.

              I’d kind of like to know that reason. When everyone was talking about why the USPS has to play by a different set of rules, I was wondering why their rules weren’t universal. Or that something closer to it wasn’t. I don’t know what the requirements are for everyone else. If someone can help me understand that, I might be less skittish about pensions more broadly.

              That’s what pensions are.

              Which is why pension promises make me uncomfortable to begin with. How else should they be funded? That’s a good question. It would be helpful to know how much set-aside is required now. My impression is that it is comparatively little. But defined-benefit compensation opens up a world of liability that you can’t modify because it was, after all, a promise. My general sense is that there should be more pay upfront and less promises for tomorrow, and saying “Hey, public employees deserve these benefits because they took lower pay for them” is more a reason to rethink that arrangement for future employees than to stick with the status quo.

              I believe we need to do everything we can to uphold past-made promises, but that it’s also a reason to be more careful about making such promises in the future. Not to necessarily forgo all promises, but to start looking at them more closely and not to use presently low wages as a reason not to (raise wages, if you need to in order to keep the employees you need).

              I mean, I *love* my father’s pension. It will help my inheritance, it’s helping him and Mom live in comfort, and I just like knowing that they’re taken care of. I’m not sure how good a deal it is for the taxpayers, and I’m not sure the extent to which we should keep making the sorts of promises that we made him.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

                ” saying “Hey, public employees deserve these benefits because they took lower pay for them” is more a reason to rethink that arrangement for future employees than to stick with the status quo.”

                That’s exactly what San Jose’s Measure B proposed, and the voters approved it in massive numbers, and now we’re going to have a huge lawsuit about it.Report

              • Hmmm, looking at it, Measure B seems to go a step further than that:

                Unions argue that decades of court decisions effectively hold that government employers may increase but never decrease current employee pension benefits without offering something comparable in return.

                Most pension reform around the state, including the San Diego measure and one approved in San Francisco last year, change benefits for new hires. But pension reform advocates and a state watchdog panel argue cutting only new hire benefits isn’t enough to solve the cost problem.

                Reed’s Measure B goes further than other efforts in tackling current employee pension costs. He said that as a charter city San Jose has the authority to reduce pension benefits not only for future hires, but for current employees’ remaining years on the job. If courts disagree, Measure B calls for the city to take the equivalent savings in pay cuts.

                If I had to guess, it’s the part about current employees that is the legal problem.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

                The question is what is meant by “reduce pension benefits”, which is an interpreted quote and not a direct one.

                Although it is correct that it’s not true to say “everything is exactly the same as it is right now, except for people hired after June 5 2012”. Measure B does include increased contributions from current employees, and reductions in benefit increases or overpayments to existing retirees. Using current-services-baseline reasoning this could be interpreted as a reduction.Report

          • Avatar M.A. in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

            The problem, Will, is that the structure for what the USPS was required to put aside as of the 2006 law was completely insane.

            To overcome the budget scoring objections Congress began what in retrospect we can see was little more than an exercise in rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. The final law allowed the Postal Service to use its overpayments to pay off its debt and delay increasing rates for 3 years. After that any overpayments were to be collected in an escrow fund that would be unavailable to the Post Office until Congress determined how the funds would be used. And then came the quid pro quo. The Postal Service became responsible for paying postal workers for the time they spent in prior military service.

            — some content snipped out here —

            In 2006 Congress finally passed a new law. The Postal Service was allowed to tap into escrow money and pension obligations for military service were shifted back to the US Treasury. But again a quid pro quo was required that negated any financial benefits that would result. To achieve unified budget neutrality the USPS was required to make 10 annual payments of between $5.4 billion and $5.8 billion each to the newly created Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. The fund could not be tapped to pay actual retiree health benefits during those 10 years.

            The level of the annual payments was not based on any actuarial determination. The numbers were produced by CBO as the amounts necessary to offset the loss of the escrow payments.

            Remember, this all began because the post office discovered it had surplus funds. Unified budget accounting made sure it could never tap into this surplus unless at the same time it assumed new liabilities of an equal magnitude.

            The problem isn’t that the USPS’s obligations to their employees were onerous. The problem is the obligations Congress stuck on them in playing budget games. Left to its own, and allowed to expand services in one or two areas, the post office would have been doing fine.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to M.A. says:

              MA, the fate of the post office specifically is not my point. My point is that they have to set aside a significant amount of money to pay for its future retirement benefits and that this is considered onerous. That there was monkey-business in how that money was used is important as far as the USPS is concerned, but is less important in terms of what I see the importance of having money set aside for tomorrow’s liabilities today. My main problem with pension liabilities, as mentioned elsewhere, is that they are often promises made today that will have to be kept by politicians tomorrow. This creates enormously bad incentives (A politician in a place I used to live slapped these promises on his last year in office. A year later, the new regime couldn’t backtrack in the slightest. After all, the promise had been made.).

              (I know your position to be that there are no excessive liabilities involves. I’m not so sure, and not because of rightwing destroyers-of-America have infiltrated my brain.)Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

                The amount of money they have to put aside is considered onerous because it’s far more than every other business, even those with solid pension plans, have to put it into their pensions. If the USPS had the same pension rules ass other businesses, they could pay their pensions and be running a profit.

                It’s sort of like if I said, “you have to pre-fund your mortgage payments for the next 25 years in the next three years and if you don’t, we’re going to think you’re financially irresponsible despite the fact every other person in the country is paying their mortgage in a sane way.”

                So, if you don’t want the special screwed-up nature of the USPS to be pointed out as a reason why they’re running at a loss, find a better example of why making sure employees of the richest and most powerful nation in the history of the planet actually having a decent pension is an impossibility.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill Mobile in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Jesse, I am the one who brought up the USPS’s unique pension setasides, so obviously I don’t have a problem with them being discussed. MA seemed to be talking about something else, though: that the pension fund was raided. Whether it was raided or not, though, the amount required to put aside in the first place is the issue. That it is considered unreasonable to pay down today the promises made today is indicative to me that we’re making promises today that we’re expecting later governments to pay for. This concerns me, from an incentives standpoint. The causes of the failures of the USPS are not central to my point; I was bringing it up as an example of a type of pension called unreasonable and not as the cause or not-cause of the USPS’s problems.Report

              • I think I misunderstood your comment, Jesse. Let me try again:

                It’s sort of like if I said, “you have to pre-fund your mortgage payments for the next 25 years in the next three years and if you don’t, we’re going to think you’re financially irresponsible despite the fact every other person in the country is paying their mortgage in a sane way.”

                I guess I’m looking at it more like…

                “You have to make payments on principal and interest, even though everyone around you is paying interest-only for the first ten years or a NegAm rate.”

                I question the viability of other pension plans. The USPS, as unusual as it is, strikes me as more along the lines of how we should handle pension promises: setting more of the money aside to pay for them. I’m open to hearing about how USPS having had to set aside too much money, but I want to know what the right amount is. It comes across to me like things that are not the USPS are not doing it. I’m open to being convinced otherwise, as I alluded to in my first comment.

                But that the USPS’s stash was raided was the part that was beside the point.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Will Truman says:

                You’re still not getting it.

                The USPS had a “stash” because they were actually overpaying their pension fund. I don’t think this is a bad thing.

                The USPS was told that they couldn’t use that stash, because despite being required to be “financially independent” from the government, the OMB was still treating USPS as part of the unified budget. Republicans realized they could take the profits from USPS and use it to hide the budgetary shortfalls caused by things like wars on false premises, and they did so.

                When the dust cleared, USPS was saddled with strange obligations. Being obliged to pay for the military pensions of former-military postal workers, despite not being a part of the US Military.1> Being obliged to put immense amounts of funding into a new pension fund to replace the one Congress raided.

                The article I gave you offered a solution for the USPS. There were 3 key points in the solution.
                1. Congress return the raided money to USPS’s pension fund.
                2. Set USPS’s requirements for set-aside funding based on actuarial calculations rather than what OMB decides makes the “unified budget” look good.
                3. Allow USPS to compete on even footing in the shipping market – much of the trouble for USPS in the shipping arena is the mile-long list of things they aren’t allowed to carry. They’re also not allowed to contract with other government entities for specific services, which is mind-boggling (UPS or Fedex can give the DMV a drop-box contract, but USPS can’t?). Oh, and they can’t offer non-postal services (like passport or state game licenses) in their facilities, which is ridiculous.

                1The USPS tends to hire many disabled vets, because much of the postal work can be done with people who have a single disabled limb and because government policies have required USPS to give priority to military veterans seeking employment. Sorting is the kind of work a leg amputee can still handle. DMV’s and other government offices have also been traditionally staffed by a large percentage of disabled vets and military widows for the same reasons.Report

              • MA,

                You are wanting to talk about what the problems with the USPS actually were. That doesn’t interest me as much as what one of the popular narratives were, which did not include the stuff you’re talking about here. Everything you can say may be 100% correct, but I can’t tell you how many times I heard that the problem with the USPS had to prepay its pensions. Even if they were wrong on this being the cause, and it was actually having overpaid and have the stash raided, the notion that having to prepay pensions should be considered onerous does not give me confidence in how pensions are saved for.

                Pointing out what the ills of the USPS really were and coming up with a three-point plan doesn’t really address that (though I can respect your desire to defend their honor). What would address that would be demonstration that other pension plans are adequately future-funded and that we won’t have to raise taxes (above and beyond, say, Clinton-era levels) and/or make other cuts in order to afford paying them off.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Will Truman says:

                That doesn’t interest me as much as what one of the popular narratives were, which did not include the stuff you’re talking about here. Everything you can say may be 100% correct, but I can’t tell you how many times I heard that the problem with the USPS had to prepay its pensions. Even if they were wrong on this being the cause, and it was actually having overpaid and have the stash raided, the notion that having to prepay pensions should be considered onerous does not give me confidence in how pensions are saved for.

                Are you unwilling to accept that the issue is not that money had to be set aside for pensions, but that the amount – set by Congress, not by any entity with any sense or reason – required of the USPS was both onerous and far above what any other entity has had to set aside?

                Here’s the situation as it unfolded:
                Part 1 – USPS realizes their pension fund is actually funded to a sizable surplus.

                Part 2 – OMB realizes that with some games played in the “unified budget”, the USPS’s surplus can be used to hide budget shortfalls in other areas like the US military’s chronically underfunded pensions. Congress passes budgets that sieze the USPS’s existing pension fund surplus and start making the USPS pay for budget items that have nothing to do with postal services or the pensions of postal employees.

                Part 3 – Congress rewrites the rules again; they take away the unreasonable messes (like making the USPS pay for military pensions) but at the same time failed to return the funds they raided from the USPS pension fund and then required USPS to replace it by setting away the money for 75 years’ worth of retirees in only 10 years. Not 10 years’ worth of retirees in 10 years, not 20 years’ worth, not even 30 years’ worth – 75 years worth.

                Can you see it now? The problem is not that reasonable pension funding based on actuarial formulas is onerous – that’s what made the USPS have a nice surplus running. The problem is that the ridiculous, cockamamie scheme cooked up by Republican accounting frauds in Congress is onerous.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

                I love how you’re so focused on “everyone else is wrong” that even when we agree with you you’re still angry.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

                The point that MA is trying to make is that while it’s a good thing to make sure that pensions are fully funded, the USPS is being required to fund the pensions of every other government department, and it therefore appears that they’re being hobbled by unreasonable pension-funding payments. Were the USPS only required to fund its own employees’ pensions, it would look a lot better. (And I agree with that.)Report

              • Duck, even if that’s actually true, it’s not the popular narrative. The popular narrative (as I have understood it) is that the USPS has to pay an unusually high share of its own pension up-front in a way that other agencies don’t, and that this is unacceptable.

                Even if the actual story is worse than that, the USPS having to pay an unusually high share of its own pension is, in itself, unacceptable.

                I have no problem with MA wanting to defend the honor of the USPS. He may be entirely right. It’s just not at what I was driving at when I brought it up, which is that people have been (again, as I understand it) saying that it’s not reasonable to put money aside well ahead of time for future obligations. It seems to me that if we’re going to start making these promises now, we need to start putting money away for it now.

                Which, if we’re actually doing, is kosher (I’d like a link, though). The response on the USPS (even if it is in response to a fiction) suggests to me that the others are not funded and we’re betting on tomorrow. Which makes me uncomfortable. (No, this isn’t the only way we bet on tomorrow; there’s a lot to be uncomfortable about.)Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

                When people talk about “trillions of dollars of unfunded pension programs”–and, for that matter, “social security will run out of money”–this is what they’re talking about.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Trumwill Mobile says:

            everyone does it. utilities live in debt. if you aren’t running debt, you aren’t running your business terribly efficiently. you can always get more benefit now, by using the money — and paying ti back with interest, versus letting it stultify in cash reserves.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will, you do realize that every politician makes promises that other politicians actually have to worry about, right? Not just greedy unions? When Reagan said he wanted to defeat the Evil Empire, he was making a promise that it seemed likely other President’s would have to actually finish.

        If you want to do big things, like say, create and maintain a middle-class, you’ve got to put some pressure on your successors.Report

        • It’s a different level of promise, as far as I am concerned. When we promise to take care of someone during retirement, it’s harder (and more morally problematic, in my view) for successors to backtrack from that than it is for them to end another president’s war.

          When we talk about cutting pensions, and opponents of doing so scream that this was a promise we made, that resonates with me. I don’t want to reneg on a promise that people were banking on for their retirement. And so I want to pour whatever money we have to in order to keep it afloat. And try to avoid making such promises in the future.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

            The problem is when someone says that we’re reneging on a promise made to people who not only haven’t retired yet, but aren’t even employed yet. Which is what the lawsuit over San Jose’s Measure B is claiming.Report

            • Yeah, that reneging I am less sympathetic about. I would like to pay off the promises we’ve made to the people in the workforce, to the extent that we can. Then I want to stop making these promises that are really hard to take back.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Will Truman says:

                When I took my job, the time required to vest in the retirement system was 5 years. Then about my 4-year mark they moved it to 10 years. They’re now grumbling to move it to 20 years and retroactively de-vest anyone in the 11-19 range until they hit 20.

                Same thing’s been happening to other people I know. Private businesses raiding the pension fund and cutting back on promised 401(k) equivalent contribution programs to pay for the CEO’s new yacht.

                Then I want to stop making these promises that are really hard to take back.

                What’s your alternative solution? Make public employees, who are already paid less than the private sector for equivalent work, put their meager savings into the stock market’s slot machine system to get fished again just like they did when republican policies crashed almost everyone’s 401(k) in 2008?

                I have a big problem with that. I have a big problem, in general, with the destruction of pension systems in favor of the 401(k)/IRA system. It’s contributed heavily to the job-jumping culture. It’s contributed heavily to the complete lack of respect the greedy 1% has for the people who actually do the work in this country. And it’s contributed incredibly heavily to the number of people who are now on government assistance, putting further burdens on the government while the greedy 1% laugh their way to the banks with the money from the looted pension funds and the profits they made on insider trading.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to M.A. says:

                The 401k system is designed to line other people’s pockets. The moneymanagers, the smart money folks, and the people actually allowed to INVEST.

                Try actually investing with a 401K program. Call up, ask to short Russel2000. See what happens.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kimmi says:

                The assumption of the 401(k)–as with all managed-investment plans–is that I take a hit on the fees, but in return I don’t have to ride herd on my money. I “buy” extra time now, and “pay for it” in fees and reduced investment performance.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

                assumption is flat out lie. see etf performance for excellent counterargument.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to M.A. says:

                What’s your alternative solution? Make public employees, who are already paid less than the private sector for equivalent work, put their meager savings into the stock market’s slot machine system to get fished again just like they did when republican policies crashed almost everyone’s 401(k) in 2008?

                My alternative is to pay public employees in a less backloaded form. Stop underpaying them at the outset, where they are underpaid, and stop promising them the sort of pension plans that are simultaneously unpredictable in scope and unbending to the financial circumstances of tomorrow.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

                Same kind of philosophy that suggests restaurant servers should be paid what they’re worth instead of having to depend on tips to make up their salary.Report

              • I look at the tips/commissions situation a bit differently, due to the lack of long-term commitment involved, but I understand where those people are coming from. Especially given how extraordinarily low the minimum wage is for tippable employees.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to DensityDuck says:

                There’s also the fact there are states like my own Washington where servers get a minimum wage+tips and I notice no massive drop in service compared to when I was in LA a few weeks back.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

                See also: Europe.Report

              • That might explain why my wife and I found the restaurants in Washington unduly expensive.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will,
                I am sympathetic too. Sympathetic with the teacher or fireman who counted on this money. However, I am even more sympathetic with the tax payer. They too planned their lives, finances and retirement around certain expectations.

                The public service unions have gotten in bed with the devil. No good will come from it. They entered into a zero sum game, and spent other peoples money without the other people knowing it occurred. That some progressives continue to defend this practice as it implodes, is simply incomprehensible to me.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Roger says:

                However, I am even more sympathetic with the tax payer.

                Firemen, teachers, and police are taxpayers too. They work long hours, for relatively small pay, and one of the reasons people will even take those jobs is the promise that they have a decent pension waiting for them at the end of it all.

                Either pay them up front, or pay them in the deferred payment scheme, but don’t pay them as if they were in a deferred payment scheme and then fish them over while claiming they were engaging in fraud, you fishing fraudulent liar.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to M.A. says:

                “Either pay them up front, or pay them in the deferred payment scheme, but don’t pay them as if they were in a deferred payment scheme and then fish them over while claiming they were engaging in fraud, you fishing fraudulent liar.”

                THIS is the argument you need to press forward on. Not that other crap.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Kazzy says:

                Roger’s argument is that it is “abuse” for public sector unions to manage to secure reasonable benefits for the taxpaying workers they represent.

                He hasn’t presented one example of an actual abuse, despite being challenged over and over again to do so. He hasn’t presented anything in argumentation other than ad hominem attacks against “progressives” and unsubstantiated accusations of “fraud” and the idea that public sector unions are “special interest group in cahoots with politicians to siphon tax dollars into sweetheart union pensions”, a claim that I find to be ridiculous.

                I wouldn’t ever describe a union pension as a “sweetheart” deal. Not my mother’s, not my grandfather’s, not my grandmother’s – and all three are from private sector unions.

                Roger can go fish himself until such time as he’s willing to bring facts to the table.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

                MA,

                You have called me a gazillion names and you keep creating imaginary arguments and projecting them on me and then calling me another name for believing whatever it is you think I believe but don’t.

                If you promise to quit calling me names, and to argue with me rather than your imagined version of me then I will engage in a discussion.

                If you promise to play nice, I will too….Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

                CALL!
                Okay, both of you. Facts on the table. You’re both asking for them, try giving them too. Google if you have to. And assume good faith.
                /adultReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                When Kimmi is calling for facts on the table… WITH LINKS… are we already on Opposite Day?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                “*snort* you want links? I got stories…”

                Can this be the”99″ for Kimmi”?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAReport

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh come on… even YOU have to see the humor in this one!Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

                also,
                Kazzy, just wait until I actually finish my guest post. ;-P
                Finding enough links is a royal pain, but…
                ya gots ta do what ya gots ta do.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                “The public service unions have gotten in bed with the devil.”

                The devil is elected officials with no sense of obligation to their constituents. They are not victims. The system is unchecked, which is the real problem.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

                Kazzy,

                Public choice theory predicts disaster. Disaster is occurring as predicted. I guess we are pretty much in agreement.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                What is public choice theory?Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Kazzy,

                That is James H’s favorite topic. It is a fairly recent academic endeavor to introduce the concepts of economics into the field of politics. It was started by Buchanan and Tullock and a few others in the 60s I believe.

                Included in the insights of Public Choice theory are:

                1 that politicians respond to incentives just like everyone else, and the incentives for politicians are to win elections, not necessarily to do good.
                2. That politics suffers from structural deficiencies in measuring and comparing costs and benefits
                3. That politics and bureaucracies are extremely prone to regulatory capture by special interest groups, even by the group they intend to regulate
                4. That politics is prone to abuse due to the imbalance between large, concentrated benefits accrued to well organized special interest groups, and paid in small, diffuse, opaque ways by large unorganized groups. In the above case the government union is the concentrated group with large benefits, and taxpayers are the large, relatively unorganized group with smaller costs.
                5. Bureaucracies tend to self amplify and grow in size and inefficiency over time.

                There are lots of other insights, and when James returns he will almost certainly chime in if he reads this. He turned me on to a lot of the literature in the field.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                guess you aren’t one of those people whining about how the EPA made it impossible to build new power plants/oil refineries. 😉Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Roger says:

                Thanks. Hanley and I go back and forth a lot (always charitably) so I’ll press him on it, though it all seems very intuitive, with the first point being one I use often in conversations on the near impossibility of true, top-down education reform.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Roger says:

                “Public Choice Theory.”

                Because letting Wall Street self-regulate worked perfectly well. Oops.Report

              • Avatar Plinko in reply to Roger says:

                I guarantee you, you believe in public choice theory, MA. You probably just limit your analysis to Republicans, extractive industries, religious groups and the military-industrial complex just as many conservatives seem to only find it compelling regarding Democrats, labor unions, institutions of higher education and services for the poor.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

                Plinko, public choice theory is based on the idea that individual rationality can lead to collective irrationality, yes?, and constitutes a critique of governmental decision-making wrt policy and central planning and regulation and so on. But that premise – that individual rationality can lead to collective irrationality – is just as true in the absence of government. So, eliminating government doesn’t resolve the problem of collective irrationality, and public choice theory just presents a different set of values by which that irrationality is measured.

                Somewhere in the mix is an optimal balance between public and private, but that balance will necessarily include government. If so, then that presents a big problem for the someone taking public choice theory too seriously, namely, that any level of government can be captured, that governmental power can still be used for nefarious ends, or to cater to special interests, etc.

                Or is that wrong?Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Roger says:

                Stillwater,

                I am sure Prof. Hanley will jump in soon and set us all straight, but in his absence let me fumble around a little more….

                Following is a recent article I read on the topic…

                “Public choice is the application of economic methods to analyze political decision-making. Prior to the public choice revolution, academic and policy analysts tended to assume that once an “optimal” course of action was identified, government would follow that course of action. Public choice recognizes that government decision-makers may not have sufficient information to identify an optimal course of action, and that even if they do, they may not have the incentive to follow through on that course of action.

                Instead of comparing the problems that can exist in real-world markets with an ideal conception of government, public choice uses the same methods to analyze both, and reveals that government intervention to solve problems often compounds problems rather than solving them.

                As an area of academic inquiry, public choice has been very successful, and the public choice approach has carved out its own academic niche. However, when analyzing public policy, both academic and public policy analysts tend to ignore the lessons of public choice and assume that when they perceive problems, government will pursue the optimal course of action to solve those problems. The public choice revolution has been stopped short of victory because even though its tenets have found widespread academic acceptance, its lessons are not applied when real-world solutions to real-world problems are discussed. We assume that government acts as an omniscient benevolent dictator rather than taking into account the real-world complexities that characterize the implementation of government programs and policies.

                The public choice revolution is 50 years old this year, and started with the publication of The Calculus of Consent by James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock in 1962. Scholars prior to Buchanan and Tullock had analyzed political decision-making using economic methods, but this book started the revolution because, first, it was very well accepted when it was published, and second, Buchanan and Tullock followed through to establish a research program for themselves and for other scholars with similar interests. The initial meetings they held evolved into the Public Choice Society which remains very active today, and Gordon Tullock founded the academic journal Public Choice which enjoys a solid reputation in economics, political science, and beyond. As an area of academic inquiry, public choice is well-established and very successful.”

                End quote.

                I am not capable of weighing in on if your central premise is correct or not. I would say that most economists would probably agree that market institutions need to be ordered properly to lead to efficient results. Prosperity requires well “designed” (not necessarily consciously designed) institutions such as property conventions and courts. Public choice points out that it is foolish to compare real imperfect markets with idealized utopian visions of politics. Buchanan wrote extensively though on how to design governments better.

                I totally agree that it is possible to be an advocate of public choice theory, and a believer in the need for well focused, well ordered political systems. The theory does seem to imply that the system easily spins out of control and grows like the blob from the sci-fi movie of the 50s.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

                Public choice points out that it is foolish to compare real imperfect markets with idealized utopian visions of politics.

                Yes, of course. That’s useful. But the opposite is also true: that it’s foolish to compare real, imperfect government to an idealized utopian vision of markets.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

                @Stillwater,

                Public choice theory is based on the idea that individual rationality can lead to collective irrationality, yes?, and constitutes a critique of governmental decision-making wrt policy and central planning and regulation and so on. But that premise – that individual rationality can lead to collective irrationality – is just as true in the absence of government. So, eliminating government doesn’t resolve the problem of collective irrationality, and public choice theory just presents a different set of values by which that irrationality is measured.

                Umm, yes and no. There are scenarios leading to collectively irrational outcomes in non-governmental settings (primarily the broad class of collective action problems), but the vast majority of market interactions don’t fall into that scope. The reason is that for the most part each time you or I make a market decision we are personally bearing the cost and personally receiving the benefit, and those two things are well-enough connected that we can make rational decisions about them. A classic case is if I’m buying a used car from you–you won’t sell for less than it’s still worth to you, and I won’t buy for more than it’s worth to me, so there’s no room for collective irrationality.

                In government, however, costs are most commonly hidden, benefits are frequently difficult to evaluate, and the connection between the two is normally impossible to discern, so irrational outcomes are very common.

                So collective irrationality is more likely and more frequent with governmental decision-making than with private decision-making. Neither is perfect, of course, and likewise neither is completely dreadful in all cases. But one of the reasons why we should mostly limit government intervention to true cases of market failure is that otherwise we’re almost certainly replacing a rationally superior outcome with a rationally inferior one.

                Unfortunately, government solutions to market failures are not guaranteed to be rationally superior, precisely because of the tendency of government to produce collectively irrational outcomes. Without being able to price things accurately in the market (which is often where the market failure comes from), government can’t guarantee it’s providing anything like the quantity/price combination that would be demanded if there was a real market. Government may do a better job in that case–and inevitably must at least sometimes manage to do so–but they also may do a worse job.

                I have no idea how that relates to the Wisconsin issue. I didn’t read the OP closely (but I agree with the title!), but saw a Stillwater comment about public choice theory in the comments list.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

                @Plinko,

                I guarantee you, you believe in public choice theory, MA.

                Indeed. Liberals regularly complain about corporations co-opting the regulatory process, which is classic public choice theory. In criticizing that, liberals are absolutely right. Unfortunately few are comfortable–for understandable reasons–extending that to public interest organization influence on the regulatory process.

                Speaking more broadly, I’ve always thought public choice theory shared a lot of basic grounding with Marxism. Different recommendations, of course, but some shared analysis into the problem.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Roger says:

                @M.A.
                “Public Choice Theory.”
                Because letting Wall Street self-regulate worked perfectly well. Oops.

                Well, you might actually want to familiarize yourself with public choice theory before you speak. It would help you avoid embarrassing mistakes.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

                bullshit. you can’t tell me most people don’t know that you make less in government, and get better benefits (including less risk of being fired).
                Seriously, pull me twenty cites saying that you make more money in government, versus a private sector job.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Roger says:

                Roger, to me, the expectations of a certain tax rate are different than the expectations of a having signed a contract that says they will get such-and-such.Report

              • Avatar Roger in reply to Will Truman says:

                Will,

                Yeah, concentrated benefits, diffuse costs. The crack cocaine of government.

                My guess is that tax payers might actually win this tussle, despite all the theory to the contrary. Humans will be hurt one way or another. This is bad, real bad.Report

  8. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “I wanted to scream at my left-leaning friends – being angry isn’t enough! People need to vote for you, not just against the other guy!”

    It’s John Kerry 2004! (And, probably, Mitt Romney 2012.)Report

  9. The map is typical — urban and inner-ring suburbs in blue, rural and outer suburbs in red. The same pattern is holding in all but the reddest of the red states. Can one of you bright people write something meaningful about the urban/rural divide and what it means?Report

    • Will seems the right Leaguer for such a post, but fwiw my knee jerk theory (and it is totally knee jerk) has been that urban voters support legislation that assists the poor, recognize minorities and generally are more communal in nature because they see and have to interact with all these people for more often than rural voters do. Rural voters tend to vote for legislation that leans to the opposite because they’re more likely to be removed from those under different circumstances than themselves.

      Our big regional talk show host Lars Larson, on the other hand, believes the difference can be found in experiments where rats are over-crammed into small spaces and become violent and suicidal. He argues that urban voters vote the way they do because they are inherently suicidal and have an innate desire to destroy society.

      So I’d ask Will.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        rural and urban folk vote for the same things, by and large. but the rural folk get “farm subsides” and “disaster relief” instead of welfare…

        it’s the suburbs that drive people crazyReport

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        “Our big regional talk show host Lars Larson, on the other hand, believes the difference can be found in experiments where rats are over-crammed into small spaces and become violent and suicidal.”

        that’s rather awesome in its bombastic uh bombastness. is he being serious or playing for audience yuks?Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Red counties own. Blue counties rent. It’s just that simple.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Do the owners of rental properties who otherwise don’t live or own property in a given district have standing to vote in that district?Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

          Don’t think so.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Interesting. I can see arguments on both sides. Can anyone else weigh in on what the reality is and/or what the reality should be?Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

              I don’t think you’re supposed to, but if you’re paying any utilities, you can usually register anyway.

              I also know that it varies from place to place. Wyoming, for instance, is notoriously lax in what it requires to register. Indiana’s Secretary of State got in some serious trouble and lost his job for being in the wrong district based on what seemed to me to be a technicality (from what I recall).

              Mostly, though, I think that as long as you’re only registered in a single place, there’s some flexibility involved.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                Oh, yea, voting for things like the governor or President, it makes sense that you should only be allowed to vote in one place. But if I own property in three different towns, only one of which I actually reside in, am I eligible to vote in all three mayoral elections?

                Part of me says, “Of course! You own property in that town! You’re directly impacted by what goes on there!”

                On the other hand, it seems like it opens up the possibility of all sorts of chicanery happening. A thousand people can buy a condo together, rent it out, and then vote as a block. More realistically, we have a great number of times where we say, “Yes, you are directly impacted by what elected officials do in this place but, no, you don’t get to vote for them.” Most notably folks who work in different states than they reside in.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                There is an argument for allowing that person to vote in multiple places, if one takes “taxation without representation” further than we do. I think that even then, though, it’s about voting in a single place.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                I suppose it comes down to how we define “resident”. I guess each group should be able to (within certain limits) decide who qualifies as a “resident” with deference to the larger group.

                So if Anytown accepts you as a resident if you own property without living in the town and confers upon you the right to vote in elections relating only to Anytown, so be it. If Statelandia, of which Anytown is a part, decides that you are only a resident of Statelandia if you reside in the state for more than 183 days, than they can reject your right to vote in Statelandia elections (provided you down live elsewhere in Statelandia from your property in Anytown).

                Did that make sense?Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                you can register. it is openly fraudulent.Report

        • Avatar Plinko in reply to Kazzy says:

          In both states where I’ve voted (WI and GA), when you register, the new polling district contacts your old one, giving notification you’ve changed your designated residency for voting.
          Since WI has same-day registration, it’s entirely possible to register under multiple addresses, provided you have the utility bills to work with; but there’s going to be a paper trail and it’s a good way to get charged with a felony. It’s probably easier between states since I don’t think there’s any good sharing of vote registration data between states, but I would think we have a lot more pressing concerns.
          I’m quite sure you can only legally have residency in only one district at a time in Wisconsin and your other properties aren’t it. When I was a kid they used to refer to some convoluted tax districting in Door County as the ‘sticking it to people from Illinois tax’ because, as the out-of-state owners could not and did not vote locally, the local governments could draw up districts designed to tax those properties at much higher rates than locals.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Roger-

    I don’t know why I wasn’t clued into this before but, where I live at least, residents have the opportunity to vote on the school budget. Is this the norm? Could this serve as one (of potentially many) checks on the collective bargaining process between public sector unions and the government? Perhaps this is a place where a more direct democracy might be ideal. Tax payers have an opportunity to vote on any collectively bargained contract. If a contract is voted down, a public hearing is held where voters can voice their reasons for voting it down and the side renegotiate. Perhaps this process can happen a maximum of two or three times before a standard contract goes into effect that contains certain previously agreed upon provisions that will incentivize both groups to agree to something.

    I’m sort of working of the top of my head, but it would seem that existing budget votes OR another form of direct voting might help alleviate the issues we see. Thoughts?Report

    • Avatar Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

      Kazzy,

      I asked the same question last week of someone on California with their initiative process. I was wondering if citizens could just take matters in their own hands and assume direct initiative control of the budget in California, since the politicians are incapable of doing so in an adult manner. they threaten closing the parks and laying off teachers as they waste a hundred billion on a bullet train to Bakersfield or wherever.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Roger says:

        Um, California is the very definition of direct democracy. A large part of the reason why the Californoia is so screwed up is the “people” being in large control of the budget. “We want out taxes cut and more spending on everything!”

        The people are not smarter than those actually working on the budget.Report

        • Avatar Roger in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

          Unless we are talking about Arnold.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

          “We want out(sic) taxes cut and more spending on everything!”

          Remind me, which ballot measure was that, again?

          I mean, sure, you can interpret a “no” vote on “emergency tax increase to go to police officer pension funds” as “we want our taxes cut and more spending on everything!” You could also interpret it as “we want you to find a different way to deal with the budget shortfall than Get More Moneys”.

          I remember back when they were going to close all the state parks, and it was presented as “this is the choice the voters made and now they have to deal with it!”, like the actual text of the measure was “vote ‘yes’ if you want to raise taxes, vote ‘no’ if you want to close state parks instead”.Report

          • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to DensityDuck says:

            When you say you want x, y, z, a, b, l, and $ funded to z levels, but make it impossible to raise that amount of money through 2/3 requirements on tax increases and Prop 13 limits, then yeah, I find it pretty OK to say that if you don’t get why your state is massively in debt, you’re either uninformed or don’t get basic math.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

              Voters can only vote on the questions that are put to them, so it’s a bit cheeky to say that the voters are responsible for revenue decisions they never had a say about. “Oh, but Prop 13 was ratified by the voters and that’s what’s messing everything up!” Sure, it was ratified. Forty years ago. Sixty-six percent of the people currently in California weren’t even alive back then, much less voting in elections.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Why not have it go something like this…

            – Vote YES if you approve of the proposed contract for teachers AND the requisite 4% increase in property taxes required to fund it.
            – Vote NO if you disapprove of the proposed contract for teachers AND/OR the requisite 4% increase in property taxes required to fund it.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

              So if I approve of the proposed contract but feel that it should be paid for by some other means, then I vote “no”, and it’s “idiots in California want services but don’t want to pay taxes for them!”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Not necessarily. If enough people vote no, the budget fails. There is then a hearing where folks can voice their feelings on the matter. The two sides can then take those feelings into account and see if they can hammer out a deal that is more palatable to the public. If they continue to fail, they default to a previously agreed upon contract.

                It’s not perfect, but it is better than…
                – Vote yes if you want the school budget.
                – Vote yes if you want lower taxes.
                – Vote yes if you want the parks open.
                – Vote yes if you want no park entrance fees.
                – Vote yes if you want a pony.
                *Choose all that apply.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                And, please note, this is a bit of a half-baked idea. Far from fully formed. If there are fatal errors, I’m all ears.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to DensityDuck says:

            “We want out(sic) taxes cut and more spending on everything!”
            Remind me, which ballot measure was that, again?

            Multiple ones over multiple decades. The problem wasn’t just one ballot measure, but the accumulation of a bunch of budget constraining ones.

            Voters can only vote on the questions that are put to them, so it’s a bit cheeky to say that the voters are responsible for revenue decisions they never had a say about.

            A) The initiative process works by gathering signatures of citizens, enough to get the issue on the ballot. So citizens can do more than just vote on the questions put to them. B) If they’d voted no on all, or at least most, of those budget constraining ballot measures (both the ones that constrained tax increases and the ones that mandated certain amounts of spending for particular objects), they wouldn’t have the problems they have.

            “Oh, but Prop 13 was ratified by the voters and that’s what’s messing everything up!” Sure, it was ratified. Forty years ago. Sixty-six percent of the people currently in California weren’t even alive back then, much less voting in elections.

            But they could circulate an initiative petition to repeal Prop 13 (it would get Pat’s signature, it seems), and then actually vote to repeal it. I’ve never heard of a serious effort to do so, and I suspect it would be phenomenally difficult to achieve. Sure they may not have been alive to vote on it back then, but they’re sure as hell demonstrating their continued support for it now by not asking for its repeal.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to James Hanley says:

              So it would be phenomenally difficult to achieve but not trying is still “demonstrating continued support”?

              Although I do realize I’m arguing against myself, here, because elsewhere I’ve suggested that if you(*) have a problem with government then the solution starts with you.

              That said, San Jose voters just passed Measure B with the intent of reducing government spending, and the unions promptly filed a lawsuit to stop it being implemented, so I guess now we know what democracy really looks like.

              (*) generic “you”, not James Hanley specificallyReport

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Duck,

                To clarify, it would be difficult to achieve because there’s so much support for it. That there’s no discernible public movement in opposition to Prop 13 is the evidence that the current electorate suports it. Therefore they share responsibility for it.Report

          • “Remind me, which ballot measure was that, again?”

            It’s not so much the single measures, but rather that the voters pass a succession of measures that all sound good individually but don’t fit well together. Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment that said state revenues could only grow at the rate of population plus inflation. Some years later they passed another amendment that said state spending on K-12 education (largest item in state General Fund spending) must grow at the rate of population plus inflation plus one percentage point. Unsurprisingly (except to most voters), it quickly became necessary to increase spending on higher ed and transportation at rates less than population plus inflation — and eventually to make actual cuts in higher ed and transportation spending.

            I worked as a member of the legislative budget staff for three years, and then couldn’t take it any longer. Between the feds and the voters, the legislature budget process has been reduced to one of simply trying to patch over the cracks and hope the wall doesn’t fall down.Report

  11. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    As a side note to the education derail, Diane Ravitch fired from the Brookings Institute, likely from going from the Village party line of “charter schools and union busting will save education.”

    (http://dianeravitch.net/2012/06/11/the-day-i-was-terminated/)Report

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