Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union(s)

The president has now delivered his annual State of the Union address, and for those of us with the intestinal fortitude to listen to it, we now find ourselves in a state of incredulity, disbelief, and almost terminal boredom. In all fairness, this is not entirely the president's fault. Most of those who in recent years have sat in the White House have used this address to a joint session of Congress in an attempt to obscure the real issues of the country with more smoke than I have blown since I began I began enjoying cigars, let alone writing this blog. Mr Obama has merely lived up to (or perhaps down to) the level of rhetoric that we expect from presidents at such events. Add in the minority response and the spin from political operative and pundits on both sides of the aisle and you end up with something best disposed of under strict Hazmat regulations. I will therefore not try to add to the obfuscation by putting my own two cents in. I will however, point out some dirty little secrets that did not come out last night, and will likely never come out in any address to Congress or the public. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers discussed in a recent Heritage Foundation piece speak on it however, and they are very interesting indeed. For those of you unwilling to read the entire article, the highlights are:
  • At a time when overall employment is falling around the country, the number of union employees working for the government at various levels rose by 64,000.
  • At a time when many are concerned about the money provided to auto makers (now largely owned by the government and the unions), we find that three times more union employees work in the Post Office than the auto industry.
  • In fact, 52% of all union workers now work for the government at the local, state, or national level.
  • Union government workers earn an average of $39.83 per hour in wages and benefits, where those in the private sector earn only $27.49 per hour.
  • In recent health care negotiations, union workers were granted exemption until 2017 for taxation on so-called "Cadillac health care plans", while non-union workers with similar plans would begin to pay taxes immediately.
What the article goes on to point out is that when union wages and benefits take too much of the profit from a company, that company will no longer be able to compete and will ultimately lose to its competitors and go out of business (unless its bailed out by the government, of course). When the same thing happens with regards to government union worker, the additional revenue required to meet the requirements of these demands comes from ... us. 

This is not to say that membership in a union automatically demonizes a person, it does not. What it does say however is that it would be a failure of logic not to recognize that Unions have become one of a growing number of self-perpetuating bureaucracies in this country. 

Saying that Government is one of the other great offenders in this category would be an understatement. Putting the two together I fear is not a problem added to itself, but one that is squared instead. If you consider the considerable influence that Unions can therefore have on the government: as a political contributor, as an entity that can quickly put membership on the street to stump for a candidate, and as a part of the greater mechanism of government itself; one cannot help but wonder if the government in general, this Administration in particular (with its close ties to Unions like SEIU), and the professional politicians in Congress of both parties are more concerned with the "State of the Union" or the "State of the Unions".

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