An excellent piece by David Cay Johnston that shows how corrupted our current debate is, and how well right-wingers have co-opted the language so that it is more favorable towards their goals:
Economic nonsense is being reported as fact in most of the news reports on the Wisconsin dispute, the product of a breakdown of skepticism among journalists multiplied by their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.
Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans.
Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.
Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.
Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system (or as the argument goes, “pay their fair share” of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin’ s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.
The labor agreements show that the pension plan money is part of the total negotiated compensation. The key phrase, in those agreements I read (emphasis added), is: “The Employer shall contribute on behalf of the employee.” This shows that this is just divvying up the total compensation package, so much for cash wages, so much for paid vacations, so much for retirement, etc.
This is an excellent point- they are not being asked to “contribute more,” they are taking a salary cut in deferred wages.
Fixed to describe how the media generally operates. They take lots of people’s assertions as fact. Probably not 100%, since there’s likely some issue where some actual reporting broke out on one occasion, but largely this is how they operate.
Punchy’s schtick today is as amusing as it is annoying.
Wait for it…
Have you seen this? An affidavit reveals that it was none other than Roger Ailes himself that told Judith Regan to lie to federal investigators about her affair with Bernard Kerik.
Argh. How do you quote multiple paragraphs again?
Cole. I am lazy and drunk. Can I get a link to the whole piece cited in your post, please?
Two underscores _ between each ‘graf.
I’m a little confused about this.
First there is this:
then there is this
This latter ‘graph sounds like there is an employer contribution…?
Here’s a link to the article quoted.
I agree that this is misleading language which, as usual, helps make the right-wing argument look better.
But I’m guessing most of the people against the union position wouldn’t be swayed even if it were phrased correctly. To them, it will simply be, “I have to pay more for my medical insurance than I did last year (or 2/5/10 years ago), and so should they”.
No, the “on behalf” part means they’re just operating as the intermediary and doing the actual contributing of the money. The money itself comes from the employee. Like if I gave you some cash and a deposit slip filled out for my checking account, and you went to the bank and deposited it on my behalf. That’s how it’s working here.
@Violet: OK, I thought it might be that.
@Violet: although it’s surprising there’s no matching contributions by the state.
Layered bullshit, cooked up in the bowels of Heritage Foundation and AEI. The slow con on afterburners. Dress up taking something that is not theirs, from workers cloaked in patriotic jingoisms of “contributing more”, to dress up taking away bargaining rates in service to shared sacrifice from immediate economic emergencies with the bullseye to defund the dem party pol machine, and the middle class pol power. In a bill also chocked full of various wingnut welfare party favors.
This is no Trojan Horse, this is burglary from men in elephant suits.
@Violet: Deadline pressure is partly to blame. You’ve got an editor constantly breathing down your neck for the story. And nowadays a newspaper doesn’t just print stories for the morning edition any more. It tweets the thing, puts it up on the website ASAP, all while competing with other news outlets to be the first.
The concept of a daily news cycle has become a relic of a more slow-moving age. Unfortunately, that’s how haste has become a primary value in news these days. Sometimes more so than accuracy or context.
@General Stuck: as was reported I think by this very webtubes blog, the person running Wisconsin’s health and welfare department is someone from Heritage. Go figure.
Cripes, no edit function. That is not terrible grammar and spelling in my post, it is code, and secret.
I feel like this should be my post but it’s just too early.
Yeah, I get that. And I understand all the pressures. But it still doesn’t make it right that something is reported as “fact” without being checked.
AKA – The Institute of Fleecing Research
Uncle Clarence Thomas
Fortunately, President Obama will soon be making a fierce, historic speech somewhere in Wisconsin in solidarity with America’s middle and working classes against the depraved fat cat Republican war on them.
@freelancer: Ah, thanks. It’s been a while since I quoted more than one paragraph here.
They’re not just “taking a salary cut in their deferred wages,” but also in their current compensation as more of that will be required to be contributed to the pension fund.
@khead: It’s 11 pm where I live. Maybe I am you, from the future?
Also, thanks, Violet, for the full link.
Only “serious” people it seems are entitled to have their facts non-checked. I was just reading over at the GOS (don’t like that site redesign) that none of the Sunday talkshows will have anyone from labor on. So as long as you’re supporting the top .1%, you’ll get airtime; otherwise, not so much.
This kind of goes along with what David Waldman said over at the GOS earlier today:
That’s all well and good, but these people need to hurt too just like David Brooks and everyone else.
Just one more example on a pile of examples of what happens when the bulk of a country’s mass media is controlled by a very small coterie of multinational corporations. They will NEVER report accurately because the mainstream media has a well-known right-wing bias.
If you follow their argument that taxes, especially income taxes, are government theft via coercion.
Thus, ‘government schools’ are taking your money by force and making you pay these lazy union teachers to fail your kids when only the citizens can choose best how to spend their money.
These are people who want to get rid of public employees and public schools and public services.
Except for all that stuff when tax money goes to rich people types.
Well, yuh, because rich people are producers who create wealth and jobs. Union folks and school teachers are moochers and leeches who produce nothing, but just steal our money via taxation. I mean, do you think teaching kids produces anything of value? Do you? Do you?! Friggin’ commie.
To state the obvious, I doubt if very many people in the general public are going to notice any of this.
The people in the political class – the politicians and the commentariat – will not be ‘shocked’ by any of it.
I wonder if very many of them consider how corrupt it has all become. And, that they are participants in it.
Texas Republicans push for constitutional convention. Yeehaw!
@agrippa: Along these same lines, Steve Benen had a post today that reinforces my mindset that there are way too many clueless Americans.
Great points, but too nuanced.
All the “public” knows is union = bad.
Question for conservatives.
Hypothetical: You get everything you want. I’m a generic state employee in South Conservastan. I have 10 years experience as a professional and a bachelor’s level degree. You cut my pay 10-20%, you stautorily cap pay increases to no more than the rate of inflation. You pass on any health care cost increases to me. My pension is switched from a defined benefit plan to a 401(k). I receive nothing in return except scapegoating from every Rush Limbaugh wannabe under the sun.
Who are you going to get to fill my job?
@danimal: Mexicans. And you can keep them fearful by having ICE raids every now & then.
Remember, they refuse to pass laws for penalties on employers who hire the undocumented. So the cheap labor’s kept compliant.
@danimal: You’re in government. You’re therefore by definition an unproductive worker. Why would your job need to be filled? The state can just outsource it to private industry. /wingnut
yeah, there’s a lot of confusion over the way pensions work. health insurance is a bit different, because it’s optional and different plans have different costs so the total compensation is variable if the employer contributes. same with a 401(k) or TSP or what not. but disregarding those benefits, with a pension your salary plus your pension contributions make up a consistent total compensation that was already bargained for – if walker signed a bill tomorrow that merely ends state employee pensions completely, employee salaries would immediately go up the amount that is no longer contributed to pensions.
I’ve mentioned it a couple of times, but government workers are ALSO taxpayers. Unless there have been some laws which exempt them from taxes that I haven’t heard about.
@PurpleGirl: Agreed that government workers are taxpayers.
I’m tempted to call Johnston “the Matt Taibbi of tax,” but there’s no reason for me to gratuitously insult Taibbi.
It’s a pleasant surprise to see that he still knows how to read a contract. This is definitely in the” broken clock is right twice a day” realm.
” if walker signed a bill tomorrow that merely ends state employee pensions completely, employee salaries would immediately go up the amount that is no longer contributed to pensions.”
That seems highly doubtful. Can you point to specific statutory or contract language that achieves that result?
@burnspbesq: I’m more inclined to think that not only will pay be cut, but the pension money will be deemed state money that was “overpaid” to be returned…let the union sue for it. That seems to be how the republicans are rolling in the state these days.
thank you for another great post telling the truth
But…that would mean Republicans are lying! And that can’t be right.
Aren’t those pension plan contributions protected to that “sanctity of contract” I heard so much a while back? You know, about the time that high taxes on Wall Street bonuses would be class warfare?
Maybe that U of Chicago law professor who was strapped on $400k a year can weigh n on the compensation of the Wisconsin school teachers.
Simply false. But, hell, it makes a good article, right?
This is the “Plan 9 From Outer Space” blog. So bad, it’s good, lol.
Something about this reminds me of Alan Greenspan and the Social Security trust fund/subsequent tax cuts for the rich, but I can’t quite put my finger on it/assemble the proper snark…
I think that’s mostly right. If the public employee retirement plan in Wisconsin is a typical defined benefit plan, the benefit is based on a formula along the lines of “x percent of career average comp (or average comp for the last y years before retirement) times years of service.” So pay cuts lead inexorably to benefit cuts.