Report By Richard Geno
Another crowd of over 300 people witnessed the September Conservative Forum meeting with Steve Greenhut. Steve is the director of the Journalism Center for the Pacific Research Institute, and the author of "Plunder: How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives And Bankrupting The Nation".
Steve pointed out how government employees at all levels are receiving "unbelievable" benefits. He pointed to the classic example of Robert Rizzo in Bell, California who was being paid $800,000 per year as a city manager for a city of only 38,000 citizens. This included 28 weeks of vacation, and a pension with an estimated value of $30 million.
While the Rizzo case in Bell, CA is an extreme example, city managers all over the country are being paid as much as $400,000 per year. It is not the fault of the people receiving these huge paychecks and outlandish benefits; it is the system. Politicians in both parties have been promising unsustainable pay packages in exchange for political power.
Compounding the pay excesses is the "job security" that government employees have. Steve pointed out that it is virtually impossible to get rid of an ill-performing teacher in the Los Angeles School District. He indicated that it could take 10-12 years to fire a teacher who is guilty of things like child or drug abuse. The excessive power caused by unionization of government employees magnifies the problem.
The latest tactic of the government unions is asking for and receiving "retroactive benefits." The unions have also negotiated the definition that indicates that if a government employee has a heart attack, or gets cancer, it is presumed to be job-related. Steve had an amusing confrontation with a fireman's union who challenged Steve's contention that firemen get paid "for" sleeping by insisting that instead firemen were paid "while" sleeping.
The largest recipients of the county largesse are policemen and firemen. They use the argument that they have dangerous jobs. The truth of the matter is that of all public service employees, the two longest life expectancies are policeman (who have a life expectancy of 84-85 years of age) and firemen (who live into their low eighties). Steve pointed out that something has to be done to confront the many lies of the unions.
Steve concluded by saying that "County government is becoming a pension provider that provides some public services on the side." He indicated that the three primary things that need to be done are (i) cut back on benefits, (ii) reduce pay levels, and (iii) increase accountability.
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