The Silver Spoon

Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 01:22 pm
from The Nation by Robert Scheer
A Silver Spoon Is Gouging Unions

President Bush, a scion of great wealth who has never had to earn an honest living, has abruptly wiped out the jobs, retirement security and health benefits of 850,000 blue- and white-collar federal workers. Always bailed out of losing business ventures by his daddy or a family friend, Bush apparently finds it easy to play games with the livelihood of ordinary Americans as a way of punishing unions that opposed him at election time.

The move to privatize half of the federal civilian jobs is shortsighted, with negative consequences likely for the economy and democracy and potentially for national security.

It's politics and not policy as the Administration launches yet another partisan strike at its opponents, this time in the form of a presidential edict that takes effect in thirty days, without being debated by Congress.

Government civil service has been a central mechanism for ensuring the growth of a stable middle class, a cornerstone of a stable democracy. And it is this middle class that drives the strong, steady consumerism that economists have cited as the key to why the sputtering economy has not snowballed into something worse. Yet to compensate for sinking the national budget deep into the red by his throwing money at the upper class through regressive tax cuts and defense contractors with boondoggles pushed through in a post-9/11 haze, Bush wants to cut the income and benefits of nearly a million civil servants.

While the jobs affected range from military logistics experts to computer programmers, working-class jobs at the lower end are especially targeted. Entry-level government jobs are frequently the basis of a family's ascension to a life of dignity and opportunity. When we note that high-ranking civilian officials will not see pay cuts but instead hope to see political gains, it becomes clearer how fitting this edict is for an administration run by ex-CEOs.

Workers holding secure jobs that provide a living wage can and will be replaced by low-paid crews without benefits because that is the only way to get the big "savings" Bush is after.But is it really better for the nation if the president's house is painted by men and women hired from a street-corner hiring hall at minimum wage? What if subcontractors use foreign or undocumented labor? And will it be easier for terrorists to infiltrate the government?

This is especially galling, although not surprising, coming from an Administration run by veterans of rip-off companies like Enron, the vanguard of an unchecked pandemic of greed that has wiped out so many pension funds and jobs. Now the ax will again fall on the middle class, in the form of elimination of jobs in which wages and working conditions are guaranteed by enlightened social legislation rather than the vagaries of a spot labor market.

This "race-to-the-bottom"budget gimmick is as phony as it is repugnant. Low-paid workers without medical benefits will pay less in taxes, spend less at the mall and clog emergency rooms when their children have strep throat. And without unions to monitor workplace safety and environmental regulations, the economy will suffer as more sick and injured workers become a drain on productivity.

So why would the White House pursue such a policy? Simply put, the Bushies hate unions because they are the steadiest opponents of corporate consolidation,the transfer of jobs overseas and the thievery of greedy accountants and CEOs. In other words, strong unions are still anathema on the corporate gravy train that fattened Bush, Dick Cheney and a historic number of fellow Administration honchos.

The mostly stable prosperity of the post-Depression era is not an automatic byproduct of the free market. It must be credited in large part to smart government regulation and the work of strong unions that protect consumers and workers
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 01:30 pm
I couldn't have said it any better, one of my quick lists:
What is Conservatism in America?

The largest increase in Government spending - ever!

The creation of the largest Government Entity - ever!

The most pro active court system - ever!

The most Government control over its people - ever!

The biggest trashing of the Constitution - ever!

The most loss of Civil Rights - ever!

A complete Police State!

The worst trashing of the Enviornment - ever!

The worst shambles of the Economy - ever!

The biggest loss of Personnel Freedoms - ever!
Idea Exclamation
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 03:24 pm
Exactly BillW, the same thing happened under Reagan. Reagan also broke the budget bank in California leaving such huge deficits that taxes had to be raised to just meet necessities. Now because of Prop 13 the street are as bad as on the east coast and the school yards are full of portable class rooms, there is not money to run public education or maintain roads. It is such a shame. When I left CA in 1976 you could drive with out losing and axle on the roads. I did not know what a pot hole was until I got to D.C., at the least in the North and East they have an excuse snow, ice, and heavy rain. In California it is just a matter of no money to keep the state running.

Right now in Texas many small businesses are going under because of the loss of employment in the state there people have less money to spend.

It's feel good politics that is all it is.
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 06:06 pm
Yes... And the same thing happened under Clinton too but no one wants to mention that eh?

From the AFGE's WWW site:

"That there is a human capital crisis in the federal service can not be denied. However, in our view, it is an entirely self-inflicted wound and the solutions proposed to fix the crisis are ill-advised, insufficient, and often inconsistent. AFGE views the human capital crisis as being a result of three specific policies: The directionless downsizing of the Clinton era, the privatization-at-any-cost frenzy of both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, and the refusal to adhere to the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act (FEPCA), first by the Clinton Administration and now by the Bush Administration. Taken together, these three policies have left agencies without adequate staff, without direct control over far too many of their core functions, and without the ability to pay the existing or prospective federal workforce adequate salaries.

Let's talk first about the pay issue. We were consistently advised by the Clinton Administration that pay methodology was faulty and the lag between federal salaries and their private sector counterparts was really only between 12- 14% and not the 22% we cite. Our response, met by a resounding silence, was, fine, increase pay by the 14% lag you agree with and let's continue to haggle about the difference.

The large and growing gaps between the pay and benefits provided to employees of large private sector firms and unionized state and local government employees on the one hand, and federal employees on the other, is not a mere detail. The federal government pays competitive salaries and provides comprehensive health insurance benefits - to some of its contractor employees. But the government's in-house workforce does not get equal treatment. A decade after a bipartisan federal pay law was signed by the elder President Bush, federal salaries still lag behind the private sector by approximately 22%. Thirteen years after the Congressional Research Service wrote the definitive report showing that the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program was inferior to that offered by our nation's most successful private firms and its largest states by substantial margins, the benefits gap has also worsened. There is no excuse for this --no fiscal excuse, no excuse that the data describing the dimensions of the gaps was not available, and no excuse that unions were intransigent and unwilling to negotiate even partial solutions. We have pleaded with every Congress and two Administrations to address the compensation gaps. All we hear is a deafening silence and cockeyed proposals like the Freedom to Manage Act which calls for flexibility and exemptions from civil service rules without any specifics or any additional funding streams."

But.. Scheer's denounciation of Bush and claims that priviatization will cost 850,000 jobs isn't even supported by the very unions he claims are being broken. Much hot air without paying attention to any of the facts. Again, from the AFGE's own WWW site:

"AFGE does not oppose competitive sourcing. In fact, our position is that federal agencies should be permitted to contract out commercial work, but only if it can be shown through public-private competition to be less costly to taxpayers than continued in house performance. Only through public-private competitions can taxpayers learn whether it is in their interests to have the government's work that is commercial in nature performed in house by federal employees, or contracted out to the private sector. Recently, the federal employees have improved performance to the point where they are winning approximately 60% of A-76 competitions."

What Scheer "forgot" to mention in his diatribe is that, according to the AFGE's own numbers, 60% of those Civil Service employees will very likely be the very contractors that wins those privatization contracts as Civil Service employees - net change to them - NOTHING. So much for "abruptly wiped out the jobs, retirement security and health benefits of 850,000 blue- and white-collar federal workers."
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 07:02 pm
fishin' I am having difficulty figuring out "the same thing happened under Clinton." Are you speaking of government jobs being relegated out to private concessions as the most effective way of decreasing the size of the goverment?

I'm not buying what you're quoting as it doesn't observe what direction this administration is going in.

If one bends over far enough in agreeing with these politicians, one will be able to look through their legs and see them coming.
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 08:20 pm
Initially Clinton invited AFGE to meet with him and they thought yes we have a pal in the White House but then he ignored them, oh no hurt feelings. And I think fishin is referring to the federal unions opposition to the down sizing of the federal work force that and then contracting out work that was formerly done by GS employees. And the federal unions were powerless to stop it from happening. While initially this plan caused the budget to be reduced because contractors low balled there bids on the first go round it is now more expensive than doing the work in house. For example when I left SSA in 1988 there were 88,000 employees nation wide. Now there are less that 40,000. The result, less service for a growing clientele, the idea was the computer technology would make up for less staff but unfortunately SSAs public is not exactly techno proficient and they have lots of problems dealing with their problems over the phone and not ever actually seeing a human being. Another example was my last job at the Solicitor's Office, USDOL, when I started there were 30 attorneys and about 20 support staff and when I left there were still 30 attorneys but only four support staff.
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 10:55 pm
Lightwizard wrote:
fishin' I am having difficulty figuring out "the same thing happened under Clinton." Are you speaking of government jobs being relegated out to private concessions as the most effective way of decreasing the size of the goverment?

Pretty much. Privatization isn't anything "new". The last AF Base I was at was outsourced (i.e. privatized) under Gore's "Reinventing Government" program. All of teh Aircraft maintenance went up for bid under OMB Circular A-76 procedures and all the civil services employees warned of doom and gloom. Then when the Civil Service bid won they all went and gave themselves a nice promotion for doing such fine work and went right back to doing the very same jobs they had before.

I'm not buying what you're quoting as it doesn't observe what direction this administration is going in.

Well, whether you buy the quotes or not, they are direct quotes taken from the AFGE's WWW site from AFGE testimony back in July of 2002.

The Bush Adminstration has said they will put up to 850,000 positions up for competitive bid. The AFGE (the Union that represents those very Federal Employees...) claims they manage to win of the bids for positions when they are put up for bid which directly translates to 60% of the positions remaining as government civillians. That's hardly the doom and gloom scenario Scheer leads his story off with.

Now... the Union wasn't happy with Clinton and they aren't happy with Bush but at least they admit to both. What axe is Scheer grinding? What makes any of his claims any more credible that the Union that these employees are actually a member of?
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 11:29 pm
I am going to go check the NTEU and NAGE sites and see what they have to say.
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Reply Wed 27 Nov, 2002 11:40 pm
Joanne, I think you may be talking about a slightly different issue. The 85o,000 jobs number isn't the jobs for the Dept. of Homeland Security. The 850,000 jobs number is from a Bush Announcement on Nov 21st and is spread across all Departments - many of which don't need drug screening or clearances. Many of the positions are for things like building maintenenace, grounds keeping, etc..
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