The idea that unions are a bad influence on California is hardly just a conclusion of folks on the right. In 2005, the Los Angeles Times endorsed Prop. 75, saying barring the automatic deduction of union dues from public employees’ pay would lead to a fairer balance of power at the local and state government level. The Sacramento Bee editorial page has gone after unions for being unreasonable for years; here’s a recent example. Unions are so out of control that it barely raises eyebrows when union officials and allies like state Dem Party leader John Burton advocate a policy that would prevent giving anti-convulsion drugs to kids at risk of death if the person doing the giving isn’t a union nurse. But guess who completely absolves unions? The Calbuzz boys, whose writing style/shtick builds off the idea that they’re smarter than everybody, and the L.A. Times’ George Skelton, dean of Sacramento journos. Really, guys? Not a single mention of unions in your recent dissections of California’s dysfunction? Not one? Wow.
Skelton’s myopia is his norm. I groaned when I read the following but was hardly surprised.
The real blame rests with the recession, an outdated roller-coaster tax system, the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for tax increases, an outmoded Proposition 13 property tax system that has shifted power and responsibility from local governments to Sacramento, legislative term limits that stunt lawmakers’ growth — and political polarization.
Same old Shelton.
But remember that Phil Trounstine and Jerry Roberts, the Calbuzzers, write as if they alone understand California yet are otherwise surrounded by idiots and knaves. So how on Earth is it possible that they could write 930 words on the state’s screwed-up budget and never mention the word “union”?
Now I understand the theory that Proposition 13 is the root of all evil. I understand the theory that the lack of an oil extraction tax seems unfair given how other states deal with the same issue. But, holy bleep, to look at all of California’s problems and boil it down to GOP opposition to higher taxes? Really?
Like Reagan, Brown is at heart a traditionalist, embracing the old-school belief that politics is the art of the possible, fueled by negotiations in the service of finding agreement. That is why Brown keeps expecting Republicans to want to negotiate for things they want in exchange for things he wants. But the vast majority of the GOP minority doesn’t want to negotiate, because they don’t want an agreement.
Brown’s focused and patient efforts to craft a budget deal belie the decades-old rap on him as too heedless and flaky for the painstakingly hard work of governing. He can only hope, however, that amid all the posing, grandstanding and strutting in the Republican caucus, there are at least a couple of grown-ups with the backbone to stand up and help him do the job.
Given what happened to Nathan Fletcher’s smart tax deal with Jerry Brown last fall, I understand gripes about GOP obstinance. But when one side has so much more power than the other side, it’s simply bizarre to absolve the strongest supporters of the side with the great majority of power of any responsibility for the state’s problems.
It takes amazing tunnel vision to write 930 words about why California is screwed up and not mention unions. It takes amazing chutzpah to do this in a column in which the Calbuzzers mock other journos for their takes on the Golden State.
What do they ignore? Lots of things.
When times are bad, unions pressure Democrats to always make social services for the poor be the first target of budget cutting, preserving public employee compensation by any means possible.
When times are good, they pressure Democrats to save extra revenue for them. In the revenue boom that lasted from 2003-2007, social services spending went up by barely the rate of inflation, while spending on schools (teacher unions) and prisons (guard unions) went up at least four times as fast.
Unions have blocked teacher tenure reform and any policies that pursue teacher accountability.
Unions have rigged CalPERS and CalSTRS into fighting for a crazy status quo by controlling their boards and used their clout in the Legislature to block pension reform.
They’ve passed one state law to make it more difficult for local governments to declare bankruptcy, so as to preserve public employee compensation, and they’re pursuing another law to make it even harder.
They oppose letting volunteers clean up parks.
They require leaders of the Legislature to block significant bills helping the economy because then they can use those bills as political chits to win concessions related to, you guessed it, protect public employee jobs and compensation.
In south Los Angeles, when Latino parents wanted a charter school, someone left leaflets warning that their organizing meeting would be raided by agents looking for illegal immigrants. UTLA members are the only logical suspects.
Against this backdrop, it’s nutty that anyone can go 20 words without citing unions as part of the state’s dysfunction, much less full essays.
At least when Skelton ignores the T. Rex in the room, he doesn’t do so while patting himself on the back. In their essay, Roberts’ and Trounstine’s self-regard rings through:
The only thing worse was reading the inane Back East commentary, written by the usual assortment of Romney-sniffing blowhards, ill-informed thumbsuckers and right-wing mantra-chanters whose knowledge and understanding of California politics seems proscribed by the collected rantings of Flashreport freelancers and the world’s shortest book, viz. The Wit and Wisdom of Jon Coupal.
OK, OK, it’s clear, Calbuzzers, you think the pundits on the right are nitwits.
But how can it not be crystal-clear, Jerry and Phil, that when you write 930 words of analysis on California’s woes without mentioning unions, you are yourselves guilty of the same partisan hackery and hucksterism you see on the right?
I will leave the closing argument to the L.A. Times, and the paper’s Oct. 16, 2005, editorial:
At many levels of government, public employee unions, aided by their political war chests, have gained control over both sides of the negotiating process. When public employee unions wield the type of influence they now do in California, too much governing becomes an exercise in self-dealing.
I look forward to a sarcastic, name-calling screed against the L.A. Times from the Calbuzz guys.