For a sharp and historically informed analysis of the pension follies of state Democratic lawmakers, no one is going to top Jerry Roberts’ and Phil Trounstine’s piece on Calbuzz.
Let’s be blunt. Democrats, whose political livelihoods have steadily and increasingly become dependent on union money since Jerry Brown in his first term signed the legislation that gave state employees collective bargaining rights, are terrified of moving an inch on pensions without permission and marching orders from the labor groups that finance their campaigns.
But while it’s great to see this pointed out by practically the only contrarian voices in the progressive media, I still have two gripes with Jerry and Phil. The first is that they essentially echo the union talking point that the pension crisis has been exaggerated:
As a practical matter, pension reform is not the most pressing fiscal issue facing the state, as we’ve stipulated before.
But as a practical matter, guys, pension reform is absolutely the most pressing fiscal issue facing many local governments. No one should ever say that the state’s not in a horrible position short term without also quickly adding but that’s not true for Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego, etc.
And here’s my second gripe: When will someone in California’s progressive media point out that programs for the poor are bearing far more of the pain in recent state budgets than employee compensation? Instead, we see this pretend game that holds compensation has been slashed for years — coverage that never points out most public employees get automatic raises just for time served on the job until they have reached the top level in their job classification.
I recently pointed out 60 percent-plus of San Diego Unified’s teachers got “step” increases in each of the last three years for which their pay was reduced by furloughs. Why isn’t this sort of data presented WITH EVERY LAST STORY about employee compensation? Instead, as someone who’s read the L.A. Times for 22 years and the Sac Bee for 17, I can tell you that I literally don’t recall a single article in either of the two papers that thoroughly covered this angle.
Partisanship? Incompetence? Stupidity? A combo of the three?
Who knows. But this info is crucial and important and “contextual,” to use the trendy term from the ombud set.
Roberts and Trounstine have dared to cross the unions by being “contextual” on pension reform. Now if only the Evan Halpers and Judy Lins of the world would follow suit on local and state government pay practices. At a time wen the saftey net is being gutted, it’s not partisan analysis to point out what those practices say about how 21st-century California Democrats define “social justice.” It’s bleeping obvious.