Friday, June 1, 2012

Game On Wisconsin

If all politics is local, the recall election of Scott Walker is no exception.  Naturally the college professors want to get their two cents worth;
Scott would always come to class in a three-piece suit and tell me he was working in a bank — ‘working in the private sector,’ he would say. It was like teaching a real-life Alex Keaton,” said Walker’s urban politics professor, Janet Boles, referring to Michael J. Fox’s eccentric character on the old TV sitcom Family Ties.
Tucked away in a corner of Boles’ upstairs closet, the professor proudly held up a stack of grade books with dozens of pages full of names and scores for every student she taught in her 29 years there — including Walker and the current Democratic Mayor of Phoenix, Greg Stanton. Boles beamed as she told me how Stanton scored 97 out of 100 in her urban public policy course.
On the other hand, Boles hid neither her soft spot for Walker, the student, nor her disdain for Walker, the governor. “He turned in all his assignments on time, he took all of his tests on time, and he never showed me any disrespect,” said Boles, who retired in 2009 from the private Catholic school in downtown Milwaukee. “I just hate what he’s doing to our state.”
 Which seems to be improving its fiscal position from where it had been under his predecessor.  Why would that rankle a retired public employee?  Well, Andrew Biggs could shed some light on that;

After a protracted legal and political battle, on March 11, 2011, the Wisconsin state Legislature passed Act 10, the Budget Repair Act, which increased public employee contributions toward pensions and health coverage and restricted union powers of collective bargaining and dues collection. This study analyzes public sector salaries and benefits inWisconsin, with a particular focus on disentangling the risk-adjusted value of pension benefits offered in the public sector from accounting conventions that can understate the cost and value of defined benefit pension plans.
We find that state and local government employees receive salaries roughly equal to those paid to private sector Wisconsin employees with similar education and experience or working in jobs with similar skill requirements.
However, even following Act 10, pension benefits for Wisconsin public employees are roughly 4.5 times more valuable than private sector levels while health benefits are about twice as generous as those paid by larger private sector Wisconsin employers. This difference results in a combined salary-benefits compensation premium of around 22 percent for state workers over private sector workers, with varying but often larger pay advantages for local government employees. 
Hmmm.  Is this what MIT's Simon Johnson meant when he wrote;
The historical evidence is overwhelming. Many societies have done well for a while – until powerful people get out of hand. This is an easy pattern to see at a distance and in other cultures. It is typically much harder to recognize when your own society now has an elite less subject to effective constraints and more able to exert power in an abusive fashion. And given the long history of strong institutions in the United States, it appears particularly difficult for some people to acknowledge that we have serious governance issues that need to be addressed. 

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