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Glad I didn't pay for the advice.
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  • “Because We Can’t Afford It:” Reining in Government at All Levels  [View instapost]
    Point taken. You're right. Thank you.
    Mar 14, 2011. 02:02 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • “Because We Can’t Afford It:” Reining in Government at All Levels  [View instapost]
    Even though you provided a single article from an admittedly biased source, I enjoyed it and agree with a lot of it. However, I find some of the article subjective - but it is (effectively) an editorial and that is its purpose.

    Where you lost my respect was quoting the inflammatory 2nd paragraph that is later rebuked in that same article as not being normalized. He goes on to say that one of the reports I quoted is not normalized enough. I hope someone does a study to quantify his claims (though assessing a value on public sector job security is tough, tougher in Wisconsin). He's picked the low subjective low apples (and low turnover rates can be countered by a bunch of studies from Ingersoll). But, they are valid points that should be factored.

    If you would have quoted the conclusion of that article, we could have had a discussion. As it is, I can see you are a troll.

    I have better things to do than reply to you. Good luck trading.
    Mar 14, 2011. 12:18 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • “Because We Can’t Afford It:” Reining in Government at All Levels  [View instapost]
    Hi Jeep,

    I'm finding it difficult to find the time to write - just because of life. But because you took the time to write inciteful and thought out responses, I'll try to muster a reply.

    (BTW, I'm not sure how I got to defending unions or teachers. I've been burnt by both. I'll try to get back to the point)

    To give you some context in my sources, I usually just read the WSJ, some blogs, and PVR the Sunday morning shows, (Meet The Press, Wallace, Face The Nation, Washington Week). I am NEVER current on the news shows.

    Here's what worries me
    -We are being given an easy scapegoat for the deficit in the unions. There are NO easy answers. It will be hard work. That's my premise. Scapegoating is counter-productive in my opinion, but maybe that's why I'm not a politician. It's a complicated situation. Let's keep our eye on the prize, and not witch hunt. Witch hunts make you feel better, but don't necessarily give desired results.

    Unions are not evil incarnate, and they did not cause all these issues. Anyone who says so is over simplifying the issue. (I also argue with my teacher/union friends from your side of the fence).

    I think we are getting distracted from fiscal responsibility by union bashing.

    -On one of the Sunday morning show a couple of weeks ago (around a table, people from all sides of the issue) - I heard that there is no correlation between big deficits and public collective bargaining. They didn't present an ANOVA table, but noone argued it. (For those casually following: For the states with coll. bargaining, there are many with and without large deficits. Same goes for the states without collective bargaining. Implicit is that collective bargaining really isn't a factor. I wish I could remember the show... Meet the Press maybe? 2 weeks ago?)

    -To take the other side of the issue from you (at least in Wisconsin), I'm wary of the connection between restricting collective bargaining rights and deficit reduction. I haven't really heard a good reason why he didn't take up the union's offer to cut costs without the new legislation. To me it seems personal. Ok - fine, he doesn't like unions, his prerogative and he was elected - but we WERE talking about deficits and they WERE willing to work with him. I've heard in interviews with him (on Fox?) that he was 'frustrated' with unions in his previous political posts. I understand his frustration in trying to negotiate in that past life, dealing with various parties, etc. We all just want to get things done sometimes. However, if we focus on FISCAL issues (which is what I'm concerned about) he supposedly had a counterparty that was willing to reduce expenses.

    -I'm cautious about assigning moral authority or validity to anything. That's very subjective. To be devil's advocate again, who holds the moral authority in the Ford/Visteon pension default? There are many dirty hands. And victims.

    -Unions do not hold a monopoly on conflict of interest. There are too many on the corporate / government side to even discuss. My favorite is when the CEO of FedEx was on the 9/11 commission to the president to address passenger airline bailouts. FedEx also got a good chunk of it. (I bought FedEx when I heard they were on the commission, and again after the payout - so my hands are dirty too. Unfortunately, I don't know how to make money from union conflicts of interest.) If we want to get rid of conflict of interest, let's do that across the board - but not pick just one of the parties involved.

    - Preemptive breaking of contracts is my fear, since Walker seems more intent on union breaking than negotiating to reduction. We've already talked about the slippery slope. I'm glad you brought up bankruptcy court. As a supplier and counterparty, the unions have a right to represent their constituents as much as Carl Icahn does (or other debt raiders). Municipality bankruptcy are especially complex (at least for me) because there are appropriation-backed obligations that have explicit, but non-binding state backing. I'm glad I'm not a bankruptcy judge. Soon we may see a bunch of widows on the news throwing Muni's (bonds) into Lake Michigan or Boston Harbor.

    -How did these (pension) contracts originate? It seems like there is a moral argument, and they are all tainted with conflict of interest (much like farm subsidies). I'm going to take another view (for argument). Let's all remember the amazing boom of the 90's (and it started earlier). No-one wanted public service jobs, and you were a loser to take one (ok - that's a subjective statement but I wanted to add color). However, it is conventional wisdom that there were teachers shortages, in that era of low unemployment. The contracts were arguably written for the market. Since the market rates weren't paid to teachers, the pension concessions (beyond wall colors and work environment) were to amortize the payments into a pension plan. If the plans weren't sufficiently funded by the states, is that the union's fault? To me, this is akin to me buying a 30 year muni then at high coupon (yes that's reasonable - prime was regularly ~9%) because I didn't want to get into the yeah-yeah dot-coms. I'll take slow growth now for defined growth later. Now, as a bond holder, I'm being told that it was an immoral contract because the muni still has to pay me 10% (reasonable rate?) but kids have no teachers and there are no firemen? The muni's were happy to take my money then for the returns, as they were happy to promise pensions in a tight labor market. The states amortized the wages, and hoped they would never have to pay or that tax receipts continually went up to cover... (much like the CDO market never expected housing prices to decline)

    I'm way behind in my 'real' work so I may not be quick in responding. But I'm glad you took the time to respond. I'll try to follow you so I can learn more of your view. I used to be EXTREMELY ANTI-UNION but obviously that's been tempered. I still argue against them (and yes, the conflict of interest for voting does bother me, but so do corporate/gov conflicts). If you can, please speak more about what is an immoral contract and what isn't.

    By the way, I'm starting to buy distressed muni's. Hedging higher taxes.
    Mar 14, 2011. 11:49 AM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • “Because We Can’t Afford It:” Reining in Government at All Levels  [View instapost]
    @Everyone: I think you confuse me with a union supporter. I'm not pro-union or anti-union. I'm anti-jingo, pro-argument. "Privatize is the answer" doesn't cut it. (Sometimes privatization works, sometimes it doesn't - look how well privatizing bond ratings that were used in regulatory frameworks for credit quality worked.). I'm against knee-jerk reactions.

    @Jeep: Thank you for your kind, and thoughtful response. I think you and I agree. Not only in the substance of the argument but in the form. You, however, outdid me by remaining civil while I admit I got cynical and condescending.

    From my unscientific survey of the discussions, it seems like neither social sec. or defense cuts are being embraced by the majority. Instead, politically convenient causes are paraded.

    My point regarding those was that, in private enterprise, LEAN/TQM/Six Sigma theory tends to go after the items that make the largest impact first. That's being efficient. Following my own advice though, I need to give you credit and follow your thought train.

    My approach was to use a business approach to government budgets. However, government is not private by definition (how much should it be? that's the debate). It stands in the court of public opinion, and that is why your suggestion has so much merit.

    Here's what I like about it. It is easier to drive the thin edge of the wedge of fiscal reform into public opinion using small budget, easily supported initiatives. Hopefully momentum from that will be enough to enable tackling the issues that will produce bigger results. If that's your point (or part of it), I agree it has merit. It would be nice to have the parties show their own self-sacrifice. Democrats could call for reducing public broadcasting funding and Republicans could call from ending tax breaks to religious organizations.

    Apart from being possibly biased in your 1 data point assessment based on your mother-in-law, I can't really argue with your post. Just because you gave nothing to argue against. Let's have a look at 2 studies:
    shows that public employees are underpaid by about 5%
    shows they are overpaid by about 5%
    Neither is enough of a difference for me to scream like a stuck pig.

    Slamming unions for a possible 5% disparity in pay seems like a red herring.

    Privatization can be good. I would seriously consider privatizing municipal garbage pickup, road maintenance, etc. I would seriously consider removing privatization in the form of Xe/Blackwater from the military.

    I agree with Maya, and have been burnt (not literally like he's seen) by unions. But there is more to this than "Unions are bad". Like anything, they are and they aren't. Everything is inefficient, it's not a perfect world. Try using Microsoft software - capitalism at its worst :) Let's bring some color into this world of black and white.
    Mar 12, 2011. 11:54 AM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • “Because We Can’t Afford It:” Reining in Government at All Levels  [View instapost]
    You have beautifully illustrated my point.

    You are taken an argument for fiscal responsibility (my assumption on an article titled "Because we can't afford it. Reigning in government at all levels"), and turned it into an ideological dogma since you had a traumatic experience with a union. You contributing to keeping this discussion as a simplistic jingo laden rant is exactly my point. The view I see in these posts is to exterminate unions from the public (and in many cases private) sector because they are the root of all evil.

    Things are not as clear cut.

    Well, let me tell you about my experience...

    I have worked with unions - on the management side. In Detroit. In a Ford Assembly plant. Also in a technology assembly plant. I have seen the excesses and abuses first hand. I have been 'officially' reprimanded for picking up a screwdriver and also walking across a floor with a small box (that didn't contain donuts) in my hand. Probably others I can't remember. I have had to maneuver my way around rules I didn't agree with. It went against my upbringing which was formed in an environment of everyone doing whatever they could to get the crops off the field before it started to rain.

    My issue with you, and most of the posters on this board, is painting the unions and everyone in them with a broad brush.

    In a similar vein, I could make an argument, that as a carpenter, you are responsible for the overbuilding of housing in this country causing a housing crash, putting thousands of people out of work, into bankruptcy, undermining the banking system built on the premise of you not overbuilding so prices wouldn't dip and eventually causing large government bailouts that may or not (AIG) be able to pay it back. Shame on you carpenter for buying a house, fixing it up and trying to flip it. Or even fixing a roof which should have been allowed to fall in, creating less supply and supporting prices.

    Or how about the stupid voters who let it all happen? Maybe we should just get rid of that system. Think of the money we'd save if we became a fascist nation.

    Or the capitalist bankers and wall-streeters.

    Once everyone works through their "Second Stage" of greiving, Anger, pointing the finger at everyone except themselves (in this case unions) and starts working on practical, reasoned argument let me know. I'll rejoin the discussion. Right now, there's just a lot of screaming "I'm mad as hell, and I can't take it anymore". Seems like Sen. McCarthy has been reborn in 2010/11.

    By the way, if you think the unions strong armed Detroit into self destruction, you should consider reading, Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker:

    As Rick Santelli would say, it takes two to tango, and you can't deny greed, corruption on both sides.

    The only point I'd like to drive home is this:
    Be very, very careful of flagrantly violating contract agreements. It's a slippery slope and the subsequent lack of trust will undermine the foundation of our economy.

    Slogans and jingos will not quickly rescue us from a deep hole we have dug ourselves over many years. It will take many years to recover with many mistakes along the way.
    Mar 12, 2011. 09:44 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • “Because We Can’t Afford It:” Reining in Government at All Levels  [View instapost]
    I started off agreeing with this post - liking the fiscal responsibility message. This argument has turned into a left vs. right ideological one. That is just wrong.

    Somehow the teacher's unions in Canada (a much more socialist country) aren't crippling that country. I would argue that Canada is in much better fiscal shape than the US. That pretty much discounts the ideological fork in the road being presented.

    Power corrupts - whether it is from regulators, unions, or capitalists. Corruption is ideologically agnostic.

    I personally have an issue with this because at one point I weighed being a teacher against going into private industry. Starting salary in teaching at the time would have only put me barely over the poverty line, without a way to save for a retirement. The pension was the only thing that would have made teaching a financially responsible choice. I ended up going private anyway.

    I feel for the teachers that went into the profession expecting a defined pension (as I would have) as part of compensation and are now being threatened with having their contracts broken. That's akin to telling post-crisis bankers they can't have their bonuses written into their contracts after bailouts.

    Let's not confuse wall colors/letter grades with what's important. You are arguing a letter grade contract clause will somehow balance a budget???? Give me a break. I'll still read Joe, but the sweater is unraveling.

    I liked the idea of the Tea Party - until they couldn't stand to cut Republican Party base supported funding.

    Please give me a centrist, fiscally conservative alternative.

    By the way, NPR funding is a drop in the bucket. Another ideological red herring. Common LEAN theory says go after the 'big rabbit' first. Why are we not considering delaying social security payments AND cutting military spending?

    Bunch of hypocrites...
    Mar 12, 2011. 01:26 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Google's Ultimate Threat to Apple's Margins  [View article]
    Not necessarily good news for AAPL.

    AMD / ATI is not known for power efficiency. Unfortunately, those are the guys AAPL is hiring to add value to the Intrinsity IP. ATI's mobile (cell phone) line went down the tubes and was sold to Qualcomm at effectively 0 (so they didn't have to keep posting that divisions losses).
    Nov 15, 2010. 12:58 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Six Fatal Flaws of ObamaCare  [View article]
    Very biased article. If I have to bias it in the other direction, I know of small business owners hurt by health insurance companies. They routinely rescinded coverage when needed. I'm not sure which part of the constitution that falls under, but accepting payments until you are required to fulfill your contract should also be considered illegal. I know of personal examples of this (small business).

    See following:

    (link to page 2 of 4)
    Nov 14, 2010. 11:58 PM | 4 Likes Like |Link to Comment