Does the Constitution Protect Public Employee Pensions?
By George Skelton, November 14, 2011, Los Angeles Times
In Philadelphia, 224 years ago, some men tucked these words into the nation’s new Constitution: “No state shall … pass any … law impairing the obligation of contracts…” Those words, squeezed into a very long sentence in Article 1, Section 10, listing powers denied the states, became known as the “contracts clause.” And it is playing havoc with modern-day public pension reformers, including Gov. Jerry Brown. As widely interpreted — most importantly by the courts (or so we laymen are told) — the clause means that pensions promised state and local government workers on the day they were hired cannot be reduced without giving them a new compensating benefit. In other words, some kid walks into a state office seeking a junior clerk job. He lands it. That constitutes a contract. The new hire is entitled to the pension benefit then in effect if he sticks around long enough to collect it — even if the subject of retirement perks never was discussed, as it surely would not have been. “Employees are entitled to benefits in place during their employment,” asserts the California Public Employees’ Retirement System in a recent report. (read article)

Big government, big labor, and big business in bed together
By Fred Barnes, November 2011 edition, The Weekly Standard
By his own account, President Obama is the champion and protector of the little guy. He said last week he wants no one left “in a second-class status in this United States of America.” He’s “determined” to “make sure that nobody out there is going bankrupt just because somebody in their family is getting sick.” He’s committed to making Washington “responsive to the needs of people, not the needs of special interests [and] not just people who are hurting now, but also responsive to future generations.” Obama identifies himself with the 99 percent. Yet the winners in the nearly three years of Obama’s presidency are the big guys?—?big business, big labor, and big government. Corporate profits have reached record levels. The influence of the biggest labor unions has surged in Washington, where it matters most. The federal government has grown in size and reach. (read article)

Outing teacher union replicants: How to spot a fake “parents” group, operative, or outfit
By Anthony Krinsky, November 12, 2011, Anthony Krinsky’s Blog
America’s teacher unions have seen their brand diminished in recent years so they are aggressively trying to promote their spokespeople into credible positions within communities and as leaders of front-groups which disavow union allegiance.  The most troubling new development, which I predicted years ago, was that they have begun to setup fake “parent” groups that waive the banner of parent advocacy but which actually promote the teacher union agenda.  They are going beyond parking parents in the strategically “neutral” PTA, they are enlisting parents in proxy-armies to fight reforms which are clearly in the parental interest.  This is the next chapter in their multi-generational struggle to fool parents. (read article)

Losing the Working Class As Ohio goes . . . ?
By Henry Olsen, Nov 11, 2011, The Weekly Standard
Last week’s election indicates that the GOP marriage with the white working class is on the rocks. That’s bad news, since the epic Republican landslide in 2010 was fueled by record-high margins among these voters. It’s doubly bad for the GOP frontrunner, multimillionaire Mitt Romney, who is already struggling to connect with non-college grads in the primaries. If white working-class independents need to be wooed to win in 2012 — and they do — Republicans need to ask themselves: Is Romney the right man to do the wooing? As in any troubled relationship, the cause of the GOP’s difficulties is simple: failure to listen to the other’s needs. On issue after issue, the opinions of the GOP’s conservative base are out of step with those of white working-class independents. Rather than grasp this fact, however, many Republican political leaders have listened solely to the base and ignored the other partner in the marriage. (read article)

The Anarchy of ‘More’: Public Union Avarice Knows No Limits
By Paul Moreno, November 11, 2011, Big Government
Greece is about to default on its public debt or ruin the European Union, or both. The Greeks are destroying themselves today much as they did during the Peloponnesian War. This looks like the inevitable result of the welfare statism and entitlement mentality that is destroying the entire Western world. We see similar forces of anarchy at work in the “Occupy” movements in American cities. An important factor in these movements is the fundamentally anarcho-syndicalist tenor of the union movement, which demands an ever greater share of national income. Public-sector unions like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have been prominent in the “occupy” movement. Wisconsin AFSCME proudly sent pizzas “in solidarity” with the Wall Street occupiers. Rutgers University labor economist Leo Troy calls public-sector unionism “the new socialism.” The old socialism was based on state ownership of the means of production. The new socialism involves the transfer of an ever greater share of the economy to the public sector. (read article)

Thanks, Union Bosses!
November 11, 2011, Champion News
(watch video)

The Politics Of Public Sector Unions
By Steven Greenhut, November 11, 2011, CalWatchdog
To say that the unions have undue influence in the California Legislature, as many critics allege, is to understate the problem. The unions – and the public sector ones in particular – don’t just control the Legislature. They are the Legislature. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, previously worked as an attorney for a public sector union. Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, is best known as the union organizer who led the Southern California grocery strikes of 2003-2004. The Democratic Party, which controls every state constitutional office and holds strong majorities in both houses of the Legislature, functions as the cat’s paw for the unions. (read article)

Ohio election shows power of government to vote itself money
November 10, 2011, By Frank Keegan, Franklin Center
Every Ohio household should write a check for $76,000 today just to pay unfunded pension benefits for government workers betrayed by politicians and union bosses who made them promises taxpayers now must keep. That is the bottom line from Tuesday’s vote on Issue 2, which among other things eliminated workers paying 10 percent toward their pensions, which are short at least $190 million by even the most optimistic estimates. Another calculation that is not so optimistic proves the average Ohio household must pay at least $2,541 a year in additional taxes every year for 30 years to make up public pension shortfalls if there is no reform. Ohio is the second worst state in the nation, right behind New Jersey. Did anybody bother to tell voters that fact before they overturned a new law intended to pull Ohio a little back from inevitable fiscal collapse? (read article)

Ohio vote shows unions still a political force
By Sam Hananel, November 9, 2011, Sacramento Bee
Union leaders said Wednesday their success in striking down an Ohio law curbing collective bargaining rights for public workers points to an energized labor movement that could be pivotal in helping Democrats win battleground states in next year’s election. “What happened in Ohio last night matters everywhere,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “I think the governors in the other states ought to take heed of this and if they don’t, they do so at their own peril.” The vote marked one of the biggest victories in decades for a labor movement that has been on the defensive all year, as unions fight measures in Ohio, Wisconsin and other states that would roll back pensions and benefits for public employees and weaken union clout. Unions are looking to channel that energy into other states – including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri and Florida – where they believe voters are rejecting GOP policies that have threatened unions. (read article)

Ohio Voters Reject Public-Union Limits
By Kris Maher and Jack Nicas, November 9, 2011, Wall Street Journal
Voters on Tuesday defeated by a wide margin a law that would have restricted the powers of unions representing teachers, police officers and other public-sector workers. WSJ’s Kris Maher has details of Ohio residents voting down a proposed law that would have placed limits on unions representing teachers, police officers and other public-sector workers. The law would have stripped the state’s 350,000 public employees of most of their collective-bargaining rights and forced workers to pay at least 15% of their health-care costs. With 97% of precincts reporting, 61% of voters in a referendum voted against the Republican-backed law, known as Senate Bill 5, while 39% supported it The vote was closely watched beyond Ohio as other states have debated whether to rein in public unions to help governments cut spending on wages and benefits. Unions have faced bruising battles with newly elected Republican majorities in various states this year. In Wisconsin, lawmakers passed a law restricting union rights, but they failed to do so in Indiana. (read article)

Off-year Ohio election posts highest turnout in 20 years
Business Courier, November 9, 2011, Morning Call Cincinnati
The vote on Issue 2 contributed to Ohio’s highest voter turnout in 20 years for an off-year general election, wcpo.com reported. Results from early Wednesday morning posted by the secretary of state’s office show 46 percent of the state’s registered voters cast ballots on Tuesday. The last time voter turnout was higher in an odd-year was 1991, when 51.3 percent voted. Many voters said they were motivated by Issue 2, the law limiting union rights for teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees. (read article)

National Days of Action
November 2011, SEIU Local 1000
Join with SEIU members across the country as we send a strong message in support of job creation. Nov. 17. We are the 99. Thursday, November 17, 4-7 p.m., Meet at 12th Avenue exit overpass, park near Franklin Blvd. and 8th Avenue and walk to overpass entrance on 31st Street (Map) and join the Local 1000 organizing team. Send a message to Sacramento commuters that we are part of the 99% of Americans who are in support of job creation. (view website)

About the author: Jack Dean is editor of PensionTsunami.org, formed to monitor developments in all three pension spheres nationwide — public employees, corporations and social security. PensionTsunami, like UnionWatch, is a project of the California Public Policy Center. Dean is a former newspaper editor and a past executive director of the Reason Foundation. He has been active in politics for more than three decades and currently serves as president of the Fullerton Association of Concerned Taxpayers.

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