I love the theatrics of the Media. There always has to be good vs. evil, a hero and a villain, only in an abbreviated 10 minute story. And usually that story is rewritten by a colleague for their 10 minute abbreviated version and so on.
Or it's simply video snippets and creating or adding more depth to the story. Bill O'Reilly's show recently got caught doing so by using video clips from an old Union rally in Sacramento, but adding it to the Wisconsin public union battle story, yet no one thought to edit out the Palm Trees during production. It's "yellow journalism circa 2011" and everyone is falling for it. Only this time it is not the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine, just the sinking of our States.
Everyone in the U.S. has heard in one form or another of the happenings in Wisconsin, the hero Gov Scott Walker, voted in by a 62%majority on Election Day, vowed to cut spending and not to raise taxes. The villain, those evil Public Union Leaders and their minions of Public Union Worker members. But this is not a story about Wisconsin alone, it's a story that all States are running into. Only the villains are more then just Public Union Worker members, it's everyone within the States themselves. That's right, all of us, all taxpayers, all citizens are the villainous creed that the Governor heroes are trying to protect us against.
Yes, we are all villains for wanting our tax dollars to pay for "perks" such as clean parks, whether County or State, to walk in or let our children play baseball or swing.
We are the villains for wanting our tax dollars to pay for "pot holes" to be filled so our cars stay aligned and tires do not get destroyed while traveling to work or the grocery store.
We are villains for wanting our tax dollars to pay for snow removal during the harshest winter storm and sewers debris free so heavy rainfall can flow without flooding.
And yes, we are the villains for wanting our tax dollars to pay for the latest technology in our schools and the best stadiums/gymnasiums for our student athletes to play in so the district can call itself "State Champ!"
It's easy for any Governor to say "the State is going to cut back on services in Education and Health care, for those costs make up about 70% of State spending." Educational cuts will simply fall back on the Counties and Townships to increase to pay for those educational "perks." But what cuts are the Governors, and the State Legislature taking? Any?
Where are their cuts in their paychecks? Are any of them taking a 10%-15% cut in pay to help pay for their pension plans? Are any of them taking a 10%-15% cut in pay to help pay for their Health care costs? Is the Governor paying rent for that Mansion at the State Capital?
The average yearly salary of all 50 Governors is roughly $130,000. That's not rich, but it's well enough when you consider the following;
1. 44 of the 50 Governors live in an official state residence, with maintenance costs, utility bills and food expenses paid for by the State. Unless you're Texas Governor Rick Perry, who has been living lavishly in an Austin Mansion for the past 5 years while the Governor's Mansion is being remodeled costing taxpayers triple the normal cost.
2. 46 of the 50 Governors have transportation of all sorts at their disposal. Some States have a fleet of Planes and Helicopters available for the Legislature to use to get across the state. And just about any staff member can get a state vehicle to use no matter their position.
3. Oh! the benefit "perks" are fruitful as well. Some Governors have pension plans that they can start to collect on at retirement age. And some are even sweeter in the fact that they grow along with the current Governor's pay. So the retired Governor made $100K while in office and the current makes $135K, the difference of $35K gets added to the former! So how many Governors are getting this type of retro-pay? About 6 from my research. That nice nest egg of $1 million from being governor for 8 years and you've been out of office for 14 years and ready to collect, just got sweeter.
Sure Mitt Romney, when Governor of Massachusetts's, can gladly state he never raised one tax while Governor. This is true, but he omits the fact that while he didn't raise taxes, that the Counties and Townships in Massachusetts's had to raise theirs to make up the difference.
Many are talking about the lopsided pension plans of Public Union workers. Yes, there is a lopsidedness to it and many of those Public Unions have agreed to pay more in concessions, but one cannot blame the Union member alone. One can lay blame on the State Auditors and the Union themselves, for many put a greater faith in the stock market and many took an ass whopping in Ponzi schemes.
A good example comes out of St Petersburg, Florida. Apparently Bank of New York Mellon defrauded Florida's pension fund with the secret markup on billions of dollars. Basically BNYM collected upon a higher converted currency and pocketed the difference. BNYM holds $150 billion belonging to Florida from future and current retirees, cities, counties, school districts, and state agencies equaling over 1 million assets. The loss to Floridians could lead up to tens of millions of dollars. So who's to blame here? Will we hear about how the Florida Public workers are near criminal actions for not wanting to have to pay for more in concessions as they are being proclaimed by the Media concerning Wisconsin?
In 2009, Sacramento County Employees' Retirement System, University of Pittsburgh, and Bowling Green University all lost an estimated $77 million in pension money thru investments. University of Pittsburgh lost an estimated $35 million and Bowling Green lost an estimated $15 million in the Westridge Capital Management investment fraud case. Westridge Capital was handling over $554 million in investments at the time and much of the syphoned money was used on lavish vacation and obscene bonuses.
So all our States are in some sort of financial discourse and yet there always has to be someone to blame and someone to take the fall. Usually it's the teacher unions that are blamed and the taxpayer that takes the fall.
While everyone is looking at blaming State Public union workers such as teachers, road crews, police officers and so on for destroying a State's fiscal responsibilities, why is not the Media looking into the state run universities and colleges? I'm not talking about the teachers or professors at these universities, I'm talking about athletics.
Yes, it's true that a big name state university athletic program can bring in millions of dollars if successful. Big games against interstate rivals or a huge payday from a Bowl victory or even making the Final Four in basketball. Head coaches of these programs earn an average of $1.5 million annually, not to mention the "perks" of subsidized housing, incentives, and other benefits. Some of those benefits include private jet usage, land deals, family travel accounts, and some get a percentage in ticket revenue!
In Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh's men's basketball coach Jamie Dixon recently unseated Penn State's Legendary football coach Joe Paterno as the highest paid employee at a public university. Both Pitt and Penn State plus the other state funded universities receive a combined $657 million in state money. It's coming to a point that one university head coach's salary can equal up to 6 university professor salaries.
Where's the FOX News outrage on that paragraph? Why is not CNBC's Rick Santelli reporting outside Penn State's Beaver Stadium? Is Anderson Cooper hiding in a secluded dorm room reporting on this? No, because it's not as villainous in terms as the 52 year old unionized sanitation worker making $40k annually in New York city keeping it clean. It's not as villainous as the 35 year old unionized school teacher making $52k annually that is educating children with disabilities because both parents need to work to help pay for the overbearing health costs to care for that child.
It's easier to blame someone else, you just have to pick the right villain, or hero depending on your choice of action.
Freedberg, Stephen P., Florida investigation charges that bank defrauded state's pension fund, St. Petersburg Times, Feb 5, 2011
Upton, Jodi, Contracts for college coaches cover more then salaries, USA Today, Nov 16, 2006
Murphy, Jan, Pitt's Jamie Dixon unseats Joe Paterno as highest paid employee of Pennsylvania's public universities, The Patriot-News, June 18, 2010