Thursday, September 23, 2010

A politician doing his job -- No on Prop. B

leland-&-the-wolf.jpg
State Senator Leland Yee stands with a "wolf in sheep's clothing" amid a crowd of firefighters while stating his opposition to San Francisco Prop. B. We like to see our pols out and about and the smart ones perform on cue.

What's Prop. B? Ah, now there's the real question.

Proponents of the November ballot measure -- an odd marriage of Public Defender Jeff Adachi, libertarian flimflam man Matt Gonzalez (Ralph Nader's running mate in 2008), and billionaire venture capitalist Michael Moritz -- say it is about making San Francisco more fiscally secure by making city employees pay more into their pension plans. There are some vague words about funding worthy non-profits with proceeds, but no guarantees. And proponents barely mention that

80 percent of its cost savings comes from steep increases in health care costs for city employees with dependents. The Adachi/Moritz plan raises pension costs for a typical employee with one dependent $1750.32 per year, while their health premiums would rise an additional $3,605.60 (a total annual "tax" of over $5300).

Beyond Chron, August 2, 2010

Proponents think this will be an easy sell. Everyone is hurting. Why shouldn't city workers pay more for their benefits?

City workers get benefits that lots of other workers probably envy. They have good benefits because they have strong unions that win strong contracts. And they have strong unions because it is a lot harder for city government to outsource answering questions to a call center where wages would be cheaper than it is for multi-national corporations. We want to be able to go in and get service from our bureaucrats or at least yell at them face to face. We want to be able to trust that our street lights work and our firefighters are on the job; our politicians understand that we'd have their heads if city services were contracted out to some company that didn't have to care. So they have to deal with employee unions. Besides, we're a liberal town and most of us think everyone should have unions if they want them.

The unions do what unions are supposed to do: bargain vigorously to win good wages and working conditions for their members. Back in the 1990s when lots of people thought the stock market could only go up, pensions were set on that assumption. The editorial page editor of the Chronicle --a paper I expect to embrace Prop. B -- explains:

It looked like easy money in the headiness of 1999. It would have worked out as painlessly as advertised if the Dow Jones industrial average was at 25,000 today, instead of hovering around 10,000. When investments fall short, governments must dig into their general funds.

Ooops. Now, with the Great Recession and Republican obstruction in Washington and Sacramento, cities are in trouble and San Francisco is no exception.

But that's no reason to try to drop the bill on city workers, even though they seem an attractive target. We got into a fiscal mess together and we are going to have to get out of that mess together. We certainly don't want to do it by denying health care to workers' children -- that is what will happen if this thing goes through because a lower paid city worker will probably just drop dependent coverage. She will have to.

Prop. B is a classic piece of scapegoating, throwing blame at people who unpopular while protecting the interests of the powerful.

On this blog I have a simple refrain when governments need money to do their jobs: get it from the people who have it. This applies as much to my city as to Washington. There are rich people in this town; their multi-million dollar houses have barely lost value while suburban developments have crashed. And the ones who don't live here profit from the downtown corporate headquarters. Tax them.

Meanwhile, no on Prop. B!

H/t to San Francisco Citizen for alerting me to the Inner Sunset rally pictured above.

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