The press gets the story wrong- don’t blame unions

Bankrupt cities? Don’t blame unions

Stockton and San Bernardino, California  were brought down by the most severe housing busts in the nation, and by banks peddling subprime mortgages to poorly paid workers.

Harold Meyerson

By Harold Meyerson.  July 25, 2012

The reporting and commentary on the bankruptcies of California cities over the last month haven’t been journalism’s finest hour. From reading the voluminous accounts of the fiscal woes of Stockton and San Bernardino, you’d think that municipal unions and feckless city officials are primarily what led these cities down the path to fiscal ruin.

But you’d be wrong. What bankrupted Stockton and San Bernardino were the most severe housing busts in the nation. What bankrupted those two cities were banks peddling subprime mortgages to poorly paid workers.

That story has been missing from most accounts of the debacle, which instead focus on the preferred narrative of the right and center-right: that of fiscal irresponsibility and overpaid public employees. “Another city sinks in pension morass,” the Orange County Register editorialized. The problem common to the cities, wrote Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, is that “elected leaders and appointed managers succumbed to hubris and political pressure, particularly from their employee unions.”

Read the entire op-ed.,0,6443912.story

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5 Responses

  1. From where I sit, not relying on media reports, I see union bosses as being so selfish for their money at the expense of what is best for their members. I’m not for unions, The bosses have ‘brainwashed’ (for lack of a better word) the members that they are ENTITLED to pension benefits.

    In a good/ideal world that commitment could be honored. But this is NOT an ideal world at this time. There is precious little $$ to ‘go around’ and the pension agreement, even though it was a contract is not sacrosanct.

    Unions lose a LOT of respect when they or their members DEMAND the receipt of benefits to fund a second home when others occupy tents. Who can respect that? No wonder California is broke and so many others teetering. Union members demand honoring that which was promised; did they ever hear, ” I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” That’s life, grow up and get used to it.

    • Well. I don’t know many who are funding second homes. If there is pension abuse it should be confronted.
      What caused this crisis?
      In 2008- 2009 we suffered the looting of the U.S. economy by major banks and finance capital. The looting produced our current economic crisis, crashed the world economy, and caused the massive cutbacks we presently suffer in schools, in public pensions, in employment of police, fire, the bankrupting of cities and the cuts to health care and the social safety net.
      Did police, fire fighters, nurses, teachers cause this crisis. No.
      Did pensioners cause this crisis ? No. Government should get the money from those who caused the crisis – the bankers. Stop scapegoating pensioners.

      What happened to pensions ? Why is the San Jose Pension system in crisis? They have built a system based upon a 7.5% investment growth.
      They are achieving a 1.5% growth. Why? Because of the economic crisis. (PERS, STRS, etc.) It was the economic crisis, the looting of the economy. It was not the workers.
      Unions are one of the few resources we have to fight against the robber baron bankers and the politicians which they control.

      • Union members and bosses claim entitlement to pensions even when we have people w/out jobs or ANY source of income. That is not the union member’s fault, but where does a little humanity, decency come in. I hear a great deal of entitlement and a complete disregard for others who have it worse. All that is cared about is ME, MOSTEST, BESTEST and will I get my ‘fair’ share of the pie? I won’t sacrifice A BIT so that others less fortunate may have something. All I care about is that my contract is honored.

        That may not be the intent, but that’s how many people see unions. Unions were needed, they had a definite time and place to protect the worker from being taken advantage of as we all know occurred during the industrial revolution. But, I see little to be gained by being a union member except that assurance that a contract will be renovated and money will go into the pocket of Jimmy Hoffa for that ‘privilege’

  2. Well. I encourage you to continue reading this blog. You will see a number of posts about unions, by union members. You will not find much support for the position you are promoting.

    • I know I won’t find support for my position. I’ve experience many union members who don’t really care about advancing themselves in their profession, but when it comes to advancing their salaries and bennies, they talk a different tune (the teacher who is a miserable teacher but who is kept on because the teachers union is an example.).

      That’s why unions don’t help a cause greater than themselves; because they know ONLY themselves and want guarantees that their lives will NEVER be tinkered with. That’s not reality. That’s selfishness.

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