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Archive for December 21st, 2005

The new candidate for New York Attorney General.
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How is This Not Racist?

Sports Illustrated, in their caption below LeBron James’ photo in the crowd pleasers gallery:
Shockingly, he lived up to the outlandish expectations by averaging 27, 7 and 7, turning sacrificial Cavs into contenders, becoming an All-Star and avoiding arrest and refraining from coldcocking an opponent while radiating an old-school cool that makes the commish’s glasses fog up.
Lebron Avoiding arrest? Refraining from coldcocking an opponent?
Avoiding arrest? Are we to expect all young black athletes to get arrested and commit assault? Not doing so is worthy of praise? Who edits this stuff? Worse, who wrote it?

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It is day 2 of the unconscionable transit strike here in New York and the NY Times appears to be willing to resort to fuzzy math in its effort to side with rogue Local 100 of the TWU in today’s howler by Steven Greenhouse.

But then, just hours before the strike deadline, the authority’s chairman, Peter S. Kalikow, put forward a surprise demand that stunned the union. Seeking to rein in the authority’s soaring pension costs, he asked that all new transit workers contribute 6 percent of their wages toward their pensions, up from the 2 percent that current workers pay. The union balked, and then shut down the nation’s largest transit system for the first time in a quarter-century.

Yet for all the rage and bluster that followed, this war was declared over a pension proposal that would have saved the transit authority less than $20 million over the next three years.

It seemed a small figure, considering that the city says that every day of the strike will cost its businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues. But the authority contends that it must act now to prevent a "tidal wave" of pension outlays if costs are not brought under control.

Roger Toussaint, the president of the union, Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union, said the pension proposal, made Monday night just before the 12:01 a.m. strike deadline, would effectively cut the wages of new workers by 4 percent.

"They’re trying to beat down wages for our new workers," Mr. Toussaint said yesterday.

In the days immediately before the strike deadline, the union kept hammering the point that the authority’s pension demands would save little over the life of a three-year contract.

Indeed, not just Mr. Toussaint but some other New Yorkers are questioning whether it was worthwhile for the authority to go to war over the issue when the authority’s pension demands would apparently save less over the next three years than what the New York City Police Department will spend on extra overtime during the first two days of the strike.

"What they’d be saving on pensions is a pittance," Mr. Toussaint said.

The MTA said that the short term savings was just that, short term, and that they were trying to stem a tidal wave in pension liability in the coming years. The facts support that. Pension payouts, according to the article, have trebled since 2002 to over $450 million. I’ll refrain from commenting on the mathematical insanity of not raising the retirement age in 2026 (or is it 2031? Does it really matter?) from 55 to 62 and make a few points on the lobotomized logic of Mr Toussaint and sympathetic compadre Steven Greenhouse.

Pension contributions do not lower your pay. It is forced savings. Saving money is good, and few people do it enough. If what Mr. Toussaint wants is a comfortable, young retirement, the 4% raise in contributions is a good thing. Does anyone recall Lloyd Bentsen decrying how Americans saved far too little compared to the Japanese and the economic calamity that fact portended?
They would have you thinking that saving $20 million over three years is being penny wise and pound foolish, yet that is so short sighted it makes me question if the inmates are running the asylum. We are speaking of retirement here, and the future value of money therefore has to be considered. Let’s do the math: 3 years from now, there will be $20 million extra in the pension fund. That is roughly $7 million annually. Now compound the interest at 5% and continue to add $7 million annually (and I’m being kind not making that figure grow with inflation) for 22 more years… 341,518,540.23 in money saved, as in extra money in the fund over and above what they’d have if they kept status quo. It’s probably closer to $400 million, but why let that get in the way of supporting Local 100? Isn’t the "reality based community" proud of their commitment to logic and empirical? Isn’t "math" part of being realty-based? Not when it is contrary to the socialist agenda.
The article also touched on that supposed $1 billion surplus the MTA won’t share with the TWU workers. This is more dumbing down of profitability. As the first commenter on this WNBC blog posting so aptly put it, there is no operating surplus, it comes form subsidies. Look at the MTA’s 2004 annual report. 2004 revenue:  $8.2 billion. Revenue from fares: $4.8 billion. Revenue from taxes and government subsidies: $3.4 billion.  MTA annual expenses totaled $8.9 billion last year. There is no operating surplus.
The $20 million saved is small potatoes compared to what the strike costs the city. It is. Bad MTA! But the Taylor Law fines of $1 million a day to the union and 2 days pay for every day each worker strikes aren’t also a clear lack of disregard for costs? No, logic only applies to management. Labor is immune to the standards of rational thinking, because, as we all know, it is not about fiscal sanity, but Roger Toussaint’s socialist ego. In short, the MTA is fair game for criticism for incurring the costs of their actions, but rogue Local 100 isn’t. 

Update: GOP & The City has a great post with the first batch of (inevitable) TWU jokes.

My entry:

Q-How do you know when a TWU worker was using your computer?
A- His head is on your keyboard and he’s snoring.

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