CRANSTON PUBLIC SERVICE PAY INCREASES: The controversy over the Cranston police contract that was agreed to by Mayor Fung but rejected by the City Council brings to light exactly how public service unions representing police, fire, public works, and other public employees, insert provisions into contracts that give “disguised,” non-merit raises every year. This occurs, for the most part, only in public service union contracts. In private industry, such disguises are not at all frequent; there, almost all raises not across-the-board are based on merit.
The disguised pay increases for public servants include: Step increases – annual raises given to employees, usually to those with less than 10 years of service, that are above and beyond annual across-the-board wage increases. Even in years when a city can’t afford to give a pay raise, these step increases are still handed out. Then there is longevity pay given to employees based simply on how many years they have served. It, too, is given out every year – even in years when the city can’t afford an across-the-board pay increase. And, of course, there is the annual COLA raises - pay increases based on inflation - mandated by contract even when a city is broke.
Not all public service contracts contain all three of these disguised pay increases, but almost all have some of them - many have all three. So, when a mayor or city manager announces that he or she has negotiated a new contract that gives only a paltry wage increase, taxpayers are advised to look at the disguised increases that lurk in the background.
POLITIFACT AWARDS OBAMA “LIE OF THE YEAR”: The left-leaning, Democrat-supporting PolitiFact.com has proclaimed as “Lie of the Year” President Obama’s repeated promise to Americans that “if you like your current health insurance plan, you can keep it”. As we now know, Obama’s statement was indeed an outright lie since ObamaCare forced the cancellation of over four million policies that the policy owners liked and wanted to keep.
It’s a compelling story when even Obama’s left-wing supporters admit that he lied; and it doesn’t portend well for Democrats running for reelection in 2014 who repeated the lie as they approved the ObamaCare law. It’s unfortunate that the also left-leaning Providence Journal chose to bury the story on page 11 of its Friday edition instead of on the front page where it belonged.
WARWICK KICKS THE COSTLY CAN DOWN THE ROAD: After an exhaustive study by the Warwick school department’s Long-term Facilities Planning Committee, the committee recommended closing two junior high schools and one high school and consolidating students into two junior highs and two senior highs - a logical recommendation considering that all of Warwick’s junior and senior high schools are virtually half empty due to decreased enrollment - down from over 19,000 students when the schools were built to only about 9,000 today.
So, what did the school committee do with the recommendation? It threw it out! Instead of courageously voting to implement the recommendation, the school committee kicked the can down the road by voting to delay any action until a consultant is hired and completes yet another long-term analysis and makes a recommendation - a recommendation that will likely be the same or very similar to the one already produced.
Who won with the school committee’s delaying action? Certainly it wasn’t the Warwick taxpayers. Not only will taxpayers fork over a quarter to a half million dollars for the consultant, as estimated by Mayor Avedisian, but they will continue to pay the operating costs of unneeded schools. With costly school committee decisions like this one, it’s no wonder the city council level funds the school department year after year.
BLACKJACK-PLAYING LEGISLATORS: Sixteen state legislators, to include House Speaker Gordon Fox, took part in a Twin River blackjack tournament for charity that resulted in $60,000 being “won” by legislators to donate to charities of their choosing. Of course, we all know that one of the legislature’s key responsibilities is financial policy oversight of Twin River and its relationship with the state in order to protect taxpayers’ interest in the state’s share of Twin River’s gambling revenues.
So, was it unethical for the legislators to schmooze with Twin River moguls and accept money to give to their charities? Technically, probably not. Did it stink, nevertheless? Absolutely! Certainly, Twin River will one day request a decrease in the percentage of revenue it shares with the state – especially once competing Massachusetts casinos come online. Will these legislators then be able to cast an unbiased vote after having partied with Twin River leaders and taken their money to pass on to constituent charities? The short answer is a resounding no! Our bafoonishly gullible legislators have allowed Twin River to buy extra influence in the General Assembly.
MORE OBAMACARE PROBLEMS: First it was ObamaCare’s atrociously problem-laden web site that has enrolled only 137,000 of the 800,000 Americans the administration projected for October and November. Then came the millions of cancelled policies after President Obama had again and again promised Americans who liked their policies that they could keep them. Then came ObamaCare’s error rate - varying from 10 percent to 40 percent of essential information the system sends to insurance companies, virtually ensuring that up to 40% of enrollees will not be insured on January first. Now comes the problem with deductibles.
Industry analysts have compared average pre- and post-ObamaCare deductibles. ObamaCare requires a 42 percent increase in the cost of deductibles! The average went from $3,589 per year to $5,081 annually. The problem: more people than before will avoid treatment because they will have to pay the entire cost until they have spent over $5,000 to reach the deductible. This defeats the primary goal of ObamaCare - that more people receive needed care early so their medical problems don’t evolve into more costly and deadly problems. Fewer rather than more people will seek early treatment. As its detractors continually ask, what’s so affordable about the Affordable Care Act?
HOW ABOUT RHODE ISLAND’S “OBAMACARE”? The Rhode Island branch of ObamaCare, HealthSource RI, enrolled 7,929 during the months of October and November - about 50 percent of its goal of 8,000 per month to reach 40,000 by the end of March.
Who’s enrolling in Rhode Island? Will taxpayers pay for most? And will the enrollment mix provide for a stable risk pool so that insurers will not raise premiums through the roof?
First, the mix. A stable risk pool must have a lot of young, healthy policy buyers to offset older, less healthy policy holders. Unfortunately, of those thus far enrolled in Rhode Island, 65 percent are between 45 and 65 years old - the age group that uses health services the most before they reach Medicare coverage at age 65. Only 20 percent of enrollees are in the 18-34 age group that will pay higher premiums so the older group can have lower premiums. Obviously, the young 20 percent is not enough to compensate for the higher costs of the 65 percent who are older!
Now the costs. Of the 7,729 who have enrolled in our little state, 5,280 require taxpayers to pay all of their costs. Of the 2,649 who must pay some premium, 2,336 require their premiums be subsidized by taxpayers or by other policy holders. In total, that’s a whopping 96 percent whose policies will be paid in full by taxpayers, in part by taxpayers or subsidized by the paltry 313 policy holders who do not qualify for tax subsidies! Once again - what’s so affordable about the Affordable Care Act?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Responding to Federal District Judge Richard Leon’s decision that the NSA’s collection of all Americans’ phone and email records is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, former NSA intelligence analyst and classified information leaker Edward Snowden said, “Today, a secret program authorized by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans’ rights.”
Whether you are in the camp that considers Snowden a traitor or among those who think he is a legitimate whistleblower who sought to protect Americans’ rights, we should all agree that Big Brother government has indeed become Orwellian in its scope and practices, and that we must rein it in before it eviscerates even more of our Constitutional rights.