HIGH GROUND ON COLA: Governor Chafee is correct in pushing for a bill that will allow cities and towns to suspend COLAs to rein in the out-of-control costs of public employee pensions. Senate President Paiva Weed is totally off base in wanting COLA changes negotiated at the local level. That won’t happen! Once a provision is in a labor contract, there are only two ways to get it out – give the union something else even more costly to taxpayers, or give the city/town authority to unilaterally remove or suspend the provision. We can’t afford the first alternative! Let’s hope Governor Chafee has the same determination and leadership skills as he pushes for this legislation as that demonstrated by Gina Raimondo in her successful fight for state pension reform. And let’s hope our legislators have the same courage in an election year that they had last year.
INCREASE BUDGETS & RAISE TAXES? Governor Chafee is wrong in echoing the cries of union bosses for tax increases. Legislative leaders are also wrong for wanting to increase their budgets by 10 percent this year and almost 13 percent next year – resulting in salary and benefit increases for legislative employees of 4.6 percent this year and a whopping 16.9 percent next year! Wait a minute! Who is here to serve whom? Are the public employees here to serve the public (taxpayers), or are the taxpayers here to serve the public employees? Illogically, in the past several years, it looks like taxpayers have been here to serve the public employees. If we can’t afford high-paid, pension-costly public and legislative employees without raping the taxpayers, let’s reduce the number of these employees. Our state can certainly get by with 200 instead of 300 legislative employees, and we can get by quite well with less frequent garbage removal, fewer police officers, and fewer firefighters. Let’s do whatever it takes to do to put an immediate hold on increasing budgets and raising taxes!
FORCED UNION DUES vs. TAXES: Using specious and astonishingly ludicrous arguments, the Providence Journal editorialized against “right to work” laws. The editorial asserted that forcing union dues on employees who don’t want to join unions is no different than the government forcing citizens to pay taxes to support programs they don’t agree with. Wait! Isn’t it the Constitution that grants government the right to raise taxes? Is there a similar article in the Constitution that grants unions the right to force non-members to pay union dues in order to keep their jobs? Obviously not! The editorial further commented “…and, of course, if you don’t want to pay union dues, you don’t have to work for (that) company…” The paper must also subscribe to the trite old “tyranny of the majority” lament, “If you don’t like the laws, then move to another country.” The bottom line is that those who work for unionized companies in states without right to work laws – such as R.I. – are being forced to pay membership dues to organizations whose beliefs and practices they oppose. Such logic would have forced African-American service employees of 1950s whites-only country clubs to pay country club dues in order to keep their jobs.
RIGHT TO WORK FOR TEACHERS: The ProJo editorial notwithstanding, there has finally been an itty-bitty right to work bill introduced in the General Assembly. It’s itty-bitty because it will apply only to teachers instead of to all R.I. workers. Additionally, it is a weak bill since its sponsor, Senator Nicholas Kettle of Coventry, is only asking for the issue to be raised as a non-binding referendum question on the November ballot. Though weak and non-inclusive, it is at least a start – an itty-bitty right to work law for our itty-bitty, business-unfriendly state.
PRISON TERM REDUCTIONS: When a judge sentences a convicted murderer, rapist, kidnapper or child molester, the judge should be able to depend on the sentence being served in its entirety – as should the victims and their families. A bill before the General Assembly would provide early release due to the accrual of “good behavior time” for such prisoners. Allowing these violence-prone offenders to be back on the street early because of good behavior in prison is nonsense! While it may save taxpayer dollars in prison costs, the human costs far outweigh the monetary costs. Instead of rewarding good behavior, offenders should be punished severely for bad behavior. Let’s urge the General Assembly to incentivize good prison behavior with “bad behavior added time” instead of “good behavior early release!”
MORE FAILED DIPLOMACY: Just as he was unable to convince Iraq to allow thousands of U.S. troops to remain as a hedge against civil war and Iranian regional hegemony, President Obama is now losing the diplomatic battle in Afghanistan. With Obama unable to keep the NATO coalition focused in Afghanistan, France has announced it will withdraw its troops a year early. It looks like Obama’s bumbling diplomacy and inability to negotiate an incremental and orderly end to the two wars will result in civil war in both countries that will likely lead to governments antithetical to U.S. interests – and that will render vain the spilling of so much blood by brave, young Americans.
MARINE ACTIONS: The sergeant in charge of the Marine squad that stormed nearby homes and killed 24 innocent Iraqi men, women and children in retaliation for a roadside bomb that had killed a squad member will not spend a single day in jail after admitting he ordered his squad to “shoot first and ask questions later.” This is terribly reminiscent of the William Calley incident during the Vietnam War when he ordered the indiscriminate killing of innocent men, women and children at My Lai after a Viet Cong attack. Did America not learn from that society-shaking event? Has the threat of terrorist attacks caused the American people to lose their collective conscience about unnecessary and wanton killing of innocents by our military? Where is the hue and cry from the media and human rights groups? As a retired member of our proud military, this writer is appalled that this Marine leader will go free and tarnish the reputation of our troops. It is a sad day for our country.