Those of us who want to rein in the pay, power and perks of the public sector aren't having too much policy success here in California, as the unions and their legislative allies plow ahead as if nothing has changed from the past few years. For instance, one obnoxious union bill (AB 455) that has made its way to the governor's desk would require that local commissions that determine pay and benefits for public employees have 50 percent of their members appointed by unions.
That will assure that these commissions always insist on higher pay. (Never mind that the other 50 percent will be appointed by politicians mostly owned by the unions.) The bill was rushed through without any vetting, meaning that even the details of it are absurd. As one lobbyist reminded me, these commissions always have an odd number of members, so if the governor signs the bill how do cities ensure that half the members are union hacks?
But the public is starting to understand the abuses. When I was driving to work this morning, the local am radio talk show hosts, Armstrong and Getty, played a clip from Jay Leno who laughed about one city's training program for employees who spent too much work time on Facebook. Leno suggested that instead of counseling, the employees be fired, as they would be in the real world. His audience laughed. I spoke at Freedom Fest last week and found (obviously) a receptive audience on this issue, but I even hear from liberals who are tired of the abuses and scams in the public sector. This Saturday Night Live skit about the Public Employee of the Year awards is priceless. This sort of thing infuriates the public employee unions, but their lack of accountability is the root cause for this situation.
When these types of jokes go mainstream, we can be sure that our criticisms of the public sector are gaining resonance outside of our think tanks, blogs and cloistered world of policy wonk-dom. The key now is turning this tide of public opinion into real-world reforms. That's particularly tough in California, where the unions own the Legislature and can still ram through ridiculous special-interest bills such as AB 455 without even a discussion or a basic vetting of the wording. We better keep laughing here, because it's still a long way from reform.