Ledger Logic

Adam L tells us that Senate President Steve Sweeney is sending out copies of this op-ed by Star-Ledger Editorial Page Editor Tom Moran.

The problem is that Moran’s piece is full of illogic, botched facts, and self-contradiction.

Let’s start with this:

Inside the Statehouse, within earshot of the rally, senators on the budget committee cast a vote that amounted to a punch in the gut. Public workers would pay more for less, bringing their health and pension benefits back to earth.

Wow – those benefits must be outrageous! We should cheer that we’re getting these fat-cat public employees back under control!

Or, you know, not (from the same article):

“What do we do now?” asked Edward Pierce, a CWA member, one of hundreds at the rally wearing the union’s trademark red t-shirt. “I think we need to take a more creative approach. They’re coming after us.”

That people like Pierce will lose health and pension benefits is no cause for celebration. He takes care of the disabled at a developmental center. He is no millionaire. He is not the greedy thug of the governor’s imagination.

Well, Tom, which is it? Are middle-class public workers saddling the taxpayers with out-of-this-world benefits, or are he and his fellow workers not “greedy thugs”?

Then there’s this:

Sweeney and Oliver are confronting their own coalition, telling the unions they can’t have their way because its simply unreasonable. It’s the equivalent of Washington Republicans telling their team that tax hikes must be part of the answer to the debt problem. It’s grown-up politics. It’s leadership.

Oh, so now the benefits are “unreasonable.” Except you’re comparing public workers – who are underpaid anyway – getting health care and modest pensions to tax breaks for the very wealthiest at a time when they are paying historically low rates and taking more of the money for themselves than ever before.

There is simply no equivalence between a teacher making $60K a year getting decent health insurance and a hedge fund manager being asked to give up a tax rate that’s lower than that teacher’s.

More Moran:

This is Jersey, and they have been kings for a long time, even when Republicans were in power. A decade ago, they got a 9 percent pension boost just for asking. They rigged the rules on collective bargaining so they couldn’t lose, sending the average police salary to nearly $100,000. It became almost impossible to fire them, so no one even tried.

I can’t speak for the cops, but 40% of teachers do not earn tenure in their first three years. So let’s put that “impossible to fire” nonsense to bed once and for all.

Let’s instead talk about salaries. Your own paper reports that the median salary for police in NJ is $90, 672; that “nearly $100,000” assertion is more than a little generous.

Further, that includes superior officers – essentially, managers. Patrol officers – again, in your own report – make a median $80,120. That’s before taking out 10% for mandatory pensions and health insurance. And keep in mind that New Jersey has one of the highest costs-of-living in the nation.

Tom, are you really prepared to say that NJ cops are overpaid making $80K? If so, you have an obligation to tell us what you think they should earn. $70K? $60K? $40K?

Teachers refused to take a pay freeze, despite the recession. Cops wouldn’t yield on benefits, forcing mass layoffs in violent cities like Camden and Newark. Firefighters fought to keep giant payouts for unused sick time, even as union members in the private sector were taking a pounding.

On the teachers: plenty took a pay freeze. Plenty took a pay CUT: when the 1.5% contribution to health care kicked in, those teachers working without a contract around the state made LESS money than they did before.

And the NJEA never said locals shouldn’t take freezes; they said it should be negotiated, not legislated. That is the entire point of this week’s protest.

Further, the contracts that have been settled over the past year average raises of 2% – right in at the national average for all workers. In fact, the contracts settled since the spring have settled at 1.6%. And this is after over 20 years of teacher wages not keeping pace with average wages in NJ.

So let’s not talk about the recession passing teachers by, Tom.

As to all of those charges about cops and firefighters and teachers and their greedy benefits: no one ever said they wouldn’t yield on benefits. The cops in Camden agreed to a wage freeze – exactly what you call for here from the teachers.

But, no, Mayor Dana Redd – who is increasingly revealing herself to be a Christie crony – wanted a 20% cut in pay. Do you support that, Tom? A 20% pay cut for cops in the second most dangerous city in America? If so, come out and say it like that, instead of pussyfooting around.

The sad fact is that this legislation does nothing to deal with the core issue: runaway health insurance costs. Moran would better serve his readers by informing them about that than beating up public workers for daring to stand up for their middle class compensation.

UPDATE: Moran might also tell his readers that this bill will save towns a meager $5 million next year. That won’t help property taxes very much, will it Tom?

(An aside: one of my biggest pet peeves about the press these days is how so few reporters seem to understand how to analyze data and statistics. Take, for example, the article I reference above from the S-L about police salaries. In an attempt to show NJ police are paid more than the national average, the writer, Chris Megerian, states:

But data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show police here are paid better in comparison with other professions than they are elsewhere in the country.

The average rank-and-file cop nationwide makes 27 percent more than the average resident. In New Jersey, the average rank-and-file cop makes 55.3 percent more.

First of all, that’s a real roundabout way to calculate regional wage disparities. Second: comparison to the average wage doesn’t take into account the variability of wages in a state.

In other words: [and this is purely hypothetical] even if the above statistic is true, it is possible that the average cop in New Jersey and the average cop around the US are both paid at the 70th percentile: 70% of the population makes less, and 30% make more. The two statistics would not be incompatible.

New Jersey has many rich folks and lots of poverty; there is very high variability in our wages. So this statistic is really not very helpful in having us figure out whether NJ cops are really overpaid.)

Comments (30)

  1. 12mileseastofTrenton

    With no mention of the loss of collective bargaining for health benefits.

    Your “liberal media” in action.

  2. FreeDem

    It needed saying. The SL usually gives credit where credit is due, but Moran’s piece was bizarre.  

    The SL is coming out with a Perspective section tomorrow they’ve introduced with:

    Gov. Chris Christie, a rare political talent who has taken New Jersey by storm, is up for re-election in two years. What Democrats might emerge to challenge him in 2013? We put the spotlight on eight who might take him on.”

    Now the bull in the china shop becomes a storm. Must be running out of metaphors. Maybe the SL will forget Christie’s myriad broken 2009 campaign promises, and endorse this rare bird in 2013. Stranger things have happened.  

  3. speedkillsu

    Hell I’m still waiting for my 30%property tax cut Corzine promised …Christie is the first to keep his not raising taxes in 10years …outside of his  lowering property taxes he’s a breath of fresh air in a old dusty room  

  4. Nowlan

    From an NJEA email that urges members to come out to Trenton on Monday:  

    “[I]f you care about your future, your profession and your colleagues, there is only one place for you to be on Monday. No excuses. No second chances.

    This is it.

    See you Monday morning.”

    You want us to cut class during exam week?  

    We’re just asking for it now.  Battle of Trenton?  Well, we have more cannon than Washington had–loose ones, though.

    How about some new ideas.  And don’t say tent city–that didn’t work out so well for the 1930’s bonus marchers!  At least nobody’s mentioned hunger strike or self-immolation.  

    We need friends!

  5. brendanod

    that because the newspaper industry has been so decimated over the past decade, reporters and columnist take a personal interest in seeing others getting screwed as they did.

    They should be bitter (part of their downfall is the change to digital media and the other is that greater numbers of our society wish to stay uninformed), they perform an admirable duty to our society, but I think that bitterness bleeds into their writings.  

  6. William Weber (WjcW)

    I can’t speak for the cops, but 40% of teachers do not earn tenure in their first three years. So let’s put that “impossible to fire” nonsense to bed once and for all.

    But they CAN’T get tenure in the first three years, right?

    Isn’t the relevant statistic that a whole 17 TENURED teachers were dismissed for cause in the last 10 years? By some estimates that’s 17 out of 100,000. Doesn’t that sound ‘near impossible’ to you?

    Now… I’ll be first to admit that there are other ways to ‘encourage’ a teacher to quit and those are probably utilized. But mere fact that the process is used as little as it is should speak for itself.

  7. firstamend07

    The radical left is done in this State.

    The moderate left with realistic fiscal views has taken over.

    Government union leaders have misses the boat on what is important .They also have forgotten who writes the checks.

    The average taxpayer has ignored the rallies and will ignore the absolutely stupid tent city idea.

    New vision is needed and new leadership is needed in the public sector unions.

    Do not forget an important figure that is not a lie.Over 98% of all unionized government DID NOT come to or support that dog and pony show last week in Trenton.

    Poor ,backward thinking leadership is KILLINGthe public sector unions

  8. firstamend07

    After reading just about every newspaper and blog I could find I have found that the only people who are against the new reform bill are union leaders who now fear for their jobs and some radical left posters on this site.

    There has been NO outrage from 498,500 government workers.

    Both responsible liberal ,moderate,and conservative writers are on board.

    On this site there is outrage by about 5 different posters, that is it.

    So can everyone else be wrong?

    Sweeney was right in 2006 and he is right now.

    Time to move on…….  


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