Diary

When the State flew Coach

This CBS Report of a luxury early winter tour to Copenhagen by members of Congress speaks for itself.

But it wasn’t that many years ago that the state flew coach.

At an officer’s call in 1973, in a major Far Eastern Command, an Army major stood up and complained to the commanding general about the disparity in his pay in the Army with his counterparts in the private sector….roughly 70%, I recall.

The general’s answer was brief, pointed, and indelibly etched in my mind…”That’s because we’re the armed services, Major. You might want to refresh you memory as to the meaning of that term.”

Indeed, that was a common beef in those day, (I’d been in state government before entering the military), and heard the same from state attorneys, highway engineers, etc. With the rise of so many specialized technical proficiencies in the Army, the contagion had spread, men and women always comparing that their pay was below the civilian world. Grousing was rampant…except among the combat branches.

Oh, it was true, the disparity. During that same tour, our legal team got involved in labor negotiations between a US supplier and local trade unions. As captains we were knocking down a whopping $16-$17K a year, while the attorneys the supplier brought in from the West Coast were getting about$100 an hour. Much gnashing of teeth. A senior captain I knew, the deputy Staff Judge Advocate on a small southwestern post, finally made the major’s list (meaning he was guaranteed to go on to retirement), but sweated for at least two weeks whether he should accept the promotion, or resign and enter private practice, where he would make much more, using the same calculation I used above. This was his crossroads…big duck, little pond, great benefits?, or little duck, big pond, but much bigger bucks?

He chose “service”.

After we’d only been working together for a short time, Moses Sands urged me not to do any work with the government. He had and had regretted it. (I wish I’d listened to him.) In our conversation the notion of “service” came up, and he only said, “Public service ain’t.”

Moses was right. The contortions my profession went through in the military about pay (and we weren’t even that necessary to the military mission) reflected a general mood that there should be parity without even stopping to consider the “service” element.

Now no one ever accused preachers of following their calling for the money (though some have). They generally give their lives, and often live off the charity of others, all in service to God and others. And school teachers, often the brunt of the old “those who can, do, those who can’t, teach” taunt, more often as not knew they were giving up better paying jobs in order to do a secular version of God’s work, teaching young children. (I’m not sure that axiom applies higher up the academy.)

That was then. By contrast, in a story we’re trying to develop with local media here, it’s been revealed that county school superintendents in Virginia can negotiate perqs, benefits, and retirement packages that nearly equal those in Congress. At the university it is the same. LIfetime free dry cleaning?

It seems the disparity between senior school staff and management with front line teachers today is as great as most large corporations, only the school systems have to go to greater lengths to disguise the perqs…since they can’t get AIG-like bonuses, or stock options. Just don’t blink too long before noticing who will be sitting in the sky boxes at FedEx Field before long.

Today, across the board, from lawyers to postal delivery, excepting military, police, firefighters, etc, the best job in town is working for government. In law, GS-11 thru GS-13 grades, salaries run from $55,000 to $101,000 per year, with annual pay increases that only Congress gets, super retirement benefits after only 20 years, health benefits NOT subject to Obamacare, paid leave at almost twice the civilian level, and cradle-to-grave No-Fire protection from a Civil Service and unions who only want a small portion of your paycheck to insure the public spigot stays open. Once in, you’re in for life. Just don’t screw up, at least until you’re vested for retirement, at which time, those last 2 years, you can play golf, hang out in bars, while management and the union spend thousands more of the tax payers’ dollars trying to fire your sorry behind.

It’s true, lawyers in the private sector can make a lot more, but only a fraction of them. Most would give their sister’s first born to get that no-cut, easy desk job at USDA, where attorneys almost out-number farmers now. And even if they get into six-figures on the private side, there’s still that klutz C-student who dropped out to design graphics and ride his stupid skateboard, who just bought John Travolta’s old Lear jet, rubbing your nose it in. Government work is “sanctuary”, where no one knows your name outside a fifty foot perimeter, and you can really get down to getting that handicap below 10.

Tenure in public schools work generally the same way, only at a lower rate. If they aren’t any good, or as is increasingly the case, illegally political, “Mmm, Mmm, Mmm”, all you can do is re-assign them to be Caddy master at the local country club at $38,500 a year, but you can’t fire them.

Even running for and being elected to public office, at all levels, at one time, carried an element of “service” as it was commonly defined, for the simple reason, at the pay scale of the day, that was all they could find to hook onto as a justification for the sacrifices they’d made.

Service was always part of the pay plan. This is obviously no longer the case.

We often talk about re-setting the public table here at RedState. If we are to do that, the state has to learn to fly coach again. There’s no getting around it. And drive their own car to work. Even car-pool. No more more limos to carry a single Congresswoman one block from her office to the Capitol Building. No more million dollar junkets to Kopnhaavn. No more free dry-cleaning.

The Japanese have a word I have always liked, because of it’s simplicity. “Wa” means harmony, peace tranquility, balance.

With all due respect to every teacher who did enter the trade based on “service”, and served well, and Art in Alaska, and all the rest who served in government with the idea of actually fulfilling the mission of the agency (and without whom the system would have collapsed totally by now), in a free economy there is a harmony between the private sector and the state class. That harmony, that “wa” is found in the word “service”, and that service justifies, in fact demands, a lower pay differential…

…for a free economy simply cannot stand (not to mention the republic for which it stands) if those who have the power to vote their own pay scales, can do so at will.

Forget for a moment that bureaucracy naturally leans Left because the Left cannot accomplish a thing without it (a much deeper symbiosis than that actually), it’s a simple matter of dollars. The EU is in part a creation of the national bureaucracies of the individual members since they had already broken the bank of their own treasuries, nearing collapse and possibly public hanging by their citizens. The scuttling of their old currencies was a start all over again, which in my view, will also be moribund within 20 years.

America has no place to go…except that one-world currency conspiracy theorists have been going on about for some time, and which now is at least thinkable.

Everyone knows we have to roll back government, but we have to consider the magnitude of what that means…reducing the actual workforce by at least 20% (which in turn will reduce interface-employees at state and local levels by around 10%, talk about trickle down)…and those who remain will need to see their pay scales reduced also by about 20%. (My own view has been that with those savings, at both the federal, state and local levels, some of those monies can actually be given back to front line workers…cops, soldiers, competent teachers, placing them in a better position vis a vis their own management structures. It’s the bureaucrats, the paper-hangers, who need to be cut and not essential service providers, as the bureaucrats always threaten.)

You can name it, what 10%, 20%, doesn’t matter to me, what has to be restored is the fundamental sense as to why one goes into public service in the first place…and pay, easy job, great benefits and no-fire protections, cannot among them. We ask, even demand this of our elected officials, so we must also of our civil servants.

Now, if you feel a personal sense of protectiveness, for your own career and others you know, let me try to put this into a larger context. We also know that our harmony, the harmony of liberty and free markets and competition, is others’ disharmony, and has been from the beginning. The Japanese notion of “wa’ really didn’t infer a precision, BMW VTEC engine, with every part working in mechanical precision with one another. Neither did it infer a system where 20%-30% of the parts were in total harmony while the other 70% were in misery and pain. In fact, it really never foresaw the chaos of the free market, and free choices made there as being especially harmonious, either.

“Wa” is an internal system of harmonious equilibrium, to be sought and found by the individual. In the West, most people find this in God. The Eastern idea was that the external world was always in combat; opposing forces, Yin and Yang, Good and Evil, male and female, even statism and democracy. All we know is that in our western sensibilities, any kind of slavery or subjugation denies “wa” entirely. So there is only the alternative that only free men can pursue “wa” and find it.

We are bureaucracy-busters by profession, but even our chief B-B, RPH agrees that probably 70%-80% of what government does actually needs to be done, and probably even by government. But not at the cost that is now required, and not with the large quantities of personnel. Most of all, government, the public sector, even as Obama is trying to expand it, and offering student loan forgiveness if graduates will only turn their careers toward government!!!! “service, needs to no longer be a place where every deadbeat with a sheepskin or fast-talking schemer can run to find safe harbor. It is this that has given us the pool from which Lady Nan, Barney Frank, Schumer, Bill Clinton, the other Clinton, and yes, OB1, were plucked.

By putting the service back into “service”, those types avoid law school altogether, and go straight into sales. Nancy would probably be renting mopeds in Orange County.

The arrogance factor. We’re recommending that in the coming year people hit hard on the easy-to-see arrogance and down-the-nose disdain shown by the political class and bureaucratic class (in sum, the entire political class, damned near top to bottom). This too is a sign of the power shift among the classes. The anti-Martha Coakley vote was as much about Massachusetts’ recent history of diminished service in necessary government areas in order to sate some union sectors that had very little to do with governance there, as it was Scott Brown’s smile. In other words, there are more people teaching underwater basket weaving and dispute resolution at U Mass but fewer cops, or for that matter, fewer teachers actually teaching 6 year old’s to read…which in the days when the state flew coach, was still a relatively simple, and inexpensive task. It was at least as much of these things as it was the Scott Brown’s story, his genuineness, and his pick-up truck, that carried the Massachusetts electorate, as Bernie Chumm rightly reported that fateful weekend.

As a theme, this is a political winner that will resonate stronger, and longer, than the old class warfare rhetoric the Left has been using for years, in part because its acrid taste is still fresh on the tongues of ordinary voters.

But in order to be a real winner, it also has become an economic reality. The state class, as a body, has to pared back; salaries, benefits, and population. They have to be put back into coach, and if I had my way, it would Greyhound, not United.