When discussing Vice President Joe Biden’s comments in support of public sector unions, Fox News host David Asman and his panelists disagreed with Biden’s support. “We don’t owe them, they owe us,” said Asman.
Steve Forbes said, “Everyone appreciates what firefighters do, what police officers do, what teachers should do, but that’s what they get paid for. But the abuses are enormous, David, in terms of benefits, abuse of overtime, and pay is determined not by what the market will pay, but purely political muscle, so… costs spin out of control.”
John Tamny said his fellow panelists were being “entirely too soft on Vice President Biden. What this reminds us of is something very basic. Governments do not create jobs, instead they tax or borrow from the productive private sector to create jobs that pay more, that offer more benefits, offer more vacation. This thing about how we owe them, no, no, they should be thanking us and they should be very grateful to us taxpayers for giving off this tax revenues that allow them to live very nice lives at our expense and very often for doing very little.”
Rick Ungar said, “John, I hope you never have a fire at your house. I really mean that. Because you can’t vilify these guys who are doing an important job. We can have a very reasonable discussion, and it’s a discussion that needs to be had about how we pay these people and some of the things that are going on, but let’s not vilify people doing dangerous work for our benefit.”
(Panelist John) Tamny insisted he wasn’t vilifying them but saying “ “Wait a second, …they get pensions that we don’t get in the private sector. They get far more vacation than what we get in the private sector, they clearly get paid more, and I don’t think the effort they expend matches what they get paid and what their benefits are.”
The median pay for a firefighter is under $42,000, yet their job is to risk their lives for people like Asman and Forbes. The average salary for a teacher is about the same, despite the fact that many have graduate degrees. In most communities, $42,000 is barely a living wage. Public employees accept less money in the form of salary with the understanding that some of the money is being allocated for their retirement, in the form of a pension.
If Forbes and friends want a market based system of policing, fire fighting and teaching, they are asking for a truly dystopian world. What happens to your house if your neighbor’s house catches on fire, but they didn’t pay for fire fighting? What happens if you are mugged on a street that couldn’t afford private police protection? Do we really expect that teachers would be willing to go the extra mile or continue their own education if they are only making $10.00 per hour? And how the hell does a man worth $430 million get to bitch about firefighters, cops and teachers having it too good?
Even if you buy the argument that the private sector doesn’t have it as good as the public sector, Forbes and his ilk of union destroyers and ‘job creators’ are the ones to be thanked. They are right, to an extent. The average private sector worker makes about $34,000, although most of them are not risking their lives nor do they have masters degrees. Usually those people earn more. The average CEO on the other hand, made $12.9 million last year. The average CEO makes far more in a day than the average worker makes in a year. In 1980, before the Reagan revolution, it took the average worker a bit more than a month to earn the CEO’s daily salary.
Who could blame the public sector fire department if they did ignore a fire at Forbes’ mansion or at David Asman’s house? But they wouldn’t. Our $42,000 a year firefighters are nothing if they aren’t professional.