October 3, 2011

Block on the Labor-Social Welfare Crackup

Justin Katz

Moderate Party founder Ken Block has been circulating an interesting letter:

I have been waiting for someone to call out Bob Walsh on his comments in the September, 22, 2011 Providence Journal article "Business Coalition Backs R.I. Pension Reform."

Since no one else has yet taken Mr. Walsh to task, I will now do so.

The article describes how Crossroads RI and Family Services of RI - two prominent providers of social services to the needy - have joined a coalition whose mission is to advocate for thorough pension reform in the upcoming special legislative session in October.

The NEA chief has this to say about about Crossroads' joining the coalition: "They should think long and hard about who is the bigger supporter of social services - the unions or the Chamber of Commerce. Labor is their ally, not the business community."

Mr. Walsh's error in logic is that Crossroads is choosing between 'Labor' and 'Business'. I am fairly certain that Crossroads is looking at the issue as to how the organization can best assure that their funding stream from the State is maintained into the future.

Rhode Island's pension crisis threatens everything that the State government touches. If Rhode Island's pension problems are not fixed, an ever growing chunk of tax revenues will go solely to keeping the pension system afloat - to the detriment of funding schools, building roads and yes, funding worthy organizations such as Crossroads RI and Family Services of RI.

It is time for Labor's union bosses to meaningfully engage in helping to resolve Rhode Island's pension problem - a problem that these bosses have helped to create. Red herrings like selling off Twin River or trying to frame the pension issue as 'Labor' versus 'Business' are attempts to distract an easily distractible public from a simple truth: If we do not fix the pension problem, every aspect of Rhode Island's economy and society will be massively and permanently harmed.

Pension reform is not an us versus them issue. Successful pension reform means a stable and guaranteed pool of retirement monies for pensioners and a kick start to rebuilding Rhode Island's ailing economy. Failed or incomplete pension reform will keep Rhode Island on our downward spiral into the economic abyss.

Perhaps recent cuts to social-service spending at the state level helped advocates for the less fortunate to see the writing that others of us have long seen on the wall. If businesses cannot operate and productive residents continue to leave, there will be no tax revenue to divvy up against the various groups that survive on government revenue. It may be easier for the government-dependent to pretend that they can survive without a thriving economy, but they can't, and ultimately, they'll have to fight over what the government is able to confiscate from the shrinking pool.

The shared interest of public-sector labor and the needy isn't much deeper than a mutual interest in having the government redistribute money, and the pension crisis threatens to absorb more of it than social services groups can afford. What's particularly interesting, though, is that the alliances that have formed like fingers around Rhode Island's throat have created another division: between the members of various groups and their government-class leaders.

The deeper alliance, that is, is between the labor leaders, like Mr.Walsh, and the professional advocates who usually speak for the poor. They represent the core of the left-wing movement, and although a few groups might splinter off, the members who actually suffer by the difficulties of bad governance will have to replace their own leaders before a new paradigm becomes possible.

Mr. Walsh should take note of that fact. Eventually, the teachers who ultimately give him his power will figure out that his interests aren't the same as theirs, much less of the state in which they live and work.

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Old news. Block posted this on RIFuture.org on September 23rd. More than a week ago.

Posted by: Phil at October 3, 2011 7:03 AM

It's worse than a zero-sum game. It's worse because that assumes there is the same amount of money available each year, but recently, there's been less. So if you have pay more to pensions, you have to take from somewhere. That somewhere has been social programs.

Some may feel that social programs are not optional, but compared to the legality of the pension system, unfortunately social programs are optional and are going to get funded less.

This will get really interesting if we end up with the Kate Brewsters of the state arguing in opposition to the Bob Walshs. They often think they're on the same side, but when it comes down to budgeting, they're going to be competing against each other as hard as anyone else.

Posted by: Patrick at October 3, 2011 9:38 AM

I never could figure out labor getting in bed with social services. Money, I suppose, and the suggestion of power that numbers of potential voters evoke to candidates.

When I read the original article about Crossroads etal "siding" if you will with business my first hope was that Local 799 would start to distance ourselves from the social services wing, and focus on our own members, but we are hopelessly entwined with the AFL-CIO and all that goes with it.

Maybe this is a start.

Posted by: michael at October 3, 2011 9:51 AM

Thanks Phil. Bush hasn't been president for almost three years but you mutts keep bringing him up. One week doesn't seem so long ago.

I had a good laugh when Block posted this on RIF and Walsh's #1 lapdog attacked. As usual, the attack has nothing to do with the substance of the letter.

Posted by: Max Diesel at October 3, 2011 10:13 AM

Well. Kenny officially silenced those who still claim he's a liberal who cost Robitaille the election.
If Crossroads and Family Services are using this alliance to leverage support from the corporate community, more power to them. They should get SOMETHING out of this move.

Posted by: bella at October 3, 2011 10:56 AM

Nice. Now I'm called a mutt. Last week it was a putz. Check out the board of directors for Crossroads... Citizens Bank, CVS, Motley Rice, Providence Journal etc. They all respect the hell out of Labor don't they? Oh, and General Treasurer Raimondo is Vice Chair.

Posted by: Phil at October 3, 2011 4:47 PM

Big Labor operates much like any crime syndicate - its actions are borne out of business interests, not philosophies or principles. As an example, a local union has been regularly paying 20-30 homeless individuals minimum wage to bang on pots and pans and accost people outside of various office buildings in DC, including my own. That's how much they care about those individuals.

It should not come as a surprise that RI's own modern-day Arnold Rothstein is making some cold calculations when his own union financial empire is at risk of losing some of its state-mandated cash cows.

Posted by: Dan at October 3, 2011 5:34 PM

The more money the louder it talks.
Arnold Rothstein

My point exactly. I don't know if I can go on agreeing with Dan except I would offer up those on the board of directors of Crossroads as more apt examples.

Posted by: Phil at October 3, 2011 7:24 PM

Hey Phil (the NEA quahogger-LOL):
The whole western world-US, Australia, Canada and Europe is rapidly falling out of love with government unions.
Private unions, bound by the laws of economics, have done wonderful things over the last century.
Government unions, free of market realities, are a quick and certain trip to Chapter 7.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at October 3, 2011 8:36 PM

Sorry I lumped you in with those that troll but I do have one question. Who do you think puts more butter on Crossroad's bread, corporate America or organized labor?

Posted by: Max Diesel at October 3, 2011 9:45 PM


Look at the composition of the board that made this move. The wealthy have for ages done " charity work" and at the same time have screwed over those who labored in their fields, factories, mines, and fought their wars. They don their tuxedos and gowns on weekends, down their martinis, and contribute to the causes that many on this site abhor. It's cheaper for the corporate crowd to sit on the boards, backslap and mingle with their own, write their checks for the poor and downtrodden than to pay truly livable wages and pay their fair share in taxes. But on monday they are all business again. Max I think I'll pick labor everytime.

Posted by: Phil at October 3, 2011 10:14 PM

Phil - Name one time a corporation has forced you to do anything against your will.

Posted by: Dan at October 3, 2011 10:21 PM

I wouldn't ask you to make a choice. I'm just pointing out that as usual, Walsh is full of crap. It's that old cliche, "Money talks, bullsh#t walks." No one can fault charities and non-profits for taking that position least of all Walsh.

Posted by: Max Diesel at October 3, 2011 11:29 PM

Hmm...I'd rather focus on Block since he is the author of this article. Do I think he's one of the liberal flavors? Yup!

Before the last elections I looked at the Moderate Party's website and thought they had some pretty strange positions,something about people would or should live in the center of towns on very tiny lots. That was enough to turn me off. Why he is taking this position,I don't know. He will never,ever,get my vote.

Posted by: helen at October 6, 2011 1:29 AM
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