Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reagan Democrats ... or union Republicans ?

I would like to expose a myth that exists here in Macomb County regarding the county's voters, especially union members, and their voting habits.

Since the early '80s, Macomb County has famously been referred to as the "Home of the Reagan Democrats." The Democrat party would like you to believe that this means most Macomb County voters are, "at heart," Democrats who just liked Ronald Reagan personally and crossed party lines to support him. I would submit to you that this is false, and something quite different is actually true.

I think the reality is that there are many voters in Macomb County who are basically conservatives, but for decades had been convinced to vote Democrat by unions, in spite of their overall beliefs. For years some workers have been told by unions that even though they agree with the Republican Party's conservative positions on issues like traditional marriage, gun rights, abortion, and taxes, that they should vote for liberal Democrat candidates who they disagree with on all of these fundamental issues because, Democrats and unions claim, "Democrats support workers." This is false.

Well, as we have recently witnessed here in Michigan after the disastrous eight years of job losses under Gov. Granholm, and now after three years of President Obama's record deficit spending, Democratic leadership does not necessarily benefit workers or create jobs. Liberal Democratic positions on these labor issues clearly discourage job creation, drive existing jobs overseas, and diminish workers job security. The statistics bear this out; The Federal Bureau of Labor reports that "in 2000 the number of private sector jobs in Michigan was 3,996,000; this number had dropped to 3,213,000 by August 2009 -- a drop of 783,000 jobs (19.6 percent)." That means 24 percent of all private sector job losses nationwide occurred in Michigan during this time period ! Michigan's Democrat governor infamously promised in her January 2006 State of the State address; "In five years you're gonna be blown away !" I think it's safe to say we were "blown away," but not the way we were led to believe. Macomb County voters, especially conservatives, now understand in a very personal way that government and unions do not create jobs. I personally believe that the less power unions and government have over our lives the better off we'll be. Our personal liberty is limited when we allow ourselves to be controlled by either. Jobs are created by entrepreneurs and successful businesses, not government and labor unions.

This does not mean to say that I don't think there is a role for unions to play; there is. But remember the famous John Emerich quote; "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Giving workers a choice will limit the power of unions, and their tendency not to consider all points of view. I'll give one example. I have suggested that the UAW put its prized "30 year-and-out" defined-benefit pension plan on the negotiating table, and use it to negotiate for a company paid "match" for employees' contributions to their 401k retirement plans. (Defined-Contribution). This would be a win-win for the company and the employees, allowing workers to participate in their retirement planning and build wealth, while allowing the companies to eliminate "legacy costs," making them more cost-competitive. But with the top-down power structure in the UAW, few have the courage to take a suggestion that challenges the existing power structure seriously. The thinking is: Why offer to negotiate away something that makes workers dependent on the union ? But, if the state gives workers more of a voice by passing right-to-work legislation, workers may be able to force some constructive, mutually beneficial change in the auto industry.

Macomb County's so called "Reagan Democrats" are, in most cases, just conservative-leaning independent voters who have in the past been led to believe that their interests were best served by Democrats and their union allies. Want real hope and change in Michigan? We can start by supporting giving workers a choice and supporting "Freedom to Work" laws.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Time for Michigan to let workers decide !

I still remember the day in 1978 when I was hired in as a 19-year old at Chryslers’ Highland Park World Headquarters. As I was filling out my paperwork to authorize union dues to be taken out of my pay, I naively asked “What If I don’t want to join the union ?” The Chrysler Labor Relations manager chuckled and said “Son, if you want to work for Chrysler Corporation, you don’t have a choice”. The recently concluded contract talks between the “Big 3” Detroit auto-makers and the United Auto Workers clearly demonstrate why individual workers need to be given the choice of whether or not they want to join a labor union.

I worked for Chrysler Corp. for 11 years before accepting a buy-out, and have now worked at Ford Motor Co. for 15 yrs., so I think I have been around the domestic auto industry long enough to form an informed opinion about unions and union membership. And I don’t appreciate having my job held hostage by my co-workers vote on a contract offer that I support.

While I won’t dispute the historical contributions of unions and the benefits of collective-bargaining, I strongly support the right of individual workers to choose whether-or-not to join a union. Under current Michigan labor law, if the majority of the workers at a business vote to join a union, everyone else, and anyone who hires in to that business is required, by law, to join that union. This “forced-unionism” is called a “closed-shop”, and it has created an adversarial-labor situation where many businesses now won’t even consider locating in our state.

It is time to give Michigan workers a choice, like those in 22 other states enjoy. There is growing support for the “Freedom-to-Work” movement that would change state labor law to allow workers to choose for themselves. Too many businesses are avoiding Michigan due to the unchallenged control that unions have over the labor force. This is not 1940, and the days of organized-labor having to fight for safe working conditions, decent benefits, and fair pay are over. It is now time to look for ways to allow American companies to compete in a global marketplace. It’s 2011 and Michigan needs to change, or as Governor Snyder says; Re-invent Michigan.

The unions would fight any right-to-work legislation for one very simple reason; it will reduce their power. Right now, unions make campaign contributions to liberal, democrat lawmakers who will in-turn protect unions interests. This is exactly the type of cozy relationship voters say they don’t like between politicians and special interest groups. And typically, over 90% of Unions’ political-action-committee contributions go to Democrat candidates, with less than 5% going to Republicans. This does not reflect the fact that approximately 40% of union members sometimes vote Republican. reports that exit polls from 2008 showed that 39% of voters from union households voted for Republican John McCain for President. So why is it that unions contribute almost exclusively to Democrats ? That would almost certainly change if workers were given a choice as to whether-or-not they wanted to join a union when they hired into a job at a union organized shop. Unions would then have to compete for the workers allegiance and membership, and it would almost certainly affect their political alliances. That would seem to be a healthy thing to me.

Keep in mind; Right-to-work laws do not ban unions, they only give workers a choice as to whether-or-not they want to join the union. More and more union members, including myself, have begun to realize that the only REAL job security comes from working for a competitive, profitable company, not from a promise made by a company under the threat of a labor strike.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Tea Party principles required to return nation to fiscal-sanity"

For the last several years, our nation’s economy has been reeling under the weight of trillions of dollars of accumulated debt. When President George W. Bush took office, he inherited a national debt of over 5 trillion dollars. After 8 years in office, and fighting 2 wars,followed by the sub-prime loan/housing crisis, President Bush left office with a national debt of over 10 trillion dollars. And now, after only 2 ½ years in office, President Obama has increased the national debt to nearly 15 trillion dollars. His answer to the problem; spend more money.
To put this huge amount of money into perspective; one- trillion is one –thousand billion, and as of Oct. 1st 2011, our $14,700,000,000 ,000 national debt translates to $47,210.10 FOR EVERY American citizen We are clearly on a runaway train of debt, and simple common sense will tell you that there is a “train-wreck” coming.
Fortunately, as the country has struggled with the burden of this huge and rapidly rising debt, there has been a nation-wide grassroots awakening of common-sense fiscal conservatives. The “Tea-Party” movement has been both vilified by the left, and dismissed by the mainstream media, but it has become the most powerful force in American politics today. You can try to deny it or debate it, but fiscal conservatives are thankfully taking control of the national discussion about the looming economic crisis. We can no longer allow Keynesian economists’, or Saul Alinsky trained “community organizers” like Barack Hussein Obama to chart the course for America. We must take our country back from the liberals and Socialists like Obama, and return it to a path of fiscal restraint as well as personal responsibility. We must commit ourselves to accepting responsibility for our own fortunes rather than expecting “government” to provide for us. That is socialism, and we are not a socialist country.
America’s economic system is free-market capitalism and we are unfortunately caught in the throes of decline and decay that the false promises of social democracy bring. Europe is currently struggling with its very economic survival because it believed those false promises of the “social welfare state”. We cannot allow ourselves to follow them down that road. In 1992, Texas businessman H. Ross Perot entered the presidential race in an attempt to steer our country away from what he warned was a dangerous economic road. He warned that our national deficit and increasing national debt were going to become destructive to our economy.
We should have listened to Perot then, but in the 2012 G.O.P. presidential primaries we have another candidate from Texas who is preaching much the same warning; Governor Rick Perry. Like Perot, Governor Perry is a straight-talking Texan who cares less for scoring political points than he does for fixing problems. Perry understands that fixing America’s economy means addressing the spending on so-called “entitlement programs”, which makes up over 2/3rds of our national economy. He was absolutely correct when he bluntly labeled Social Security a “Ponzi Scheme”. No less a social liberal than Mario Cuomo admitted in a debate with Newt Gingrich that “only a government could get away with running a program like Social Security” saying that it is a “con-game”.
It’s time we confront the economic challenges that we face in our country and “take our medicine”. We need to elect leadership at all levels of government that will honestly deal with the reality of our fiscal situation. We in Michigan are fortunate that, like most states, we have a constitutional “balanced-budget-requirement. That forces us to make tough decisions during tough economic times, and doesn’t allow us to “live on our credit cards” as the federal government has been doing. It won’t be easy, but “Tea Party principles” will return our nation to being the “land of liberty” that our forefathers intended it to be. But first, “We the people” must take charge, as our constitution intended for us to do.
Brian Pannebecker