Friday, March 18, 2011

Behind The Curtain

Here's a couple of short items that allow a clear glimpse into the mind of the teabagger wing of the Republican party (all of them, in other words, pretty much):

Given a choice between cutting subsidies to agribusinesses and food stamps, guess which they choose:

...the farm lobby and members of Congress representing rural states wield mighty power in Washington. So it's little surprise to see Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee urging Budget Chairman Paul Ryan not to make substantial cuts to federal farm programs.

But this time there's a twist: Lest those Republicans appear profligate, they have proposed one area for cuts--food stamps:

The only program the letter offers as a possible area for belt-tightening is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program. The panel said it might not continue the boost in monthly benefits for SNAP participants when they expire Nov. 1, 2013. SNAP, which accounts for nearly three-quarters of the Agriculture Department's budget, got an across-the-board increase in monthly benefits under the 2009 stimulus (PL 111-5).

And then, this: in their attack on union workers, anyone care to guess if Wisconsin Rs distorted the facts? Anyone hear the claim about bus drivers making $160K? Think it could be bogus?

Mick Rusch, a spokesman for Metro Transit for the city of Madison, tells me: “It’s not fair to point to public employees as being overpaid based on this situation.”

Here are the details, as provided by Rusch. The driver, John Nelson, was able to earn $160,000 in 2009 not because of his annual salary, but because he worked a huge amount of overtime hours. He was able to do this because of previous rules, negotiated by Teamsters local 695, that allowed drivers with most seniority — and the highest salaries — to rack up large amounts of overtime. As a result, in 2009, Nelson worked 1,896 hours of straight time, but he was also able to add on a whopping 2,012 hours of overtime. This, not the exorbitant salary public employees supposedly enjoy, is what accounts for his huge haul that year.

Is Nelson overpaid? Starting bus drivers in Madison earn $17 per hour. Nelson has been working as a driver for 36 years, and his salary in 2009 was up to $26 per hour. There are other ways a bus driver can rack up more money, such as working at night or on vacation days, but all in all, his baseline salary has not gone up much. When working overtime he earns roughly $39 per hour. All this, after working this job for nearly four decades.

But wait, it gets better. It turns out that pointing to Nelson as an example of what’s wrong with public employee unions is thoroughly bogus in another way. According to Rusch, the city of Madison went to the bus drivers union last year and said the rules allowing the highest-paid bus drivers to snap up the most overtime had become a major problem. Turns out the union agreed, and renegotiated a deal to limit overtime in a way that has left Metro Transit happy. And guess what: That deal was negotiated through collective bargaining.

“They agreed with us that it was a problem,” Rusch said of the union. “They sat down with us and worked with us through collective bargaining to fix the problem.”

Resolved equitably, through collective bargaining. You know, that thing away with which they just did.

Oh, and guess where those WI legislators are heading, after all their hard work:
State Republicans are planning to hold a big fundraiser at the offices of a major lobbying firm in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Supporters are asked to give at least $1,000 to the state Republican Party's federal account to attend the event at the BGR Group's offices in D.C. The cost is $2,500 to sponsor and $5,000 to host the fundraiser.


1 comment:

  1. The reason that the Ag Department administers the SNAP program is that it's a subsidy for the ag business. Recipients can only buy food; no booze, no soap, no toilet paper or other non-food necessities. If the farm lobby were asked its opinion, it would likely be against cutting those benefits.


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