Monday, February 21, 2011

Are Unions Really A Good Thing?

With all of the unrest going on in Wisconsin this week I thought of a question that many of these union protesters probably have not thought of. Are they truly better off being in a union? The purpose of a union is to work for its members to get them the best benefits and wages that are possible for their members. The question is, are they actually doing that and is it really beneficial to the members to be trapped by whatever the union decides?

When you are a member of a union you are expected to pay yearly dues. Some of these dues can range in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year per member. Right out of the gate the members are paying a large some of money for an implied service. With this money, unions provide various services and negotiate contracts for the whole as a union. Of course most unions, like big corporations have a board of directors or council, of which men of great power get their share off the top. Many also get kick backs just like politicians to pull for one set of benefits and not others. The men who run unions can be just as corrupt as anyone in a corporation or in government.

Being in a union is often forced upon workers depending on what line of work you go into. Right off the bat you are limiting your right as a worker by not being able to decide if you want to join the union or not. Then as part of a union you do get to vote on changes the union makes, but what if you don't agree with what the union is doing? OH well, you have no say if you're in the minority of that union. What may be good for the union may not always be good for you or your family individually in the union.

The rights that union members speak so highly about are not rights for them as individuals but for the union as a whole. If the heads of the union decide or are paid to push one initiative or another then the members of the union have to follow what the union decides, regardless if they agree with them or not. Yes, the members of the union do have a say by voting for what the union does, but just like voting in government or as a shareholder of a corporation you have limited pull as to the outcome as an individual.

What many members of unions don't realize as an individual you can negotiate your wage and benefits just like a union, and if the company, school district, etc. don't agree then you can take your services elsewhere. Competition and negotiating your own terms keeps your salary higher and benefits higher while also giving you the ability to decide for yourself and your family what is best, not some union heads who have their own agenda in mind.

Unions came about at a time when workers rights did not exist. Now many workers today who are not in unions have better rights than those who are in unions today. Being in a union means you are limited to whatever that union deems to be right for the union not right for you as an individual. The perception is that unions give you rights that are not available outside of unions, and that is completely false. You as an individual have even more rights to control how, where, and for how much you work than even in a union. Before you go fighting hard for the union that your in, make sure that the union you have is best for you and your family, and not for some fat cat union heads out to maintain power at the expense of its members.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Do Public Employees Need A Union?

With all the protests going on in Wisconsin I started thinking of a more interesting question. Why do public employees need to have a union? It makes no sense. The government is the people, is it not? Public unions were formed to fight against ourselves to get more from ourselves? If that sounded funny, I couldn't agree with you more, and is exactly why I bring up this topic.

Unions have been around for over 100 years and make total sense for employees of private companies. Each private company has different rules that they enforce on their employees and unions are needed in that case to ensure that those employees are paid a fair wage and not being taken advantage of. What unions did was make sure the employees were taken care of at a time when no rights were given to them working for a company. Companies took advantage of people to get max profits, and there was no recourse for doing this until the government allowed unions to form. As a result, rights for workers increased for many. I have no problem with that.

Public sector employees forming unions however makes no sense. Unions for them fight the government for better wages and better benefits. The thing is that government is the people. We are fighting against ourselves as opposed to private industry where employees are fighting against an entity (corporation). If something unjust is happening to public employees we as citizens have the ability to vote and to decide when these employees get raises and more benefits, and to also keep them from suffering too much as well.

Unions in the public sector have created a situation where far too much has been given to public employees at the expense of the US taxpayer. Public employees enjoy far more benefits than their neighbor who is paying their salaries. There is no need and no reason for public employees to be fighting to get a decent wage, it makes no sense. If they truly did need wage increases, benefit increases, rule changes, or anything else, the people will decide that at the proper time. To have a union to fight against ourselves looks like we are fighting each other. Again it sounds ridiculous to read, but that is essentially what is happening.

I am not against unions, I believe unions are very important in providing certain protections for employees from companies. What unions have done is make sure companies provide decent wages to employees of all industries in the private sector, even those who don't deal in union workers. All unions are doing in the public sector is driving tax rates up and unfairly providing those workers with benefits that most Americans will never see.

Why do public employees need unions? The answer is that they don't. They have gone far too long with too many privileges and power against their fellow Americans. Its time to dissolve public unions and stop fighting ourselves before we bankrupt our states and tax each other to death.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

High Speed Rail, No Thank You

News has broken that President Obama wants to ask Congress for 53 billion dollars for high-speed rail lines across the US. This money would be spent over the course of the next 5 years on projects across the country to get a start on the infrastructure of a high-speed rail system. Not only is this a huge waste of money, but the US is not built for a system like this the way China and Europe are.

High-speed rail in China and Europe are highly successful for a reason. The reason it is successful in those places and would be a complete waste of money here, is the same reason why public transportation systems such as subways, buses, etc. are highly successful there and are not here in the US. That reason is population density. The population of China is 4 times that the amount of the US with the same amount of land. China also has 160 cities with a population of over 1 million people, the US has a total of 9. Europe has 200 million more people then the US in a land area half the size. High-speed rail works in those regions because people are closely packed in together. Not only that, and especially in Europe, their public transportation systems are so developed that having high-speed rail only enhances their transportation infrastructure.

The problem in the US is that we are far to spread out for a public transportation to work effectively, and too spread out for a high-speed rail system. It is precisely why Americans drive cars more than any other country in the world. Not because we have more money, but the places we need to go are too far from public transportation hubs. Without major densely populated areas to feed people into, basic public transportation is rendered fairly useless.

Building A high-speed rail system here would be a large drain on the US taxpayers for all the initial costs, but also for the long term maintenance costs as well. All while not improving our transportation needs. Now I know many critics of projects like this that are said to cost too much just have reasons why they won't work or why they are no good without offering any alternative solutions. I am not one of those people. I love to offer what would be a more effective use of our tax dollars that would actually improve our transportation and infrastructure issues.

The thing that has separated America from the rest of the world regarding transportation is the amount of space we have. We are vastly more spread out in our country then anywhere else. We enjoy the freedoms of being able to travel everywhere within our country and over 50 years ago we came up with a solution that was uniquely American, the interstate highway system. It has allowed our country to expand in ways we could not even dream of before it was built. We should not lose hope in that system.

We need to invest the money in smarter roads that flow traffic in and out of our cities more fluidly, we need to invest in smart car technology that allows cars to travel at high rates of speed and communicate with each other, and we need to invest in more technology in regular rail to move more cargo by train. By investing in our freight lines we can pull trucks off the roads and limit congestion created by them. The time has come to get as many of the cargo trucks off our roads as possible. By investing in technology that improves the flow of traffic on our interstate system we will improve efficiency of our commerce, decrease the carbon footprint of our vast system, and increase productivity of our workers because they won't be sitting in traffic for hours wasted every year.

All of these things can be accomplished with the money we would put to high-speed rail, frankly a project that won't be guaranteed to be used effectively enough throughout the country to benefit most Americans. Do I think high-speed rail could work one day in America? Of course, when we have far more densely populated cities. In fact, on a limited basis I think the one place we could use a high-speed rail line is from Boston to Washington DC. That is the one corridor of our country where there are 5 or 6 densely populated cities within range of each other where it would be beneficial to have a line. Have a major hub in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and finally in DC,  that makes sense.  The problem is that we don't have many population centers close to enough together like that for a the system to be effective.

When proposing policy for our country it needs to make sense for us as Americans. We can't assume because something works in other parts of the world that it will automatically work here. We need to do what is best for us as a nation. Investing in better technology for our roads, our cars, and our heavy rail is the best solution for us as Americans. It may not work for China, but we are not them and they are not us. Should we want high-speed rail? I say no thank you.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday, National Holiday?

Here we are once again On Super Bowl Sunday celebrating what has now become an unofficial American holiday. There are those that say the Super Bowl is a glorified day of football for those who tailgate and obssess over their teams. I don't see the Super Bowl as that at all anymore and would not be opposed to declaring it a national holiday.

Super Bowl Sunday has become about bringing friends and families together all across the country for one day to experience something as one. No longer are there TV shows that are events that bring people together. In today's world of 500 channels and entertainment options everywhere, it is hard to get everyone together unless it is a major holiday, accept the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is the only program which still brings people of all ages to share a wonderful time together. There are people who watch the game to see the commercials, there are those who watch it to see the crazy halftime shows, there are obviously those who watch to see the game, but many watch just to be with those they love and to celebrate something that is uniquely American. Aside From Independence day and Thanksgiving there are few holidays that are truly American and created here.

Regardless of who you root for or if you even like the game of football we can all agree that it is a time to be with family and friends and enjoy something that us as Americans can all relate too in one way or another. So enjoy our American holiday of football, friends, family, commercials, and just plain fun. The is the 21st century and this is the new holiday, one I will look forward to for years to come. Game On!!!!!!!!

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Egypt Needs Change Now, Not In September!!!

Here we are, more than a week into this Egyptian crisis and I fear it will only get worse as it has now become more violent and two clear sides are starting to form. A couple days ago When President Mubarak of Egypt went on TV to say He would not run for President in September, I thought to myself that would be enough to easy the crisis. I thought this because watching the protesters and hearing them, it felt like while they did not trust or follow the government in place, they were not desperate as so many countries become at the start of a revolution. Their protests had been peaceful, orderly, and for the most part controlled.

After Mubaraks speech on Tuesday I felt that the sails of the anti-government movement would sink and over a period of weeks and months the intensity of the protests would subside. Maybe not go away entirely, but would not be to the level they were earlier in the week. Then comes Wednesday and the Pro Mubarak supporters introduce violence to the equation. Protesters fighting and yelling in defense of their President. Riding in on horses and camels beating and throwing rocks at those who are part of the anti-government movement. At the same time going after foreign journalists and attacking them as if they were provoking the anti-government movement. Whether they are truly just citizens coming to the defense of their President or were forced to protest is a matter of opinion and can be debated later.

Introducing this violence has now created a new stage to this crisis. Before the violence occurred I feel that Mubarak could have withstood the crisis and stayed in office. Now however, I don't see that to be a possibility. Clear lines have now been drawn and bloodshed is occurring. If Mubarak does in fact love his country like He says he does he needs to step down before this gets out of control and escalates beyond his borders. By staying in power He will only anger those further who want him out, and they in turn will anger his supports even further to act more violently against the anti government movement.

Friday in Egypt is being called by protesters as "The Day of Departure". With this situation becoming ever more volatile this could be a very bloody day in Egypt's history. I pray for those in Egypt and to President Mubarak that everyone practices calm and does the right thing.

Mubarak needs to step down gracefully and calmly and start this transition now, not in 8 months. If He waits til then, there may not be much of a country left to transition. The US needs for Him to step down because there are demonstrations happening all over the middle east and if this continues, Egypt may not be the only country in the region to face problems. Mubarak, for the safety of his own people, and for the safety of people in the region needs to see that he is part of the problem not part of the solution. Just him being there at this point is fueling all of this. Change needs to come, and it needs to come now.
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