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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Bridge to Nowhere

On a trip to Alaska which included a trip to Ketchikan, I learned something about that city's famed "Bridge to Nowhere". As described by a tour guide, the city is completely surrounded by national park, and cannot expand. However, there is land on Gravina Island that is not parkland, and could be developed. Without said bridge, prospects for developing this land are poor.

Now, whether or not the bridge is a good use of federal funds is still worthy of debate. What I find notable is how not one person discussing this issue in the national media mentioned the development issue. All I remember hearing was about the airport, and the ferry that served to bring people from the mainland to the airport. A fair and balanced discussion of the issue would have mentioned the development issue as well. Frankly, it's not something the average American would even consider, never having lived in an area with such restricted geography.

Monday, July 04, 2011

I sold my soul to the company store

A seemingly incredible story: as a result of the changes in Wisconsin's collective bargaining law, the one fought tooth and nail by the unions, the Kaukauna school district turned a $0.4 million deficit into a $1.5 million surplus.

In his column, Byron York reveals one of the causes of the savings.

In the past, Kaukauna's agreement with the teachers union required the school district to purchase health insurance coverage from something called WEA Trust -- a company created by the Wisconsin teachers union. "It was in the collective bargaining agreement that we could only negotiate with them," says Arnoldussen. "Well, you know what happens when you can only negotiate with one vendor." This year, WEA Trust told Kaukauna that it would face a significant increase in premiums.

Now, the collective bargaining agreement is gone, and the school district is free to shop around for coverage. And all of a sudden, WEA Trust has changed its position. "With these changes, the schools could go out for bids, and lo and behold, WEA Trust said, 'We can match the lowest bid,'" says Republican state Rep. Jim Steineke, who represents the area and supports the Walker changes. At least for the moment, Kaukauna is staying with WEA Trust, but saving substantial amounts of money.

It's theoretically possible the WEA Trust had the lowest premiums for years, and only this year mispriced their coverage. But it is far more likely that this trust existed to line the pockets of union leaders. And since, even before the changes, union members paid part of their health insurance costs, the actions of the union leaders directly hurt the members.

I thought the company store was a relic of the past. Wages, even if nominally fair, were made unfair when they had to be spent at the company store, where the lack of competition allowed the company to charge whatever it wanted, providing pure profit to the owners. Now, it's the unions who want the workers to sell their soul to the company store.