Thinking Right’s weekend free-for-all. Pick a topic:
● Incoming Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed — he takes office Monday — has been handed a 300-page binder identifying problems the outgoing mayor leaves behind. Reed’s designated chief operating officer Peter Aman says, “The shortage of funds is a theme that runs through every department.” That’s a surprise. The binder should have included a Wall Street Journal interview with Mayor Dave Bing titled “Can Detroit Be Saved?” Clue: Yes, but downsized and with payroll costs brought under control. There, union employee benefit costs run 68 percent of base salaries. Keys to Mayor Kasim Reed’s success will be payroll costs. Unless he can gain control of future pension liabilities, he’ll simply be another in that long line of politicians who roll over exploding personnel costs to the next guy. The solution is to immediately close existing pension plans to new employees and start over with defined-contribution, as opposed to defined-benefit, plans. That’s the solution, too, for the state and other local governments. Otherwise, Detroit’s the future.
● The gap between public- and private-sector compensation grows. In 2008, the average pay for federal civilian employees was $79,197. For those in the private sector, it was $50,028. With benefits, the federal compensation is $119,982, compared to $59,909 for those in the private sector. This administration will create good new jobs. In Washington. Directing health care decisions.
● As an Atlanta cop, I’d be wary of the Citizen Review Board, too. Accountability and discipline are chain-of-command responsibilities. The board was created in 2007 after the police raid that resulted in the death of 92-year-old Katherine Johnston. Review boards, like blue-ribbon commissions, should be temporary and task-specific. Power shouldn’t be left lying around for the unelected.
● On second thought … The immediate spin from the Copenhagen climate conference was that the U.S., China, India, South Africa and Brazil had achieved, in the words of President Barack Obama, an “unprecedented breakthrough” on greenhouse gas emissions. The “unprecedented breakthrough” was said to include “a mechanism to verify compliance.” Bunk. It’s empty words. The disconnect between the president’s rhetoric and reality is often expansive.
● Senate passage of the government takeover of health care is a reminder that Blue Dog Democrats in the House and Senate — U.S. Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Ben Nelson of Nebraska among them — are always there for conservativism. Until their votes are actually needed. Then they choose the course that got former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland defeated. Red-state politicians in competitive districts cannot follow Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
● State and Local Government Goal for 2010: Govern without drama. I’m about OD’d on Clayton’s. Quiet competence. Go for it. State Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), who’s certain to be the next speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives, is the quietly competent type. Without drama, he puts a stop to suggestions that higher taxes are the solution. “People are hurting,” he said. “They’re wondering about how they’re going to buy their kids presents [for Christmas], how they’re going to pay their bills. They’re worried about what happens if they have a health care crisis in their family. The last thing they need is for government to take more of their money.” Music to our ears. A conservative who is reliably conservative.
● Political correctness makes it probable that the only domestic terrorism that can be prevented is that posed by Ku Klux Klanners and other white supremacists. Any threat more complex or modern simply baffles Homeland Security.