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The Soaring Cost Of Public Employment

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The public sector is full of bright and extremely hard working people. Firefighters, police, teachers and public health professionals as well as child protection workers, land planners, park rangers etc –all do fine jobs and jobs that must be done.

That’s the context for this story from the San Francisco Chronicle on soaring salaries among various city employees in San Francisco, Oakland and elsewhere. Much of this is overtime pay, and I don’t blame individuals for working long hours and getting paid to do so.

The trouble comes with the underlying staffing agreements that compel certain levels of staffing and high overtime rates.

This sort of salary structure isn’t sustainable. The pension agreements for public employees aren’t sustainable.

But the political effectiveness of the public employee unions is such that there won’t be a gradual reform. A huge bankruptcy of a public entity followed by the scissoring of the union contracts is coming, and it isn’t going to be a surprise.


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