Like Frank Rich, I’m going to roll two points into one combined post.
The first point — watch AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka discuss the unrest in the Midwest, as Cairo comes to Wisconsin. Note the willingness to negotiate. (Over-willingness? You decide.)
The second point — watch David Gregory show Trumka all of the respect his class thinks Trumka deserves — by completely misrepresenting the situation he describes. Play the clip (it’s short), then try to figure out what’s dead wrong about Gregory’s question.
Did you get it? Gregory describes a world in which politically active unions put “their people” (my phrase) into office, then extract financial promises (pensions and health care) “that won’t come due until well down the road” (his phrase).
That’s a pretty ugly picture; almost looks like corruption, grabbing other people’s money like that. And as a bonus, he sneaks in the phrase “take responsibility”. Nice.
If you didn’t know that those financial “promises” (pensions and health care) simply give back to union members their own money, and not the state’s, you’d think Gregory was describing an actual problem. David Cay Johnston:
Somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.
Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages — as pensions when they retire — rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.
More from David Cay Johnston here.
Union members negotiate a total compensation package that includes salary, pension contributions, and a health care plan. They could take it all in salary, or defer some salary to get the other two. Either way, it’s their money. But deferred compensation is a killer — you can’t get it back if no one knows it’s yours.
Making sure no one knows it’s yours — that’s where people like David Gregory come in.
David Gregory is just pretending to host a news show. He’s actually using that segment as a platform to (1) Misinform his audience; (2) Spread the anti-Wisconsin myth that’s current among his class (millionaire celebrity newsblonds; with these “facts” he’s certainly no reporter); and (3) Attempt to score points against a “union boss” (the GOP’s phrase) on national television.
You might even speculate on a fourth goal: If Gregory succeeds in embarrassing Trumka, there might be an extra treat in his own lunchbox one day in the future. After all, you don’t get to be a millionaire newsblond (I know, I’m being kind) by ignoring the billionaire who writes your checks.
This is the David Gregory who went dancing one night with Karl Rove — and loved it. A made man. Just sayin’.