Press Talk: 'What's up with that' class

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

Good morning, class. I'm Professor Brancaccio, and we're trying something a little new this semester. It's a course titled: "What's up with that?"

Noodles, please begin.

"I see where some C-Tran employees just got a sweet 5 percent raise. What's up with that?"

Fair point. Jimmy, what else?

“What about those underpaid judges? I heard one of them said they could make more as an attorney in the private sector. And it’s difficult for them to hear some of the bad stuff they have to listen to in the courtroom. And if that’s not bad enough, they even miss getting a lunch on occasion. So they’re thinking they need more than $150,000 a year.”

Jake?

"Hey, my mom packed me an extra baloney sandwich today. Do you think if I went over to the courthouse and maybe offered it to one of those judges, they'd accept it? I'm happy to help."

Jake, that doesn't quite sound sincere. Continue.

"Not sincere? Baloney! Speaking of baloney, if things were so much better in the private sector for attorneys, why wouldn't they just go back? And don't those judges — and most government workers — get sweet pensions in addition to other bennies? What's up with that?"

True. Yes Danni?

"Speaking of pensions, I just read where one of the largest private employers in the state is moving toward a 401(k) plan and away from pensions. What's up with that?"

That's correct, Danni. Many Boeing union members have voted their approval. By the way, does anyone know how many of the nation's biggest companies still offer traditional pensions? Fernando?

"I read where it's only 10 percent. Yet government pensions seem to be everywhere. And taxpayers in our state have to shell out about $1 billion a year to make sure those government pensions are solid. What's up with that?"

Correct. Yes Hannah?

"Professor, I did see where Rep. Jim Moeller attacks anyone who questions government pay raises and pensions. Since the middle class has to pay for all of this, why does Moeller keep attacking the middle class? What's up with that?"

That is one way to look at it, although I think Rep. Moeller would tell you the opposite.

Noodles?

"Rep. Moeller believes the solution is for the private sector to step up."

Fair enough. Thoughts, Max?

"Well, Moeller says that. He keeps saying that. But has he done anything to make that happen? I think it has been a decade or two that the private sector has been losing ground to the public sector. What's up with that?"

Yes, one could argue that talk is cheap. And time has — indeed — proven him wrong. He believes unions are the answer.

Jake?

"Is Moeller paying any attention at all? The American workforce now is at a 97-year low of union members. Less than 7 percent of private workers are unionized now. If unions were the answer, it's not trending well. What's up with that?"

OK, can anyone summarize here? Fernando?

"Well, it just feels like politicians aren't looking out for the private working stiff, the folks who pay the bulk of taxes.

"And the recent news like the C-Tran raises and Boeing giving up pensions, judges wanting more, shows how the gap continues to widen between private and public workers. No one seems to care much."

Jimmy, ring the bell! Fernando hit a home run.

Class, maybe the politicians will finally step up and do the right thing. Jake, final thoughts?

"Baloney."

Class dismissed.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian's editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, lou.brancaccio@columbian.com or Twitter: http://twitter.com/lounews.