(Book review by A.M. Blazek) – Author Steven Greenhut’s subtitle sums up the mini-education found in this eye-opening book that leaves no union stone unturned: Teachers’, Prison, Police, Clerical and Firemans’, to name a few.
And as Greenhut says, Plunder “is not a book about political theory, but about rubber-meets-the-road reality.”
Greenhut begins with an overview of the economic challenges our country faces and sets the stage for an expose of the union “privileged and elite.” He then provides example upon compelling example supporting his subtitle and premis. The recurring theme is the above-market pay and benefits that public employees receive and the rising swell of a devastating pension tsunami.
Explaining California’s protected license plates program, the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights with its special protections, pension program deficits and how these programs are unsustainable, and the difficulty of firing any government worker, Greenhut shows the fiscal burden that such poor business practices cause both the government and the taxpayer.
Greenhut’s overview of Public Choice Theory is particularly helpful, including data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
He also shows how private companies can provide services more effectively than government. As an example, Greenhut cites an instance in which an international company now oversees and manages Sandy Springs, GA – at just above half of what Fulton County was charging taxpayers to do the same job.
One of the most interesting parts of Greenhut’s book is the presentation of statistics that disprove the unions’ characteristic arguments that their workers die younger, have more dangerous jobs, and are more vital to society than, say, the local mechanic.
The book also explains how laws for union wage increases and retirement benefits are often passed without the public’s knowledge and gives many examples of deals cut in secret and how union workers and state employees can “spike” their retirement legally.
“At all levels of government…[union pay has increased more] than in the private sector and…faster than the personal income of the people who pay for it,” agrees Steven Frates, a senior fellow at the Rose Institute in Claremont, California.
In the chapter entitled “California: A case study in Union Power,” Greenhut explains the scope of the union problem in our government: it is now a statitstical fact that 51% of total union membership is made up of public employees. In the following chapter, Greenhut details how the unionization of public employees started – and where they are now headed as unions wield unprecedented power and inflence legislators and the law.
As Greenhut said, “When the new Governor of California [Schwarzenegger] sat down to negotiate budget changes, he openly declared to the legislature something to the effect of, “‘Why don’t I just sit down with the folks who give you the orders [the unions] and cut the deal with them?’”
Greenhut later adds, “When the federal government was negotiating with the California government over the distribution of stimulus money, President Barrack Obama insisted on something highly controversial and inappropriate – the inclusion of the state’s Service Employees International Union in a conference call negotiating the terms of the package.”
With facts like that on the record – as Greenhut states in the title of his last chapter – “It’s Time For More Than Outrage.”
And despite the sobering facts in his book, Greenhut offers a statement of hope in the last paragraph of the acknowledgment page: This battle is just beginning, this book is a call to action. I still have faith in the willingness of Americans…to do the right thing.
Plunder! offers facts, evidence, and details a-plenty. The book’s closing also provides a commodity sorely lacking in today’s political debates: solutions.
Plunder! author Steven Greenhut was a longtime senior editorial writer and columnist for the Orange County Register. He is now the director of the Pacific Research Institute’s Journalism Center in Sacramento, CA.