Union critic assesses governor’s race

San Francisco Chronicle, January 17, 2009

Steven Greenhut was a constant thorn in the side of California’s public employee unions as a columnist and editorial board member of the Orange County Register. Now he’s moved to Sacramento to serve as director of the journalism center for the Pacific Research Institute. He spoke to columnist Debra J. Saunders while in San Francisco recently to sign copies of his new book, “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”

Q: How do you rate the gubernatorial candidates?

A: I don’t like any of them. … I don’t think any gubernatorial candidate, no matter how brilliant, could fix the problems. Coming from an extremely cynical standpoint, I don’t really expect much out of any of them. (GOP Insurance Commissioner) Steve Poizner sounds like a conservative. His past isn’t completely conservative. (Democratic Attorney General) Jerry Brown – it’s hard to say what to expect from Jerry Brown. I don’t expect him to tackle some of the issues I write about in the book with the public employee unions. And (former eBay CEO and GOP hopeful) Meg Whitman? I just don’t really have much hope for the state.

Q: What kind of fall-out did you get from the book?

A: A lot of people have been infuriated about the stories I tell in the book about runaway unionism, the impact on state finances, the unfunded liabilities, and the special privileges that union officials and union members get. … The unions squelch reform, they squelch open government, they protected bad employees … So I think the timing is right. People of all political persuasions are recognizing this. (Democratic state Treasurer) Bill Lockyer talked about how the state should be bankrupted by these pensions. Ron Seeling, chief actuary for CalPERS, said that they’re unsustainable. There’s a recognition that this is such a huge problem. In many ways it’s a bipartisan problem. Both parties helped create it.

Q: Have you ever been a member of a union?

A: No I have not. My wife has been – which was absurd. It didn’t get her any benefits. I’m not a big believer in unionization. But private-sector unions, at least you can’t kill the host.

This article has been corrected since it appeared in print editions

This article appeared on page C – 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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