Thursday, 28 January 2010

Loose Change, Public Sector Wages, and Take the Car

Loose Change

If you don't know him or have never read him, Joe Fiorito at the Star is a great lucid voice on Toronto issues when they get heated. He provides nice snapshots of people around the city when things are calm. He is plain-speaking, fair-minded, an orthodox disciple of common sense who stands up for the downtrodden, and isn't scared to wade in when the plethora of angry voices in the city rise up into a cacophonous rabble (see: garbage strike, tamil protest, etc.) His article on the sleeping TTC worker is particularly illuminating, the comments more so than the writing, as is often the case these days.

In the article Joe offers the torontonians angry with him for defending the indefensible a letter from a TTC worker, who is powerless to stop fare-beating, has people asking for directions when he's trying to drive, and gets verbally abused every day. The comments are filled with rants about crappy service and rude attitude from TTC workers, the humiliation suffered at their hands, and their being overpaid for menial work.

Both sides are right. I don't live in Toronto at the moment but have thousands of hours of TTC riding experience. Yes, employees, the city is filled with punk ass lowlifes with no respect, shitty drivers, and unbelievably bad traffic. Yes, riders, drivers often do not practice basic courtesy, buy McDonald's and smoke while the bus is running, and respond to your breathless sprint to catch their bus by flooring it. I've witnessed it all. Two things are obvious: when dealing with such a large population and such inadequate infrastructure tempers flare on all sides, and our city sorely lacks civility. All that said, I'd like to tell everyone to shut the fuck up, and pull this back from the brink of becoming another stupid union vs. toronto sun reader, NDP vs. conservative debate.

Public Sector Wages

The reality is, TTC employees, that no matter how rough the public is or how good of a job you think you do, you are not worth 50-100k a year. I'm sorry, its not personal, it goes to all the nurses, cops, teachers, and especially useless government paper pushers out there (don't huff and puff, that's what you are). The state cannot continue to pay these salaries, vacations, and benefits including up to 70% of your salaries long after you stop working until you die. Why? Not because its an asshole right wing government that has it in for you. It doesn't have the money. The productive population that pays taxes, the middle class, is diminishing partly because of industries changing and evolving and especially because of demographics. There are 4 workers for every retiree now. In 10 years thats going down to 2.5.

But this is reality and people hate reality. Humans are more of a head-in-the-sand type of species. That's why our weak-kneed, aw shucks government gave money to a shitty car company last year. That's why they say things like "We're looking forward to working with our partners in the public sector." Because 90% of them have secure wages until retirement, and only 13% of the general public does. And a large part of that 13% is private companies' pensions which are not guaranteed.

Is this observation anti-public sector? No, it's just unfair. Some people won and some people lost. But make no mistake, the people who lost are not going to stand for this when things get worse. Because why would anybody? I have some ideas on how to avoid or at least, lighten that inevitable social friction and tension on the horizon.

The government should start training a massive army of unemployed workers to take over bus driving, policing, and functionary jobs, for 15-20$ an hour.

Then they should do assessments. Hey Mr. Bus Driver, do you really need 29.87 an hour to drive a bus? Let's cut you down, I don't know, 4 or 5 bucks to start. No way? Well, I'm sure there's lots of other places willing to pay you that amount, so no worries. What's Greyhound paying these days?

Imagine how much money the public could save! WE could save!

And don't tell me I'm cold or callous. People have lost huge parts of their pensions and retirement that they saved, paid into, worked hard for, without having anything set up or anyone telling them to. These people don't get to "collectively bargain" back the rights to that money they lost. You're going to tell me too bad so sad for them (as in, you) but you're willing to pay into infinity for these other people?

There's a lot of ways we could raise money for public services too, especially transit. Why are the fares so high? People would take the service more if it was a dollar and was actually up to big metropolis standards. Why do I have to pay full fare on an empty bus? He's just going to be driving that empty bus around anyways.

City Manager of Toronto, 380,000$ a year? Chop! I just cut your salary by 100k. What are you going to do now? Make 380k at Tim Horton's?

The problem is we live in a system of entitlement where all these overpaid people think we owe them something. And bank and corporate CEOs, that goes for you too. If the CEO of Royal Bank agrees to drop from 7 million to 700,000 next year, then maybe I can respect that as a step in the right direction. Until then, enjoy reading about this double standard, unfair society of entitlements for some that we've set up in "the best country in the world".

Take The Car

Finally I'd like to admonish those who use the TTC acronym to say this. It's really regressive. We do not need more torontonians taking the car. There are already more cars in toronto per capita than any other major city of comparable size in the world. Of course it's only partly the fault of selfish, entitled, indivualists; maybe the provincial government could get its thumb out of its ass after 7 years in power and build those rapid transit lines and subway extensions we've been talking about for the past thirty years. An airport train? Oh no, it might go through someone's backyard. God we're pathetic Check out this article about why there's no cars in Guangzhou, China. The streets are too narrow. If we build it, people will stop driving. But, priorities are priorities, right?

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