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Travis Rowley: Unions vs. Rhode Island – A Moral Divide

Saturday, December 08, 2012


The union-Left tells a lot of lies. But this is one of their most effective: The feigning of innocence and weakness.

Of course, in reality, there is nothing and nobody with more political clout and culpability than organized labor here in Rhode Island.

Writing of this specific deception last year, I wrote this “If the unions manage to block [State Treasurer Gina Raimondo’s pension reform proposal], several years from now – when all of Rhode Island resembles Central Falls and all public employee pensions are undergoing drastic cuts – [president of Council 94] Michael Downey will be stepping to the microphone once again, blaming rich people and politicians for creating the mess. And the union mob will cheer.”

The point I was making was that local union leaders have known for decades about the poor condition of their members’ pensions, yet decided to make opposition to politicians (Republicans, for the most part) who raised awareness of this problem their modus operandi. Fiscally responsible individuals were continuously labeled “anti-worker” – and worse – by the Rhode Island Left.

That is the lie that labor leaders decided to live by long ago.

Customary to progressive politics, while flirting with the economic devastation of entire communities the Rhode Island Left has preserved its power by telling the state’s union base that good-government, budget-balancing politicians represent the worst of humanity.

Every time progressives remember for themselves that it might be a good idea to shore up poorly-funded entitlement programs (pensions, Social Security, etc), another election seems to be right around the corner – and it’s time to start calling Republicans “cruel” and “greedy” again.

These are the politics that progressives can’t afford to abandon. These are the lies that keep them in power.

Unions and Democrats – A Marriage

Resulting from the marriage between radicals and Democrats was the Ocean State’s entire political outlook being shifted far to the left – to the point where politicians such as Frank Caprio, Doug Gablinske, and Gina Raimondo are now scolded by their progressive base as “conservative Democrats.”

This is what passes as “conservative” in Rhode Island: Releasing a report titled “Truth In Numbers.”

In keeping with their self-portrayal as powerless victims, during the run-up to state pension reform last year, labor leaders made it a point to have the public believe that the General Assembly (“management”) was responsible for ignoring the failing health of the state pension system – pretending as if union activists for years hadn’t supported politicians who promised to do just that; as if organized labor and the RI Democratic Party aren’t one-in-the-same; as if the deal between unions and Democrats for years wasn’t precisely this: You keep your hands off of our unsustainable pensions, and we’ll keep you in power.

Michael Downey told a roaring union crowd last year, “The unions didn’t create this pension! The politicians did!” Expressing the same innocence on the Helen Glover Show, Downey said, “This is the General Assembly. They made this pension. They put this together.”

According to a recent GoLocalProv report, the town of W. Warwick’s pension fund is “just 19.8% funded.” Flatly, that would never have been the case unless union insiders throughout the years were wholly incompetent (totally possible) or entirely complicit (more likely) with the Democrats’ malfeasance.

The reality is this: Armed with a series of “contracts” and “promises,” labor operatives always expected to be able to socialize unfunded pension liabilities. There would always be someone left for Democrats to tax.

A Spiritual War

After the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to overhaul the state pension system last fall, the unions – once again – sued the Rhode Island taxpayers.

In the midst of a growing awareness of Rhode Island’s economic paralysis, and in the aftermath of Central Falls’ collapse, onlookers began to ask the most vexing question: Even if the unions prevail, what do they hope to accomplish? (a question becoming more commonly known as “WTF?”)

Ed Achorn of the Providence Journal wrote last January, “It's hard to understand how Rhode Island can remain viable if [the public unions] get their wishes. It's no longer politics; it's math.” Amidst a simultaneous and similar court challenge being leveled by government unions against the City of Providence, Achorn wondered, “What is the end game for public-employee unions?”

Rhode Island Statewide Coalition executive director Donna Perry said more recently, “An overturning of [state pension reform] would produce a number of damaging scenarios that would take many communities to the brink of bankruptcy, and it’s hard to see how anyone wins from that.”

It has been my utmost mission on the pages of GoLocalProv to have more people understand the aims, morality, and psyche of the political Left. Rhode Island is dealing with people who suffer from Marxist illusions and a radical ethic, people who are incapable of losing faith in the Utopian dream – devoted leftists who believe in power above all other principles. Convinced of the righteousness of their cause, these labor religionists see themselves as victims of capitalism, rather than perpetrators of collectivism.

And, according to them, their self-proclaimed victim status licenses them to cheat and lie with impunity and immunity. This includes lying about their involvement in the design of Rhode Island’s economic erosion, suffering no anxiety whatsoever over being called out by an electorate they have helped to debase. Even after the bankruptcy of Central Falls that led to the slashing of retirees’ pension payments, Central Falls union members continue to show up in “solidarity” against the “conservative” reformers at the State House.

The union mob cheers. They think it was Bush’s fault.

Rhode Islanders are dealing with radicals. This is a cultural conflict. This is a spiritual battle. Not a war of ideas.

Rhode Islanders are being confronted by an immoral ideology that is driven by envy and emotion – not “math” or “truth in numbers.”

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is author of The Rhode Island Left: An Indictment of the Rhode Island Left.


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Travis for Party Chair! Woot!

Comment #1 by Malachi Constant on 2012 12 08


While what you say isn't bad, in fact I found myself actually agreeing with you in some respects, the way you say it is what has kept Republicans out of the government for years. As an independent, your tone is so revolting, I don't even care what you say, I don't want to vote for you. The angry party lives on with articles like this.

Comment #2 by Jerry Cioffi on 2012 12 08

What is wrong with how this article presents the truth? Do the recipients of all the largesse have pngs of conscience? One would never know, given the constant drumbeat of Progressive nonsense that we have to hear every day from Chafee, Congressmistake ChiChi, and the ACLU. That the truth is in this column was proven beyond all doubt when we found out that Chafee, who signed the Pension Reform Legislation, is negotiating a "settlement" with Walsh and Nee behind closed doors. That's what this Governor is; a Progressive backstabber with absolutely no scruples whatsoever.

Comment #3 by Michael Trenn on 2012 12 08

Mr. Cioffi, I whole-heartedly agree. And unlike "Malachi" we have the courage to sign our names to this. Mr. Rowley, while you make some interesting points, it's stroked with a brush so biased it barely should be on a new site like this one. Us independents are not swayed by your writings.

Comment #4 by Randall Spazniak on 2012 12 08


Comment #5 by tom brady on 2012 12 08

Randall and Jerry-- Could you point out the sentence(s) you find so "revolting"? Where is the tone you find so objectionable? Honestly, I have no idea what you're talking about. All I see is a reasoned argument. Please give me an example. I've read this twice now, and I can't find overt anger, hate, etc, etc....Thanks.

Comment #6 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 08

Mr. Rowley brings a moral clarity to the table that many people these days find difficult to stomach. For others, it's refreshing.

Comment #7 by William Suffik on 2012 12 08

Sadly, RI is going down the tubes!

Comment #8 by anthony sionni on 2012 12 08

Independents? Doubtful.
Anyone reading this or Travis’ previous essays that finds his thoughtful and articulate views revolting have some trouble convincing me that they are actually independent minded. Feel free to disagree with the man, but you diminish yourselves by vilifying him as someone he is not. It is clear to me that Travis is a serious thinker, who like myself and many others who reside in Rhode Island and for that matter the United States of America are extremely concerned about the short and long term well being of his state and nation. I share his concerns and anxiety about the direction we are being pushed.
In my opinion, the pension reform legislation, for which we have the courage, persistence and intelligence of democrat Gina Raimondo to thank, with the reluctant support of our governor and general assembly, did not go far enough. Specifically, settling on a rate of return of 7,5% may have been a necessary compromise to get the bill passed, but it is unrealistically aggressive. You only have to check the interest rate your own savings and checking accounts have been earning for the past several years. The last thing we need now is for a weak governor to undercut the good work done by our state treasurer and general assembly by publicly broadcasting to the unions they can win by dealing with him. These issues need to be litigated now. They need to be finally resolved now in the courts. The nation is watching what happens in our state. The governor would have us all go weak in the knees. We have been weak for too long.

Comment #9 by peter hewett on 2012 12 08

Brutally honest, and right on the mark, Travis -- including the insight into the religious aspect of Leftism.

Comment #10 by Art West on 2012 12 09

Travis, if you do not like the terms of a contract, do not become a party to that contract. Once a party to a contract you are bound by its terms. As an adult, that should not be so difficult for you to comprehend.

Unlike public pension benefits, Social Security has no contractial basis. It's not "math," it's "contractual obligations." Why are you not calling for RI to breach its corporate contracts? Why are public employee contracts the first target?


The Colorado Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded an initial District Court ruling that denied the contractual status of public pension COLAs in Colorado. The Court of Appeals confirmed that Colorado PERA pension COLA benefits are a contractual obligation of the pension plan Colorado PERA and its affiliated public employers. A huge victory for public sector retirees in Colorado! The Colorado Legislature may not breach its contracts and push taxpayer obligations onto the backs of a small group of elderly pensioners.

The lawsuit is continuing. Support pension rights in the U.S. by contributing at saveperacola.com. Friend Save Pera Cola on Facebook!

In 1977, the (U.S.) Supreme Court clarified that state attempts to impair their own contracts, ESPECIALLY FINANCIAL OBLIGATIONS, were subject to greater scrutiny and very little deference because the STATE'S SELF-INTEREST IS AT STAKE. As the court bluntly stated:

“A governmental entity can always find a use for extra money, especially when taxes do not have to be raised. If a state could reduce its financial obligations whenever it wanted to spend the money for what it regarded as an important public purpose, the Contract Clause would provide no protection at all . . . Thus, a state cannot refuse to meet its legitimate financial obligations simply because it would prefer to spend the money to promote the public good rather than the private welfare of its creditors."

Comment #11 by Al Moncrief on 2012 12 09

Al, you need to ask yourself a simple question: When did Travis "become a party to that contract"?? When did TRAVIS (or any other taxpayer) sign a contract with state workers or government retirees?

Once you answer this question, you'll begin to see just how flawed your argument is. As an adult, it won't that difficult for you to comprehend.

Comment #12 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 09

Unions have rigged the game over the years. As Rowley points out...."The reality is this: Armed with a series of “contracts” and “promises,” labor operatives always expected to be able to socialize unfunded pension liabilities. There would always be someone left for Democrats to tax."

Yes, labor has contract law in their favor. That doesn't make it right.

Comment #13 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 09

This really is only tangentially germane to Travis's latest diatribe, but it does address Travis's slavish devotion to all things GOP. Maureen Dowd's latest column.
MY college roommates and I used to grocery shop and cook together. The only food we seemed to agree on was corn, so we ate a lot of corn.

My mom would periodically call to warn me in a dire tone, “Do you know why the Incas are extinct?”

Her maize hazing left me with a deeply ingrained fear of being part of a civilization that was obliviously engaging in behavior that would lead to its extinction.

Too bad the Republican Party didn’t have my mom to keep it on its toes. Then it might not have gone all Apocalypto on us — becoming the first civilization in modern history to spiral the way of the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans.

The Mayans were right, as it turns out, when they predicted the world would end in 2012. It was just a select world: the G.O.P. universe of arrogant, uptight, entitled, bossy, retrogressive white guys.

Just another vanishing tribe that fought the cultural and demographic tides of history.

Someday, it will be the subject of a National Geographic special, or a Mel Gibson movie, where archaeologists piece together who the lost tribe was, where it came from, and what happened to it. The experts will sift through the ruins of the Reagan Presidential Library, Dick Cheney’s shotgun casings, Orca poll monitoring hieroglyphics, remnants of triumphal rants by Dick Morris on Fox News, faded photos of Clint Eastwood and an empty chair, and scraps of ancient tape in which a tall, stiff man, his name long forgotten, gnashes his teeth about the 47 percent of moochers and the “gifts” they got.

Instead of smallpox, plagues, drought and Conquistadors, the Republican decline will be traced to a stubborn refusal to adapt to a world where poor people and sick people and black people and brown people and female people and gay people count.

As the historian Will Durant observed, “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within.”

President Obama’s victory margin is expanding, as more votes are counted. He didn’t just beat Romney; he’s still beating him. But another sign of the old guard’s denial came on Friday, a month after the election, when the Romney campaign ebulliently announced that it raised $85.9 million in the final weeks of the campaign, making its fund-raising effort “the most successful in Republican Party history.”

Why is the Romney campaign still boasting? You can’t celebrate at a funeral. Go away and learn how to crunch data on the Internet.

Outside the Republican walled kingdom of denial and delusion, everyone else could see that the once clever and ruthless party was behaving in an obtuse and outmoded way that spelled doom.

The G.O.P. put up a candidate that no one liked or understood and ran a campaign that no one liked or understood — a campaign animated by the idea that indolent, grasping serfs must be kept down, even if it meant creating barriers to letting them vote.

Although Stuart Stevens, the Romney strategist, now claims that Mitt “captured the imagination of millions” and ran “with a natural grace,” there was very little chance that the awkward gazillionaire was ever going to be president. Yet strangely, Republicans are still gobsmacked by their loss, grasping at straws like Sandy as an excuse.

Some G.O.P. House members continue to try to wrestle the president over the fiscal cliff. Romney wanders in a daze, his hair not perfectly gelled. And his campaign advisers continue to express astonishment that a disastrous campaign, convention and candidate, as well as a lack of familiarity with what Stevens dismissively calls “whiz-bang turnout technologies,” could possibly lead to defeat.

Who would ever have thought blacks would get out and support the first black president? Who would ever have thought women would shy away from the party of transvaginal probes? Who would ever have thought gays would work against a party that treated them as immoral and subhuman? Who would have ever thought young people would desert a party that ignored science and hectored on social issues? Who would ever have thought Latinos would scorn a party that expected them to finish up their chores and self-deport?

Republicans know they’re in trouble when W. emerges as the moral voice of the party. The former president lectured the G.O.P. on Tuesday about being more “benevolent” toward immigrants.

As Eva Longoria supersedes Karl Rove as a power player, Republicans act as shellshocked as the Southern gentry overrun by Yankee carpetbaggers in “Gone with the Wind.” As the movie eulogized: “Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a Civilization gone with the wind.”

Gun sales have burgeoned since the president’s re-election, with Black Friday weapons purchases setting records as the dead-enders rush to arm themselves.

But history will no doubt record that withering Republicans were finally wiped from the earth in 2016 when the relentless (and rested) Conquistadora Hillary marched in, General Bill on a horse behind her, and finished them off.

Comment #14 by Jonathan Flynn on 2012 12 10

Unions vs. Rhode Island – A Moral Divide
That is a grabber! Unions immoral! You the pure moral champion of moral Rhode Island! Wrap yourself in the flag and proclaim union membership is a satanic cult!
You quoting DePetro-Perry is perfect. When does she start quoting you?

Comment #15 by Real Clear on 2012 12 10

Mr. Flynn, why are the writings of Mr. Rowley "diatribes"? But your posting of Ms. Dowd's writing is a "column"? Bias much? Mr. Rowley is clearly under your skin.

Comment #16 by William Suffik on 2012 12 10

William, I was just going to make the same observation. Don't expect intellectual honesty from Jonathan Flynn. Flynn also lies about Rowley's political disposition. Anyone who regularly reads his articles knows that he's not a blind defender of "all things GOP." Rowley is more of a fierce labor/Democratic critic (especially of the RI Dem Party), and a libertarian-GOPer.

This is typical of liberals>>> to focus on GOP past hypocrisy to discredit conservative Republicans. This allows them to avoid debate over actual ideas. Classic liberalism (just discredit your opponent. Don't argue w. them).

Comment #17 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 10

Notice how Real Clear didn't make an argument either. Just employed mockery, and tries to DISCREDIT Rowley for quoting someone that Real Clear feels liberals have already ... um....DISCREDITED! Seeing a pattern here?

Comment #18 by Jeremy Soninjer on 2012 12 10

For the GOP peanut gallery, I have met Travis on many occasions and find him personally very likable and pleasant to have a conversation with. What I comment on is his hyperbolic and histrionic comments that get your knickers all excited. I have had that conversation with him. He encouraged me to keep commenting. That is all.

Comment #19 by Jonathan Flynn on 2012 12 10

That Maureen Dowd column that Jonathan posted I take as a pretty accurate expression of the Progressive mindset.

It always astounds me to read such stuff -- especially in today's political climate where we have a president and Congressional allies who are working as never before in American history to transform the country into a nation of dependents and the working serfs who support them -- a nation armed with a huge credit card and printing press to keep the unsustainable fantasy going. Let's call this what it is -- Marxist ideology expressed through a mega bureaucracy that is committed to growing ever larger and to controlling the lives of individuals.

I'm not one of the "rich." I have no envy or resentment of successful people. I'm just a hard-working owner of a micro-business who loves an America that cherishes freedom, equal opportunity, fiscal responsibility and individual free choice. Dividing Americans into racial, sexual, gender, etc. groups does not enter my mind the way it does the Progressives. (Although not a Republican, I would probably be considered that by the Progressive types.)

Reading Travis's column, and taking into consideration the comments (and columns) posted here, I'm lifted up, and more determined than ever to be part of the liberty-loving opposition.

Comment #20 by Art West on 2012 12 10

Again, Mr. Flynn, why is it that an article that you appreciate, admire, or agree with is a worthwhile read (Dowd). But one that you don't necessarily agree with is one that "gets our knickers all excited"??? Isn't this hyperbolic language? Could this be considered histrionic on your part? Why must you put others down in such a manner? You don't come across, at least on this forum, as very intelligent or open-minded.

Comment #21 by William Suffik on 2012 12 10

We would all be better off eating corn than continuing to grant collective bargaining rights to public service employees and their union leaders. Our nation would be at less risk of being destroyed from within by self serving union leaders gone wild. I would much prefer to take my chances for survival against my enemies outside the walls.

Comment #22 by peter hewett on 2012 12 10

Psalm 94:20 Can wicked rulers be allied with you,
those who frame injustice by statute?
21 They band together against the life of the righteous
and condemn the innocent to death.

When the rank and file finally realize that their pension money doesn't actually exist, and this really sinks in, union bosses will be tarred and feathered...if they can extradite them from Florida or the Cayman Islands.

Comment #23 by Solomon Venturi on 2012 12 10

'The union-Left tells a lot of lies.' That's how you start a persuasive essay!
Let me critique-- Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ho Ho Ho!

Comment #24 by Real Clear on 2012 12 11

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