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Why the Grinch Stole Christmas

Here, in no particular order, are my theories as to why the MTA chose to shut down the trains on December 20th rather than compensate their workers. Since the deal turned on something worth $20 million over three years, I am presuming that the issue is not money. (For non New York readers, I'll mention that weekend fares have been reduced to $1 for the Holiday Season, thanks to the MTA's current $1,000,000,000 surplus.)

1. The MTA is going to welch on their promise to open the 2nd Avenue subway, and they need a scapegoat. In the 2005 elections, the MTA got a 2.9 billion bond (which I voted for on the New York Times' reccomendation), which was promoted as money to be spent on the 2nd Avenue subway. I've been skeptical of this plan before, and I think in a crisis, we'll all just have to accept that we can't afford this mirage.
2. The MTA is going to fire all the union workers and replace them with temps. This will be extremely expensive, but maybe after this week's ordeal, New York will accept a fare hike so all our English majors in magazine internships don't have to be jealous of the MTA janitor's wages.
3. The high wages offered by the MTA are putting upward pressure on other employers in NYC and, um, hurting the economy. (I think republicans believe things like this.)
4. Upper class strivers, who always have too little money compared to their friends, get angry when others retire - Peter Kalikow's wife would never accept him not working at 55!
5. The MTA wants to keep fares low. (Actually, I put this one at the bottom because I think it's the least likely.) (You know, I think fares should rise in quarter increments, and be tied to economic indicators. But I'll save that proposal for Ivanistan; NYC is never really interested in fantasy politics.)


At 3:33 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

Talk of 2nd avenue subway, then claims NYC isn't interested in fantasy politics?

How about this fantasy: low-skilled labor deserves what progressives would call a "living wage". I'm not sure who claims public employees getting paid more affects private wages.

Certainly public employees have been very good lately at convincing people that there should be more money for public employees, and taxes increase because of it, hurting business more than the services help.

I've been told the London Underground is pretty good at setting prices according to the market. I don't know much about it.

Without competition, it's pretty hard to do. I would love the MTA to be privatized, with each line, or sections of it, being sold to the highest bidder. I think that would solve most of our problems. You could include contractual price caps and mandatory operation rates if you want, but I think many companies would naturally find those thresholds.

At 3:56 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

Talking of what people "deserve" is for socialists, Ivan. Prices don't care why they're high or low. Whether skilled or not, a force of 30,000 is expensive to replace; on account of that they get well paid. Does it make you unhappy? Prices don't care.

Send your MTA privitisation proposals to City Hall, or if you want them thrown away sooner, I can do it.

Not sure where you've spotted a trend of public employees compensation "recently" changing in nature; seems to me all employees everywhere have always wanted more money for themselves throughout history.

At 4:51 PM, Blogger Ivan said...

"Not sure where you've spotted a trend of public employees compensation "recently" changing in nature; seems to me all employees everywhere have always wanted more money for themselves throughout history."

The difference is that there is the force of government with the demagoguery of politics behind public unions.

You can read about it here.

"Talking of what people "deserve" is for socialists, Ivan"

That's my point. Only in industries protected from the market does unskilled labor get expensive. I don't really understand your point about prices not caring. Do you think there is a market for labor in NYC transportation? Two words: closed shop.

At 10:16 AM, Blogger Miguel said...

I think the TWU made the smart choice to negotiate collectively, and they're being rewarded for it. You yourself have aknowledged that the MTA may as well pay them what they want to avoid the transition costs of hiring new workers.


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