OC Weekly‘s founding editor and former publisher Will Swaim is back in the media mix, launching a new website called Republic of Costa Mesa–which tackles the issue of what the website calls the “simply unsustainable” pension and healthcare benefits of that city’s public employees. As someone who’s worked with Swaim before, and is accustomed to his politics falling on the more liberal side of things, we were surprised to see his latest venture take such a strong anti-union position–even if that position is rooted less in ideological terms than it is in a realpolitik cost-benefit analysis.
“I’m attracted to stories that challenge my own biases,” Swaim tells us, “and where I think the mainstream media could use a nudge.
“I noticed that I have this almost irresistible impulse to support unions; despite their problems, they’ve been absolutely necessary engines of prosperity for millions of Americans. But it’s pretty easy to do the math on the public employee unions’ deals with state and local government and determine that they’re not sustainable. Even if we like the idea of budgeting $1.5-$3million per employee, the math doesn’t work. Cities will simply go broke fast trying to pound the square peg of math into the round hole of actuarial reality.
“So that puts progressives like us in the odd place of wondering how to fix these agreements. But any talk of compromise is met with the union’s argument that an agreement is an agreement is an agreement, no matter how unsupportable; it’s not their fault that city (or county or state) officials signed stupid agreements. The courts seem to have agreed with that position. And politicians–left and right–are of little use in untying the knot in California because they’re often backed by the same union money.”
We might not agree with you Swaim, but we’ll definitely be reading. Good luck!