In his July 5 Comment column (“A Lesson for School Board”), Charles Crumpley wrote that the graduation rate from the Los Angeles Unified School District is 41 percent, the second worst in the country. And yet the school board took time to pass a resolution saying school district cars should be cleaned only at car washes that support unions. That column, along with my upcoming trip to Detroit to attend my high school reunion, triggered this piece on the subject of how the unions in Los Angeles and throughout our country are killing the very economy that allows them to flourish.
The actions of the LAUSD board really raises the question of whether we have tilted so far that there is no way to recover. Can anyone really grasp what a 41 percent graduation rate means to the future of the economy of Los Angeles? The number is staggering to me. It is almost beyond my ability to grasp that 59 percent of our students will not graduate, and it should scare the hell out of everyone in Los Angeles. How are these students going to make a living? Use your imagination.
I think our economy is on a steep slope, and it is going to crash unless everyone shares the burden of turning it around. I don’t see that joint effort. I don’t see it with the unions, I don’t see it with our elected officials who depend on political contributions and I don’t see it by the actions of our Wall Street giants.
Let us address another undeniable truth: Everything considered good by all people – every social welfare program, charitable contributions, etc. – is dependent on a successful economy. Destroy that economy and you destroy the source of funds to provide the services to those who need them.
The board members of the LAUSD for the last 40 years have been blowing smoke at the people of Los Angeles. With each new election we are told that things are going to be different, the educational system is going to be improved, and each year it gets worse.
Why did the board of the LAUSD waste its time on forcing the unionization of auto washes that do business with the district? (By the way, ever think of why in these troubled times when teachers are being laid off and school supplies are in short supply people who drive LAUSD vehicles – I bet they are administrators – can’t wash their own cars?)
This leads me to my history of growing up in Detroit. I remember when the auto industry in the late ’50s talked about buying robots to do repetitive jobs in building cars. That would increase quality and decrease costs. They said they had to do it to stay competitive with the developing Japanese auto industry. The unions said “no,” it would cost too many jobs. Now, I would never put all the guilt on the shoulders of the union – the executive branch of the auto industry takes most of that blame. But the union did its part by refusing the acquisition of robots, resulting in the loss of many more jobs in Detroit as a result of the loss of market share.
Now let us look at the government employee unions and their refusal to really make major changes to their retirement and medical care programs. The fact that it is impossible for the city or county of Los Angeles to meet their promises is totally ignored by the union leaders. Their only answer is to raise taxes. But at some point, a 100 percent tax will not cover the cost. Increasing taxes in California during our current economic situation is economic suicide; it will drive every business that can move to move, and it will force those that can’t move to fail.
It’s time for the unions and our elected officials to wake up; they are killing the golden goose from which their wealth comes. They are making it impossible for businesses to survive in Los Angeles and they are turning out 59 percent of their students who cannot make a living even in good times.
What is that sound I hear being played? Is that the sound of taps for the business community of Los Angeles, felled by intransigent unions, an inept school board and elected officials who have sold their soul?
Texas, even with its hot, humid weather, is looking better and better to this writer and a lot of L.A.’s businesses.
Harold L. Katz is a partner in an accounting firm in Los Angeles, and he is a citizen activist.