Friday, November 9, 2012

Double Dipping Causes Selective Outrage

Double dipping.

In the past year or two, it's been the term used to describe the practice of a public employee who had retired coming back to their old job as a temporary and/or contract worker.

No one likes the practice.

Conservatives hate it because they consider it to be a waste of taxpayer dollars. (Of course, they hate it when any money is ever spent on anything but making corporations and the wealthy even wealthier.)

Unions hate it because it's taking jobs away from active union workers.

The only ones that like it are government officials that are trying to look fiscally conservative, even though it's rarely the actual case.

Politicians also like to use double dipping against opponents, trying to paint them as fiscally irresponsible.

In that sense, double dipping has again made the news.

Dan Bice, most likely working on a tip from Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele's office, wrote an article about how the Milwaukee County Board hired a retired aide for a few weeks as a contract worker, to help clean up Abele's poorly done and illegal budget proposal.

Colleen Henry, reporting for WISN (Channel 12) news, did a slightly better job on the story. She at least reported that it was not only the County Board bringing back retirees, but also the Sheriff's Office and Abele himself.

Sadly, both reports suffer from horrible tunnel vision and allow Abele to proceed with his hypocritical attacks unchallenged.

The practice of double dipping has been going on in Milwaukee County for years. It rose to prevalent levels during then County Executive Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign, when he would use it to cover the extreme staffing shortages he caused in order to falsely present himself as a fiscal conservative.

While not illegal to do, there were limits regarding the use of contract workers, such as the kind of work they could do and how long they could be used. When Walker would try to push these limits, the union would step in and file grievances which would curtail this behavior.

It should be noted that Walker, as governor, is continuing to use this practice to fill the holes that he has created with his myopic and mean-spirited policies. Funny how that never gets reported by the supposedly liberal media, eh?

Abele has not only continued the practice of using retirees as contract workers, he has expanded the use of them to a much higher degree than the public is aware of, since the media has failed to report on this. Some contract workers were allowed to stay much longer than they were supposed to while others have been brought back time and time again.

Ironically, since Walker finally got his Act 10 rammed through, the unions are not able to take any actions to curtail this irresponsible and expensive practice. And now that Act 10 has been struck down as being unconstitutional, Abele continues to fail the taxpayers by not recognizing this court ruling, thereby allowing him to continue to squander taxpayer dollars to cover up his shortsightedness.

So why is this becoming a news story now and why is it mainly focused on the County Board?

Bice's article gives us the answer:
[Abele spokesman Brendan Conway] noted that the County Board added the temporary worker at the same time it was refusing to let Abele hire two more people for his seven-member staff.
In other words, Abele is lashing out at the Board because they curtailed the expansion of his own office.

But when one looks at the numbers and where each one comes from, Abele's complaint looks even more petulant and hypocritical.

The backdrop, the sick time payout and the pension are from Tom Ament's pension scandal from ten years ago.

So what Abele is really complaining about is that the Board spent $4,845 for a highly experienced and knowledgeable former staffer to help out for a few weeks in repairing his budget. Yet Abele has been spending much more money for a much longer time doing the same thing.

The wonder is why the media is focusing on the County Board's one time hiring of a retiree while ignoring the fact that Abele is doing the same thing at an exponential level and that Walker also did it as county executive and is still doing it as governor.

Could it be the bias of a corporate media or just lazy reporting?

Cross posted at Milwaukee County First.


  1. I'm always amazed at the whole "double dipping" argument. If a private employ, or even a "lifer" from the military get another job after retirement, nothing is said. It happens all the time in the private industry. People retire, and then come back as consultants, mainly due to poor management decisions to not get a trained staff in place before said person retires.

  2. Totally agree with you Common Sense.