Opinion: In today’s pages: Unions are bad. No, they’re good! No, wait, they’re bad.

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Matthew Continetti, associate editor of the Weekly Standard, gets the Op-Ed page rolling this morning by accusing President Obama of being organized labor’s Santa Claus. The First Community Organizer may believe that unionization helps lift workers into the middle class, Continetti writes, but the numbers don’t support that argument:

The costs of a heavily unionized workforce outweigh the benefits. Organized labor often politicizes the workforce and hinders economic efficiency. Once a workplace is unionized, it’s more difficult to fire unproductive workers, and thus a lot harder to hire good ones too. In their new book, ‘Rich States, Poor States,’ Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams rank all 50 states based on economic performance over the last decade. Seven out of the 10 best performing are right-to-work states. Eight of the 10 worst performing are not.
Speaking of a unionized workforce, columnist Tim Rutten urges the state Senate to waive some California environmental rules to let developer Ed Roski Jr. build a football stadium in the City of Industry. Why?

Los Angeles is in the grip of an unemployment crisis, and independent estimates say the stadium project will create 12,000 construction jobs and 6,732 permanent positions in the adjacent facilities -- 100% of them unionized, paying good wages with real benefits.
Alllll-righty then. Closing out the page, Anna Husarska, senior policy advisor at the International Rescue Committee, laments the ‘huge human cost’ of the Taliban’s operations in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and the government’s counteroffensive. The image above is an illustration of the psychic toll; it’s a drawing by a schoolgirl in the Swat Valley named Sheema.

On the other half of the opinion pages, the Times editorial board blasts the L.A. Department of Water and Power for the fabulous parting gifts it’s planning to shower on departing chief H. David Nahai. We like how Nahai defied union leaders (the Opinion page’s méchants du jour) to bring in more renewable power from outside the district, but we still don’t see the need to pay him his salary for the rest of the year:


[J]ust because it’s common doesn’t make it right. The DWP’s stated justification for paying Nahai, who is leaving to join former President Clinton’s Climate Initiative, nearly $82,000 by Dec. 31 is that his institutional knowledge is needed during the transition to a new chief. Left unmentioned is that the department’s interim chief will be S. David Freeman, who was managing federal energy policy when Nahai was in grade school and ran the DWP from 1997 to 2001. The idea that Freeman needs advice from Nahai, who was criticized for his inexperience when he was appointed to head the DWP less than two years ago, is laughable.
The board also says the Federal Trade Commission’s new guidelines for online advertisers could put too much scrutiny on bloggers and amateur product reviewers. And it warns that the Supreme Court’s review of a case involving the giant cross in California’s Mojave National Preserve threatens to ‘blow a gaping hole’ in the 1st Amendment’s wall between church and state.

-- Jon Healey