Newt Gingrich and Jeb Bush are right about state bankruptcy as one way to deal with rapacious government unions.
Nationwide, state and local government workers are paid on average 45% more than private sector workers, with an average hourly wage of $26.25, and $13.56 in hourly costs for benefits, for total hourly costs of $39.81, or $80,000 per year on average. This is true in Wisconsin as well. Indeed, the Manhattan Institute’s E.J. McMahon reports that for public school teachers in Milwaukee, the annual cost of family health coverage is $26,844, for which the teachers currently pay nothing.
Yet, state and local government workers are mobbing the capitol in Wisconsin because newly elected Governor Scott Walker’s bill to close the state’s $3.6 billion budget deficit would require them to pay 5.8% of their pension costs, and 12.6% of their health insurance costs. In both cases, that would still be only about two-thirds or less of what private sector workers pay on average, among those who even have employer-provided health insurance. And no private sector worker has pension benefits like government workers, with some retiring at age 55 or even younger, with six-figure pensions every year for life. It is the private sector workers who must pay the taxes to keep the wages and benefits of public sector government bureaucrats in the style to which they have become accustomed.
Government Unions = Conflict of Interest
The right of collective bargaining for private sector workers is not at issue in Wisconsin, though President Obama and the Democrats want to confuse the public on precisely that question. Under current law, there are plenty of market and legal checks on private sector unions to keep them from abusing the public. The ultimate limit if they push too far is that their company will be driven out of business. Though that does happen sometimes, that is only when management fails to do its job in resisting excessive union demands. Otherwise, within current market and legal checks, private sector unions actually perform a helpful market function in ensuring that employers keep up with market wages and working conditions as expeditiously as possible.
Not so for government unions, which are two words that together spell oppression. Federal, state, or even local governments cannot be driven out of business. They gain their revenue forcibly through taxes. As a result, there is no market limit to how much such unions can pirate from the public.
Indeed, public sector unions choose their own employers, by voting for the governing policymakers for each political entity — Governors, legislators, county chairmen, etc. This creates an inherent conflict of interest, as a politician can be negotiating regarding the pay and benefits for his own political supporters at public expense. That can lead to oppressive political corruption, where there is no political limit as well as no market limit to the plunder of the public by government unions.
That fundamental, unworkable problem with government unions used to be commonly understood, which is why even an ultimate liberal like Franklin Roosevelt would not recognize them. And that is why strikes by government workers have been commonly prohibited in American history as well. These workers are providing essential public services, and they should not be allowed to deprive the public of such services. But today this common understanding of the past has been lost in too many jurisdictions. As a result, we find exactly oppression of the public in some local or even state jurisdictions.
Governor Walker’s bill would limit collective bargaining for government employees to wages. Collective bargaining over working conditions is what produces public policy atrocities like requiring the layoff first of better teachers with less seniority instead of union time servers with more seniority who have lost real interest in doing a good job. Governor Walker’s bill would still provide for more collective bargaining for Wisconsin government workers than allowed those so badly oppressed federal workers, whose wages are set by an act of Congress rather than collective bargaining.
Government employees work for democratically elected officials representing the will of the people, not greedy miscreants exploiting them for personal profit. This is another reason why there is no legitimate role for government unions, and there should be no collective bargaining rights for government bureaucrats. Governor Walker’s more moderate bill actually greatly benefits state and local workers by terminating government collection and payment of their union dues. This gives power to the workers to each voluntarily decide if they want to pay those dues. That is like a tax cut of as much as $1,000 a year for state and local government workers. That policy needs to be adopted in every state, as taxpayer money going to government union dues is the root of all political corruption in America.
This Is What Democracy Looks Like
Wisconsin just held an election last November, and the voters granted the Republicans a 19-14 majority in the state Senate. But under Senate rules, a quorum of 20 is needed to conduct business. By refusing to even participate in Senate proceedings, and consequently shutting down the state Senate, the 14 AWOL Senate Democrats are imperiously rejecting the democratically expressed will of the people.
Anti-democracy demonstrators have mobbed the state capitol in Madison to impair the state legislature’s proceedings, chanting also imperiously, “This is what democracy looks like.” The chant is imperious because it implies that the state and local government workers comprising the demonstrators embody superior democratic legitimacy over the vote of the people of the state last November.
What those state and local government workers are doing in the state capitol is not what democracy looks like. It is what mob rule looks like.
What democracy looks like is what the Wisconsin Tea Party should now do to the 14 AWOL Democrat state senators. The Wisconsin Constitution explicitly grants voters the power to recall and remove from office those anti-democracy Democrat state senators. The state Constitution provides:
The qualified electors of the state, of any congressional, judicial, or legislative district, or of any county may petition for the recall of any incumbent elective officer after the first year of the term for which the incumbent was elected, by filing a petition with the filing officer with whom the nomination petition to the office in the primary is filed, demanding the recall of the incumbent.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?