“Is Wisconsin our Egypt?” asks left-wing talk radio host Rose Aguilar.
Uh, no — and it’s not even close. In fact, these two demonstrations could not be more radically different. The Egyptian protesters were seeking to be liberated from a tyrannical government that oppressed them. U.S. public employees unions, by contrast, seek to use government tyrannically to oppress us, the taxpaying public. They want special benefits and privileges that don’t exist outside the confines of the public sector.
“Nationwide,” writes former Reagan administration economist Larry Kudlow, “state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America — which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.”
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich want to reform the collective bargaining system that has caused such gross discrepancies in public- and private-sector pay.
“There is an obvious distinction between public and private sector workers,” explains the Washington Post’s Charles Lane:
The demands of the [latter] are constrained by the competitive market; it’s not in their interest to bargain their firms out of business (or so one hopes).
The demands of public sector workers, however, face no such market discipline. Government services are generally a monopoly. When governments try to pass higher labor costs along by means of higher taxes, the public has no choice but to pay up.
When you add union political clout to the mix, neither party to public sector contract talks has an incentive to hold down costs.
I repeat: This is not collective bargaining. It’s political log-rolling. And it’s a formula for fiscal ruin, as states from coast to coast have learned.
To fix this fiscally ruinous system, Walker has proposed collective bargaining reform and fiscal restraint:
“Unions could not force employees to pay dues,” writes Jack Hoogendky at the Core Principles blog. Their funding would have to be secured through voluntary employee contributions. And they “would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.”
Public-sector pay increases, moreover, could not be greater than the Consumer Price Index “unless approved by a public referendum.”
Walker also would have public employees pay half the costs of their pensions and 12.6 percent of their healthcare coverage.
But even with these reforms, Wisconsin state employees would still be far less financially burdened than their private-sector counterparts.
“The proposed changes would cost the average state employee an additional $1,560 per year for family coverage,” notes the free-market Maclver Institute. “But the amount they [state employees] would pay ($2,496) would still be significantly less than the $3,875 average premium contribution at large private‐sector employers in southeastern Wisconsin.”
“Wisconsin taxpayers” Maclver adds, “would be very generous to state employees even after the proposed budget repair bill passes…”
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, by contrast, proposed no such reforms. In fact, quite the opposite: Mubarak tried to buy off state workers by promising them, at the last minute, an unsustainable 15 percent increase in their wages and pensions.
In short, Hosni Mubarak bears about as much resemblance to Scott Walker (or John Kasich) as Barack Obama does to Ronald Reagan. Which is to say none at all.