State employees are paid better than people in the private sector. But government-employee unions refuse to make sacrifices to help close huge state budget deficits. Democratic legislators allied with those unions shut down the Wisconsin State Senate last week, fleeing the state to Illinois in order to block a quorum. Meanwhile, “over 1,000 teachers” called “in sick to force the closure of schools in Madison, Wisconsin” for another day, in a massive shutdown of Wisconsin schools.
Obama is fanning the flames, reports The Washington Post:
President Obama thrust himself and his political operation this week into Wisconsin’s broiling budget battle, mobilizing opposition Thursday to a Republican bill that would curb public-worker benefits and planning similar protests in other state capitals. . . .The president’s political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to get thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.
Wisconsin’s governor has been vitriolically attacked by state employees for seeking to limit their pay and collective-bargaining privileges. Some of these protesters are wielding signs bearing the words uttered by John Wilkes Booth as he assassinated Abraham Lincoln, “sic semper tyrannis.” Others are putting crosshairs on pictures of his face, along with the word “reload.” Others are branding him as “Hitler,” or comparing him to the fascist dictator Mussolini and Egypt’s recently ousted ruler Mubarak. So much for the short-lived era of civility that Obama and his supporters preached without practicing.
To shut down the Wisconsin State Senate, all the Democratic senators fled to a hotel in Illinois, which has a sympathetic Democratic governor. (Illinois Governor Pat Quinn just signed into law a 67 percent increase in income taxes, after a campaign in which he promised the state’s well-paid workers no layoffs and two-years of cost-of-living increases. Never mind that Illinois already has more government employees per person than neighboring Indiana.)
States are required by their constitutions to balance their budgets. The federal government doesn’t have to. So it’s easy for Obama, who has the ability to run up record deficits to hire tens of thousands of new federal employees, to fault cash-strapped state governments for trying to reduce the entitlements and collective bargaining rights of their employees. As Victor Davis Hanson notes, “what distinguishes Obama’s homespun platitudes about public-sector jobs from state governors’ more honest worries is just that ability. . .But pass a law that the U.S. must balance its books like the states must,” and President Obama might change his tune.
(Obama ran up the largest deficit in history in 2010, running up more debt in just one month than Bush did in the entire year of 2007. Obama’s recent budget proposal increases spending over the next two years while pretending to cut it, drawing criticism even from the liberal Washington Post.)
Even with budget cuts, government employees in Wisconsin would still live far better than the taxpayers who pay their salary. Wisconsin’s governor “would require many state workers to contribute 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pensions (up from 5 percent) and pay 12.6 percent of their insurance premiums — still much less than the average Wisconsinite pays for insurance through work.” As the Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso notes, “I defy anyone to find a private sector workplace where you can contribute only 6 percent for a generous defined benefit retirement plan, and have your employer pick up the tab for 88 percent of your health insurance. It just doesn’t exist. What we’re seeing is a protest based on disrespect for the taxpayers who are picking up the tab, most of whom do not make as much as the members of the teacher’s union.”
The public-sector unionization that Obama so prizes is something America just can’t afford. As The Washington Post’s Charles Lane notes:
The truth of the matter is that ‘collective bargaining’ in the public sector is too often a parody of the real thing. For years, public-employee unions have used their dues money to help elect pliant politicians — usually Democrats — who, in turn, award the unions what they want at contract time. The taxpaying public’s only role in this costly cycle is to foot the bill. It’s not democracy when citizens lose control over the pay and benefits of the people who work for them. It’s not progressive when employee compensation takes finite resources away from Medicaid, parks, roads and libraries. And it’s not collective bargaining when union representatives sit on both sides of the table.