Thursday, February 17, 2011
When you look behind the financial disasters of our time, the odds are pretty good that you will find either a labor union or a government bureaucracy distorting the free market. Often you will find both, as in the case of the American automobile industry which is collapsing under the double burden of unsustainable union wages and benefits, and government regulations and taxation which make it next to impossible to compete in a global marketplace.
While the Federal Government madly spends money it doesn't have, taxing, borrowing, and printing money at an alarming rate, states who don't have the same luxury are going bankrupt under the strain of mounting unfunded Federal mandates, from sources including Medicare, the EPA, and Department of Education.
While the Obama recession has been hard on the private sector, it has been very good to government employees. As of last summer, the average civilian government employee was compensated $123,049. The rest of us poor schmucks working in the private sector where we have to be productive and produce a product that consumers are willing to pay for, earn an average of $61,051. Since Obama took office, government is the only sector where employment is actually rising. Today the government employs 2.4% more people than it did in January 2009. Private sector employment is down 4.4%.
Unions exist for the purpose of extracting above-market wages for their members. If they did not accomplish this, there would be no reason for anyone to join the union and pay dues. In the private sector, unionization eventually forces a business into bankruptcy. The business must pay above-market costs for labor, but can still only charge market prices for their product, making it impossible to remain competitive and profitable in the marketplace. In the government sector where agencies can simply force citizens to pay higher taxes and are not required to compete for revenue or market share, unions can simply grow unchecked. In the past 50 years, unionization in the private sector has dropped from 33.9% to 6.9%. Meanwhile, unionization has tripled among government employees, going from 9.8% to 36.2%. The case for higher taxes gets much harder to argue when faced with the reality that those taxes are going to pay busybody bureaucrats who make more than you do.
Enter Wisconsin's new Governor, Scott Walker, who recently introduced a bill to deunionize Wisconsin's government agencies. The outcry from government employees in Madison would make you think you're in Cairo Egypt. It is a necessary step for any state which wishes to remain solvent. It is also a gutsy move from a new Governor who is bucking the conventional wisdom that you get reelected by providing an ever-increasing stream of government largess to your constituents. Politicians want the masses eating out of their hand because that way they are always needed. Independent, self-sufficient citizens can throw their elected officials under the bus if they get out of line, but those who depend on the government for their food, shelter, medical care, clothing, and their very life will put up with much more abuse. Obama's central strategy involves paying off unions for their support by directing huge amounts of taxpayer's money their way in the form of stimulus, bailouts, and government contracts.
Governor Walker is certain to take some political hits for his stand. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth from government employees who are really put upon to be forced to work for market wages like the rest of us. Undoubtedly, the media will delight in showing us pictures of public servants huddled in alleyways due to the exploitation allowed by deunionization. And of course we can expect Democrats to stir the pot in future election cycles, asking us to pity the poor victims of the state's unfair employment practices. But remember that for every person carrying a sign calling the Governor "Hitler" there are fifty people who are actually going to work and being productive, and they love what Walker is doing. It is exactly what they voted for in November. Elections have consequences.
At the heart of the issue is the question of the government's purpose for existence. Do we have a government to provide cushy jobs for a large percentage of the population from which they can never be fired no matter how poorly they perform, with guaranteed raises, guaranteed benefits, and guaranteed pensions for the rest of their life, funded by an ever-increasing tax burden on the rest of society? Or does government exist to protect the fundamental liberties and rights of its citizens and create a fair and free environment for individuals to excel, innovate, and achieve greatness based on their own merit?
Hats off to you, Governor Walker. You have no idea how much heat you will take for daring to kill the sacred cow of the left. But if you stand strong we will see that you were right in the end.
Posted by Don Dodson at 12:47 PM