Can we stop acting as if people who work for the government are the heroes of working people?
Fine, we understand that Wisconsin public sector employees like the system that pays them an average of $76,500 per year, with splendiferous benefits, and are fighting like wildcats against any proposed reforms to that system. But it's madness to keep treating people who are promoting their own self-interest as if they are James Meredith walking into the University of Mississippi.
This isn't how we usually view people fighting for their own economic interests.
When Wall Street opposes financial reforms or a tobacco company opposes new cigarette taxes, no one hails them as "working men and women" who "deserve a decent pay and decent retirement." We're not told Wall Street has a "fundamental right" not to be regulated, or tobacco companies promoting their own interests are just trying to "help working people and middle-class people retain a good job in America." People on the other side of the issue aren't said to be "just trying to kick the other guy in the shin and exterminate him."
And yet all that was said by the Democratic governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, on MSNBC's "Hardball" last week, about government workers fighting to preserve their own Alex Rodriguez-like employment contracts.
Yes, we understand that public sector employees got themselves terrific overtime, holiday, pension and health care deals through buying politicians with their votes and campaign money. But now, responsible elected officials in Wisconsin are trying to balance the budget.
MSNBC is covering the fight in Wisconsin as if it's the 9/11 attack -- and the Republicans are al-Qaida. Its entire prime-time schedule is dedicated to portraying self- interested government employees as if they're Marines taking on the Taliban. The network's Ed Schultz bellows that it is "morally wrong" to oppose the demands of government employees.
Yes, and I guess pornographers are noble when they launch a full-scale offensive against obscenity laws.
Public sector workers are pursuing their own narrow financial interests to the detriment of everyone else in their states. That's fine, but can we stop pretending it's virtuous?
Because of the insane union contracts in Wisconsin, one Madison bus driver, John E. Nelson, was able to make $159,000 in 2009 -- about $100,000 of which in overtime pay. Jackie Gleason didn't make that much playing bus driver Ralph Kramden on "The Honeymooners." Seven bus drivers took home more than $100,000 that year.
When asked about the outrageous overtime pay for bus drivers -- totaling $1.94 million in 2009 alone -- Transit and Parking Commission Chairman Gary Poulson said: "That's the contract."