It's ludicrous to suggest that these union contracts were fairly bargained. Only one side was at the negotiating table. Ordinary people with jobs were not at the meetings where public sector compensation was discussed.
Union hacks play on our heartstrings, weeping about the valuable work government employees do: These are the people who educate our children, run into burning buildings and take dangerous criminals off our streets!
Politicians who do not immediately acquiesce to insane union demands are invariably accused of hating teachers, nurses or cops. In California, this has been standard operating procedure for decades. The voters never seem to catch on.
In 1972, E. Richard Barnes lost his re-election campaign to the California state Assembly after being accused by cops and firefighters of coddling criminals.
In fact, Barnes, a conservative Republican, had one of the toughest records on crime. But he had voted against fringe benefits and better pension benefits for public employees.
Years later, in 2005, Don Perata, Democratic state senator from Oakland, suggested that the legislature reconsider the requirement that 40 percent of the entire state budget be spent on public schools. The teachers' unions instantly plastered his district with fliers calling him anti-education. Perata is a far-left Democrat, who had himself been a teacher for 15 years before entering politics.
Fine, we like teachers, firemen and police officers. We appreciate them. (And for the record, it is statistically more dangerous to be a farmer, fisherman, steelworker or pilot than a cop or fireman. Soldiers also have pretty dangerous jobs, and they don't get to strike.)
Does that mean we should pay them $1 million dollars a year? How about $10 million? After all, these are the people who educate our kids, run into burning buildings and take dangerous criminals off our streets!
Assuming the answer is no, then apparently we're allowed to discuss government workers' compensation -- even though they do important work. As George Bernard Shaw concluded his famous quip (often attributed to Winston Churchill), "Now, we're just negotiating over the price."
Why do public sector employees have absurd overtime rules? Why don't they pay for their own health insurance? Why do they get to retire at age 45 with a guaranteed pension of 65 percent of their last year's pay -- as state police in New Jersey do?
This is asymmetrical warfare. Seven percent of the population cares intensely about public sector union contracts -- and nothing else. The remaining 93 percent of voters can't be bothered to care.
Meanwhile, state after state spirals into bankruptcy.