Ken Connor

Let's not kid ourselves: The policy train in American government has largely been driven by powerful special interests. These enterprises invest enormous amounts of time and money in political campaigns in order to ensure that their agenda is advanced on Capitol Hill. Over the years, particular interests have become allied with particular parties, becoming entrenched in the American political zeitgeist. Big Business, Big Pharma, Big Oil – these are associated inextricably with the GOP. On the other side of the aisle reside the patrons of the Democratic party: Big Labor, Planned Parenthood, the Green lobby, and the NEA.

For decades, these political powerhouses have been the sacred cows of American politics. Elected officials cross them at their peril. Fail to placate your party's special interests and your political career won't last long.

Therefore, things have to get pretty bad before the politicians begin to say no to their benefactors. But, that's exactly what's beginning to happen, thanks to America's worsening debt crisis.

This week, the Washington Post reported that Detroit's Democratic Mayor David Bing "wants city employees to pay significantly more for health care and pensions. What the unions do not give, he warned, the government will take by using a new state law allowing a state-appointed fiscal manager to void their collective bargaining agreements."

What's truly interesting about this development is what it indicates about the severity of the economic crisis facing our nation. Even Democrats are beginning to realize that it is no longer fiscally viable to insulate labor unions from economic reality. More from the article:

Decades ago, when Detroit earned the proud moniker Motor City, it was home to a thriving?and decidedly blue-collar middle class built largely by the clout of organized labor. Detroit is now renowned as a national symbol of urban dysfunction, and as Bing tries desperately to change that reputation, he often finds himself at odds with the city's labor unions. . . . Even as the city is shrinking, Bing calls the current state of city services unacceptable. And he says they are not going to improve unless he can reduce the city's personnel costs, which are overwhelming the budget. This year, the city paid $200 million in pension benefits, which Bing said was $25 million more than the city paid for fire department and ambulance services last year.


Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.