The problem is that, as Roosevelt understood, public employee unions' interests are directly the opposite of those of taxpayers. Public employee unions want government to be more expensive and government employees to be less accountable.
Yes, some union leaders, like the late Albert Shanker of the American Federation of Teachers, have been concerned about the quality of public services. But they have been the exception rather than the rule.Public employee unions have collected big-time from the Obama Democrats. The February 2009 stimulus package contained $160 billion in aid to state and local governments. This was intended to, and did, insulate public employee union members from the ravages of the recession that afflicted those unfortunate enough to make their livings in the private sector.
How it benefited the society as a whole is less clear. State governments in California, Illinois, New York and New Jersey are facing enormous budget deficits and much, much greater pension liabilities. Much of the life of their private-sector economies has been sucked out by the public employee unions, with a resulting flight of middle-income citizens unable or unwilling to bear such burdens.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, elected in 2009, has become a kind of folk hero for his defiance of the state's teacher unions, which expect 4 percent raises in years of no growth or inflation and balk at having members pay any share of health insurance premiums.
Public employee union members have become, as U.S. News and World Report Editor Mortimer Zuckerman writes, "the new privileged class," with better pay, more generous benefits and far more lush pensions than those who pay their salaries -- and who are taxed to send money to their leaders' favored candidates.
Franklin Roosevelt thought public sector unions were a lousy idea. Do you?