Michael Barone

An argument can be made that higher pay, generous benefits and lavish pensions will attract better people to public employment. But where are the studies that show that citizens of states with strong public employee unions get better services than citizens in states without?

What citizens of states with strong public employee unions do get are higher taxes and enormous pension burdens that threaten to squeeze out funds for ongoing services, as even Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo of New York and Jerry Brown of California have figured out.

That's why one of the great 21th century presidents was against unions for public employees who have civil service protections. No, not Ronald Reagan. It was Franklin Roosevelt who said, "Action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable."

So while the Wisconsin unions are defying the law, Scott Walker is in effect following FDR's lead -- and if he's successful, others may follow. That would be an enormous blow to the money power of the public employee union bosses.

Public opinion seems to be with the Republicans. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 48 percent of voters support Walker, while only 38 percent support the unions.

This seems to be a sharp reversal of opinion over the last five years. Back in 2005, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sponsored a series of ballot propositions that would have reduced the power of the state's public employee unions. The unions spent something like $100 million -- all of it derived from taxpayers -- on TV ads, and all the propositions were defeated.

Now hard economic times have left voters wondering why public employees pay practically zero toward their health insurance and pensions when they have to pay plenty themselves. Wisconsin, which led the nation on civil service a century ago and on welfare reform in the 1990s, may be showing the nation the way ahead once again.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM