Barack Obama has been at pains to convince voters that he cares about jobs. It seems to be a hard sell.
But he certainly can demonstrate that he cares about certain jobs -- the 7 percent of private-sector jobs and 36 percent of public-sector jobs held by union members.
During his two years and nine months as president, he has worked time and again to increase the number of unionized jobs. As for nonunion jobs, who wants them?
Some pro-union moves have a certain ritual quality. Democratic presidents on taking office seek to strengthen federal employee unions, just as Republican presidents on taking office seek to weaken them.
Other steps are more important. Fully one-third of the $820 billion stimulus package passed almost entirely with Democratic votes in 2009 was aid to state and local governments.
This was intended to keep state and local public employee union members -- much more numerous than federal employees -- on the job and to keep taxpayer-funded union dues pouring into public employee union treasuries.
It was just last year that, for the first time in history, public employees came to account for a majority of union members. This is a vivid contrast from the peak union membership years of the 1950s, when more than one-third of private-sector workers but almost no government workers were union members.
Which is not to say that the Obama administration has not looked after the interests of private-sector unions. In arranging the Chrysler bankruptcy, the Obama White House muscled aside the secured creditors who ordinarily have priority in bankruptcy proceedings in favor of United Auto Workers members and retirees.
That's an episode that I labeled "gangster government." Former Obama economics aide Lawrence Summers protested that his White House colleague Ron Bloom had made similar arrangements before. But in those cases, Bloom was working for the unions, not for a supposedly neutral government.
The 2009 stimulus package also contained Davis-Bacon law provisions requiring that construction workers be paid "prevailing wages," which under the bureaucratic formula turn out to be union wages. That means the public pays a premium for government construction.
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