Mona Charen

As labor historian Fred Siegel told John Fund of the Wall Street Journal: "Ending dues deductions breaks the political cycle in which government collects dues, gives them to the unions, who then use the dues to back their favorite candidates and also lobby for bigger government and more pay and benefits."

This system has worked well for public employees across the nation. Until 2010, New Jersey teachers contributed nothing to their lavish health care packages. Permitted to retire after 25 years of service, teachers receive pensions of 70 percent or more of their top salary (among the highest in the country) as well as health care for life. Yet the NJ Education Association howled when Gov. Chris Christie asked them, in light of the state's dire financial straits, to accept a one-year wage freeze and to contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries to the cost of their health plans.

Wisconsin teachers, too, have negotiated cushy deals for themselves. As Gov. Scott Walker has pointed out, private employees contribute an average of 29 percent of the cost of health benefits. Wisconsin union members contribute only about 6 percent. With the state budget in the red, something had to be done.

The bargains between governments and unions (or other special interests) require one thing above all to be successful -- an inattentive electorate. Just as the sugar growers would be eager to keep people in the dark about quotas or subsidies, so unions want the public to be kept ignorant of the overly generous compensation packages that are negotiated at the taxpayers' expense.

That's why the massive, tub-thumping, sign-waving, hippie sit-in staged by teachers and their allies in Madison over the last week makes no sense. (By the way, did you notice the demise of "civility" in politics? Where are the denunciations of the pictures of Walker as Hitler and Mubarak? The signs calling him a "Midwest Mussolini"?) The protests, with their attendant disdain for the school kids (so many teachers fraudulently called in sick that schools in Milwaukee, Madison, and Janesville had to close), serve as a huge neon sign alerting the sleeping electorate to what has been happening to their tax dollars.

The rent seekers stand exposed. Nothing that Walker and the Republican legislature had in mind is as damaging to the teachers union as that spotlight.

To find out more about Mona Charen and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com.

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Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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