Ten years ago, while on a public service television show, I stated that public employees should not be allowed to unionize. The panel, which, as usual, was stacked with liberals, went into frenzy. You’d have thought that I suggested reinstating guillotines.
I went on to explain that I was fully in support of unions in the private sector. But my contention that civil service adequately provides for the safety and welfare of government workers fell on deaf ears; they insisted that public employees have the right to organize. My answer was simple – no, they don’t.
Now, a decade later, the issue has exploded. During these years, revenues for state and local governments have jumped significantly with double digit increases, allowing politicians to hire more employees and jack up public salaries and benefits to outrageous levels while ignoring the obvious long-term effects. As long as the economy was booming, nobody complained about the sweetheart deals negotiated behind closed doors. But once the recession came, the doors opened and what the politicians and the unions have created is now crashing down upon us all.
A year ago, shortly after I wrote a column about the fiscal calamity that is the California public-employee pension system, an associate of mine asked when Americans would wake up to this emerging disaster. Unfortunately, too many Americans don’t yet understand that their public employees are taking them to the cleaners. These people are still living in the 1960’s, when public employees earned less money in return for job security guaranteed by civil service regulations. It’s hard for many people to think that their teacher, cop, or fireman – in conjunction with their unions – are the principal cause of massive budget deficits that only huge tax increases can remedy.
By now, you know that Wisconsin Democrats were swamped in the November election, losing the Governorship, the State Senate, the State Assembly, and a US Senate seat. Even the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the Assembly were defeated. Not only did the Republicans win big, but they campaigned on the sensible and cost-conscious reforms now being proposed by Governor Walker that would align the rights of Wisconsin public employees with those given to Federal employees. In fact, the largest group of people affected by the proposed reforms – University of Wisconsin employees – just received collective bargaining rights in 2009. What you haven’t been told is that when the Democrats were in power, they passed a law requiring public schools to indoctrinate their students on the history of organized labor in America and the collective bargaining process. Of course, we can be sure that this is being taught evenhandedly and distinguishes between private-employee and public-employee unions – NOT!Democrats responded to these reforms by fleeing the state, in effect abandoning the job that they were elected to do. The only thing more irresponsible than their childish cross-border escapades is their votes that put Wisconsin in this economic mess in the first place. One would think they would be so embarrassed by their fiscal negligence and the crushing defeat their party suffered in November that they would act responsibly. But Wisconsin Democrats, like most elected Democrats around the country, are owned lock, stock and barrel by the public employee unions – which is, of course, why these measures are necessary in the first place.
Then there are the protesters, most of whom are public employees illegally taking time off from their jobs to demand continuation of their outrageous compensation packages. The residents of Wisconsin, who pay the salaries of these demonstrators, clearly understand that these ludicrous demands are breaking the government and being thrust on the backs of the hardworking middle-class – including private industry union members.
So many teachers abandoned their classrooms that entire school districts had to be shut down. How ironic is it that in one of these districts – the Milwaukee school system – thousands of kids abandon their own classrooms every year by dropping out of school, in effect walking away from all the benefits and prospects that a good education can provide? And how about those teachers caught on tape getting fake doctor’s notes? What a fine example to set for their students. One could argue that they should be fired on a morality clause, but I’m sure their union contract prevents that.
Anyone who still doesn’t believe that this system needs to be totally reformed hasn’t given any thought to the cost of public education, or the dismal performance of school districts in major cities. (That is, unless they’re a union leader who thinks the answer to his members’ inflated compensation is to raise tax rates even further.)
Governor Walker, you are doing the right thing. Stick to your plan and give ‘em hell!