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It should come as no surprise that principled Democrats are realizing that public sector unions, through relentless demands for ever higher compensation and benefits for public employees, are crowding out the social programs and infrastructure projects that Democrats love. And it is no coincidence that in the cities and counties across America where Democrats still wield absolute power, they are in-turn controlled by powerful public sector unions. Democrats with genuine convictions now find themselves in the awkward position of confronting the unions who put them in power.
The fact that union reform in America is a nonpartisan issue has been covered here already in the posts “Los Angeles Mayor Confronts Unions,” “Nonpartisan Public Sector Union Reformers,” “Liberal Washington Post Attacks Unions,” and elsewhere, such as in our page of quotes by famous liberals on the problems caused by public sector unions, “UnionWatch is a Nonpartisan Effort.” Now the liberal Washington Post has come back at the unions again, in a new commentary entitled “PostPartisan – Dems vs. unions: It’s on,” by Charles Lane. Here’s Lane is his own words:
“What’s really interesting, as I’ve written, somewhat obsessively, is the looming struggle between budget-cutting Democrats and the unions. This is the contest that will determine whether Democrats can survive as a party with a broad political base at the state level, by putting the sustainability of vital public services ahead of the unions’ demands — or whether they will allow their public-sector union allies to drag them into a political death spiral of endless deficits, higher taxes, sluggish growth and declining services.”
What Lane doesn’t mention is the financial burden currently imposed by public sector unions not only spells the “political death spiral” of the Democratic party, but the economic death spiral of the United States. The failure of government to invest in infrastructure and necessary social programs because instead taxpayer money has to be spent on firefighters who earn more than doctors, and librarians who earn more than corporate executives, and police officers who earn more than engineers, and state college instructors – who turn in 6 hours of class time per week and take summers off – yet earn more than owners of small businesses – who work 365 days a year – guarantees the United States will not only become a totally insolvent nation, but also one doomed to chaos and ruin. Democrats and Republicans can go back to fighting over infrastructure priorities, and the definition of “necessary social programs,” after they’ve clawed back from the unions the financial wherewithal to fund them.
Most interesting in Lane’s commentary is his observation that even private sector unions are awakening to the unsustainable overreach of public sector unions. Lane points to the 100,000 member Building and Trades Council of Greater New York, a powerful construction worker’s union, whose chief has said “This is not about bashing public-sector unions, but without a fiscally sound environment, we will not be able to attract new businesses to the city; we’ll continue to lose business.”
To understand that public sector unions have emerged as unchecked, insatiable consumers of tax dollars, or that – in most cases – public sector employees receive total compensation grossly out of step with market norms, does not in any way constitute “public employee bashing.” The fact that Democrats across America are joining Republicans in calling for right-sizing public employee compensation ought to be proof enough of this.
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