Monday, June 4, 2012

George Will on the Wisconsin recall election

George Will has a superb essay on tomorrow's recall election in Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, in this year’s second-most important election, voters will judge the attempt by a populism of the privileged — white-collar labor unions whose members live comfortably above the American median — to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker....

In 2010, government employees unions campaigned against Walker’s “5 and 12″ plan. It requires government employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their pay to their pension plans. (Most were paying less than 1 percent. Most private-sector workers have no pensions; those who do pay, on average, much more than 5.8 percent.) Walker’s reform requires government employees to pay 12.6 percent of their health care premiums (up from 6 percent but still less than the 21 percent private-sector average). Defeated in 2010, the unions now are demanding, as frustrated children do after losing a game, “Let’s start over!”...

Like children throwing a tantrum against the rules of a game going badly, in 2011 petulant Wisconsin Democratic legislators fled to Illinois to disrupt the Legislature. Walker’s reforms included restricting the issues subject to collective bargaining. This emancipated school districts from buying teachers’ health insurance from a provider entity associated with the teachers union. Barrett used Walker’s reform to save Milwaukee $19 million...

[W]hat really motivates the unions and elected Democrats is that Walker ended the automatic deduction of union dues from government employees’ pay. The experience in Colorado, Indiana, Utah and Washington state is that when dues become voluntary, they become elusive.
Will sums it up nicely:

If [Walker] wins, progressives will have inadvertently demonstrated that entrenched privilege can be challenged, and they will have squandered huge sums that cannot finance progressive causes elsewhere. So, for a change, progressives will have served progress.

Public employee union thuggery has been on full display in Wisconsin. Public employee unions should be outlawed. Even FDR believed they should be illegal. Roosevelt, in 1937:

"... Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the government. All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations ... The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for ... officials ... to bind the employer ... The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives ... 
"Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees. Upon employees in the federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people ... This obligation is paramount ... A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent ... to prevent or obstruct ... Government ... Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government ... is unthinkable and intolerable."

Unions in the private sector exist to ensure that profits are shared fairly between owners and workers. That's legitimate.

In the public sector, there are no profits, because government isn't a business. Public money is obtained not by commerce but by force-- through taxation-- and the process of using force to collect taxes is regulated by the democratic process.

Public sector unions corrupt the democratic process. They use the power of the state to extract union dues involuntarily from public employees, then use that money to elect politicians who protect union power... to extract union dues involuntarily. "Collective bargaining" in the public sector is little more than a soiree among thieves. Public sector unions "bargain" with the politicians they bought in the last election.

I pray that Walker will win tomorrow. The polls suggest he will. That will be real progress. 

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