Another Reasons Unions Should Support Capping the Employer Tax Exclusion
Len Burman had a good piece in the op-ed section today arguing that capping the employer tax exclusion would actually be better for unions, I agree with him. But I'd add one argument he neglects: Union laborers do not stay employed forever. Many of them, in fact, are in industries that have been shedding jobs at an abnormally rapid clip. Just ask the United Auto Workers. Or the Steelworkers. And if that's the case, then it's not necessarily wise policy to entrench a continuous, large subsidy that benefits workers in industries able to provide generous benefits at the expense of the un- and underemployed.
One related point I'd make on this is that there is, in progressive circles, a tendency to confuse the interests of labor unions and the interests of progressivism. The two things often overlap. But they are not, in fact, the same. And that's okay. But this is very much one of those cases. The employer tax exclusion is regressive. It gives employers more power over workers. It reduces choices, fractures the system and increases health-care costs (which in turn decreases wages). Unions are protecting what they have, and that's their right. But protecting the employer-based health-care system, particularly at the expense of a regulated and integrated alternative, is not a terrifically progressive thing to do.
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