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Posted at 8:35 AM ET, 02/18/2011

A decisive moment: Public employee unions or the common good?

By Jennifer Rubin

It is fortuitous that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spoke this week at the American Enterprise Institute not only about budgets but about public employee unions. Many in the liberal media were enthralled and raved about his no-nonsense approach to governance.

So let's review some of what he had to say on public employee unions:

See, one of things that the public-sector unions don't understand about my approach in New Jersey is that they think I'm attacking them. I'm attacking the leadership of the union. Because they're greedy and they're selfish and self-interested. The members of that union are being ill-served by the leadership of that union. And so what I say, what I'm doing, is to save your pension, to save your health care for the rest of your life, and yeah, you're going to have to take a little less. That's the way it goes, we're in difficult times and there were promises made that couldn't be kept. . . .

[In my state] we spend $17,620 per pupil per year, the highest in America, $24,000 per pupil in city of Newark, $28,000 in Asbury Park, and we have 104,000 students trapped in 200 failing schools across N.J. and the education establishment says, "Don't worry, help is on the way" And the help that's on the way is more money, more money. Well, more money is not going to solve this problem until we take on the issues that [are] really causing the problem, and until we as Americans are willing to do that final tough thing, which is to look the teacher's unions across America in the eye and say to them 'You do not represent the best the teachers have to offer, you often represent the worst.' And it's time for us to honestly say that we can separate the teachers from the union. We have great teachers in New Jersey, working hard and making a huge difference in the lives of many children, but we don't have enough of them. And one of the reasons why we don't have enough of them is because the bad teachers who remain with lifetime tenure are crowding out opportunity for the good ones, and then when you have reductions, the last ones in are the first ones out, because all that matters is seniority, and not talent. And so we send a new generation of teachers, good, enthusiastic teachers away because we have built a system, as Michelle Rhee put better than I could, that cares more about the feelings of adults than it cares about the future of our children. I will not take responsibility for that approach. I will not take responsibility for leaving a generation of children behind in America. I won't do it. And we need to speak out and say it's time to fix that system.

What that means in practice is standing up to and staring down the union bosses and their Democratic allies, just as Gov. Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin. There is much hysteria about the governor's stance. But he is simply putting into practice the same common sense and obviously essential reforms that Christie spoke about.

Larry Kudlow explained:

Governor Walker is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and he wants state workers to pay one-half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health benefits. Currently, most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance. That's an outrage.

Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America -- which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.

Exempting police, fire, and state troopers, Governor Walker would end collective bargaining for the rest. Unions could still represent workers, but could not get pay increases above the CPI. Nor could they force employees to pay dues. And in exchange for this, Walker promises no furloughs for layoffs.

Is this the end of Western civilization, as many liberal pols and pundits are claiming? Or is this simply the sort of changes every governor in the country must enact (save perhaps the floundering Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn) to rescue his state from the brink of fiscal ruin?

The alternative to Christie-Walker is not only financial ruin but the erosion of the concept of the "public good." The Chicago Tribune's editorial board, in a much-discussed piece, explains:

Walker wants government officials to have authority to reshape public-employee benefits without collective bargaining. Walker wouldn't remove the right of unions to bargain for wages.

No, he is not seeking to eliminate unions, though you might get that impression from the heated rhetoric of the employees and even from President Barack Obama, who called this an "assault on unions."

Walker is trying to give Wisconsin a reality check. In response, public workers have interrupted the Legislature. Madison and many neighboring public schools have closed because so many teachers called in sick and left to join the protest. Democratic lawmakers disappeared on Thursday to stall a vote on the budget measures. Apparently some of them fled to ... Illinois.

Public sentiment is changing. There is a growing sense that public-sector unions are not battling for better, safer workplaces. They're not battling unscrupulous employers. They're battling ... the common good.

And for those who fear the end of organized labor in America, the Tribune reminds us:

Private-sector union membership has declined over the years, while public-sector unions have thrived. One reason: In the private sector, unions and management may argue, but they have a common cause. They understand that if their company cannot compete, it will fold and no one will have a job. Look what happened to the U.S. auto industry.

Governments don't operate under the constraints of market forces. They operate under political forces. Public unions play an inordinate role in the selection of management -- witness the heavy union support for Gov. Pat Quinn's election last year. In Illinois, labor and management, Republicans and Democrats, have been complicit over the years in overpromising wages and benefits. In negotiations, they essentially sit on the same side of the table: Public officials who generously compensate workers tend to reap votes, contributions and campaign work from those same employees and their unions.

Many states -- Illinois is not yet among them -- are coming to the realization that that calculation has to undergone a wrenching change.

It might surprise the protesters in Madison to know that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt counseled against public-sector unions because "militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees." Even the late AFL-CIO President George Meany expressed reservations.

The president is actively weighing in on the side of the greedy -- there is no other word for them -- union bosses who refuse to relinquish what years of cozy relations with irresponsible politicians have dropped into their laps. That presidential obtuseness should serve as a wakeup call to the country.

It is a crucial moment for the country and the Democratic Party. Will the latter align itself against the former? Is the co-dependency between organized labor and the Democratic Party to be the demise of both? Stay tuned. But if you want to see grown-up leadership, watch which pols rise in defense of Gov. Walker.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 18, 2011; 8:35 AM ET
Categories:  economy  
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Next: Obama disappoints on the budget

Comments

obama is a moron and is only looking for votes. he only cares about his image and can't accept the facts like all liberals...that obama will be a one term 'clown in cheif'...he will soon bend over for barney franks so he can get the gay votes too!

Posted by: JWx2 | February 18, 2011 8:58 AM | Report abuse

Its not the 1950's anymore. In this age of technology and global economy... there's no place for rigid, unflexible contracts over one year. Its too risky.
There's no place for teachers who throw
Tantrums and Close the Schools, either., because government is asking them to pay
"just a little" of their health insurance
and pension.
Most private sector workers pay At Least Half, or more of their Health Insurance;
and Many private sector workers have no pension at all.
Teacher are being Stupid.
These are Not the teachers I want teaching my kids, either!
There is a very bad problem in our schools and universities of Liberal Influence on our Kids.
We need to Demand More Diversity of our Teachers. I believe Liberal teachers outnumber 12-1!
This is a Major Problem because Liberal Teachers are influencing our Taxpayers' Children!
My own kids have come home from school.. mirroring what their teachers said about business (manufacturing) is "bad", apparently because its not "green".
Parents/Taxpayers need to pay attention
about this Major problem!
Also, the number of people protesting in Wisconsin is "smoke & mirrors"... unions pay these protesters and bus them in.
This is very deceiving.

Posted by: ohioan | February 18, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

I think the issue with this column is it sets up a false choice.

I can agree with the idea of union members paying more for health care and their pensions, but taking away collective bargaining rights and selectively exempting certain unions from the new rules (as is what the law in Wisconsin proposes) seems designed more to punish a group that did not support Governor Walker's campaign, rather than being something needed to deal with the budget.

I notice Jennifer mentions, but does not actually discuss the fact the new law would exempt certain public sector unions from the new rules. I would guess this would be because she knows it completely undermines her argument.

Posted by: mustangs79 | February 18, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

The millionaires complaining a teacher in Newark, NJ makes too much money.

Posted by: spalatni | February 18, 2011 9:18 AM | Report abuse

Mustangs79, she did mention it in the Larry Kudlow quote.

Collective bargaining rights aren't being taken away from the public sector, they're being adjusted so that it's only for compensation.

I still don't think that public sector employees should be able to unionize, given the myriad of reasons discussed, mainly that they're services are a monopoly.

Posted by: Fitz157 | February 18, 2011 9:25 AM | Report abuse

"I notice Jennifer mentions, but does not actually discuss the fact the new law would exempt certain public sector unions from the new rules. I would guess this would be because she knows it completely undermines her argument"

So, your argument is that police, fire and state troopers need to be included? In that case, I urge you insist that the Democratic legislators return immediately and demand that they be included. After all, that was their objection in the first place, right?

Posted by: adam62 | February 18, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm on board with the concept to ban all public sector unions. They exist for the benefit of themselves at the expense of the rest of us.

My guess for Walker's exemption of police, etc... is that it was too politically radioactive to include them. Also, the cops and firefighters are probably doing a good job, while the teachers (all over the country) are perceived as taking in more and more money but the students are getting less and less educated.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 18, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Mustangs79, she did mention it in the Larry Kudlow quote.
*************************
That's why I said she mentions it, but does not further discuss it. I think that is because it's hard to make a coherent argument for this law, because you have to explain why if the budget is in such dire straits, only certain public sector unions have to pay and give up more, while other public sector unions, who conveniently supported the Governor is his campaign, are exempted. It's nonsensical.

Posted by: mustangs79 | February 18, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Unions are the only thing that stand between our plutocrats and another gilded age. That is why Walker, Christie and their corporate masters are always fighting so hard to destroy unions.

ohioan: The reason so many private workers don't have pensions is so executives and stockholders can pull in the big bucks. Do you think it is a coincidence that the income disparity between the wealthy and the middle class has grown in correlation with a reduction in union representation?

Posted by: billyvw | February 18, 2011 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer's bio says that she was a labor lawyer. Now we know which side of labor she did her lawyering on.

Having said that, I find little to disagree with her in this blog. The comments she quotes, it seems to me, were made by sensible people making factual statements about unionized public employee problems. The relationship between politicians and public sector unions has become toxic to taxpayers.

I say this as a believer in the right of private sector workers to form unions and bargain with employers. I don't want to return to the days when 12 year old boys worked six days a week in a coal mine. Unfortunately, there are some business people, and parents, who would be pleased to return to those days.

Posted by: Lazarus40 | February 18, 2011 9:36 AM | Report abuse

This whole situation in Wisconsin is ridiculous! It is time for the American people to take our government back. Public employees get paid far more than private employees and the gap is even bigger in benefits. Every democrat who ran across state lines to avoid a vote should be voted out of office and we should all remember who they are and NEVER vote for them.

I am tired of paying taxes so government workers can get salaries and benefits far beyond what I get in the private sector. Our government is dysfunctional, inefficient, and to big. It is our huge, dysfunctional, and wasteful government that is holding back our economy and job growth.

Our representatives have a sense of entitlement that must be eliminated. If a law applies to the American People, it should apply to our elected officials and that includes things like social security, pension, and healthcare.

Obama should keep his nose out of this situation. Again Obama is going against the will of the people.

We must continue to VOTE THEM OUT!!!

Posted by: AngryMobVoter | February 18, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

That's why I said she mentions it, but does not further discuss it. I think that is because it's hard to make a coherent argument for this law, because you have to explain why if the budget is in such dire straits, only certain public sector unions have to pay and give up more, while other public sector unions, who conveniently supported the Governor is his campaign, are exempted. It's nonsensical.
*******************************
It could very much be seen as a partisan ploy on the part of the governor. I guess it comes down to whether you think that public employees benefits are out line (which by all objective accounts they are) and whether they should be subject to adjustments in order to address a state government's budget deficits.

This isn't about punishing a group for their non-support in an election, it's about doing what's politically possible by addressing benefits that are out of line.

Posted by: Fitz157 | February 18, 2011 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Ritchie: Public sector unions exist for the benefit of public sector workers. Those public employees work for the benefit of all citizens. However, if you kick public employees enough, the best will abandon public service. I'm guessing that is what Republicans really want.

If the public sector can't attract good workers, then our corporate masters won't have to worry as much about pesky regulations that keep our environment clean and protect workers from abusive employers. I can also foresee a future in which underpayed public employees do "favors" for regulated businesses to get a higher paying job or just some spending money. I'm sure the Koch brothers would have a great laugh if an agency became incompetent enough (e.g. FEMA and BLM), and the public supported the Republican agenda of killing agencies that were created to help and protect us.

Posted by: billyvw | February 18, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

The above article is the opinion of the corporations.
Don't pay people a middle-class wage, don't let them collectively bargain, force them to reduce their effective incomes even farther by making them pay for health insurance and retirement.
The unions gave this country the middle class. They gave us the 40-hour work week, the child-labor laws, occupational safety laws, and the minimum wage. They are not the enemy that the corporate lobbyists would try to convince you they are.
Today a vast majority of the private sector jobs are non-union, and because of that people are being squeezed ever tighter by the corporations who employ them at will. You cannot support a family, much less send your children to college, on the low-wage, no health insurance jobs which are taking an ever larger slice of the available employment in this country.
Anti-unionism works to the corporations' advantage: keep the workers poor, under-employed, and uneducated, and they will less likely to rise up and demand a decent living.
Keep feeding them the corporate propaganda (like the above article), about how this is some choice between "evil" unions or "the common good"--double-speak right out of "1984", cry crocodile tears about how poor corporations "just can't afford the wages," and wave the American flag saying we must save the country by beating China (or the favorite boogeyman of the hour) by having workers make less then the exploited peasants of that country.
The fear of the corporations is if public-sector employees get decent, middle-class wages, everybody will want them. Heavens!
If we want to win in this global economy, a much better strategy would be to infiltrate all of the competing economies in the world with union organizers. Americans are the hardest workers in the world, if you normalize the standard of living in the whole world, the US will still win economically.
Not to mention that a strong global middle-class will ensure peace throughout the world. Of course, since the largest corporations in the world make major profits in the war industry, corporations don't want that either.
The union members are not "the greedy." The greedy are the corporate bosses who want to keep more of the profits by paying less taxes, and keeping the workers under-educated. The union members are simply people like you and me who have worked hard to get to the middle-class.
Union members are not rich. Being a union member does not make you rich, it can only help to raise you, and all your fellow workers, to a reasonable wage so you can raise a healthy family and be able to retire without being a burden on the government or your children.
Follow the money--if a union wins, all the people win, if they lose, the big bosses get richer.

Posted by: jimHarper3 | February 18, 2011 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Fitz: It is private employee benefits that are out of line, not public employee benefits. I don't know how the rich got worker to fight against worker, but it is ridiculous. The American people have forgotten the worker rights we fought so hard for in the beginning of the 20th century. They got us to give up pensions, now they're trying to convince us to give up health care and social security. Soon, they'll get us to give up minimum wage. America is racing backwards, and I don't see any end to it.

Posted by: billyvw | February 18, 2011 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Mrs. Rubins and Mr. Emmons are spot on. We should abolish the right to unionize, and privatize the work of American public sector workers.

For example, Dept. of Justice canned Americans, awarded IBM a contract to do the IT & accounting work, and IBM outsourced the workforce to perform the jobs in India. This way the American taxpayers get their money's worth by using our tax dollars to hire Indians instead of Americans.

Unions are ruining this country for sure. It's great that upper west side neocons are looking after REAL Americans.

Posted by: mfray | February 18, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Fitz: It is private employee benefits that are out of line, not public employee benefits
************
That is incorrect. Public sector employee contributions to pensions and health insurance premiums are below those of the private sector in WI, and around the country as well.

Posted by: Fitz157 | February 18, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse


"Mrs. Rubins and Mr. Emmons are spot on. We should abolish the right to unionize, and privatize the work of American public sector workers."

Trotsky's position formed while he led a special commission on the Soviet transportation system, Tsektran. He was appointed there to rebuild the rail system ruined by the Civil War. Being the Commissar of War and a revolutionary military leader, he saw a need to create a militarized "production atmosphere" by incorporating trade unions directly into the State apparatus. His unyielding stance was that in a worker's state the workers should have nothing to fear from the state, and the State should fully control the unions. In the Ninth Party Congress he argued for "such a regime under which each worker feels himself to be a soldier of labor who cannot freely dispose of himself; if he is ordered transferred, he must execute that order; if he does not do so, he will be a deserter who should be punished. Who will execute this? The trade union. It will create a new regime. That is the militarization of the working class."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leon_Trotsky

Posted by: rcaruth | February 18, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

This whole argument is based on lies. But again it's a Republican based argument. Before Walker cut taxes in Wisconsin there was no budget deficit and no need to make war on the unions. This is just another Republican ploy to destroy Umions in the US so their corporate masters can continue to make outrageous profits while lowering the living standard of the middle class. Yeo conservative dolts ! If private industry's treatment of its employees is so great how come pensions have all but disappeared and health insurance payments are skyrocketing ? The same time the top one percent of wage earners had their income increase by an absurd amount over the last thirty years, the bottom 99 percent has seen their income stagnate. Gee why are the private companies treating us so well ? And now they're out to destroy all Unions and also Social Security. Why SS you might ask, because they don't like paying the amount they have to match for what you pay. Get a grip and take a real look at where things stand for the middle class. Warring against public employees is pretty stupid when you should be looking to improve your condition, not take away from theirs.

Posted by: Falmouth1 | February 18, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Lazarus40 says:

" I don't want to return to the days when 12 year old boys worked six days a week in a coal mine. Unfortunately, there are some business people, and parents, who would be pleased to return to those days"

I see Israel is not the only topic on which he makes outlandishly ridiculous comments.

Pulbic sector unions ought to be abolished in all circumstances, including public safety jobs. They are inherently corrosive of democratic politics. Thus: Unionize, force all workers to join the union under legal sanction, involuntarily take some of their wages to support political allies who, when elected, then "negotiate" with the union for benefits and wages that substantially exceed those in the private sector. Right. Got it. We should all be so lucky.

Posted by: gord2 | February 18, 2011 10:46 AM | Report abuse

"Ritchie: Public sector unions exist for the benefit of public sector workers. Those public employees work for the benefit of all citizens. However, if you kick public employees enough, the best will abandon public service. I'm guessing that is what Republicans really want.

If the public sector can't attract good workers, then our corporate masters won't have to worry as much about pesky regulations that keep our environment clean and protect workers from abusive employers. I can also foresee a future in which underpayed public employees do "favors" for regulated businesses to get a higher paying job or just some spending money. I'm sure the Koch brothers would have a great laugh if an agency became incompetent enough (e.g. FEMA and BLM), and the public supported the Republican agenda of killing agencies that were created to help and protect us"

billyvw, This is the usual liberal demagoguery. The "kicking" of these public employees is merely asking that they contribute a little to their own pensions and healthcare - a rate below that of the private sector. As well as their right to collectively bargain (which is lose-lose for everyone except those union employees and their political patrons). Not a single person is suggesting that we "abandon public service." And there's no rationalized thinking that suggests public service won't be able to attract good workers simply because they won't be union members. This touches upon another liberal fallacy - that union workers are the cream of the crop and all others are at best inferior or at worst, borderline incompetent.

As for these govt agencies that "protect us," you need to take a good look at the word "protect." The EPA has been on the brink of regulating carbon emissions, as preposterous as that is. Quite frankly, I can do without that sort of "protection." No one wants radioactive material dumped into our rivers, but these govt agencies that you cherish so, they go WAY beyond any mandate to legitimately protect us and delve lustily evermore into aspects of our lives that people do not need or want. How much is it going to cost us for these extra services? How many of my liberties are going to take a back seat so I can be "protected?"

As for your fear of "abusive" employers, please. We live in 2011, not 1911. For the 12 parents in this country that want to send their 9 yr old children into the coal mines, we don't need robust union representation that (negatively) impacts millions of the rest of us.

And you're missing the biggest point of all. The state of WI (and others) simply can't afford these public service contracts as they are. The governor is actually SAVING their pensions. When the bill comes due some day down the road and WI simply cannot keep their promise to uphold their end of the contract, what then? Those union members are going to told, so sorry, but take a hike. At that point, they'd surely wish they had accepted the deal that the governor offered in February 2011.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 18, 2011 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Let's shut then down Comrade NeoCons:

"Much to the dismay of his former supporters, Trotsky advocated the idea of the State control of trade unions and their merging with government bodies. ...
www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/RUStrotsky.htm

Posted by: rcaruth | February 18, 2011 11:04 AM | Report abuse

"Warring against public employees is pretty stupid when you should be looking to improve your condition, not take away from theirs."

Falmouth1, I'll ignore most of the rest of your post as it's the usual dreary liberal boilerplate. I'll address this thought though.

Republicans/Conservatives are not "warring against public employees." We are opposed to the excessive pay and thuggish tactics of the public employee UNIONS. More over, it is *our* taxpayer money that pays the salaries and pensions for these unions. By definition, a public employee generates no money on his own and therefore requires that I generate money so he can be paid. How much should we pay him? It's usually well more than what I'm paid.

On top of that, to focus on improving *my* condition, it's imperative that we get these public sector salaries/benefits back into the realm of the realistic as they are a distinct part of the problem as to why my condition needs improving in the first place. If the unions and their Dem politicians didn't rack up such behemoth unfunded liabilities and related debt, we wouldn't be as deep into this fiscal predicament that we find ourselves in today.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 18, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

A decisive moment: Public employee unions or the common good?

Freedom is ugly,Communism is uglier.
In a free country everyone,including Government workers, has the right to be in a "union"with other like minded citizens,and leverage their power and influence for their individual/group benefit. The "Common Good" is a euphanism for a Socialist state.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 18, 2011 11:39 AM | Report abuse

"A decisive moment: Public employee unions or the common good?

Freedom is ugly,Communism is uglier.
In a free country everyone,including Government workers, has the right to be in a "union"with other like minded citizens,and leverage their power and influence for their individual/group benefit. The "Common Good" is a euphanism for a Socialist state."

RCAR, Tell that to FDR.

The public sector unions are like monopolies. Those workers don't have any competition. There's no alternate private sector DMV out there. There are laws that protect against monopolies. Do you think that those laws should be dismantled?

Also, In case you weren't aware, I've never met Leon Trotsky. However much you and mfray like to equate me (and others like eoniii and skipsailing) to Leon, I actually don't pay much heed to him and never have. Shall I say that since you think the US production economy is dropping and causing financial upheaval that you are an ideological disciple of Lyndon Larouche?

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 18, 2011 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Public employee unions have colluded with the politicians they have supported and elected to grant themselves pay and benefits well above market levels. Pensions are the worst area of over-compensation because the politicians were able to make public obligations that wouldn't come due until years later when the politicians were out of office.

These excessive public pensions are as much a Ponzi scheme as what Bernie Madoff is in prison for -- or the Baby Boomer retirement benefits in Medicare and Social Security that can't possibly be paid in full.

Posted by: eoniii | February 18, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"Also, In case you weren't aware, I've never met Leon Trotsky. However much you and mfray like to equate me (and others like eoniii and skipsailing) to Leon, I actually don't pay much heed to him and never have. Shall I say that since you think the US production economy is dropping and causing financial upheaval that you are an ideological disciple of Lyndon Larouche?"
It doesn't matter who you have met? I have never met Socrates. Except,please, Google Irving Kristol,William Kristol,and The Weekly Standard. And please take a peek just from curiosity.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2008/02/01/GR2008020102389.html
If you can show me a similiar chart streching from Adam Smith to Lyndon Larouche,I would appreciate it. The attitude you express is also very typical of the Trotskyite in this sense,it is ahistorical"Also, In case you weren't aware, I've never met Leon Trotsky"The Trotskyite,NeoCons believe they can recreate society in the image of their beliefs without regard to history which they view as inimical to "Progress"
I was trained in History,I wrote my thesis on Spenglar,Gibbon,and Toynbee,contrast and comparison. Trotskyites/NeoCons despise those three.

Posted by: rcaruth | February 18, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

"If you can show me a similiar chart streching from Adam Smith to Lyndon Larouche,I would appreciate it."

Did Adam Smith die from an ice pick being lodged in the back of his head?

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 18, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

"If you can show me a similiar chart streching from Adam Smith to Lyndon Larouche,I would appreciate it."
Did Adam Smith die from an ice pick being lodged in the back of his head?
Posted by: RitchieEmmons

???

Posted by: rcaruth | February 18, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

This is one Californian rooting for Governor Walker.

Posted by: Beagle1 | February 18, 2011 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm being humorous RCAR. As you know, Trotsky was killed in Mexico City when (at Stalin's behest) a fellow named Roman Mercader plunged an ice pick into the back of Leon's head. Actually, perhaps the more accurate term I should have used is "ice-axe."

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 18, 2011 2:24 PM | Report abuse

MS. RUBIN HAS IT WRONG!

This writer, conservative, (not corporatist), former national political director of 3 of the 4 national GOP organizations (including the GOP's Governors' Assn.), disagrees vehemently with Ms. Rubin, and her support of Gov. Walker.

Walker is attempting to destroy the method to negotiate with employees. Cutting salaries and benefits ARE supposed to be negotiable. Walker is the "public's servant," just as the employees are. He is NOT the Pharoah of Wisconsin.

BOTH HAVE to be able to negotiate with one another, OR guess what the alternative will be?

IS THAT what Ms. Rubin wants in a high tech/nuclear era?

Ms. Rubin, Mr. Walker, et al are thinking with their memories. Look across this nation, and this world. Look at the responses by the entrenched government officials. They are literally shooting anyone who dares to differ with them and to protest against them!

Look at what happened to a 70 year old, war veteran when he stood up and turned his back on Sec. of State Hillary Clinton recently. An American Military Veteran, a former CIA Analyst, who because he dared to turn his back on the U.S. Sec. of State was attacked physically; cut; and put into jail. THAT is the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA today and why so many Americans are in a REVOLUTIONARY mood.

It is a mood CAUSED by government officials and their thugs against the citizens of this nation.

If Ms. Rubin, Walker, Clinton, et al want a Revolution on American Soil, it will make Cairo look like a Disneyland ride by comparison.

Negotiation IS what this nation does under this Constitution, no matter WHO is elected to hold those offices. It is OUR way, the AMERICAN way.

Or, does Ms. Rubin not uphold that either?

Posted by: gglenc | February 18, 2011 3:17 PM | Report abuse

In the 1950s, Eisenhower warned us against the Military Industrial Complex and was right to do so. Since that time, the expenditure on DoD as a percentage of GDP has dwindled significantly and the "Complex" is no longer a threat. If Ike was alive today, he would identify today's comparable threat as the Public Employee Unions. They hold extortionate power, have lobbied themselves utterly unsustainable levels of pay/benefits, have literally bought the Dem Party...and now are resorting to their historical thuggery (I fear riots and murder are soon to come) the minute they're asked to share in the national sacrifice to fix our obscene debt levels and chronically high unemployment. The unions don't give a DAMN about america; all they care about is their own wallets.

Posted by: JohnR22 | February 18, 2011 3:22 PM | Report abuse

obama is always on the wrong side of every issue

he's desperate, now, and showing even more of his true colors

america is watching and learning just how devious and manipulative and thuggish this potus and the democrats are

worse time, ever, to try to tell americans (many whom are out of work), to continue and enlarge the feeding at the trough of the public employees... bad timing. This will blow up in their faces.

as far as the democrats running out of WI: cowards, if they had tails they would be between their legs

how shameful
how embarrassing

this administration is pure garbage

Posted by: notbuyingit | February 18, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Obama is supporting....law breaking. We now see union thugs in Min, Missouri, Ind.,Ill, Ohio, and other blue states where their pay checks make private sector workers look like serfs. We have the Justice Bros, Jesse and Al in Wisc. Now that should show any Indie, that this protest is for...paychecks only, not better test scores, even collective bar, or the kids getting into higher education. As a teacher, I had to pay for many so called bennies and put my own dough into a fund where the state matched. Not fully funded, that made sense. Now,Ca. has gone the way of Wisc. But, Brown and the ever-elected lib Dems in the Leg. will never cut them. We will go broke , are broke, and the Community Organ. in Chief is supporting all of this while his cred in the ME telling Bahrain not to riot is just absurd and hypocritical. Good for the Speaker combating Bama as he supports Walker and the tax payers.

Posted by: phillyfanatic | February 18, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Obama has decided that he would rather align himself with the teachers who organized an illegal strike and are using kids as props at protests they don't understand rather than the taxpayers of Wisconsin. Is anyone surprised?

Worst. President. EVER.

Posted by: YoureAnIdiot | February 18, 2011 4:30 PM | Report abuse

The very best thing you could do with regards to education would be to destroy the teachers union. They ARE the problem.

Posted by: mogar | February 18, 2011 4:36 PM | Report abuse

"BOTH HAVE to be able to negotiate with one another, OR guess what the alternative will be?

IS THAT what Ms. Rubin wants in a high tech/nuclear era?"

Is this a warning of nuclear war in WI?

That aside, what is most absurd and inane about rcaruth's ramblings about neocons and Trotsky is that union busting is hardly a neocon issue--if anything, it's one of those issues on which the neocons are more centrist, as they accept the basic structure of the welfare state. Neocons are mostly liberals up until about 1966. Union busting is mostly hardcore paleocon territory. (Well, maybe his suggestion that the neocons want to militarize labor and join the unions to the state is more absurd. Why are you so in a panic over this? Interesting.)

Except for the fact that when it comes to public employees, it's just basic fiscal survival sense, and good constitutional reasoning--if you want to work for the government, you should agree not to go on strike against all the rest of us, or to use the collective bargaining power, originally intended to help vulnerable employees balance more powerful employers, to hold the democratic political process hostage.

More generally, yes, people have a right to associate however they wish, including forming unions; but the government has no right to impose those associations upon others, and the freedom of contract is at least as sacred: form your unions, but the employers also have a right to overlook you and contract with individuals.

Posted by: adam62 | February 18, 2011 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Public employees should pay their fair share of their retirement. Period.

As for the union issue, I think unions are largely an outdated concept, and particularly noxious in the public realm. Protections for government employees can be created pursuant to law; collective bargaining has two parties on the same side of the table bickering over just how much money they're going to take from the people on the other side of table (taxpayers). It's unbalanced and breeds precisely the sort of ever-expanding cost we're seeing everywhere that has public sector unions.

Personally, I don't agree with unions at all, but I at least see a plausible basis for them in the private sector. In the public sector, it's just a way for one group to demand the riches and the other to figure out how to steal the riches to give to the first group.

Posted by: TheGlobalizer | February 18, 2011 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Unions in the public sector were not allowed to bargain collectively until JFK granted them the right. Jerry Brown gave unions the right to bargain in California. Bad decisions. Public sector unions are a monopoly and any benefit or raise they negotiate from the politicians they support must be extracted from the private sector through tax increases. FDR who was biggest supporter of private sector unions in our history was staunchly opposed to granting public employees the same rights. Obama and his stooges try to cast this as a "constitutional" right. Nothing could be further from the truth, until Kennedy changed the ground rules public sector unions collective bargaining was considered unconstitutional because it granted unions the ability to raise taxes.

Posted by: jkk1943 | February 18, 2011 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, Jennifer, for a cogent analysis of the problems in Wisconsin, NJ and other states where the budget is in trouble. This message needs to get out loud and clear to the voters of Wisconsin, and elsewhere because the Dems and Obama will try to make it look like the Republicans are trying to eliminate unions and take away workers' benefits. The folks need to know the truth. They also need to know that the Dems are NOT their friends as long as they continue to support the corrupt, selfish union leaders. Ditto for Obama!

Posted by: donato777 | February 18, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Very good article. It is amazing to me that many of the simple minded liberals cannot understand the inherent conflict of interest when public employee unions are paid by the people they group together to elect. When this happens, politicians do not do what is in the common good but what is in the good of a few of special interest.

It is amusing to me to see weak-minded liberals compare trying to reign in the cost of essential services being paid for by all the people to greedy corporations polluting rivers and hiring 14 year olds to work in the mines. Really!? Most people paying the bill see that it is not evil for them to demand reasonable service for their tax dollars.

I used to like teachers, and my gut reaction was to support them and more money. Their actions of taking more and more money and refusing to be held accountable for teaching standards has soured me. I would never send my kids to public school despite the sacrifice to pay twice for education. Frankly, the figures quoted of what it costs to educate a kid in the public schools, everyone could instead go to the priciest private school. Imagine that!

I support the recent movement to challenge the unions and their corrupt and greedy behavior. Holding our kids hostage makes them loathsome!

Posted by: CommonSensePost | February 18, 2011 7:10 PM | Report abuse

These union goons shouldn't be around children. They seem unbalanced and violent. Shame on the democrats.

Scott Walker for President.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | February 18, 2011 7:38 PM | Report abuse

This is really simple. Any private company that does not treat its employees well enough to avoid them unionizing deserves them organizing and forcing redress of whatever issues are at hand.

On the other hand this rule does not apply to government employees. Private companies have to make a profit, have to answer to a Board of Directors, and have to answer to shareholders.

In the public sector, employees can unionize, have the union contribute a good part of those dues to a candidate who supports the union, and who then in turn votes to give the government unionized employees generous wage and benefit hikes.

Private company employees cannot elect the executives who run the companies that they work for. Public employees, once unionized create a fundamental conflict of interest on behalf of the taxpayers who are paying the bills.

For this reason, unionization on the part of government employees at all levels should be banned. It simply creates a system that is biased against the taxpayers who are paying for everything.

Kudos to the brave leaders in Wisconsin who like Chris Cristie are standing up to the public employee mafia in support of us, the taxpayers who are paying for all of this.

Public employees should be treated no better (or worse) than private sector employees in right to work states. We workers in the private sector pay between 30% and 100% of our health insurance, and whatever we get to retire on is based upon what we saved for our own retirements. There is no reason to confer a higher level of benefit to anyone just because they work for the government.

Posted by: Berndh | February 18, 2011 8:08 PM | Report abuse

I was the education reporter with a major metro newspaper when I first encountered the NEA. Even then -- forty some years ago -- I recognized the threat it posed to public education by fighting any kind of innovation and protecting poor teachers. I've since watched its takeover of education with horror. In those years, schools have deteriorated and the union, because that is what it is, has grown in power and influence until it completely dominates education. At the same time, education has nose-dived. Fifty percent of students in my city do not graduate. Some graduates cannot write a simple sentence because social promotion was the rule of the day. Unfortunately some teachers could not write a complete sentence,either (as evidenced by some letters to the editor). And yet the NEA protects them while fighting bitterly against charter schools and vouchers that offer young people, particularly disadvantaged children, hope.

There still are wonderful teachers and I bless them. I know many of them, and I know the battles they fight to do a good job. But the current NEA-controlled system -- including collective bargaining -- keep the very poor ones in place and discourage innovation.

It is insane to believe that politicians who receive thousands of dollars from these unions can honestly negotiate with them. The unions, after all, keep them in power.

That's why public sector unions are a travesty. They are buying their own contracts and to hell with the taxpayers.

Posted by: harris2 | February 18, 2011 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Obama has shown that instead of President of the United States he is president of the United Unions and the rest of us can pound sand.

Obama's interference in internal state affairs is disgusting but completely predictable from a man who has been bought and paid for by the unions.

NO CHANGE YOU CAN BELIEVE IN

Posted by: peteinny | February 18, 2011 9:32 PM | Report abuse

None of these employees are forced to work under those terms and are free to quit. Asking an employee (who works 180-190 days) to contribute 18% toward health care and retirement does not seem out of line and the failure of the teachers to show up for work is really not going to be something a majority of voters is going to look kindly of.
Obama had better beware the country is onto this scam of Public Unions electing sympathetic democrats to negotiate with. While Obama could not get a FY2011 Budget done with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, the Governors and State Legislators are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work...I applaud Gov. Walker as this is what he and his fellow republicans campaigned on and now they are doing what they said. No vague Hope and Change that has not made anyone happy. The Christies, Daniels, Snyders, Kasichs, Walkers,Cumos are leaders. They are not posturing for re election they are stepping up and making hard decisions that may cost them in the next election. These Governors are actually trying to preserve the health care and retirements of the Union Members. Our President should watch and learn.
Where is the support from the California labor Organizations? Maybe some of the city and county workers fear stirring the pot with Bankruptcy facing their employers. The silence is telling.

Posted by: apexmerch | February 18, 2011 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Jennifer, you don't even sound sincere, and you should be fired from your job immediately. Unions and collective bargaining, are basic right fought for by many, and they will stand. Shame on you

Posted by: dudh | February 18, 2011 9:39 PM | Report abuse

MacIver News Service – For the first time in history, the average annual compensation for a teacher in the Milwaukee Public School system will exceed $100,000.

That staggering figure was revealed last night at a meeting of the MPS School Board.

The average salary for an MPS teacher is $56,500. When fringe benefits are factored in, the annual compensation will be $100,005 in 2011.

Posted by: jschmidt2 | February 18, 2011 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Let me see if I understand what the anti-union folks are saying here. Its OK for Wisconsin to strip public employees of any rights to bargain except for wages, And the bargaining for wages can't result in any raises above the Consumer Price Index. But it could result in raises below the CPI. So therefore over time it will 100% guarantee less purchasing power for workers, and an ensured lowering in their standard of living. And this is not anti-union? Not anti-middle class? Not anti-American? This good for America?

We are already on a trajectory for a continued HUGE transfer of wealth from poor and middle-class Americans to the wealthiest 1% and this would only add to that. It never fails to amaze me how right-wing participants in these on-line discussions, often uneducated (as demonstrated by their misspellings, bad grammar, and weird capitalization) and therefore presumably relatively low-wage, can shill for these policies that are guaranteed to push them even further down the economic ladder. The politics of resentment is a wondrous thing - something Republican leaders figured out long ago and have continued to relentlessly exploit. Keep the dummies fighting each other and they won't even look at what's happening at the top of the heap.

Posted by: ewq21cxz | February 18, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

President Obama as well as all those union members should be ashamed of themselves. Pension/benefit costs are bankrupting state and local governments.

How can we ask taxpayers - most who do not enjoy comparable benefits - and some who themselves are unemployed - to pay for these unsustainable benefits?

Posted by: alto1215 | February 18, 2011 10:05 PM | Report abuse

"We are already on a trajectory for a continued HUGE transfer of wealth from poor and middle-class Americans to the wealthiest 1% and this would only add to that."

We're tired of the transfer from the private sector (our pockets) to the public sector and would like to reverse that. Simple enough for you? Grammar and spelling OK? Now go back to your Governor Walker=Hitler sign.

Posted by: adam62 | February 18, 2011 10:14 PM | Report abuse

I'm floored to read this at my self writing something very simular on one my websites.
http://politicalfeud.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=25

Posted by: Darthprophet | February 18, 2011 11:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm floored to read this here.After writing something very simular on one my websites.
http://politicalfeud.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=25
So I am not alone.

Posted by: Darthprophet | February 18, 2011 11:38 PM | Report abuse

For all you union supporters heres my deal I pay and the public sector employees have failed to put out the product and services I paid for are trash I want a refund ..
Now deal with it.
So heres the real choices coming down the pike, who do you think goes bank rurpt if we continue down this failed path? not the privet sector, it's the public sector.
Get a clue leaches when the payers deside to stop paying the gigs up. This is the last chance to fix the huge gross mistakes of the past.
Goverment employees should never of been allowed to unionize as one of the employers I have decided to end the contract your fired!
Oh by the way did you get a glimps of cnn's failed poll .. yeh even the leftest that read that place are in the majority on this one union bad! well over 50%

Posted by: Darthprophet | February 19, 2011 12:09 AM | Report abuse

Public Sector Unions are lazy, freeloading leeches

Posted by: TonyV1 | February 19, 2011 12:26 AM | Report abuse

Public Sector Unions are lazy, freeloading leeches

Posted by: TonyV1 | February 19, 2011 12:27 AM | Report abuse

It's simple. They need to fire every single public education employee and replace them with private workers in charter schools. It's time for the public employee unions to go.

Posted by: pijacobsen | February 19, 2011 1:15 AM | Report abuse

Break the unions!

They protect even those employees who abuse our children.

They protect even those employees who are completely incompetent.

They just transfer them to the next unsuspecting school.

Sad but true.

We must break the unions!

Posted by: Parker1227 | February 19, 2011 4:48 AM | Report abuse

It's time to break the unions.

They protect even those employees who abuse our children.

They protect even those employees who are completely incompetent.

They just transfer them to the next unsuspecting school.

Posted by: Parker1227 | February 19, 2011 4:56 AM | Report abuse

I would like to thank the unions for demonsrtating why companies and people are flocking to the right to work states. Unions will kill your business, end jobs, and cost your state unsustainable funds.
People with any sense are fleeing these high tax states by the millions.

Posted by: kalamere | February 19, 2011 8:06 AM | Report abuse

In theory, collective bargaining by public sector employees is fine. The problem arises because the unions use their money to elect politicians who will pay them more money, and then use that money to elect more irresponsible politicians, who pay the unions even more money, ad infinitum. It is a vicious circle and a cesspool of corruption, and it must end.

Posted by: Larry3435 | February 19, 2011 8:55 AM | Report abuse

One thing to keep in mind is that busting public employee unions is win-win--not only does it eliminate an unacceptable parasitism on the public purse but it deals a death blow to the Democratic Party, which could not long exist without union contributions, both financial and bodily (i.e., the provision of shouting, grimacing and sign holding and wielding thugs at all kinds of events). Hence all the impotent hysteria from the unions and Dems.

Posted by: adam62 | February 19, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Every person who went to school has one standout exceptional teacher. Mine was a Texas public school art teacher. She taught college-level skills to teenagers and acted as a second mother every lunchtime. She was forced out of teaching during Texas' early assault on the low-hanging-fruit of public teachers from her school district after 22 years. This was because her district thought that they could save money by axing all senior teachers. With Texas being the benchmark of education "Reform" -- her union had few powers to support her and the generations of students she nurtured. There is a protective purpose to unions that have a social good that is being lost in this heated cacophony.

In honor of this teacher's gift to me, after twenty five years in the private sector as a business owner and producer of corporate strategic communications, I against, the advice of two sisters with twenty plus years of teaching, began a new retirement career as a New York City Teaching Fellow, I chose to work specifically in the urban failing schools that find themselves on Mr Christie's, Mr. Duncan's and Mr. Bloomberg's and every other official who demonizes the powerless workers for the system that the elite have created. For years I have seen the real factors that cause a school to fail- They are economic and social and largely outside of the teachers purview. They belong squarely on the family, public, and governing bodies. I can agree that the public worker should contribute more for their retirements, but please be aware in the debate that at least in New York, these "golden perks" were hard fought by unions in lieu of pay raises beyond cost of living increases. The very people who now make public workers the enemies of the public good, conspired to create the conditions of ballooning debt as a means of not making the commitment to paying wages and supported the public servant that represented real worth to the community beyond the dollar.

I fear for the future of public education in this country when the value of the relationship of teacher to student and the responsibility of the public and unions to protect that position has no weight in this debate.

Posted by: teacherman4 | February 19, 2011 9:38 AM | Report abuse

"One thing to keep in mind is that busting public employee unions is win-win"

Actually, it's win-win-win, because public sector unions are very unpopular.

Posted by: adam62 | February 19, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

'
The unions won't accept this.

You make too much sense and these liberals are too stupid to understand.

Good, realistic column.

'

Posted by: chicoelcheapo | February 19, 2011 10:45 AM | Report abuse

"That presidential obtuseness should serve as a wakeup call to the country."

Oh, but this is much, much more than mere obtuseness, Ms. Rubin – it can also be called "sedition." Let's review the Merriam-Webster definition: "incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority."

By sending in his motley rabble of parasites to clog the halls of the Wisconsin State Capitol, to intimidate its lawmakers and to interfere with the lawful conduct of its public business, isn't Uhhhbama suborning sedition against a the lawful authority of a sovereign state? And what should we do with a "president" who openly suborns crimes like sedition?

Posted by: DonnyNobama | February 19, 2011 1:46 PM | Report abuse

"And what should we do with a "president" who openly suborns crimes like sedition?"

Do I hear the beginnings of impeachment talk? I hope someone is starting to build the case.

Posted by: adam62 | February 19, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

"Two, four, six, eight, Unions won't negotiate!"

Heckuva nice slogan I thought up, only problem is, which side should use it? :-)

Posted by: aardunza | February 19, 2011 7:21 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin makes a well-worn and specious right-wing argument regarding conflict of interest.
The argument ignores that public employee unions are just one more constituency appealing to the government to favor their interests - like banks, corporations, professional associations, etc. If we take her postion to its logical end, we would have to conclude that anyone who votes has a conflict of interest, to the extent that he/she would be influencing government to respond to his/her special interests.
Instead of scape-goating public employees, why don't we examine the real sources of inequity and wasted treasure (not to mention blood): endless elective wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and perverted tax laws and incentives that create an ever more dangerous gap between the wealthy and the rest of America.

Posted by: DavidBPC | February 20, 2011 12:30 PM | Report abuse

"The argument ignores that public employee unions are just one more constituency appealing to the government to favor their interests - like banks, corporations, professional associations, etc"

Unlike these other constituencies, the public employees ARE the government.

Posted by: adam62 | February 20, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

People who only talk about benefits are using the usual conservative trick to ignore the parts of the data that refute their lies. It is well known that public workers gave up salary for benefits. You have to look at total compensation. As Nick Johnson reported in Ezra's posting, the total compensation of public workers is LESS than that of comparable private workers. There are many studies. Since we are both in NJ you might want to look at This refernce from the Washington Post:

Washington Post:

"Jeffrey Keefe, an associate professor at the university's (Rutgers) School of Management and Labor Relations, said public employees do not make more than comparable private employees.
According to Keefe, comparing private and public employees with the same educational level, experience and work schedule shows private employees make 11 percent more in wages and 5 percent more in total compensation than public workers."

There is also the following:

The nonpartisan National Institute on Retirement Security found that, on average, total compensation is 6.8 percent less for state employees and 7.4 percent less for local employees than for comparable non-government workers.

Finally, here is a factoid that has some bearing on the situation:

Only five states do not allow collective bargaining for educators. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores: South Carolina, 50th; North Carolina, 49th; Georgia, 48th; Texas, 47th; Virginia, 44th. Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is 2nd.


Posted by: lensch | February 21, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

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