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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt may be kindred spirits.
They both understood the fundamental fact that collective bargaining in the public sector is not a “right” protected in the Constitution; it is a privilege that for too long has been exploited by unions.
As Steven Malanga from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research writes:
Walker’s proposals to severely limit government union prerogatives are simply a recognition of something that political leaders and union officials across the ideological spectrum recognized for decades in America before the 1960s, which was that, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote, “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
As Wisconsin voters head to the polls for Tuesday’s gubernatorial recall election, they and citizens across the country will confront an enduring myth that has fueled public spending and debt from coast to coast: Government workers, Americans have been led to believe, sacrifice for the public good, earning less money than if they quit their posts and entered the vastly more lucrative private sector.
While this meme may have held water at some point, it does not now.
Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s 53–46 percent victory over Milwaukee’s Democratic mayor, Tom Barrett, in Tuesday’s recall election is the Proposition 13 of the 21st century. In 1978, California’s famous property-tax-cut referendum ignited the supply-side tax-relief movement. Similarly, Walker’s win will encourage elected officials to demand that taxpayer-funded government employees earn realistic wages and pay their fair share for benefits. Likewise, Walker’s triumph should stiffen politicians’ spines so that they insist that government-union bosses live by the same rules as the rest of us.
Seconds after Scott Walker was projected to survive his recall effort, narratives were churned out, providing quick and easy explanations for the events that transpired.
On MSNBC we were told that this election was simply a local issue and that it would have no bearing on the upcoming Presidential election. On Fox News, Walker’s win was heralded as a huge victory in the fight for fair compensation: A huge blow to unions was dealt and a new era of fiscal responsibility would be ushered in. Unfortunately these narratives take up lives of their own, and prevent understanding this complex issue.
So where is the truth? Unfortunately it’s not as easy as saying the answer lies in the middle.
By Bill Zeiser
Much has been made lately of public sector unions, from the recent bankruptcies of several California towns unable make payroll, to the failed, union-led bid to recall Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker. Most people, depending on their politics, cast this as either a fiscal issue—union pay and benefits are costly, and we are in an economic downturn—or as worker’s rights issue—government workers should be allowed to organize like other employees, and to deny them that right is un-American.