Cross posted to Liberty Ink Journal
This doesn’t often happen for a conservative like myself. As one who studies the presidents and does not exactly consider Franklin Delano Roosevelt or his predecessor 5th cousin, for that matter, (though it must be noted that FDR was a distant cousin of MANY presidents) to be one of my favorites, I don’t typically agree with him. But today is an exception…
In a letter dated August 16, 1937, President Roosevelt points out that there are differences between collective bargaining for government workers and private employees. He does not specifically speak against the idea of organization for government employees, but describes the very special relationship between such employees and the public that is paying their salaries.
I’m really liking this letter. It is not to make a political point or even to shove the fact that the left puts so much stock into big government FDR and even he disagrees with the militant and highly uncivil (remember Obama’s lecture about that?) nature of what is going on in Wisconsin. But rather, I like it because he has written it so well.
The crux of the letter is that we have a government for the people, of the people, and by the people. The employer of public employees is the people, who vote for executives and legislative representatives. This is far different from a situation where a private employer, either a sole proprietor or a group of private shareholders, owns an organization and employs people. The entire people are the employers in this case, not a specific subset of private individuals. Government employees voluntarily choose to work under these conditions and nobody forces them to continue to work for the government. They are welcome to seek jobs in private sector or non-profit employment (if there are any left) or try their hand at creating a business of their own.
Government is not a business that exists in a market. It is a set of necessary functions that must exist generally undeterred by market forces. It is a totally different animal from a business, which can come and go depending on the current needs of the people. As FDR described in positive terms an organization to speak on behalf of government workers, he said nothing about exclusive bargaining rights, forcing people to pay into such an organization, forcing people to pay for political propaganda issued by such an organization, or the need for handsomely paid bureaucrats running the organization at rank and file members’ expense.
In Wisconsin’s 2010 elections, people chose to elect a Republican governor, US Senator, and evidently enough in the state legislature to give Republicans control. All of this happened in what is traditionally a “blue” state. To move this much (especially dumping longtime Senator Russ Feingold!) shows it was a lot more than just temporary anger with Democrats. The status quo is a problem and the people chose a new path.
Costs in many state governments are unsustainable. We cannot keep the status quo and continue to pile burdens onto our great grandchildren that actually manage to avoid being aborted. Despite the mantra that the governor is “ending collective bargaining,” the fact is that he is trying to end collective bargaining in the areas of benefits, not salary. On top of very good salaries (particularly in light of the number of people unemployeed in the Obama “stimulated” economy filled with jobs “saved or created” in phantom congressional distracts like NH’s 00th), benefits are an area that is constantly increasing in costs. The voice of the people, the state legislature, should have control over how much state employees will be asked to pay in the area of benefits. That levels the playing field. Unionized workers have just as much right to complain to their legislators if they feel they are paying too much as non-government employees have a right to complain to their legislators if they feel they are paying too much in taxes.
We have heard from supporters of the expansion of government that a majority voted for Obama and handed Democrats control of Congress in 2006 and 2008, thus we should just grin and bear it. In 2010, the shoe was on the other foot (as a direct reaction to Democrat policies) and somehow I don’t see big government supporters taking their own advice. Instead, some are out in the streets of Wisconsin, holding signs with very uncivil messages, and apparently leaving trash in front of the state capitol for their likely unionized brothers and sisters to clean up.
Ultimately, we must realize that in most areas of life, the gravy train that was the 20th century is coming to a close. We are on an unsustainable path. Whether or not Obama campaigned on “change we can believe in,” change would be happening even if Obama had not won the popularity contest of 2008 pitting a celebrity against one of the most uninspiring and unmotivating candidates in electoral history. Everything is going to be examined.
The kneejerk reaction seems to be “tax the rich.” This seems to be the standard answer to all the world’s problems. Of course, taxes are on income rather than accumulated wealth. This idiotic philosophy actually PROTECTS the ultra rich and punishes those trying to make a better life for themselves and their families by taking risks. It puts a chill on small business entrepreneurialism and rewards people for working less. Further, it is totally impractical at a state level when the “evil rich” are in the best position to relocate to a state with lower income taxes or no income taxes at all. All that separates Wisconsin from income tax free South Dakota is five hours through Minnesota via I-90. Would big government supporters prefer to get NOTHING from the “evil rich” because they have left the state rather than at least getting something from them? And if the “evil rich” have left the state, would big government supporters be happy to put the burden for their extravagances on the middle class they claim to love so much?
Speaking of the middle class, I find it amusing that this is somehow portrayed as a “war on the middle class.” The entire middle class is not employed by the government. There are actually some that have managed to keep their private sector jobs, despite having far less security than government workers. I’m not sure why public sector employee unions feel they somehow “own” the middle class.
The street theatre of the union thugs is ultimately going to put the idea of public employee unions under the microscope for quite a while. It has opened up a can of worms for them as it exposes quite a lot about public employee unions. The more the unions keep making noise, the more people have an opportunity to talk. It has bothered me for quite a long time that public unions forcibly take dues from employees’ paychecks and then roll it into multimillion dollar advertising campaigns to push their agenda. If they have that much money, why not give the employees a break on their dues? Afterall, if union fatcats care about the middle class like they claim to, they would let them keep more of their money. Further, as Michael Barone points out, unions are handing hundreds of millions of dollars to the Democrats — while collecting forced dues from the rank and file. Why should they be donating to ANY political party whatsoever? This is a group that is supposed to represent people. If people want to donate to either party (and some people simply don’t), they can do it themselves.
According to Rasmussen Reports, more voters agree with Governor Walker (or as uncivil union thugs call him, “the NAZI”) than do not. As one who formerly worked for a government agency (until I could no longer put up with the mediocrity and mindlessness of the job and left), I found myself in strong disagreement with the idea of forced union dues and where that money is wasted. But really, nobody was interested in discussing it. Even among conservatives, this was low priority. Until now. The more the unions push, the more people are going to keep talking about what were previously boring subjects. So, I say keep it up. Keep on going and give the public a real distaste for this.