The Wall Street Journal reports today that in 2009 the number of unionized workers who labor for the gub’ment (say in your best Michigan Militia accent) exceeded union members in the private sector. (The numbers come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The opinion piece makes the point that private sector employees—even union members—are subject to the “vagaries of the marketplace and economic growth.” And private union employment took a hit last year, losing 10.1 percent of private union jobs.
But gub’ment is immune from the vagaries of the marketplace; it can raise taxes and print money, after all. For example, as the private economy took a hit last year (i.e. job losses), the amount of gub’ment jobs (local, state and federal), on average, continued to grow. This puts a burden on private wealth creation.
Just as important, as the Journal points out, the unionization of government employees biases unions (the AFL-CIO and the rabid SEIU) to continually “advocate for higher taxes and government expansion in cities, states and Washington.” Government employees push for and often get higher wages, better insurance plans and pension benefits that many of us in the private economy don’t get. (Government employees, on average, make more—including benefits—than private employees. In New York State, the annual cost to taxpayers for government employees is growing and is projected to reach about $114,000 in 2012.) In short, government-employed union members are politicians’ main clients. Consider that the SEIU and the AFL-CIO demanded that Obama and Congress exempt their lavish health insurance plans from ObamaCare.
In essence, it puts government workers at a distinct advantage in our democratic process than the average taxpayer. “This is why most Democrats once opposed public-sector unionism,” says the Journal. Even New York Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia and FDR, both liberal heroes, opposed public-employee unions (although they supported industrial-sector unionism). LaGuardia and FDR “believed public employees had a special social obligation and could too easily exploit their monopoly position,” the paper says.
As the woeful fiscal state of many governments show (think California and New Jersey and New York, or any place with dominant public unions), “This has become a major problem for the U.S. economy and small-d democratic governance. It may be the single biggest problem,” the paper sagely warns.
The fact is, the net present value of the future obligations of the gub’ment (Social Security and the various other entitlement programs) is now around $56.4 trillion. There is simply no way local, state and federal can afford to keep growing, seizing services that citizens don’t want the gub’ment to provide and pay the benefits they have promised. We’re broke, basically. Either we will become tax slaves or promises will be broken. (For more on the problem of retirement planning for both public and private who are factoring in a pension, please see our cover story, Promises Will Be Broken in our November 2008 issue.)