Beware the Union Label

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Beware the Union Label

Postby Bludgeon » Sun Jun 10, 2012 11:05 pm

Jay Cost wrote:...the Walker victory in Wisconsin points to a possible rout in November on a much deeper level—deeper than the fickle horse race polls and closer to what the 2012 contest is actually about.

To appreciate this, consider what Governor Walker accomplished. He did not simply cut spending by requiring government workers to chip in more for their health care and pensions; he also instituted structural reforms of labor relations to keep spending down in the future and then fought back three attempts from the left to undo his good work. The liberals tried to take over the state legislature via recall elections; they turned the reelection campaign of Justice David Prosser into a proxy war against the union reforms; and they went after Scott Walker this week. In all three instances, they failed.

...unlike trade and industrial unions, public sector unions essentially bargain with themselves. They are such an integral part of the Democratic coalition—delivering to Democratic candidates and causes not just money but massive numbers of voters and volunteers—that the party dare not defy them. Thus, “negotiations” between Democratic-led governments and public sector unions are really anything but. ... tml?page=1

While I think the stage is set for unions themselves to make meaningful reforms nationally, I've been reflecting more and more how out of place modern unions seem as a part of the Democratic coalition. Not to say that union members are out of place, but the organizations themselves. Last week's election means a lot of things. I would suggest that in Wisconsin the public sector overreach revealed those unions to be a coalition sector whose corruptive influence has become (in current form) poisonous to the party platform.

Jay Cost wrote:The result has been duly perverse. For one thing, the Democratic party has found a way to pump money out of the public treasury to finance its campaigns; for another, state and local budgets are continually expanded beyond all reason. In the days of the 19th-century urban machines, this would have been called graft. Today, liberals and labor leaders call it “union rights.” That phrase points to the great rhetorical scam of the modern Democratic party. While consistently couch-ing its vision in communitarian language, the party nevertheless raids the public treasury and bends the vast governmental regulatory machinery to deliver billions of dollars worth of payoffs every year for the benefit not of everybody, but of fellow Democrats.

Walker has cut to the heart of this political Frankenstein’s monster. More important, he fought back the Democrats’ claims that he was trampling on “workers’ rights.” He convinced Wisconsinites that he was the protector of the public interest, while the unions were looking out for themselves. This is a feat no Republican has managed since the Great Depression...

This makes Scott Walker the anti-Obama. Whereas Walker defied powerful Democratic party interests for the sake of the public good, Obama has done the opposite.

After Doyle and Obama, it will take a lot, heck of a lot, to get me to consider voting for a Democrat in a statewide or national election, but... the same time, I'm really looking forward to the resurgence of Democrats Russ Feingold, Joe Manchin, Ed Rendell, Jim Webb, Harold Ford and Hillary Clinton to name a few, and how their prominance will affect their party in the future. Those are my favorite Dems, I confess; and the truth is I like liking them, oddly enough. What I hope most is that they attract more pragmatic, hard working politicians like themselves to fill the ranks in their party...

...Which is not to say that any of them are particularly anti-union; but you don't have to be anti-union to be pro-integrity. Integrity first is my motto; accountability first. I would also like to see labor itself undergo a renaissance akin to what the Democratic Party is going to need to become viable again.

For the sake of my friends on the left I hope their future platform is not hampered by the guiding influence of a Harry Reid senate past 2012, nor an Obama white house. Luckily for us all, I don't believe we'll have to see it. Another interesting point...

But the dominance of the public unions in the left had consequences for the left itself — bad ones. In contemporary America, the public sector unions are essentially a conservative constituency. That is, their core goal is to get more resources in order to fight all but superficial change in the structures their members inhabit. They want ever growing subsidies to the postal service, the public school system, the colleges and universities, even to health care — but they do not want the kind of reforms that could make these institutions more efficient, more productive, more serviceable.

To the extent that these unions shape the Democratic agenda, Democrats aren’t just the party of government; they are the party of inefficient, expensive, unresponsive, bureaucratic government. They are the party of government workers first and foremost, and if there is a clash between the interests of the providers of government services and their consumers (between, for example, unqualified, unmotivated life-tenured public school teachers and kids), the unions come at these issues from the standpoint of protecting workers first, others second.
In terms of the blue social model, they are the party of the bitter clingers: the power of public sector unions among Democrats is a power that inhibits Democrats from putting forward innovative, future-facing ideas (about schools, health care, and so on) and keeps them focused firmly on the defense of the past. ... in-flames/

To my mind, without a union incentive to modernize and adapt, that's an unhappy marriage. Most of the progressives I know have a lot of great ideas about improving the public sector that they never enjoy the pleasure of seeing implemented. Since 2010 in conversation they cede any number of points; but Madison has been an echo chamber to the extent that folks just persisted in a sort of blind defense of public sector unions. I wonder if that will ever change.

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