February 28, 2011

WALTER RUSSELL MEAD: Blue State Dems Turn on State, Local Workers.

Despite the differences in rhetoric, killing public sector unions is a nonpartisan policy in the United States. While Republicans are more explicit about their goal, and want to move faster, Democrats and Republicans are both taking steps that will soon reduce the public sector union movement to a shadow of its current self.

Look at Rahm Emanuel, newly elected mayor of Chicago. Chicago is a dark blue city in a deep blue state; Emanuel is a career Democratic pol who served as chief of staff to the most liberal American president elected in many years. And what is Emmanuel doing? The mayor-elect was cagey on the subject during the campaign, but massive tax increases are off the table, and so are big bailouts from Washington DC. According to Time magazine, the campaign has spoken cryptically about saving $110 million from reducing “outdated and duplicative work processes to focus on front-line service delivery.” Translate that out of bureaucratic Newspeak and it means getting more work done with fewer people: layoffs. Emanuel says that the city’s generous pensions need to be preserved, but may also have to be, ahem, renegotiated. This does not sound like a renegotiation up. . . .

Look at New York, the classically blue state where I live, home to liberal lions like Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Fiorello LaGuardia and Mario Cuomo. Here our new governor Andrew Cuomo is seeking major concessions and threatening layoffs against the public sector unions, vowing to balance the state’s budget with spending cuts. Cuomo has also promised — read his lips? — not to raise taxes, and has introduced what the New York Times editorial page calls a “radical” bill to cap property tax increases and require a super-majority to raise them by more than 2 percent a year. Up to 9,800 state employees face layoffs under his new budget: that is more than six times more people than Wisconsin governor Walker has threatened to lay off if his union bill isn’t passed. . . . The public sector labor movement has reached a historical dead end. Cities and states that yield to labor demands have higher costs, higher taxes and higher debt than places that don’t. Over time, those states stand to lose revenue, jobs and population to cheaper and more efficient jurisdictions. If the governor of Vermont can see New Hampshire from his house, the governor of Illinois can see Wisconsin and Indiana.

Read the whole thing. I think the unions picked Wisconsin for their stand in part because that way they wouldn’t have to go after a well-connected Democratic governor.