The PJ Tatler

Messaging the battle over government union privileges

Every day there’s another poll telling us the public thinks this or that about government workers or what’s going on in Wisconsin. The latest from Rasmussen provides useful info for anyone looking to figure out the messaging that needs to be done on behalf of the budget cutters:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 71% of Likely U. S. Voters feel that, generally speaking, government workers get better pensions than private sector workers. Only 14% disagree, while slightly more (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

However, just 32% of all voters say it’s at least somewhat likely that their state will be able to afford all the pension benefits it has promised to state workers while 56% say it’s not likely. Those figures include 8% who say it is Very Likely and 16% who say it is Not At All Likely.

Voters strongly believe that government workers should wait until around age 65 to begin collecting full pension benefits. If someone joins the police force at age 20 and stays for 25 years, only 28% believe that person should receive a full pension for life at age 45. Sixty-one percent (61%) think they should find another job and wait until they retire at around age 65 to receive the full pension from their police work.

That’s dense with useful snapshots of what the public thinks about government workers’ pension benefits — which can be extremely generous. Here’s some ways to message this.

First, never ever talk of “public employees’ collective bargaining rights.” They’re not rights, they’re privileges — privileges that most private sector workers don’t have, and federal workers also don’t have. Talk about “government worker union privileges” or “benefits.” That’s what they are. And talk about dates, as in 1962, and 1978. 1962 is the year JFK reversed course and allowed federal government workers to unionize, by executive order (FDR opposed doing this). 1978 is the year President Carter and the Democrats in Congress banned federal government union workers from collective bargaining on many of the issues at stake in Wisconsin. It’s also useful to discuss the conflict of interest that government unions and their collective bargaining privileges pose: Democrat officeholders benefit through union dues, which become the millions in union dollars that flow to and through the Democratic party every year. The taxpayers are unwittingly subsidizing one of the political parties, whether the agree with that party or not. This is patently unfair to the taxpayers, who are forced to pay for all this through ever increasing taxes and fees.

It’s also useful to point out the fact that of the top political donors year in and year out, most are not corporations, but unions, and government unions are among the biggest of them all. The only reason government unions can donate so much to one party is that they use their leverage over the Democratic party to extract more and more benefits at taxpayer expense. And it’s useful to point out that for all the time the unions spend demonizing corporate “fat cats” and “the rich,” union leaders themselves are among “the rich.” They make a lot of money, demonizing other people who also make a lot of money. The major difference is that the corporate leaders who make a lot of money, do so by being productive and making their companies more profitable. The union bosses get rich largely by making American companies and our government more expensive and less productive.