The spectacle of “sick-out” teachers running amok in Madison, WI is, ironically, sickening and educational. It also points out a fascinating paradox in progressive “thinking.” For progressives are both big supporters of public sector unions and expansive government. How is it possible to square that circle?
For the rationale of unions is that they are needed to protect employees from the opportunistic exploitation by their employers. With public sector unions, the government is the employer. So the assertion that public sector unions are essential implies that the government is opportunistic and exploitive, rather than benevolent.
But government benevolence–or something close thereto–lies at the heart of the argument that an expansive state is necessary to protect the weak against the predations of the strong. So if the government is benevolent, there should be no need for public sector unions.
But we see progressives sing paeans to public sector unions and an expansive government. A completely contradictory worldview based on a schizo theory of government.
Public sector unions facilitate a conspiracy between public employees and the politicians who “negotiate” with them. Their effect is almost uniformly malign: they bring a wonderful combination of higher costs and lower performance. The case is particularly clear with teachers’ unions. My thesis advisor, a brilliant empirical economist, Sam Peltzman demonstrated this with some excellent papers in the mid-1990s. He showed that one can date the commencement of declining academic performance in a state quite precisely: the declines in a state began when its teachers became unionized. The result is robust, and holds for both college-bound and non-college bound students.
I am actually quite encouraged by the protests in Wisconsin. The protesters are so clueless. They fail to understand how their antics are just going to turn even more people against them, and intensify the opposition of those who are already unfavorably disposed. The more they whine about the benefits they are losing, and the “rights” that they are giving up, the more the hoi polloi who are footing the bill will recognize how generous those benefits and rights are. The suckers who pay will say: “I don’t get that good a deal. I am looking at a more straitened future. Why should these people get a better deal than I do? Especially since the performance doesn’t match the pay? I was a sucker before, but no more.”
In short, temper tantrums and hissy fits by the privileged only stoke anger against them. So go for it, boys and girls!
Obama, of course, couldn’t resist butting in. His operatives and union allies are coordinating and funding protests. He has come out and criticized Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for attacking unions.
This is all understandable, I guess. Buffeted by one failure after another, Obama sees an opportunity to rabble rouse–sorry, I meant to write “community organize”–and says: “Hey, THIS is something I can do!”
But again, this is good news. For being associated with the Insane Clown Posse will only damage Obama further. And a posse of insane clowns is what it is. The sight of the Democrat State Senators fleeing the state in order to prevent a vote on a measure that would limit public employee collective bargaining rights is proof enough of that, as is the collection of signs, chants, etc. that the “protesters” have brought to the Capitol. The New Civility didn’t last long, did it?
Some years ago (‘03 or ‘04 if memory serves) Texas Dem legislators fled the state to stop a vote on redistricting. Some wags put pictures of the vote evaders on milk cartons. Wisconsin is the Dairy State, so it would only be fitting to repeat the feat here. Amazing, isn’t it, that elected representatives shirk their responsibilities in a democratic/republican system, and at the same time thunder against the governor’s anti-democratic actions?
Like I wrote Monday. It’s not 1995 any more. People who think that the same tricks, the same tropes, and the same rhetoric will work in 2011 have failed to recognize that the situation of the country is far different, and the mood of the country definitely is. The protestors are singing the same old protest songs (the has-been Jesse Jackson parachuted in to (a) get his face on camera, and (b) lead a chorus of “We shall overcome”), not realizing that they are now the establishment and the times are in fact changing, and not in a way that they will like. The clowns in Madison will keep pushing, because that’s what they do. The difference this time is that a helluva lot more people are going to push back.