What's generally avoided, however, is how it happened and what We the People need to do about it. It's a classic example of entrusting citizens' and taxpayers' MOM to big spending government and public sector union OPM officials, respectively.
So let's take a swing at that topic herein. We'll talk about government and the role that public sector unions play today. But first, please consider a bit of relevant history.
Let's listen to what the head of Labor and the most Democratic of all Democratic Presidents had to say on the subject of public sector unions. It was thumbs down all the way. Surprised? Well, read on.
F.D.R. Warned Us says this:
"“It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”
That wasn’t Newt Gingrich, or Ron Paul, or Ronald Reagan talking. That was George Meany -- the former president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O -- in 1955. Government unions are unremarkable today, but the labor movement once thought the idea absurd.
The founders of the labor movement viewed unions as a vehicle to get workers more of the profits they help create. Government workers, however, don’t generate profits. They merely negotiate for more tax money. When government unions strike, they strike against taxpayers. F.D.R. considered this “unthinkable and intolerable.”
Government collective bargaining means voters do not have the final say on public policy. Instead their elected representatives must negotiate spending and policy decisions with unions. That is not exactly democratic – a fact that unions once recognized.
George Meany was not alone. Up through the 1950s, unions widely agreed that collective bargaining had no place in government. But starting with Wisconsin in 1959, states began to allow collective bargaining in government. The influx of dues and members quickly changed the union movement’s tune, and collective bargaining in government is now widespread. As a result unions can now insist on laws that serve their interests – at the expense of the common good.
Union contracts make it next to impossible to reward excellent teachers or fire failing ones. Union contracts give government employees gold-plated benefits – at the cost of higher taxes and less spending on other priorities."
In theory, government employees work for all of We the People. Similarly, public sector unions represent many belonging to that same constituency of We the People who also work as government employees.
Accordingly, public sector unions represent a portion of We the People who in turn purportedly work on behalf of all of We the People.
In turn, all of We the People tax ourselves to pay for that government sector work, including the pay and benefits received by public sector employees but negotiated by government and union officials. Confused yet?
In other words, public sector union officials representing some of We the People (public sector employees) negotiate with all of We the People (citizens and taxpayers as a whole) when public sector unions are involved. Not to share in non-existent profits but to get more tax dollars from the rest of We the People.
Simply stated, government officials negotiate on behalf of the citizens/taxpayers as a whole and union officials negotiate on behalf of some of those citizens/taxpayers, aka the union represented public sector workers. At least that's the idea, silly as it is. And that's why George Meany said it was "impossible to bargain collectively with the government."
But A.F.L.-C.I.O. President Meany and President Roosevelt didn't know what modern America and our big and passive government bureaucracy would become, did they? So here's the way government works today with respect to employing and paying its employees, or better put, here's the way it doesn't work.
Government officials don't act like they represent all of We the People, and union leaders don't act like they represent a subset of We the People.
Together they often act in concert to fleece We the People and try to keep what they've done their little secret --- at least until they're no longer in office.
To their "credit," they've been successful at doing just this fleecing and keeping it a secret for many years. Now, however, the lid is off and the news has hit the front page. The financial mess they've created is too big to keep under wraps. There's not enough money to pay for the promises that government officials have made to the union leaders. And both public sector workers and taxpayers are left wondering what in the world to do.
I have a suggestion about what NOT to do. Don't look to the government or the union for help. They're the ones that created this unaffordable mess.
If the money to pay the promised benefits had been collected from taxpayers and set aside for the benefit of government workers, we wouldn't be in this crazy financial mess today. Taxpayers/citizens weren't told the truth about the cost of promises made and public sector workers weren't told the truth about the lack of money being set aside to meet those empty promises.
Thus, government and union officials have created an insoluble problem for We the People in total and that portion of We the People in particular who work in the public sector. Now the mess is ours to clean up somehow.
(1) I'm a taxpayer. So are you.
(2) I like the idea of small government. My bet is so do you.
(3) I also like the idea of good schools, good government and fair treatment for those who teach and work in those schools and government offices. My bet is so do you.
(4) I also believe that we shouldn't make promises we can't keep and that we need to pay for the promises we do make. I'll bet you believe that, too.
(5) If our "public servants" and the public sector union leaders had acted consistently with the beliefs set forth in 1,2,3,4 above, we couldn't possibly have ended up in the incredible financial mess we are in today.
So other than ourselves, it's obvious that government and union leadership are the ones who need to to be held accountable.
And if we aren't going to change the way our public sector operates in the future, why don't we just acknowledge that the government will only be serving up to us more of the same?
That way we can all play the role of victim for a long time to come, although that won't solve even one any of our many difficult problems.
But aren't We the People better than that? Wouldn't playing the role of the victim and not coming to terms with our financial issues be a pity?
We need to take the lead, my fellow Americans, and that will only happen if we start telling each other the truth about government officials and union leaders, and the lousy way they operate today.
We the People -- all of us -- clearly deserve better government, but it's equally clear that to get the better government that we deserve, we have to demand that better government. Again, for all of us.