People who complain that government unions colluding with government officials for extravagant pay are “bargaining with themselves” are missing the whole point about collective bargaining:
When the government says something you need is so important that it claims a monopoly over providing it, then that government has an obligation to deliver that thing as promised, as long as you keep up your end, like paying your taxes. It can’t let its bureaucrats withhold what you need, for their own gain.
Bribery is Corruption
If the drone at the driver’s license bureau refuses to help you unless you slip him a fiver, or the mailman “can’t guarantee everything will arrive safely”, unless you “tip” him, we all recognize that as bribery, intolerable in a government official. They are entrusted with what we consider “public good”, and must deliver on it, because it’s considered essential, and has been made into a government monopoly. Withholding that trusted thing in demand for personal gain is intolerable corruption.
It’s OK to have to tip your waitress for better service, but not your fireman.
And we, for most of history, recognized in America how important this distinction is, unlike the rest of the world. We weren’t, say, India:
In India, if you want your driver’s license, you automatically bribe the bureaucrat who is supposed to give it to you. Same if you want electricity, or health care. In fact, you have to bribe hundreds of government officials per year, in order to simply function normally. You need to already have enough money to pay off public thugs, in order to be allowed to prosper. This is part of why hundreds of millions of poor have remained trapped in a caste system, while most of the world has outgrown theirs.
It’s not that regular people shouldn’t be able to trade money for service, it’s that government officials must never withhold service in order to get money.
Democrats against Collective Bargaining
This is why, for so many years when the rabidly pro-union Democrats dominated the Federal and state governments, government employees and civil servants were banned, by those Democrats, from collective bargaining and strikes. Even Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed that a union is a monopoly, over both the workers and employer, that strikes withhold services from legitimately customers, arbitrarily, in order to extort more money out of them — and when the customers are taxpayers, and the services essential, everyone recognized that this is wrong:
The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service…A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.
— Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Federation of Federal Employees against Strikes in Federal Service
It wasn’t until 1959 that, for the first time ever, a state government in the US — Wisconsin — allowed its bureaucrats to form monopoly unions that could cut off taxpayers from their paid-up, legitimate services. Unfortunately, other states began to follow suit. Soon, as we might fear, government employees began to threaten to withhold services from us, even though we’d paid our taxes, unless they got special money and favors.
In order to not be bankrupted immediately, the government officials who had caused this mess by allowing the unions were forced to impose taxes on the taxpayers’ grandchildren, by promising to pay extravagant retirement benefits to the monopolists later, when the extortionists retired. This is, of course, taxation without representation; the main people who’d be super-taxed to pay for the bribes in twenty to forty years were often not yet born, much less of voting age.
Those public sector bureaucrats held the people of Wisconsin hostage, for their own gain, and the payoff was insanely cushy, gold-lined pensions.
Well, now the ransom is coming due.
Protecting Americans from Extortion
Appropriately, the first to reach this crisis was the state that started the problem, Wisconsin. And, for once, they did the right thing:
Scott Walker reversed the previous trend and restored the taxpayer’s right to not be extorted by government bureaucrats.
Anyone who doubts that this is a good thing needs to look to Britain, where civil “servants” recently tried to extort money from the taxpayers, by cutting off essential services. They bragged about their goal of holding up travelers and bankrupting parents by forcing them to stay home with kids while the schools shut down. They admit that they’re already being paid far more than the private sector, and are striking simply because they’re being asked to pay a few percentage points of their fat pensions.
Tens of thousands of emergency calls were ignored, except for those deemed “life threatening”, and thousands of surgeries were postponed, leaving people to suffer longer. Millions were trapped in their homes by lack of bus and rail service. Over ten thousand schools were shut down, putting millions of parents in a bind, however happy it made their kids.
All because the government employees entrusted with providing these services, violated the public trust.
We don’t need that kind of ganster-like corruption, here in the US.
Of course we could also have a discussion about how this proves the government can’t be trusted to meddle in health care, mass transit, and education…but at the very least, when it usurps those vital needs, it must then provide them, no matter what.
This is why “collective bargaining” can’t be tolerated, when public good is at stake.