Hard Times, Weak Unions
That fiscal anxiety reflects a national trend. During the 1990s economic boom, state and local governments awarded generous health and pension benefits to union workers. Now the pensions and the rest are being paid from shrinking revenues in a sluggish economy. The result is a fiscal crisis in cities and states with deepening deficits and threats to public services, ranging from police and firefighters to parks and libraries.
Walker stands out among other deficit cutters only in his bold audacity, fortified famously by the billionaire industrialist brothers
Instead of merely working with the unions, who offered to reduce state spending by raising their health care and pension fees, Walker moved shortly after he took office last year to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights. His aim, applauded by the Kochs, was clear: break the unions and weaken their ability to raise money and turn out the vote on
All of that is well known. What should alarm union leaders is how little Walker's overreaching got in the way of his 53 percent to 46 percent victory over his challenger,
And let's not diminish the significance of Walker's war chest. His campaign raised seven times as much money as Barrett's, much of it from the same deep-pocket business interests that give to Republican "super PACs" in this presidential election year. Money talks and, thanks to the
That reality does not bring me joy because I am not anti-union. I've even been an active member at various times in my checkered career. As the late Democratic House Speaker Tip O'Neill used to bemoan ironically, I appreciate what unions have done to make working-class Americans prosperous enough to vote Republican.
But Walker's victory sends a message: Public workers cannot rely on voters to be generous about pensions and other benefits when so many of their own wages and benefits are suffering.
On the day of
Next door to
The same can be said for
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