Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Enormous Cost of Public Unions

Many of us have known a public employee who was nearing retirement at a relatively young age, who began working long hours. What most of us did not know, is that this enabled that "civil servant" to retire at an annual salary higher than his highest pay while still working. I'm sure those of you in the "productive" sector would be happy with that deal. Unfortunately, I'm willing to bet, most of you don't receive that much. Another unfortunate thing is, you are paying for those exorbitant early pensions.

Why? Because your representatives in government love spending "other peoples" money and do not want to alienate the all powerful employee unions.

The enemy within. That's what Robert F. Kennedy called the then corrupt Teamsters union in the title of a 1960 book. Just maybe it's time to use that phrase again, referring not to one union especially, but to a whole bunch of them, and employing the words in political speeches, debate and commentary as a rallying cry.

The bunch is those representing public employees. They constitute an extraordinarily powerful special interest that could all but bankrupt any number of local and state governments and vastly increase federal spending.

Why? So members can live much better on average than those of us in the private sector.

Last year, it was widely noted, public sector unions pulled off a stunner, gathering in more union members than the total in the much larger private sector. More than a third of all public employees are now union members, compared to the private percentage of 7.2. Abetted of course by irresponsible office holders often eager for their political support, these public sector unions have done far more to indulge their members than helping to concoct pensions of a kind hard to locate in private employment.

Read assessments of what's going on, and you discover that the wages and benefits of federal employees in eight out of 10 occupations examined by USA Today are considerably higher than for the same occupations in the private sector. That public sector jobs were increasing during the worst of the recession while the losses in the private sector still added up to millions. That benefits and compensation for already pampered public employees have been scooting well past private increments even as productivity growth in the federal government has been lagging.

The cost of all this is enormous and unaffordable. Among the intriguing answers suggested by some observers are to freeze federal salaries and even have President Obama revoke a JFK executive order allowing the existence of federal employee unions. He is himself a union cheerleader and won't do it, of course, but it sounds good to me.

The Enormous Cost of Public Unions

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