It's about time. I've been waiting for this debate to mature for 15 years.
The battles in Wisconsin and New Jersey over public sector union benefits are merely financial precursors to a much bigger ideological war that has been on the horizon now for years, if not decades. When you acknowledge the coming battle, you realize that Governors Walker and Christie -- courageously as they are behaving -- are only nibbling at the edges of the real issue.
And the real issue is whether public sector unions should even be allowed to exist. Frankly, when even a modicum of common sense is infused into the equation, the answer is a resounding no. And the foundational reason is simple. There is no one at the bargaining table representing the folks who are actually going to pay whatever is negotiated.
Gee, what could possibly go wrong?
Well let's see what went wrong: California, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, Chicago, New York State, New York City, Wisconsin...on and on I could go including almost every city and state where government workers are unionized.
Oh, and have you seen pictures of Detroit lately?
The problem is that our country has been lulled to sleep over decades of hearing that government workers are dedicated and low paid public servants who trade good pay for security. And every time a union pay debate came up, it seemed like only cops and fire fighters and teachers were mentioned. No one stopped to think that most government workers are actually bureaucratic charmers like those we see at the DMV and other government offices -- and not "heroic teachers" or crime fighters.
But as long as the private sector was humming along, there was no reason for reality to permeate that myth in most peoples' minds. But the reality is that government workers long ago passed private sector workers in pay and benefits, and now the compensation is more like 150% or even double, factoring in all the benefits, including more vacation days than private sector workers enjoy. And of course, the inestimable value of job security remains intact and strengthened -- while all of us in the private sector deal daily with the risk-reward constraints of reality that are only getting riskier.