Sunday, February 13, 2011

We're All Workers

Government spending, we keep being told, is skyrocketing. Government workers are living on a gravy train and not sacrificing. Unions, in general, are a monstrous entity hobbling business and the economy. Specifically, in Wisconsin, unions are to blame for budget problems. Again, they haven't shared the sacrifice, their making ludicrous amounts of money, and their numbers are increasing.

As shown by a few perceptive articles, all of these talking-points are false.

As Ezra Klein details, "Nearly all states are proposing to spend less money than they spent in 2008 (after inflation), even though the cost of providing services will be higher. Most state spending goes toward education and health care. One of the most dangerous things an economic downturn can do is reduce your potential for long-term economic growth. Deeps cuts in education funding that lead to fewer kids getting quality pre-k and fewer students attending college are one mechanism through which this can happen."

Bob Herbert reports, "At least 44 states and the District of Columbia have reduced overall wages paid to state workers by laying off workers, requiring them to take unpaid leave (furloughs), freezing new hires, or similar actions. State and local government have eliminated 407,000 jobs since August 2008, federal data show." He continues, "The U.S. cannot cut its way out of this crisis. Instead of trying to figure out how to keep 4-year-olds out of pre-kindergarten classes, or how to withhold life-saving treatments from Medicaid recipients, or how to cheat the elderly out of their Social Security, the nation's leaders should be trying seriously to figure out what to do about the future of the American workforce."

"The majority of state and local public employees are not unionized," explains Max Fraad-Wolff and Richard Wolff. They also note, "Approximately 12.3 percent (14.7 million people) of the total U.S. labor force is represented by unions."

Richard Abelson and Phil Neuenfeldt clarify, "Wisconsin already ranks 44th in terms of total number of state employees per capita based on U.S. Census data. And according to an April 2010 study by Keith Bender and John Heywood, public-sector employees' total compensation is 6% below their peers in the private sector."

Let's stop the union bashing. We need to concentrate on policies that can help the majority of us, rather than spreading lies in an attempt at divisive politics. Unions are not the enemy. They are not growing in size, they have sacrificed, and they are not exorbitantly paid. Can we have a political dialogue based in reality rather than one of fantasy, falsehoods, and boogeymen?

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