February 21, 2011

Showdown in Wisconsin

Showdown in Wisconsin.

James Taranto on what's going on: The Means of Coercion.

the Wisconsin dispute has nothing to do with corporations. The unions' antagonist is the state government. "Industrial unions are organized against the might and greed of ownership," writes Time's Joe Klein, a liberal who understands the crucial distinction. "Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed . . . of the public?"
There is a fundamental difference between private- and public-sector workers. A private-sector labor dispute is a clear clash of competing interests, with management representing shareholders and unions representing workers. In the public sector, as George Will notes, taxpayers--whose position is analogous to that of shareholders--are usually denied a seat at the table:

Such unions are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what it always wants to do anyway - grow. These unions use dues extracted from members to elect their members' employers. And governments, not disciplined by the need to make a profit, extract government employees' salaries from taxpayers. Government sits on both sides of the table in cozy "negotiations" with unions.

It's quite striking the way almost every lie the left ever told about the Tea Party has turned out to be true of the government unionists in Wisconsin and their supporters:

In the private market, if you bought something and it's defective or doesn't work, you can return it.  But you can't return poor teaching or get your money back if your eighth-grader still can't read the back of a cereal box.

Two-thirds of Wisconsin Public School 8th Graders Can't Read Proficiently - Despite the Highest Pupil Spending in Midwest, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Walter Russell Mead on The Madison Blues and the death throes of what he terms "The Blue Social Model".

Despite the terrible impression created by irresponsible teachers in Madison fraudulently calling in sick and hauling children down to protests they do not understand, and despite tactics that have further damaged the already poor image of public sector unions, these working people and their families are not wrongdoers or parasites.  But they have allowed themselves to be deceived by the false promises of demagogic and irresponsible politicians and they now stand in the way of inevitable, necessary and ultimately benign changes in the way our society works.
Technological change, global competition, and the rise of a more dynamic economy have wrecked the old social model, but old institutions, old habits of mind and old interest groups don’t disappear overnight.  In many ways, public sector unions and government employees are the last great citadel of the Blue Social Model and what we see in Madison (as well as Ohio and Tennessee) is a way of life fighting for survival in the last ditch.  We should not be surprised that the battle is fierce, the tactics ruthless, the polarization intense: this is not just a struggle between interest groups, it is a conflict over basic ideas about how the world does or should work.
To put it in a nutshell, the only way forward for the United States is to unleash the full transformational power of information technology in the knowledge and service industries even if this entails (as it surely will) the destruction of the current institutional, bureaucratic and guild-based systems on which we currently rely.

It will amount to a large scale cultural and social revolution in this country and many of the adjustments will hurt.  But overall, this is the only way to allow the overwhelming majority of Americans to enjoy the rising living standards that have characterized life in this country for the past 300 years.  It is the only way to make the American economy dynamic enough to support the economic and security policies necessary to keep us safe in the turbulent century ahead.
the struggle in Madison this week is important.  The United States must reform or decline; failure is not an option.


Posted by Jill Fallon at February 21, 2011 6:12 PM | Permalink