Where is the outrage over Obama’s political arm “Organizing for America” and the Democratic National Committee actively participating in the government union protests in Madison, Wisconsin? I would have thought that the outrage would be universal and force those organizations to exit the state. But no the criticism has been muted at best. I do not know of another instance in which a sitting president and his party have openly sought to interfere in the affairs of a state in a labor dispute. If George Bush had sent his PAC and the RNC to participate in an anti-abortion rally, the howls would be deafening. This is not akin to Dwight Eisenhower mobilizing troops to enforce court ordered desegregation. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is not violating federal statutes. Rather this is a state matter to address the state’s budget crisis. Having the state employees contribute to their pensions and more to their healthcare sounds reasonable to us outsiders. Even the so-called (by the president) union “busting” provisions on collective bargaining sounds reasonable with one wondering why it hasn’t been brought up before. Consider this: the unions bargain with the elected officials whose campaigns are often financed by the same unions. If this isn’t a conflict of interest, then what is? Consequently, an arrangement where the results of collective bargaining being subject to ratification by the voters makes sense to me, since the voters and not the politicians are paying the bills. One of the reasons why government employees typically have higher salaries and benefits than private sector workers is that government officials do not have a profit motive and have no skin in the game. They can give higher benefits and salaries than the market because they are no accountable and its not their money. I have always thought that the salaries and benefits of government workers should mimic the market. Think of them as an NFL player given the franchise tag, setting pay at the average of the top five salaries at that position. Why not set government salaries and benefits at the average of private sector workers in that MSA? This is certainly not perfect but it is infinitely better than what is the norm today.
Harold A. Black is professor emeritus in the Department of Finance, University of Tennessee, Knoxville having retired after 24 years of service. He has served on the faculties of American University, Howard University, the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and the University of Florida. His government service includes the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and as a Board Member of the National Credit Union Administration. He also has served on the boards of directors Home Savings of America and its parent company, H. F. Ahmanson & Co., Irwindale, California prior to its merger with Washington Mutual Savings Bank, on the board of New Century Financial Corporation, Irvine, California, then the nation’s largest real estate investment trust and as director and later chairman of the Nashville Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. He writes an occasional article for the Knoxville News-Sentinel at http://www.knoxnews.com/staff/dr-harold-black/. His web page is haroldablackphd.com