Thursday, September 30, 2010

Public backlash against high pay and lavish pensions for bureaucrats is driving up opposition to labor unions

"Many state and local governments have made the mistake of courting the votes of public employees by fattening salaries and benefits, all the time imagining that pension-fund investments could only go up,” the tirade warns us. With tales of “lavish retirements for relatively youthful public servants” illustrating the “ugly…issue of public-employee pay and benefits,” the jeremiad estimated that state governments are anywhere from $1 trillion to $3 trillion short of their public pension commitments.

This end-of-days screed did not appear at, nor was it printed in folio, stapled together, and handed out at a Tea Party. It’s a cover story published this summer in Time magazine.

The word is out. It is now mainstream opinion that public employee salaries, benefits, and pensions are crippling state governments from coast to coast. When a group of comedians performed a “2010 Public Employee of the Year Awards” sketch—wherein lumpen freeloaders compete at Harrah’s in Atlantic City for the title of “Surliest and Least Cooperative State Employee” and so on—the performers were not the after-dinner entertainment at FreedomFest but the Not Ready For Prime Time venerables of Saturday Night Live. The sketch died. The rage lives on.

In 2009, the Gallup research group reported that for the first time in 70 years of polling, a majority of Americans opposed labor unions. An April Pew study showed that favorable ratings for unions had plummeted from 58 percent in 2007 to 40 percent in 2010. In the same month, the Republican research group Resurgent Republic found more than two-thirds opposition to current levels of compensation for government employees.

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