Public Enemy No. 1: Government Unions

Ilana Mercer, February 25, 2011

For evidence of the power of the teachers unions acting out on the streets of Madison, Wisconsin, look no further than your property taxes. Almost 50 percent of mine are garnished for “Local School Support.” “Port, Fire, Hospital, Library” constitute a miniscule 5 percent of the property-tax bill. Law enforcement is not even itemized. Other states confiscate even higher percentages from their propertied taxpayers in the service of government-employed teachers.

Yes, do use the term “government unions,” won’t you, as “public sector” or “public servants” implies, incorrectly, that these people serve the public. Besides, have you seen these slackers? In his path breaking book, “The Worm in the Apple: How the Teacher Unions Are Destroying American Education,” Peter Brimelow left us with a lasting mental image of our children’s over-sated role models, attending one of the National Education Association’s annual meetings. The same apparition is everywhere apparent in Madison, as teachers “wobble and waddle through the teeming crowds of [supporters] … thighs like tree trunks, bellies billowing, jowls jiggling.”

Over and above the property tax — the federal income tax claims from those who pay it more monies for the educational oink sector. Whether the taxpayer has children in the system or doesn’t; whether he chooses to home-school his offspring or pays for a private school, whether he approves of the job government pedagogues are doing or doesn’t — he has to pay them, even go into hock for them.

To compound it all, America has a most progressive tax code. According to USA Today, the number of Americans who owe no federal income taxes, and do not share in the cost of government, stood at 47 percent in 2009, and is increasing. What has come to pass John C. Calhoun predicted in “A Disquisition on Government,” where he described the devolution of a democracy in which all private property is, eventually, subjected to the vagaries of majority rule. The “conditions and pursuits of the population,” reasoned Calhoun, are so “diversified,” as to clash. (Early Americans were not as incorrigibly optimistic — against all evidence — about human nature as contemporary Americans have become.) “The limited reason and faculties of man,” wrote Vice President Calhoun, “the great diversity of language, customs, pursuits, situation and complexion, and the difficulty of intercourse, with various other causes, have, by their operation, formed a great many separate communities, acting independently of each other.” (And this was before the advent of multiculturalism and mass immigration by progressive central planners.)

Thus the brilliant and prescient Calhoun outlined the manner in which special interests would unite in such an America to form “a compact, organized majority,” to better “control the government and the advantages it confers.” The dispensation to emerge would eventually see “one portion of the community pay in taxes more than it receives back in disbursements; while another [would] receive in disbursements more than it pays in taxes.”

This is the tug of war witnessed in Wisconsin. The “Takers” (tax consumers), organized by the likes of the AFL-CIO, Andy Stern’s Service Employees International Union, and the national and local teachers unions, want the “Makers” (the so-called rich who fund their existence) to support overgenerous pay and pensions in perpetuity. To grant them their wish, these organized interests are accustomed to turning to the Über-parasites: politicians. This time, a politician in the person of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has refused to facilitate the smooth transfer of wealth from those who create it to those who consume it with no thought for the morrow.

According to Manhattan Institute scholar Steven Malanga, “public sector unions … have become the chief lobbyists for higher taxes and more government spending in America.” Writing at RealClearMarkets, Malanga notes that “five decades of public sector unionization have given us a system where … unions have had ability to elect their own bosses, so that every taxpayer effort at reform and restraint over the years has dissolved eventually into new rounds of benefits and perks for government workers. It’s a system without the competitive restraints on both management and labor that exist in the private sector.”

Malanga underscores that “public-sector unions especially have become the nation’s most aggressive advocates for higher taxes and spending. They sponsor tax-raising ballot initiatives and pay for advertising and lobbying campaigns to pressure politicians into voting for them. And they mount multimillion dollar campaigns to defeat efforts by governors and taxpayer groups to roll back taxes.”

Name an initiative to “increase business and income taxes and fight government cuts” in your state —and you’ll discover behind it unions, flush-with member dues, fighting tooth and nail against the common good. In Oregon last year, the SEIU and the Oregon Education Association funded a successful campaign that “raised business and income taxes in the state.” In Washington, the SEIU (state and national locals), the National Education Association, and Washington teachers union locals all united to champion a new income tax, the poster boy for which was William H. Gates Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates. An unfathomably wealthy individual had gotten behind an effort to bilk business men and women of modest means: I suspect that fury over this is what helped defeat this particular union-driven lunge for private property.

A similar specter played out in Arizona, in 2010, and in New Jersey, where “the New Jersey Education Association spent $300,000 a week … [on] radio ads urging tax increases on the rich instead of budget cuts.” And before that in New York in 2008-09, and in California in 2004.

Wealth creators, big and small, pay government teachers. They, in turn, pay the unions, who turn around and agitate for raising taxes on their benefactors. This hapless taxpayer cannot withhold his coerced contribution, cannot leverage it in order to improve the product, and, in general, has no real representation at the negotiating table.

In the aforementioned book, Brimelow recommended that antitrust law be used to bust the “Teacher Trust” (monopoly). We have laws against a conspiracy to monopolize trade or commerce. Being a creature of legal privilege – and a form of legalized thuggery — the “Teacher Trust” ought to be subjected to these laws.

February 25

CATEGORIES: Democrats, Government, Labor, Political Economy, Property Rights, Taxation

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