Thursday, September 22, 2005

Democrats are pro-Union...

... but are Unions pro-Democrat? Mickey Kaus discusses the question in response to Criticism from Yglesias. Here are a few of Kaus' better points:
[...]It's no accident that unions have shrunk. The clumsy, legalistic mechanism of the Wagner Act--where seniority rules and firing incompetents requires elaborate negotiation--turns out to be a good way to fail to keep up in modern, technology-driven capitalism.

[...]they make the private sector more efficient than government at virtually anything both of them do. The result is a pervasive public cynicism about government efficacy that has done more to undermine the case for government action than union lobbying can ever do to support it.


"Historically," as Yglesias notes, unions have selflessly helped Democrats solve a number of national problems (Social Security, medical care for the elderly, civil rights, worker safety, unemployment insurance). Unfortunately, what's left are the national problems where this New Deal pairing didn't work because unions actively stand in the way of solutions. Two of these problems, in particular, are among our biggest: a) Unionized teachers stand in the way of the educational changes that might ameliorate our twin education crises (inner city disaster and suburban mediocrity). And b) unions stand in the way of the best solution to the welfare problem (and hence the NewOrleans-style underclass problem, and hence the persistent-poverty problem), namely public jobs programs. Unions have always disliked public jobs programs because public jobs workers threaten to perform work that municipal unions and construction unions now perform for far more money (thanks, in part, to the Davis-Bacon Act). In my ideal of liberal activism, we make sure everyone who wants a job has a job. Then we worry about making those jobs pay $40 an hour rather than $8 an hour.
Kaus' suggestions are geared toward strenghtening the Democratic party, which I am not particularly interested in doing. However, depriving the Unions of their political influence would seem to be a good thing for the country in general.

I would particularly like to see the teachers' unions disabled. Kaus does not suggest this, but I have argued before that it would make sense to outlaw all government unions. This would be fair since, unlike private sector employment where regulation actually interferes with commerce and the right to private ownership, government employees work at the behest of the public and the public should be able to control their compensation. No one, in other words, has a right to a job at taxpayer expense. And if it is ruled unconstitutional, why not push for an ammendment? Doesn't reducing the influence of liberalism in public schools make more sense for a social conservative than pushing for a ban on gay marriage? Wouldn't the improved efficiency be more appealing to a fiscal conservative?

This strategy is far too bold for the current Republican leadership, who seem determined to squander their control of two branches of government, but I keep mentioning it in the hope that the proposal will be picked up by someone with the vision to see its advantages.

(Cross posted here.)

UPDATE: I just noticed Rosemary's post from Tuesday about California Propostion 75 and the CTA's diverting of funds to advertise against it. The measure seeks to give union members the opportunity to keep their dues from being used in political campaigns they don't approve of. This is a much less visionary proposition than mine, but it seems like a step in the right direction.