Friday, January 21, 2011

The Demise Of Democrats...Or Taxpayers?

Democratic pollster Doug Schoen is someone that I respect.  He seems to call them as he sees them.  You don't see him reciting the party line or popular talking points.

He had an op-ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal entitled "The Union Threat to the Democrats' Future" where he makes the case that unless the Democrats confront its allies in the public-employee unions, it will increasingly lose credibility with voters around the country.

Schoen states the issue pretty clearly and backs up the points I made in my earlier post, What Exactly Is The Purpose of Public Sector Unions.  He argues that the public sector unions essentially own the Democrats. They provide the bulk of their campaign money and organizational support.

By providing Democratic candidates the bulk of their campaign funding, public unions have essentially bought control of the party. This is particularly true when it comes to the politicians who control union contracts and pensions at the state and municipal level.
At the national level, public-employee unions spent more than $200 million to defeat Republican candidates during the 2010 midterm election. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees—the main union of state employees—spent over $90 million during the campaign, and it was the top donor to the Democrats' efforts to win gubernatorial and state-legislative races.
Schoen sees continuing troubles for Democrats unless they confront the public sector unions.

If the Democrats want to be competitive in 2012, they must move decisively back to the center. And unless they're able to break the stranglehold that government-employee unions have on the party on policy, as well as in financial and political support, it will be virtually impossible for Democrats to restore fiscal health to states like New York and California.
Working-class families are fleeing the Democratic Party en masse, a trend that is likely to continue if their own economic situation remains weak in the face of ever-higher taxes, deficits and debt. These working-class voters see that public employees are continuing to receive more generous benefits and enjoy greater job security than they are. Support for the Democratic Party is now well below 40% with working-class voters who are unionized, and as low as 33% with whites who are not college educated.
Consider what this means. American taxpayers pay taxes to pay the wages and benefits of its public sector employees. A portion of these wages goes to pay union dues which are then used to lobby for increased public sector wages and benefits.  This, in turn, requires more taxes on the taxpayers.  Keep repeating this vicious cycle and you can see why we are in the position we are today.   This article from USA Today discusses the increasing disparity of average public vs. private sector pay.  

If the country is going to restore fiscal sanity this huge disparity is going to have to be addressed in a significant way-most particulary the generous benefits packages for public employees.   It will be interesting to see how Democrat governors Brown (CA), Cuomo (NY) and Ryan (IL) deal with this issue.  These are the biggest blue states with serious budgetary problems.

Democrats are actually in a much better position to effect change on this issue than Republicans are.  Much like it was easier for Nixon to open up relations with China, Reagan to begin nuclear disarmament talks with the Russians or Clinton to sign welfare reform legislation.

If the Democrats can't do it, Schoen is signaling that the voters will do it for them by giving Republicans the power to make the necessary changes to restore a proper balance.  This might involve making public sector unions illegal as it was for most of our history as a nation. Another option might be to simply prohibit public sector unions from making any political contributions.   Taxpayers are currently funding their own demise.  This has to stop-one way or the other.

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