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Public Unions Must Go
A death knell for government unions? If only.


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Jonah Goldberg

The labor-politician negotiations can’t be fair when the unions can put so much money into campaign spending. Victor Gotbaum, a leader in the New York City chapter of AFSCME, summed up the problem in 1975 when he boasted, “We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss.”

This is why FDR believed that “the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” and why even George Meany, the first head of the AFL-CIO, held that it was “impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

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As it turns out, it’s not impossible; it’s just terribly unwise. It creates a dysfunctional system where for some, growing government becomes its own reward. You can find evidence of this dysfunction everywhere. The Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner notes that federal education spending has risen by 188 percent in real terms since 1970, but we’ve seen no significant improvement in test scores.

The unions and the protesters in Wisconsin see Walker’s reforms as a potential death knell for government unions. My response? If only.

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.



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