The office of the governor of Indiana would like to make sure you saw the governor’s comments to NPR’s Diane Rehm, a few days ago, in which his concept of public sector unions as a powerful special interest appear to have blown her mind:
REHM: Of course, the unions he has cited have already acceded to some budget cuts. So what is it about collective-bargaining rights excluding police, fire and others that’s so special? And are you doing the same?
DANIELS: Well, first of all, you know, collective bargaining is a very important part of the fabric of a free society. But even its most passionate advocates over the decades — Franklin Delano Roosevelt being a great example — said it really had no place in the public sector. We’ve evolved to a situation where the privileged, the elite in American society, really, are government unions, which no longer represent people who are paid less than the public that they serve but are paid much more and with much richer benefits and perfect job security in many cases. So, I think, bringing some balance back to that is necessary if states like Wisconsin and our nation, for that matter, are going to, you know, regain our balance and not kill the American dream for everybody else.
REHM: Help me to understand. Is there concrete evidence that Wisconsin public employees or Indiana public employees are better paid than their counterparts in the private sector?
DANIELS: Well, heavens, yes. The average federal employee is paid 50 percent more than the average taxpayer who supports him. The average teacher in the state of Indiana’s paid 22 percent more with much more generous benefits, perfect — you know, almost perfect job security and a shorter work year. So there ain’t any question about that. By the way, in some cases, that’s entirely appropriate. It’s just that the balance may have gotten a little out of hand, Diane. And Indiana is in a little different shape. We are not — we’ve been able to keep a books-balanced year and without all the severe cuts. And, you know, I’m incredibly proud of the job that our state employees are doing. So we’re not in quite the same position or advocating quite the same things they are up in Madison.
REHM: Help me to understand how taking away the rights of collective bargaining would fix or help to fix the budget shortfall.
DANIELS: Well, the most powerful special interest in America today are the government unions. They’re the leading financial contributors. They have the biggest packs. They have muscle. A lot of times their contracts provide for time off to go politic and lobby. And over the course of the last few decades, if there were ever injustices or shortfalls in how we took care of government employees, it has been fixed and over-fixed. And so I think that the — you know, he’s trying — what he’s trying to do is, in the public interest, interrupt this fortuitous process in which taxpayer dollars pay for very solid salaries for government employees.
REHM: What about — how would you compare the government unions to, say, the oil lobby?
DANIELS: Well, in many ways, they’re vastly more effective. They — as I say, they’re — year in, year out, they’re the number one donor of money into our political process. And, plus, in many cases, they can deliver muscle that these other interests that you might ask me about cannot. People and so forth — often, it’s in the terms of their contracts that they get time off to politic.
Despite what you might expect, there is no indication from the transcript that Rehm passed out from disbelief at that point.