The Agenda

Megan McArdle is Refreshingly Sane on Wisconsin

Here is my favorite part of her post, which you should read in its entirety:

I’m not outraged by either side.  Of course the teachers would like to be paid more, contribute less to their pensions and health care, and be able to collectively bargain for their benefits.  One of the prime attractions of a career in K-12 teaching is that you can almost never be fired, and you have a powerful union that spends a lot of time lobbying the legislature.  Naturally, they are going to fiercely resist having this taken away after many of them have given a decade or two to a career based on this assumption.

On the other hand, of course the legislature needs to balance what the teachers want with the other needs of the state.  I am, as a matter of policy, against special tax breaks, so I agree that Wisconsin should not have spent $120 million on them.  But the actual targets–businesses that hire new employees, businesses that relocate to the state, and health savings accounts–are not prima facie morally inferior to allowing teachers to collectively bargain higher pensions and health benefits.  In fact, on average, they’re targeted towards groups that are worse off than the teachers–the unemployed, and people with high medical costs.  Overall, as a matter of policy, I would prefer to spend money on those people than on teachers who are fairly well paid for the number of days they work.  

Megan continues by arguing that a lockstep cap on teacher compensation is, on the other hand, a potentially very bad idea, and I agree. The right vision for public sector reform, for my money, is one in which public sector managers and workers are given more autonomy, but also more pay-for-performance to the extent that is practicable. 

Walker’s effort is not the last word on public sector reform. Rather, it is a law that might give state legislators and local officials the tools they need to actually do the hard work of making government cheaper and more effective. I will keep repeating this idea, as I fear it’s not getting through.

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More
Film & TV

Joker: An Honest Treatment of Madness

When I saw that the New York Times and The New Yorker had run columns berating the new Joker movie, criticizing it not simply on cinematic grounds but instead insisting that the film amounted to a clandestine defense of “whiteness” in an attempt to buttress the electoral aim of “Republicans” — this is a ... Read More
Elections

The Democrats’ Disastrous CNN LGBT Town Hall

A few days after Donald Trump committed the worst foreign-policy blunder of his presidency by betraying America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria, former vice president Joe Biden, the elder statesman and co-frontrunner in the Democratic presidential primary, was on a national stage talking to CNN’s primetime ... Read More
White House

What Is Impeachment For?

W hat is impeachment for? Seems like a simple question. Constitutionally speaking, it also appears to have a simple answer: to cite and remove from power a president guilty of wrongdoing. Aye, there’s the rub. What sort of wrongdoing warrants removal from power? I’d wager that the flames of ... Read More
Elections

Beto Proposes to Oppress Church with State

Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign is within the margin of error of non-existence, but in his failure he has found a purpose: expressing the Democratic id. His latest bid for left-wing love came at a CNN forum on gay rights, where he said that churches that oppose same-sex marriage should have to pay ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Fox News Anchor Shepard Smith Resigns

Fox News Channel's chief anchor, Shepard Smith, announced on air Friday that he would be resigning from his post after 23 years with the network. “This is my last newscast here,” said Smith. “Recently, I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News. After requesting that I stay, they obliged.” He ... Read More