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On public opinion & public employee unions

Some Democrats as well as their ideological allies in the media and the leaders of their various auxiliary organizations seem to see victory in their defeat in Wisconsin this past week.  ”AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka,” for example “dubbed Gov. Scott Walker Thursday ‘the Mobilizer of the Year’  for the labor movement, saying Walker’s move to take away collective bargaining rights for public employees will boomerang on Republicans.”  James Taranto summarizes E.J.Dionne’s recent column as saying that “Republicans won a legislative victory but overreached, just as Democrats did a year ago [with Obamacare], and they are going to pay a political price, just as the donks did in November.

Now, to be sure, the recent poll numbers among Wisconsinites for Walker’s modest reforms don’t look much better than do those for Obama’s major health care overhaul.  Yet, here’s one distinction to bear in mind.  The intense debate over Walker’s plan took place over three weeks, a relatively compressed time frame for a debate of this magnitude.  By contrast the debate over Obamacare unfolded over three seasons (Summer 2009, Autumn 2009, Winter 2009-10), with the House passing the bill just after last year’s Spring Equinox.

The shorter time frame for the Wisconsin debate has not given people much time to consider all the issues involved in this reform/budget package.  Consider, for example, polling on Obamacare.  While Democrats had been talking about reform since the transition, the debate didn’t start heating up until the spring of 2009, becoming really intense that summer.  At the beginning of that sultry season, a slight plurality favored the Democrats’ reforms.  While people supported health care reform in the abstract, once they learned the details of the plan crafted in Washington, D.C., they became increasingly skeptical and indeed outright opposed.

Similarly, while people favor the rights of public employees to organize in the abstract, the more they learn the details of Walker’s reforms curtailing their privileges, the more citizens will realize how these reforms protect Wisconsin taxpayers from unions who have gained an inordinate amount of power in recent years.  As the reforms limit the unions’ privileges, they giving local governments (including school districts) greater flexibility in providing benefits to their employees.

Over at Campaign Spot, Jim Geraghty’s political guru, the man he has nicknamed Obi-Wan Kenobi offers similar thoughts:

The mistake political junkies always make is wildly overestimating how much detail normal folks have about politics and government. (Not a criticism of normal folks.They are sane.We are not.) So with Chris Christie and now Governor Walker, the public is just beginning to gets its head around the pay and benefits and pensions of state employees. And Wisconsin has brought the whole question of giving state employees not only civil-service protections but the kind of collective-bargaining rights that corrupt current politicians into giveaways that force generations of taxpayers into indentured servitude and ultimately hurt public employees by bankrupting their pension funds.

So Walker’s numbers are irrelevant. Get into any controversy and the numbers tremble, but look at former Michigan governor John Engler and Christie and, for that matter, Thatcher and Reagan. People cut through the noise, figure it out and the political dividend is huge. I’m almost sorry Walker had this quick a victory.

As time passes and people consider the details of the reforms Republicans enacted in Wisconsin, they may well come around to seeing them as beneficial to the Badger State.  Governor Walker was wise to hold firm.  He will assuredly have more than a Pyrrhic victory.

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60 Comments

  1. Or the Recall next year will take his bought and paid for butt out of office….

    Comment by Paula Brooks — March 12, 2011 @ 8:51 pm - March 12, 2011

  2. Think so, Paula Puppet?

    Perhaps Puppet doesn’t remember what happened when blue-state governor Chris Christie started cracking down on Puppet’s owners. You were predicting the same doom and gloom then, and guess what? He’s only gotten more popular.

    Paula Puppet is so stupid she doesn’t realize that her Obama Party, which threatens to murder Republican legislators and their families and bomb public buildings, and which protects drunk-driving union leaders who threaten businesses, is demonstrating every day why they are completely unfit for office.

    Paula Puppet, why do you support murdering Republicans? Why do you support destroying businesses who don’t pay you and your fellow thugs protection money? Why do police unions not only protect and shield cops who drive drunk, but elect them as their leaders?

    Do you have an answer, Puppet?

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — March 12, 2011 @ 8:59 pm - March 12, 2011

  3. The governor of Illinois was on some talk show the other day lamenting the lot of the poor, pitiful, put-upon Wisconsin public employees and praising the unions.

    So here’s a governor and his crony-Dems in the legislature besotted with public-sector union largesse singing the union label song…

    Paula – what do we need the unions for? Where is the adversarial relation? Who is representing the taxpayers? What part of “we’re broke” do you not understand? What part of “Walker and the GOP won the election” is over your head? Why should public employees be immune to the economic conditions affecting the rest of us?

    Ann Coulter’s last column takes on the public unions… it’s a good one.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — March 12, 2011 @ 9:29 pm - March 12, 2011

  4. Some [lefties] seem to see victory in their defeat in Wisconsin this past week… ‘the Mobilizer of the Year’…

    Great. Bring it on. The sooner we can nationalize the People’s uprising against the socialism, and push socialism onto the ash heap of history, the better.

    The differences between the “mobilized” / socialist Left and the Tea Party are:

    - Conservatives outnumber liberals in America, and greatly outnumber hardcore lefties. So the Tea Party has a larger natural base.
    - The Tea Party has reality on its side: freedom works, socialism doesn’t.
    - The Tea Party particularly has the laws of mathematical accounting on its side: America’s growing fiscal crisis can only be solved through spending cuts. The economy is such that tax hikes wouldn’t increase government revenues for more than a quarter or two, maybe less.
    - Most centrists sooner or later prefer common sense to mayhem. The more the “mobilized” / socialist Left plays its hand, the more Americans grow to hate it.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 12, 2011 @ 10:45 pm - March 12, 2011

  5. (continued) It’s been said that all wars begin with miscalculation. The Left is miscalcuating as we speak; it’s revving up because it *thinks* that l’affaire Wisconsin plays in its favor. Great, then over time, we’re all going to find out how wrong it is.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 12, 2011 @ 10:51 pm - March 12, 2011

  6. Dr. Dan, thanks for calling the collective bargaining that the WI Public Unions had what the are most accurately called … priveleges. I’m getting tired of the MSM calling it rights, because I don’t have these “rights”.

    Comment by HCN — March 12, 2011 @ 11:29 pm - March 12, 2011

  7. HCN, you’re welcome. Thanks for noticing. Glad to oblige!

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — March 13, 2011 @ 12:06 am - March 13, 2011

  8. And yet “privileges” is also a strange term, because those collective bargain thingies (whatever they are) were a denial of people’s right to work.

    They weren’t privileges for the public employees – some good ones lost their jobs because of the union, and more would have, if Walker couldn’t pass his reforms.

    So who benefitted from the collective bargaining thingies? The union officials, and the politicians they support. Walker curtailed… what then? What to call them? Union officials’ privileges? Union organizational privileges? Democrat privileges?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 13, 2011 @ 12:29 am - March 13, 2011

  9. I think that regardless of what happens with the proposed recall in Wisconsin, the recent developments in Wisconsin are giving the American people a good view of the public-sector unions, and for those who have been watching, it hasn’t been pretty. The problem is that most people haven’t been watching very closely, and the press has been misrepresenting much of it for them. Ann Coulter said the other day that Walker and the Republicans in Wisconsin hadn’t done themselves any favors by the way they handled this–she said that they could have gone much more on the offensive in the manner of Chris Christie, and I think she had a good point. Walker should be commended for getting the reforms passed, but Christie is much more skilled at getting his message out in a plainspoken manner which exposes the biases of the media with respect to the unions. And as readers of Althouse will know, the press in Madison is even more ridiculous than the left-leaning stuff one gets from most of the lamestream media outlets.

    Comment by Kurt — March 13, 2011 @ 1:50 am - March 13, 2011

  10. Oh, yeah! Paula’s back. So, how did that investigation of the homophobic “plant” at the union rally go, Paula? You promised you’d have some blockbuster revelation about that, then you disappeared. It makes some of us think you might not have actually had anything, but were just blowing smoke out your queef-hole. Is that what was happening? Were you blowing smoke out your queef-hole? Is that what you’re doing again?

    Comment by V the K — March 13, 2011 @ 4:23 am - March 13, 2011

  11. Wisconsin is a bigger debate about the government unions on a collision course with the inability to pay for such unions anymore given the fiscal crises of the individual states & the 14 trillion dollar debt of our nation thanks to the Obama-Reid-Pelosi attempt at Social Engineering via ObamaCare & other corrupt tentacles into our lives. In other words, the states are on a collision course with the public unions as the inability to pay for such unions materializes since the states must balance their respective budgets. Ironically, we have the President of public sector Unions with President Obama. He will pay any price to do their bidding & try to get the whole United States into a public sector unions across the country. He will fail.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — March 13, 2011 @ 8:20 am - March 13, 2011

  12. A recent national poll finds 66 percent of independents support Walker’s reforms as well as 95 percent of democrats. Ninety percent of democrats oppose the reforms cause they know without mandatory union dues, democrats will go belly up.

    Comment by eaglewingz08 — March 13, 2011 @ 9:04 am - March 13, 2011

  13. If I lived in Wisconsin and my capitol were deluged with rent-a-mob protesters bused in from other states, I might feel “besieged.”

    The state employee union workers did not get a hair cut; they got their eyebrows trimmed. Then they delivered the message that their claim on the state treasury is primary and sacrosanct. They were backed in this by Democrat state Senators who sought sanctuary from doing their sworn elected duty by crossing the state line to avoid the Sergeant-at-Arms.

    In my estimation, that is a pretty easy TV ad to make and play and replay until even the most ideological Wisconsin progressive runs out of ways to shift the topic, name call and invent lies.

    As a side note, I reject the comparison between “debating” Obamacare and the Wisconsin reforms. Walker laid out his terms in full and it got a debate in the press. However, it did not get a debate on the Senate floor, but only because the members most opposed to it refused to debate.

    Obamacare was never, ever laid out in full to be debated in either the press or on the floor of Congress. If there is any resemblance between the two events, it is in the shenanigans the Democrats pulled in each to prevent debate. What Walker finally did via applying perhaps arcane rules was procedural jockeying at worst. To this day, I do not know how Obamacare passed while bypassing so many House and Senate rules. (Thankfully, the idea of “deeming” it passed was not employed. Levi insists that Bush “deemed” us into war and look what it has done to his alleged mind.)

    Comment by Heliotrope — March 13, 2011 @ 9:58 am - March 13, 2011

  14. Heliotrope is correct about ObamaCare; it was purposely hidden away from the public because the more it was debated out in public, it would have been rejected. This is why ObamaCare remains a radioactive albatross for the Democrats. And the Republicans must deal with it properly by defunding it outright in the new budget. Cut the $105 billion. Cut out HHS czar, Kathleen Sebelius. ObamaCare has already been crippled by Judge Vinson. Now the Supereme Court & Congress must kill ObamaCare ASAP.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — March 13, 2011 @ 10:07 am - March 13, 2011

  15. My son, who works at a unionized supermarket, was just hired to work at a non-union supermarket. The pay, the benefits, and the hours are all superior at the non-union shop; and he no longer has part of his pay confiscated by the union even though he’s not a member.

    Tell me again how employees need unions to make sure they’re treated fairly?

    Comment by V the K — March 13, 2011 @ 12:05 pm - March 13, 2011

  16. VtheK,

    Your son no longer has thugs at his back. (As if he needs them.)

    Comment by Heliotrope — March 13, 2011 @ 12:23 pm - March 13, 2011

  17. Maybe the word for what Walker curtailed is the union’s “extraordinary powers”. Let’s try it out:

    Similarly, while people favor the rights of public employees to organize in the abstract, the more they learn the details of Walker’s reforms curtailing their privileges extraordinary powers, the more citizens will realize how these reforms protect Wisconsin taxpayers from unions who have gained an inordinate amount of power in recent years. As the reforms limit the unions’ privileges extraordinary powers, they giving [sic] local governments (including school districts) greater flexibility in providing benefits to their employees.

    Whaddaya think?

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 13, 2011 @ 12:30 pm - March 13, 2011

  18. Or maybe just “powers”. Walker curtailed the union’s powers? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe “privileges” was fine.

    But in larger point, for the Left, a “right” is often a special authority to trample people’ rights, that the Left would like to put beyond doubt or question by referring to it as a right. Kind of like Gollum referring to the Ring as his birthday present.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 13, 2011 @ 1:43 pm - March 13, 2011

  19. The union big government drug addicts are going through the stages of withdrawal.

    Comment by Sebastian Shaw — March 13, 2011 @ 5:14 pm - March 13, 2011

  20. Hi Dan,
    You asked on what basis Repubs could possibly go wrong here? After all, they are cutting costs of government, they are increasing flexibility, and once people settle down and see the benefits, folks will back Repubs. It might go down that way. After all, curbing unions doesn’t seem to have long term affects in other states that did it in the past. And, as people learn more about what healthcare changes are coming down the pike, they also look more favourably on Obamacare as well. Ironic claim, I know, given the thread.

    One possible alternative: I think context matters, and 2011, is not 2006. It is possible that people watching this might conclude that the way to balance the budget is not to ask for sacrifice from everyone including the wealthy, but just from those lower on the rungs. When governors speak of getting jobs by “keeping employment costs down,” what they are really saying is that those jobs will pay less than they might have 5 or 10 years ago, somewhere else. Granting differences for costs of living in different parts of the country, it does not augur well for the middle class in this country.

    One part of that middle class has been made up of reasonably well paid professionals and workers. Unions have helped workers sustain themselves in the middle ranges of salaries. We are seeing the ongoing scalloping out of workers as part of the middle class (in terms of diminishing unions competing for salaries); and the move is on for professionals like teachers (and workers) employed by local, state, and Fed authorities to go the same way.

    So, what context? The context of bail-outs for wealthy companies and investors; whilst people lower down go under in their mortgages. The record profitability of companies and those that run them. High unemployment rates. Record subsidies for corporations and the wealthy, and relatively low tax rates (historically speaking). Income and wealth inequalities that are increasing at a rapid clip. It will not be hard to paint Repub moves as examples of politicians who care more for the rich than they do for the middle class. That is a stereotype–I know (Dems did almost as much to help out the wealthy without regard to those lower down the economic rungs)), but it isn’t helped by Repub rhetoric that seems to support it.

    Ultimately, Dan, your view may prevail, but there are reasons why people talk about over-reach. They could be very wrong; time will tell.

    Comment by Cas — March 13, 2011 @ 7:31 pm - March 13, 2011

  21. Cas – I can’t say that unions have done anything for me… I’ve never worked in a union shop and I suspect working in a union-domintated field would have been a big negative for my career (a senior engineer without a degree). My other half had to take a job for a short time at a grocery store in the San Diego area – a union shop. He didn’t get paid as well as the kids at In & Out (they start at $10) and he still had to pay the dues. With the union, there’s no chance to advance ahead of people who’d simply worked there longer (regardless of who was a better employee).

    Cutting gubmint worker pay by itself won’t solve our fiscal issues (government pension liabilities are another matter, though).

    The real meat is in entitlements (the Big Three: Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid). I’m in my fifties so SS is a big concern for me. I accept that retirement ages need to be adjusted – it’s a simple fact. But before goring my ox, the low-hanging fruit (NPR comes to mind, $100K+ bus drivers, FDNY firemen retiring on disability who run marathons to stay busy…) needs to be picked.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — March 13, 2011 @ 8:18 pm - March 13, 2011

  22. Cas – I can’t say that unions have done anything for me… I’ve never worked in a union shop and I suspect working in a union-domintated field would have been a big negative for my career (a senior engineer without a degree). My other half had to take a job for a short time at a grocery store in the San Diego area – a union shop. He didn’t get paid as well as the kids at In & Out (they start at $10) and he still had to pay the dues. With the union, there’s no chance to advance ahead of people who’d simply worked there longer (regardless of who was a better employee).

    Cutting gubmint worker pay by itself won’t solve our fiscal issues (government pension liabilities are another matter, though).

    The real meat is in entitlements (the Big Three: Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid). I’m in my fifties so SS is a big concern for me. I accept that retirement ages need to be adjusted – it’s a simple fact. But before goring my ox, the low-hanging fruit (NPR comes to mind, $100K+ bus drivers, FDNY firemen retiring on disability who run marathons to stay busy…) needs to be picked.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — March 13, 2011 @ 8:18 pm - March 13, 2011

  23. Please forgive double post… not sure how I managed that.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — March 13, 2011 @ 8:19 pm - March 13, 2011

  24. Maybe Governor Walker should do what Pepe Lobo, President of Honduras has done. He informed the union that he would not
    negotiate while teachers were not in the classrooms of the nations public schools. He told them teachers may protest on saturdays and sundays only. If they fail to show for work they will be docked one days pay for every day they fail to do there jobs.

    Comment by Roberto — March 13, 2011 @ 9:00 pm - March 13, 2011

  25. Hi SCR,
    Sorry your experience with unions was not that great. For the most part, mine has been pretty OK, though the first on, last off rule irks me. I am usually one of the late-comers. However, I can understand one rationale for that rule. Ageism exists in our society. Older, more experienced workers, are usually paid more (reflecting previous increases due to experience or enhanced skill sets). They are also an attractive source of cost savings–get rid of an expensive older worker, and replace them with a younger, less experienced worker. Teaching comes to mind, as one field where this is potentially true. And a worker, let go at 45-55 is less likely to find a comparable job to the one he or she just left.

    “The real meat is in entitlements” Yes, there is some real meat there, but these entitlements are provided, primarily, for those lower on the economic rungs. The point I raised above is that WI activities just mirror Federal realities. The pain that is being offered as medicine to cure our economic ails is aimed squarely at the less well-off and the middle class. Exactly what it that the wealthiest in this country are being asked to contribute in the sacrifices that we have to make as a nation, in the extraordinary time since 9-11? In the past, it was in the form of higher taxation. But not any time since 9-11. On the other hand, the wealthiest benefit most from a whole slew of legislative benefits–subsidies, support for rent-seeking behaviours, etc., and these benefits show themselves in increasingly skewed income and wealth inequalities in our society. To be fair, these boondoogles were bequeathed by Dem and Repub alike.

    It was this reality that is the basis of my alternative reading of the situation that Dan paints. I am less sanguine than he is that this will end well for Republicans. It might work out well, of course, but Repubs ignore this issue of increasing economic inequality and its causation at their peril.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 2:11 am - March 14, 2011

  26. but Repubs ignore this issue of increasing economic inequality and its causation at their peril.

    How come the answer to such imagined inequality is to demand that the “rich” become poorer and NEVER helping the poorer become richer (which they have over the last 40 years or so)? Sensible people do not obsess over the fact that there are those who are more well off. Further, sensible people do what’s necessary to make more money instead of insisting that others make less.

    When has making people poorer ever been a successful campaign strategy? Or are you just hoping Republicans will make a meaningless gesture of biting their lip while proclaiming “I feel your pain”?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 14, 2011 @ 3:16 am - March 14, 2011

  27. Ah the brave and valiant journalist Paula Brooks, reduced to simpering drive by posts because reality slapped her in the face.

    That sounds like a wonderful idea Roberto!

    Comment by The_Livewire — March 14, 2011 @ 10:47 am - March 14, 2011

  28. Hi TGC,
    You emphasize:
    “How come the answer to such imagined inequality is to demand that the “rich” become poorer and NEVER helping the poorer become richer (which they have over the last 40 years or so)?”
    “When has making people poorer ever been a successful campaign strategy?”

    First, increasing income inequality is real, and rising–not “imagined.”
    Second, it is hard to understand how one can claim that one will be made poorer, when asked to pay more, IF one is doing both relatively and absolutely better than those further down the economic rungs. I used to have a salary that was 10 times greater than someone else’s, now it is 300 times greater. An increase in my marginal tax rate in that case is not making me poorer, when seen against the total increase in my income over time. Under any measure you wish to make, the wealthiest members of society are getting wealthier… As I have said before, one cause of increasing wealth for those at the top is the level of transfers through subsidies that have the wealthy as their ultimate beneficiaries.

    And, as for making the poorer richer, well–unions helped in that role, but many here oppose them. So, how do you intend to make the poorer richer, exactly?

    Sensibility–yes, I get that. Yet sensibility is more than looking out for one’s own business. It also concerns perceptions of equality (in opportunity at the very least). What equality of opportunity is there, when many face the spectre of rising unemployment, foreclosures, whilst the wealthy get hand outs and bail outs? This does not bode well for Repubs who are seen as guarantors of the interests of the wealthy. Whether that is true or not, is not the issue; that is the perception. So, it doesn’t take a lot to imagine the possibility that the resentment about this spills over against Repubs. And I just don’t see social issues have the same driving force that they once did (but I could be very mistaken about that!).

    So, I expect more Dems will vote next November. And if that is true, that won’t be good for Repubs.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 11:34 am - March 14, 2011

  29. Thank you LIvewire.

    Unions are a 19th century institution that has outlived its usefulness and should be discarded. It has generated into mafia like group of extortionists forcing employees to pay for the right to work and managemnet to pay more so they can extort dues from the rank and file.

    Comment by Roberto — March 14, 2011 @ 11:37 am - March 14, 2011

  30. Correction: LIne two s/b degenerated. into, etc.

    Comment by Roberto — March 14, 2011 @ 11:38 am - March 14, 2011

  31. And now let’s demonstrate how Cas’s rhetoric once again contradicts itself.

    And, as for making the poorer richer, well–unions helped in that role,

    Not so, since union rules invariably result in people being fired from their jobs, as even Cas admits.

    For the most part, mine has been pretty OK, though the first on, last off rule irks me. I am usually one of the late-comers.

    Especially interesting, since those who are retained are higher-paid and those who are fired are lower-paid.

    Older, more experienced workers, are usually paid more (reflecting previous increases due to experience or enhanced skill sets). They are also an attractive source of cost savings–get rid of an expensive older worker, and replace them with a younger, less experienced worker.

    So what unions produce is that lower-paid, less-advantaged, poorer people lose their jobs to protect wealthier, higher-paid individuals. These poorer, less-experienced individuals are prevented from participating and having jobs mainly because the union only cares about wealthier, higher-paid individuals.

    In contrast, in a non-union shop, workers that need to be laid off are selected based on the value of their labor. A less-senior, more low-paid, and better-performing individual may be retained in place of a higher-paid, less-productive individual. In the union situation, the less-productive individual is retained and the more-productive individual is let go.

    This is another great example of how liberals’ criticism of companies and whatnot is really just projection of the discrimination and inequality that they practice in their own systems.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — March 14, 2011 @ 11:56 am - March 14, 2011

  32. And, as for making the poorer richer, well–unions helped in that role, but many here oppose them.

    But at what cost? When the companies shut down, who’s richer other than the union bosses and the liberals they bought and paid for?

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 14, 2011 @ 12:08 pm - March 14, 2011

  33. And, as for making the poorer richer, well–unions helped in that role, but many here oppose them.

    Wrong on many counts.

    1) Who, here, opposes unions? I know I don’t.

    I simply think they should be transparent and accountable; not given special powers to trample other people. Does that make me an opponent? If so, then are *you* really saying that unions are inherently abusive and unaccountable?

    2) In fact, unions have not “made the poorer richer”.

    Henry Ford put forth his famous $5-a-day wage (then an unheard-of increase in the working man’s wages) – without unions.

    It’s true that when unions are given special powers to trample other people, they can succeed in raising their wages to above-market rates – but then, in doing so, they create unemployment. So they can enrich particular individuals – especially union officials. But never working/poor people as a whole, or on average.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 12:32 pm - March 14, 2011

  34. Hi ILC,
    “Who, here, opposes unions? I know I don’t”
    Just one comment from this thread: “Unions are a 19th century institution that has outlived its usefulness and should be discarded. It has generated into mafia like group of extortionists forcing employees to pay for the right to work and managemnet to pay more so they can extort dues from the rank and file.”

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 12:57 pm - March 14, 2011

  35. Cas, again, is that opposition – or merely a desire that unions be made transparent and accountable?

    Does wanting unions to be transparent and accountable – wanting them to *not* be “like group of extortionists forcing employees to pay for the right to work and managemnet to pay more so they can extort dues” – inherently make a person an opponent of unions?

    And if you think it does: then wouldn’t you be saying, in effect, that unions are inherently abusive and unaccountable?

    All questions that I already posed. I guess you just chose not to understand/answer them.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 1:00 pm - March 14, 2011

  36. (continued) As for the rest of Roberto’s comment, he did say unions “should be discarded”, but that may be taken as hyperbole because in the same sentence, he also conceded implicitly that unions once had usefulness, i.e. can in principle be useful.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 1:05 pm - March 14, 2011

  37. ILC,

    Unions *do* serve a purpose, much like the auto-immune system. They are a bargaining amplifier for the skilled workforce. The balance between labor and corporation becomes when the skilled labor is still slightly less than hiring new people to be trained to replace them.

    So in the livng structure of private enterprise, a weak labor pool is vulnerable to opportunistic infections (market fluctations, declining safety, corruption etc.) an overly strong labor pool will tear the business organism apart (think rheumotoid arthritis).

    The problem with *public* unions is that the ‘immune function’ is more like a cancer. They need to protect from ‘corrupt executives’ is not needed (the workers have the ability to vote political figures out of office). They’ve co-opted organs (influencing politicians, who negotiate with the unions) and take over vital systems (diverting money for their lush benefits, not caring if the body of the state dies)

    I stand corrected, it’s like the appendix. A small organ that serves no non-reduntant functions, and can kill the parent organism if not removed before it bursts.

    Comment by The_Livewire — March 14, 2011 @ 1:06 pm - March 14, 2011

  38. Add in the cost of fear, intimidation, murder, assault, vandalism, pink sheeting etc. and are people really getting richer?

    Without calling it thus, Cas, the libs are all about Trickle-up Poverty. It’s pushed from Chairman Obama all the way down to the lowliest KOShole. Soviet style class warfare never works.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 14, 2011 @ 1:08 pm - March 14, 2011

  39. Sorry TL, scratching my head over your last. Again, I don’t oppose unions.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 1:09 pm - March 14, 2011

  40. “Henry Ford put forth his famous $5-a-day wage (then an unheard-of increase in the working man’s wages) – without unions.”

    Yes, he did so. The counterfactual still remains.
    “they can succeed in raising their wages to above-market rates – but then, in doing so, they create unemployment.”

    Yes, in a perfectly competitive economy, I grant the claim. However, in a less than perfect economy, open to oligopolistic/monopolistic forces (i.e., where corporations have economic power to affect price), this result doesn’t have to hold. Unions and corporations fight not over how much will be produced (economic efficiency) but rather over how economic profits are going to be divided. The US economy is not a perfectly competitive marketplace.

    To that extent, I support union demands for higher wages.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 1:10 pm - March 14, 2011

  41. “[unions] can succeed in raising their wages to above-market rates – but then, in doing so, they create unemployment.”

    Yes, in a perfectly competitive economy, I grant the claim. However… where corporations have economic power to affect price), this result doesn’t have to hold.

    Sure it does. The higher wages go, the fewer workers the corporation will employ – oligopoly/monopoly, or not.

    And again, I’m talking about a situation where the union is given extraordinary powers by force of law – for example, the power to deny other people’s right to practice their profession, if they don’t join the union first and do it all the union’s way.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 1:16 pm - March 14, 2011

  42. Unions and corporations fight not over how much will be produced (economic efficiency) but rather over how economic profits are going to be divided.

    WRONG.

    Economic efficiency involves the minimum use of resources to produce the maximum amount of value. “Economic efficiency” is NOT simply the sheer volume of what can be produced. The Soviet Union had a tremendous capacity for volume, but was extraordinarily economically inefficient, a fact which Reagan cannily exploited in forcing the Soviets to overextend themselves in a desperate attempt to keep up with the United States.

    In regard to economic efficiency, unions are exactly contrary to it. Unions stand for increasing cost of labor regardless of price or demand for product. Unions adamantly oppose any improvements in process or technology that increase productivity and diminish resource requirements. Unions demand that companies retain people solely on the basis of seniority with no regard whatsoever for performance and fire people who refuse to do the union’s bidding — that is, they demand inferior resources be retained over superior and more value-conscious ones.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — March 14, 2011 @ 1:20 pm - March 14, 2011

  43. Sorry ILC,

    I was attributing the quote Cas cited as being attributed to you.

    The Livewire appologizes for his error.

    Comment by The_Livewire — March 14, 2011 @ 1:43 pm - March 14, 2011

  44. ILC

    I did not intend any hyperbole. My initial words are ¨Unions are a 19th century intstitution.¨ When the Industrial Revolution began, there was exploitation of the rank and file; child labor, a 72 hour work week, and a total disregard for employess safety. That´s when unions were useful.
    Now they are a degenerate organization interested in the enrichment of its executives. They have decimated the industrial sector of the country.
    The high unemployment in Michigan, empty factories in Pennsylvania and the John A Roebling & Sons factory in Trenton, NJ are testimonies to unions hatred of manufactures. There is a sign that lights up at night on the lower bridge over the Delaware River that states ¨Trenton makes, the world takes.¨What does it make now. Even Lennox Pottery is gone.
    Their disdain is not limited to manufacturers but even to government as an employer, vis a´vis, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and if Governor Moonbeam has any ¨cajones¨ California.

    Comment by Roberto — March 14, 2011 @ 1:51 pm - March 14, 2011

  45. Since Cas loves the jargon of economics so very much, I’m wondering if I should give her a hint, that the word/concept she might have really wanted (but failed to use on me) was monopsony. Not monopoly.

    But it still wouldn’t make a lot of difference: monopsonies exist / have economic advantages only in textbooks and the short term; not in the long term, due to mobility of labor including people’s long-term ability to change both the location and the type of labor that they supply.

    And even looking at a genuine monopsony, for the short run: my comments would still apply, that if the union had such legal privileges that it could drive wages *past* the maximum rate that market efficiency could support, then it would create unemployment.

    ILC I did not intend any hyperbole

    OK, great. So after mis-proclaiming that “many” here oppose unions, Cas can find *one* person who does. Whoopee! :-)

    When the Industrial Revolution began, there was exploitation of the rank and file; child labor, a 72 hour work week, and a total disregard for employess safety. That´s when unions were useful.

    Even that is debatable. People (including children) took the jobs because, however grungy or exploitive they may seem to us now, they were a genuine step up from working on the farm and/or doing nothing at all. And child labor and the 40 hour work week were ended largely by voluntary action of business, i.e. by rising living standards, i.e. by capitalism; unions were a dramatic/visible factor in some instances, but far from universally, and never as the decisive or creative factor.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 2:01 pm - March 14, 2011

  46. Hi ILC,
    “The higher wages go, the fewer workers the corporation will employ – oligopoly/monopoly, or not.”

    Not in the case I mentioned. In that case, firms pick a point of production, then choose the labour they need for that level of production. Unions and corporations argue about how the profits from that level of production are split (e.g., Sweezy model of kinked demand). There is leeway in what the level of wages can be before they start affecting production.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 2:04 pm - March 14, 2011

  47. Hi ILC,
    “People (including children) took the jobs because, however grungy or exploitive they may seem to us now, they were a genuine step up from working on the farm and/or doing nothing at all. ”

    Just thought you would like this. From a 19th century commission in the UK…

    “No. 14–Isabella Read, 12 years old, coal-bearer.
    Works on mother’s account, as father has been dead two years. Mother bides at home, she is troubled with bad breath, and is sair weak in her body from early labour. I am wrought with sister and brother, it is very sore work; cannot say how many rakes or journeys I make from pit’s bottom to wall face and back, thinks about 30 or 25 on the average; the distance varies from 100 to 250 fathom. I carry about 1cwt and a quarter on my back; have to stoop much and creep through water, which is frequently up to the calves of my legs. When first down fell frequently asleep while waiting for coal from heat and fatigue.
    I do not like the work, nor do the lassies, but they are made to like it.”
    http://applebutter.freeservers.com/worker/index2.html

    cwt = hundredweight was actually 112 pounds. The the load she carried was 140 pounds over a distance of 100 to 250 fathom or 600 to 1500 feet.

    Also, remember the impact of the the Enclosure Acts which funneled people into the cities. It was work or starve.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 2:11 pm - March 14, 2011

  48. in the case I mentioned… firms pick a point of production, then choose the labour they need for that level of production

    And if the labor is expensive enough – say, because the union was legally established as an abusive monopoly supplier – then the firms will give up and not produce anything. My point stands.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 2:12 pm - March 14, 2011

  49. Hi ILC,
    “OK, great. So after mis-proclaiming that “many” here oppose unions, Cas can find *one* person who does. Whoopee!”
    You are most welcome. :)

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 2:12 pm - March 14, 2011

  50. Hi ILC,
    “And if the labor is expensive enough – say, because the union was legally established as an abusive monopoly supplier – then the firms will give up and not produce anything. My point stands.”

    In theory, I guess it does. However, think about this–in reality, you are saying, at the limit, workers get all of the economic profit. So, the firm would end up paying its workers millions of dollars each for their work… hmm, why do I think that isn’t going to happen? Can you think of instances where that has happened? Workers get paid a premium in this case, but don’t expect to be paid everything… So, they negotiate, like they do with everything else (corporation gets some, the workers through their union, gets some)–and I think that historically, that is the way it has worked out, right?

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 2:17 pm - March 14, 2011

  51. Hi ILC,
    “the word/concept she might have really wanted (but failed to use on me) was monopsony. Not monopoly.”

    Break it down further, as you are still a little unclear in your usage:

    Assume a union and a monopolist firm. Workers in the union have monopoly power in the labour market, supply side (as it is the only SELLER of this type of labour). The corporation has monopoly power in the product market (as it is the only SELLER in the product market). The firm also has monopsony power in the labour market (as it is the only BUYER of this type of labour, for its monopoly product).

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 2:25 pm - March 14, 2011

  52. #47 – Fits with what I said. “19th century” means England was coming out of the Middle Ages, a time in which both the girl and her mother probably would have starved. That the job existed for them to not starve was, at the time, something of an advance. That general living standards continued to rise, eventually eliminating that job and providing still other means of support, was a further advance.

    #51 – Yes, exactly what I had in mind.

    #50 -

    you are saying, at the limit, workers get all of the economic profit.

    No. I’m saying that labor is a market, with supply and demand factors that result in a market price and quantity. I’m saying that whenever a situation exists when the price is forced above-market by government action(e.g. monopoly privileges to the union – but it could also be dictated e.g. wage controls), then employers – whether monopoly, monopsony, both or neither – must and will consume a lower quantity, creating the situation of oversupply known as “unemployment”. I’m saying that no employer exists in the real world – not even government – which can set a point of production without regard to consumer price, and so can infinitely pass above-market costs onto consumers, leaving bankruptcy as another possible cause of eventual unemployment.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 3:01 pm - March 14, 2011

  53. (continued) Now, in a case where government has granted monopoly and/or monopsony privileges to the employer – an example of the latter might be a slave labor camp – then yes, the employer can force a below-market wage. And a union, possibly with government privileges also, will counteract that. But the best solution (by far) would be for government to abolish all the artificial privileges. No slave labor… and no slave employers.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 3:13 pm - March 14, 2011

  54. Hi NDT,
    People lose jobs for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, it is because unions ask for too high a wage in a perfectly competitive market, and so workers are laid off. I grant that happens. It is bad.

    Sometimes firms cut back because the economy goes south, and aggregate demand falls (and hence demand for their product), so they don’t need as many workers as they once did. In that case, union rules act to stop management from cutting higher paid workers (usually more experienced and skilled). Unions are not the cause of the lay-offs. As my post made clear, it helps protect older workers; and this is something that hurts younger workers. I would like more flexibility, but I also understand why unions support this rule–older workers tend to have families to support in larger numbers than do younger workers. Younger workers are not affected by ageist prejudice (yet!).

    “A less-senior, more low-paid, and better-performing individual may be retained in place of a higher-paid, less-productive individual. In the union situation, the less-productive individual is retained and the more-productive individual is let go.”

    Yes, I grant that can and sadly, does, happen. But it also happens in a non-unionized workplace, that a highly skilled and productive individual will be let go, to make way for a less skilled and less expensive alternative. Private schools make these kinds of decisions. Corporations do as well. It might not be rational, but if the key statistic is lowering costs, one can cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face (short run good, long run bad).

    “Economic efficiency involves the minimum use of resources to produce the maximum amount of value. “Economic efficiency” is NOT simply the sheer volume of what can be produced.”
    Sounds reasonable to me. When I say “pick a level of output” put whatever qualifiers you want on it–be it quantity and quality constraints.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 3:46 pm - March 14, 2011

  55. Hi ILC,
    “I’m saying that whenever a situation exists when the price is forced above-market by government action(e.g. monopoly privileges to the union – but it could also be dictated e.g. wage controls), then employers – whether monopoly, monopsony, both or neither – must and will consume a lower quantity, creating the situation of oversupply known as “unemployment”.”

    I grant you your case, for competitive markets. But when market power exists, your result does not have to hold. The Sweezy kinked demand model is an illustration of this.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 3:50 pm - March 14, 2011

  56. Hi ILC,
    “Fits with what I said. “19th century” means England was coming out of the Middle Ages, a time in which both the girl and her mother probably would have starved. That the job existed for them to not starve was, at the time, something of an advance.”

    Yes, you could see it this way. Would it make any difference to you if I told you that England had been going through a long period of enclosures, which robbed many in rural England of the ability to make a traditional living in the countryside, so that they would have to come into the cities to find jobs or starve? They went from one untenable position (caused by government handouts to the wealthy) to working in the cities for bare subsistence, in occupations that left them debilitated and dead before their time.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 3:56 pm - March 14, 2011

  57. And once again, Cas contradicts itself.

    Younger workers are not affected by ageist prejudice (yet!).

    Except for the blatant ones Cas has, in which it states that younger workers are expendable because they are always less experienced and don’t have families.

    In that case, union rules act to stop management from cutting higher paid workers (usually more experienced and skilled).

    I would like more flexibility, but I also understand why unions support this rule–older workers tend to have families to support in larger numbers than do younger workers.

    So Cas is making assumptions based on peoples’ age and defending rules that discriminate on the basis of age and seniority rather than actual performance and contribution.

    And that makes this contradiction utterly hilarious.

    But it also happens in a non-unionized workplace, that a highly skilled and productive individual will be let go, to make way for a less skilled and less expensive alternative.

    Of course.

    Like when a company decides to cut unnecessary layers of management.

    But what makes this really funny is that leftists like Cas will shriek bloody murder when a company lays off lower-paid and less-experienced employees and retains executives and managers, which ARE more experienced and skilled.

    This is where companies are far superior to unions. Companies will do that which makes the most business sense — namely, figuring out who needs to be retained based on net contribution and value to the organization.

    Unions, on the other hand, do not care about contribution or value to the organization; they only care about jacking the cost of labor higher and higher regardless of performance and of ensuring that the haves always win out over the have-nots.

    Again, the projection here is hilarious. Cas rails against alleged practices of corporations and private businesses while defending and supporting these very same practices by unions.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — March 14, 2011 @ 4:08 pm - March 14, 2011

  58. No worries NDT,
    If you see words like “tend” and want to assert that means “always” knock yourself out. And as for the rest, arguing with you about what is written and how you interpret it, is pretty pointless. Too-de-loo…

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 7:41 pm - March 14, 2011

  59. when market power exists, your result does not have to hold

    Well then. Kindly name one firm with such pricing power that no matter how high labor costs go, it can *always* pass the cost on to its customers.

    As you prepare to do so, kindly reflect on the fact that if such an entity ever existed, it would have to be destroyed, because it would have no incentive to contain either labor costs or what it takes in profits; it could and would increase either or both, until it had drained all wealth from the rest of society.

    The Sweezy kinked demand model

    Fine. Go look at the illustration of it, in the upper right corner of this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinked_demand

    Now kindly reflect on the fact that the diagram has failed to show a fourth MC curve, let’s call it MC0, sitting a sufficient distance above MC1 that it “exhausts” the MR dotted line, driving the firm out of business and causing unemployment.

    Every firm has its breaking point. Yes, in situations where the government has created barriers to entry (e.g., regulatory) giving a firm monopolistic power, and then likewise privileges a union with monopolistic powers on the labor supply side, there will be a zone where the union’s efforts merely extract profits from the firm in a bipolar zero-sum game; as I have stated before (and in effect). That zone is not infinite. Grant the union enough privileges – drive labor costs high enough – and you will bankrupt the firm, even if it is monopolistically privileged by the government (or perhaps, is the government). The solution, both from an optimization standpoint and morally, is for government to strip *both* the firm and the union of artificial privileges violating general rights of property, free association, production and trade. In other words: Eliminate government-created barriers to entry, in both the firm’s market and in the labor market, other than criminal law which must be enforced impartially. Or: Total separation of Business and State.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — March 14, 2011 @ 8:32 pm - March 14, 2011

  60. Hi ILC,
    “Well then. Kindly name one firm with such pricing power that no matter how high labor costs go, it can *always* pass the cost on to its customers.”

    Honestly, I can’t. By all means push the example I offer to breaking point, but as I said before, the real world doesn’t appear to work that way–it tends to work by negotiated settlements where unions get more for their members than what firms want to give them, and firms keep making the product, and they don’t fire people (given the market conditions I outline).

    But remember, if you do push this example to breaking point, it is only fair to allow me to push favoured positions on this blog to such extremes–after all, if less taxation is better, why not keep going, till we have none, so we have no government at all? That will work best, right? Get government out of business’ way all together. And when I ask the question–can you think of nations with that situation, I will acknowledge some candidates: they are usually called “failed states.” So, I think reality suggests that there is room for some government,..

    As for government regulation of business–I believe there is an optimal level, and I guess you and I can argue about that another time.

    Comment by Cas — March 14, 2011 @ 9:32 pm - March 14, 2011

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