Who will stand up to California’s public employee unions as Scott Walker stood up to their Wisconsin counterparts?
Those who would like to see the (once-)Golden State glitter once more should hope that we have a Scott Walker waiting in the wings. We need someone to bring real change to the state which once defined innovation and opportunity. Since that Republican’s much-maligned reforms passed the Wisconsin Legislature, the Badger State has been able to close its budget gap, see new jobs created watch school districts across the state renegotiate teacher contracts, saving taxpayers’ hundreds of thousands of dollars.
All this achieved because Walker stood up to the public employee unions who had, before the current legislative session, wielded considerable power in the state capital, preventing real cost-saving reform. They tried to wield that muscle in the recent recall elections, pumping millions into Democratic coffers and even walking precincts on behalf of Democratic candidates. All to little avail.
The unions, however, have been far more successful in California than they were this year in Wisconsin. Here, every Democrat has a built-in advantage over his Republican and not just because of the state’s demographics. Our public employee unions funded directly by the taxpayer, with employees’ dues siphoned off from their paychecks, provide the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) infrastructure for Democratic nominees as they support their favored political party with television ads and campaign contributions.
In return, the unions exercise considerable influence over elected Democrats, preventing them from enacting real reforms. As Joel Kotkin put it in his (must-read) piece on the decline of Los Angeles:
It’s a familiar story: because Democrats are almost assured of victory in L.A.’s general elections, candidates must win only the low-turnout, union-dominated party primaries. John Pérez, a longtime union political operative and now speaker of the California State Assembly, won the Democratic nomination in 2008 with fewer than 5,000 votes and then easily crushed the GOP candidate. Pérez’s predecessor as speaker was Fabian Núñez-another L.A. labor official. No wonder the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters calls the labor movement “the closest thing to an omnipotent political machine anywhere in the state.” (more…)