Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is Walker's Budget Proposal About Money or Workers' Rights?

The protests in Madison regarding Governor Scott Walker's (R-WI) latest budget proposal brings up a question of what the bill is actually advocating.  The advocates for the bill state that it's about cutting back on the budget deficit.  The pro-union side is making the claim that is the beginning of the end of labor unions, and that at the rate we are going, it will be like "Nazi Germany":

The inflammatory rhetoric and posters from the Left set aside for a moment, we need to reflect on the definition of a right for a moment, since this is the primary complaint of the union workers.  If we are going to define a "right" so liberally, I can gripe about my right to have a Rolls Royce and a lifetime supply of kosher food personally delivered to my house.  No one in their right mind would consider these rights.  That is why we need to get a working definition of "right." 

In his book Libertarianism: A Primer, David Boaz dedicates an entire chapter towards rights, in which he discusses such sub-topics as equality before the law, non-aggression, freedom of contract, freedom of conscience, and property rights.  In terms of defining what is not a right, he stated the approach quite succinctly:

"The [other] approach is to go back to first principles, to assess each rights claim in the light of each individual's right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.  Fundamental rights cannot conflict.  Any claim of conflicting rights must represent a misinterpretation of fundamental rights (p. 89)."

To tie this to the issue at hand, we now beg the question of whether collective bargaining, also known as monopoly unionism, is a right or not.  Tax policy expert Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute weighs in on the issue:

"Unions certainly have free speech rights to voice their opinions about public policy. But collective bargaining gives unions the exclusive right to speak for covered workers, many of whom may disagree with the views of the monopoly union. Thus, collective bargaining is inconsistent with the right to freedom of association."

To re-iterate, collective bargaining speaks only for covered workers.  Collective bargaining has nothing to do with the "general welfare" of the people, a concept which is both of the preambles of the Wisconsin and national constitutions (also in Article I, Section 8, Clause 1).  Having taken a look at this issue this past Thursday, what I had outlined is that exorbitant financial incentives were given to the union workers.  We are talking about union members making more than their non-union counterparts, having to put in anywhere from a fourth to a sixth in health-care premiums than the national average, as well as a nice-sized pension.  Although there are some unions in the private sector, the biggest kvetchers at the protests have been the teachers, who, with benefits in consideration, make an average of nearly $78K a year in the state of Wisconsin [when you factor in benefits].  Since the amount of union workers in Wisconsin is above the national average, we have to wonder all the more where the money to pay for these benefits is originating.  The answer: the Wisconsin taxpayer.

Since the funding for the benefits is coming from the taxpayers of the state of Wisconsin, this makes the situation a whole lot simpler.  Money is earned by the taxpayer in order to be able to ensue in "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."  To take that money in the form of taxation in order to provide for the union worker's "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" is an infringement of the taxpayer's fundamental rights, or, as George Bernard Shaw put it, "You are robbing Peter to pay Paul."             

Monopoly unionism involves a special interest group that uses its money and power to allocate taxpayer dollars towards the benefit of union workers.  This sort of governmental favoritism infringes on the fundamental rights of every non-union taxpayer in the state of Wisconsin.  It also continues to increase the deficit of Wisconsin. 

What do you think the protests in Europe these past months have regarded?  Whether you look at Greece, Spain, or France, European governments promised the government workers lavishing benefits and salaries.  As if it were some sort of shock, what happens when you spend money you do not have?  Ballooning deficits!  Debt becomes out of control, and the only way to end the fiscal insanity is to limit government spending, which entails cutting unnecessary spending.  The entitlement mentality has been cultivated, and the same exact thing happens when you take candy away from a five-year old: temper tantrums.  We need to deal with the reality that the state of Wisconsin is dealing with a budget deficit of $137 million, and that the overall situation of debt is not pretty.  That means putting in more money than your non-union counterparts, although you'd still be putting in half of what the non-union worker puts towards his health-care premiums.

In summation, collective bargaining is not a right because having a non-union taxpayer paying for a union member's increased salary or benefits violates the fundamental rights of the non-union taxpayer.  When FDR, someone whose economic policies swung way to the Left, thought that it was a bad idea, that says something right there.  For those who dissent, invoking the slippery slope argument, which is a logical fallacy unto itself, of a regression of worker's rights that would make Upton Sinclair turn over in his grave is nothing more than a form of emotionalism to protect the special interests of unions. 

To make a long answer short, these protests have nothing to do with rights and everything to do with money.

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