Warning: Union revolution is next(Read article summary)
Massively underfunded pension plans, overpaid public servants, entitled unions... They're in line for the next government bail-out, and when they don't get it, things will get ugly.
Susan Tusa/Detroit Free Press/AP
I'm drawing a line in the sand with this blog post. I will make some enemies and maybe some friends, but the intent is not to court favor with either side of this issue - rather it is to introduce a topic here that will likely see a great deal of future commentary on this site.
TRB is only a "political" blog in that I rail against both Republicans and Democrats, especially the ones who simply toe the party line regardless of the facts. Regular readers here know that I am conservative on some issues and liberal on others, and that my opinions are subject to change based on the facts - in other words, I am a thinking, feeling, sentient being and not a partisan imbecile.
Now that my cards are on the table and only the adults are still reading, I'd like to reveal what I believe will be the cause of the next social revolution: The bailing out of the unions.
There is a societal civil war coming. It will not be pleasant but will lead to structural improvement for the next phase of America. I say let it come.
Pension funds are somewhere north of being $3 trillion underfunded. Public sector union officials have learned a thing or two from the Captains of the Financial Services Industry in terms of throwing tantrums and making threats about the end of the world. They will pull the same shenanigans and more for their own bailouts; sit-ins, walk-offs, freeze-outs, lock-outs and protests were not a part of the banks' repertoire, but expect the public unions across the nation to engage in all of these activities.
And the majority of the people in the United States will be completely unmoved by their threats and their cries. Taxpayers will tell their elected officials to simply find people who will do the job for a reasonable cost; there is a 17% under-employed labor pool in this country, after all. There will be a push for privatization and outsourcing where the unions have priced themselves out of their own jobs. The disparity between salaries and benefits of public employees vs their private counterparts (now at 3x according to some estimates) has probably peaked.
The safety net will be shredded, the giveaways and exclusions for public sector employees are already extinct.
For those of us in the private sector, there is no guarantee of anything. If we lose our jobs, we must find new ones. If we cannot do so, we must beg and borrow. If this does not suffice, we end up living in our cars. No one is paying us for work that we did two decades ago, nor should they. Now that the benevolence of the citizenry has been exhausted, these basic realities, harsh as they may be, will begin to apply to those in the public sector as well.
Teaching, policing, firefighting, sanitation, emergency response - these are among the most essential professions in all of society. But society itself is now facing fundamental breakdown and so these professions must bear some of the sacrifice in order to contribute to its salvation. We're in trouble right now, everyone needs to get out of the car to push.
This realization will not come easily or quietly, but it will come inevitably. Government employees, from the federal level down to the smallest municipality, will learn to make choices the way the rest of us do and to accept the fact that things are not well for the revenue base.
As the whittling down of entitlements, gold-plated retirement promises, defined benefit fantasies and lifelong medical coverage commences, it will feel like a cultural civil war. Not a conflict based on class or income, but a clash of ideals that is decades in the making.
Change is indeed coming, though ironically, not quite the change we as a nation had in mind back in November of 2008. The taxpayers and employers have been pushed too far, and the next change will be them pushing back. Hard. I plan to chronicle this coming fight here on the site and will link to other material elsewhere in my efforts to tell this story in realtime.
And for those who become suddenly affronted by the reality of broken promises and life without guarantees, I say to you Welcome to the Jungle.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link above.