President Obama Has It Backwards

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The Public Unions Are Assaulting the Taxpayers

President Obama calls the effort by Wisconsin Governor Walker to curtail some of the power public unions have over the public purse an "assault on unions." On the contrary the public unions have responded to the Governor’s reasonable requests by launching an assault on the taxpayers. What is happening in Wisconsin is likely to happen in state capitols all across the country, including Pennsylvania, and one reason why we should free the taxpayers from the stranglehold public unions have over the public purse.

Over the years, largely as a result of the collective bargaining process, the combined pay and benefits for those working in the public sector in many cases grew to meet and then surpass by far those working in the private sector. John E. Nelson made $150,000 driving the city bus in Madison, Wisconsin in 2009. Another half dozen city bus drivers made over six figures that year. Reports indicate the pay and benefits of public sector workers are one and a half to two times larger than those in the private sector.

There is no money left in Wisconsin and in states across the country to pay these high wages and large benefits to public workers. Confronted with declining tax revenues and rising pay and benefit obligations, the only choice many state governors have to avert bankruptcy is to reduce pay and benefits for public sector workers and reform these out-of-control defined benefit pension plans, which are underfunded by hundreds of billions of dollars.

That is why I applaud Governor Walker’s request that state workers contribute a small amount toward their health insurance and pension in order to help Wisconsin close its projected budget deficit of $3.6 billion. The amount Governor Walker is asking state workers to contribute toward their benefits is much smaller than the amount most private sector workers are required to pay for theirs. This is a fair request considering public sector workers still have their jobs when millions of Americans in the private sector have lost theirs.

I also applaud Governor Walker for his efforts to reduce the power public sector unions have over the taxpayers by curtailing collective bargaining. Governor Walker is proposing to allow public workers the freedom not to join the union. The freedom not to be forced to belong to a union is a fundamental right of any American – and should be protected by the government.

Governor Walker also wants to end collective bargaining for benefits and work rules while keeping it for pay increases up to the rate of inflation. This seems fair considering it is the benefits and particularly the massive underfunded pension obligations that are bankrupting Wisconsin and states across the country.

It also seems fair because collective bargaining for work rules prevents government employers from adopting reforms such as merit-based pay and ending tenure – reforms that will help produce a more productive and responsive state work force. Furthermore, state workers have ample protections from employment discrimination and abuse through the civil service laws and the wide body of labor laws already in place that are unrelated to and will not be affected by any curtailment of collective bargaining.

Public unions will fight tooth and nail against any reduction in pay or benefits and any curtailment of collective bargaining. They will protest, strike, conduct sit-ins and shut down schools and government offices – on the taxpayers’ dime. These actions are wrong and harmful to the country.

Our public servants have become our public masters. Our Republic cannot last if controlled by public servants instead of the people. We must free ourselves from the stranglehold public unions have on the public purse, provide relief to overburdened taxpayers and help save states across the nation from bankruptcy.

Marc A. Scaringi is a candidate for the Republican nomination to the United States Senate in 2012

4075 Linglestown Rd, #322, Harrisburg, PA 17112