In Wisconsin, emotional appeals for the rights of workers and the salvation of the middle class have revealed a great deal of ugliness beneath the slogans and chants. One aspect of the right to collectively bargain that doesn't get much play is the fear from unions and Democrats that campaign funding might be affected, especially if unions lose their coercive ability to force public workers into unions and also force the payment of union dues.
There is serious battle in America between political forces to gain control of a powerful State, from the individual states to Washington DC at the national level. Local, state and federal governance controls more resources than ever before and the stakes are higher than ever before. Unions are now the sine qua non of the Democrat Party, the source of Democrat Party financing and on-the-ground operations to get Democrats elected. Unions know that their financial survival depends on an interventionist government which favors their goals. If unions are reduced to voluntary membership and unforced negotiations, they will wither away, and Democrats will be forced to find other funding. Democrats have been working on co-opting business to get more funding through promises of green energy contracts, and Boeing just landed a billion dollar government contract in Washington state, a blue state, that was killed in Alabama, a red state. Democrats see the writing on the wall.
The public still has a traditional soft spot for unions, because at one time unions were seen by workers as fighters for better conditions and better pay. So many laws have been passed through the years to protect worker rights, though, that unions are now seen by a growing number in the public as strong-arm groups favored by government who are exploiting tax payers and businesses at the expense of private sector non-union workers. The battle lines are being drawn because states are in financial trouble, taxpayers are worried about the recession and private businesses are not hiring over concerns regarding a regulatory flurry at the national level by a union-friendly government which can add huge costs to doing business.
It remains to be seen if the New Republican Party is serious about limiting the power of government, or if this battle is the same old battle for statist power. If Republicans are serious about limiting government's intervention into the economy, this will be good for all workers, but not so good for unions. Unions are faced with a decision to fight Republicans, businesses and non-union, private sector workers or to innovate and find a way to work with private companies to increase their value in the private sector.
With the mounting national debt, government jobs will likely be reduced as more government services are either scrapped because of redundancy or turned over to the private sector. Reducing the size and scope of government power is the only way to address the debt problems, because taxing the rich is insufficient. I'm sure that government will tax the rich anyway, but it won't be enough, and as companies find more opportunities overseas, capital will shift from America to growing economies elsewhere. The US is faced with either lowering the cost of doing business in America or losing business. So there are limits to how much the rich can offset the unfunded liabilites of our government from promises made through entitlements -- and Americans are retiring in record numbers, so the entitlment problem is growing.
Since taxing the rich will not be enough, the private sector is the only legitimate answer to economic growth, because we can't tax and spend or cut our way out of debt and unemployment. Eventually it will become clear that we have to grow our way out by creating new wealth. Businesses have created a great deal of new wealth through productivity gains and efficiency, but so far there has been a lack of investment back into the economy and the unemployment rate remains high. Democrats and unions see this new wealth created and they want to grab it to pay down the debt and protect the statist, status quo. Many on the Right want to create a more business-friendly, low-cost, free market environment so that companies will increase investment, growth and hiring. The Left views the wealth created by businesses as part of a national pot to be redistributed by government.
We can continue down this statist path, and I've written about this for years, but it's a deadend. If the public falls for the emotional populist message pushed by the unions and the Democrat Party, the wealth will be squandered or pushed overseas or hidden or diverted into non-productive activities. The only way out of this is by limiting government power and creating a free market, and the beginning of this transition should entail an end to all corporate welfare, and end to the wars, and the beginning of turning everything possible over to the private sector that we can as soon as we can, especially education. The State has had its chance and the State has failed. Unions and Democrats are fighting for a dead past -- and this is no way to win the future.