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Government-worker unions strive to fleece the public while maximizing government control of people’s lives. They are a cancer.

Private-industry unions are industry- and community-destroying machines. Since I made this case in this space a few weeks back, more evidence has arisen with the news that UAW demands have sent Ohio car production to Mexico. The absurdly named PRO Act would eviscerate the lower-middle class recovery of the Trump years.

Scott Shepard

Scott Shepard

Government-employee unions, though, are far worse.

Consider how they are funded, and what they do with that funding. The assets of a government-employee union come from taxpayers, because the taxpayers pay the salaries from which the union dues are drawn. The sole purpose of the unions, meanwhile, is to take as much more away from those taxpayers as possible. The taxpayers fund their own fleecing. And those funds are used to maximize that fleecing.

The way that the unions amp up the shakedown pushes the process from base to corrupt. They expand their influence by contributing massive amounts of money – directly and indirectly – to elect representatives of one party, nationwide. (No points for guessing which one.) Then, once they’ve elected the candidates from that party, they enter wage and benefit negotiations with the candidates they’ve just elected, and with their appointees (and sometimes with corruptocrats from the other party, to be fair, but the main mechanism remains).

The result is that all representatives at the “bargaining” table then share the same interest: to empower the government-employee unions who got the government officials into power, and who will continue to fund those officials, so long as the officials in turn continue to enhance government-employee pay and benefits, thus enhancing government-union officials’ power and pelf.

Who is completely unrepresented at the table? The taxpayers whose money is at stake in these negotiations. And since increasing the payout – the fleecing of the taxpayers – is not only in the interest of all parties at the table, but also helps to ensure that the taxpayers can never fight back by replacing the union-bought government officials with ones who will finally stand up for the taxpayers’ interests, the self-serving con devolves into a corrupt machine for both robbing the taxpayers and for keeping representatives who would speak for them out of power, and they themselves subjugated.

This whirligig of corruption results in the collapse of state economies, population bases, and representative government. What do the states in the worst economic shape have in common? Strong government-employee unions, which have, in vicious-cycle style, abetted and then been abetted by the party they favor for so long that the states have themselves become one-party “people’s states” (a term as honest and genuine as the modern “anti-racism”), in which the representatives of the taxpayers can never win, and where – as in all one-party polities – corruption metastasizes.

Government-employee pension woes fully illustrate the problem. Both government and government-employee officials, at any given time, want to be able to show immediate results to both sides’ prime constituency: unionized government workers. So in the ‘70s-‘90s, when the states in question were still plausibly politically competitive, the colluding parties granted those workers, through the largess of the unions, massive pension benefits that would not come due for generations. The current officials got the credit, and got reelected and further feather-bedded. But in order to maximize the benefit to the officials who struck the deal, these great pensions were neither supported by sufficient contributions by workers (which would have cut their take-home pay) or bolstered by increased taxes to allow full funding each year (which would have alerted taxpayers to the scam while two-party government, and so genuine options, still functioned). Fast-forward to the 21st century, when the now-unpayable, unfunded pension bills have arrived to land squarely on the backs of taxpayers who hadn’t even been voting (or alive) when the corrupt deals were struck, and who now live in states where competitive democracy no longer functions.

Of course, the taxpayers in these states are not (yet) serfs, forbidden to leave the land of their birth without government approval. And so the wiser and more ambitious of them leave for friendlier frontiers. Hence the great migration out of the worst-governed, most government-union-ridden (and hence most corrupt), most bankrupt states: Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, California. The first four of these pretend that it’s just the cold weather that pushes their citizens to flee to low-tax, right-to-work states in the south and parts of the west – which is weird, given that previous generations didn’t flee that weather and that they never shut up about how much carbon is warming the globe in ways that can be altered by reducing their states’ individual carbon output. California rattles through excuses like a car on that state’s crumbling highways. All are lying.

Now the same scam is being attempted at the federal level, complete with state bailouts, so that taxpaying citizens have nowhere to run. But the feds can’t bail out the states to the extent required to subsidize this lifestyle even in the already corrupted states, much less to foster it nationwide. The insane national money printing in response to Covid is already triggering inflation, which – no one seems to remember – is very hard to tame once unleashed and does cataclysmic damage to economies, countries, and people. Seeding Connecticut/New Jersey governance nationwide would trigger the “suddenly” part of how systems go bankrupt.

Meanwhile, consider just a few of the practical results of government-employee unions. Our teachers’ unions (“for the children!”) are, just in the last week or so, refusing to reveal their vaccination status to extend their paid vacations through the fall; planning to use their COVID bailout money to give bonuses to teachers who aren’t working; working to spy on and destroy anyone who dares to oppose their astonishingly racist “critical race” curriculum; actively discriminating against students who come from racial classifications that are “too successful” (in line with the overt resegregation of higher education) and much, much more.

Corruption, all the way down.


Scott Shepard is a fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research and Deputy Director of its Free Enterprise Project. This was first published by Townhall Finance.

Author: Scott Shepard