March 21, 2011- It's not like we didn't see it coming.
At the very start of this year, January 2, The New York Times warned us of the coming battle with a front-page story, "Public Workers Facing Outrage in Budget Crisis." The Economist, in its January 8 issue, gave us, "The battle ahead: confronting the public-sector unions." And the January Time Magazine, "Public Employees Become Public Enemy No. 1."
So, nobody should have been surprised when public employees became enemy No. 1 in Wisconsin, whose governor and Republican-dominated Legislature are pressing a bill that would eviscerate most of the unions representing that state's employees.
Oklahoma, Tennessee and Ohio are likewise all considering legislation to ban various types of collective bargaining, and in Indiana, almost every Democratic member of the state's House of Representative recently boycotted a legislative session to stop a bill that would weaken collective bargaining.
What has not been clearly noted, however, despite the thousands of barrels of ink that have been spilled about this topic, is the underlying motive behind these attacks. Why, exactly, has the governor of the Badger State made destroying public-sector unions his No. 1 goal? Why are similar efforts being made in numerous other states? Why target public-sector workers and their unions? What put this on the top of the hard right's agenda? Especially because, as The New York Times noted, "A raft of recent studies found that public salaries, even with benefits included, are equivalent to or lag slightly behind those of private sector workers with a similar education."
Some of the reasons are mundane. Class envy is there, for sure. Public employees are, on average, better educated and better compensated than other workers; thus, resentment by the latter can always be ginned up against the former. Tea Party-ish dislike of government in all of its forms, however irrational, can always be transmuted, by those with a motive to do so, into a passionate hostility against the government's agents and representatives, its employees.