Regular readers of this blog will know that I support neither the Democratic nor Republican parties. I regard both of them as inimical to US interests. They seem far more focused on achieving their partisan political objectives than serving the country - and neither seems to give a damn about the wishes, desires and interests of the American people.
With that in mind, I'm cynically amused by the fuss over who should represent each party in next year's Presidential elections. With very few exceptions, all of the candidates are playing to their party's base, trying to represent the party rather than the country as a whole. Worse, most of them are simply retreading tired old political clichés rather than coming up with original ideas. There are very few of them with a worthwhile track record of achievement, and most appear to have avoided original thought for years.
There are, however, exceptions. When I find the supporters of one party arguing vociferously that a potential candidate for the other party is dangerous, or deluded, or whatever, that tends to get me interested. For example, the Washington Post calls Scott Walker 'dangerous', and says of him:
“First off,” Scott Walker proclaimed, “we took on the unions, and we won. We won!”
Taking on the unions is usually first off for Walker, the Wisconsin governor and Republican presidential candidate. It is the very rationale for his candidacy.
. . .
This is the essence of Walker’s appeal — and why he is so dangerous. He is not as outrageous as Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), but his technique of scapegoating unions for the nation’s ills is no less demagogic. Sixty-five years ago, another man from Wisconsin made himself a national reputation by frightening the country about the menace of communists, though the actual danger they represented was negligible. Scott Walker is not Joe McCarthy, but his technique is similar: He suggests that the nation’s ills can be cured by fighting labor unions (foremost among the “big government special interests” hurting the United States), even though unions represent just 11 percent of the U.S. workforce and have been at a low ebb.
There's more at the link.
That article encapsulates precisely why the left/progressive wing fears Scott Walker - and why the rest of us like him. He really did trounce Big Labor, and has proved that it can be beaten. I'd love to know how hard the unions pushed for that article to be written, and how much behind-the-scenes influence they exerted on its composition. (If you think they had nothing to do with it, I have this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I'd like to sell you. Cash only, please, and in small bills.)
Unions have dominated Democratic Party (and left-wing and progressive) politics for decades. One look at their political donations will tell you all you need to know about their alignment - and according to the Department of Labor, they spend much more than that on politically related activities.
Unions served a valid purpose in the USA for many years, and in some cases they still do. (I was a member of a union at one time, and its support proved invaluable in resolving a situation in which I was unfairly accused.) However, unions have become millstones around the neck of many industries. A few examples:
- Hostess went into bankruptcy because it couldn't cope with the financial burden of its union-contract-mandated employee benefits, and the impact of a union-engineered strike. Today, freed of those contracts, the company is profitable.
- US automakers have historically paid an enormous cost premium to build their cars, thanks to union-mandated contracts. In 2007, Ford paid an average of $70.51 per hour in direct and indirect labor costs and benefits, GM paid $73.26, and Chrysler paid $75.86. After the financial crisis of 2007/08, the Big Three worked hard to slash those costs, with some success. This year FCA (successor to Chrysler) is paying $48 per hour for all benefits, Ford $57 and GM $58. However, all three are still paying more per hour than most Japanese and Korean automakers in the US. Those labor costs have also driven the increasing use of automation and robotics in vehicle manufacture. It reportedly took between 13½ and 35 hours of labor to build an average family vehicle in 2008, compared to four times that a couple of decades before. Therefore, even as automation has improved the productivity of factories in terms of output per worker, the very success of the unions in 'featherbedding' their members' contracts has reduced the number of jobs available for them. (It's instructive to compare the costs versus benefits per worker in the USA and elsewhere.)
- Public-sector unions have almost bankrupted many cities and states, and their exercise of political power is a major influence on elected representatives. As National Affairs points out:
New Jersey has drawn national attention as a case study, but the same scenario is playing out in state capitals from coast to coast. New York, Michigan, California, Washington, and many other states also find themselves heavily indebted, with public-sector unions at the root of their problems. In exchange, taxpayers in these states are rewarded with larger and more expensive, yet less effective, government, and with elected officials who are afraid to cross the politically powerful unions. As the Wall Street Journal put it recently, public-sector unions "may be the single biggest problem...for the U.S. economy and small-d democratic governance." They may also be the biggest challenge facing state and local officials — a challenge that, unless economic conditions dramatically improve, will dominate the politics of the decade to come.
That's precisely why I like Scott Walker as a potential Presidential candidate. It has nothing to do with his party affiliation. Frankly, I don't care whether he's Republican or Democrat. It has to do with him realizing the crippling effect of unions on the bureaucracy administering his State, and being willing to take a stand and do something about it. No wonder the unions are afraid of him, particularly given the widespread negative public perception of them. As one openly left-wing union proponent has conceded:
... as much as it hurts to admit this, labor unions just aren’t very popular. In Gallup’s annual poll on confidence in institutions, unions score close to the bottom of the list, barely above big business and HMOs but behind banks. More Americans—42%—would like to see unions have less influence, and just 25% would like to see them have more. Despite a massive financial crisis and a dismal job market, approval of unions is close to an all-time low in the 75 years Gallup has been asking the question. A major reason for this is that twice as many people (68%) think that unions help mostly their members as think they help the broader population (34%). Amazingly, in Wisconsin, while only about 30% of union members voted for Walker, nearly half of those living in union households but not themselves union members voted for him (Union voters ≠ union households). In other words, apparently union members aren’t even able to convince their spouses that the things are worth all that much.
A major reason for the perception that unions mostly help insiders is that it’s true. Though unions sometimes help out in living wage campaigns, they’re too interested in their own wages and benefits and not the needs of the broader working class. Public sector workers rarely make common cause with the consumers of public services, be they schools, health care, or transit.
More at the link.
If Scott Walker can tap into that public perception, he'll have wide voter appeal. That's why the hit piece in the Washington Post was written, and why we'll see more of them in the months to come. It's also noteworthy that almost no-one else in the running for the presidency in 2016 has dared to 'make waves' where the unions are concerned. I find that telling. As Voltaire is said to have opined a few centuries ago, "To find out who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize." Scott Walker has helped to make that clear - for which we should all be duly grateful.
Unions aren't the only issue in the forthcoming Presidential election - far from it. However, their impact on our country and our economy is such that I tend to like anyone who will stand up to them, point out the damage they've done, and take steps to reverse it. As far as Scott Walker is concerned, so far, so good.