A Less Perfect Union

Last Labor Day, I reported the results of a Gallup poll that gauged faith in America’s institutions. At that time, only 19% of Americans had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in organized labor unions.

This year, I am happy to announce that a full 20% of us now believe in Big Labor! Let’s have a parade.

Unions managed to stay ahead of Congress, which fell from 17% in 2009 to a dismal 11% this year. The military and small businesses remain the most trusted U.S. institutions. Curious that Congress is cutting defense spending and is set to raise taxes on small businesses.

The City of Bell, California, has shed fresh light on the pain government employee unions are causing in the Golden State.

Before his resignation on Tuesday, Bell’s city manager raked in nearly $800,000 a year. He received 28 weeks of vacation and sick days (yes, weeks), and he pocketed another $700,000 per year in benefits.

The average Bell resident makes $30,000 a year.

He is now out of office but he remains a public economic enemy. His union-paved pension pays more than $600,000 per year. He’s a gift that keeps on getting.

My friends on the left often lament a perceived widening class divide. In doing so, they generally demonize executive compensation at for-profit companies.

However, they rarely acknowledge the growing pay gap between public sector and private sector workers.

USA Today recently cited Bureau of Economic Analysis data showing that federal employees make on average $123,000 in annual compensation and benefits compared to $61,000 for private sector employees.

Life is just as good at state and local levels. The Reason Foundation quoted a March 2010 Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed state and local government workers make 44% more than private sector workers.

When the incentives to govern and regulate outweigh the rewards of innovation and production, economies stagnate. Hence, Europe’s lackluster GDP growth. Hence, our sputtering, back-stepping recovery.

Two rallies happened last weekend; one on the national mall in Washington, DC; the other on the streets of labor-laden Detroit, MI.

The former, sponsored by conservative commentator Glenn Beck, drew tens and probably hundreds of thousands of people (depending on which media outlet you believe). A personal friend in attendance estimated the crowd at 500,000.

The latter gathered a meager 5,000 marchers despite prominent figures in attendance like Jesse Jackson, United Auto Workers president Bob King and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

The DC event occurred at the feet and in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, the one who fought to preserve a more perfect, self-sacrificing union.

The Detroit demonstration purposed to protect arguably less perfect, more self-serving labor unions. No wonder it could only inspire a few thousand people to sacrifice their Saturdays to show up.

What was the destination point of that measly Jesse Jackson-led march in Detroit? A place called Grand Circus Park. How appropriate.

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