The New York Times doesn't like it one bit, as this ridiculously skewed article by Michael Powell suggests, but the American people have had it up to here with public employee unions. And unless something is done, and done quickly to reform the benefits the unions receive, several states and municipalities are likely to fall off the cliff into fiscal insolvency.
In truth, this was a problem created by both politicians and unions, as the Times quotes Manhattan Institute historian Fred Seigel:
Fred Siegel, a historian at the conservative-leaning Manhattan Institute, has written of the "New Tammany Hall," which he describes as the incestuous alliance between public officials and labor.
"Public unions have had no natural adversary; they give politicians political support and get good contracts back," Mr. Siegel said. "It's uniquely dysfunctional."
Even if that is so, this battle comes woven with complications. Across the nation in the last two years, public workers have experienced furloughs and pay cuts. Local governments shed 212,000 jobs last year.
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. The Manhattan Institute, which is not terribly sympathetic to unions, studied New Jersey and concluded that teachers earned wages roughly comparable to people in the private sector with a similar education.
Not mentioned by Powell is the $2 trillion question (that's how big the pension shortfall is nationwide): if public unions are earning comparable dollars to private sector workers, why are their benefit packages so outrageously better?
It does no good to demonize public workers. They are teachers, fire fighters, policemen, sanitation workers, and other employees who make life livable in big cities. But the taxpayers surely have a right to demand that their benefits be kept in line with those offered in the private sector. It's now not only a question of fairness, but also one of solvency as well.