Unionized government workers now constitute more than a majority of all union workers in the country, according to a report yesterday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recession or not, the number of government workers--and, therefore, union members in government service--went up again last year, while non-government union membership went down.
Your taxes made possible the continued growth in government employees. How so?
In case you haven't noticed, the SEIU, AFSCME and other government unions are among the most active in political campaigns, nearly always on behalf of liberal Democratic candidates and issues. For them, the business of government is government, and the more the better. The special interest lobby that always agitates for more government is the government itself, and unions are at the leading edge of that agitation.
Able, dedicated civil servants who are required to join the public employees unions often are less than enthusiastic about "their" representatives and have little to do with them--other than paying union dues. Union meetings in government agencies are seldom well-attended. The leadership seldom is relatively undistinguished, other than by the narrowness of its concerns.
But just because government union members don't always vote the way the union suggests (as reportedly was the case in Tuesday's U.S. Senate race in Massachusetts) doesn't do much to shrink the clout of union leaders. Consider that when, as is the case even in the Obama Administration, you have an Education Department nominally supportive of charter schools, that endorsement is trumped by fervent opposition from the teachers unions. (Not the teachers, mind you; rather, the unions.)
Of all special interest lobbies, then, government itself, including unions, constitute the one that is most single-minded and devoted in its involvement in government legislation, regulation, taxation and personnel issues. That reality gets almost no public attention in the media, but it often is determinative as a political force.
I have said before that Lincoln's description of America as "government of the people, by the people and for the people," is being upended by the new mission statement: government of the government, by the government and for the government.
If you think I am exaggerating, ask yourself, who got the lion's share of last year's federal stimulus money? Was it not used to shore up state and local bureaucracies? Did those bureaucracies not shrink far less in the recession than the private sector?
How is it that government officials so often announce that they just have to increase taxes rather than cut the size of this government program or that? Where is such empathy and concern when private factories and shops are closing?
I am not an absolutist conservative. I see a number of government activities that should be increased, not reduced (besides defense and foreign policy). They would include, for example, transportation infrastructure, parks and recreation maintenance and mental health. But these days money for such purposes cannot be found, even in the big-spending states--maybe especially in the big spending states--because every spare dollar has to go to government employees.
The lobby of government itself demands it. Increasingly, elected officials work for the government, not the people, and soon the people will work for the government, too. At least, that is the clear and present danger.