Conservatives and Cops

| Mon Feb. 21, 2011 3:09 PM EST

Two quick hits today, both responding to posters at Outside the Beltway. First, Steven Taylor notes that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's union busting efforts are aimed only at some public sector unions, not all of them. This prompts a question aimed at Walker's allies:

If it is a fundamental principle that public sector employees ought not to have the right to collective bargaining, why are the police, firefighters and state troopers of Wisconsin not part of the package? Why does Governor Walker and his allies believe that those workers ought to be able to retain their collective bargaining rights?

....However, I would go beyond that and not ask why Walker is doing what Walker is doing, but rather ask why we have not seen (or, at least, I have not seen) his ideological allies calling for him to include police, firefighters and state troopers in the bill? If there is a fundamental philosophical issue here concerning public sector unions, what is the possible rationale for any exceptions?

I dunno. Any conservatives want to take a crack at this? Then, on the subject of pensions more generally, James Joyner reviews the sad state of 401(k) plans and says this:

The days of spending your life working for a company and then retiring in relative luxury on a generous pension are long gone. Part of that is union-busting, corporate greed, or whatever bugaboo you want to call it. Mostly, it’s a consequence of a global economy that is pulling hundreds of millions out of poverty but forcing people in the developed world to compete on a wage basis with those in the developing world. It’s great for Western investors and consumers but not so great for Western workers.

....We can’t rely on private companies, the stock market, or the taxpayers to maintain our lifestyle in our golden years. And not everyone can just keep on working, either. Nor do I advocate the Logan’s Run option. So, I haven’t the foggiest what to do about all this.

This is a pretty common reaction, but in fact, the arithmetic of decent pensions actually works out just fine. Corporations didn't give up on defined benefit pensions because they couldn't afford them any longer, they gave up on them because that allowed them to spend more money on executive salaries. After all, if overseas competition were really the big problem here, then you'd expect to have seen a long, steady decline in corporate profits and corporate compensation. But we haven't seen that. Profits have boomed and compensation has stayed high. The difference hasn't been in the level of compensation, it's been in the distribution of compensation. The executive suite has done fine. The rest of us haven't.

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