What is happening in Wisconsin, California, New Jersey, Illinois, et al — and in Washington, D.C. — should remind educated people of nothing less that the economic crisis of Weimar Germany, when governments captured by public sector workers and the apparatus of Bismarck’s redistributive state led to massive fiscal irresponsibility — and a choice between insolvency and hyperinflation.
Perhaps the most convincing authority on this topic is Niall Ferguson, who argues persuasively that profligate spending on public sector workers and Bismarck’s redistributive state was the ultimate source of Weimar Germany’s economic catastrophe — and John Maynard Keynes proved to be mistaken about what turned out to be the light economic burden of the reparations portions of the Treaty of Versailles. The problem wasn’t Versailles. What led to the great disasters of the 1920s and 1930s were the economic consequences of governments controlled by the demands of public sector workers, Bismarck’s redistributive state, and leftist union / party organizations. When the government becomes nothing less than an arm of a party apparatus controlled by organizations dedicated to advancing the financial interests and power advantages of employees hired to serve the public, you no longer have a liberal republic — what you have instead is a top-down guild organization dedicated to serving one set of citizens at the expense of all other citizens — in California government sector employees bring home more than half as much again as their comparably skilled market sector peers, and a huge number of non-college educated government employees in California qualify for fat six figure pensions at the age of 50 — 100%-120% of final salary — and many other government workers retire at 90%-100% of final salary beginning at age 55. And in the executive ranks in California, all manner of public officials have resorted to outright looting — both legal and illegal. University bureaucrats makes quarter million dollar and more annual salaries, California’s countless state board members make six figure salaries for a half-dozen or less days work, city and county and public utility bureaucrats of all kinds make haul home tens of millions of dollars across relatively short careers. And on and on it goes.
At the Federal level, government workers bring home twice the income of their private sector counterparts.
What we have destroyed is a liberal republic, and what we have replaced it with is a Weimar-style kleptocracy, enriching a political / government client class while simultaneously looting those laboring in the productive economy — and mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren.
And what comes next is the most truly worrying thing of all. What can’t go on forever doesn’t, as the Germans frightfully learned in the 1920s.
Even long-in-the-tooth 1960s lefties like Richard Cohen are starting to see the big picture:
In New York City, the No. 2 guy in the fire department retired on a pension worth $242,000 a year. In New York State, a single official holding two jobs and one pension took in $641,000. A lieutenant with the Port Authority police retired with an annual pension of $196,767, and 738 of the city’s teachers, principals and such have pensions worth more than $100,000 a year. Their former employer, it goes almost without saying, is steamed. Their former employer is me.
These examples of pension obesity were culled from the local newspapers, which never fail to shock with revelations of how good life is for those who once worked for the city, the state or any one of several public agencies. In some cases, retirement came a mere 20 or so years after first reporting to HR and, if you were lucky enough to fake a disability – oh, my aching back! – the sky is virtually the limit. Fully one-third of all New York City cops who retired during a recent 17-month period did so on disability. They have dangerous jobs, we all know – but not nearly as dangerous as Long Island Rail Road workers. Almost all of them retired on disability. All aboard! …
UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg — Government unions must go.
Michael Barone — Government unions force taxpayers to fund the Democrat party. Quotable:
what are the contributions that public employee unions make to our states and our citizens? Their incentives are to increase the cost of government and reduce down toward zero the accountability of public employees — both contrary to the interests of taxpaying citizens.