This weekend I found some very interesting reading on a number of websites. As seems to be the buzz right now, most of the pundits are still musing about Wisconsin and Ohio and the rights, rolls and refinements of public unions. The lines are clearly drawn between the progressives and the conservatives right now, with one side wanting to keep their sweet deals at the expense of other public programs while the other side wants very much to make inroads into the corruptive collusion of public sector unions with elected officials.
Like it or not, public unions artificially inflate wages, pick their own supporters among elected officials and shun any sense of accountability (notable exceptions found in the responder communities) in the workplace. The arguments about the economics of public unions has been cussed and discussed at length—by me and a host of others. What has not been fully developed is the phenomenon of public union members selecting, supporting and then controlling candidates who become willing accomplices in distorting public budgets and governance at the local level.
One of the articles I read talked at length about the documented tactics of public unions in finding candidates who will support their demands for increased compensation and benefits in return for contributions, campaign work and voter turnout for the candidates. Members of public unions are twice as likely to vote in local elections as other constituents, mostly because they are voting to perpetuate favorable conditions for their union interests. Most local board elections (school, city and county) have light turnout so with a little effort, public unions can overwhelm outsiders attempting to win office. Curry favor with the unions or advance at one’s own peril.
This insider trading, if conducted in the private sector, would send people to jail. Of course, there are no such inhibitions in the public domain. Once the fix is in, then all the constituents in the district or jurisdiction had better stand by for higher taxes and/or reduced services to cover increased personnel costs demanded by union leaders. Just as a reminder—public sector wages in Iowa have gone up over 41% in the past 10 years as opposed to just 25% in the private sector.
Most constituents, not aware of what has just happened to them, will scream about being held up again but will continue on in blissful ignorance, feeling but not knowing exactly at whom they should direct their anger. Those who wander the political landscape unaware of what is going on have only themselves to blame, however.
It appears the next school board election date is September 13 of this year. Between now and then, citizens concerned with fiscal responsibility, accountability and transparency in local government should educate themselves on the issues and then get involved. Go to the board meetings, study the school budgets, read the collective bargaining agreements, study the revenue streams, talk to neighbors and then commit to running for office. One should remember that the machine forces would line up against anyone who wants to change the current paradigm. Forewarned is forearmed.
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