Walter Russell Mead: Blue State Dems Turn on State, Local Workers

Roundup: Historians' Take

[Walter Russell Mead is professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College and editor-at-large of The American Interest]

Who is killing the public unions?

Some people, like the tens of thousands of protesters in Madison and the tens of millions of Americans who agree with them, believe that the villains are scheming corporate interests, Fox News, Tea Party ‘fanatics’ and opportunistically populist politicians like Scott Walker.

Many of their opponents agree that the right is responsible, though from their point of view the Tea Party and politicians like Walker are the good guys, and the public sector unions are the ones in the black hats.

In fact, both sides are wrong. Despite the differences in rhetoric, killing public sector unions is a nonpartisan policy in the United States. While Republicans are more explicit about their goal, and want to move faster, Democrats and Republicans are both taking steps that will soon reduce the public sector union movement to a shadow of its current self.

Look at Rahm Emmanuel, newly elected mayor of Chicago. Chicago is a dark blue city in a deep blue state; Emmanuel is a career Democratic pol who served as chief of staff to the most liberal American president elected in many years. And what is Emanuel doing?...

Strip away the fluff and the rhetoric and it looks as though Chicago’s new mayor plans to balance the city budget primarily through layoffs and cutbacks.

Look at New York, the classically blue state where I live, home to liberal lions like Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Fiorello LaGuardia and Mario Cuomo. Here our new governor Andrew Cuomo is seeking major concessions and threatening layoffs against the public sector unions, vowing to balance the state’s budget with spending cuts. Cuomo has also promised — read his lips? — not to raise taxes, and has introduced what the New York Times editorial page calls a “radical” bill to cap property tax increases and require a super-majority to raise them by more than 2 percent a year. Up to 9,800 state employees face layoffs under his new budget: that is more than six times more people than Wisconsin governor Walker has threatened to lay off if his union bill isn’t passed....

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