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Monday, February 21, 2011

Norma Rae Was Right

If there's one thing Teabaggers agree on, it's that a black man has no business being the President of the United States. But if there are two things Teabaggers agree on, the other one, we thought, was that government was bad and that the working-class slob was the embodiment of all that was good and right in the world. It strikes us as more than a little inconsistent, then, that Wisconsin Teabaggers are rallying behind the governor (who, unless we misunderstand the term, is a part of the government) against the working-class, embodied by public-sector unions. We know that paleoconservative Republicans have been opposed to unions ever since the first Stegosaurus Hunters Local began agitating for collective bargaining rights. But shouldn't those Teabag Shock Troops of the rabid right take a moment to think about exactly what it is they're protesting?

We know that they blame public-sector unions for bankrupting the body politic. We're not sure why this is. Do people think that mid-level file clerks at the DMV made gazillions of dollars worth of subprime mortgage loans? Are they under the impression that it was their local parks and recreation department employees who decided to bail out Wall Street?

And while we're discussing the Wall Street bailouts, can we stop attacking public union pension funds? Look, we understand that this is a time of financial exigency, and that everyone has to help out; indeed, union officials have indicated a willingness to accept a certain amount of financial sacrifice to help states balance their budgets. But we are really tired of hearing governments plead poverty when asked to own up to their contractual obligations.

A digression about contractual obligations: Whenever you see an advertisement for any kind of investment vehicle, you will notice a disclaimer that "past performance is no guarantee of future performance"--or words to that effect. What this means in plain English is that when you bet on the stock market, you are not guaranteed anything: You might actually lose money. For some reason, though, politicians of both political parties rushed to bail out failed investors when the markets went kerflooey a couple of years ago--even though there was no moral or legal reason they had to do this. On the other hand, when governments hit the financial skids, they are all too quick to start backing out on the legally binding agreements they made with their employees in the form of union contracts.

Unions are not the problem facing the United States today. Indeed, the ability of rank and file workers to agitate for their rights is one of the few things that can actually counter the powers of "big finance" and, yes, "big government." If Teabaggers really believe in the rights of the individual against the overreachings of the powerful, they should be protesting alongside the unions, not against them.


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