Public Employees and Democrats

Public employee unions have enormous influence.

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Here is my Creators Syndicate column for the week on the public employee unions and their enormous influence in the Democratic Party. I decided to write it because I think this influence is not widely understood and is certainly not much commented on. But the public employee unions exert enormous upward pressure on state and local government spending and enormous downward pressure on the accountability of public employees. Over time this will tend to increase the share of the economy devoted to state and local government spending, with significant macroeconomic effects. Nearly half of American union members are public employees—a vivid contrast with mid-century America, when only a small percentage, perhaps on the order of 10 percent (I haven't looked it up lately), of union members were public employees. And of course public employee unions are financed by the taxpayer: Their income comes from members' dues, which come from their salaries, which come from the public purse.

The surprising thing is that American union leaders continue to press hard against free trade, and almost all Democratic members of Congress go along with them, even though protectionism is not in the narrow economic interest of public employees.