Year in Review: Berry — SB5: Defeat eliminated cost-cutting toolWritten by Thomas Berry | | email@example.com
Ohio Senate Bill 5 was signed into law March 31. Alarmed by the law’s alleged restrictions on collective bargaining, opponents launched a successful drive to put it on the November ballot. Although this tactic was certainly to be preferred over stacking the state Supreme Court through election of a prejudiced justice, as unions attempted to do in response to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s reining in of public employee unions, the nature of the campaign was scarcely more honorable.
The “No on Issue 2” campaign was marked by falsehood and fear-mongering. Websites and advertisements were clearly misleading. For example, they claimed that SB5 restricted emergency personnel’s ability to negotiate for equipment and training, and nurses’ ability to negotiate for adequate staffing levels. An honest reading of the law exposes both claims to be lies; in fact, in the latter case, nurses didn’t have that right in the first place. Nor did SB5 ban or restrict collective bargaining, as was so often claimed. The opponents falsely accused advocates of blaming public employees for governmental fiscal woes — as if public workers were passing the spending laws that caused the problems.
Some Issue 2 advocates were not much better, preferring unfair clichés about “union thugs and slugs” to the issues of the law and the deceitful opposition to it. The advocates were also out-organized, understaffed and underfunded. Most critically, they were far too slow in making their case; the opponents seized the early momentum and never came close to losing it.
Much of that advantage was due to another deceit. “We are Ohio,” the primary opposition group, was mostly funded from outside Ohio, particularly by Big Labor interests in Washington, D.C. They also utilized We-are-not-Ohio spokespeople from out of state.
The involvement of Big Labor in the campaign was certainly to be expected, given the stake it had in the outcome. After all, if the issue carried, unions stood to lose power, prestige and income, so they were protecting their interests — which is precisely what Big Labor and its progressive backers condemn business lobbies for doing.
In a column written for the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, Dan Tokaji, professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, asserted that Issue 2’s defeat was significant because it protected labor’s political influence. And that’s precisely the problem: Public sector unions have undue influence over the politicians who pay their members. Give us what we want, they say, and we’ll work our cans off to keep you in power. Deny us, and you’re done.
So the politicians keep the public union gravy train rolling in order to win re-election; and when the chickens come home to roost, as they have now, the economy and the taxpayer get dumped in the straw on the coop’s floor.
Tokaji also called union lobbying “the only counterbalancing force to corporate political influence” and said that “eviscerating” this “main counterweight to corporate campaign spending” would be “ … anathema to a society that’s ostensibly committed to the principle of one person, one vote.”
This is nonsense.
Very rarely does Big Labor give a whit about the economic or political interests of anyone other than its own. Moreover, Big Labor’s commitment to dishonest political campaigns, higher taxes, and continued government expansion (read: more public union members), among other evils, is itself anathema to our founding principles.
Something has to be done. Overly generous handouts to public employee unions are not sustainable. Increased spending of any kind is affordable only when revenue increases more than spending. But the increasing tax revenues needed to underwrite increased public employee benefits no longer exist, thanks in no small part to the economic policies of the very politicians who gave away the store in the first place.
Either expenses must be cut, or tax revenue must increase to cover them. But higher taxes impede the economic activity that is taxed. Raise taxes, and the economy slows even further, causing even more of a shortfall, especially if expenses aren’t reduced — and Issue 2’s defeat eliminated a means of cutting government costs.
Cut taxes and get the government boot off the throat of business, and watch the tax revenues pour in. That’s what happened following the Bush tax cut of 2003 — tax rates were reduced, and taxable income grew such that the federal deficit was cut in half from 2004 through 2007. But union-backed progressive politicians, such as those who won control of Congress in 2008, would rather swim in acid than do that.
So where do we go from here? The state legislature intends to reintroduce elements of SB5 as independent bills. But the unions will have to face an even bigger bogeyman that now looms on the horizon: right to work.
Thomas Berry, for the Children of Liberty, www.meetup.com/The-children-of-liberty/.