Consider these quotes from Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas:
If it's [collective bargaining for public sector unions] not eliminated I think it has to be certainly somehow contained in a reasonable, responsible way. And I don't have a specific proposal other than just to recognize that it is not the same to have collective bargaining at a public employee level as it is at the private sector level.[....]
They have a parasitic relationship with the states, and a symbiotic relationship with the federal government. Nationally public employees are now making 30 percent more in wages and 70 percent more in benefits and health than are their private sector counterparts.
Here he explains why he hasn't jumped into the presidential race:
One of the things that I have to understand is that if I run, you know, I walk away from a pretty good income.... So I don't want to walk away any sooner than I have to, because frankly I don't have a lot of reserve built up. Most of my life was in public service. And therefore I didn't come away wealthy. I'm trying to recover in order to do public service -- in order to run for president the last time, I cashed in my life insurance, my annuities, I pretty much went through everything I ever had as an asset that I thought I might one day live on....
If I do this I'm gonna hopefully be in a position where I'm not so completely destitute at the end of it that I have no idea what to do if I get sick. Or if I retire. Or if I'm retired early, or have a disability. Those are the things I have to think about, because I'm self-employed, I don't have, you know, some safety net to fall into.
I recognize my own ideological blinders. However, I've always thought of Huckabee as one of the good guys -- a decent person guided by faith who believes in public service, and whom I disagree with on many issues. But doesn't he perfectly illustrate the disconnect between rhetoric and reality? TalkingPointsMemo also links to a study that suggests that, once corrected for education, public sector employees make less than their private sector counterparts.
I do wonder if this is a new wedge issue. With the economy being more important during a recession (and slow recovery), social issues like abortion and gay rights lose their galvanizing power. Immigration's too sticky, especially with the changing demographics. So let's attack public employees. Unions. Blame them for our problems instead of the bankers who gambled with pensions and 401ks, or the speculators who created the housing bubble, or the folks that invented reasons to invade a country or who gave tax cuts to millionaires knowing full well the effect both would have on the deficit.
Check out my friend Aki's take on the scapegoating of teachers.