I Still Don't Understand Why Progressives Blindly Support Public Employee Unions

I have asked this question before:

Taking the government's current size and tax base as a given, is there a segment of the progressive community that gets uncomfortable with the proportion of these resources that are channeled into government employee hands rather than into actual services for the public?

I don't think this is an unfair question.  People ask lots of unfair questions in politics that try to impose the questioner's assumptions and worldview on the respondent (You want open immigration?  Don't you care about terrorism?  You don't want a $15 minimum wage?  Don't you care about the poor?)  But I am honestly trying to ask this of Progressives from the Progressive worldview -- Increasingly privileged government workers, who typically make more in pay in benefits for less work than the rest of us, are claiming for themselves so many of the resources of the government that services and programs Progressives favor are being cut back.  In the Progressive oppressor-oppressed model, how does $100,000 pensions for government workers get prioritized over homeless shelters?

Here is another example:

We have written frequently over the past couple of weeks about the disastrous public pension funds in Kentucky that are anywhere from $42 - $84 billion underfunded, depending on which discount rate you feel inclined to use. As we've argued before, these pensions, like the ones in Illinois and other states, are so hopelessly underfunded that they haven't a prayer of ever again being made whole.

That said, logic and math have never before stopped pissed off teachers and/or clueless legislators from throwing good money after bad in an effort to 'kick the can down the road' on their pension crises. As such, it should come as no surprise at all that the Lexington Herald Leader reported today that Kentucky's 365,000 teachers and other public employees are now demanding that taxpayers contribute a staggering $5.4 billion to their insolvent ponzi schemes over the next two years alone. To put that number in perspective, $5.4 billion is roughly $3,200 for each household in the state of Kentucky and 25% of the state's entire budget over a two-year period.


  1. Fourmyle of Ceres:

    dont apply logic or facts

    socialist = mentally ill

  2. mogden:

    The vigorous effort to make government as expensive and inefficient as possible continues apace.

  3. brandonberg:

    For one, they love unions. But more importantly, I think, the left-wing mind does not think in terms of trade-offs between different ways to spend taxpayer money. If a program has less funding than they would like, the solution is not to reallocate spending from another program (unless it's military or prison), but to raise taxes on the rich.

  4. Horrified Onlooker:

    Just follow the money and you'll understand why progressives love unions, especially public sector ones. From the latest list of contributors for 2016 at https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php:
    Name Total to Dems/Libs to Rep/Cons Pct to D/L Pct to R/C
    Fahr LLC $90,626,606 $90,626,606 $0 100% 0%
    2 Renaissance Technologies $55,744,161 $30,021,561 $25,286,600 54% 46%
    3 Las Vegas Sands $44,342,166 $51,436 $44,313,430 0% 100%
    4 Paloma Partners $41,946,500 $41,943,200 $3,300 100% 0%
    5 Service Employees International Union $39,308,474 $39,301,364 $2,100 100% 0%
    6 Adelson Drug Clinic $38,847,300 $40,000 $38,830,000 0% 100%
    7 Newsweb Corp $38,802,040 $38,796,640 $0 100% 0%
    8 Priorities USA/Priorities USA Action $34,970,302 $34,970,302 $0 100% 0%
    9 NextGen Climate Action $34,612,524 $34,612,524 $0 100% 0%
    10 American Federation of Teachers $32,853,244 $32,837,519 $10,700 100% 0%
    11 Elliott Management $28,031,630 $39,777 $27,989,153 0% 100%
    12 National Education Assn $28,012,420 $27,665,164 $347,006 99% 1%
    13 Laborers Union $26,469,431 $25,994,581 $474,750 98% 2%
    14 Soros Fund Management $25,975,280 $25,069,080 $677,700 97% 3%
    15 Bloomberg LP $24,873,764 $24,812,038 $44,012 100% 0%
    16 Carpenters & Joiners Union $24,386,852 $23,938,346 $443,756 98% 2%
    17 Pritzker Group $24,266,122 $23,251,386 $917,440 96% 4%
    18 Uline Inc $23,881,072 $106,072 $24,975,000 0% 100%
    19 Senate Leadership Fund $22,476,800 $0 $22,476,800 0% 100%
    20 One Nation $21,700,000 $0 $21,700,000 0% 100%
    21 Republican Governors Assn $20,726,750 $0 $20,726,750 0% 100%
    22 For Our Future $18,283,884 $18,245,662 $38,222 100% 0%
    23 Asana $18,007,181 $18,006,931 $0 100% 0%
    24 Mountaire Corp $17,856,805 $0 $17,856,805 0% 100%
    25 AFL-CIO $16,161,919 $16,013,719 $148,200 99% 1%
    26 Saban Capital Group $16,134,224 $16,153,224 $1,000 100% 0%
    27 National Assn of Realtors $15,884,885 $2,195,522 $2,987,735 42% 58%
    28 Stephens Group $15,446,206 $36,987 $15,425,019 0% 100%
    29 American Federation of State/Cnty/Munic Employees $15,419,216 $15,381,706 $7,225 100% 0%
    30 Starr Companies $15,339,349 $11,348 $15,328,001 0% 100%
    31 ABC Supply $14,220,425 $1,625 $14,218,525 0% 100%
    32 Citadel LLC $13,957,427 $126,489 $13,930,938 1% 99%
    33 Chicago Cubs $13,188,079 $5,450 $13,182,629 0% 100%
    34 Comcast Corp $12,594,527 $9,233,447 $3,366,578 73% 27%
    35 Environment America $11,746,786 $11,731,786 $0 100% 0%
    36 AT&T Inc $11,672,319 $3,855,125 $7,809,175 33% 67%
    37 Operating Engineers Union $11,425,554 $10,620,022 $805,532 93% 7%
    38 Koch Industries $11,265,476 $44,274 $11,242,039 0% 100%
    39 McMahon Ventures $10,930,467 $0 $10,930,467 0% 100%
    40 Houston Texans $10,916,990 $2,700 $10,914,290 0% 100%
    41 Plumbers/Pipefitters Union $10,605,483 $10,294,583 $285,900 97% 3%
    42 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers $10,471,291 $10,246,759 $193,432 98% 2%
    43 League of Conservation Voters $10,467,140 $10,398,308 $67,832 99% 1%
    44 Commonwealth of Pennsylvania $10,286,997 $10,253,242 $30,766 100% 0%
    45 Jobs Ohio $10,001,000 $0 $10,001,000 0% 100%
    46 Blackstone Group $9,489,381 $2,331,648 $7,159,331 25% 75%
    47 Blue Cross/Blue Shield $9,338,137 $5,233,850 $4,127,682 56% 44%
    48 City of Philadelphia, PA $9,213,316 $9,206,554 $6,762 100% 0%
    49 Alphabet Inc $9,113,848 $6,195,715 $2,014,346 76% 25%
    50 Microsoft Corp $8,450,228 $5,003,034 $3,428,938 59% 41%

    Notice that the Koch brothers, who progressives love to trash, are number 38 on this list

  5. Not Sure:

    "how does $100,000 pensions for government workers get prioritized over homeless shelters?"

    1. Who's more likely to vote for democrats in the next election- government union workers or the homeless?
    2. Progressives are notorious for not being able to distinguish between intentions and outcomes.

  6. irandom419:

    A democratic San Jose mayor noticed generous pensions were interfering with social spending and reformed it. Never get between a Democrat and dollar is the lesson.

  7. davesmith001:

    The money they give to democrats is great, but what is even better is that these individuals vote democrat. It is as easy as that.

  8. ErikTheRed:

    Nail = hit on head.

  9. Griz Hebert:

    A government dollar.

  10. Freedom:

    Because they care about power more than they care about policy (or the poor or the public). Matt Yglesias admitted as much, saying (IIRC) that good policy had to take a back seat to helping the unions so that the left could take power. Of course, they sell it as, "we need power to get things done," but no matter how much power they have, the need for more power always takes precedence. And the history of the last hundred years is littered with the bodies of the victims of that philosophy.

  11. Matthew Slyfield:

    Because they blindly support all unions, why should public sector unions be special?

  12. NotMyMoney:

    The Progressive Doctrine: Greedy rich do-nothing capitalist boss vs The exploited little guy who creates all the value. Unions fit the script perfectly, regardless of the truth. Supporting and furthering the narrative is all that matters.

  13. Stan Forron:

    Similarly, I just read an article claiming that public schools in my state are de facto segregated. The response of liberal politicians was that we needed to take money from (presumably unsegregated) charter schools and give it to the segregated public schools. My conclusion is that, in the liberal hierarchy of needs, teachers' unions rate higher than desegregation.

  14. SamWah:

    Can you say SEIU and AFSCME, boys and girls? Yes, i knew you could. Can you also say "Donations to the Democrat Party"? Yes, you can.

  15. DirtyJobsGuy:

    The public employee unions (like the UAW and others) are not babes in the woods with regard to pensions. They have financial guys available who can clearly understand the funding issues with both salaries and pensions. The usual progressive arguments that the public cannot protect themselves from financial skullduggery are not valid here. Progressives supported high public employee pay and benefits to create a captive group that had the power to control government for a long time. They figured hyperinflation would solve their pension problem and force more collectivization than really happened

  16. me:

    For the same reason Reptiles blindly support CEO pay excesses in the face of abject failure or unlimited executive power. They are bloody tribal shills all.

  17. glenn.griffin3:

    All dollars are government dollars, in the eyes of a Demopublican.

  18. cc:

    Money for the government magically comes from the rich only (nearly true given the tax code) and that is a good thing (ie redistribution). This supply of $ is unlimited. Therefore, paying government workers high wages is "sticking it to the man" which is why these salary and pension issues are worst in blue cities.

  19. mlhouse:

    Five letters: V.O.T.E.S.

  20. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:


  21. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    I teach local budgeting. When asked how to handle such pension problems practically no student ever volunteers anything except "raise taxes." Of course, most are Pub Admin students who expect to get government jobs.

  22. Conqueror of All Foes Cheese:

    Without any doubt at all. See, e.g., Detroit.

  23. Nehemiah:

    Politicians get the teacher's union more money. The union gets politicians more money and the wheel on the bus go round, round, round.

  24. Heresiarch:

    Got a link I can add to my Argument bookmarks file?

  25. Heresiarch:

    Consult H.L. Mencken for the answer:

    "The state—or, to make the matter more concrete, the government—consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods."

  26. Freedom:

    Here is a link to Mickey Kaus in Slate criticizing Yglesias for saying this (scroll down or search for Yglesias). The link to the original Yglesias piece (at TPM) appears to be defunct. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/kausfiles/2005/09/the_aspens_sleep_with_the_fishes.html

  27. Craig Anderson:

    Surely you jest. They blindly get in bed with the public unons in order to get votes.

  28. BernieFlatters:

    I think that citizens wouldn't be so hip on government pensions if the really knew how much the workers were getting. Some states have transparency laws that allow someone to look up any employee and see what kind of pension they are getting. I haven't been able to find one for my state. But the recipients of these pensions have good PR campaigns that say that high pensions are in lieu of low salaries during the working years, although that is not really true. If you compare apples to apples, a public worker can make two or three times his private equivalent. And his pension will be two or three times Social Security.