Barack Obama denies accusations that he is engaging in class warfare, but as he intensifies his fight to stay employed he is turning to unions as a replacement for his Buffett Rule tax hike. The president is joined by other members of his administration who insist that the middle class is unable to get a fair shake in the workplace without unions. The new class war is a campaign of deception against the middle class, who will not benefit from the president’s tinkering with the economy and stand an even smaller chance of benefiting from organized labor.
Stumping for infrastructure spending and collective bargaining rights before the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, the president indulged the usual patriotic appeals to worker security:
That’s why unions were built — understood workers on their own wouldn’t have the same ability to look after themselves and their families as they could together. And what’s true for you is true for America.¹
Union membership has been as flat as job growth. Combined public and private sector membership was a scant 11.8% of workers in 2011.² If unions are the salvation of the middle class, as Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis believes, American workers are in big trouble:
Prior reporting shows that union members have greater access to health care, retirement and leave benefits. Today’s numbers make it clear that union jobs are critical to a strong economy. And a strong economy depends on a strong and growing middle class.³
Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw in his support for collective bargaining after Ohio voters backed unions for the public sector, an area where membership flourishes:
“The voters of Ohio sent a clear signal that they support collective bargaining rights and they want to work together to rebuild their economy, strengthen the middle class and improve public education. I salute the unions and their allies for their successful effort to support workers rights, and I look forward to working with all of the people of Ohio to meet our common goals.”4
Spearheading the Middle Class Task Force, Vice President Biden joined Duncan in ignoring the debt burden public employee collective bargaining places on middle class taxpayers:
Tonight the people of Ohio delivered a gigantic victory for the middle class with their overwhelming rejection of a Republican attempt to strip away collective bargaining rights. Fundamental fairness has prevailed.5
Speaking to a no risk crowd at a GM plant last September, the president put his cards on the table when he declared that the purpose of his presidency is to support the middle class:
And America cannot have a strong, growing economy without a strong, growing middle class and without a strong labor movement. (Applause.)
That’s the central challenge that we face in our country today. That’s at the core of why I ran for President. That’s what I’ve been fighting for since I’ve been President.6
With 6.9% private sector union membership and meager job growth, if unions are the answer the middle class is doomed and by Mr. Obama’s own admission his presidency has been a failure. When he talks about creating jobs for Americans he turns to spending on infrastructure with union labor that costs the middle class too much and leaves out most American workers. The president claims that trickle down is a failure. Does he believe that it works when the money is thrown at unions?
Unions have a much stronger grip on the public sector, where membership can exceed 40% and gives us failing state and local budgets unable to pay for the wages and benefits Labor Secretary Solis promotes. Since education budgets rest largely on the shoulders of local and state taxpayers, pushing public employee unions is a win-win for Democrats. The party gets the votes, and the middle class gets to pay the taxes to support unaffordable pay and benefits for teachers and school administrators.
Do middle class Americans have such a fragile sense of who and what they are that a few bad years causes them to swallow a party line that is just another tired take on income redistribution? Unions eliminate freedom of choice for businesses, government, and taxpayers. If they were vital to the economy they would be flourishing. Will Americans see that backing unions representing only 11.8% of workers and using that support to take credit for propping up the middle class is a deception and a fraud?
Failure or not, Barack Obama and members of his administration are determined to convince Americans that unions are our champions. The middle class should feel betrayed. Karl Marx would have been proud.