It starts on page eight of the American Jobs Act. Before any mention of provisions to help businesses get back on track and hiring, Democrats made sure that unions got their cut of the public’s money. Section 5, Wage Rate and Employment Protection Requirements, applies Davis-Bacon provisions to the bill’s infrastructure projects. When taxpayers pay Davis-Bacon rates, taxpayers lose (see: The Recovery Act Fraud You Don’t Know About).
It is difficult for the public to demand that prevailing wage requirements be repealed from spending bills because many taxpayers have probably never heard of Davis-Bacon. White House press releases about Recovery Act successes do not publicize that Davis-Bacon wage restrictions required us to pay top dollar for federal infrastructure projects when the economy was least able to bear the expense.
For Democrats Davis-Bacon is business as usual, not an expensive union entitlement. The party’s massive effort to empower unions is completely out of proportion to big labor’s influence in the private sector, where only 11.9% of employees are union members.1 The bigger payoff comes from supporting unions in the public sector, where membership rates rise to over 40%.2
There is plenty of room for abuse in government pro-union spending. Another provision of the Jobs Act the public did not hear much about was the American Infrastructure Financing Authority. Barack Obama was pushing for a massive infrastructure bank, an idea with strong union backing, long before this bill was conceived. The last thing taxpayers need is a reservoir for union infrastructure project funds, controlled by a board hand-picked by our labor-loving president, and confirmed by Harry Reid’s Senate.
Reid failed to come up with the votes needed for the president’s jobs bill. An offshoot measure, the $35 billion Teachers and First Responders Back to Work Act, met the same fate. The latter bill at least had honesty going for it, focusing exclusively on public sector spending that Democrats have convinced themselves is the same thing as job creation, paid for by a surtax on higher earners. Reid is trying to resurrect memories of last summer’s lavish Democratic spree for public employee salaries, the Teacher Jobs Bill, but times have changed, and the mighty have fallen hard. Reid can no longer get a spending bill through his own Senate.
Occupy Wall Street protests are giving the media an earful of the misguided, misinformed left. This is an opportunity for wiser taxpayers to demand that we stamp out union and public employee entitlements. Some of our neediest states boast the highest numbers of public employee union members. California tops the list, followed by New York and Illinois.3 Illinois took this year’s $4 billion payment for public employee pensions from the wallets of state residents by raising income taxes (see: Deny Aid for Education, and Go Back to Deportation). To put the sum in perspective, $4 billion is enough to pay 26,666 state teachers the $150,000 per year salary that Arne Duncan insists good teachers deserve (see: Will Taxpayers Support Raising Teacher Salaries 165%?), or 53,333 teachers $75,000.00 per year. Instead, the billions will go to benefits for those who have left the workforce.
Public employee unions are working in concert with lawmakers and public officials to bill taxpayers for excessive member pay and benefits. They will continue to get away with it as long as we have government officials willing to submit to their demands, and a deceived public that believes the propaganda being dished up from Washington.
Protesters have difficulty articulating precisely who or what is to blame for their woes, relying instead on symbolism, slogans, and childish accusations of unfairness. If they were concerned about change that would make a difference, they would be calling for the elimination of unions in the public sector, a revamp of public pensions as a prerequisite for federal handouts, and the elimination of union entitlements from federal projects. Leftist thinking calls for protecting big labor from blame, and directing anger at symbols of wealth. Washington has tried this approach for nearly three painful years. Other than spurring protests that have forced local governments to waste funds on cleanup and law enforcement, all we have to show for it is more anger, and more unemployment.