The Sanctity of Contracts? Seriously?

The illegally striking union workers of Wisconsin and other states, along with the pundits siding with them, are making much of the fact that they negotiated and hold contracts specifying their benefits. They are contracts giving them expansive collective bargaining rights that facilitate the blackmail of local, county and state governments into agreeing to unsustainable financial commitments.


Those commitments are great deals for the unions: they get health insurance without paying a sliver of its cost and pensions without contributing a penny. We in the private sector pay for it, even as we pay for ours as well. In any case, union workers and bosses screaming about the sanctity of contracts is high comedy, isn't it?


Perhaps it's slipped their minds that General Motors shareholders had exchanged their money for contracts - called stock certificates - purportedly guaranteeing them the stated ownership in GM. That ownership was all wiped out as Obama swept GM past the established bankruptcy courts (the courts that establish ours as a nation of laws, not of men) in favor of saving jobs of union workers and even gifting ownership in the replacement General Motors to unions. What about the sanctity of those contracts?


The same thing happened with GM's vendors. They were owed money per contracts called purchase orders. Legitimate bankruptcy would have compelled at least some restitution for these companies. But they were denied even nickels on the dollars they were owed, in favor of the union workers (with no financial stake in or money owed to them by GM; with no contracts guaranteeing them equity or future payments). What of the sanctity of those contracts?


Finally, the dealers; small business owners with as many or more years invested in their businesses as GM workers had invested in their jobs. (For some, it was two or three three generations' of labor.) Their contracts, too, were summarily erased.


I don't recall the auto workers' union leadership or the workers themselves who'd been spared and favored objecting on principle to the voiding of all those other contracts. Nor do I recall teachers leaving their classrooms to protest in the streets in solidarity with the shareholders, vendors and business owners the administration screwed by voiding all their contracts. I don't think I heard any liberal pundits screaming in righteous outrage over the trashing of all those contracts. So let's not let any of these folks get high 'n mighty about the principle of honoring contracts. Phooey.


The argument was simple: GM was broke. Therefore contracts were turned into toilet paper, and those holding those contracts had not one damn thing to say about it. And afterward, that rape and pillage was celebrated as a glowing accomplishment of the Obama administration.


The same argument applies here. The cities, the states are broke. Without federal bail-outs - a criminal idea - the contracts concerning pay, health, pensions, etc. must be declared toilet paper. But this time, instead of the union folk getting outrageous preferential treatment, taxpayers must be protected and favored.


Hey, it's past time the public sector employees got comparable pay and benefits to the rest of us, rather than being anointed royalty. Let's not let this crisis go to waste. Let's rip up all these contracts for which there is no money and start over from scratch. Let's toss aside the old entities and their obligations on Friday and start new school systems or city or state governments on Monday just as was done with GM. Fire everybody on Friday. Hire for new jobs - with realistic, reasonable, affordable compensation and accountability - on Monday. And let's put our elected representatives in charge, not unions.


Sorry boys 'n girls, but the government gravy train is all out of gravy. Time to get paid what your employers can actually afford to pay and get benefits you have to kick in for and pensions that require 40 years' work. That's what the rest of us (from whom all the money is being confiscated for your pay and benefits) have to do. Whether we own the company or work for it, we are paid what the company can pay; it can't print its own funny-money and can't take on unlimited debt. Time for y'all to join us in the real world.


The media has a big opportunity here to force everyone to face facts - researching and comparing private vs. public sector pay, benefits, pensions, total costs of workers in various jobs, and productivity and value delivered by those workers.


Or the media can busy itself inflaming America's next Civil War. It must choose between the demagoguery and demonizing of "union-busting," or lauding these steps as long past due reform of public-sector workforce compensation, benefits and privileges. The president has been very big on reform. Let's hear him get behind this desperately needed reform, no matter how hard his union masters yank his leash.