Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: The president, while watching everything else in the world, is also keeping an eye on the continuing disputes between politicians and state workers across the country. It’s a wonder he has the time to read these letters. At least, I think it is…
Dear Mr. President,
As the clash between state budget hawks and union folks spreads to another state, (Ohio, for those who are scoring at home) I find myself listening to many of the workers saying some version of the same thing: “We don’t mind taking a hit to help balance the budget, but it’s unfair that only we are being targeted. Shouldn’t everyone else, including those in the private sector, shoulder some of this burden?” Some version of that.
At first blush, I understand. As I have written before, I think it is much easier to unite people in hard times if it is clear that everyone is suffering in the same way to make things better. Certainly if the governors in these states were calling for some kind of across-the-board measure to fix the budget, say a temporary tax on every gallon of gasoline, it would make voters angry, but at least no one group would feel unfairly targeted.
On the other hand, there is a catch to that way of thinking.
Economic events affect different groups in different ways all the time. I’m sure in both Wisconsin and Ohio you can find plenty of people who went into perfectly solid industries (such as typewriter manufacturing) years ago and yet suffered when the market changed. It seems to me that the counter argument to government workers saying “We should all bear the burden,” might be: “We all do - in different industries at different times.”
I don’t want to predict how things will end in those disputes nor pass judgment on how they ought to end, but I think one could argue that economic challenges are never fair; and no business - including the public’s business - is immune from getting the short stick now and then.
I’m headed up to Gettysburg today for a Building Up America story. If you call me early enough and you have the time, you can come along. Just let me know.
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