Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy
March 21, 2011 | 2012 GMT

By George Friedman
Forces from the United States and some European countries have intervened in Libya. Under U.N. authorization, they have imposed a no-fly zone in Libya, meaning they will shoot down any Libyan aircraft that attempts to fly within Libya. In addition, they have conducted attacks against aircraft on the ground, airfields, air defenses and the command, control and communication systems of the Libyan government, and French and U.S. aircraft have struck against Libyan armor and ground forces. There also are reports of European and Egyptian special operations forces deploying in eastern Libya, where the opposition to the government is centered, particularly around the city of Benghazi. In effect, the intervention of this alliance has been against the government of Moammar Gadhafi, and by extension, in favor of his opponents in the east.
The alliance’s full intention is not clear, nor is it clear that the allies are of one mind. The U.N. Security Council resolution clearly authorizes the imposition of a no-fly zone. By extension, this logically authorizes strikes against airfields and related targets. Very broadly, it also defines the mission of the intervention as protecting civilian lives. As such, it does not specifically prohibit the presence of ground forces, though it does clearly state that no “foreign occupation force” shall be permitted on Libyan soil. It can be assumed they intended that forces could intervene in Libya but could not remain in Libya after the intervention. What this means in practice is less than clear.
There is no question that the intervention is designed to protect Gadhafi’s enemies from his forces. Gadhafi had threatened to attack “without mercy” and had mounted a sustained eastward assault that the rebels proved incapable of slowing. Before the intervention, the vanguard of his forces was on the doorstep of Benghazi. The protection of the eastern rebels from Gadhafi’s vengeance coupled with attacks on facilities under Gadhafi’s control logically leads to the conclusion that the alliance wants regime change, that it wants to replace the Gadhafi government with one led by the rebels.
But that would be too much like the invasion of Iraq against Saddam Hussein, and the United Nations and the alliance haven’t gone that far in their rhetoric, regardless of the logic of their actions. Rather, the goal of the intervention is explicitly to stop Gadhafi’s threat to slaughter his enemies, support his enemies but leave the responsibility for the outcome in the hands of the eastern coalition. In other words — and this requires a lot of words to explain — they want to intervene to protect Gadhafi’s enemies, they are prepared to support those enemies (though it is not clear how far they are willing to go in providing that support), but they will not be responsible for the outcome of the civil war.

The Regional Context
To understand this logic, it is essential to begin by considering recent events in North Africa and the Arab world and the manner in which Western governments interpreted them. Beginning with Tunisia, spreading to Egypt and then to the Arabian Peninsula, the last two months have seen widespread unrest in the Arab world. Three assumptions have been made about this unrest. The first was that it represented broad-based popular opposition to existing governments, rather than representing the discontent of fragmented minorities — in other words, that they were popular revolutions. Second, it assumed that these revolutions had as a common goal the creation of a democratic society. Third, it assumed that the kind of democratic society they wanted was similar to European-American democracy, in other words, a constitutional system supporting Western democratic values.
Each of the countries experiencing unrest was very different. For example, in Egypt, while the cameras focused on demonstrators, they spent little time filming the vast majority of the country that did not rise up. Unlike 1979 in Iran, the shopkeepers and workers did not protest en masse. Whether they supported the demonstrators in Tahrir Square is a matter of conjecture. They might have, but the demonstrators were a tiny fraction of Egyptian society, and while they clearly wanted a democracy, it is less than clear that they wanted a liberal democracy. Recall that the Iranian Revolution created an Islamic Republic more democratic than its critics would like to admit, but radically illiberal and oppressive. In Egypt, it is clear that Mubarak was generally loathed but not clear that the regime in general was being rejected. It is not clear from the outcome what will happen now. Egypt may stay as it is, it may become an illiberal democracy or it may become a liberal democracy.
Consider also Bahrain. Clearly, the majority of the population is Shiite, and resentment toward the Sunni government is apparent. It should be assumed that the protesters want to dramatically increase Shiite power, and elections should do the trick. Whether they want to create a liberal democracy fully aligned with the U.N. doctrines on human rights is somewhat more problematic.
Egypt is a complicated country, and any simple statement about what is going on is going to be wrong. Bahrain is somewhat less complex, but the same holds there. The idea that opposition to the government means support for liberal democracy is a tremendous stretch in all cases — and the idea that what the demonstrators say they want on camera is what they actually want is problematic. Even more problematic in many cases is the idea that the demonstrators in the streets simply represent a universal popular will.
Nevertheless, a narrative on what has happened in the Arab world has emerged and has become the framework for thinking about the region. The narrative says that the region is being swept by democratic revolutions (in the Western sense) rising up against oppressive regimes. The West must support these uprisings gently. That means that they must not sponsor them but at the same time act to prevent the repressive regimes from crushing them.
This is a complex maneuver. The West supporting the rebels will turn it into another phase of Western imperialism, under this theory. But the failure to support the rising will be a betrayal of fundamental moral principles. Leaving aside whether the narrative is accurate, reconciling these two principles is not easy — but it particularly appeals to Europeans with their ideological preference for “soft power.”
The West has been walking a tightrope of these contradictory principles; Libya became the place where they fell off. According to the narrative, what happened in Libya was another in a series of democratic uprisings, but in this case suppressed with a brutality outside the bounds of what could be tolerated. Bahrain apparently was inside the bounds, and Egypt was a success, but Libya was a case in which the world could not stand aside while Gadhafi destroyed a democratic uprising. Now, the fact that the world had stood aside for more than 40 years while Gadhafi brutalized his own and other people was not the issue. In the narrative being told, Libya was no longer an isolated tyranny but part of a widespread rising — and the one in which the West’s moral integrity was being tested in the extreme. Now was different from before.
Of course, as with other countries, there was a massive divergence between the narrative and what actually happened. Certainly, that there was unrest in Tunisia and Egypt caused opponents of Gadhafi to think about opportunities, and the apparent ease of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings gave them some degree of confidence. But it would be an enormous mistake to see what has happened in Libya as a mass, liberal democratic uprising. The narrative has to be strained to work in most countries, but in Libya, it breaks down completely.

The Libyan Uprising
As we have pointed out, the Libyan uprising consisted of a cluster of tribes and personalities, some within the Libyan government, some within the army and many others longtime opponents of the regime, all of whom saw an opportunity at this particular moment. Though many in western portions of Libya, notably in the cities of Zawiya and Misurata, identify themselves with the opposition, they do not represent the heart of the historic opposition to Tripoli found in the east. It is this region, known in the pre-independence era as Cyrenaica, that is the core of the opposition movement. United perhaps only by their opposition to Gadhafi, these people hold no common ideology and certainly do not all advocate Western-style democracy. Rather, they saw an opportunity to take greater power, and they tried to seize it.
According to the narrative, Gadhafi should quickly have been overwhelmed — but he wasn’t. He actually had substantial support among some tribes and within the army. All of these supporters had a great deal to lose if he was overthrown. Therefore, they proved far stronger collectively than the opposition, even if they were taken aback by the initial opposition successes. To everyone’s surprise, Gadhafi not only didn’t flee, he counterattacked and repulsed his enemies.
This should not have surprised the world as much as it did. Gadhafi did not run Libya for the past 42 years because he was a fool, nor because he didn’t have support. He was very careful to reward his friends and hurt and weaken his enemies, and his supporters were substantial and motivated. One of the parts of the narrative is that the tyrant is surviving only by force and that the democratic rising readily routs him. The fact is that the tyrant had a lot of support in this case, the opposition wasn’t particularly democratic, much less organized or cohesive, and it was Gadhafi who routed them.
As Gadhafi closed in on Benghazi, the narrative shifted from the triumph of the democratic masses to the need to protect them from Gadhafi — hence the urgent calls for airstrikes. But this was tempered by reluctance to act decisively by landing troops, engaging the Libyan army and handing power to the rebels: Imperialism had to be avoided by doing the least possible to protect the rebels while arming them to defeat Gadhafi. Armed and trained by the West, provided with command of the air by the foreign air forces — this was the arbitrary line over which the new government keeps from being a Western puppet. It still seems a bit over the line, but that’s how the story goes.
In fact, the West is now supporting a very diverse and sometimes mutually hostile group of tribes and individuals, bound together by hostility to Gadhafi and not much else. It is possible that over time they could coalesce into a fighting force, but it is far more difficult imagining them defeating Gadhafi’s forces anytime soon, much less governing Libya together. There are simply too many issues between them. It is, in part, these divisions that allowed Gadhafi to stay in power as long as he did. The West’s ability to impose order on them without governing them, particularly in a short amount of time, is difficult to imagine. They remind me of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, anointed by the Americans, distrusted by much of the country and supported by a fractious coalition.

Other Factors
There are other factors involved, of course. Italy has an interest in Libyan oil, and the United Kingdom was looking for access to the same. But just as Gadhafi was happy to sell the oil, so would any successor regime be; this war was not necessary to guarantee access to oil. NATO politics also played a role. The Germans refused to go with this operation, and that drove the French closer to the Americans and British. There is the Arab League, which supported a no-fly zone (though it did an about-face when it found out that a no-fly zone included bombing things) and offered the opportunity to work with the Arab world.
But it would be a mistake to assume that these passing interests took precedence over the ideological narrative, the genuine belief that it was possible to thread the needle between humanitarianism and imperialism — that it was possible to intervene in Libya on humanitarian grounds without thereby interfering in the internal affairs of the country. The belief that one can take recourse to war to save the lives of the innocent without, in the course of that war, taking even more lives of innocents, also was in play.
The comparison to Iraq is obvious. Both countries had a monstrous dictator. Both were subjected to no-fly zones. The no-fly zones don’t deter the dictator. In due course, this evolves into a massive intervention in which the government is overthrown and the opposition goes into an internal civil war while simultaneously attacking the invaders. Of course, alternatively, this might play out like the Kosovo war, where a few months of bombing saw the government surrender the province. But in that case, only a province was in play. In this case, although focused ostensibly on the east, Gadhafi in effect is being asked to give up everything, and the same with his supporters — a harder business.
In my view, waging war to pursue the national interest is on rare occasion necessary. Waging war for ideological reasons requires a clear understanding of the ideology and an even clearer understanding of the reality on the ground. In this intervention, the ideology is not crystal clear, torn as it is between the concept of self-determination and the obligation to intervene to protect the favored faction. The reality on the ground is even less clear. The reality of democratic uprisings in the Arab world is much more complicated than the narrative makes it out to be, and the application of the narrative to Libya simply breaks down. There is unrest, but unrest comes in many sizes, democratic being only one.
Whenever you intervene in a country, whatever your intentions, you are intervening on someone’s side. In this case, the United States, France and Britain are intervening in favor of a poorly defined group of mutually hostile and suspicious tribes and factions that have failed to coalesce, at least so far, into a meaningful military force. The intervention may well succeed. The question is whether the outcome will create a morally superior nation. It is said that there can’t be anything worse than Gadhafi. But Gadhafi did not rule for 42 years because he was simply a dictator using force against innocents, but rather because he speaks to a real and powerful dimension of Libya.

"Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy is republished with permission of STRATFOR."

the West and the Narrative of Democracy
is republished with
permission of STRATFOR.

Read more: Libya, the West and the Narrative of Democracy | STRATFOR

Waging war for ideological reasons requires a clear understanding of the ideology and an even clearer understanding of the reality on the ground.

Thursday, March 17, 2011



Great news in the war on obesity! "The 3.9 percent increase in food prices last month is the largest monthly jump since 1974," reports Washington's WUSA-TV:

9NEWS NOW bought eggs, milk, and bread at a Giant supermarket in Washington, DC, on October 1st. The same items at a Wisconsin Avenue Giant in the city on Wednesday night showed the increases.
Milk had increased 15 percent. Bread was up 19 percent. Eggs remained at the same price.
Economists were predicting Wednesday that American consumers will be paying about five percent more for food next fall than they did last fall.

If the trend continues, eventually food will get so expensive that you'll no longer be able to afford to shop at Giant supermarkets. Instead you'll go to itty-bitty ones, where you'll pick up a half-ounce of milk, a pair of eggs and a slice of bread, which you'll have to stretch to feel your whole family for a week. You'll never again have to worry about your kids getting fat.


If you have to ask, you can't afford it.

Last week William Dudley, president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, spoke at a town-hall meeting in Queens, an area east of Manhattan. Reuters reports Dudley "was bombarded with questions about food inflation," which he patiently tried to put into context, explaining, in the reporter's paraphrase, that "the Fed looks at core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy costs, to get a better sense of where inflation may actually be heading."

He gave an example: "Today you can buy an iPad 2 that costs the same as an iPad 1 that is twice as powerful," he said. To which someone in the audience replied: "I can't eat an iPad."

Damn right you can't! And you know what else is great about an iPad? It's thin!

By now you have begun to suspect that we are being facetious. To an extent, we are. It is true that Michelle Obama has been waging war on obesity, and it is true that the Fed has been feeding inflation, making it harder for Americans to feed themselves and their families. But so far as we are aware, these two efforts are not part of a single coordinated policy.

Which is not to say that no one has ever suggested such a policy. In a widely discussed 2003 article in the New York Times magazine, Michael Pollan blamed a Nixon-era change in farm policy, a "shift from an agricultural-support system designed to discourage overproduction to one that encourages it" for the "obesity epidemic." He urged a shift back to Depression-era farm-subsidy policies:

As public concern over obesity mounts, the focus of political pressure has settled on the food industry and its marketing strategies--supersizing portions, selling junk food to children, lacing products with transfats and sugars. Certainly Big Food bears some measure of responsibility for our national eating disorder. . . .
There is an understandable reluctance to let Big Food off the hook. Yet by devising ever more ingenious ways to induce us to consume the surplus calories our farmers are producing, the food industry is only playing by a set of rules written by our government. (And maintained, it is true, with the industry's political muscle.) The political challenge now is to rewrite those rules, to develop a new set of agricultural policies that don't subsidize overproduction--and overeating. For unless we somehow deal with the mountain of cheap grain that makes the Happy Meal and the Double Stuf Oreo such "bargains," the calories are guaranteed to keep coming.

Now, we are more worried about bloated government than bloated citizens, so our inclination would be to address this dilemma by simply getting Washington out of the business of directing agricultural production rates altogether.

But it seems like a real dilemma for a modern-day liberal--for someone who believes that Big Government should help the little guy. Do you try to keep food prices from rising and consuming a greater share of the little guy's meager pay or benefit check? Or do you encourage price inflation so as to discourage corporeal inflation?

To put it in political terms: Is the way to win the little guy's vote to protect him from getting too big for his own good?

Monday, March 14, 2011


It is time for a new approach
3/13/2011 9:31:00 PM
By Prof. Charles E. Rice

The speculation about President Obama's eligibility goes on and on, with no reliable access to the truth and with no end in sight. It is time for a new approach.

The Constitution provides: "No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President." Art II, Sec. 1. Neither the Constitution nor any federal law defines the term "natural born citizen." Nor has the Supreme Court provided a definition that covers the questions presented in the Obama case.

In Minor v. Happersett, in 1875, the Supreme Court, made an incidental reference to the issue: "[N]ew citizens may be born or they may be created by naturalization. The Constitution does not, in words, say who shall be natural-born citizens. Resort must be had elsewhere to ascertain that. At common-law, with the nomenclature of which the framers of the Constitution were familiar, it was never doubted that all children born in a country of parents who were its citizens became themselves, upon their birth, citizens also. These were natives, or natural-born citizens, as distinguished from aliens or foreigners. Some authorities go further and include as citizens children born within the jurisdiction without reference to the citizenship of their parents. As to this class there have been doubts, but never as to the first." 88 U.S. 162, 167-68 (1875).

The Obama "Fight the Smears" website has published a digital photograph of a short-form "Certification of Live Birth" issued by the Hawaiian Department of Health that lists his place and date of birth as Honolulu on August 4, 1961. At that time, Hawaii''s practice was to issue also a long-form Certificate of Live Birth which contains more information, including the name of the hospital, or address of the place, where the birth occurred; the identity of the physician or other "attendant" at the birth; and the signature of the parent or other ''informant" certifying the accuracy of the information, etc. President Obama has not given the permission required by Hawaiian law for release of that long-form certificate.

Numerous lawsuits challenging Obama''s eligibility have been rejected by every court involved, including the Supreme Court of the United States. Some are still pending. The rejections have been based on various grounds, including the plaintiff''s lack of standing to sue and other specified and unspecified procedural grounds. No court has agreed to decide any of those suits on the merits.

The lawsuits have presented a bewildering array of claims, including, among others, that: Obama was born, not in Hawaii, but Kenya; if he was born abroad, his mother, an American citizen, was legally too young to confer that citizenship on him at birth; the Hawaiian short-form certification of birth published on the Obama website is a forgery; that short-form certification could have been legally issued in 1961 to certify a birth occurring elsewhere than Hawaii; Obama is ineligible because, wherever he was born, he had dual-citizenship since his father was a British citizen and the British Nationality Act of 1948 made his son a British citizen at birth; Obama identified himself as a foreign student at Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School; when Obama traveled to Pakistan in 1981, he did so on an Indonesian passport at a time when Indonesian law forbade dual citizenship, etc., etc.

There is no reason to analyze those lawsuits here in detail. Their lack of success cannot be ascribed simply to a hyper-technical evasion of judicial responsibility. For example, the rule requiring a plaintiff in a federal court proceeding to have a sufficient personal interest, or standing, to bring the suit provides needed assurance that suits will be seriously contested and will seek more than merely advisory opinions. On the other hand, it is fair to say that the Obama controversy involves significant issues of fact and law that deserve some sort of official resolution.

I suggest no conclusion as to whether Obama is eligible or not. But the citizens whom the media and political pundits dismiss as "birthers" have raised legitimate questions. That legitimacy is fueled by Obama''s curious, even bizarre, refusal to consent to the release of the relevant records. Perhaps there is nothing to the issues raised. Or perhaps there is. This is potentially serious business. If it turns out that Obama knew he was ineligible when he campaigned and when he took the oath as President, it could be the biggest political fraud in the history of the world. As long as Obama refuses to disclose the records, speculation will grow and grow without any necessary relation to the truth. The first step toward resolving the issue is full discovery and disclosure of the facts.

The courts are not the only entities empowered to deal with such a question. A committee of the House of Representatives could be authorized to conduct an investigation into the eligibility issue. The classic formulation of the Congressional role is Woodrow Wilson''s, in his 1884 book Congressional Government:

It is the proper duty of a representative body to look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees. It is meant to be the eyes and the voice, and to embody the wisdom and will of its constituents. Unless Congress have and use every means of acquainting itself with the acts and the disposition of the administrative agents of the government, the country must be helpless to learn how it is being served; and unless Congress both scrutinize these things and sift them by every form of discussion, the country must remain in embarrassing, crippling ignorance of the very affairs which it is most important that it should understand and direct. The informing function of Congress should be preferred even to its legislative function...[T]he only really self-governing people is that people which discusses and interrogates its administration. (p. 198)

Wilson later retreated from his affirmation of Congressional supremacy. He said in 1900 that the president, rather than Congress, "is now at the front of affairs." (Congressional Government, preface to 15th edition, 1900, p. 22.) In his 1908 book Constitutional Government in the United States, four years before he was elected to that office, he described the president as "the political leader of the nation." (pp. 67ff.) Wilson''s second thoughts on congressional supremacy, however, do not negate Congress'' "informing function." The investigatory power has remained as an essential role of Congress.

The Constitution nowhere expressly grants to either House of Congress a general power to investigate in aid of legislation, or in aid of overseeing the Executive Branch. However, the Supreme Court has long recognized that such a power is implied as an essential concomitant to Congress''s legislative authority. John E. Nowak and Ronald D. Rotunda, Constitutional Law (2004), 280. See McGrain v. Daugherty, 273 U.S. 135 (1927).

The investigative power of Congress has multiple purposes. "The ability to gather information has been regarded as a predicate to effective legislation and as important to providing a legislative check on executive actions. The Supreme Court has explained that Congress thus may conduct ''inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of defects in our social, economic or political system for the purpose of enabling the Congress to remedy them.'' The power to investigate also includes ''probes into departments of the Federal Government to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste''..... The authority to investigate necessarily requires the power to compel testimony." Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law (2006), 310. (Internal citations omitted).

It is difficult to imagine, to borrow Wilson''s phrase, a more pressing "affair of government" than the question of whether a sitting president obtained his office illegally, and perhaps even by fraud. An investigating body must not prejudge the case. Its concern must be, first, to put the facts on the record and then to consider whatever legislation or other remedy might be appropriate in light of those facts.

The House of Representatives is an appropriate body to inquire into the facts and legal implications of a President''s disputed eligibility for the office. The House itself has a contingent but potentially decisive role in the election of a president. The 12th Amendment to the Constitution governs the counting of the electoral votes as certified by the states:

The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted; - The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.

The power to investigate can be exercised by a House committee provided that the investigation is within that committee''s authorization as determined by the House. An investigation into Obama''s eligibility by a committee or subcommittee of the House could have several legitimate objectives, including among others:

1. To ascertain the facts, compelling by subpoena the production of all the available records relevant to Obama''s eligibility, including the complete Hawaiian records of his birth; his passport records to ascertain whether he traveled to Pakistan in 1981 on an American or other passport; the records from Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School to determine whether Obama described himself as a foreign student; and such other records as may be relevant. The disclosure of such information to the public would be an appropriate exercise of Congress'' "informing function."

2. The consideration of legislation to require candidates for a federal elective office to produce, at an appropriate time, evidence of their eligibility for that office. There is now no federal law or regulation that requires such disclosure.

3. The consideration of legislation to define the constitutional term, "a natural born Citizen."

The American people do not know whether the current president achieved election by misrepresenting, innocently or by fraud, his eligibility for that office. I neither know nor suggest the answer to that question. But it would be a public service for the House of Representatives to employ its authority to determine those facts and to recommend any indicated changes in the law or the Constitution.

Charles E. Rice is professor emeritus at the Law School of Notre Dame University in South Bend IN. He is the author of What Happened to Notre Dame? 


Sunday, March 13, 2011


What NPR needs is a little tough love

by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
March 13, 2011


RON SCHILLER told the truth.

National Public Radio's senior vice president for development, the network's top fundraiser, was fired last week after he was exposed in a video sting letting his hair down over lunch with two men posing as donors from a Muslim Brotherhood front group. Schiller's comments were "contrary to everything we stand for," NPR insisted when it announced his departure. "We completely disavow the views expressed."

Some of those views were certainly deplorable. Schiller described Tea Party members, for example, as "not just Islamophobic, but really xenophobic . . . seriously racist, racist people." When the supposed Islamists complained that "Jews do kind of control the media," he nodded agreeably; when they expressed a desire to see "less Jew influence of money into NPR," he assured them that NPR is untainted by any "Zionist or pro-Israel" attitude, and added: "I mean it's there in those who own newspapers, obviously, but no one owns NPR." He also claimed that while liberals are "more educated, fair, and balanced than conservatives," they are dwarfed by the "very large un-educated part of the population" with its tacky "anti-intellectualism."

How widely Schiller's bigotry is shared within NPR is an open question, though it's unlikely he would have risen to such a senior position if his views weren't in sync with those of his colleagues. "Even the least cynical of scandal-watchers would struggle to believe that the NPR board is surprised by the sentiments Ron Schiller expressed," the Columbia Journalism Review remarked last week. "He offered the same lazy liberal nostrums common at Washington cocktail parties and presumably very familiar to NPR staffers."

But when Schiller turned from casually smearing others to talking about NPR's finances, he spoke nothing but the God's honest truth.

Federal funding for NPR and its affiliates only account for "about 10 percent of the total station economy," he acknowledged, and that 10 percent isn't worth the aggravation it causes. "Frankly, it is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding." One of the men posing as a philanthropist asks if NPR would survive, given "all the donors that are available, if [Congress] should pull the funding right now." Replies Schiller: "Yes. NPR would definitely survive, and most of the stations would survive."

Not only would NPR survive, it would be better off, as Betsy Liley, NPR's director of institutional giving, tries to explain at one point in the conversation. "It's a complicated thing," she says, "being both a news organization and having--"

"--and having the federal funding," says Schiller, completing her sentence.

I oppose federal funding of public radio and TV on First Amendment grounds: In my view, Congress has no legitimate authority or reason to control, influence, or subsidize any domestic media. But even those who think Congress does have such power should be able to recognize by now that public broadcasting would be healthier and happier if, once and for all, it broke its addiction to taxpayer dollars.

NPR is more than capable of standing on its own.

MoveOn.org, the left-wing pressure group, has been promoting a petition that urges Congress to "protect NPR and PBS and guarantee them permanent funding, free from political meddling." Yet political "meddling" is the inescapable price of taking public dollars. Conservatives would complain about NPR's liberal tilt no matter where its funding came from, just as liberals complain about the conservative tilt of Fox News. But if NPR were no longer on the government dole, its political leanings would no longer be a congressional issue. The budget storms in Washington pose no threat to Fox because Fox doesn't run on taxpayer money. They wouldn't threaten NPR either -- if only NPR would give up its subsidy.

It could easily do so. The public-broadcasting industry is waging an aggressive campaign to save its federal allowance, which comes to about $450 million a year. A lavish new website, 170MillionAmericans.org, claims that "more than half of all Americans use public media each month" -- hence the site's name -- and exhorts supporters to "send a message to Washington that public broadcasting matters to you."

Wouldn't it make more sense to exhort those tens of millions of fans to dig into their own pockets, contribute directly, and eliminate the federal middleman? NPR has a huge audience, especially for news; far more Americans tune in each day to "Morning Edition" on NPR than to ABC's "Good Morning America" or NBC's "Today." With such a following, there is little doubt that NPR could not only survive, but thrive, on its own.

After decades of mainlining public funds, NPR's brass is understandably alarmed at the prospect of going without its drug. But addictions are unhealthy, and it is a blessing to get free of them. Ron Schiller was right: NPR would be better off if it gave up federal funding. A little tough love from Congress can finally make that happen.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Politico.com reports that Senate Democrats have decided to call the House GOP's bluff and refuse to approve the CR with the $61 billion in cuts and the key language defunding NPR and CPB and the restrictions on reg writing for Obamacre and EPA's jihad against American business.

It had to come to this. Given the numerous fainting spells suffered by old guard GOPers in the past, Harry Reid was bound to push back and the GOP must now allow non-essential federal functions to shut down. The House GOP freshmen should be prepared to desert the party if the party deserts them and the voters that sent them there.

MSM will amplify the false screams of the left during any shutdown, but to refuse to go to the mat now means losing the debt ceiling and the FY 2012 battles before they begin. The GOP cannot surrender on the four key "limiting amendments" either, as these represent crucial aspects of November's mandate.

We have to hope that to this point John Boehner and Eric Cantor have been playing a longer game, smiling and emphasizing sweet reason as a set-up to their "more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger" announcement that but for DoD, Homeland Security, other essential services and the issuance of the entitlement checks, the federal government is out of money and on break.

The country has to be given a choice: A small series of cuts --only $61 billion out of $3.5 trillion in FY 2011 spending-- and a set of crucial reforms, or no change at all.


Hugh Hewitt
Hugh Hewitt

fromHugh Hewitt




"This is war," Michael Moore declared last night on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show." The porcine propagandist referred to the Wisconsin Senate's 18-1 vote earlier in the evening in favor of legislation, supported by Gov. Scott Walker, that would strip politicians of the power to reward government employee unions for their political support by committing taxpayer money to their members' extravagant pensions and other fringe benefits.

The near-unanimity of the vote belied the controversy over the legislation. The Wisconsin Senate has 33 members: 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats. Only Republicans participated in yesterday's vote. The Democrats--beneficiaries of the scheme through which government employee unions funnel taxpayer money to political campaigns--had fled the state for Illinois. Their absence denied the GOP the three-fifths quorum required under the Wisconsin Constitution to pass a budget. After a weeks-long stalemate, the Senate enacted the ban on so-called collective bargaining as a stand-alone bill, requiring the presence of only a simple majority of 17 senators.

RealClearPolitics has video and a summary of the Moore appearance:

Moore also calls for a "student walk-out" across the nation on Friday in response to the Wisconsin vote.
"This has to continue day after day and these governors have to step down," Moore declared.
"The rich have committed these crimes and the people will demand your ass is in jail," Michael Moore said with a pair of handcuffs on the set of Maddow's show.
Moore also shocked the audience by telling the rich and bankers that "we have a right to your money!"

This is all quite ridiculous, but the idea of a "student walkout" is especially comical. To some extent, that is what the mob scenes in Wisconsin in recent weeks have been. Madison, after all, is a big college town, with a unionized faculty, as well as a state capital. But unlike a college president, Gov. Walker, who received just 31% of the vote in the county that includes Madison, is in no way beholden to campus politics. The same is true of most other governors, particularly Republican ones.

And yet it is just possible that Moore is on to something. One can imagine a situation in which attacks on the legislative process by government employee unions and Democrats escalate into something resembling civil war. We do not suggest that this is a likely outcome, merely a worst-case scenario--but one that is worth thinking about.

[botwt0310] YouTube/Ryan Harvey

Who'll police the police?

The key is the group of government employees on whom we depend to maintain the public order necessary for a republic to function: the police. Many cops are unionized, and although the Wisconsin bill exempts them from the ban on so-called collective bargaining, there are signs, as blogger and legal scholar William Jacobson notes, that some cops have been "taking sides in this political dispute"--and worse, that these guardians of public order are siding with those using lawless tactics to disrupt the legislative process.

In a Feb. 27 post, Jacobson linked to a video of a cop--"presumably off-duty but wearing what looks like a police-issue sweater with insignia" and, on the back, the words COPS FOR LABOR in big letters--"who addressed the crowd of protesters inside the Wisconsin Capitol building on February 24, and threatened disobedience to state government":

Here is the transcription by a supporter of the police protest of the key passage:
". . . This is not a budget issue! This is a CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE! . . . Mr. Walker! . . . We know pretty well now who you work for! [applause] Let me tell you who WE work for! [points to self and police emblem] We work for all of these people! [applause] We are not here, Mr. Walker, to do your bidding! We are here to do their bidding! . . . Mr. Walker, this not your House! This is all of our House! [camera pans 360°]"

In today's post, Jacobson quotes from a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report: "It was clear Wednesday night, after thousands descended on the Capitol in reaction to the Senate vote . . ., that police were not going to try to stop protesters from entering what was supposed to be a building closed for the night."

In a later update, citing a blog called "Badger 14" (the title a derisive reference to the AWOL Democratic senators), Jacobson adds: "The State Police did make an initial effort to keep protesters out last night. But, once most protesters had left the building, several dozen protesters were allowed to sleep in [the] antechamber of the Assembly overnight, rather than being removed per court order."

Columnist John Fund on what comes next in the Badger State.

Milwaukee's WTMJ-AM also reports that "the State Department of Justice confirms that it is investigating several death threats against a number of lawmakers." The station quotes an email sent to Republican senators last night that began: "Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes [sic] will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks."

Blogress Ann Althouse, herself a Wisconsin government employee, reports that the Capitol "protesters" entered through the window of a Democratic representative's office. She relays an on-scene report from her husband, Laurence Meade, on their efforts this morning to disrupt the legislature:

From Meade: Legislators can get into the building, but Republicans are being blocked from getting to their offices and into the Assembly chamber. It's the Assembly that needs to vote on the bill that the Senate passed last night, leading to the renewed protests. Meade heard from a source that Democratic legislators unlocked at least one door that leads to the doors for a cluster of Republican legislative offices. That would appear to be part of a scheme to prevent the vote.
"This is what democracy looks like"--that's the chant we've heard for 3 weeks. How do you like this new democracy, that has a mob storming the Capitol and, with the aid of the minority party, blocking the access of the majority party into their offices and into the legislative chamber? It looks more like anarchy to me.

Where are the police in all this? We do not know. Possibly the sheer size of the mob is making it difficult to restore order. Possibly they are acting in accord with their orders in adopting a relatively nonconfrontational approach, on the theory that it is wise to avoid heavy-handed tactics that might provoke the mob to violence.

But the threat of disobedience issued by that COP FOR LABOR raises a much more troubling possibility: that the police are aiding a political movement that is breaking the law in order to disrupt the legislative process. If that is the case, then what is going on in Madison is not so much anarchy as an attempted coup d'état--a challenge to Wisconsin's republican form of government by those who have been entrusted to safeguard it.

Nothing is more fundamental to the American system than republican government--in contemporary usage, please note, that's a small "r." As the New York Sun noted in a recent editorial, the U.S. Constitution provides that "the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government."

This provision, known as the Guarantee Clause, not only confers on the federal government the power to ensure republican government in the states, but imposes an affirmative obligation to do so. The Sun editorial continues:

It is hard to recall many moments that more directly echo the concerns of the founders than the situation America faces today, with a mobs [sic] of protesters, some bused in from out of state by labor unions bent on protecting their financial interests, occupying the state house at Madison and the governor there under heavy guard. Democratic legislators of Indiana are also reported to be fleeing to neighboring states to preclude a quorum being convened at Indianapolis, where the legislature is also considering a bill that would curb union power. At Ohio, a mob was gathering in the capitol in an effort to block efforts of the legislature to protect taxpayers from the public service unions.

To this list add Michigan, where on Tuesday, according to the Detroit News, legislation to limit union power "drew more than 1,000 protesters to the Capitol, and many swarmed into the rotunda chanting 'Kill the bill' and distracting the Senate during its regular session."

"No doubt it will be said that America is nowhere near having to engage the guarantee clause," the Sun editorial notes. "Republican government isn't yet gone, or even nearly gone, from Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana." We agree--though the Althouse-Meade reports suggest it came a bit nearer this morning than it was on Feb. 23, when the editorial appeared.

"But there is no doubt that it is being tested," the Sun continues, "and it is not so hard to imagine it breaking down":

What is so startling about the current crisis is that the chief executive officer of the federal government, bound by oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, is a party to the scheme by which the very legislators who form the core of republican government in the states are fleeing to states controlled by the President's party--a circumstance the Founders clearly hoped to avoid by wording the consitutional [sic] oath the way they did.

Should it become necessary, Gov. Walker still has the option to call out the National Guard. And whether that happens or not, Madison may prove to be the government unionists' Waterloo. Without an elite university campus nearby, it's hard to imagine they can drum up similar-size mobs in Indianapolis, Columbus, Lansing or most other state capitals.

But if they do figure a way to do so--and particularly if COPS FOR LABOR lend their muscle to the movement--President Obama could find himself obligated to put down a genuine insurrection by his own political supporters.



10 March 2011

Paradise Lost

Last year former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan predicted that the city would go bankrupt by 2015 because of its pension costs. He may not be too far off.

Los Angeles faces a $360 million deficit this year, which is about 10% of its general fund budget and doesn't look so bad at first glance. But here's the kicker: The city's police and firefighters consume 70% of the city's general fund, and their pensions alone make up one-fifth. Pension and retiree health-care costs for the city's workers are expected to soar to about $2.2 billion in 2015 from $1.4 billion today. To cover the additional costs, the city would have to eliminate everything from the zoo ($17 million) to the bureau of sanitation ($213 million) to the information technology agency ($80 million).

In order to prevent the city from going bankrupt on his watch, Democratic Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has proposed reducing pensions for new employees and asking workers to contribute 2% of their salaries to their retiree health care. For every 1,000 new workers hired, these changes could shave $400 million off of the city's annual pension and retiree health-care bills. But unfortunately, it could take decades for the city to realize those savings since it can't afford to hire many workers right now.

How did things get so bad? In 2001 city taxpayers approved a ballot measure that dramatically increased pensions for its public safety officers. It allowed personnel to retire after 33 years with pensions equal to 90% of their final salary. Amazingly, unions and city officials told voters at the time that it would save the city $196 million in its first five years and "after that, additional cost savings are expected to continue for another five to ten years." Pension and retiree health-care costs have since increased five-fold. Other cost drivers have been longer life spans, health-care premium increases and an early-retirement program that the city approved a couple of years ago to avoid having to lay off employees.

Barring a significant restructuring of its pensions and benefits, the city of angels could become paradise lost.

-- Allysia Finley


Off With Their Heads

WASHINGTON -- It is a bloodbath over at National Public Radio. First this pinhead, Ron Schiller, resigns after initially being defended by NPR then by the end of the day Tuesday being given the Shuffalo to Buffalo. Then Vivian Schiller, no relation to Ron Schiller, resigns the next day as chief executive officer and president of NPR. Ron Schiller was caught on tape saying NPR did not need its subsidy from the federal government to survive, but I guess the Board of Directors of NPR is taking no chances. Off with both of the Schillers' heads.

Actually NPR and its affiliates are among the most overstaffed and extravagant operations in media. In the 1990s, when I did "The Editors," a television show from Montreal that appeared on public televisions stations (because of my presence one had to be an insomniac to catch the show in Washington on WETA, a lamentable situation insisted on by Sharon Percy Rockefeller, the president of WETA and a Public Broadcasting Service board member), the Montreal production company did the show for a pittance of what public television paid. I believe a Washington production would have outspent us ten to one. National Public Radio is no different. Schiller, the fired NPR fundraiser, said they would survive the cuts and doubtless they could. I say cut their subsidy. They have been in more scandals of late than Charlie Sheen. Off with all their heads.

Schiller was taped surreptitiously in Georgetown's Café Milano talking, he thought, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Apparently by his lights the Brotherhood is a group of sophisticates, and so he divulged his urbane views of the world. Caught on tape were his views of the Tea Party: "The Tea Party is fanatically involved in people's personal lives and very fundamental Christian -- I wouldn't even call it Christian. It's this weird evangelical kind of movement." In truth, the Tea Party movement is interested in budgetary issues preeminently.

After being goaded by his Muslim Brotherhood interlocutor, "The radical, racist, Islamophobic, Tea Party people?" Schiller proceeds. "And not just Islamophobic but really xenophobic. I mean basically, they are, they believe in sort of white, middle-America, gun-toting. I mean, it's scary. They're seriously racist, racist people." All of this Schiller says to indict the Republican Party: "The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party," says Schiller. "It's been hijacked by this group…." He is speaking of the Tea Party.

Rather oddly, none of the commentary I read this week caught Schiller's low estimate of America as a whole. Quite hilariously, one of his new friends in the Muslim Brotherhood baited him, "…and so what is your opinion of that whole situation that is going on in Egypt." To which Schiller responded insanely, "I guess I am most disturbed by and disappointed by in this country, which is that the educated, so-called elite, in this country is too small a percentage of the population so that you have this very huge uneducated part of the population that carries these ideas. It is much more about anti-intellectualism than it is about politics." America in this poor sap's imagination is Egypt or maybe Iran.

It is not clear to me where Schiller got such a high opinion of his own intellect. Certainly the two fun-loving guys who played the roles of members of the Muslim Brotherhood made him look the fool on this tape. They were working for the conservative filmmaker, James O'Keefe, whose sting of ACORN put that group of hustlers out of business. Now he bids fare with his NPR sting to put it, if not out of business, at least off the public payroll. Yet where did Schiller get the idea that he was so sophisticated and free of prejudice? Elsewhere in his conversation with the phony Muslim Brotherhood, one of the brothers starts talking about Zionist control of our media. Now let us see, Schiller thinks he is talking to Muslim fundamentalists and they start talking about Zionist control of the media and he does not even object, much less leave the table. Schiller is not only stupid, he is a bigot too.

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. His new book, After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery, was published on April 20 by Thomas Nelson. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; and The Clinton Crack-Up.


ObamaCare's March Madness

After one year as the law of the land, mayhem abounds.


Sports fans relish this time of year for the NCAA Championship Basketball Tournament, aka "March Madness." But this year the tournament has a serious contender for that title. March is also ObamaCare's anniversary month.

Last year, President Obama gave Congress an arbitrary deadline to pass his health-care takeover legislation before the Easter recess at the end of March. This forced lawmakers to hurry their votes on a deeply flawed bill that very few of them had read. Worse, many made false promises to secure final passage.

We're already seeing ObamaCare's madness in its first year of implementation, which is why the American people continue to call for defunding, repealing and replacing it with more sensible reforms. Here are a few examples of the mayhem.

• More than half the states—28 and counting—are challenging the law in court, saying that it violates the constitutional rights of their citizens and the sovereignty of the states. A new study from the Senate Finance and House Energy and Commerce Committees found that as a result of ObamaCare, budget-strapped states face at least $118 billion in unfunded mandates during the first 10 years after the law takes effect.

• Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has handed out nearly 1,000 waivers to allow select companies, unions and states to escape, at least temporarily, some of the burdensome new insurance rules she has created. This is a continuation of the trend of the "Cornhusker Kickback" and the "Louisiana Purchase" that Senate Democrats used to get the law passed in the first place, and that so disgusted the American people.

Getty Images

• Independent experts have shown that the cost of health insurance will rise faster than it would have without the law. The Congressional Budget Office expects the price of a family policy in the individual market to be $2,100 higher by 2016 than it would have been had the law not passed. In at least 20 states, it's now impossible to buy child-only health insurance because of Ms. Sebelius's onerous new rules.

• Seniors are at risk of losing access to physicians and medical care. Medicare actuaries say that the cuts built into the law will force as many as 40% of providers to eventually stop seeing Medicare patients or go bankrupt.

• Many thousands of people are already losing the health insurance they have now as companies are exiting markets for individual, small group and Medicare Advantage coverage.

• The former director of the Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, says that the costs of ObamaCare are set to explode when employers opt to drop coverage and send their workers to the new, federally subsidized health exchanges for coverage. He estimates that this will drive up the cost of the law by $1 trillion or more in the first 10 years.

The list goes on and on. It's time to stop the ObamaCare madness before it becomes another entrenched entitlement program.

To protect taxpayers and our health sector, Congress can begin by defunding ObamaCare at every opportunity. Next we need a president and a Congress that will vote to repeal the law and start over with sensible reforms. The stakes are high for the capacity of patients and doctors to choose and control their medical choices, and for all Americans' freedom and prosperity.

If we do this right, in March of 2013, instead of jumping through more of ObamaCare's hoops, let's hope we will be able to focus on basketball's March Madness instead.

Ms. Turner is president of the Galen Institute. Mr. Cortes is executive director of Let Freedom Ring. Ms. Higgins is president and CEO of Independent Women's Voice.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Union 'rights' that aren't

by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
March 2, 2011


IF WISCONSIN GOVERNOR SCOTT WALKER were getting a dollar for every protester, politician, and pundit accusing him of union-busting, attacking public-sector employees, or waging a war on working people -- to say nothing of those likening him to Hosni Mubarak and Adolf Hitler -- it wouldn't be long before he could personally close his state's $137 million budget shortfall.

To angry protesters occupying the Capitol building in Madison, it may seem clear that Walker's bill restricting the scope of collective bargaining for government employees is "an assault on unions," as President Obama called it, and no doubt many of them would agree with the AFL-CIO that "nothing less than democracy, fundamental rights, and freedom are at stake" in the fight over public-sector bargaining.

But they aren't at stake. There no "fundamental right" to collective bargaining in government jobs. Indeed, labor leaders themselves used to say so.

Arnold Zander, the Wisconsin union organizer who became the first president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, wrote in 1940 that AFSCME saw "less value in the use of contracts and agreements in public service than . . . in private employment." Instead of collective bargaining, he explained, "our local unions find promotion and adoption of civil service legislation . . . the more effective way" to serve the interests of government employees. As late as the 1950s, AFSCME considered collective bargaining in the public sector desirable but not essential, and viewed strong civil service laws as the best protection for government workers.

In December 1955, in a New York Times Magazine essay on "Labor's Future," no less a union icon than AFL-CIO president George Meany wrote: "The main function of American trade unions is collective bargaining. It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government."

Obviously, Big Labor's outlook later changed. Dozens of states -- starting with Wisconsin in 1959 -- passed laws that authorized collective bargaining in the public sector, and public-sector unionism skyrocketed in the decades that followed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January that while union membership has dwindled to just 6.9 percent of the private-sector workforce, among public employees it has grown to more than 36 percent. Today most union members work for government. With public-employee dues swelling union coffers by hundreds of millions of dollars annually, it's no surprise that organized-labor and its allies now embrace collective-bargaining in the public sector as a "fundamental right" that only a union-busting tyrant would threaten.

Yet even today, public-employee collective bargaining is far from universal. According to a General Accounting Office summary, in only about half the states are unions allowed to negotiate labor contracts for most public workers. The other states either limit bargaining rights to specific government employees, such as teachers or firefighters, or ban public-sector collective bargaining outright. Among the states that don't allow public employees to bargain collectively are North Carolina, Texas, and Indiana; at last report, "democracy, fundamental rights, and freedom" were doing just fine in all of them. They'll do just fine in Wisconsin, too, if the governor's proposed reforms are passed.

And then there are federal employees. Obama scolds Walker for trying to restrict collective bargaining by government employees to wages, yet the two million federal civilian (non-postal) workers Obama presides over can't even bargain over that much: With rare exceptions, the wages, hours, and benefits of federal employment have never been subject to union contracts. The president appears to be quite OK with that. Last November he unilaterally announced a two-year pay freeze for all federal civilian federal employees, informing them -- no negotiating -- that they were going to "make some sacrifices" adding up to $2 billion this fiscal year.

Does this mean that federal employees are oppressed and underpaid? Hardly. Average federal wages far outstrip those in the private economy. When benefits are included, federal worker compensation averages $123,000 -- more than double the private-sector average of $61,000. Federal employees don't need collective bargaining over pay and pensions to be treated well, and the lack of bargaining rights has not busted federal-employee unions.

As even labor leaders once acknowledged, it is civil-service rules, not collective bargaining rights, that safeguard public employees' interests in hiring, promotions, and discipline. Wisconsin could abolish public-sector collective-bargaining entirely, and its government workers would still be strongly protected from management abuse -- and as free as they are today to join unions able to advocate on their behalf.

Wisconsin Republicans are targeting only the public unions' overweening political clout. They pose no danger to the welfare of public employees -- let alone to "democracy, fundamental rights, and freedom."

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


A Union Education

What Wisconsin reveals about public workers and political power.

The raucous Wisconsin debate over collective bargaining may be ugly at times, but it has been worth it for the splendid public education. For the first time in decades, Americans have been asked to look under the government hood at the causes of runaway spending. What they are discovering is the monopoly power of government unions that have long been on a collision course with taxpayers. Though it arrived in Madison first, this crack-up was inevitable.

We first started running the nearby chart on the trends in public and private union membership many years ago. It documents the great transformation in the American labor movement over the latter decades of the 20th century. A movement once led by workers in private trades and manufacturing evolved into one dominated by public workers at all levels of government but especially in the states and cities.

The trend is even starker if you go back a decade earlier. In 1960, 31.9% of the private work force belonged to a union, compared to only 10.8% of government workers. By 2010, the numbers had more than reversed, with 36.2% of public workers in unions but only 6.9% in the private economy.

The sharp rise in public union membership in the 1960s and 1970s coincides with the movement to give public unions collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin was the first state to provide those rights in 1959, other states followed, and California became the biggest convert in 1978 under Jerry Brown in his first stint as Governor. President Kennedy let some federal workers organize (though not collectively bargain) for the first time in 1962, a gambit to win union support for his re-election after his cliffhanger victory in 1960.

It's important to understand how revolutionary this change was. For decades as the private union movement rose in power, even left-of-center politicians resisted collective bargaining for public unions. We've previously mentioned FDR and Fiorello La Guardia. But George Meany, the legendary AFL-CIO president during the Cold War, also opposed the right to bargain collectively with the government.

Why? Because unlike in the private economy, a public union has a natural monopoly over government services. An industrial union will fight for a greater share of corporate profits, but it also knows that a business must make profits or it will move or shut down. The union chief for teachers, transit workers or firemen knows that the city is not going to close the schools, buses or firehouses.

This monopoly power, in turn, gives public unions inordinate sway over elected officials. The money they collect from member dues helps to elect politicians who are then supposed to represent the taxpayers during the next round of collective bargaining. In effect union representatives sit on both sides of the bargaining table, with no one sitting in for taxpayers. In 2006 in New Jersey, this led to the preposterous episode in which Governor Jon Corzine addressed a Trenton rally of thousands of public workers and shouted, "We will fight for a fair contract." He was promising to fight himself.

Thus the collision course with taxpayers. Public unions depend entirely on tax revenues to fund their pay and benefits. They thus have every incentive to elect politicians who favor higher taxes and more government spending. The great expansion of state and local spending followed the rise of public unions.

Professors Fred Siegel and Dan DiSalvo point out that even during the Reagan years, growth in state and local government jobs was double the rate of population growth. The effect on the private economy is a second order problem for public unions, as we've seen from the recession's far more damaging impact on private than on public workers.

Associated Press

Current AFL-CIO chief Rich Trumka has tried to portray Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's reforms as an attack on all unions, but they clearly are not. If anything, by reining in public union power, Mr. Walker is trying to protect private workers of all stripes from the tax increases that will eventually have to finance larger government. Regarding public finances, the interests of public union workers and those of private union taxpayers are in direct conflict. Mr. Walker is the better friend of the union manufacturing worker in Oshkosh than is Mr. Trumka.

Notice, too, how fiercely the public unions are willing to fight for collective bargaining power even if it means public job layoffs. Without Mr. Walker's budget reforms, Wisconsin will have to begin laying off thousands of workers as early as today. The unions would rather give up those jobs—typically for their younger members—than give up their political negotiating advantages. They know some future Governor or legislature will get those jobs back, as long as they retain their inordinate political clout.

This is the imbalance of political power that Mr. Walker is trying to break up, and he is right to do so. As important, the public in Wisconsin and around the U.S. seems to be listening and absorbing his message. The cause has been helped by the sit-ins and shouting of union members, the threats toward politicians who disagree with them, and by the flight of Democratic state senators to undisclosed locations in Illinois. It's hard to claim you're protecting democracy when you won't show up to vote. Taxpayers need to win the battle of Wisconsin for the sake of self-government.