Snowplow Slowdowns Might Become American Way

January 4, 2011 06:53

Americans may have had their first taste of disgruntled public unions hitting back at necessary spending cuts. Is it time to privatize?

By Kevin Hassett at

Europeans have grown accustomed to seeing government workers shut down their countries when provoked. At this time of huge deficits from Washington to the smallest towns, government workers in the U.S. also face significant cutbacks.

Americans may have had their first taste of what that will mean.

If city workers did undermine the slow-clearing effort to protest budget cuts, they may have contributed to the death of a baby girl in Brooklyn, who waited with her 22-year-old mother nine hours for emergency crews to fight their way through the snow-covered streets. A Queens woman watched her elderly mother die as she waited three hours for an ambulance to arrive.

Americans better get used to this treatment.

Throughout history, successful fiscal consolidations by highly indebted governments have generally gotten about 22 percent of their deficit reduction from wages and salaries, according to recent research I did with two colleagues at American Enterprise Institute, Andrew Biggs and Matt Jensen.

Democrats, who rely heavily on public employee unions for campaign financing, can generally be counted on to oppose attempts to reign in government pay. But now even President Barack Obama seems to realize the gravity of the problem. In freezing the wages of most civilian federal workers for two years, he said, “The hard truth is that getting this deficit under control is going to require some broad sacrifice, and that sacrifice must be shared by employees of the federal government.”

Will federal employees agreeably make the sacrifices necessary for our country?


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