When it comes to improving public understanding of tax policy, nothing has been more troubling than the deeply flawed coverage of the Wisconsin state employees' fight over collective bargaining.
Economic nonsense is being reported as fact in most of the news reports on the Wisconsin dispute, the product of a breakdown of skepticism among journalists multiplied by their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.
Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to "contribute more" to their pension and health insurance plans.
Accepting Gov. Walker' s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.
Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin' s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers….
It is no accident that the world’s nastiest regimes ban strikes. “The right to withdraw one’s labour is a basic civil right in a free society,” says John Cartwright, president of the Toronto & York Region Labour Council. He is one of several union leaders who is fighting the provincial government’s move to declare the Toronto Transit Commission an essential service at the behest of Mayor Rob Ford.
“It is unacceptable to say that working men and women lose that right if somebody is inconvenienced. Declarations of essential service are supposed to be defined by risks to public health or safety, not convenience.”
He has a point. Governments can sometimes justify banning strikes by police, firefighters or hospital workers. They deliver services that are often a matter of life and death. Transit workers are not in that category. A strike at the TTC may be a massive inconvenience for commuters. It may even hobble the city’s economy while it lasts. It doesn’t put anyone’s life in danger.