The battle is joined and the middle ground is evaporating as the excesses won by public-sector unions are being spotlighted and scrutinized in the face of irreconcilable budget deficits in virtually every state in the union. (I don't mean that to be hyperbolic.) The progressive talking points are that this is about the working man and about the kids and all sorts of nonsense. In all of this, I think we are missing two fundamental points that go to the heart the issue: a) what should be the basis of compensation, and b) what should be the basis of taxation?
To the first point, I offer a couple of semi-rhetorical questions.
1) Are the skills/time/talent rendered to the government (and by that I mean "the people") inherently more valuable than the same skills/time/talent rendered in the private sector. (Are public teachers worth more than private? Are government engineers (etc.) worth more than those working in the private sector?)
2) Assuming that we can find no reason why a free market would value the same services rendered in the same economy differently, why isn't there a law that prohibits paying ANY government employee more than the value of those contributions in the private sector?
3) Since risk and interruption are an inherent quality of employment value, and since a public sector job, not immediately responsive to market fluctuations, is more stable and enduring than a private sector job, shouldn't we be compensating those positions at the private sector rate times a number less than one? (Example: a civil engineer with 15 years experience in the private sector averages $90,000 in TOTAL (inclusive of all benefits) annual compensation. In the private sector, that engineer is likely to have employment interruption for 1 year every 10 years. If a public sector civil engineer is likely to have NO employment interruption in 10 years, is there a justification for paying him/her $90,000 x 90%?)
To the second point, of taxation, what gives a government the moral right to seize property from its citizens to pay its employees MORE than they would earn in the private sector?
I return to the example of civil engineers. What gives the government the moral justification to seize property (taxes) from the private sector engineer (earning total compensation of $90,000 annually) in order to pay the government engineer a total compensation of $150,000? For that matter, what gives them the right to offer tenure or any other benefit not afforded generally?
Whatever one may think of unions generally, and their economic and moral role in a free society, and as a counterpoint to the holders of capital, how is it conscionable to allow such power in the face of government, whose capital is held by us all jointly?