Daily Israel Report

Public-Service Employee Unions May Become Sleeper Campaign Issue

The Wisconsin recall has convinced influential Republicans that a bold agenda could sway the electorate.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 6/14/2012, 4:19 AM

Mitt Romney
Mitt Romney
Reuters

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's solid win in the recall election, despite the major effort invested by the public-service unions, has heartened Republicans, but also poses a dilemma: can the issue of state employees be transferred to the national stage?

Does it pay for Mitt Romney to make it part of his campaign?

Both Walker and Indiana governor Mitch Daniels are telling Romney go for it and not content himself with a strategy that simply plays on Obama's failures in office. That, they argue, will not suffice. Daniels commented that "the American people, I think, will rightly demand to know something more than he's not President Obama," he said. “He’s got to use this fall as an opportunity to build a consensus across – I hope – a broad spectrum of Americans to make the big changes we need to restore a vibrant, private sector.” Walker wants Romney to be "big and bold".

Romney is polling 35% of the union vote and must decide whether he wants to jeopardize this vote. As the union leadership is already umbilically tied to the Obama campaign - and will supply cash and foot soldiers, the unions as organizations are a lost cause anyway.

The movement to curb public-employee benefits has passed in such diverse states as Oklahoma, Idaho, Michigan and Tenessee. We may be approaching a Margaret Thatcher moment in American politics, where the public has come to the conclusion that unions have become too demanding and have the Democrats are in thrall.

This position is being pushed by conservative pundits. Jay Cost, writing in the Weekly Standard, is also urging Romney to make public service employee benefits a major campaign issue, because the public is receptive to the argument that the Democrats are so dependent on the unions as part of their political machine, that unions negotiating contracts are essentially bargaining with themselves when dealing with a Democratic controlled state. This has led to the expansion of state and local budgets "beyond all reason".

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer joins the chorus saying that the public-service unions were  "rendering state government as economically unsustainable as the collapsing entitlement states of southern Europe."