Conservative leaders encouraging states to declare bankruptcy as a means of not honoring union contracts and pensions were challenged for their assertions in an editorial published in the New York Times Sunday.
Unfortunately, the New York Times editorial falls into a bad media pattern of blaming public sector employees for the compensations promised them.
Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Florida governor Jeb Bush are just some of the leaders publicly pushing the idea that states should have the option of bankruptcy to help them deal with budget deficits. They are calling for a new law that would allow states to reorganize their finances free from the union contractual obligations.
The New York Times rightfully points out that “magic-bullet ideas are no substitute for the hard work of governing responsibly.” Where the editorial fails is when it becomes a cheerleader of state governors and using a “holier than thou” attitude to point out “government employees accept a special civic responsibility when they go to work for the taxpayers that is not always shared by their private counterparts – they are working to serve their state’s need, not just themselves.”
Fire fighters need no reminders of who they are serving and they have shared the pain of this recession by returning to the negotiating table and agreeing to wage and benefit concessions.
The responsible thing for states to do now is to honor the contracts and pension funds they agreed for public workers.
After all, public workers did not drive the economy off the cliff and it is time to stop blaming them.