In the last few months, public sector employees have become the economic scapegoats. Governors and state legislatures around the country are claiming that their budget problems and shortfalls are due, not to the Great Recession, but to the overwhelming burden of public employee’s salaries and pensions.
James P. Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has something to say to these politicians today in the Detroit News:
It’s time for a reality check. Government employees did not blow a hole in any state budget, including Michigan. Economist Dean Baker points out that shortfalls were almost entirely caused by the recession. “If revenue had increased in step with normal growth (2.4 percent real growth, plus inflation), state and local governments would have had an additional $290 billion since the start of the downturn,” Baker notes.
Public employees didn’t create a huge housing bubble. Wall Street did that. And public employees didn’t cause the Great Recession through reckless speculation. Wall Street did that, too.
State governments didn’t get $3 trillion dollars in loans from the Federal Reserve and profit from those loans by relending them. Again, that was Wall Street.
It’s also important to remember, as economist Robert Reich points out, that the typical public employee’s pension is only $19,000 a year.
These attacks on working families and government workers are nothing more than divide-and-conquer tactics aimed at weakening or eliminating all unions. “