Does it surprise anyone that Richard Cohen used his column today to blast public service unions? Probably the best part about his rant is his attempt to establish his union bona fides.
I pause now to assert my bona fides. I got my first union card while still in college and remained a member of the Newspaper Guild throughout my career, paying dues even when I no longer had to. I can whistle union ditties, and I swell with pride at the ancient picture of my grandfather, posed with his good friend, the union organizer. I know, too, what happens when unions are weak or nonexistent. Capitalism is cruel. Do not look for charity.
But, really, enough is enough. The Wisconsin state employees who are demonstrating in Madison have my sympathy but not my total support.
Yes, they have so much of Cohen’s sympathy that he concluded his column with this:
…when it comes to government workers, we are the boss and we pay the bill. To quote what Sam Spade told the woman he loved in the “The Maltese Falcon,” “I won’t play the sap for you.” When it comes to public-sector unions, my sentiments exactly.
And Cohen concluded with this despite acknowledging the following:
I recognize that [the Wisconsin union members] have offered givebacks, and I recognize, too, that Gov. Scott Walker has gone too far – if not trying to bust the unions, as it is alleged, then surely trying to cripple them.
So, he’s a great union man. He recognizes that the governor of Wisconsin has “gone too far” and is at least trying to cripple his state’s public service unions. He recognizes that the union members have offered to take a significant haircut. But he won’t play the sap for them. Screw them. Screw them and their government jobs and their cushy benefits. Damn them to hell. Gov. Walker is going to be a hero for taking these people on. You know who Walker reminds me of? Ronald Reagan!! Remember when Reagan was the governor of California and he went to Cal-Berkeley and told those goddamned hippies that they were a bunch of trustifarian cry babies? Yeah, that was awesome!! He became president because of that shit. And Walker could be president for this, too!! Because he went too far!!
You think I’m joking? Look at this shit:
In the manner of Ronald Reagan taking on student demonstrators at Berkeley in 1966, Walker will become the champion of the common man, the Middle American and all of that. This works. Reagan, you might recall, went on to become president.
Reagan personified the disgust many Americans felt toward unruly (and ungrateful) college students. Walker is personifying the feeling of resentment and anger toward government workers who have so gamed the system that some of them retire on larger stipends than the average American makes in salary – and with health care, too. Like Reagan, Walker has tapped into a feeling of disgust – the always-dangerous sense that you and I have played by the rules and saved for our modest retirements, while government workers, on our dime, have run off with pensions they do not deserve. We feel we have been played for a fool.
Richard Cohen has the right to express his opinions. But someone ought to edit his stuff for coherence. His columns almost never have internal consistency, and this column is no exception. And then there’s the fact that he’s a disingenuous jerk who long ago ceased having any liberal tendencies. He basically curries favor with some imaginary constituency that he thinks shares his eclectic tastes. In reality, he serves an elite that neither needs his help nor respects his product.
Wank on. Wank off.