Private-sector discipline to America’s public sector

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Extrait de: Showdown in Madison, The Economist, Feb 24th 2011

The fight to bring a little private-sector discipline to America’s public sector has begun at last .

ELECTIONS, Barack Obama once said, have consequences. The Republicans’ triumph in last year’s mid-terms was seen by many as an instruction from the electorate to hack away at America’s sprawling government. In Washington, DC, that debate has gone nowhere. Both Mr Obama and his foes have produced fantastical budgets, full of illusory savings and ignoring the huge entitlement programmes. A government shutdown is looming. But look beyond the Beltway and something rather more promising is under way.

Unlike the federal government, which can borrow money to plug its budgetary gap, almost all the states are required to balance their budgets.

Malheureusement, nos provinces n'ont pas cette même restriction, c'est pour cela que la province de Québec se retrouve avec plus 107 milliards de dettes d'épiceries.

On est quasi une analogie avec l’Euro, le Canada contrôle la valeur monétaire, mais le Canada ne contrôle pas les déficits des provinces, de plus ils peuvent faire des
déficits d’opérations.

Examinez l’incongruité de la situation, Harper veut baisser les impôts des sociétés, pour attirer les investisseurs étrangers, en même temps le Québec agit de façon irresponsable sans rigueur budgétaire. Alors, le Canada tente de baisser les impôts, tandis que le Québec augmente les tarifs de tous côtés, ce qui annule
l’effort du fédéral.

Their revenues have been slashed by the recession; the stimulus funds that saw them through 2009 and 2010 have expired; medical costs are soaring. Tax rises remain unpopular, and so are deep cuts to important state-provided services like schools and the police. So governors are finally confronting the privileges that public-sector employees have managed to negotiate for themselves in recent decades.

For years politicians from both parties have given in to public-sector unions. The Democrats have been worse: witness their fealty to the teachers’ unions. But Republicans have spoon-fed their allies in the firefighters and the police. In general, the goodies have come less in the form of pay rises (too visible), than in over-generous pensions and health care, early retirement and the sort of restrictive practices that were chased out of the private sector years ago.

On appelle cela, du beau copinage entre le pouvoir politique et syndical.

All these are bankrupting the states (estimates of the unfunded pension bill alone range from $700 billion to $3 trillion); they also make public-sector reform much harder. Try sacking a bad teacher.

Exactement, essaie de licencier un professeur incompétent ou démotivé, tu es mieux de te lever de bonne heure, c’est pour cela que toute réforme majeure de la santé et éducation, implique l’élimination de la sécurité d’emploi, permanence et ancienneté, comme dans les pays scandinaves, il faut rétablir l’imputabilité.

A few Democratic governors have joined the fray—notably Andrew Cuomo in New York and Jerry Brown in California. But the fight is being led by Republicans. The main battleground is Wisconsin (see article), where a newly elected conservative governor, Scott Walker, is locked in combat with the unions. Up to 60,000 union supporters have been braving freezing temperatures to protest in Madison, the state capital.

Battle number one:

Wisconsin pioneered welfare reform in the 1990s—arguably the last serious attempt to do something about America’s straggling government. This time, to his credit, Mr Walker seems to have won one battle: the public-sector unions are now willing to pay more towards their health care and pensions (though his plan would still leave state workers with a better deal than most private-sector employees get).

Battle numbers two:

He deserves to win a second: to end the automatic deduction of union dues from salaries, which in effect casts state government as a fund-raiser for the union (with labour bosses recycling some of the cash back to tame politicians).

Il est grand temps que nous examinions plus à fond nos lois qui semblent répondre aux souhaits des directions syndicales, mais rarement, sinon jamais, à ceux des salariés, ce qui est ironique vu qu'ils sont les plus concernés, les salariés doivent bénéficier
du libre choix.

Au Québec, il est obligatoire de payer des cotisations si un syndicat est présent, la loi garantit aux syndicats qui en font la demande que l'employeur retiendra les cotisations ou que celles-ci feront l'objet de négociations entre les syndicats et les employeurs.

Donc, on se retrouve avec des syndicats qui possèdent plus de 800 millions de dollars de cotisations, et font du lobbying intense auprès des politiciens pour ne pas perdre aucun privilège, même au détriment du bien commun.

Battle numbers three :

However, in his third battle—trying to end the right to collective bargaining in the public sector—Mr Walker is going too far. If the public sector is to work more like the private sector, workers should have the same rights. Abolishing the automatic deduction would help curb the abuses that Mr Walker wants to do away with.

         Encore, ce point est discutable, je vous invite à lire ce carnet.

Wisconsin Labor Brouhaha


Finally we get to government workers and the row in Wisconsin. It is a grave mistake to treat so-called public employment like other employment.


Governments are monopolies that get their revenue by force, not through voluntary exchange. Thus they don’t face the market test of free competition, and they lack key price information with which to engage in economic calculation. The consequences of this difference are considerable.


As Freeman columnist Charles Baird notes, when government negotiates terms with employees, the parties are coconspirators in the looting of the captive taxpayers. (Government employees aren’t taxpayers; they are tax-consumers.)

Moreover, government-union bureaucrats and government administrators alike want to build up their fiefdoms.

Fundamentally they are not rivals but rather accomplices with a harmony of interests contrary to those of the taxpayers. This is aggravated by the fact that those unions are powerful political actors and rich sources of campaign contributions and manpower.

A politician negotiating with a government union whose election support he seeks is unlikely to have the taxpayers’ interest uppermost in mind.

A boss who can’t say no

So Mr Walker is not completely right. But Mr Obama, who threw his weight behind the unions, not the taxpayers, at the first sign of political cannonfire, is completely wrong.

No doubt the unions will now dutifully stuff more dollars into Mr Obama’s campaign chest; but elections are won in the centre and, with the federal deficit bulging, reforming the state could be one of the main issues next year.

Does America really want to retain a chief executive who appears to have so little interest in making the public sector work more efficiently?

That is a question many independents should ponder.

Ici, on peut poser la même question au ministre Charest ou à nos
futurs ministres du Québec, et même à M. Legault !


  1. gravatar

    # by Michel Aubin - 26 février 2011 à 20 h 41

    Unions, especially public sector
    use intimidation, coercion, threats
    defacing and destruction of public
    property, lies, appropriation of
    "rights". If you want to be a millionaire, become a fireman
    at 55, you will be worth millions
    Do the math, more if you work overtime in the last 3 years before you retire. And with the
    generous working schedules during
    your career, you can have a sideline paid cash,tax free.
    Thugs, goons, Untouchables in
    the eyes of our gutless politicians