President Obama has now lobbed two grenades at Wisconsin's Republican governor, Scott Walker, regarding the latter's efforts to deal with his state's budget problem before it becomes a crisis. Last night, Obama's remark that “I don't think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon,” rankled Walker enough that he released this statement:
I'm sure the President knows that most federal employees do not have collective bargaining for wages and benefits while our plan allows it for base pay. And I'm sure the President knows that the average federal worker pays twice as much for health insurance as what we are asking for in Wisconsin. At least I would hope he knows these facts.
Walker is exactly right. Despite our federal government's spending crisis, you don't hear much about the problem with public sector pensions at the federal level because the problem doesn't exist. The federal system — the reformed one in place since the 1980s — really doesn't get enough attention. Every state where public sector unions have become too powerful and pensions present a major problem could solve its long-term problem by adopting the current, post-1984 federal system.
Federal workers contribute to their own retirement, as in the private sector. They do not have collective bargaining rights with respect to wages or benefits. They still get a very good deal, but that is because Congress has given them one. Their compensation is determined by the legislative process, not the collective bargaining process.
Is Obama saying that federal workers have their rights “infringed upon?”