A Call For Sacrifice — And Not Just From ‘The Rich’

On this Labor Day, I feel fortunate to have a good job with decent pay and wonderful people to work with. Of course, not all Americans are so lucky. And now as the federal government and its states grapple with a fiscal crisis that grows uglier by the week, organized labor is being asked to make some sacrifices.

I’m no great fan of Andrew Cuomo, the New York gubernatorial candidate, but he has written a fairly brave piece in the Daily News today about the need for public employees unions to sacrifice for the good of the state.

The op-ed piece is short on specifics but calls for the unions to show the vision and selflessness that they did during the mid-1970s, when NYC almost declared bankruptcy and organized labor rose to the occasion with wage freezes and other concessions.

But those same unions haven’t showed such great vision this time around. New York State United Teachers (NYSUT), for example, thinks the solution lies in increasing taxes “on the wealthy,” while engaging in business-as-usual for its members’ wages and benefits.

What those educators do not realize is that NYS is already extraordinarily dependent on taxes paid by the high-wage earners on Wall Street. The near-collapse of the financial services sector in 2008-09 is one of the main reasons why the state’s in such a terrible bind in the first place.

NYSUT’s position on eliminating the state’s $15 billion deficit seems to be: “We’re not giving an inch. Let’s raise taxes on everyone who earns more than teachers. Then the state will have plenty of cash.” Of course, it’s easy to spend other people’s money. The only fair and equitable way to get out of this fiscal mess is to require sacrifices from everyone.

Here in Connecticut, where we face a projected deficit of almost $4 billion next year, I am willing to pay increased taxes if that’s the only way to climb out of our hole. But in order to have a stake in fiscal responsibility for the foreseeable future, everyone must contribute.

After all, it’s very easy to advocate for higher spending if someone else is going to pay for it. Just ask NYSUT. Heck, just ask my kids. They do it every day.

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