Of public unions and state debt

Following up on this post, the Washington Examiner’s David Freddoso writes about a study done by the Cato Institute (PDF) that shows a strong positive correlation between the size of public-sector unions and per-capita state debt:

There are hundreds of reasons why states accrue debt. In some cases, it has to do with special programs they pursue. (See RomneyCare.) In others, it has to do with their method of taxation.

But the states with the highest per-capita debt all have something in common: Robust public-sector unions that have, over the years, cut sweetheart deals with politicians — usually, but not always, Democrats.

In the graph below, each blue square represents a state (some are labeled), plotted by its per-capita debt and the percentage of state and municipal workers in public sector unions.

(Click the graph for a larger view)

I’m not sure what the answer is to this problem, but a major problem it is because of both the corrupting influence unions wield over state officials anxious for campaign donations and the increasingly underfunded and over-generous pension systems. Something has to give somewhere, but, if human nature is a guide, it probably won’t until states start going bankrupt.

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