Obama to governors: Stop vilifying public employees!

posted at 12:55 pm on February 28, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Barack Obama addressed the nation’s governors today with sympathy over budgetary crises, but a warning not to solve their shortfalls by infringing on the rights of public employees.  He also scolded governors for vilifying and denigrating PEUs, which raises the question of whether Obama has bothered to look at the protests in Wisconsin and elsewhere.  Besides, the governors in question are mainly fighting to limit collective bargaining rights to a standard that the federal government prohibits for its own employees. RCP has the video:

Kimberly Strassel pre-emptively explained the hypocrisy in her column Friday at the Wall Street Journal:

It will no doubt surprise you to learn that President Obama, the great patron of the working man, also happens to be the great CEO of one of the least union-friendly shop floors in the nation.

This is, after all, the president who has berated Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to limit the collective bargaining rights of public employees, calling the very idea an “assault on unions.” This is also the president who has sicced his political arm, Organizing for America, on Madison, allowing the group to fill buses and plan rallies. Ah, but it’s easy to throw rocks when you live in a stone (White) house.

Fact: President Obama is the boss of a civil work force that numbers up to two million (excluding postal workers and uniformed military). Fact: Those federal workers cannot bargain for wages or benefits. Fact: Washington, D.C. is, in the purest sense, a “right to work zone.” Federal employees are not compelled to join a union, nor to pay union dues. Fact: Neither Mr. Obama, nor the prior Democratic majority, ever acted to give their union chums a better federal deal.

Scott Walker, eat your heart out.

For this enormous flexibility in managing his work force, Mr. Obama can thank his own party. In 1978, Democratic President Jimmy Carter, backed by a Democratic Congress, passed the Civil Service Reform Act. Washington had already established its General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system for workers. The 1978 bill went further, focused as it was on worker accountability and performance. It severely proscribed the issues over which employees could bargain, as well as prohibited compulsory union support.

Democrats weren’t then (and aren’t now) about to let their federal employees dictate pay. The GS system, as well as the president and Congress, sees to that. Nor were they about to let workers touch health-care or retirement plans. Unions are instead limited to bargaining over personnel employment practices such as whether employees are allowed to wear beards, or whether the government must pay to clean uniforms. These demands matter, though they are hardly the sort to break the federal bank.

Perhaps Walker should start arguing that he wants to give public-sector workers greater protection than federal workers.  Let’s see how the media covers that.

Just as a reminder, let’s recall exactly who has been vilifying whom in this debate:

Looks like another case of projection.

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Governors to Obama: “Mind your own effing business.”

catmman on February 28, 2011 at 2:14 PM

I’m guessing that he’s figuring out that he didn’t succeed in making government cool again. Obviously, it’s a messaging problem, right?

beatcanvas on February 28, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Governors to Obama: “Mind your own effing business.”

catmman on February 28, 2011 at 2:14 PM

Obama’s business is tending to the needs of illegals and union thugs… looks like he’s doing a good job.

MeatHeadinCA on February 28, 2011 at 2:17 PM

I’m guessing that he’s figuring out that he didn’t succeed in making government cool again. Obviously, it’s a messaging problem, right?

beatcanvas on February 28, 2011 at 2:16 PM

Like I alluded to before, I think he’s given up on the messaging. He’s dependent on the unions to push him over the line in ’12.

MeatHeadinCA on February 28, 2011 at 2:18 PM

I never thought this country elect such a douche as a president. The USA never fails to shock me.

leftnomore on February 28, 2011 at 2:31 PM

Statement by Gov. Spine (R):

“We have no interest, Mr. President, in what is now a familiar line of political attack from your White House, i.e., the use of the straw-man of “vilification” for the purposes of obscuring both the fiscal dangers threatening our states and the moral hazards of unbridled and unsustainable payment and benefit schemes for government employees. We have noted the lack of seriousness in the White House budget proposal, which fails to address our nation’s systemic crisis of entitlements. Some of us in the states cannot afford this luxury. We will not and cannot accept the business-as-usual approach. And we refuse to give only lip service to solutions. Nor will we countenance being scolded, falsely and for obvious political advantage, for vilification, when we are trying to be responsible stewards of public funds. Rather than attack us in an attempt to preserve a collapsing status quo, we urge you, Mr. President, as the leader of our nation, either to remain neutral in the affairs of individual states trying hard to save hard-working tax-payers from financial pain, or, if you dare, help stread the message of shared sacrifice to your union supporters.”

rrpjr on February 28, 2011 at 2:42 PM

Is it still ‘spin‘ when black is called white, and white is called black, and up is called down, and down is called up?

AnotherOpinion on February 28, 2011 at 3:19 PM

Here’s the full transcript. His dissembling about ObamaCare, and new talking points about less bureaucracy and the rights of the states to have the “flexibility” to design their own programs is stunning. He borrows rhetoric about states being “laboratories for democracy”, invokes federalism and the founders, while pretending that this flexibility has been part of the plan all along.

Note his caveat that their plans must offer the same coverage as his federal plan (“if you can come up with a better system for your state to provide coverage of the same quality and affordability as the Affordable Care Act, you can take that route instead.”). Later he says, “In fact, this week I’m issuing a Presidential Memorandum that instructs all government agencies to follow this flexible approach wherever the law allows.”

Good luck with that, states. Somehow I doubt that the law will allow, say, high deductible plans. Meanwhile, if this was part of the plan all along, why the need to issue a P.M.?

Buy Danish on February 28, 2011 at 3:24 PM

Circumstances were such this morning that I caught Obama’s rhetoric this morning over coffee. Normally, I would change the channel, but politeness dictated that I not touch the remote. The visual I will remember most:


No one was buying what Obama was selling. He had a whole room of Governors appreciating the concept of “states’ rights” more than they possibly imagined.

Like myself, I am sure politeness dictated that the Governors listened quietly, too. However, I don’t think they bought anything said by the Once.

Mutnodjmet on February 28, 2011 at 3:28 PM

…a presidential memorandum that instructs all govt agencies to follow this flexible approach-wherever the law allows…or not, guys we make this stuff up as we go along to get along. If we don’t like it, out the window it goes. Does this mean he’s going to stop vilifying the tea party every chance he get? Don’t think so.

Kissmygrits on February 28, 2011 at 3:30 PM

Difference between this speech and Charlie Sheens interviews today? Sheen made more sense…

Caper29 on February 28, 2011 at 4:21 PM

If I am not mistaken, this “Governors” meeting were all Dems,,,no Rs need apply. Was that not the case.????

retiredeagle on February 28, 2011 at 1:41 PM

No, today’s meeting of Governors at the White House was bi-partisan. However, O’bama did meet at the WH on Friday with only the Dem Governors in attendance.

Del Dolemonte on February 28, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Is this part of his wanting to be a “really great” one-term president instead of a mediocre two-termer?

stvnscott on February 28, 2011 at 5:04 PM

Good thread Mr. Morrissey.

Geochelone on February 28, 2011 at 5:08 PM

I keep wondering if and when the Feds will pull Federal moneys from Wisconsin? That’s the only effective tactic I think they can come up with at this point.

Interesting, short article on this scenario here:


The result would be higher taxes/fees locally, but would probably be worth it to get out from under Washington’s thumb.

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 28, 2011 at 5:24 PM

In 1943, a New York Supreme Court judge held:

To tolerate or recognize any combination of civil service employees of the government as a labor organization or union is not only incompatible with the spirit of democracy, but inconsistent with every principle upon which our government is founded. Nothing is more dangerous to public welfare than to admit that hired servants of the State can dictate to the government the hours, the wages and conditions under which they will carry on essential services vital to the welfare, safety, and security of the citizen. To admit as true that government employees have power to halt or check the functions of government unless their demands are satisfied, is to transfer to them all legislative, executive and judicial power. Nothing would be more ridiculous.

National Affairs: The Trouble With Public Sector Unions

LifeTrek on February 28, 2011 at 5:50 PM

Governors to Obama: Stop vilifying taxpayers and voters!

Karmi on February 28, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Were all of the Governors there? I would be interested to hear if O’bama had a private meeting with his lifelong friend, the new Democrat Governor of Hawai’i.

Wonder what they would talk about?

Del Dolemonte on February 28, 2011 at 1:13 PM

I just read a linked post at freerepublic yesterday that Hawaii’s governor is making noises himself about cutting back on public employees’ pensions and/or benefits.

Did the governors attending O’s event remind the lad about the Tenth Amendment and that his administration’s fiats on health care, among other issues, are making it difficult to run fiscally sound states?

onlineanalyst on February 28, 2011 at 6:09 PM

Gov. Walker’s office responded to Obama:
“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.

“Furthermore, I’m sure the President knows that we have repeatedly praised the more than 300,000 government workers who come to work every day in Wisconsin.

“I’m sure that President Obama simply misunderstands the issues in Wisconsin, and isn’t acting like the union bosses in saying one thing and doing another.”

– ouch

Daisy_WI on February 28, 2011 at 6:11 PM

Ha! From JWF, the White House tweets, not that Obama said blah blah blah, but that Fox News reported that Obama said states can flex their plans. Unflippingbelievable. I’m just disappointed *sob* I didn’t get credit for reporting it before they did.

Buy Danish on February 28, 2011 at 6:11 PM

The governors should have told ObaMao that they were the only ones standing between him and the pitchforks of angry taxpayers.

onlineanalyst on February 28, 2011 at 6:16 PM

Here’s the NYT’s reporting on Barry’s flex plan. So sorry they were not included in the W.H. tweet.

Buy Danish on February 28, 2011 at 6:17 PM

Can someone point to me where in the constitution there is a right to collective bargaining?

angryed on February 28, 2011 at 1:37 PM

crr666: It’s right there in the good and plenty clause.

onlineanalyst on February 28, 2011 at 6:18 PM

Its obviouse Obama sees states rights in the frame work of a democracy’s central goverment as does any socialist.

His latest rule by decree is telling the states that they are now responcialble for enacting his nationalized health law how ever they want, but nothing less in the end, or more if they want, such as going to one payer, as Obama and his commrades know will eventully happen.

Then the is the union issue. No secret there that his best buddy, Communist-socialist union leader, Trumka, is leading him on this and Obama is following it line for line. Trumka says leave the unions alone. If there is not enough money to pay for the union contracts, leave the public unions alone and rasie taxes. What is Obama saying to the states. Don’t try to balance your budgets by going after public unions. If you don’t cut the public union cost back then the only option is to raise taxes. Any difference between the two messages?

Obama and Trumka’s possitions effectively are saying to penilize those who do not belong to a bargining union by making them pay more with the less they already are getting. As he said, if he does not represent you, you don’t matter, and that goes for both of them.

How Obama can say he is not a socialist after his action with his own organizations supporting the protrestors, who very clearly were communist socalist organizing, I don’t know. Even worse we have now learned that he has daily converstaions with an admitted socialist-communist. His entire life is a continuous stream of hard socialist and communist personal associations and little if any that are not. Every move he makes is a move that supports socialism, communism, and dictatorships which is essentially what communisum is in real world practice.

Socialism has to fail badlyto be successful. The medicare, medicade, social security and nationalized medicine and work of the unions to destroy states governments are enough to insure that it will. When that happens the government has to step in and take everything and redistribute it as the government sees fit. That is when communism, now known under its new term, “social Justice” comes into being. Van Jones will proudly tell you that under social justice, everyone’s life will be the same as everyone eles. Except the elites. They, their children and grandchildren, will have a life that is very much like ours had been before Obama.

Franklyn on February 28, 2011 at 6:37 PM

Say, champ.
We’ll stop vilifying the unions when you stop lying.

Gonna be awhile, ain’t it…champ.

Yellowdog12 on February 28, 2011 at 7:09 PM

Walker is Hitler? Really?

Is he planning to take over 85% of the unions, first, so he can then get rid of those he doesn’t agree with? That is the way the NSDAP did it, back in the day – with the HELP of the MAJORITY of unions.

But then these teachers don’t know much about history.

ajacksonian on February 28, 2011 at 7:10 PM

Citizens to Obama:

Stop vilifying the United States of America!!!!

landlines on February 28, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Obama to governors: Stop vilifying public employees!

As Obama continuously vilifies the private sector.

RJL on February 28, 2011 at 7:31 PM

Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat. Thirty years ago everybody knew if only Israel would recognize a Palestinian state, we would have peace in the Middle East. Ten years ago everybody knew that all Climate Change was due to man made CO2. Three years ago everybody knew that America would be post racial if only we had a Black President, and a year ago everybody knew that the Democrats would control the House for a generation.
Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.

J_Crater on February 28, 2011 at 8:07 PM

The community-organizer-in chief is just doing what he knows:
Fleecing the taxpayers!

shorebird on February 28, 2011 at 10:10 PM

The President should practice what he preaches–he does the same thing to anyone who disagrees with his policies.

zoyclem on March 1, 2011 at 11:30 AM