This has really got to be chutzpah for the ages. Robert Barro develops rational expectations economics, which fails to predict anything and helps to create a global financial crisis. Then, ignoring his own role in the matter, he says that it will have the “positive consequence” of undermining public employee unions, who did absolutely nothing to cause the crisis. The inability to feel shame has long been an asset in politics; now, apparently, it is an asset among Chicago-school economists as well.
In any event, if you really concerned that public employee unions will demand too much of the public fisc — a fear that in light of, say, Texas’ fiscal troubles, seems overdone at best — then there may be a better way to do it: increase the power of unions. Yes, you heard that right.
Suppose that teachers’ unions resist reform and thereby help degrade the quality of childrens’ education, a not-unreasonable scenario. The problem is often that parents are unorganized and cannot compete. But were they organized into unions, it is the members of those unions who would be in a position to complain and sit on recalcitrant teachers’ organizations. “Hey, buddy, those are my members’ kids that you are screwing here.”
Is this scenario realistic? I don’t know. My understanding is that it works something like this in Germany, although my knowledge is very much out of date on the question. It would depend here upon the creation of the sorts of peak institutions that have gone out of fashion in American political economy since the 1970’s. Even then, it’s possible that labor leaders would simply be focused on their own parochial issues and oblivious to larger ones. But this is far from necessarily true: with all of their flaws, public sector unions have fought for a lot of progressive legislation that does not necessarily affect their bottom line. The ACA was a good example.
At the very least, it’s certainly just as realistic as the confident assertions of right-wing pundits that public sector unions are busting budgets (which they are not) or get their members gold-plated salaries and benefits (which they do not). By the standards of current political discourse, we might as well consider it proved.