Backing Unions Against Taxpayers

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I was surprised to see Obama inserting himself into the fight in Wisconsin over public employees' collective-bargaining rights.

Obama accused Scott Walker, the state's new Republican governor, of unleashing an "assault" on unions in pushing emergency legislation that would nullify collective-bargaining agreements that affect most public employees, including teachers.

The president's political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to mobilize thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.

I can see that the Democratic party base will love it, obviously, but in the battle for centrist opinion, does it make sense to align with unions against governors struggling to balance their books--that is, to align with unions against taxpayers?  I doubt it.

Nothing obliged Obama to take this position. He could have recused himself, as he has on, say, budget policy. And it is one thing to offer comment in support of the unions, quite another to get his staff working in "close co-ordination" with the protesters. A shame he cannot be as forthright about long-term fiscal discipline as he is about the rights of public-sector unions.

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Clive Crook is a senior editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for Bloomberg View. He was the Washington columnist for the Financial Times, and before that worked at The Economist for more than 20 years, including 11 years as deputy editor. Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics. More

Crook writes about the intersection of politics and economics.

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