Government to the Rescue in Boston

By Begala, Paul | Newsweek, April 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Government to the Rescue in Boston


Begala, Paul, Newsweek


Byline: Paul Begala

The heroism of public employees.

There are lots of lessons we will, in time, draw from the Boston Marathon tragedy, but one is already clear: don't denigrate government workers. Along with some heroic civilians, it was government workers who ran toward the blast zone. And they were unionized government workers.

If there's a bogeyman on the right these days, it is a unionized government worker. Mitt Romney, who got rich in part through laying off private-sector workers, made his feelings about government employment clear in the 2012 campaign. "During the president's term so far, he has added 140,000 more government workers," he told supporters in San Diego. "Not only do we have to pay for them, but they have to do something every day. So, they look at things they can do, alright? Places they can interfere."

Things they can do. Places they can interfere. Alright? How about in your former hometown, Mitt? Just over a mile from your former office, government workers found things they can do, places they can interfere. What they did was save lives. What they interfered with was terror. (Oh, and by the way, the progressive wonks at ThinkProgress estimated the number of government workers actually fell in President Obama's first term by half a million.)

The Republican platform hails "Republican governors and state legislators who have saved their states from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions." In case you don't understand RepubliSpeak, that means they're real happy that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has hammered the public employees of America's Dairyland.

Rush Limbaugh, the intellectual leader of today's conservatives, has called public-service employees "freeloaders." Of course, Limbaugh is a professional blowhard--a hyperbolist (like me). And yet even sensible, mainstream Republicans parrot his public-employee bashing. When he was governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels called public-sector workers "the new privileged class in America." This from a man who parlayed his own public service into a lucrative job at a major pharmaceutical corporation. …

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