I think a threshold or tipping point exists in the ratio between the political power of those who pay taxes and those who consume taxes directly. After that tipping point is reached, those who pay taxes become the economic slaves of those who consume taxes.
I think California has passed that point. [h/t Instapundit] Tax consumers now control the state government and can vote themselves almost any level of personal income and benefits they wish while taxpayers cannot muster the political capital to defend themselves.
This might seem overwrought but it has a precedent in the concept of the military-industrial complex. When that arch-leftist Eisenhower created the concept he warned that those who benefited from military spending, from stockholders and CEOs of defense companies to strippers who work the clubs outside military bases, would bring political pressure to distort defense priorities. He was right. The problem has bedeviled us ever since WWII. We keep bases we don’t need and buy new toys instead of spending money on training ammo.
Now, in addition to the existing vested interest in military spending, imagine that the 3 million active and reserve service members along with 500,000 civilian military employees all belonged to a single compulsory union. Imagine that the union endorsed candidates and policies, donated a lot of money to campaigns, assigned soldiers to go door-to-door and man phone banks. Imagine that the majority of people in Washington were in the union and had constant access to politicians. Unions provide a ready-made organizational framework that makes unions much more politically effective than a similar number of unorganized citizens of the same size would be. Their ability to buy advertising alone dwarfs that of any other group. The military union could bring enormous pressure to bear on any politician and force them to vote for more military spending. How much more distorted would military spending be than it is now? How much harder would it be to reduce military spending?
This is the condition that California and other states with powerful public-sector unions find themselves in. California has ~2.3 million unionized government workers and ~18.6 million civilians. With so many people organized with a laser-like focus on increasing taxes and spending, the private working citizens of California find it nearly impossible to prevent government workers from voting their own paychecks.
In effect, government workers have hijacked democracy. Instead of state employees working for the people, the people now work for the state employees. As far as the state government is concerned, people in the private sector work merely so that they can be taxed for the benefit of the tax consumers. They’ve entered a condition not unlike like that of pre-industrial serfs.
Of course no one is being whipped, but in effect an ordinary citizen of California cannot get their desires for reduced state spending implemented due to the disproportionate power of the State’s employees and allied interest. It appears now that the government unions will not accept any solution to California’s budget crisis except increased taxes in a declining economy. Ordinary citizens have no choice but to either emigrate or just lie there and take it.
By long custom and law, the U.S. military has remained ruthlessly apolitical. Serving members do not endorse candidates, organize politically in any fashion or make independent public statements about campaign issues. That standard evolved due to the obvious danger of having a military with a positive feedback loop into the political system that controls its budget. The same danger exists for all other state employees, albeit in a slower and less dramatic fashion.
No one should be able to vote their own paycheck. Government-employee unions should be legally restricted from engaging in any kind of political activity. If not, it is only a matter of time before civil servants become civil masters.