Sunday, September 05, 2010

No Justice, No Peace

Matt Welch's Editor's column in the June issue of Reason includes this paragraph on a budget fight in Montgomery County, Maryland:

The housing bubble, with its tax-generating wealth, was already bursting in 2007. Yet as recently as 2009, Montgomery County, Maryland, decided to make "phantom" cost-of-living increases to the pensions of government workers, linking contributions to salary increases that did not occur. This sweetheart deal, which added more than $7 million to the county's annual budget (according to The Washington Post), tasted rather bitter at a time when the county's revenue was falling short of projections by more than $24 million. Yet after one Montgomery County Council member proposed eliminating this sop to the public-sector unions, four of his colleagues joined a rally on the rooftop of the council's parking garage, leading a crowd of 400 government employees in chants of "We've had enough!" and "No justice, no peace."

I boggled at the audacity of re-using the "No justice, no peace" chant in a context like this. Normally, when the left uses this chant at a rally, it's in support of a group that isn't getting fair treatment on housing or employment rights. The unstated thinking behind the chant is that societies that don't protect people's rights will find that the underprivileged are more restive. But in the mouths of public safety workers threatening to strike because outrageous privileges might be taken away, it sounds more like a threat, which I would paraphrase as "If we don't get what we want, we'll make your life hell!"

A little digging assured me that Montgomery County did rescind the pension increases eventually. Some the county council members are running on their record for having imposed fiscal austerity measures, even though they were in place for the initial largesse as well.

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