SB5 and the Politics of Envy

Have you ever read an entire newspaper article simply to confirm its title wasn’t a typo? I did yesterday, upon seeing the Thomas Suddes editorial “Ohioans don’t favor SB5, but a campaign of envy could save it” on the Columbus Dispatch website.

A campaign of envy is the reason many Ohioans opposed Senate Bill 5 in the recent Quinnipiac poll. Since the bill’s earliest drafts, unions have framed it as an “attack” on “workers’ rights” by corporate lackeys. It’s lame and it’s dishonest, but hey, if you’re paid six figures for conducting class warfare you might as well go whole-hog!

But a couple of other numbers in the poll suggest there may be ways to woo Ohioans to vote yes to uphold SB 5. Example: Under SB 5, public employees must pay at least 15 percent of the cost of their health-care premiums. Of voters Quinnipiac polled, 60 percent said they support that. Likewise, 56 percent of those polled said they support replacing automatic, longevity-based pay increases with merit pay. And 60 percent of those polled believe Ohio’s budget problems are “very serious.”

Spend fifteen seconds reading past the union battle-cry, and it’s clear Senate Bill 5 represents commonsense reforms that will empower taxpayers at the expense of union bosses. Surely, a man who resides in Ohio and writes about politics for a living would know that – which is why the editorial’s title must have been a mistake…

That is, if the “Yes on SB 5” campaign can mobilize the politics of envy – say, in attacks on public-employee pensions, notably “double-dipping,” health plans and automatic pay increases – and tie those costs to the local taxes Ohioans have to pay, SB 5 might well survive – though political civility in Ohio, what’s left of it, certainly wouldn’t.

I know it’s only Monday, but Ohio’s papers would be pressed to publish a more ridiculous sentence this week. Here are a dozen union talking points that make heated, hypocritical (refer to union boss pay) use of the very tactic Suddes projects onto SB 5 supporters. If you can bear it, muddle through the editorial’s closing line again. Senate Bill 5, which limits the power of professional agitators whose job is to fight for more expensive government, is a threat to political civility. Tell us another, Professor Suddes!

Cross-posted at Third Base Politics.

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