Why should Democrats be funded by taxpayers? 

The liberal columnist E. J. Dionne is crying in his column today about the plight of the public sector unions. He accuses Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker of seeking “a shift in the long-term balance of political power that undercutting collective bargaining.” But the nub of his complain appears in his last paragraph where he writes,

The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which swept away decades of restrictions on corporate spending to influence elections, has already tilted the political playing field toward the country's most formidable business interests. Eviscerating the power of the unions would make Republicans and Democrats alike more dependent than ever on rich and powerful interests and undercut the countervailing strength of working people.

This is a variant on the argument that Democrats need the money they receive from public sector unions in order to balance the money Republicans receive from greedy corporations. But of course there are some factual problems with that argument. The Republicans, as my Examiner colleague Timothy Carney points out with a wealth of example, don’t monopolize contributions from business interests and in the past several campaign cycles have in fact received less business money than Democrats. And no one has demonstrated that the Citizens United decision resulted in a vast flow of money to anyone, much less a disproportionate flow to Republicans. There’s nothing here to countervail.

It’s interesting to see Democrats bewail the unfairness—unfairness, unfairness!—of Republicans being able to raise in the 2010 cycle almost as much money as they did. But that was less a function of Citizens United than it was a result of the smart money figuring out who was going to win the election.

The most important factual problem with Dionne’s argument is that he doesn’t mention where the money public employee unions contribute to Democrats comes from. Let me refer him to these words from my Examiner column last Wednesday:

Taxpayers, present and future, . . . are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.

My question to E. J. Dionne: What’s the public policy argument for taxpayer funding of one of two major political parties?

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Michael Barone

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