The vote in Ohio last week to repeal SB 5 (a bill signed into law in March by Gov. John Kasich that limited collective bargaining for public employee unions) is indicative of the kind of dangerous fiscal irresponsibility and refusal to face up to the problem of out-of-control deficits that is still endemic in this country.
By rejecting Governor Kasich’s attempt at sensible compensation reform for public sector unions — namely, asking them to bear a fairer percentage of the costs associated with their pensions and health care — voters in Ohio showed they are not prepared to make the necessary fiscal choices confronting their state. Instead, it appears they prefer sticking with the unsustainable status quo of “inflated local government budgets and antiquated, inefficient bureaucratic management systems” that create less efficient and more costly government that “negatively affects Ohio’s ability to compete” for much-needed jobs.
Ohio, like many other states (and the country as a whole), faces a severe budgetary shortfall that can only be fixed by getting spending in line with revenues and shrinking the size of the state government. One way to do that is to implement common-sense tools like SB 5 that can help provide more flexibility in controlling costs and start to bring public workers’ wages and benefits in line with the private sector (a long overdue move — one study from 2009 found that hourly pay for the public sector was 45% higher than the private sector average, with public sector workers enjoying 34% higher wages and 70% higher benefits).
Back in March, when SB 5 was being voted on in the state legislature, the bill's sponsor, Ohio State Sen. Shannon Jones, laid out the stakes in the plainest of terms: “We cannot restore our economy and create jobs if we keep raising the tax burden on Ohioans, and the only way to get that under control is to limit the growth of government.” SB 5 was a step in the right direction.
Now, following repeal, Ohio is right back to its dire position. Ohio is a microcosm of America; it is where we all will be if more Americans do not reject this kind of shortsighted thinking. We cannot afford another four years of the dangerous and misguided public and economic policies that have ballooned the deficit, crushed the economy and put millions of Americans out of work. America cannot simply ignore the impact of bloated government compensation packages that have outstripped their funding. If we don't face facts and act accordingly, the situation will only become worse in 2012 and beyond. Left unchecked, this fiscal irresponsibility will kill America’s future.
We need new leadership that understands that the proper role of the government is to create an environment that will allow the engine of American business to roar back to life and create a sustainable prosperity that rewards hard work, ingenuity and the willingness to take risks. We need new leadership that sees honestly obtained wealth as a virtue and as something for all Americans to aspire to, not as a convenient target for pandering and class warfare demagoguery. We need new leadership with real-world experience and know-how that will put aside the business-as-usual approach in Washington and pursue common-sense policies that will rein in unsustainable entitlement programs, eliminate excessive regulations that are harming our ability to compete in the global marketplace and put America back to work.
The choice is simple: We can continue on our current, reckless path of out-of-control state and federal spending, reliance on Big Government “solutions” to fundamental economic and social challenges, and onerous taxes and regulations that are throttling the private sector, or we can forge a new path that is more in keeping with the Founders’ vision of limited government, one that eliminates bureaucracy and wasteful spending and enacts fair and equitable tax reform that eliminates needless complexity, closes loopholes, and requires every American to have some skin in the game. By doing so, we can unleash the creativity and entrepreneurial energy of our private-sector job creators and ensure a bright economic future for all Americans.
But Americans have to make the choice. Staying the course only ensures disaster. Courage and confidence in our ability and willingness to take responsibility for America’s future is the clear road to a better America.
Mike Hennessy is Chairman and CEO of MJH & Associates, the publisher of many influential journals, including The American Journal of Managed Care, Pharmacy Times, MDNG, Politics, Oncology & Biotechnology News, and Physician's Money Digest. As a businessman, entrepreneur, and a publisher of magazines and websites that focus on the financial and professional needs of physicians, Hennessy is intimately familiar with the challenges physicians face in today's competitive practice environment.
Hennessy's Highlights dissects the healthcare policy issues that impact physicians, particularly those who are running their own practices.