Will 2011 mark massive Athens- and Paris-like street demonstrations as American state and local government workers protest recession-triggered cuts in their pay and retirement benefits?
Some are making that prediction. I don’t, because I don’t believe the public will be with the workers. For good or ill, we chronically regard government — and its employees — as “somebody else,” not “us.” We exhibit little of the class or cultural solidarity that undergirded the protests in Europe.
But there’s no doubt that a major showdown on public sector wages and benefits is at hand. On the very day of his inauguration, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York agreed to an order by his predecessor to lay off 900 state workers because union leaders had refused to agree to $250 million in concessions.