With the Ohio labor referendum coming to a vote in two days — and with the Occupy Wall Street protests continuing — I wanted to point you to something that neatly captures what all this is really about.
In recent weeks, proponents of Governor John Kasich’s law rolling back the bargaining rights of public employees have argued that their sacrifice is necessary for the state’s fiscal health. But labor and Dems have pointed out that some Ohio GOP legislators are not agreeing to a pay cut of their own — so why no shared sacrifice?
In a recent interview, a top Ohio Republican defended this in a curiously belligerent way, one that may reverberate in the campaign’s final days: He claimed lawmakers don’t need to take a pay cut in the spirit of shared sacrifice, because “I earn my pay,” adding: “Republicans earn their money.”
GOP state Rep. Lou Blessing — a prominent Republican voice in this fight, as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the Ohio House of Representatives — made the claim during an interview with Ohio public radio, audio of which is right here. Pressed on why he and some other GOPers wouldn’t agree to labor’s insistence that legislators also accept a pay cut, he said:
“Because it’s not merited. I earn my pay. I think that was just political baloney. So they can say in an ad, `Gee , you know, they didn’t support a pay cut.’ Well, no, I don’t support a pay cut. Republicans earn their money. Apparently Democrats don’t. They feel they should be paid less. That may be true. Maybe we’ll just cut the Democrats’ pay.”
Blessing also argues that public employees wouldn’t necessarily see a pay cut as the result of the rollback of bargaining rights. But PolitiFact recently concluded that it was very likely that the rollback would lead to pay sacrifices.
Blessing’s clumsy attempt at sarcasm is awfully revealing. He simply doesn’t think the sacrifices needed to right the state’s finances should fall on himself or fellow GOP legislators. When people say, “Hey, if you’re asking others to give something up to help the state, maybe you should do the same in the name of shared sacrifice,” the rejoinder is nothing but scorn and contempt, as if the idea is plainly ludicrous on its face.
And there you have it. The vote is Tuesday.