Congress, especially if it is Republican in 2011, should pass a mechanism that permits states to discharge in bankruptcy their collective bargaining agreements and contracts with their municipal unions. Of course, this procedure would have to let school boards and local governments do likewise.
Obama will veto this bill, and a stalemate will ensue.
On the left will stand Obama, the unions and the Democrats demanding bailouts for the states and, truly, an end to our federal system of government. Once Washington guarantees state debt and spending, there will be no more state governance, only national rule.
On the right will stand a Republican Congress refusing to do so unless the states declare bankruptcy and cleanse themselves of the union agreements that got them into trouble in the first place. The GOP will point out that state funding is leaking as surely as the Deepwater Horizon oil well and polluting our nation’s balance sheet as badly in the process.
The money will run out. States, school boards and localities will stop sending out checks. Emergency state funding may keep schools open, prisons locked, and police and fire services running, but otherwise all hell will break loose.
Something will give in this national game of chicken. If it is the states and Obama that blink first, we will free our local governments of the grip of municipal unions, their rigid work rules and their unaffordable pensions. If the Republicans blink first, they will forfeit their right to represent the American people, having backed down from the challenge of our times.
This Armageddon looms in 2011, presenting us with either an opportunity to reform our government in fundamental ways or to set in stone our path to an Athens-esque meltdown.
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