Dick Armey: Collective Bargaining for Public Employee Unions Has Been Abused Severely


From prank phone calls to protests, the state budget battles are getting uglier every minute. And this is just on the state level—what's going to happen on the national stage? I caught up with former House Majority Leader and Tea Party Leader Dick Armey on all the political jabs.

LL: Ian Murphy, the editor of the Buffalo Beast, told The Huffington Post in an interview that he was "shocked" at how easy it was to get through to Gov. Walker and spending some 20 minutes on the phone with him pretending to be David Koch. What do you think of this prank?

DA: This is a perfect example of an irresponsible press. Can you imagine if you had a football referee or hockey referee saying I am for this particular team? You can't do that. That's not what the press is suppose to be. It's disgusting.

LL: Wisconsin's Governor Walker is being condemned by the Democrats saying it is his fiscal policies and restructuring of the debt that has led Wisconsin to this crisis. What do you think?

DA: The fact of the matter is, this problem is not just with Wisconsin. It's across the country. Here's where the Democrats are in trouble. They have always stood by their message that the public will understand. And there problem is the public understands we are living with the legacy of bad contracts made by politicians and administrations in states across the country that states can not sustain.

So now someone new has come into office and they have to break this spending.The fact is we are not living in an era where you can spend like a drunken sailor and make contracts the state can't afford and then kick that ball down the road for someone else to attend to. These governors know that. They are saying they have a responsibility is to the state and if the state has itself in deals they can't sustain they have to fix those deals.

LL: Ohio and Wisconsin are trying to end collective bargaining. Is labor reform necessary to right the balance sheets of states in fiscal crisis?

DA: Something must be done. Collective bargaining for public employee unions has been abused severely. I think maybe the only way to get out of this dilemma is to put and end to it. And I don't think its accurate to say that's what these governors are trying to do. The Dems are saying any attempt to discipline this budget is really an attack on the unions. Yeah, right. I would call that the cry baby defense. It's not an attack on the Unions. Its an effort to straighten out a budget that should have never existed in the first place.

LL: What do you think should be done to the Democrats who are leaving their respective states in protest to vote on Labor Reform?

DA: The voters have the right to say this is not acceptable. These Democrats wanted the job now go do the job.

LL: Scott Walker is being called a "Mini Mubarak" in Wisconsin after calling in the state troopers. Did he have the right to do this?

DA: Apparently the rules of "PC" in this country are set by the left of this country. You can say any miserably mean spirited thing you want about a Republican office holder without any push back. Again, it's just outrageous behavior.

I have been talking to people and I hope this is more than just wishful thinking, but I believe the age of political correctness may be coming to an end just because people are disgusted by it. It's just rhetorical bullying. What they (the Democrats) want in terms of rules of behavior is constrain and punish me for anything I say or my children but they are free to say anything they want.

LL: We are living in a different economic time. Do you think unions are living in an economic fantasy?

DA: The difference between you and me is I can remember the sixties. In the sixties they made union contract after union contract after union contract that had no sustainability. I was a graduate student back then and even I knew that at some point in the future states were going to be in such distress that they would not be able to continue these obligations and there is going to be a correction there.

Everyone one of these people who were involved on the state side as it were on the management side of these negotiations was quite comfortable because by that time they would be retired and some other poor devil would have to deal with it. At some point, these overblown union contracts have to come back to a civil matter. The states ran up every credit card they had and these things will come due and you are going to have to make the correction. These governors should be applauded for their creativity and courage.

LL: What's your message to the unions?

DA: Why are you trying to balance the budget on my back? When you have to cut spending you've got to cut where the spending is. These are the guys living high off the fat of the taxpayers hog. So if we have to cut spending we have to cut it from the unions because they are the ones with the money. There's an old line if you are going to go duck hunting, go where the ducks are.

LL: The budget battle among the states is ugly. Just how ugly will it get in Washington on a national level?

DA: Oh it's going to be ugly. What they're doing now is what they accused me in August of 2009 which is cracking me up a little bit. The fact of the matter is. They are going to show you how nasty the face of greed is. Because these are greedy people. They are overpaid, under worked and they got life by the tail. Things are nice and cushy for them. They want that to continue.


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A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."