It Was 30 Years Ago Today….

by Don Boudreaux on August 3, 2011

in Data, History, Myths and Fallacies, Work

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

Joseph McCartin describes Ronald Reagan’s firing of the striking PATCO workers in 1981 as “the strike that busted unions” (“The Strike That Busted Unions,” Aug. 3).

Historian McCartin’s history is flawed.

Union membership as a percentage of all U.S. workers peaked at just above 32 percent in 1954.  Since then this figure has steadily fallen.  Today the percentage of all U.S. workers who are unionized is just under 12 percent, with no change in the rate of decline occurring in the early 1980s.  Indeed, the rate of decline, if anything, eased a bit starting in 1983.  As for the percentage of government workers who are unionized, that figure has remained largely unchanged since the early 1980s rather than – as one would expect were Prof. McCartin’s tale true – fallen.

Regardless of its merits, if Reagan’s firing of PATCO workers was a landmark event in “busting unions,” that fact doesn’t show up in the data.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux

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{ 17 comments }

Jay Baldwin August 3, 2011 at 10:07 am

After that headline, I thought you were going to say, “Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…”

Greg Webb August 3, 2011 at 10:36 am

More statists attempting to rewrite history in order to promote their ideological goals.

muirgeo August 3, 2011 at 10:48 am

Well here is your union membership over time;

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer

Here’s your corporate tax contributions:

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/Content/GIF/corporate_gdp.gif

You got your free trade agreements, you got the lowest marginal income tax rates ever, Obama has cut other taxes and given us a payroll tax holiday… How’s it all working out? What else would the libertarians offer to improve things even more?

muirgeo August 3, 2011 at 10:49 am
muirgeo August 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

Oops I was wrong… they aren’t the lowest marginal income tax rates ever…. they were lower before…yes IN 1929.. that worked soooo well then too…. but new lets re-invent history….

EG August 3, 2011 at 1:01 pm

You first! Since you want government to take your money so badly, why don’t you LEAD us towards it! I’ll follow…I promise…once you show me proof that you have donated to the government the amount corresponding to whatever tax rate…you feel…the government should take from someone in your income bracket. Then you can tell me what they should take from someone in my tax bracket, and I promise I’ll follow your LEAD!

Come on…aren’t you Leftists always crying out for LEADERSHIP?

maximus August 3, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Eg,
I believe muirfool has stated in the past our tax rates should be returned to the 1950′s level. That means someone at his income level should pay between 75% to 90% of their income in taxes, ( he has stated he makes in the low 6 figures).Gonna be tough to cover the mortgage, the car payments, the kids tuition, homeowners assoc dues, etc etc. Gotta love lefty propagandists. All bluster no real thoughtfulness.

SheetWise August 5, 2011 at 10:52 am

I don’t know how this got onto tax rates — I suppose it was Reagan — but … those 90% tax rates were never real, they were just feel-good percentages that allowed the government to manage investment activity by specifying where the tax-free investments were. Reagan’s revolution was really tax-compliance measures — lower the rates, but make sure the taxes were paid. It was under Reagan that waitresses, croupiers, taxi drivers, and parking attendants began paying taxes on their gratuities — while at the same time earners in the top brackets lost their exemptions. Since then, congress has brought back a lot of the exemptions,. but not raised rates (much). I still prefer a lower rate that everybody pays. I suggest we go back to a focus on compliance and eliminating exemptions.

muirgeo August 3, 2011 at 10:57 am
Dave August 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

It’s “membership”, not an actual ship sailing with union members on board…

Emil August 3, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Right, so you have basically confirmed what Don said in his post. Good that we seem to, for once, be in agreement

muirgeo August 3, 2011 at 10:58 am

Here’s your corporate tax contributions:

http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxfacts/Content/GIF/corporate_gdp.gif

You got your free trade agreements, you got the lowest marginal income tax rates ever, Obama has cut other taxes and given us a payroll tax holiday… How’s it all working out? What else would the libertarians offer to improve things even more? Because what we have now with your policies is just DANDY!

Emil August 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Great so you have shown that corporate income tax as share of GDP decreases during recessions…. what a huge surprise!?!?!

The only way not to have this effect would be to have higher corporate tax rates during recessions than during good times, which doesn’t really seem like a great idea, now does it? Not to mention that it would be precisely the opposite of what Keynes recommended…

tw August 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Don’t forget the New York Times’ slogan: “We never let the facts get in the way of a good story”

kyle8 August 3, 2011 at 2:51 pm

Although I think that labor unions did hold an important position at one time of forcing better working conditions into the workplace, they quickly became corrupt and have never recovered from their corruption.

The modern day labor movement in today’s industrialized economies has nothing, and I mean NOTHING good to contribute. There is nothing in what they want that is compatible with free markets, and free people.

Craig August 3, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Firing the PATCO members may not have spurred the downfall of the union movement, but it probably did make Republicans realize that there wasn’t as much sympathy for unions as had been thought. That might be starting to pay off just now.

Josh August 4, 2011 at 12:06 am

the problem with unions is that they benefit insiders at the expense of people (workers) that would otherwise compete with them. Get unions out of the labor market, but also crack down on illegals and temporary and guest workers as well.

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