Big Government, Big Unions, and the VA Debacle

It is tempting to say that the Veterans Administration crisis — which has taken the lives of at least 40 veterans in Phoenix alone — is the inevitable consequence of socializing medicine. But more than the federal bureaucracy was required to make the VA the catastrophic debacle it is today; it took the combination of two of the most pernicious elements in our society: Big Government and Big Unions. Kimberley Strassel reports for the Wall Street Journal:

The VA battle is only just starting, but any real reform inevitably ends with a fight over organized labor. Think of it as the federal version of Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and other states where elected officials have attempted to rein in the public-sector unions that have hijacked government agencies for their own purpose. Fixing the VA requires first breaking labor’s grip, and the unions are already girding for that fight.

The battle will be epic.

The VA boasts one of the largest federal workforces and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki bragged in 2010 that two-thirds of it is unionized. That’s a whopping 200,000 union members, represented by the likes of the American Federation of Government Employees and the Service Employees International Union.

Uncoincidentally, Obama was elected in part due to massive support from hard left labor unions — conspicuously including the aforementioned SEIU, which is essentially the same entity as ACORN, his political alma mater.

The situation was bad enough before Obama. Here’s why it is now worse:

The Bush administration worked to keep federal union excesses in check; Obama administration officials have viewed contract “negotiations” as a way to reward union allies.

This cronyism allows union goons to fill their faces at the taxpayer trough:

Manhattan Institute scholar Diana Furchtgott-Roth recently detailed Office of Personnel Management numbers obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R., Ga.). On May 25, Ms. Furchtgott-Roth reported on MarketWatch that the VA in 2012 paid 258 employees to be 100% “full-time,” receiving full pay and benefits to do only union work. Seventeen had six-figure salaries, up to $132,000. According to the Office of Personnel Management, the VA paid for 988,000 hours of “official” time in fiscal 2011, a 23% increase from 2010.

Moreover, as Sens. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) noted in a 2013 letter to Mr. Shinseki, the vast majority of these “official” timers were nurses, instrument technicians pharmacists, dental assistants and therapists, who were being paid to do union work even as the VA tried to fill hundreds of jobs and paid overtime to other staff.

Here’s how the union hogs literally kill the veterans who have been languishing on secret waiting lists until they die of treatable diseases:

As for patient-case backlogs, the unions have helped in their creation. Contract-negotiated work rules over job classifications and duties and seniorities are central to the “bureaucracy” that fails veterans. More damaging has been the union hostility to any VA attempt to give veterans access to alternative sources of care–which the unions consider a direct job threat. The American Federation of Government Employees puts out regular press releases blasting any “outsourcing” of VA work to non-VA-union members.

Democrats will predictably offer to solve the problem by throwing more of our money at their union cronies.

Like the civil rights movement, unions played a largely positive role in an America that no longer exists. In today’s America, both are thoroughly corrupt and malevolent, serving no constructive purpose.

In electing Obama, the gullible were duped into voting for the personification of the Big Government–Big Union axis. Buyer’s remorse is finally setting in.

VA employees, rallying for the American Federation of Government Employees.

On a tip from Varla. Cross-posted at Moonbattery.

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