BlueBird, over at Hedonic Adjustment posed an interesting question in his Tuesday post.
Bluebird asks his question in the context of union employees, but I think it is a fine question to ask generally: Why is the answer to inequity to make everybody as worse off as the worst?
How many times do we hear that "people on welfare" get too many freebies? Or complaints that too much of Obama's stimulus program is going to folks in foreclosure rather than those who are actually making their mortgage payments? Or rants against union employees with good healthcare benefits?
Why is the knee-jerk response to take away those benefits from the poor and working class rather than work to expand them into the middle class?
I understand envy. It's not like I don't get jealous of people who make more than I do, are smarter than I am, or have more opportunities than I do. But I don't see how my being jealous means they (whoever "they" might be) should make do with less.
Just so you know where I'm coming from--I work for a non-profit. Although I am an considered a "professional," my entire program is unionized, and I am currently president of my local. I make quite a bit less than I would if I worked for a private corporation. But I do have excellent health benefits (for which I and my recently unblocked arteries are duly grateful!).
Others with my education could have my health benefits if they worked here, but first, they would have to accept my pay. Like that is an option!
So is the answer to say that if one group can't have (because their employer can't or won't pay for it) my level of health benefits, then I shouldn't have it either?
In a different context, (and referring to a past post by Morrison at All Doors Considered), should the fact that an uneducated Deli worker from the projects got financial help from the government to move her family into a suburban home while a newly unemployed, college-educated banker is facing homelessness mean that we should never have helped the deli worker? Would taking funds away from her do anything for the about-to-be-homeless executive?
Somehow, I can't imagine those who "envy" the deli worker would really want to live her life in order to reap her "government benefits."