Sand in the Gears of Good Government

In any good detective story, to find the bad guys you have to “follow the money.”  That’s often true when you’re trying to understand how our government can malfunction, too.  Three good examples appeared this week, all relating to our twin crises involving Covid-19 and police reform.
First came news that Baltimore would lay off 48 city employees as it grapples with plunging tax receipts due to the virus-related recession.  Officials expect a $50 million budget shortfall, and the layoffs are projected to save $2 million, about $42,000 per laid-off worker.  Losing their output will reduce the efficiency of a city bureaucracy that already seems incapable of providing adequate services to its overtaxed residents.  Which may induce more to flee.
And it didn’t have to happen.  The union representing those 48 workers had a choice:  it sacrificed their jobs so that the rest of its membership would not have to endure furloughs or forego raises negotiated before anyone had ever heard of Covid-19.  That’s the way “collective bargaining” often plays out in labor cartels, with a majority of members voting to preserve or pump up their compensation at the expense of lost jobs for a minority of members.  (Though in this case the union may cynically be counting on the federal government to sweeten unemployment compensation enough to replace 100% or more of the 48’s lost income.)