The United States of Football Unions and Office Space

Photo by Stew Milne | USA TODAY Sports

Photo by Stew Milne | USA TODAY Sports

Mike: Labor Day has come and gone, but my Facebook feed last week had Republicans hailing a union court victory and Democrats decrying it. Are Tom Brady and the Patriots the cure for partisanship?

Cynthia: Partisanship, like football, is supposed to be spirited competition between teams. Done right, there’s no need for a cure. Players who cheat and, worse, politicians who obstruct give both a bad rap.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have figured out how to protect the American Dream in the new economy where up to 53 million people work essentially as freelancers without benefits such as unemployment insurance or retirement plans and without rights to due process that Tom Brady demonstrated to be so important.

Labor leaders could fill the void in the “gig economy,” and if Tom Brady and the Players Association used their star power to help struggling workers earn a decent living and enjoy a modicum of job security, football’s reputation could improve immensely. You know, a win win.

Mike: Tom Brady’s due process was provided by our system of laws, not the players’ association. The union agreed to the boneheaded clause that purportedly vested Roger Goodell with the power of judge, jury, and executioner. Thanks goodness Judge Berman runs on Dunkin’.

And maybe this is our generational divide showing, but I think you’re taking the exact wrong lesson from the freelance economy. Mass individualization is the future of work, products, and everything. In fact, even though the law and execution were botched, it is one of the reasonable policy objectives of Obamacare: move health insurance to an individually purchased service and away from an employer-provided benefit.

That is why we need effective reform on everything from the tax code to unemployment and Social Security, giving people more job freedom to make their own way. Now that is a win-win.

Cynthia: Tom Brady would not have had a right to a hearing in the first place had it not been negotiated by the Players Association in the contract between it and the NFL. Regular workers on their own — young and old — do not have such bargaining power to strike a deal with their employer guaranteeing such a right.

I’m glad you are finally seeing the benefits of Obamacare, Mike, but it’s more than just a place for people to go and get health insurance, there are subsidies that make it affordable, a mandate to create economies of scale, and rules that prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to people who might actually need to use it someday — like a young hipster who gets cancer and can’t make video games in his garage. Obamacare will cover medical expenses, but what about his lack of income? How can he pay the rent?

Not everyone has wealthy parents to call for help. Don’t Republicans want a safety net for the mass of these “free” individuals?

Mike: It’s a straw man that Republicans don’t want a safety net. But we want one that is truly a net to catch people when they fall, not an incoherent regulatory morass disincentivizing work. How many different eligibility standards are there between MaineCare, TANF, the earned income tax credit, unemployment insurance, and numerous other “safety net” programs?

And for Obamacare, I said the announced policy objective was reasonable, not the means of achieving it. When you have Washington dictating individual coverage requirements in individual plans, you open the door for collusion between Big Government and Big Business. And that applies throughout the economy. The answer isn’t Big Unions, it’s decentralization. Power to the people!

Cynthia: If Tom Brady needs a union, then your straw man needs a union.

And you must be right that the federal bureaucracy is incoherent because DHHS Commissioner Mayhew can’t figure out how to collect $4.4 million she overpaid nursing homes.

When the LePage administration bilks Maine taxpayers, is it “welfare fraud” or just reckless incompetence?

Mike: Was it Mary Mayhew’s fault when the Inspector General found the same problems in 2008, 2009, and 2011? Or is there a common thread that the Medicaid regulatory environment is unwieldy, regardless of party?

If we freed state governments from filing their TPS reports in triplicate, we could fashion policy that addresses real issues instead of “gotcha” audits. Maine’s challenge is an aging, rural population. Other states have different problems. Some Democrats hate the idea of Medicaid “block grants,” but isn’t that exactly what we do in Maine with revenue sharing and school aid?

Cynthia: A common thread is that Tom Brady was accused of breaking rules and was vindicated with the help of a union and faulty evidence, while Commissioner Mayhew breaks rules all the time and is never faulted by her anti-union boss.

Maybe a cover sheet on the triplicate TPS reports would help.

Mike: Sorry, but I’m with Milton: let’s burn it down. Then maybe we can start over.