They couldn’t answer a simple question.

But that didn’t stop them from expressing righteous anger.

“We (they) deserve more,” was the argument in favour of raises demanded by public employees.

“If that’s the case,” I replied, “Why do people in the private sector, struggling to pay for groceries, deserve less?”

No one answered directly, perhaps because we have failed to teach people where public money comes from.

Wages, public and private, do not come from the ether. Both come from the private sector; the public receiving at the expense of the private.

Infamously, a few years ago, my colleague at Newstalk 1010, Jim Richards talked to a teacher who had written a column putting herself forward as an expert on what teachers deserve. She wanted raises.

Jim asked about the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

She insisted taxpayers don’t pay her salary, the school board does.

It isn’t easy taking on that sort of ignorance.

And from a teacher!

Another response I frequently receive is the idea that the more public workers earn, the more tax they pay.

Not really. If we pay a public servant an extra $1,000, it’s true something like $300 (depending on income level) comes back to the government in taxes. The other $700 comes from the pockets of the private sector. There is nowhere else for the government to get it.

Average wages in Canada have not kept up with inflation, especially in the private sector.

That imbalance is due to private employers having to weather market forces, while politicians and public employees act as if the private sector is an inexhaustible money tap.

It is common for people to call my radio show to say, “Maybe private employers should just pay more and then there wouldn’t be an imbalance.”

Inflation, supply chain, pandemic closures and changeable markets impact a business’s ability to make a profit and raise wages.

Unlike politicians, employers cannot raise wages without considering their ability to pay.
Keep in mind that employers pay their workers with the employer’s own money.

Politicians pay their workers — public employees — with somebody else’s money; that being confiscated from the wages of the private sector.

Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow came into office saying she was “ready to tax.”

At least she is true to her word.

But who will she tax and who will she favour?

She gave Toronto Transit Commission workers a 13% raise over three years, along with other costly considerations.

That’s 4.33% a year, well ahead of current inflation, while private sector wages are lagging inflation, averaging about 2.5%.

That follows her move to give everyone in the city the largest property tax increase in 25 years, at 9.5%.

Her caring response? “They can afford it.”

Hey citizen, eat some cake.

Regrettably, the attitude of too many politicians and public workers is that public employees must be protected from the reality of the economy, at further expense — another downward slide — to the private sector.

We are not in this together.

Public employees live in a gossamer bubble, blissfully uncaring it seems of the plight of the people they demand feed their desires, while their unions echo J. Paul Getty.

When the world’s richest man was asked how much money was enough, he infamously answered, “More.”

And that’s because, you know, “they deserve it.”