It would be nice to live in a dream world where everyone is agreeable, everything is free, and no one's ever disappointed.

We could work, say, one hour a day, produce nothing of value, and get paid tens of thousands of dollars a year. Not that we would need money in a world where everything is free. It's just that big salaries makes us feel good, so why shouldn't we all have one?

If we ever sensed that we weren't feeling good enough about ourselves, we could just ask our benevolent bosses for a hefty raise and they would gladly oblige us, and then we would be happy again.

Alas, it's a real world we live in. Here, ideas have consequences, somebody has to pick up the tab for them, and the things that look like they're free are usually the most expensive things of all.

When sales decline, businesses lay off workers. When workers lose jobs, they sell their homes and have to move in with relatives.

It's not pretty or pleasant, but that's the way it is.

Too many public employees, however, don't get this. The concepts of profit and productivity befuddle them, because they're not required to consider either. When times are good, they have unreasonable expectations about compensation for their marginal achievements. When times are bad, their expectations are even more unreasonable.

They seem to be living in a dreamy place where there are only pluses and no minuses -- and to some extent they are, because they never have to sacrifice for the public good, but the public has to sacrifice for their good.

Until now.

Times are hard and things are changing. Public service employees are beginning to get a dose of reality – thanks to a recent Seventh Circuit federal appeals court ruling upholding Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's right to deny pay raises to thousands of state employees.

Message from real world to public employee unions: We don't have the money. We can't afford raises. Deal with it. It's non-negotiable.

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