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04 June 2012

FollowUp 35: Wisconsin Republican Dirty Tricks

Voting begins in Wisconsin recall election in the morning.  Today's Fox News Opinion page featured a column by Arthur Herman of the American Enterprise Institute.  You won't be surprised that I disagree with much of what Mr. Herman has to say.
A lot hinges on whether Wisconsin voters decide to keep Gov. Scott Walker, or put a Democrat in his place who’s heavily backed by public-sector unions, who’ve been fighting a bitter 18-month battle with Walker. What’s happening in Wisconsin is really a battle for everyone’s future -- and whether government employees are our servants or our masters.
Recent polls suggest Walker may survive the recall effort. Certainly Democrat Tom Barrett’s campaign has largely downplayed the issues that led to the recall in the first place, namely raising the contribution Wisconsin public employees make to their health benefits and pensions, and ending compulsory collective bargaining. Everyone is realizing that Walker’s prediction that passing these two provisions would save the Badger State from insolvency, and return power over their government to voters, is coming true.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has not been downplaying the issues that led to the recall.  Mr. Herman is not addressing those issues in a way that makes this clear.  The question of health benefits and pensions is not the problem.  When Governor Walker asked for concessions from the unions, he got them.  The immediate response was not to agree to every request but to sit down at the negotiating table and discuss them.  There were no absolute negatives at first.

The problem comes in that the Governor did not simply ask for financial concessions from every public sector union in Wisconsin (most of which do not affect the state budget), he demanded that the unions give up the right to negotiate for the restoration of these concessions in the future.  That is where the unions said no.

Legislating the end to collective bargaining did not affect the budget as Mr. Herman, parroting Governor Walker, suggests, did not "save the Badger State from insolvency", and did not "return power over government to voters".  Those are all lies.  They are big lies and those lies are at the heart of why Mr. Walker is facing this recall election.
Wisconsinites are funny. They love their individuality and their freedom -- which is why Wisconsin is big on the right to bear arms. But they also pride themselves on being progressive-minded. Wisconsin was the first state to allow public sector unions back in 1959. Wisconsin residents never have been instinctive foes of big government -- that is, until big government began to drain them dry.
While it is certainly true that Wisconsinites love both their individuality and their freedom, Mr. Herman is confusing ideas here again.  The right to bear arms is not under threat by Mayor Barrett, but by Governor Walker's "deer czar".  Wisconsinites are upset because Governor Walker has proposed legislation that is intrusive into the doctor's office.  That kind of government is not welcome.
In 2010 they elected Walker to deal with the issue. Facing a massive $137 million deficit, Walker asked workers like teachers and firefighters to make a tiny increase in the amount they had to pay for their health and future benefits -- less than half what government workers pay on average elsewhere- -- and allow local communities to decide for themselves how much to pay their municipal employees. Otherwise, he said, some 5,500 Wisconsin public jobs would have to go.
Teachers' health benefits had zero effect on the state budget.  Mr. Herman is lying.  Most of what Governor Walker requested was granted by the unions, but the GOP proceeded to kill collective bargaining anyway.  But the big issue is buried here.  Balancing the Wisconsin budget, something that Governor Doyle managed to do after being left with a huge mess by Governors Thompson and McCallum, did not require cutting back on public sector employee costs.  It was only because Governor Walker and the GOP majority legislature gave huge tax cuts to big businesses that cuts in expenditures were needed.  This was a problem that Governor Walker created, not one that he inherited.
The unions screamed no, and pushed back hard. Americans remember the scenes last February, with pro-union demonstrators camping out in the State Capitol, shouting obscenities, scrawling graffiti and trying to intimidate legislators into rejecting any reform that would save their state from fiscal collapse, no matter how tiny. Not very Wisconsin-like behavior. It was, in fact, a preview of Occupy Wall Street -- and, like Occupy Wall Street, it woke up people to what can happen when you hand over power to people who have no stake in your posterity.
Mr. Herman is implying that the unions rejecting cutting back on health benefits and pension benefits.  That is a lie.  The unions "pushed back hard" to the proposal to eliminate collective bargaining.  They did shout and they did occupy the Wisconsin State Capitol building.  But after occupying the Capitol for weeks they did far less damage than Mr. Herman, again parroting Governor Walker, alleges.  But he is correct that this was the real start of the Occupy Movement.
The real problem with unions is that they lock employer and employed in a status quo based on the present. They say to their members, “you’ll be able work at this job for this employer, for these wages -- wages we will fight to raise year after year for every employee, regardless of who’s better at his or her job later on, or whether the company is doing well or not.”
Wrong.  Collective bargaining is about negotiating.  The "status quo" is the starting point for those negotiations, not necessarily the final product.  Of course unions fight for the best pay and benefit package that they can negotiate, but it is a negotiation.  Unions typically don't get all of the benefits that they request and businesses or governments don't get all of the concessions that they request.  If a company isn't negotiating based upon how well they are doing, then they do not have effective negotiators.
The dynamic of economic growth and capitalism, by contrast, is built around the future: anticipating and adapting to changes in the marketplace, incorporating new inventions and technologies to produce more at a lower cost, finding workers who are willing to leave work in an industry that’s unprofitable to go to one that is (just as millions of Americans left dirt poor farms in the 20th century to work in factories and plants).
That is not a contrast to the reality of businesses and unions, only to the caricature that Mr. Herman and the folks at the American Enterprise Institute portray it to be.  Unions negotiate.  I have been part of a union negotiating team where we got most of what we wanted.  Later, in worse economic conditions, I was part of a group advising a union negotiating team where we got far less of what we wanted.  Reality does play a big part in the negotiations and both sides always have to give a little.

Mr. Herman hints here at one of the myths that his organization likes to tell.  "You can't fire a teacher who is not teaching well."  It is a myth.  When a teacher has tenure, that means that the teacher cannot be fired without showing cause.  It is a system that prevents a teacher from approaching retirement and being fired to save money on pension expenses, unless that teacher is failing to do her or his job.
Families, like capitalism, look to the future. How will we pay the mortgage next month and next year? How can we help our kids to get to college? Will they have a better life than their parents? In 2010 Wisconsin families realized that future was about to be crushed under an avalanche of debts and rising taxes. They asked Scott Walker to find a solution, and he did. The unions fought a brighter future for the sake of a disastrous present -- one that even doomed their own jobs -- and lost.
Scott Walker is on tape campaigning and saying that he was not going to go after the unions.  He lied.  Wisconsin was not "about to be crushed under and avalanche of debts and rising taxes" except that Mr. Walker gave tax breaks to those who needed them least.  Unions didn't doom their jobs, the GOP did.
If Wisconsin families win again now in the recall fight, it will send a clear message to state capitals across the country and Washington: The future is important to us. Step up and save it, as Scott Walker did, and we will reward you by keeping you in office. It will also send a clear message to America’s unions: help us to move this country forward or get out of the way. This Tuesday, we are all from Wisconsin.
Wisconsin families win if Governor Walker is removed from office.  Wisconsin has always been a purple state, with give and take between the Republicans and the Democrats.  Under Governor Walker, there was no give and take, he just took.  The balance needs to be restored.

As I write, it is less than twenty-four hours before the polls close in Wisconsin and we learn whether the Republicans or the Democrats did a better job at turning out their voters.  Less than twenty-four hours before we learn whether balance is restored to the Dairy State.  I agree with Mr. Herman that this Tuesday, we are all from Wisconsin.

16 November 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 1.
4 December 2011, FollowUp 2.
11 December 2011, FollowUp 3.
14 December 2011, FollowUp 4.
15 December 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 December 2011, FollowUp 6.
13 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
17 January 2012, FollowUp 8.
25 January 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 February 2012, FollowUp 10.
9 February 2012, FollowUp 11.
12 February 2012, FollowUp 12.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 13.
22 February 2012, FollowUp 14.
6 March 2012, FollowUp 15.
12 March 2012, FollowUp 16.
16 March 2012, FollowUp 17.
30 March 2012, FollowUp 18.
31 March 2012, FollowUp 19.
3 April 2012, FollowUp 20.
4 April 2012, FollowUp 21.
11 April 2012, FollowUp 22.
14 April 2012, FollowUp 23.
17 April 2012, FollowUp 24.
21 April 2012, FollowUp 25.
29 April 2012, FollowUp 26.
2 May 2012, FollowUp 27.
6 May 2012, FollowUp 28.
10 May 2012, FollowUp 29.
13 May 2012, FollowUp 30.
23 May 2012, FollowUp 31.
24 May 2012, FollowUp 32.
30 May 2012, FollowUp 33.
2 June 2012, FollowUp 34.

5 June 2012, FollowUp 36.

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