The current battle over public employee benefits in Wisconsin is a contrast between those with political backbone and those who are politically spineless.
Republican Governor Scott Walker, facing a budget shortfall of $3.6 billion, has come to the correct conclusion that rather than raising taxes he must ask public workers – whose wages are paid by the taxpayers of Wisconsin - to contribute half the cost of their fixed-benefit pensions and 12.6% of their health coverage. In other words, to do the exact same thing private sector employees (those who have pensions anyway) have been doing for years -- pay their fair share.
In response to these modest demands, President Obama, Organizing for America, the Democratic National Committee, the labor unions and the Democrat members of the Wisconsin State Legislature have accused Governor Walker of launching “an assault” on unions.
In a gutless political stunt, the Democrat members of the State Senate fled Wisconsin in order to avoid having to take a vote. Although infantile and dramatic, this off-putting action will ultimately have no impact.
Speaking to Fox News’ Greta Van Sustren by phone, Governor walker said of the AWOL state senators, “They’re hiding out in another state. You know, unlike the vast majority of state and local government employees, most of those employees – 300,000 – showed up for work today,”
President Obama, who'd supposedly moved to the center, waded instinctively into the fray, predictably taking the side of the unions, noting "And I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends." He conveniently forgot that Wisconsin’s teachers make about $50,000 a year (for 9 months work), which increases to about $70,000 when benefits are factored into the equation. Moreover, the President also named police and fireman as “victims” of this allegedly unjust legislation, even though they are specifically excluded from its provisions.
As an example to their students, many of the State’s teachers called in sick and headed to Madison to protest the Governor and legislature. With apparent disregard for President Obama’s recent call for civility in public and political discourse they carried signs that compared Governor Walker to Hitler and Mubarak, some saying things like “One dictator down, one to go”. Another sign featured an image of the Governor with a crosshair over his face and the words “Don’t retreat, reload”. Ironically another sign urged, “Stop the hypocrisy”.
As more and more Americans realize that unions are not representing the best interests of their members -- the people they’re supposed to serve – let alone the nation, public opinion turns further against them. Governor Walker obviously recognizing this fact said of the protestors, “I’ve said all along: The thousands of people who are storming the Capitol have a right to be heard. But I’m not going to let them overshadow the voices of the millions of taxpayers in the state of Wisconsin who deserve to be heard, as well.”
At a time when states are trying to close huge budget shortfalls and unemployment is over 9% nationally, and in double-digits in many states, union members and leadership must recognize that if they don’t agree to concessions, they will join the ranks of the unemployed.
The actions of Governor Walker and the Wisconsin Legislature are necessary to save their state from financial ruin. Their move to curtail the collective bargaining powers of the big labor unions is a real threat to the dwindling power of unions and that’s why they and their Democrat allies are so scared. If the unions don’t get back to work and get with the program, the Governor should fire them all and hire non-union replacements to take their place.
As we’ve seen with Chris Christie in New Jersey and even Andrew Cuomo in New York, state governors across the USA realize that they have to show backbone and cut costs if they want to balance their budgets. The era of the spineless politician that caves in to unreasonable union demands and raises taxes is thankfully over.