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If you want to know why it's so difficult to reign in government spending, look no further than Wisconsin. That state faces a $3.6 billion budget deficit over two years, and to help balance the budget, Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker is trying to pass legislation that asks public employees to contribute a small portion to their own pensions and health care insurance. Here are some of the key points of the legislation, according to the Daily Caller:
- Public sector employees would still be allowed to collectively bargain on wages, but not on health-care or pension plans.
- Raises would be tied to the inflation rate, unless the state’s voters deemed the employees worthy of larger raises.
- Public sector employees would have to pay slightly higher rates for their health care and other benefits, but those rates would remain lower than those of the average private sector employee.
- Public sector employees would be required to pay 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums; they currently pay about 6 percent.
- Public sector employees would have to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their pensions under Walker’s plans; currently some pay nothing. From 2000 to 2009, public sector employees paid $55.4 million into a pension system that cost $12.6 billion.
- Police, firefighters and other public safety workers would be exempt from the new collective bargaining restrictions.
This legislation doesn't sound so radical to me, but the unions have gone batshit over the prospect of losing some of their collective bargaining rights. Yesterday, I wrote about Wisconsin Democrats hijacking democracy, but now the unions have mobilized nationally with the assistance of their government apparatchiks (aka, the Democratic National Committee, Obama's Organizing For America). President Apparatchik himself weighed in on the matter, calling Governor Walker's legislation "an assault on unions". An assault. Way to keep that rhetoric non-inflammatory, Mr. Obama. Wouldn't want to encourage any violence with, you know, violent language or imagery. That was last month's left-wing talking point anyway.
Now in Wisconsin, we've had: 1) three days of illegal wildcat teacher strikes, causing the public schools to shut down (because it's all about the children). 2) Democrat state senators going into hiding in another state to keep from doing their jobs and voting on the budget repair legislation, and 3) pro-union protesters storming the statehouse, causing the state assembly to adjourn because their safety could no longer be guaranteed. We also have the usual protest references....Gov. Walker being compared to Hitler, Sic Semper Tyrannis signs (Latin for "thus always to tyrants", spoken by John Wilkes Booth before he shot President Lincoln), signs with bullseyes on them, etc. Given the left's hysterical reaction to the Tea Party protesters, I eagerly await their similar characterizations of their own protesters as extremists advocating violence. I won't hold my breath.
But let's talk about collective bargaining between public employee unions and the government. First, allow me to describe how this process should work ideally, according to Democrats. Here it is in a nutshell - the unions contribute large amounts of money to the campaign coffers of Democrats to get them elected to office. Then, hopefully, Democrats gain majority status in the government. After that comes the payoff, when Democrats give the unions exactly what they paid for via "collective bargaining" with the government, all at the expense of the taxpayers, of course.
Here's my question. Who represents the victims, er, I mean, the taxpayers in this scenario ??? The answer is: nobody. The taxpayer is the forgotten man to the Democratic party. The taxpayers are the marks. They are nothing more than endless sources of cash to be thrown around in order to gain political favor. Do you think any of those union protesters in Wisconsin gives a damn about the taxpayers they are raping, even when the vast majority of those taxpayers who are paying for those lavish teacher benefits don't have it nearly so good as the teachers do ? I guarantee you they do not. If we're going to have collective bargaining between the government and the unions, I want some seats reserved at that table for a coalition representing the taxpayers. If not, it's nothing more than a sacrificial feast for the special interests.
The unions are a faction within Wisconsin and the entire country, and they deserve to be heard. But they are only ONE faction. There are many others who deserve to be heard also. If we're going to have collective bargaining between the unions and the government, let's make it truly collective and include everyone. If we don't, it's not really collective at all, is it ? Alternately, we can let our elected representatives settle the issue. The voice of the unions will still be heard via those representatives, and so will other voices. We call that democracy.
I heard reports yesterday that the average Wisconsin teacher's salary plus benefits comes to about $89,000. That's for nine months work. I read this morning that the average in Milwaukee is now over $100,000. In light of this, why are we still pretending this is about teachers being underpaid, or about the basic human rights of workers ? It isn't. This is about a budget crisis that is playing out locally, statewide, and nationally. It's about recognizing fiscal reality. These teachers unions have almost nothing in common with the real labor movement in America. We're not talking about West Virginia coalminers in 1917 who worked under horrendous conditions, lived on company land, bought their food from the company store, and ended up giving their wages right back to the company. Ending that de facto slavery through unionization accomplished good things, no doubt. But we're not talking about that here...so why do we keep pretending we are ? This isn't about worker's rights, it's about unions holding on to power.
I have the feeling we're going to see lots of these battles in the future, as big government must be cut. Nobody likes to cut spending, especially those who are having something taken away by the cuts. There will be lots of howling, but the alternatives are either national bankruptcy or prohibitive levels of taxation (another de facto slavery).
P.S. - How about they fire those teachers and impeach those state senators who aren't showing up for work in Wisconsin ? Isn't that what would happen if YOU didn't show up for work ?