The Fracas in Wisconsin

A state Assembly Democrat at the Capitol in Madison, Wis., pumps his fist Friday as participants in the Wisconsin protests rally against Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill to severely curtail the rights of state labor unions.Darren Hauck/Reuters

For possibly the first time since Theodore Roosevelt was shot in Milwaukee (and finished his speech anyway), the nation is looking at Wisconsin politics.

Gov. Scott Walker (R), sworn in a month ago, is already making big waves. His budget-fix proposal, introduced less than two weeks ago and passed by the Assembly Budget committee, took Democrats by surprise. Wisconsin, which went 56-42 for Obama in 2008, went red for Scott Walker and a solid Republican majority in both houses.

Now the state is facing a $3.6 billion deficit after two terms of Democratic governance by the potato, Jim Doyle. Walker’s emergency measure will force most public employees to pay half of their pension costs and contribute up to 12.6% to their health care benefits package.

Union power will also be curtailed. “Collective bargaining,” the practice unions use to secure more benefits, will be disallowed except over wages.

That was my narratio. No one is disputing those facts. Now I’m going to present some less popular information.

1. Public employees need to realize that they are public servants. This is a republic, the people are king, and public servants and bureaucrats need to realize that they are the vassals in the system. Committing to public service is an honor, and while I support high wages and benefits for these men and women, they need to be realistic and accept these cuts with grace if they are indeed the best thing for the state.

2. Unionization had its time. In the early parts of the last century, workers worked inhuman jobs for very little compensation. Unions played a beneficial role in the creation of the middle class, although it’s important to note that it was the vigorously anti-union Henry Ford who really got that ball going. Nowadays, unionization looks like this: it stifles competition in the private sector, bullies people into membership, and in the public sector it inflates government spending. Teachers’ Unions are absolutely despicable. No public school teacher is living hand to mouth. They get paid a reasonable salary, with pension, health care, and retirement. They use the unions to bully the people into more benefits, and to resist School Choice programs and teacher-ability testing, proving once and for all that they care more about their paychecks than about their students. As I said, that is not the right attitude for a public servant.

3. So are these cuts necessary? A $3.6 billion deficit isn’t just going to go away. Still, I’m far away getting stuffed to the gills with liberal arts. I don’t know if these measures are necessary, but I’m glad they’re happening. It’s high time the people got to confront the Unions. Scott Walker, with his quaint WiSCONsin accent, might just be the man to do that.¬†Politico is reporting that 64% of Americans don’t think public employees should be able to unionize, including 42% of Democrats. I’m guessing the a good chunk of the other 58% of Democrats get their paychecks from federal, state, or local governments.

40,000 pro-union protestors are swarming Madison this Saturday, inflamed by Jesse Jackson who compared them to Martin Luther King. Public sector union leaders are now conceding the wage and pension changes, but are standing firm on collective bargaining. Now, counter-protestors from the tea party will join.

Right now, public employees are fighting for the cushy benefits that make public sector jobs so desirable. The rest of the work force, painfully contracted by the recession, is not going to look on with pity. I hope Gov. Walker stands strong. If he is successful, the age of union domination, at least in the public sector, would be over. And that will be good for Wisconsin, and good for the country.


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