As most of us are aware by now, the state of Wisconsin has been experiencing acute political turmoil over the past two weeks with regard to its budget crisis and union rights. Per usual for our political system, decidedly uncivil discourse has been flying back and forth, with the more zealous defenders of labor calling Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) a dictator and drawing comparisons between him and Adolf Hitler. Teachers unions effectively shut down all schools in and around Madison for most of last week by taking sick days and refusing to teach. The 14 Democratic Wisconsin senators fled the state to prevent a quorum on the budget repair bill, bringing democracy to a halt.
The forces arrayed against Gov. Walker must be called what they are: irresponsible public servants who insult the taxpayers who pay them and who are intentionally misrepresenting the facts of the budget repair bill for their own gain. Through their dramatic occupation of the capitol building and narrowminded actions, they have successfully distracted most observers from the facts of the situation.
The ridiculous charges leveled against Gov. Walker by his critics are multipronged. All are equally inane. First, leftist personalities — most notably Rachel Maddow of MSNBC — claim Gov. Walker has artificially created a crisis. As evidence, they point to the fact that Walker fulfilled his campaign promise to lower taxes to promote economic growth. However, while Wisconsin’s state fiscal bureau projected the state’s general fund would have a surplus of $121 million this year, it also reported the state has approximately $258 million dollars in unpaid bills and unexpected shortfalls. I’m not a math major, but by my calculation that makes a $137 million deficit — the exact number Walker has repeatedly said is the amount of the budget deficit for the remainder of this fiscal year. Further, the claim about the tax breaks creating the crisis is even more absurd given the tax breaks won’t have any effect until the next two-year budget, which won’t even be formally proposed until several months from now.
Second, the concessions Walker has asked public employees to make will not result in families being thrown into poverty. In fact, the concessions the budget repair bill asks public employee labor to make are quite reasonable. Public employees in Wisconsin currently pay zero percent or nothing toward their state pensions, and 6 percent toward their health care. The new system would require them to pay about 5 percent toward their pensions and 12 percent toward health care. Considered in a vacuum, this seems like a sharp spike. However, when compared with what private sector employees have to pay, these figures are very low. My own cousin, a private sector employee and a resident of Wisconsin, pays 66 percent toward her health care. Make no mistake about it, asking public employees to pay less than a fifth of what a private sector employee pays isn’t even asking them to pay for their fair share.
The last and most ludicrous argument made against Gov. Walker is the idea that Wisconsin was the first state to adopt collective bargaining laws, and therefore it is more wrong to eliminate union rights there than anywhere else. This is quite an ironic argument, considering the very same people making the argument wholeheartedly supported President Barak Obama’s assertions that capitalism, the economic system of our country since its inception, had utterly failed and should be fundamentally “changed.” Furthermore, no one is bothering to ask why public employees, those people who do vital work to the everyday operations to a state, should be allowed to withhold their services at all during disputes with the state. Not only are their paychecks for these “sick days” signed by the taxpayers, they insult those very same taxpayers when they use them as bargaining chips to get greater benefits for themselves — the tab for which will be picked up by, you guessed it, the taxpayers.
The voters of Wisconsin spoke very clearly last November, and Gov. Walker is doing what is necessary to return Wisconsin to economic prosperity through his tax cuts and cuts in government spending. Being from California, we should not only understand but also sympathize with Wisconsin’s efforts to control the bevy of problems presented by unions and the strain their entitlements can put on a state’s budget, and demand our state government display the same courage to act. I stand with Walker, how about you?