As it seems to be with almost every other “hot button” political issue of our time, a symbolic crescendo in the dispute over labor policy is quickly approaching. Less than two years after his initial election, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is facing a recall election initiated by national labor and its toadies in the Democratic Party.
This effort is utterly inane, and the forces arrayed against Governor Walker must be called what they are: irresponsible, whining public servants who are distorting the truth for their own selfish gains.
For those of you unfamiliar with the controversy surrounding Governor Walker and his budget repair bill, let me lay the facts out plainly for you. Facing an unbalanced budget and an economic mess left by his predecessor, Governor Walker proposed a bold budget that cut taxes and lowered spending. As part of this, he asked public sec- tor employees — who, before the bill passed, paid zero percent toward their state pen- sions and only 6 percent toward their health care premiums — to make slightly higher contributions to their own retirement and health care: 6 percent toward their pensions and 12 percent toward their health care. To put that in context, my cousin — a private- sector employee and resident of Wisconsin — pays around 60 percent of her own health premiums.
In response to these reasonable demands, all 14 Democratic state senators fled the state for weeks, public-sector teachers took taxpayer-funded sick days (effectively shutting down all schools in Madison), protesters occupied the capitol rotunda (caus- ing over a million dollars worth of damage), recall efforts were launched against half a dozen GOP state senators and a judge who upheld the law in court and Governor Walker became the latest GOP politician to be compared to Hitler.
These actions are not the actions of responsible public servants, plain and simple. Rather, they are the activities of irresponsible bureaucrats unwilling to make sacrifices while expecting everyone else — aka the taxpayers — to pick up the tab. This recall election against Governor Walker is only their latest effort to insult the people of Wisconsin (many of the operatives who protested the budget repair bill and who are working to defeat Governor Walker are not Wisconsin natives) and push their purely ideological agenda.
The total depravity of the Democratic effort comes into even greater focus when one considers the facts concerning Wisconsin’s economic situation since the budget repair bill passed last year. Wisconsin has gone from one of the worst states to do business in the country to being in the top 20, the unemployment rate has dropped to just above 6 percent (just a tick above the natural unemployment rate, 5 percent) from where it stood when Walker took office (around 8 percent) and Wisconsin’s budget remains balanced.
Being from California (or at least having a stake in the decisions of the state gov- ernment), we should not only sympathize with Governor Walker’s actions but also be pushing our own state government to take similar measures to combat our economic problems while keeping our enormous budget in balance.
In Response, Left Said:
While cutting benefits will always be controversial, the real reason this created such a storm in Wisconsin and around the country was because of the elimination of collective bargaining rights. Workers without a right to collective action and bargaining are like unarmed combatants in a swordfight. They have some means of protecting themselves, but are ultimately defenseless against a much more powerful opponent (big business or, in this case, opponents within the government). Furthermore, without a seat at the negotiation table, they may feel forced to take unilateral action — not good for anyone involved.
As for labor advocates around the country uniting behind Wisconsin public employees: That’s precisely the point! Labor is a movement based on the concept of solidarity: express- ing support for diverse groups of people, some of whom may have separate circumstances, but all of whom share a similar struggle. Sometimes this is moral support; sometimes it is direct action. At any rate, it should be fairly clear to anyone who saw coverage of the protests that Wisconsinites were themselves extremely angered and energized by the legislation.
Management (generally the counterpart to labor) is not usually bad. I’m fairly good friends with both of my managers at work. That being said, American liberalism is based on recognizing the distinction between responsible prosperity and exploitation. Labor unions were created to stem exploitation, while encouraging higher wages and profits. They are facing opponents who once again—as they have for the last hundred years—see them as menaces for trying to maintain a decent standard of living. In the words of FDR: “I wel- come their hatred.”