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March 28, 2011

Political blowback

In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker’s battle with public sector unions may have some unintended consequences.

Statistics show that in America, 35 percent of union members are registered Republicans. By engaging in this battle of philosophy that will do little to actually balance Wisconsin’s budget, Mr. Walker is hurting a large number of Republicans who voted for him for governor.

Statistics will also show that a higher percentage of Republican union members actually go to the polls and vote than do Democrats. Mr. Walker received a lot of votes from the very unions he is trying to bust. So this situation in Wisconsin is far more complicated than anyone has been able to adequately address.

How much damage is Mr. Walker willing to do to his own supporters to make himself a hero to extreme right wing conservatives? We’ll find out.

Reggie Marselus
Lenexa

Comments

Arlen Walker

@Navyvet (BTW, I'm an airforcevet), you're either uninformed or disingenuous. Even Scott Walker has said the collective bargaining issue was about breaking the power of the public sector unions. IOW, union-busting.

And, BTW, even the people at Forbes have recently called the statement that the union members weren't contributing to their benefits a lie. The actual contract language makes it clear that the money being contributed to the plans belongs to the workers, not the state, the state is just paying it there directly on their behalf, rather than paying it to them for them to pay in (cutting out the middleman, as it were). It's a standard delayed compensation system, seen in many contracts with private sector employers as well. Paying their alleged "fair share" is actually a euphemism for giving them a pay cut, but that's just a technical quibble; the result is identical, no matter how you phrase it, so let it pass.

Our first indication of any changes in support for this will come soon. There's a state-wide race for supreme court involving a Scott Walker crony, and a special election to fill the county executive slot Scott Walker resigned from when he was elected governor, involving a candidate whose major plank was a commitment to follow in Scott Walker's footsteps. Those two races will serve as "canaries in the coal mine" for everyone.

(In a way, that's a shame because the Walker crony in the SC race has been a decent Justice -- even his opponent hasn't found much to complain about in his decisions. But, especially given the questionable legality of the process used to pass the bill in the first place will certainly send cases to the SC, the SC race is threatening to turn into a state-wide referendum on Scott Walker rather than the records of the candidates.)

I have to say the Senate leadership has pretty much asked for this fight, though. It would have been a trivial matter to say, "Ooops. You might be right about the lack of notice. So just to be sure we've covered that, let's post a notice now and reschedule another vote on the bill." It would have passed, clearly, given the vote count. The Assembly had, in fact, already done that precise thing a few weeks earlier, in response to a similar objection on another bill. Then this whole brew-up would have been avoided, and everything would be seen as clean and above board by all but the most partisan of observers (for whom nothing would be clean enough, so who cares what they would think).

The only reason I can figure for the leadership's aggressive defiance on that issue (and their flat declaration that something everybody knew about how bills became law in Wisconsin was wrong -- even the Legislative Reference chief himself said their publication of it on their website isn't enough to cause the law to be in effect) is they felt they were losing support among their own. They did in fact lose one Senator along the way to the first vote (18-1, instead of 19-0) but they would have had to lose three before the bill would be in danger of failing. Were there two others who would have defected if they'd gone to round 2? I dunno. There *are* two under recall at the moment who together won their respective races by a combined total of just 1100 votes, so they might be considered on the "endangered species" list, but would they have succumbed in another 24-48 hours, when even today they still stand by their votes?

whispering_to_kc

Walker is a paid sock puppet of the Koch brothers. As are his brother reichwing governors in Indiana and Ohio and Michigan.

Tax cuts for his rich backers while claiming budget shortfalls require ending collective bargaining for "the little people"?

Walker will face a recall soon. His admitted consideration of plans for false flag operations to stir up trouble and blame it on his opponents is directly out of 1930s Nazi Germany and Cheeseheads are realizing what they put in office even if the sock puppets in this space are still trying to claim otherwise.

k liske

Wow. There is a lot of incorrect information in the response by Navyvet.

The union bill has little to do with the budget. Republicans in the WI senate passed it without democrat participation by stripping away any claim that it had a financial impact. Had it been related to the budget, as originally touted, it would have required a larger majority to pass. Even republicans now admit that. It's mainly about shifting political power.

Also, the state of Wisconsin isn't and wasn't ever bankrupt. The budget was in surplus when Walker took office, the state's debt ratio is smaller than many states with a debt, and Wisconsin is one of a handful of states with pension plans that are fully funded and can cover their projected future draw. True, Wisconsin has a large debt, but that in itself does not indicate the state is in danger of becoming bankrupt. While no one would question that the state's financial debt should be paid, the governor is not "legally bound" to balance the budget, nor to pay off the debt. Most homeowners probably understand this--to pay off the mortgage in a year or two would be devastating to the family budget with disastrous consequences. Slow and steady wins the race.

Next, The state and it's municipalities do, of course, pay the majority of public employee compensation, and with governments being the state's largest employers, this represents a significant part of the middle class workforce and the economy. So, indeed, much of the state's taxpaying population, regardless of class or politics, is made up of public employees. I would assert that the state's debt was not caused by public employee compensation as suggested, but rather by economic forces resulting from financial and corporate failures. Perhaps the truth is in the middle somewhere, but how silly is it to argue that compensation for service to society is more to blame than compensation for service to corporate profit margins? In a democratic, capitalist society, balance requires that each must maintain equal merit.

Finally, Mr. Walker didn't run for Governor on a platform of reducing compensation for public workers. Actually it wasn't mentioned much at all. So there is no such mandate. His platform was to create 250,000 new jobs. He may well achieve that, but I think many would prefer to maintain the jobs that are in place, first. 250,000 low-paying, low-benefit, corporate-friendly jobs may not offset the accompanying loss of tax revenue and the blow to the state's public service sector and education. Walker's plan to trade one for the other was not a part of his campaign.

Its hard to imagine a popular majority in any state supporting the kind of underhanded, win-at-all-cost, political agenda that was unleashed in Wisconsin in the past several weeks. I think that will, at least partly, overshadow the issues themselves when the politicians involved come up for re-election. What difference does it make if one is a democrat or a republican, a wealthy business person or a middle class union member, a public servant or a private employee--vilification and hate-mongering do not serve the cause of democracy.

Navyvet

Nyttyn-

How do union workers pay for all their benefits? What is the point of collective bargaining if they pay their own way just like the rest of us?

It doesn't matter if one union agrees to a pay cut. The budget is so far out of whack that a pay cut won't help much. Even if union workers paid twice the amout they pay now for health care and retirement they would still not pay the amount that regular workers pay. There has been too many years of sweetheart deals between union bosses and Democratic controlled WI govt's.

The bill was passed by parliamentary procedure because the 14 fleebaggers wouldn't do their jobs and stay to vote. Gov Walker and his party won the election....deal with it.


JoeGuy-

My facts are correct. Collective bargaining is the problem when the side that is usually called "Management" is actually the taxpayers a.k.a. the gov't.
Government doesn't have to show a profit so there is no incentive to push the union for a mutally beneficial deal. In fact, since most state gov'ts with this union pension problem have historically been union-friendly Democrat controlled the negotiations have almost always been entirely won by the unions. Ever growing benefit packages with less and less taken from their paychecks to cover it meaning more and more being hoisted onto the companies that employ them and that means us, the taxpayers.

Margaret Thatcher said it best, "The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people's money."

Wisconsin just ran out of money. They can't print it and increased taxes would just make the problem worse. Deep cuts have to be made and the grown-ups in Wisconsin are now making them.

LL

...a lot of you are upset that many states (not just Wisconsin) are having to make cuts like this to public sector unions. Like it or not...you'll be seeing more of it as they are now in Britain. Funds are running dry.

Mark Robertson

We Republicans and "extreme right wing conservatives" would like to thank Reggie for his "concern" for the well- being of the Republican Party and Governor Walker. Thank you.

Mark Robertson
Independence

JoeGuy

NavyVet - to say that Governor Walker is not attempting to bust the unions is either uneducated via current events or dishonest. The Unions agreed to the "financial" concessions that Governor Walker requested - but he took it further and wouldn't compromise on collective bargaining, PERIOD. I would hope that the real issue here is that you are unaware of these facts, otherwise, one would have to question your integrity and character. It doesn't take a rocket scientest to uudnerstand that removing collective bargaining has nothing to do with the budget. Also, might I add, it doesn't look very good for your Mr. Walker in Wisconsin.

John S

You just ran a false flag up the pole. Republicans generally, although not always, stand for fiscal responsibility. In other words your argument is a non-issue.

Nyttyn

Mr Navyvet, union workers already paid for all of their benifits.

Before this was passed, the teacher's union even agreed to a pay cut.

This bill was passed with all of the budget parts cut out in order to circumvent the necessity for 20 members of the council present.

Please learn the facts before you claim "IT'S FOR THE BUDGET, UNION WORKERS ARE NOW PAYING THEIR FAIR SHARE."

P.S. This doesn't even change what they pay or get paid.

Navyvet

Mr Marselus, Gov Walker isn't trying to bust the unions. That is pure left-wing spin and propaganda. He just wants the union members to pay their fair share. In this case, have union workers pay for more of their own benefits. The state of WI pays the majority of those expenses now and it has bankrupted them. Wisconsin has the "best" benefits for public workers in the country meaning they pay the least for the most. Who makes up the difference? The state government a.k.a the people of Wisconsin do.

Stop assuming that these union workers have a right to however much of the taxpayer's money they want. Gov Walker is legally bound to balence the budget. One of the largest parts of the state budget is benefits for public workers. He ran on reducing their benefits and was elected by the people with a mandate to do so.

Mr Marselus is correct about one thing however: we will indeed find out how much damage (if any) Gov Walker has done to his support in Wisconsin.

 
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