Public Sector Unions – Collective Bargaining – Failing Public Schools.
This was in the news a lot in mid-to-late February 2011 and some interesting articles have been written during this time. These articles make up this long thread that I decided to post. This is a very important battle that’s going on and it’s probably only the beginning. It’s another battle in the ongoing war between Conservatives, who want more governmental fiscal responsibility, and to allow for less governmental control of our woefully inadequate public school system by shifting this control/power to the private sector. On the other side are the liberal-progressive-democrats who want to keep the status quo of mediocre schools and out-of-control state and local budgets. As usual they blame the rich (which includes small businesses) and believe these increased costs should be increased taxes shifted toward the rich and corporations. Personally I believe they are just really stupid and need to be knocked down to size.
I have been a dues-paying union member for over 21 years. I have seen the benefits of being a union member, but like all good things they can be abused when they get too powerful. My union (IBEW) is a private sector union, at least my local. It has weakened over the years due to our ongoing recession and the high cost increases of heath insurance and pensions. So we have made concessions to help our company remain competitive in the world marketplace. This has allowed us to keep our jobs and many of our most important benefits that come with the job. We (employees) have never walked out or went on strike in my time working here. I’m not happy that our union (like most unions) contribute a lot of the dues we pay them each month to elect democrats to our government. I don’t believe the democrats give 2 craps about the private sector so they no longer (if ever) look out for any of our interests. They should be dumped like the trash – thrown out. The public sector unions are way worse. Their union bosses and the democrats are in collusion to keep each other in power with our tax dollars, and they have spent our governments, local, state, and federal into bankruptcy. They are unwilling to make any significant concessions and due to their major conflict-of-interest, public sector unions shouldn’t even exist. So I have no sympathy for them or their members.
Anyway the following articles go into more depth on these themes I just mentioned. If you have any comments, please keep them civil or they will be deleted or met with equal ridicule. Mostly I hope they make you more aware of what’s going on, and to check into this important subject even further. Most all of these articles were also posted on my political/religious blog ‘What On Earth’, but good articles get buried quickly on that blog. So this thread is a way to keep these articles together for quicker reference.
A)Unions Show No Class in Wisconsin 'War'
By Robert Knight
“I’m not going to lie to you, this is going to get ugly.”
So predicts “Goldfish,” a Daily Kos blogger who boasts of spending two weekends in Madison, Wisconsin “on the Front Lines of the Class War.” Now, “Goldfish” is predicting a general strike, like the ones in Greece whenever the bankrupt government tries to cut ruinous spending.
A bigger fish, film director Michael Moore, announced on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show on March 9 that, “This is war. This is class war,” and that a national walkout of public school students would happen March 11. Well, the nation’s schools apparently were untroubled, except for some schools in Wisconsin, mostly around Madison. The kids were taking a cue from their teachers, 40 percent of whom called in sick on Feb. 16 so they could join the union mobs at the Capitol.
Jesse Jackson told Fox News that public unions will retain collective bargaining or “you’re going to have it through the streets. People here will fight back because they think their cause is moral.”
Moral? Public employee unions are bankrupting local and state governments, including Wisconsin’s. They have it cushier than the folks who are taxed to pay for it all. A Spectrum Research Group report found that public employees make up 15 percent of the workforce but lay claim to more than a third of the nation’s $9.3 trillion in pension assets. Many retire in their 50s and then double-dip with new jobs.
Union members have been demonstrating in Madison for days, but became enraged on March 9 when the Republican Senate finally bypassed the 14 AWOL Democratic senators holed up in Illinois and voted to send GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s budget reform bill to the House. The law, which the House quickly passed and Walker signed, requires state employees to contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to pensions and 12.6 percent to health care benefits, which is still less than most private employees pay.
The part that ignites the mobs is the end of collective bargaining for most public employee unions. This fixes a glaring conflict of interest: Unions use workers’ dues to elect politicians who give them more and more. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, it’s a great scam – if you can keep it.
After the vote, screaming demonstrators broke into the Capitol and occupied it until police ousted them Thursday. Republicans returning to vote had to have police protection. Apparently, the civility memos that the Obama Administration and the media sent to peaceful Tea Party activists didn’t make it to the union mobs.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice is investigating death threats against Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Republican Sen. Dan Kapanke. Here’s an excerpt of an e-mail sent to Fitzgerald as reported by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
“This is how it's going to happen: I as well as many others know where you and your family live, it's a matter of public records. We have all planned to assault (sic) you by arriving at your house and putting a nice little bullet in your head. …”
If that isn’t “civil” enough, here’s the e-mail threat against Kapanke: “We will hunt you down. We will slit your throats. We will drink your blood. I will have your decapitated head on a pike in the Madison town square. This is your last warning.”
If nothing else, this shows that the nation’s obsession with vampires may have gone too far, spilling out of young adult sections of bookstores and into the streets.
Humor aside, this is anything but funny for these senators and their families.
A more civilized struggle is being waged on a different chessboard. Petition drives are underway for all 16 state senators – eight Republicans and eight Democrats – eligible for recall. (For more information, see www.recalltherogues.org.) Wisconsin is one of 18 states with broad recall laws. Badger state officials serve at least a year before being eligible.
Petitioners have 60 days to collect 25 percent of the votes cast in the senators’ districts during the last gubernatorial election. Special elections would be held six weeks later, pitting the senator against a candidate who collects 400 signatures.
Only two Wisconsin state legislators have ever been recalled. But in 2002, a pension scandal triggered a recall of seven Milwaukee County supervisors and gave rise to a new, budget-cutting county executive – Scott Walker. The unions want to recall Gov. Walker as well, but he will serve a year before being eligible.
With both sides pouring in money and volunteers, this recall contest could prove to be one of the hottest political shows this summer. The Washington Post reported Thursday that (unnamed) liberal groups say they have raised $2 million already. Since the best defense is a good offense, Republicans might consider not only matching that but expanding the recall to include Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl. In 1997, Wisconsin’s Secretary of State approved a pro-life recall petition against Sens. Russ Feingold and Kohl. Although the effort fell short, it set the precedent that Wisconsin’s recall law covers U.S. Senators.
Working on the GOP side are volunteers like Marilyn Kruchell, a great-grandmother from Milwaukee who became an activist 10 years ago when she became disgusted with the Milwaukee Democratic machine’s cronyism. She’s been a Scott Walker fan ever since, and when Mrs. Kruchell lost Arthur, her husband of 51 years, last November, Walker quietly slipped into a pre-funeral event to pay his respects.
A Tea Party member, Mrs. Kruchell, 73, is doing whatever she can to support Walker. The union mobs disgust her but don’t faze her. She planned this past weekend to go to an inner city Milwaukee restaurant with a friend and put a sign on a table saying: “Republicans who want to talk.” A white woman with black friends, she thinks the Democrats have taken black people for granted too long.
As for the increasingly violent clash with public employee unions, she sees Wisconsin as a bellwether: “If we don’t win this, America is going to be done soon.”
1) Why Collective Bargaining Is Bad
By Howard Rich
A decade ago, when our national debt stood at a “mere” $5.6 trillion, the federal government was already dramatically overpaying its employees to perform all sorts of non-core functions.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, compensation for the average federal position in 2000 exceeded compensation for the average private sector job by $30,415 – a sizable gap that has since exploded to $61,998. Now the average federal employee’s compensation totals $123,409 – or more than twice the average private sector salary.
Federal workers have seen their total compensation soar by 36.9 percent since 2000 – after adjusting for inflation. By comparison, private sector compensation has increased by only 8.8 percent.
Also, in spite of a recession that saw the loss of 8 million private sector jobs there are more federal employees working today – 2.15 million – than ever before.
In addition to generous salaries, health care coverage and inflation-protected pensions, public sector employees also receive more vacation time, holidays and sick days than their private sector counterparts.
Needless to say, federal workers have secured much of this largesse thanks to collective bargaining. The same can be said of public school teachers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin – where the average compensation package was recently valued at $100,005.
But public sector collective bargaining isn’t your typical collective bargaining. In fact, it represents an unnatural perversion of a failed private sector experiment – an unfair tactic that continues to be exploited to the detriment of taxpayers. In fact, only now that a line has been drawn in the sand in Wisconsin (one of dozens of states struggling to balance its budget due to the stranglehold of public sector unions) do we see the true cost to taxpayers coming into focus.
In the private sector, collective bargaining is ostensibly driven by market forces. Both workers and managers rely on profits, and so negotiations are (in theory, anyway) conducted with the goal of creating a larger pie for everyone to share. Obviously this hasn’t been the objective of union bosses, which is why the free market has largely weeded their unions out of the economy.
Currently only 7.2 percent of America’s private sector workforce is unionized – down from a World War II-era peak of 33.9 percent. This trend is reversed in the public sector, however, where unions now comprise 36.8 percent of the workforce – up from 9.8 percent in the 1940s.
Why this dichotomy? One reason is that collective bargaining in the public sector is a self-perpetuating process – one that is rigged to continue funneling benefits to workers regardless of whether those benefits are deserved (or whether the work being performed by these employees is even necessary).
For example, not only is government in charge of regulating its interaction with the private sector but unlike the private sector, it is funded by a compulsory revenue stream. And with no balanced budget requirement at the federal level, politicians act as if there is a limitless supply of tax dollars with which to continue feeding union demands. Meanwhile state governments continue to be bailed out by the federal government’s borrowed billions – dumping disproportionate percentages of this money into generous employee salaries and benefits while complaining when core services go unfunded.
Also the structure of collective bargaining in the public sector is fundamentally out-of-balance – which invariably results in unions being represented on both sides of the negotiating table. Not only are union demands voiced by their immediate representatives, they are echoed by numerous bought and paid for politicians (who are supposed to be negotiating on behalf of the taxpayers). Even politicians who are not in the pocket of unions are subject to the political pressure this uniquely powerful special interest can apply.
Obviously the money extracted during this perverse “bargaining” process must come from somewhere – a reality that even supporters of big government are beginning to acknowledge.
“Collective bargaining in the public sector serves to reduce benefits for citizens and to raise costs for taxpayers,” writes David C. Crane, a Democrat who serves on the California Board of Regents.
That is the true war being fought in Wisconsin – and make no mistake that its outcome will go a long way in determining whether government at all levels rids itself of this menace or becomes even more hopelessly enslaved to its demands.
2) Public Employee Unions
By Walter E. Williams
With all of the union strife in Wisconsin, Indiana and New Jersey, and indications of more to come, it might be time to shed a bit of light on unions as an economic unit.
First, let's get one important matter out of the way. I value freedom of association, and non-association, even in ways that are not always popular and often deemed despicable. I support a person's right to be a member or not be a member of a labor union. From my view, the only controversy regarding unions is what should they be permitted and not permitted to do.
According to the Department of Labor, most union members today work for state, local and federal government. Close to 40 percent of public employees are unionized. As such, they represent a powerful political force in elections. If you're a candidate for governor, mayor or city councilman, you surely want the votes and campaign contributions from public employee unions. In my view, that's no problem. The problem arises after you win office and sit down to bargain over the pay and working conditions with unions who voted for you.
Given the relationship between politicians and public employee unions, we should not be surprised that public employee wages and benefits often average 45 percent higher than their counterparts in the private sector. Often they receive pension and health care benefits making little or no contribution.
How is it that public employee unions have such a leg up on their private-sector brethren? The answer is not rocket science. Employers in the private sector have a bottom line. If they overcompensate their employees, company profits will sink. The company might even face bankruptcy.
Of course, if private companies can count on federal government bailouts, as did General Motors and Chrysler, they can maintain a comfy relationship with their unions. No such bottom line exists in the government sector. Politicians have every reason to grant benefits to their political allies, in this case public employee unions. They don't pick up the tab; it's unorganized taxpayers who face higher taxes.
Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker says that stripping the workers of collective bargaining rights, and limiting talks to the subject of basic wages, is necessary to give the state the flexibility to get its finances in order and spare taxpayers further grief.
Consider the cushy deal for many of California's unionized state and local police, fire and prison employees. They have what's called a "3 percent at 50" formula that determines their retirement check. It's based on 3 percent of the average of the three highest-paid years of the employee's career, multiplied by the number of years on the job. An employee with 20 years' service can retire at age 50 and receive 60 percent of his salary. Employees often boost their retirement income by putting in a lot of overtime hours during their last three years of service.
Temple University professor William Dunkelberg said in his recent CNBC article "Should Unions Have the Power to Tax?": "The 'employers' (taxpayers through their elected officials) have slowly lost their ability to determine the terms of employment offers. The unions now determine working hours, hiring criteria, the quantity of 'output' to be produced per day, the number of sick and vacation and holiday days, how their performance will be evaluated etc. No longer can the employer make an 'offer' for a job with requirements that fit the needs of the public institution."
Major states like California, New York, Illinois, Ohio and New Jersey -- and the federal government -- are on the verge of bankruptcy. Large cities like Los Angeles; Chicago; New York; Washington, D.C.; Newark; and Detroit are facing bankruptcy as well. Does that tell you something? It tells me that we can no longer afford to do what we've done in the past. We must make large cuts in spending. Spending on public employee salaries is just a drop in the bucket.
3) Union Backlash
By Linda Chavez
It worked well for the unions so long as Democrats controlled most state houses and governors' offices, but with the 2010 election producing huge gains for Republicans, the chickens are coming home to roost.
In Wisconsin, newly elected Gov. Scott Walker wants teachers in the state to start contributing to their pensions and pay a larger share of their health insurance costs to help close a $3.6 billion budget deficit. But he also wants to rein in the power of the unions by limiting their collective bargaining rights and the state's obligation to collect union dues.
A similar battle is being waged in Ohio, where Republican Gov. John Kasich is facing an $8 billion deficit but also wants to limit public employee unions' power. In Wisconsin and Indiana, which also has a public employee bill pending, Democratic lawmakers have fled the state in order to avoid having to vote on legislation that would limit public employee union power. Meanwhile, thousands of demonstrators -- teachers as well as Democratic operatives on the left -- have crowded the state capitols in noisy protest.
But the issue goes far beyond these states. Last year, public employee union members outnumbered those in the private sector for the first time in American history. While union membership continues to decline to a historic low -- less than 12 percent of workers overall belong to unions -- public employee union membership has been steadily growing. Public employee unions are now the driving force in the labor movement and represent 36 percent of all public employees in the nation.
What is unique and dangerous about public employee unions is that they, in essence, elect their own bosses. Public employee unions put up big money to elect Democratic mayors, state legislators and governors. They then turn around and demand larger pensions, expensive health care, and hefty pay raises from the people they've elected to public office. And for decades, it worked -- which is how states like Wisconsin, Ohio, California, New York, New Jersey, and others have gotten into such fiscal trouble.
Public employees receive a staggering 45 percent more, on average, in wages and benefits than comparable workers in the private sector. Public employees pay less for their health care and receive far more generous pensions, often without making contributions to them. Teachers, who are among the most heavily unionized public employees, also have tenure rights -- which make it difficult, if not impossible, to remove incompetent or underperforming teachers.
Taxpayers pay for these higher wages and benefits. And who benefits? The public employees, of course, but also their unions. One of the most contentious features of Walker's proposal is to stop the state from collecting union dues and passing them on to the union. The unions are afraid that if the state doesn't deduct the dues from members' paychecks and turn them over to the union, the members won't pay up. The National Education Association alone will receive $358 million in its share of union dues nationally this school year -- virtually all of it taken automatically out of teachers' paychecks and turned over to the union by their government employer. Big Labor is a multi-billion dollar business.
Walker also wants to give state employees the right to vote on whether they want to be represented by a union -- and if so, which one. But the unions don't like that either. They want workers to have the right to choose union representation, but they seem scared to death that the issue might actually be put to a vote every year. As it stands now, many current workers never had the right to choose whether or not they wanted union representation; the issue was decided years ago by people who may not even be working in the system now.
The AFL-CIO spent more than $100 million last year to defeat Republican candidates. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spent another $50 million and the NEA claimed it spent about $40 million, much of that money collected not as voluntary contributions but in mandatory union dues.
Despite their profligate spending, those unions lost the election and now have to face the consequences. It's about time.
4) Public Unions Force Taxpayers to Fund Dems
By Michael Barone
Everyone has priorities. During the past week, Barack Obama has found no time to condemn the attacks that Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has launched on the Libyan people.
But he did find time to be interviewed by a Wisconsin television station and weigh in on the dispute between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the state's public employee unions. Walker was staging "an assault on unions," he said, and added that "public employee unions make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens."
Enormous contributions, yes -- to the Democratic Party and the Obama campaign. Unions, most of whose members are public employees, gave Democrats some $400 million in the 2008 election cycle. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the biggest public employee union, gave Democrats $90 million in the 2010 cycle.
Follow the money, Washington reporters like to say. The money in this case comes from taxpayers, present and future, who are the source of every penny of dues paid to public employee unions, who in turn spend much of that money on politics, almost all of it for Democrats. In effect, public employee unions are a mechanism by which every taxpayer is forced to fund the Democratic Party.
So, just as the president complained in his 2010 State of the Union address about a Supreme Court decision that he feared would increase the flow of money to Republicans, he also found time to complain about a proposed state law that could reduce the flow of money to Democrats.
And, according to The Washington Post, to get the Democratic National Committee to organize protests against the proposed Wisconsin law. Protests that showed contempt for the law, with teachers abandoning classrooms, doctors writing phony medical excuses, Democratic legislators fleeing the state and holing up in a motel. The lawmakers played hooky without losing any salary, which is protected by the state constitution.
It's true that Walker's proposals would strike hard at the power of the public employee unions. They would no longer have the right to bargain for fringe benefits, which are threatening to bankrupt the state government, and they would no longer be able to count on government withholding dues money and passing it along to them.
But what are the contributions that public employee unions make to our states and our citizens? Their incentives are to increase the cost of government and reduce down toward zero the accountability of public employees -- both contrary to the interests of taxpaying citizens.
An argument can be made that higher pay, generous benefits and lavish pensions will attract better people to public employment. But where are the studies that show that citizens of states with strong public employee unions get better services than citizens in states without?
What citizens of states with strong public employee unions do get are higher taxes and enormous pension burdens that threaten to squeeze out funds for ongoing services, as even Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo of New York and Jerry Brown of California have figured out.
That's why one of the great 21th century presidents was against unions for public employees who have civil service protections. No, not Ronald Reagan. It was Franklin Roosevelt who said, "Action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable."
So while the Wisconsin unions are defying the law, Scott Walker is in effect following FDR's lead -- and if he's successful, others may follow. That would be an enormous blow to the money power of the public employee union bosses.
Public opinion seems to be with the Republicans. Pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that 48 percent of voters support Walker, while only 38 percent support the unions.
This seems to be a sharp reversal of opinion over the last five years. Back in 2005, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sponsored a series of ballot propositions that would have reduced the power of the state's public employee unions. The unions spent something like $100 million -- all of it derived from taxpayers -- on TV ads, and all the propositions were defeated.
Now hard economic times have left voters wondering why public employees pay practically zero toward their health insurance and pensions when they have to pay plenty themselves. Wisconsin, which led the nation on civil service a century ago and on welfare reform in the 1990s, may be showing the nation the way ahead once again.
5) The Anti-Reform Party
By Mona Charen
It's hard to imagine the level of outrage that would be flowing in the direction of the Republican Party today if Republicans had behaved the way the Democrats have over the past week. Who can doubt that The New York Times, Nancy Pelosi, and the rest of the left-wing choir would be chorusing "anti-democratic," "obstructionist," and "radical"?
In early 2009, when the Democrats were triumphant in Washington, President Obama dismissed Republican objections to his stimulus bill (now estimated, by the way, to have cost $821 billion -- $34 billion more than initially projected) with a pithy "We won." Elections have consequences, he explained, and there were limits to his openness to ideas from the defeated opposition.
Fair enough. But Democrats seem to respect the results of elections only when they favor Democrats. In Wisconsin, 14 Democratic senators, a minority, fled to Illinois in order to deny the state senate a quorum of 20 for conducting business. The Republicans, who have a majority of 19 senators, cannot pass their legislation in the absence of a quorum.
What this amounts to, though no one is characterizing it this way, is a move to shut down the government if Democrats cannot get their way. What it says is that Democrats will not abide by the democratic process. If they win, it's majority rule. If they lose, they refuse to participate.
Where is Obama's timely reminder about the importance of elections -- or in fact, about fealty to the rule of law?
And if a Republican "activist" had impersonated a big Democratic donor, say, George Soros, in a phone call to a Democratic governor, wouldn't the chorus be demanding a criminal investigation of the fraud? Instead, Common Cause is demanding an investigation of Gov. Scott Walker for the things he said to an impostor. Amazing.
Now legislators in Indiana and Ohio are copying the Wisconsin playbook. All but three Democrats in the Indiana House fled their jobs and the jurisdiction in order to prevent a vote on legislation they oppose. According to the Indianapolis Star, "Democrats are headed to Illinois, though it was possible some also might go to Kentucky. They need to go to a state with a Democratic governor to avoid being taken into police custody and returned to Indiana."
John Schorg, a "media director" for the House Democrats, told an Indianapolis website that "I cannot confirm or deny any reports about where the members of the Democratic caucus are, because I don't know and I don't want to know." That's public service for you!
There's an opportunity here for an entrepreneurial type: a bus or train service for Democratic office holders. They could call it the Fleedom Train, or Project Run Away.
The Democrats in Indiana are not just opposing right-to-work legislation, but also a series of reforms that may just unfreeze the stale status quo in education. The Republicans, having achieved majorities in both houses as well as the governorship in Indiana, are proposing to expand charter schools, permit parents to use state funds to send their kids to private schools in some circumstances, link teacher pay to student performance, forbid contracts that reward seniority instead of effectiveness, and limit collective bargaining to wages and benefits.
Teacher quality, Gov. Mitch Daniels noted in his state of the state address, "is 20 times more important than any other factor, including poverty, in determining which kids succeed. Class size, by comparison, is virtually meaningless ... Today, the outstanding teacher ... whose kids are pushed and led to do their best, is treated no better than the worst teacher in the school."
Daniels is right about class size. It's a myth popularized by teachers' unions that small classes lead to better results. The unions push it because it requires the hiring of more teachers. But there's no evidence that it works. As the Mackinac Center for Public Policy summarized, "(P)upil-teacher ratios have shrunk nationally for at least the last six decades, yet there have been no quantifiable improvements to student achievement nationally or in individual states."
Democrats in Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere are lining up foursquare with public employee unions and against budget sanity and education reform. Not a bad tee up for 2012.
6) Public Unions Must Go
By Jonah Goldberg
The protesting public school teachers with fake doctor's notes swarming the Capitol building in Madison, Wis., insist that Gov. Scott Walker is hell-bent on "union busting." Walker denies that his effort to reform public-sector unions in Wisconsin is anything more than an honest attempt at balancing the state's books.
I hope the protesters are right. Public unions have been a 50-year mistake.
A crucial distinction has been lost in the debate over Walker's proposals: Government unions are not the same thing as private-sector unions.
Traditional, private-sector unions were born out of an often-bloody adversarial relationship between labor and management. It's been said that during World War I, U.S. soldiers had better odds of surviving on the front lines than miners did in West Virginia coal mines. Mine disasters were frequent; hazardous conditions were the norm. In 1907, the Monongah mine explosion claimed the lives of 362 West Virginia miners. Day-to-day life often resembled serfdom, with management controlling vast swaths of the miners' lives. Before unionization and many New Deal-era reforms, Washington had little power to reform conditions by legislation.
Government unions have no such narrative on their side. Do you recall the Great DMV cave-in of 1959? How about the travails of second-grade teachers recounted in Upton Sinclair's famous schoolhouse sequel to "The Jungle"? No? Don't feel bad, because no such horror stories exist.
Government workers were making good salaries in 1962 when President Kennedy lifted, by executive order (so much for democracy), the federal ban on government unions. Civil service regulations and similar laws had guaranteed good working conditions for generations.
The argument for public unionization wasn't moral, economic or intellectual. It was rankly political.
Traditional organized labor, the backbone of the Democratic Party, was beginning to lose ground. As Daniel DiSalvo wrote in "The Trouble with Public Sector Unions," in the fall issue of National Affairs, JFK saw how in states such as New York and Wisconsin, where public unions were already in place, local liberal pols benefited politically and financially. He took the idea national.
The plan worked perfectly -- too perfectly. Public union membership skyrocketed, and government union support for the party of government skyrocketed with it. From 1989 to 2004, AFSCME -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- gave nearly $40 million to candidates in federal elections, with 98.5 percent going to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Why would local government unions give so much in federal elections? Because government workers have an inherent interest in boosting the amount of federal tax dollars their local governments get. Put simply, people in the government business support the party of government. Which is why, as the Manhattan Institute's Steven Malanga has been chronicling for years, public unions are the country's foremost advocates for increased taxes at all levels of government.
And this gets to the real insidiousness of government unions. Wisconsin labor officials fairly note that they've acceded to many of their governor's specific demands -- that workers contribute to their pensions and health-care costs, for example. But they don't want to lose the right to collective bargaining.
But that is exactly what they need to lose.
Private-sector unions fight with management over an equitable distribution of profits. Government unions negotiate with friendly politicians over taxpayer money, putting the public interest at odds with union interests, and, as we've seen in states such as California and Wisconsin, exploding the cost of government. California's pension costs soared 2,000 percent in a decade thanks to the unions.
The labor-politician negotiations can't be fair when the unions can put so much money into campaign spending. Victor Gotbaum, a leader in the New York City chapter of AFSCME, summed up the problem in 1975 when he boasted, "We have the ability, in a sense, to elect our own boss."
This is why FDR believed that "the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service," and why even George Meany, the first head of the AFL-CIO, held that it was "impossible to bargain collectively with the government."
As it turns out, it's not impossible; it's just terribly unwise. It creates a dysfunctional system where for some, growing government becomes its own reward. You can find evidence of this dysfunction everywhere. The Cato Institute's Michael Tanner notes that federal education spending has risen by 188 percent in real terms since 1970, but we've seen no significant improvement in test scores.
The unions and the protesters in Wisconsin see Walker's reforms as a potential death knell for government unions. My response? If only.
7) Look for the Union Fable
By Ann Coulter
The good news out of Wisconsin is that public school students' test scores skyrocketed last week, mystifying educators. The bad news is many student-teacher love affairs were hard-hit without access to janitors' closets and locker rooms.
Democrats are acting as if Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's demand that public sector employees give up collective bargaining would have George Washington rolling in his grave (a clear violation of Gravediggers' Local 803 regulations concerning the rolling of the dead).
In fact, government employees should never, ever be allowed to organize. The need for a union comes down to this question: Do you have a boss who wants you to work harder for less money? In the private sector, the answer is yes. In the public sector, the answer is a big, fat NO.
Government unions have nothing in common with private sector unions because they don't have hostile management on the other side of the bargaining table. To the contrary, the "bosses" of government employees are co-conspirators with them in bilking the taxpayers.
Far from being careful stewards of the taxpayers' money, politicians are on the same side of the bargaining table as government employees -- against the taxpayers, who aren't allowed to be part of the negotiation. This is why the head of New York's largest public union in the mid-'70s, Victor Gotbaum, gloated, "We have the ability to elect our own boss."
Democratic politicians don't think of themselves as "management." They don't respond to union demands for more money by saying, "Are you kidding me?" They say, "Great -- get me a raise too!"
Democrats buy the votes of government workers with generous pay packages and benefits -- paid for by someone else -- and then expect a kickback from the unions in the form of hefty campaign donations, rent-a-mobs and questionable union political activity when they run for re-election.
In 2006, 10,000 public employees staged a rally outside the New Jersey State House to protest the mere discussion of a cut to their gold-plated salaries and benefits. Then-Gov. Jon Corzine leapt onto the stage shouting: "We will fight for a fair contract!"
Only later, someone noticed: Wait -- isn't he management? (It takes a special kind of courage to promise 10,000 crazed union agitators that you'll fight to get them more money.)
Service Employees International Union officials openly threaten California legislators. At a 2009 legislative hearing, an SEIU member sneered into a microphone: "We helped to getchu into office, and we gotta good memory. Come November, if you don't back our program, we'll getchu out of office."
It used to be widely understood that collective bargaining has no place in government employment. In 1937, the American president beloved by liberals, FDR, warned that collective bargaining "cannot be transplanted into the public service." George Meany, head of the AFL-CIO for a quarter century, said unions were not appropriate for civil servants. As recently as 1978, the vast majority of states prohibited unionization of government employees.
Anytime there is the slightest suggestion that perhaps in the middle of a deep recession, public school teachers should pay 1.5 percent of their salaries toward their extravagant health care plans for their entire families, suddenly we get television ads of hard-working men doing dangerous jobs on docks and in foundries while being abused by their greedy capitalist overseers.
The unions must be desperately hoping that no one will notice ... )Wait a minute! WE'RE TALKING ABOUT TEACHERS! This isn't the Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" -- it's Mrs. Cooper's seventh-grade "values clarification" class.
With heavy union dues, labor has plenty of money to pay for propaganda and to threaten and bribe politicians.
On his first day in office, the Republican governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, signed an executive order denying public sector employees the right to bargain collectively -- something that had been granted, naturally, by a Democratic governor.
As a result, Indiana government employees instantly got to take home an extra thousand dollars that no longer went to union dues -- and good employees started getting raises, while bad employees got cashiered.
But government workers think the job of everyone else in the economy is to protect their high salaries, crazy work rules and obscene pensions. They self-righteously lecture us about public service, the children, a "living wage" -- all in the service of squeezing more money from the taxpayer to fund their breathtakingly selfish job arrangements.
There's never a recession if you work for the government. The counties with the highest per capita income aren't near New York City or Los Angeles -- they're in the Washington, D.C., area -- a one-company town where the company is the government. The three counties with the highest incomes in the entire country are all suburbs of Washington.
Eleven of the 25 counties with the highest incomes are near Washington. For decades now, the Democrats have had a good gig buying the votes of government workers with outrageous salaries, benefits and work rules -- and then sticking productive earners with the bill. But, now, we're out of money, no matter how long Wisconsin Democrats hide out in Illinois.
8) Do Wisconsin's Public Schools Deserve to Survive?
By Terry Jeffrey
With the entire nation watching, Wisconsinites are now debating whether the state's public school teachers ought to be required to pay 5.8 percent of their wages to support their own retirement plans and 12.6 percent of their own health-insurance premiums, and also whether their union ought to be able to negotiate a pay increase on their behalf that exceeds the rate of inflation without letting voters approve or disapprove that raise in a referendum.
What Wisconsin ought to be debating is whether these public school teachers should keep their jobs at all.
Then every state ought to follow Wisconsin in the same debate.
It is time to drive public schools out of business by driving them into an open marketplace where they must directly compete with schools not run by the government or staffed by members of parasitic public employees' unions.
The well-documented incompetence of America's public schools -- including Wisconsin's -- is damaging our nation. Their educational product is simply not good enough for our children. In some cases, it is toxic.
According to data collected and published by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Wisconsin's public schools have been consuming more and more tax dollars over the years while doing a consistently miserable job educating children in the basics of reading and math.
Nor are Wisconsin's public schools unusual.
In fiscal 1998, according to the NCES, Wisconsin spent $7,123 per pupil in its public primary and secondary schools. In the Department of Education's National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading test that year, Wisconsin public school eighth-graders scored an average of 266 out of a possible 500. As a result of that test, only 33 percent of Wisconsin's public school eighth-graders earned a rating of "proficient" or better in reading.
By 2008, Wisconsin was spending $10,791 per pupil in its public primary and secondary schools. Yet, in the 2009 NAEP reading test, Wisconsin public school eighth-graders again scored an average of only 266 out of a possible 500. Only 34 percent earned a rating of "proficient" or better in reading.
When the $7,123 per pupil Wisconsin spent in its public schools in 1998 is adjusted for inflation, it equals $9,408 in 2008 dollars. Thus, even though Wisconsin increased per pupil spending by $1,383 dollars from 1998 to 2008 (from $9,408 to $10,791), it did not gain a single point on its average eighth-grade reading score.
Wisconsin had similar results in math. In 1996, the state's public school eighth-graders scored an average of 283 out of 500 in math. In 2008, they scored an average of 288 out of 500 -- or 1 percent higher than in 1996.
As bad as they are, Wisconsin's tests scores are slightly better than the national average for public-school students.
In 1998, American public school eighth-graders averaged 261 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test. In 2009, they averaged 262 out of 500. In 1996, they averaged 271 out of 500 on the NAEP math test. In 2009, they averaged 282.
In 2009, only 30 percent of American public school eighth-graders earned a rating of "proficient" or better in reading. Only 32 percent earned a rating of "proficient" or better in math.
This ignorance did not come cheap. Nationwide, according to the NCES, public schools spent $10,297 per pupil in fiscal 2008.
Does anybody do better with less money? Yes.
In 2009, the eighth-graders in Catholic schools averaged 281 out of 500 on the NAEP reading test -- 19 points higher than the average American public school eighth-grader and 15 points higher than the average eighth-grader in a Wisconsin public schools. On the math test, eighth-graders in Catholic schools averaged 297 out of 500, compared to an average of 282 for eighth-graders in public schools nationwide and 288 for public school eighth-graders in Wisconsin.
In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, as noted on the archdiocese's website, Catholic elementary school tuitions range from $900 per child at St. Adalberts in Milwaukee to the $5,105 for a non-parishioner child at St. Alphonsus in Greenhdale.
In addition to being less expensive and better than public schools at teaching math and reading, Catholic schools -- like any private schools -- can also teach students that there is a God, that the Ten Commandments are true and must be followed, that the Founding Fathers believed in both and that, ultimately, American freedom depends on fidelity to our Judeo-Christian heritage even more than it depends on proficiency in reading and math.
What every state in the union ought to do is take a look at the public school teachers protesting in Wisconsin, take a look at the test scores for the nation's public school students, take a look at the $10,000 per year it typically takes to keep a child in a public school and pass new laws with three simple provisions: 1) every parent of every child in every school district in the state shall receive an annual voucher equal to the per-pupil cost of maintaining a child in the state's public schools, 2) they shall be entitled to redeem this voucher at any school they like, and 2) the state shall not regulate the private schools, period.
Let American parents decide who will be their partners in forming the hearts and minds of their children.
9) Sorry, Norma Rae
By Lisa Fabrizio on 2.24.11 @ 6:08AM
Back in the good old days, if you weren't a union supporter, you were un-American. Those of a certain age remember movies like Norma Rae, where poor, impoverished Southern women were crushed under the heels of evil, white slave-drivers before being rescued by altruistic union organizers. Or the made-for-TV weeper, The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal, where poor, impoverished Northern women leapt to their deaths because of evil, white slave-drivers who were later punished by altruistic union organizers.
Thanks to tremendous amounts of propaganda over the years, an inordinate affection for unions has, over time, wormed itself into our national psyche. Name one Hollywood movie made in the past 30 years that fails to portray them in a good light. The last was probably Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront, which actually only bashed the crooked leaders, while continuing to sanctify the rank and file; a practice which has continued unabated in the media up to this very day.
But it had to happen sooner or late in this age of 24/7 media coverage: the lid has finally been lifted from the boiling cauldron of government union corruption; friendly fire from class warfare has finally caught up with the liberal machine. In Wisconsin and across the nation, the ugly stew of union thuggery and liberal skullduggery has come to the national forefront and is widely available for sniffing. And, try as they might to euphemize away the struggle -- calling groups of hyper-organized, bused-in union members, "citizen uprisings" -- the American people are finally seeing through the rhetoric and getting a glimpse of a truth once obvious only to us right-wing extremists.
Gone are the days when Hollywood screenwriters and their fellow storytellers in the media can sing sad songs and paint pathetic pictures of downtrodden, peons laboring under the brutal yoke of big business. Some of the largest salaries and benefit packages in the nation now belong to those sucking the lifeblood out of U.S. taxpayers. Although the dirty dealings between public section unions and the Democratic Party have been well-chronicled in certain circles, the public has been mostly unaware of the self-perpetuating aspects of this unholy marriage; until now, that is.
Inevitably, after private sector unions have almost vanished in this country by bankrupting nearly every industry associated with them, they have now demonstrated their smothering effect on our city, state and federal governments. But how did this happen?
Decades ago, people became civil servants because they either truly wanted to serve the community or just couldn't get jobs elsewhere. The pay was not too hot but the benefits were usually good. Then came the big labor organizers and with them, the attendant brain-washing. Just try and talk to a civil servant; or worse, an uncivil postal employee on the subject. Otherwise clear-thinking men and women turn into raging monsters at a hint of questioning the justice of collective bargaining or the mere mention of Ronald Reagan's name. Their union membership all but made them the worst caricature of one-issue voters as well as a breeding ground for generations of dependable Democrats.
But you know the tide is turning when even New York's Governor Cuomo, son of liberal demigod Mario, has seen the light and taken the pledge. It's getting so bad that even my ultra-liberal hometown paper had a front-page piece exposing the outrageous pay and practices of our police department, where one officer made a total of $274,988 on the city payroll and another made $95,962 in overtime alone. No, it's getting harder and harder for liberals to claim that the salaries of corporate America are obscene, when the true obscenity is as close as your local police station or the schoolhouse door.
We were lectured ad nauseam by our president for two years -- until the 2010 midterms -- that "elections have consequences," and so they do. More and more Americans are finally getting the connection between more taxes and less freedom; between socialism and labor unions and most importantly, between government employees and the heretofore unwitting dupes who pay them.
They are looking around at their fellow citizens who are members of government unions and seeing, not dozens of poor, noble Norma Raes who desire only enough to feed their struggling families, but six-figure earners who will retire at 55 with lifelong pensions and benefits; all on their dime.
10) Hate-A-Rama: The Vulgar, Sexist, Racist, Homophobic Rage of the Left
By Michelle Malkin
Barack Obama's new era of civility was over before it began. You wouldn't know it from reading The New York Times, watching Katie Couric or listening to the Democratic manners police. But America has been overrun by foul-mouthed, fist-clenching wildebeests.
Yes, the tea party movement is responsible -- for sending these liberal goons into an insane rage, that is. After enduring two years of false smears as sexist, racist, homophobic barbarians, it is grassroots conservatives and taxpayer advocates who have been ceaselessly subjected to rhetorical projectile vomit. It is Obama's rank-and-file "community organizers" on the streets fomenting the hate against their political enemies. Not the other way around.
The trendy new epithet among Big Labor organizers who've been camping out at the Madison, Wis., Capitol building for more than a week to block GOP Gov. Scott Walker's budget reform bill: "Koch whore." Classy, huh? It's a reference to the reviled Koch brothers, David and Charles, who have used their energy-industry wealth to support limited-government activism. A left-wing agitator based in Buffalo who impersonated Koch in a prank phone call this week used the slur to headline his "gonzo journalism" report. (If a right-leaning activist had perpetrated such a stunt, he'd be labeled a radical, stalking fraudster. But that's par for the media's double-standards course.)
The 20-minute phone call undermined the grand Koch conspiracy by exposing that Walker didn't know Koch at all. No matter. "Koch whore" is the new "Halliburton whore." The Captains of Civility are sticking to it. And the sanctimonious "No Labels" crowd is missing in action -- just like Wisconsin's Fleebagger Democrats.
Sexual vulgarity is a common theme in the left's self-styled "solidarity" movement. Among the Madison pro-union signs the national media chose not to show you: "Buttholes for Billionaires" (complete with a photo of Walker's head placed in the middle of a graphic photo of someone's posterior) and "If teabaggers are as hot as their Fox News anchors, then I'm here for the gang bang!!!"
Last month, GOP Lieutenant Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was subjected to similar misogyny for her outreach efforts to private businesses. Liberal WTDY radio host John "Sly" Sylvester accused her of performing "fellatio on all the talk-show hosts in Milwaukee" and sneered that she had "pulled a train" (a crude phrase for group sex).
At an AFSCME rally in Providence, R.I., on Tuesday, an unhinged pro-union supporter picked an unprovoked fight with a citizen journalist taping the event for public access TV. His eyes bulging, the brawler yelled: "I'll f**k you in the a**, you faggot!" After several unsuccessful minutes of trying to calm their furious ally down, the solidarity mob finally started chanting, "Hey, hey, ho, ho, union-busting's got to go" to drown out his intimidating vow to follow the cameraman outside the building. Criminal charges are now pending against him. None of the local media who covered the event thought to mention the disruption in their coverage.
In Columbus, Ohio, supporters of GOP Gov. John Kasich's fiscal reforms were confronted with a fulminating union demonstrator who railed: "The tea party is a bunch of d**k-sucking corporate butt-lickers who want to crush the working people of this country."
In Denver, Colo., Leland Robinson, a gay black tea party activist and entrepreneur who criticized teachers unions at a Capitol rally, was told by white labor supporters to "get behind that fence where you belong." They called the 52-year-old limousine driver "son" and subjected him to this ugly, racially charged taunt: "Do you have any children? That you claim?"
Tea party favorite and former Godfather's Pizza President Herman Cain is another outspoken black conservative businessman who has earned the civility mob's lash. Two weeks ago, a cowardly liberal writer derided Cain as a "monkey in the window," a "garbage pail kid" and a "minstrel" who performs for his "masters." Monkey. Parrot. Puppet. Lawn jockey. Uncle Tom. Aunt Thomasina. Oreo. Coconut. Banana. We minority conservatives have heard it all.
In Washington, D.C., a multi-union protest at the offices of conservative activist group FreedomWorks resulted in one young female employee, Tabitha Hale, getting smacked with a sign by a barbarian wearing a Communications Workers of America T-shirt -- and another FreedomWorks employee getting yelled at as a "bad Jew" for opposing public union monopolies and reckless spending.
In the wake of the Tucson massacre, Obama urged the nation "to do everything we can to make sure this country lives up to our children's expectations." He pushed for "a more civil and honest public discourse."
As Big Labor-backing MoveOn.org (the same outfit that smeared Gen. David Petraeus as a traitor) prepares to march on all 50 state Capitols this weekend, where's the Civility Chief now? AWOL.
11) Public Employee's Thinly-Veiled Threat Against Scott Walker?
By Kyle Olson
As the rhetoric continues to escalate and vitriol is directed at Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the left willfully ignores all the hate and incivility. Fewer than 40 days after the Tucson Tragedy, the left is once again using heated rhetoric and resorting to thug-like behavior to intimidate their political opponents.
But as the budget fix bill moves closer to a vote, there is reason to fear that the protestors might resort to mob-like behavior.
As the Madison demonstrations drag on, safety is becoming a concern. Sources indicate that Capitol security forces are planning for the worst, and with good reason.
Consider this veiled threat by Mike Imbrogno, a public employee and an executive board member of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. After a recent International Socialist Organization meeting, Imbrogno told an EAGtv reporter, “I hope Scott Walker goes down in the next few weeks….” See the video here.
A recall process against the governor legally cannot begin until he’s been in office for 12 months. An AFSCME leader would know this. So what could he mean?
Imbrogno has used similar coded language recently. Consider his rant posted on SocialistWorker.org:
"The rallies are supposed to be followed by time for "lobbying" members of the legislature to vote no on the worst aspects of these attacks. But this battle won't be won in the offices of these right-wing pigs. It will be won by framing these political questions in the streets."
The mood around the Capitol is tense and the unions are stoking it. It could turn ugly at any moment, especially when the legislation passes. Elected leaders and their staff have every right to be fearful of what the unions will do to them, but at this point, they’re holding firm and doing the business Wisconsin voters hired them to do.
The only question that remains is whether or not the unions will follow through on their threats.
12) Wisconsin Showdown
By Peter Ferrara on 2.23.11 @ 6:09AM
Nationwide, state and local government workers are paid on average 45% more than private sector workers, with an average hourly wage of $26.25, and $13.56 in hourly costs for benefits, for total hourly costs of $39.81, or $80,000 per year on average. This is true in Wisconsin as well. Indeed, the Manhattan Institute's E.J. McMahon reports that for public school teachers in Milwaukee, the annual cost of family health coverage is $26,844, for which the teachers currently pay nothing.
Yet, state and local government workers are mobbing the capitol in Wisconsin because newly elected Governor Scott Walker's bill to close the state's $3.6 billion budget deficit would require them to pay 5.8% of their pension costs, and 12.6% of their health insurance costs. In both cases, that would still be only about two-thirds or less of what private sector workers pay on average, among those who even have employer-provided health insurance. And no private sector worker has pension benefits like government workers, with some retiring at age 55 or even younger, with six-figure pensions every year for life. It is the private sector workers who must pay the taxes to keep the wages and benefits of public sector government bureaucrats in the style to which they have become accustomed.
Government Unions = Conflict of Interest
The right of collective bargaining for private sector workers is not at issue in Wisconsin, though President Obama and the Democrats want to confuse the public on precisely that question. Under current law, there are plenty of market and legal checks on private sector unions to keep them from abusing the public. The ultimate limit if they push too far is that their company will be driven out of business. Though that does happen sometimes, that is only when management fails to do its job in resisting excessive union demands. Otherwise, within current market and legal checks, private sector unions actually perform a helpful market function in ensuring that employers keep up with market wages and working conditions as expeditiously as possible.
Not so for government unions, which are two words that together spell oppression. Federal, state, or even local governments cannot be driven out of business. They gain their revenue forcibly through taxes. As a result, there is no market limit to how much such unions can pirate from the public.
Indeed, public sector unions choose their own employers, by voting for the governing policymakers for each political entity -- Governors, legislators, county chairmen, etc. This creates an inherent conflict of interest, as a politician can be negotiating regarding the pay and benefits for his own political supporters at public expense. That can lead to oppressive political corruption, where there is no political limit as well as no market limit to the plunder of the public by government unions.
That fundamental, unworkable problem with government unions used to be commonly understood, which is why even an ultimate liberal like Franklin Roosevelt would not recognize them. And that is why strikes by government workers have been commonly prohibited in American history as well. These workers are providing essential public services, and they should not be allowed to deprive the public of such services. But today this common understanding of the past has been lost in too many jurisdictions. As a result, we find exactly oppression of the public in some local or even state jurisdictions.
Governor Walker's bill would limit collective bargaining for government employees to wages. Collective bargaining over working conditions is what produces public policy atrocities like requiring the layoff first of better teachers with less seniority instead of union time servers with more seniority who have lost real interest in doing a good job. Governor Walker's bill would still provide for more collective bargaining for Wisconsin government workers than allowed those so badly oppressed federal workers, whose wages are set by an act of Congress rather than collective bargaining.
Government employees work for democratically elected officials representing the will of the people, not greedy miscreants exploiting them for personal profit. This is another reason why there is no legitimate role for government unions, and there should be no collective bargaining rights for government bureaucrats. Governor Walker's more moderate bill actually greatly benefits state and local workers by terminating government collection and payment of their union dues. This gives power to the workers to each voluntarily decide if they want to pay those dues. That is like a tax cut of as much as $1,000 a year for state and local government workers. That policy needs to be adopted in every state, as taxpayer money going to government union dues is the root of all political corruption in America.
This Is What Democracy Looks Like
Wisconsin just held an election last November, and the voters granted the Republicans a 19-14 majority in the state Senate. But under Senate rules, a quorum of 20 is needed to conduct business. By refusing to even participate in Senate proceedings, and consequently shutting down the state Senate, the 14 AWOL Senate Democrats are imperiously rejecting the democratically expressed will of the people.
Anti-democracy demonstrators have mobbed the state capitol in Madison to impair the state legislature's proceedings, chanting also imperiously, "This is what democracy looks like." The chant is imperious because it implies that the state and local government workers comprising the demonstrators embody superior democratic legitimacy over the vote of the people of the state last November.
What those state and local government workers are doing in the state capitol is not what democracy looks like. It is what mob rule looks like.
What democracy looks like is what the Wisconsin Tea Party should now do to the 14 AWOL Democrat state senators. The Wisconsin Constitution explicitly grants voters the power to recall and remove from office those anti-democracy Democrat state senators. The state Constitution provides:
The qualified electors of the state, of any congressional, judicial, or legislative district, or of any county may petition for the recall of any incumbent elective officer after the first year of the term for which the incumbent was elected, by filing a petition with the filing officer with whom the nomination petition to the office in the primary is filed, demanding the recall of the incumbent.
Of the 14 missing Democrat state senators, at least half would be subject to immediate recall this year, maybe more. While efforts to recall U.S. Senators under such state law provisions have been subject to legal controversy, there is no legal controversy about the authority of voters to recall state senators under such provisions.
Clearly, what Governor Walker is asking for to balance the state's budget is quite reasonable. Indeed, it is long overdue. For those anti-democracy Democrat state senators who refuse to even allow a vote on the measure by failing to show up and do their duty, the Wisconsin Tea Party should begin the process of recall under state law now. Voters whether liberal or conservative should not abide anti-democratic state senators who shut down the legislature altogether by refusing even to show up to for work.
Pending that, the state's Senate Majority Leader should declare the seats of the senators who continue to fail to show up vacant. The Senate should then proceed to adopt new proportional quorum rules based on the number of seats that have not been vacated, and then go ahead and pass the Governor's budget proposals. The Senate should then proceed to other state business.
If the AWOL senators don't like it, they can sue.
State Bankruptcy: For Everything There Is a Season
What is at stake in Wisconsin is whether public servants work for the people, or whether the people work to serve a government bureaucrat aristocracy. The recent experience in Wisconsin shows the wisdom of the proposal made earlier this year by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to allow states to file for bankruptcy.
The U.S. Constitution explicitly gives Congress the authority to provide for bankruptcy law. That is because as the Founding Fathers recognized, bankruptcy allowing those who have hopelessly indebted themselves to start over is not an immoral dodge, but good public policy. Pursuant to this authority, the U.S. Bankruptcy Code has provided the option for local government authorities, including cities and counties, to file for bankruptcy since 1934. As Gingrich and Bush have argued, the time has come to extend this option to state governments as well.
Criticism of their proposal has arisen due to failure to understand what bankruptcy means, and a rush to judgment before considering the details of the proposal. Amending the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to provide for state bankruptcy would mean foreclosure of any option of a federal taxpayer bailout for irresponsible spendthrift liberal states.
Under the Gingrich/Bush proposal, bankruptcy would be solely at the option of the governing state authorities. States could not be forced into bankruptcy by any creditors. Moreover, federal bankruptcy judges would not have the power to order a state to do anything. That would violate state sovereignty and democratic control by the voters. The federal law would specifically indicate that no judicial bankruptcy decree for any state could provide for a tax increase. That would take us all the way back to taxation without representation, which we fought a war to overturn.
States that wanted to exercise this new bankruptcy option would file a plan of reorganization with a federal bankruptcy court. The plan of reorganization would specify how the state's debt obligations would be readjusted and then paid off, including possible reductions or cancellations of outstanding obligations or debts as in any bankruptcy. The only requirement on the plan of reorganization, besides no tax increases, is that all creditors within the same class of priority would have to be treated equally within the usual established rules for all other bankruptcies.
The highest level of priority would be for bondholders, so that a state could file for bankruptcy without nullifying any outstanding bonds, which would preserve the state's ability to borrow in the future when necessary and desirable. This would also help to avoid disruption in state bond markets. Note that municipal bond markets have continued to function over many years even with the possibility of municipal bankruptcy under federal law. The great majority of state and local bonds are, in fact, municipal bonds, which have long been subject to federal bankruptcy law. Extending the option of bankruptcy to states would consequently not newly threaten municipal bonds, as critics have wrongly suggested.
The second level of priority under state bankruptcy would be for vendors and contractors to the state. That would maintain some protection even in bankruptcy for vendors and contractors to be paid who have provided goods and services to the state, or at least be paid equally and proportionally with others.
The third level of priority would be for union contracts. This would empower states to rewrite onerous public pension obligations, or to freeze salaries and pay contrary to any outstanding contractual obligations. I know this is necessary from personal experience with state government pension reform efforts, where we have been told that no reforms can affect current state workers because of outstanding union contracts.
The point of state bankruptcy, therefore, is not to dodge state debts, as critics have also wrongly suggested. It is to grant states new powers to deal with rapacious government bureaucrat unions. Wall Street bankers have already run to Congress crying that state bankruptcy would imperil their bond holdings. These bankers are another class of aristocrats, some of whom run to Congress every 10 years crying that unless they are bailed out and enabled to continue to enjoy their fat cat lifestyle at taxpayer expense, the economy will crash. What is in their future in the next Administration is the permanent end of such Too Big To Fail bailouts, rather than their institutionalization as in Obama's Dodd Frank Financial Regulation legislation. This would be accomplished through another Bankruptcy Code amendment providing for the rapid liquidation of bankrupt Wall Street banks, which would protect the broader economy. What is needed is one big Wall Street bank bankruptcy to prove the end of Too Big To Fail. I can't wait for that.
The federal judge in state bankruptcy would have the power solely to accept or reject the state's plan of reorganization. If the judge accepted the plan, it would have the force of law, reordering the state's obligations and debts as provided. If the judge rejected the plan, he would have to issue an opinion explaining why. The state could then try again.
The federal law would provide that a state's bankruptcy could be triggered by a filing initiated by the state's governor, or by the state legislature passing the plan of reorganization, which would automatically send it to the court for approval, or by the people adopting the plan of reorganization by citizen initiative, automatically sending it to the court as well.
If this were the law, Governor Walker in Wisconsin could go ahead and file his reorganization plan with a federal court, without having to wait on corrupt politicians, bought off by their government union political machines, to show up for work. Or citizens in Wisconsin, or in California, could file for an Initiative Referendum on a plan of reorganization devised by the Initiative sponsors themselves.
The Wisconsin Showdown is already spreading across the country to other states. Changing the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to allow for state bankruptcy filings would be a valuable tool to empower taxpayers nationwide to protect themselves.
What Governor Walker is doing in Wisconsin is protecting the interests of working people in the state, who are the ones who must pay the taxes for the lavish pay and benefits of public sector aristocrats, and suffer their own lost jobs and wages resulting from high taxes. Personally, I would like to see every working family making over $100,000 per year, and retiring as millionaires, whether working in the private or public sector. With the right economic policies, that is possible in America within a generation. That, indeed, is what I have devoted my entire life at this point working for. But we are going to fall farther from that goal, rather than grow closer, following the neo-socialist runaway tax, spend, deficit and debt policies advocated by shortsighted, brain dead government unions.
13) Public Sector Unions and Basic Morality
By Manon McKinnon on 2.23.11 @ 6:06AM
The spectacle in Wisconsin has many of us rethinking the underlying grounds for public sector unions. Many Americans are thinking in terms of the obvious financial implications. But surely others are looking deeper to question the moral underpinnings of these unions and their place in public service.
Years ago President Franklin Roosevelt called the idea of public sector unions "unthinkable and intolerable." Not long after, AFL-CIO President George Meany declared that it was "impossible to bargain collectively with the government." They were both speaking to the morality of public servants making demands on taxpayers' earnings under the threat of withholding public services -- or as FDR put it, "looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it."
Roget's Thesaurus lists moral as: virtuous, honorable, conscientious, righteous, upright, and good; and unions will no doubt claim those qualities for themselves. But is it righteous for garbage collectors to walk off the job and allow filth to pile up in the streets? Would you call it virtuous for striking policemen to give crime a holiday? Or honorable for firemen to desert their posts? And teachers -- can they be seen as conscientious as they organize against children and abandon their classrooms and their obligations -- as we are seeing in Wisconsin? Or could we call legislators upright when they skip out on their legislative duties? Undoubtedly, all this is what FDR foresaw, and what Pennsylvania union leader Gerald MacIntee meant when he urged his workers to "close down this God-damned state."
We need to remember -- as the Wall Street Journal pointed out -- that "collective bargaining for government workers is not a God-given or constitutional right." True -- and though we take them for granted today, public unions arrived on the federal level by way of executive order only in 1962, and states quickly followed. After five decades, various strikes and walk-outs, $3.32 trillion in state unfunded pension liabilities, and the current state of public education, it is hard to make the case that public sector unions are doing this country much good. And even harder to sustain is the moral case for public sector unions. They have become exactly what FDR feared they would.
Also from Roget's come these words: dishonorable, conscienceless, unconscionable, unscrupulous and questionable. These are words that well describe "the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it." FDR's "unthinkable and intolerable" is taking place in Wisconsin today and who-knows-where tomorrow. For right's sake, it is time to get rid of public unions and return to public service.
14) Beyond Collective Bargaining
By RiShawn Biddle on 2.25.11 @ 6:07AM
One would think that Alabama, a state in which teachers unions don't have the power to force school districts into collective bargaining, would be a bastion of school reform. But within the past year or so, the National Education Association's Cotton State affiliate has shown there's more to wielding influence than sitting at negotiating tables.
In November 2009, then-Gov. Bob Riley and school reformers, looking to push for school choice (and to get a share of the $4.3 billion in federal money provided by President Barack Obama's Race to the Top school reform effort) attempted to advance school choice by ending the Cotton State's status as one of the few states that don't allow public charter schools. At the time, Riley declared: "This gives us an opportunity to do something that 40 states say has made a tremendous difference in the quality of education."
Three months later, Riley's effort went to seed as the NEA affiliate and local school districts convinced committees in both houses of the legislature to kill the charter school bill. By mid-year, the union all but assured that charter schools would never be a part of any governor's plans in the near future by backing both winners of the state's Democratic and Republican primaries, including Robert Bentley, the eventual winner.
This should give pause to both school reformers and those looking to clip the wings of other public sector unions by rooting for efforts by governors such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker and legislatures in Ohio and other states to abolish collective bargaining requirements. Ending forced labor negotiations can weaken the influence of teachers unions. But through the sheer force of campaign war chests, armies of rank-and-file teachers, and strong alliances with other defenders of traditional public education, the NEA and its sister union, the American Federation of Teachers, still retain more than enough influence to thwart efforts to end the compensation deals that has made teaching even more lucrative than other professions in the public sector.
School reformers and foes of public sector unions will need to take on all aspects of union influence in order to achieve their respective goals -- including taking on the other ways the NEA and the AFT, along with their allies, influence education policy and even control school spending.
The battles over collective bargaining come as state governments struggle to close $260 billion in budget shortfalls in this fiscal year and 2011-2012, and wrestle with the long-term costs of traditional teacher compensation -- including at least $1 trillion in teachers' pension deficits and another $400 billion or so in unfunded retired teacher healthcare costs. The recognition that traditional teacher compensation is ineffective at rewarding high-quality teachers and spurring student achievement has also given impetus to restricting collective bargaining (and the pay raises that teachers unions tend to win at the negotiating table).
At the same time, the nation's school reform movement has succeeded in fully exposing the low quality of America's public schools. For taxpayers and legislators, the steady evidence of academic failure -- including yesterday's news that 44 percent of fourth-graders in the nation's 14-largest cities (and 29 percent of all American students) scored Below Basic on the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress -- and efforts by teachers union locals to protect poor-performing teachers (including the push by the AFT's Beltway local to reinstate 75 teachers tossed out last year by D.C. Public Schools) are proof enough that the defenders of traditional public education can no longer be trusted with schools or children.
There is plenty that is appealing to many school reformers and to those generally opposed to organized labor about abolishing collective bargaining. For states and districts, it would weaken the clout of the NEA and AFT in structuring work rules, compensation deals, and layoff policies that have made it difficult for them to move toward private sector-style performance management and to ditch degree- and seniority-based pay scales, which have long ago been proven ineffective in improving student achievement. More importantly, it would also allow for school reformers, especially those in big-city districts, to move more aggressively on reform. This is because NEA and AFT locals tend to use their campaign cash essentially to pick the winners in school board elections, thus ending up on both sides of the negotiating table.
But the clout of the NEA and AFT doesn't rest on collective bargaining and school board races alone. Despite their weakened status, the two unions remain the biggest players in federal and state elections; they ladled out $59 million in campaign donations during the 2009-2010 election cycle and $277 million over the past 11 years, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Although last year's spending spree was largely a bust, the unions managed to throw their weight around for high impact, including spending $1 million on an ad blitz that helped defeat D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty in his bid for re-election.
This spending, along with the rank-and-file members they deploy, also allow the NEA and AFT (along with smaller unions) to wield tremendous clout in state legislatures even in the few states in which they cannot technically conduct collective bargaining or where union influence is at first glance rather weak -- and structure state laws and policies that restrict what school districts can actually do. In South Carolina, the otherwise-floundering NEA affiliate there, along with other unions and professional associations, have successfully opposed school reform efforts and have continued to make it one of the easiest states for teachers to gain near-lifetime employment through tenure. Virginia's NEA local also wields significant influence, including helping to weaken the effort by Gov. Bob McDonnell's last year to ease the rules restricting the expansion of charter schools.
As I noted in a 2008 study I co-wrote for the National Council on Teacher Quality, the NEA and AFT long ago mastered the art of using their war chests and lobbying heft to enact state laws governing many of the key aspects of teachers' contracts. Near-lifetime employment in the form of tenure, for example, is covered in the contracts of just a third of the nation's 100 largest districts. Rules for dismissing teachers are often not even covered in contracts. If anything, lobbying and campaigning actually works better for their cause than collective bargaining because they no longer have to slog through negotiations with hundreds of districts. Through their influence on legislators, they can simply have state laws crafted that are more to their liking.
Meanwhile the NEA and AFT share common cause with allies who are just as opposed to the school reform movement. Suburban school districts have spent the past two decades opposing expansion of charter schools, and have been among the loudest foes of standards-and-accountability moves such as the No Child Left Behind Act. The two unions have also spent millions of member dues on subsidizing like-minded groups. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, which lobbies on behalf of the nation's university colleges of education, has benefitted from more than $1.5 million in NEA funding between 2005-2006 and 2009-2010, according to the union's disclosures to the U.S. Department of Labor. Another beneficiary, the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute (whose studies always manage to support NEA positions), has received $1.3 million in union largesse.
What school reformers and foes of public sector unions must do is attack the very pools of money that help sustain NEA and AFT coffers. Most of the $622 million in dues collected by the two unions is forcibly collected; ending automatic deductions, as Wisconsin's Gov. Walker seeks to do, would go a long way in reducing the financial clout. So would restricting the use of school funding for subsidizing teachers union activity; in New York State, for example, the AFT affiliate there is allowed to provide teacher training in school districts through its Education & Learning Trust.
So long as the NEA and AFT have the dollars and the bodies to push for their cause, they will remain a key (if increasingly less-relevant) influence in education policy. School reformers and those seeking to end the drag of public sector unions on taxpayers altogether need to focus more on mounting the kind of lobbying and campaigning that will end this influence (and overhaul the teaching profession) in the long run. That's if the bipartisan coalition of centrist Democrats and conservatives that have long fought for reform can hold.
15) Indiana Education Reformers Take Action
By Kyle Olson
While all eyes are on Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and his efforts to reform his state’s spending, Indiana is leading the way with broad-based education reforms.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett is pushing several concrete reforms: limiting collective bargaining, expansion of charter schools, increased accountability for teachers and administrators, performance pay for teachers and vouchers for middle and low income Hoosiers.
It is easily the most aggressive education reform agenda in the country. And the aggressive action will cause the National Education Association to put a target on Bennett’s back in the next election.
Watch ‘Indiana Reformers Take Action’ – Episode 10 – “Kids Aren’t Cars”
Big Labor is pulling out all the stops to defeat his agenda. Will the union bosses be successful or will Indiana schools finally put the interests of children first?
16) Insurance Scam Driving Wisconsin Union Debate
By Kyle Olson
Much of the current controversy in Wisconsin involves the impending loss of most collective bargaining privileges for state employees, including public school teachers.
The fact is that the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the largest teachers union in the state, has grossly abused that privilege for decades, resulting in the unnecessary siphoning of millions of dollars from Wisconsin public schools. Under current Wisconsin law, the identity of the insurance company that provides health coverage to school employees is a matter of collective bargaining in each school district. I
n the majority of districts around the state, WEAC negotiators have used that law to pressure local school boards into purchasing coverage from WEA Trust, an insurance company established by and closely associated with the union.
WEA Trust offers very comprehensive health coverage, at a very high cost to schools. Most of the districts with the most expensive health premiums in the state are clients of WEA Trust. Most of the districts with the lowest premiums do business with other insurance carriers.
A few dozen districts have managed to dump WEA Trust insurance over the past few years, despite the protests of teachers and their union. Officials from many of those districts say they managed to save at least six figures their first year with a different carrier, and maintained steady rates in subsequent years, while still offering quality health coverage to employees.
Officials from other districts say they're also eager to dump WEA Trust coverage, but need their employees' anonymous claim histories from WEA Trust to share with other bidders. Several say they have never requested that information because they were told WEA Trust would punish them by pulling them out of local insurance pools, resulting in skyrocketing premiums.
Today many Wisconsin school boards consider themselves stuck with expensive WEA Trust health coverage, until state law is altered to take the identity of the insurance carrier off the collective bargaining table. Gov. Scott Walker's current legislative proposal would do just that, giving school boards the opportunity to freely shop for insurance and save millions of tax dollars for instructional purposes.
In fact, Gov. Walker recently cited WEA Trust as the #1 reason for collective bargaining reform.
Last year Education Action Group published a short, easy-to-read report on this topic, titled "A Crucial Challenge for Wisconsin Schools: Escaping the Shackles of WEA Trust Insurance." A copy of that report can be accessed by clicking here. The governor's campaign highlighted the report as evidence of the need for reform.
The union is saying this fight is about collective bargaining and the rights of its members. In reality, WEA Trust, under the umbrella of WEAC, stands to lose millions if the reform is passed, as our report points out.
The union's money and power stream would be hampered and it owes it to taxpayers and teachers to come clean about that.
17) It's Just Like the Sixties!
By Sandy Rios
"It was wonderful! You should have been there! It’s just like the Sixties!" A Wisconsin teacher reported effusively to my friend, another Wisconsin schoolteacher. The first was referring, of course, to the dramatic shutdown of state government and the overrun of the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, by thousands of union members and their allies. The second had chosen to actually stay home and show up to teach. Duty over rebellion. How un-sixties-like.
As University of Wisconsin grad, Ted Hamm, stood to speak on behalf of the teachers, long hair flowing, it WAS like stepping back in time. It’s an era many baby boomers look on fondly…the days of their youth. Certain songs trigger in them memories of marijuana and LSD. Others chuckle at the thought of anti-war demonstrations, flowers-in-their-hair, bell-bottomed pants and personal sexual freedom.
Others remember the truth. The Sixties were a time of unbridled self-indulgence; a spoiled generation turned loose on the world to be the rotten young adults they had become. Selfish…indulgent…rebellious…without respect or responsibility, chanting profound slogans like “Make love, not war!” and “Give peace a chance.” “Sex, drugs and rock and roll” was really the only one that captured their intent. They didn’t want war because it required sacrifice and they only wanted peace because they thought it translated to more unbridled sex and drugs.
Still others were serious as hell itself about their rebellion. They folded themselves among the silly sheep and led them nearly successfully to the abyss. They were the William Ayerses and Bernadine Dorns who actively sought the “violent overthrow of the United States government” through the Weather Underground.
We came back from that abyss, but some of that era never figured out what had happened. Those are the ones who look back fondly on their part of it. Others continued down the path to subversion with more stealth.
Many entered the workforce as teachers. And not long after, began to demand “workers rights.” This was code for another movement we once understood to be dangerous…communism. The Eastern European communists worked through labor unions as did Mao in China to stir up the people, pitting them against one other, sowing seeds of discord and eventually working among them in order to take power. “Workers of the world, unite!” was their battle cry and it became the battle cry of American unions as well.
To say the demonstrations in Madison are like the Sixties is “right on, man!” Willing sheep led by canny shepherds…flaunting rules that don’t please them, like showing up for work as teachers or legislators and writing fraudulent prescriptions to achieve their own ends….very Sixties-like indeed.
Facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, Governor Scott Walker is asking that teachers contribute 5.8% to their pensions and 12.6% to their healthcare; Far less than private sector workers pay at a time when many would give anything to be gainfully employed or insured. But the union can’t be constrained by such logic. Like spoiled children, or intentional subversives, they will not be denied their “rights” even if it means the destruction of their state and of the economic future of taxpayers who must bear the burden.
According to the Democratic Party press releases, eagerly stoking the flames, Governor Scott Walker and the GOP are “assaulting working families” …”trying to end the ability of workers to organize for good wages and benefits”… “hurting workers” … “singling out one group for punishment”….”inflicting burdens on those hurt most by the recession.”
Only a formerly drug-induced hippy could believe such statements, but then again, the teacher’s unions are full of them.
It’s like the Sixties, all right. And we’d better recognize the dangers of that before it’s too late. Adult hippies carried their irresponsibility into family life, creating the highest divorce rate and most neglected children in America’s history. They have wrecked the family and the public school with the help of schoolbook architects like William Ayres writing curricula to control minds and persuade America’s youth to their perverse thinking.
If they have their way, they WILL destroy the United States of America. And having their way, is what this spoiled generation is in the business of getting.
I have a solution. Let’s break the teacher’s unions, abolish the Department of Education and turn schools back to the control of state governments. Let’s allow private and charter and home schools to flourish with the money we have saved. Let’s establish national basic standards in science, math, English and history with a huge emphasis on American civics and turn states loose to add the rest.
Let’s free teachers to teach…make administrators and teachers partners again with parents who have been marginalized by the undermining of parental rights. Let’s restore discipline and responsibility to students and parents alike. Let’s give rewards to states that academically perform best on the world stage. Let’s let teachers contribute to their own political causes and stop forcing them to give their money to efforts they philosophically oppose.
And as this retro-glimpse takes us back into the Sixties, let’s eradicate any fondness for it….forever!
18) Antidote to Government-Run Education
By Kyle Olson
Charter schools are facing increasing fierce attacks by organized labor – because they work. Most of them are publicly funded and are not bound by inch-thick union contracts that stipulate what teachers don’t have to do and which hoops administrators have to jump through in order to hold their employees accountable.
Some charter schools don’t produce the desired results. But because of the agreement between the school and their state, if they aren’t up to snuff, they can be shut down. If only the same could be said of traditional public systems in Detroit, Chicago or Los Angeles.
Watch ‘Reforms That Work’ – Episode 8 – “Kids Aren’t Cars”
Indianapolis Public Schools is a dismal mess. Leaders there do whatever they can to keep the ship afloat, regardless of the harm it brings to the children of the city. Parents are desperate for choices – and they found one in the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School.
Tindley Accelerated School was started by education visionaries who bought an old grocery store, put up some walls, hired quality teachers and began educating kids. Today, those kids are out-performing their peers in the very same neighborhood, dispelling many myths.
The success of Tindley Accelerated School is showing that anyone can learn when the culture is right. Fancy buildings and heavy spending are not requirements for impressive academic results.
In the pitched battle over education reform that is going on in Indiana right now, the state is expanding reforms that are working, much to the dismay of the Indiana State Teachers Association. But union leaders have vowed to do whatever they can to hamper reform, even if it means sentencing kids to failing schools.
Who will win? It’s a deadly serious question, because nothing less than the future of Indiana (and of the entire United States) is at stake.
19) Desperate Wisconsin Unions Resort to Alinsky Tactics
By Rachel Alexander
Facing a growing tide of opposition over the skyrocketing costs of government employee pension plans, unions in Wisconsin are striking back with underhanded tactics. Massive protests in Wisconsin’s State Capitol began last week after Republican Governor Scott Walker announced a budget on February 11, 2011 that would repeal public employee unions’ collective bargaining power to negotiate benefits and working conditions, leaving them with only wage-negotiating authority. Police and firefighters would be exempt. Governor Walker targeted pensions since their costs are rising at much more unsustainable levels than wage increases. His budget also increases public employees’ healthcare premiums to 12%, and requires them to start contributing 5.8% of their pay to pensions. Wisconsin state employees have one of the most generous benefits packages in the nation. Currently they are not required to contribute anything towards their pensions, and only 6% of their salaries goes towards healthcare premiums. Private employees pay much more on average into equivalent plans; Governor Walker’s budget would merely reduce the generous subsidies given to public employees. This would save the state nearly $300 million over the next two fiscal years.
His budget would also require unions to hold an annual secret-ballot vote of confidence, eliminate mandatory union membership by allowing workers to quit their unions without being fired, and stop the practice of having taxpayers subsidize the collection of union dues through government payrolls.
Wisconsin is broke, to use the words of Governor Walker. The state has a deficit of $137 million, which is expected to grow to $3.6 billion over the next two years. Wisconsin has already run out of money to pay unemployment benefits, borrowing over a million dollars from the federal government to cover them. Governor Walker warns that the alternative to his budget cuts would be laying off up to 6,000 state workers. His plan would close the deficit without raising taxes.
Public sector unions have grown in power, and are now the biggest contributor to political campaigns. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) spent $87.5 million last year to help Democrat politicians and influence their votes. The number of government jobs rose even while unemployment during the recession tipped 10%. Many public employees in Wisconsin can retire at age 55 with close to full pay, much earlier than the average private sector employee. Schoolteachers in Madison are some of the best paid teachers in the country, earning an average of $56,000 a year in salary plus benefits totaling over $100,000 in compensation.
The escalating costs of public employee compensation heavily contributed to Wisconsin’s rising deficit, and by proposing this budget Governor Walker is directly taking on the special interests responsible. He campaigned for election on a platform of cutting union benefits and ending the unions’ ability to collectively bargain. Wisconsin is one of approximately half of U.S. states that have no right to work laws protecting employees from being forced to join a union. This authority is all a creation of legislation; there are no “rights” in the Constitution that give unions the kind of power they have in Wisconsin.
After the Governor announced his budget, the unions went to work recruiting public employees to rally at the State Capitol in Madison. Thousands showed up every day last week. By Saturday there were an estimated 68,000 protesters. However, Tea Party counter protesters concerned about the rising deficit also turned out.
Realizing that they could not win using aboveboard tactics, the unions went far beyond peaceful protest, engaging in dishonest, unethical and probably illegal activity. Doctors were filmed at the protests fraudulently handing out notes to excuse state employees from work so they could protest. Conservative social media king Andrew Breitbart and a Fox News producer both easily obtained doctors’ notes at the protest, pretending to be public employees.
Efforts are also being made to sabotage the democratic process of the State Assembly. Republicans took over the Wisconsin State Assembly last fall. As the majority, they intend to pass Governor Walker’s budget. Yet the unions, with the complicity of the Democrat minority in the Senate, are trying to stop the Assembly from conducting business. Protesters outside the Assembly are blocking legislators from entering the building to vote. House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald adjourned the Assembly early on Friday after receiving a call from Governor Walker warning him that he could not assure his safety nor that of his caucus members. Wisconsin’s 14 Democrat Senators have shut down the ability of the Assembly to vote by deliberately staying away from the Capitol at hidden locations. Although all 19 Republicans in the Senate have vowed to vote for the Governor’s budget, a majority of 20 votes is still needed to pass legislation. The budget is due by the end of June.
Obama’s interference on behalf of the unions was not much more honest. He admitted he didn’t know the details of the dispute, “I haven’t followed exactly what’s been going on.” Then he attacked the budget proposal, saying it “seems like more of an assault on unions.” Obama’s campaign arm, Organizing for America, now a wing of the DNC, assisted with rounding up protesters.
A recent poll from the Clarus Group found that 64% think government employees should not be represented by unions. With states facing bigger deficits due to the recession, the escalating costs of overly generous public employee pensions have become one of the most pressing issues facing lawmakers and taxpayers. Unions know they do not have popular support to maintain these unsustainable levels of benefits. Their return to unsavory “Saul Alinsky” tactics of prior years to thwart our democratic process should be scrutinized closely and exposed for undermining the will of the people.
While blocking the Wisconsin Senate chamber, protesters chanted, “Freedom, Democracy, Union!” Some have noted the irony, considering the protesters were preventing the democratically-elected Senate from voting. If the union-instigated protesters had any intellectual honesty, they would have chanted, “Alinsky, Unsustainable Deficits, Greed, Union!”
20) Apocalypse Now: Wisconsin vs. Big Labor
By Michelle Malkin
Welcome to the reckoning. We have met the fiscal apocalypse, and it is smack dab in the middle of the heartland. As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation. Let us pray it does not go the way of the decrepit welfare states of the European Union.
The lowdown: State government workers in the Badger State pay piddling amounts for generous taxpayer-subsidized health benefits. Faced with a $3.6 billion budget hole and a state constitutional ban on running a deficit, new GOP Gov. Scott Walker wants public unions to pony up a little more. He has proposed raising the public employee share of health insurance premiums from less than 5 percent to 12.4 percent. He is also pushing for state workers to cover half of their pension contributions. To spare taxpayers the soaring costs of Byzantine union-negotiated work rules, he would rein in Big Labor's collective bargaining power to cover only wages unless approved at the ballot box.
As the free-market MacIver Institute in Wisconsin points out, the benefits concessions Walker is asking public union workers to make would still maintain their health insurance contribution rates at the second-lowest among Midwest states for family coverage. Moreover, a new analysis by benefits think tank HCTrends shows that the new rate "would also be less than the employee contributions required at 85 percent of large Milwaukee_area employers."
This modest call for shared sacrifice has triggered the wrath of the White House-Big Labor-Michael Moore axis. On Thursday, President Obama lamented the "assault on unions." AFL-CIO and Service Employees International Union bosses dubbed Walker the "Mubarak of the Midwest" while their minions toted posters of Walker's face superimposed on Hitler's. Moore goaded thousands of striking union protesters to "shut down" the "new Cairo" while the state's Democratic legislators bailed on floor debate over the union reform package.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan spurned the opportunity to condemn thousands of Wisconsin public school teachers for lying about being "sick" and shutting down at least eight school districts across the state to attend capitol protests (many of whom dragged their students on a social justice field trip with them). Instead, Duncan defended teachers for "doing probably the most important work in society." Only striking government teachers could win federal praise for NOT doing their jobs.
Yes, the so-called progressives truly believe that bringing American union workers into the 21st century in line with the rest of the workforce is tantamount to dictatorship.
Yes, the so-called progressives truly believe that by walking off their jobs and out of their classrooms, they are "putting children first."
If ever there were proof that public unions no longer work in the public interest, this is it. Big Labor dragoons workers into exclusive representation agreements, forces them to pay compulsory dues that fatten Democratic political coffers and then has the chutzpah to cast itself as an Egyptian-style "freedom" and "human rights" movement.
Meanwhile, union leaders elsewhere are quietly forcing their low-wage members to share the sacrifice in order to preserve teetering health funds. In New York state, Skidmore College campus janitors, dining service workers and other maintenance employees received late notice from the SEIU that 4.15 percent of their gross earnings will now be deducted from their paychecks to cover the cost of the health plan provided through the behemoth 1199 SEIU Greater New York Benefit Fund. (If the name sounds familiar, it's because this is one of several privileged SEIU affiliates that has received an Obamacare waiver.)
These workers are forced to join the union in order to preserve their jobs, and unlike non-union workers, they are locked into a single health plan. The SEIU has now decreed that they must pay new fees to include spouses on their plans and has hiked employee co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs.
What's necessary for New York union workers is necessary for Wisconsin union workers -- and for the rest of the protected union worker class in bankrupt and near-bankrupt states across America. The "persuasion of power" so ruthlessly and recklessly exercised by the SEIU and its thuggish allies must be broken by the moral courage of fiscal discipline. It's now or never.
21) Feds and Unions: Foes to Educational Reform
By Chuck Norris
"The fate of our country won't be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom." Do you believe that?
Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called on 14 state Senate Democrats, who had fled the state instead of voting on a deficit-cutting anti-teachers-union bill, to return and do their jobs. Senate Republicans hold a 19-14 majority there but can't vote on the bill unless at least one Democrat is present.
Does that sound like democracy at work to you? Do you think it's just a coincidence that the two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, are the largest campaign contributors in the nation -- $55 million in just the past two years, more than the Teamsters, the National Rifle Association or any other organization -- and that 90 percent of those contributions fund only Democratic candidates?
As I began to point out last week, the U.S. public education system is flailing now more than ever, and teachers unions are aiding and abetting its demise. Some teachers unions may indeed be fighting for some of our teachers, but they are failing our students by protecting adults at the expense of the reformation of a crippled and dying system.
I became even further aware of that in a big way when I recently watched the movie "Waiting for 'Superman,'" a deeply personal look into the state of U.S. public education and how it is effecting our children. It is a movie my wife, Gena, and I encourage every American to watch. (It just came out on DVD and Blu-ray.)
"Waiting for 'Superman'" demonstrates how:
--Teachers unions are crippling the education of our children.
--Tenure and its guaranteed jobs are perpetuating educational dysfunction.
--Existing bureaucracies in education, from the U.S. Department of Education to state school boards, are doing more harm than good.
--Many public schools have become "dropout factories" (schools with high dropout rates).
--Many public school districts are engaged in "lemon dances" (sending their worst teachers to other schools and then in turn accepting failing teachers themselves).
--Many public school districts have "rubber rooms," places where teachers placed on disciplinary leave are waiting for hearings that could take three to four years to be heard. These teachers waste their time playing cards and other games while getting paid full salaries and benefits -- to the wasted sum of $100 million a year of taxpayer money.
Think about this: If a teacher knows he can't be fired, why should he work or care? What other profession, besides college professor, has that kind of contractual agreement? None.
Don't misunderstand me; I fully know and believe that the majority of public-school teachers and principals are dedicated and highly qualified. I know some. But I also know that more often than not, even their hands are being tied by bureaucratic red tape, federal and state regulations, and teachers unions? special interests, agendas and contracts. By and large, teachers are good, but government regulation and teachers unions are a menace and impediment to real public education reform.
The fact is, as "Waiting for 'Superman'" also documents, the federal government has gone from spending $4,300 per student in 1971 to more than $9,000 today (and that's adjusted for inflation and costs of living). In our spending double, one would think we're getting double the results, but most of our public schools are worse off now than they were in 1971.
From coast to coast, reading and math scores have flat-lined since then. In Connecticut, only 35 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in math. In Alabama, that number is only 18 percent, and in California, it's only 24 percent.
And when the nation's eighth-graders were tested in reading proficiency, most states scored between 20 and 35 percent of grade level, with the absolute lowest scores in reading being in the nation?s capital, Washington, D.C., where only 12 percent of eighth-graders are proficient.
I discussed last week how we all can fight to improve U.S. public education. But if our local schools aren't imparting a quality education or reforming fast enough to do so for our children, then we must seek educational alternatives. The minds, hearts and future of our children and nation are on the line.
But choice is something the feds and teachers unions are not exactly thrilled about offering. In fact, President Barack Obama's appointed secretary of education, Arne Duncan, explained in an NPR interview, "I'm a big believer in choice and competition, but I think we can do that within the public-school framework."
Our children deserve the best education we can give them. We can't be satisfied by failed government-run schools that don't provide the level of education we want. But there are alternatives, and I would encourage you to look into them. Charter, parochial and private schools and home-school co-ops are a few. Gena and I are very committed to home-schooling our 9-year-old twins.
'Superman' is not going to rise up in the ranks of the federal government or teachers unions. He or she is going to rise up from within our homes.
In this respect, "Superman" Christopher Reeve had it right: "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."
22) The Media on Wisconsin? A Bad Joke
By Brent Bozell
The battle in Madison, Wis., between new Gov. Scott Walker and the public-sector union hacks offers an amazing study in journalistic double standards. The same national media that have spent the last two years drawing devil's horns and Klan hoods on the tea party protesters have switched sides with lightning speed. In the Wisconsin protesters, they find sweetness and light, "hope and change."
From her Sunday soapbox, ABC host Christiane Amanpour snobbishly deplored the tea party as not conservative but as "extreme" last fall. In a special "town hall" episode of her show on the ground zero mosque debate, she accused an incredulous Gary Bauer of encouraging vandalism at a Tennessee mosque because somehow Christian rhetoric is offensive. The accusation itself was offensive because it was entirely baseless.
Yet in Wisconsin, the exact opposite happened. Amanpour took the extreme, vicious and wholly offensive signs comparing Gov. Walker to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak and embraced them as geopolitically accurate: "People power making history: A revolt in the Midwest and a revolution sweeping across the Middle East." She touted how "populist frustration is boiling over this week."
This is politically perverse. Last November, Wisconsin registered one of the most dramatic rejections of the Democrats in the entire country. Sen. Russ Feingold, once considered a shoo-in for re-election, was not only defeated; he was crushed by 100,000 votes. Polls convinced Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle to avoid running for re-election, paving the way for Walker. And the GOP swept into both houses, defeating both state Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan at the polls. The Republican Party was so successful that Wisconsin GOP leader Reince Priebus was elected as the national party chairman.
What incredible gall for the national media to try to transform Wisconsin from conservative juggernaut to Egyptian dictatorship in a heartbeat. Their political imagination (or delusion) is just staggering, completely ignoring the election returns. Liberals were crushed by the voters, and now they dare to put themselves in the "people power" category? This is reality turned upside down.
But it isn't just electoral reality that's been mangled. Where, oh where, are the media lectures on civility now? The same media that roundly and repeatedly condemned Sarah Palin for daring to put cross hairs on a congressional district -- not on congressional faces, but on counties -- now have absolutely nothing to say as protester signs put Gov. Walker's face in cross hairs with the words: "Don't Retreat, Reload: Repeal Walker." Another held a sign saying, "Political Death to Tyrants."
The same media that went into desk-pounding rage about LaRouche-wacko signs putting a Hitler moustache on Obama calmly refused to discuss signs where Gov. Walker was compared to Mubarak and Adolf Hitler. He was "Scott Stalin" and "Midwest Mussolini." Signs accused Walker of "rape," called him a profanity describing incest, and said he "terrorizes families." Any incivility there?
In a devastating video, the Wisconsin Republican Party put some of these images next to arrogant leftists insisting only conservatives do this kind of thing. "Violent political rhetoric and the threat of political violence comes almost exclusively from the right," declared Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson on MSNBC. "Left-wingers don't talk that way," boasted Bill Maher to Jay Leno.
This was an ideal opportunity for the news media to deplore the insults, but the "civility police" were on vacation. They not only failed, but in their failure they proved they only pretend to care about civility to protect the public image of their friends.
Not every liberal is blind to this. Washington Post editorialist Charles Lane disagreed with his colleague Eugene Robinson: "This is hypocrisy on an epic scale. I can't think of a more overwhelming refutation of the claim that incivility is the unique province of the American right." This was only online, not in the paper. On Time's "Swampland" blog, columnist Joe Klein denounced the "disgusting mimicry of some tea party members' inflammatory linkage between Obama and the evil dictators of history." But these men were a tiny sliver of dissent from the media's "pro-union" party line.
It is weeks like this where the liberal media fail to understand what a bad joke they've become. Their offerings are not "news," but crude spin and blatant propaganda.
There's only one comfort. At least, we've been spared from the ugly sight of how aggressively Keith Olbermann might have embodied that "hypocrisy on an epic scale." On the other hand, it appears that Christiane Amanpour aspires to that mantle and is quickly earning Mr. Olbermann's level of credibility.
23) Howard Dean and the $100,000 Wisconsin Slush Fund
By Jeffrey Lord on 2.22.11 @ 6:09AM
You can call them "Dean Dollars."
Former Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, a one-time presidential candidate, is the founder of a group that by mid-day of President's Day had raised over $100,000 in a slush fund to "back" the on-the-lam Wisconsin Democratic State Senators.
The Dean Dollars are being specifically funneled to the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee (SSDC) -- an apparent violation of Wisconsin election law that pointedly says, according to the Wisconsin Election Board's Legal Counsel in a 2005 decision, that the "SSDC may not accept a contribution of more than $6,000 from a single committee in a calendar year." (Note: the Election Board is now called the "Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.")
The money, requested in an e-mail obtained over the weekend by The American Spectator, is being solicited in $14 dollar contributions through the Dean-founded million-member "Democracy for America" grassroots organizing group chaired by Dean's brother Jim. There are no prohibitions on more generous donations of any amount. The funds are being collected through the left-wing "Act Blue" fundraising website, which identifies itself as "the online clearinghouse for Democratic action."
The $14 dollar solicitation is symbolic -- as in one dollar for every one of the fourteen Democrats in the Wisconsin State Senate. All of whom have now fled the state in a political battle royal over budget cuts and collective bargaining rights for public employees with the newly elected Republican Governor. On Monday, the Huffington Post quoted Senator Tim Carpenter, one of the fourteen, as saying of the decision to remain out of state: "We'll be here until Gov. Walker decides that he wants to talk."
Carpenter made no mention of who was paying his expenses.
The slush fund revelation comes on the heels of the discovery by both Fox News reporter Mike Tobin and the Wisconsin-based John K. MacIver Public Policy Institute of an organized effort by some Wisconsin doctors -- who were deliberately handing out "doctor's notes" to teachers feigning illness in order to protest the governor's legislative plans. Which would be fraud, if proven in court. The Fox report uncovered at least one doctor connection to the presumably taxpayer-funded University of Wisconsin Family Medical Program. The MacIver video, posted over the weekend by my American Spectator colleague Philip Klein, is a particularly stunning depiction of both teachers and doctors quite publicly engaged in what appears to be outright fraud, a question raised by one reporter to an angrily defensive doctor on the MacIver video.
The fraud suggested? Doctors -- some of whom may be paid by Wisconsin taxpayers -- are willingly lying about the health of protesting teachers (also paid by Wisconsin taxpayers) who in turn are lying about their health status in order to skip school so they can spend their time protesting.
As of Monday, following the Fox News and MacIver revelations, the teachers union leadership apparently had a change of mind, urging teachers to return to work. Whatever happens now, what has effectively been a teachers strike -- also illegal in Wisconsin -- shut down some Wisconsin schools, leaving school kids without teachers, hungry school kids without government-financed school lunches while stiffing taxpayers for the bill. Ironically, only a little over a month ago the Wisconsin Education Association Council -- the teachers union -- was trumpeting the importance of having children in school because of the critical nature of "child nutrition" and to fight "obesity." Apparently hungry kids and unhealthy fat kids are not as important as lying to get days off to protest on the taxpayers' dime.
Or is it the taxpayers' dime? Is some of this instead being paid for by Dean Dollars?
The Dean brothers goal was originally $75,000 but changed upward to $100,000 over the President's Day holiday weekend. By 12:23 pm on President's Day itself the group had met its revised goal, with over $100,027 having cascaded into the coffers of the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee.
Says Jim Dean in his e-mail of why the Dean Dollars slush fund for state senators is needed:
If even one of these Democrats had remained in Wisconsin, the state police would have forcibly brought them to the state Capitol and the bill would have passed. So now they are holed up in another state playing a high stakes game of chicken over which side will cave first. That's why we absolutely must back these Senators up today.
The e-mail, re-written slightly after being sent to individual members of Democracy for America by name -- one of which was obtained by The American Spectator -- is now used as the solicitation language on the Act Blue site, found here.
The funds are being funneled from the Dean group to the Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee, specifically to be provided as "back up" for the 14 state senators described as "heroes" for fleeing the state.
Ironically, it is one of those hiding senators, Jon Erpenbach -- reported by Chicago's ABC affiliate to be hiding in a Chicago hotel -- whose over-limit contribution of $21,000 to the SSDC drew a 2005 rebuke from the Government Accountability Board's predecessor, the Wisconsin Elections Board. Said the Board's Legal Counsel in an April 22, 2005 memo to the Board:
(2) A legislative campaign committee may accept no contributions and make no contributions or disbursements exceeding the amounts authorized for a political party under this chapter. (Emphasis supplied)"
(Note: the bold print for this sentence from the memo was deliberately included in the original document by the author of the memo to draw specific attention to the problem. The term "Emphasis Supplied" was also written by the Board's Legal Counsel to emphasize the point of law.)
The amount of money legally authorized to be contributed to the SSDC, according to Wisconsin law, is $6,000 in "a calendar year." Erpenbach was cited for a $27,000 contribution from his own campaign committee to the SSDC -- $21,000 over the limit. Under the law he was mandated to give the balance as punishment to Wisconsin's "Common School Fund" or a charity.
The Dean brothers' goal of $100,000 for the SSDC is $94,000 above the legal limit as stipulated by Wisconsin law -- and again, as of mid-day Monday, that goal was both reached and the amount was still rising.
So. The obvious question.
What are all the Dean Dollars to "back" the Wisconsin Democratic state senators through their own campaign committee being used for?
While the media is focusing on the fact that the senators are famously hiding out across the state line in Illinois, the question that is not being asked is simple: Who pays for this?
By definition, of course, even fleeing state senators -- especially fleeing state senators -- would need money to pay for their expenses while on the run. The gas to drive at a time when gas prices are skyrocketing. Lodging -- with reports of senators staying in hotels in Chicago and Rockford, sometimes moving from place to place in a style reminiscent of Saddam Hussein or Yasser Arafat. Like any big city, Chicago isn't cheap and hotels aren't free. Rooms cost money (the Rockford resort cited in several news reports charges $109 dollars a night for a double bed and bath -- with wireless).
With over a hundred grand in Dean Dollars surging into the state senators' kitty specifically for their use, and no election until 2012, what could this cascade of Dean Dollars possibly be used for?
Hotel rooms in Chicago and Rockford? How are these senators paying for clean clothes? Is this slush fund being used for quarters in Laundromats -- or tips for the hotel valet service? What's on the menu? McDonald's --or prime rib?
A close look at one of the places selected as a gathering point for some of the senators might give some idea.
The Clocktower Resort in Rockford, where news reports had some of the senators located, offers whirlpool suites, saunas, an indoor swimming pool and high speed Internet among other amenities. Then there's the resort's Racquet Club -- described as having a "50,000 square-feet Fitness Center" and "featuring 9 Tennis Courts (7 Indoor & 2 outdoor) 2 Racquetball Courts & 2 Basketball Courts." Not to mention the "hair salon and spa." The rooms also offer "cable satellite television with HBO Cable TV/68 Channels (multiple sports & news)."
Senators like to eat, and the Resort's "Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery" sounds… ahhh… delightful -- especially if you have some Dean Dollars burning a hole in your pocket. On the menu?
Well, clearly nothing but the finest.
For those senators who like an adult beverage, Dean Dollars could purchase excellent Irish whiskey (Jameson or Bushmills or Michael Collins), superb scotch (Glenlivet) and fabulous Makers Mark Kentucky bourbon, to name but a few. There's expensive Russian vodka (Stolichnaya), the best British Tanqueray gin (produced in Scotland) and… well… don't leave out the name-brand rum, tequila, brandy, and Cognac.
While the people of Wisconsin are cooling their heels the Senators could move on to a Dean Dollars paid order of "Drunken Clams" (steamed in beer), followed by a "Chef's choice of Steak grilled to your liking and served with either French Fries or Garlic Mashed Potatoes and seasonal Vegetables." Irresistibly and impossible not to mention under the circumstances would be the "Fat Bastard's Meatloaf Sandwich," which is served as a "generous portion." Top off with a "Purple Haze" or "Hair of the Dog" or perhaps a "Gravedigger" or "Red Headed Wench" to accompany a senatorial "creamy rich" New York Cheese Cake or a "White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookie served hot from the oven topped with Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Syrup." Before you retire to a Dean Dollars paid-for whirlpool and room for a little HBO you could (perhaps hazily) ponder one of the Tilted Kilt's favorite sayings that surely must be the motto of the Dean Dollar fueled Wisconsin State Senate Democratic Committee :
Dance as if no one were watching, Sing as if no one were listening, And live every day as if it were your last.
Alas for the Wisconsin senators and their Dean Dollars, Governor Scott Walker is watching. So too their doubtless appalled Republican colleagues. Not to mention the horrified and mad as hell taxpayers of Wisconsin.
Did I leave out the entire nation?
Where are Wisconsin State Senate Democrats' Dean Dollars going? And based on the reality that Wisconsin teachers and some doctors are seen lying… on camera!… who will believe the answer when it comes? From either the Deans or the missing state senators?
Thanks to the Deans and 14 AWOL Wisconsin Democrats in the State Senate -- now flush with a slush fund of over a hundred grand -- the idea of being a "public employee" and "teacher" will never be seen the same way again. Not to mention being a Democrat in the Wisconsin State Senate.
The message to Wisconsin public employees' concept of "collective bargaining" -- and the zealots holding the same now-deeply-stained idea in almost bankrupt states across the country? Particularly in states like Ohio and New Jersey and almost a dozen other states where this issue is front and center?
To borrow some Irish from the Tilted Kilt, "live every day as if it were your last." Because soon enough -- it will be.
Click here to watch Rand Paul, Republican Senator from Kentucky trying to explain things to David Letterman on his show. Letterman shows off his typical liberal mindset.
24) Breaking Public Unions: Good!
By Kevin McCullough
When the delinquent state democrats who had illegally abandoned their duties as representatives of the good people of Wisconsin finally showed up for work, Gov. Scott Walker will have won a decisive victory against the public sector unions in his state.
But in reality he was fighting for all of us, even those far beyond the cheese curd borders. What the unions were doing to the education of the state of Wisconsin was derelict but what they were doing against the taxpayers of the nation was criminal.
The State of Wisconsin had been awarded hefty sums in the Obama stimulus package - over four billion ($4,000,000,000) in awards all totaled. Public school teachers and the public education system in general were awarded nearly half of that from various sources at the federal level. The Department of Education alone contributing more than 1,000,000,000 to the state.
When you drilled down a bit more we find that there were roughly 18 documented stimulus awards that were made to public education. In the fine print on merely one of the awards you discover in that award alone more than $717,000,000 were awarded for the express purpose of shoring up the salaries of teachers, administrators, teachers aides, and what we found about late this week was the past due amount owed to teachers' pensions and health benefits. These were the very same issues that Gov. Scott Walker had begged cooperation from the legislature on.
The theory goes that Walker's predecessor Gov. Jim Doyle a bought and paid for union supporter had been purposefully concealing the fact that he and other pro-union democrats had raided the education funds and the stimulus fix temporarily plastered over the gaping hole.
Until stimulus funds ran out of course.
Hence the situation that Gov. Scott Walker walked into was not only unsustainable, but the state found itself with a deficit of 3.6 billion dollars, after having received stimulus fund awards to the tune of a tad over 4 billion. Thusly the question that has not been asked is, "where did the nearly 8 billion dollars go that created this hole?"
Walker was forced with the reality that public sector unions were holding hostage, not just the taxpayers of Wisconsin, but of the nation, and decided that time would come to an end.
Unions in the private sector generally seek to regulate, punish, or hold accountable a private corporation for fair play. They were designed for the protections of the workers in the private sector specifically so that greedy businessmen could not escape ethical realities for their staff.
Unions in the public arena, are not needed for several reasons. One the employer they rage against isn't some big "evil" corporation, but their fellow neighbors. And in the economy we've had under Obama, for the duration of Obama, and to the specific plan of Obama has only reinforced how tough the average tax-payer has it these days.
So when we hear that our taxes are paying for benefits and the ability to leverage favor that goes far beyond the ability of the average American, we may get miffed. But when we hear that our taxes are paying for those benefits, plus giving millions to billions of additional funds to simply "shore up" the bad accounting of pro-union legislators who have had unchecked access to write additional checks on the backs of the taxpayers--and not be held accountable for them--the tax payer should be fuming.
In Wisconsin, as in most other states where the evidence of the failure of Obama's stimulus is so readily apparent, the mass hirings, 100% tax-payer subsidized health care benefits, and pension had to be undone, but more importantly the idea of public sector unions having the ability to bargain collectively (especially without any binding arbitration to the equation) had to be permanently put down.
In Wisconsin for Gov. Walker, like in New Jersey for Gov. Cristie the day of awakening happened early, but what we are gaining from watching these problems be resolved in legislative, orderly and legal steps is very telling.
Public sector unions should be flat out banned, especially with all the federal and state standards for state and federal workers that are already on the books.
As this begins to happen a massive correction is going to begin to take place in the public discussion, one that treats the tax-payer for what they are. And union leadership will begin to lose its chokehold on power in State houses all across America, and this is long overdue.
And if you think that 95% subsidized pension, and 88% subsidized health care is unreasonable, then I call your public doll bluff and challenge you to get a real job in the real world.
Those of us who already live here are confidant you will change your mind.
25) Bargained into a collective corner
By Paul Jacob
It’s not just Wisconsin. Or California. (Or Ohio. Or Illinois.)
State and local governments around the country are running out of money, have run out of money. Cuts are necessary, since raising taxes during an economic downturn is something akin to suicide. The natural place to look for cuts is bloat, where states have overspent.
And where is that, besides “everywhere”?
Well, spending bulged in the public employee payrolls. Not only do public employees tend to receive higher wages than comparable workers in the private sector, their benefit packages (lavish pensions, early retirement, lifetime medical care) have ballooned past rationality and appear, now, as unpayable.
Shock of shocks: Politicians promised more than taxpayers could deliver.
While others debate the magnitude of the problem, and how to fix it, perhaps it’s worth the trouble to explain why it happened.
And for that, two concepts should help: “Bilateral monopoly” and “the principal-agent problem.”
When politicians and unions negotiate wages, both sides are monopolies of sorts. And the problem with this situation, called ‘bilateral monopoly’ by economists, is that there is no obvious natural or equilibrium price for the services.
What do you pay workers?
Under competition — the rivalry for contracts, sales — bidders and askers in the market negotiate around until they settle on a stable price. When we say “fair market price,” we just mean the price that something (or some laborer at some task) would actually fetch on the market, in the context of competition.
But there’s a whole range of prices possible when only two people are trading. The price could run up to as high as the buyer is willing to pay, and fall as low as the seller is willing to sell. That can be quite a range.
The “public education sector is an an example of a bilateral monopoly market,” says the Economy Professor website, because “a government official negotiates with the representative of the teachers’ union.”
You can see, then, how this applies to the recent trouble in Wisconsin. The public school systems consitute a near-monopoly, crowding out competition by offering “free” services. The government itself is a kind of monopoly, claiming sovereignty in a territory. In the case of it buying certain types of labor — such as school teachers and administrators — it’s a monopsony, actually: single buyer. The union(s), on the other hand, have cartelized the selling of teachers’ labor: single seller. Combine the two, and you have bilateral monopoly.
And a very skewed bargaining situation. Open for abuse.
Principals vs. Agents
One tactic unions take — indeed, a tactic many state contractors take — is to contribute lavishly to politicians’ re-election campaigns. That is, they bribe politicians to pay them as much of other people’s money as politicians can possibly get away with.
Or the unions threaten, subtly and not so subtly. In Wisconsin, whose public employees rank seventh lowest in the nation as a percentage of employed adults, they still make up one in every seven workers — and likely voters. If a politician angers them and union members vote against said politician as a block, reelection requires winning 60 percent of every non-public employee voting.
That is the sort of math politicians can do.
So, with an employer that tends to ignore market prices (many of their services have no competition anyway, so what to pay?), and a labor market cartelized into monopoly by unions, taxpayers cannot help but lose out.
The problem goes beyond bilateral monopoly. It’s also a “principal-agent” problem. Taxpayers are the principals, but their agents, the politicians, can’t be trusted. (Perhaps Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is an exception that proves the rule?)
And taxpayers find themselves paying and paying, often for “services” of value to smaller and smaller groups. But one group remains always valuing the “services” the politicians set up: well-paid government employees.
As It Plays Out
How far can these factors push compensation rates up?
It used to be that public employees received lower wages than private sector workers, with public employees compensated by an easier workload and a degree of job security almost unknown in the private sector.
Over time, extra “benefits” were added. As unions took over the negotiation processes for government workers, wage rates increased, too. Today, private sector employees receive lower wages than their government worker counterparts, and far less in “extra benefits,” such as medical insurance and pension plans.
Union representatives and advocates often dispute this compensation disparity, but there remains one obvious way to measure government worker overpayment, as Daniel J. Mitchell concisely explains: Private sector employees are more than three times as likely to quit their jobs. Public employees, deep down, know how cushy they have it.
It is now commonplace for public sector employees to retire at 50 or younger, and to see them re-enter the government employee ranks and “double-dip.” Teachers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, receive an average annual salary of $56,500 (far higher than the average private sector wage in the city) and an average annual total compensation package topping $100,000. (Wonder now, why the governor wants to strip public employees of union negotiation for non-salary benefits?)
The farthest end of this madness can be seen as union greed trumps even a desire to keep the governments that write their checks solvent. Thus the brinksmanship of the current Wisconsin revolt.
The Ultimate Context
If you view the state as a living trust for the taxpaying citizen, union reps and members may appear as greedy, crazed madmen.
But we mustn’t forget what states actually do. By regularly hiring too many people and engaging in too many things, government places nearly everybody out of the realm of responsibility. Lacking feedback as nifty as the private sector’s bottom line, there’s no saying that each one of us, in an “unlimited government” context, wouldn’t throw restraint to the wind and appear as madmen.
So, if you want an additional reason for limited government, here it is: Responsibility doesn’t stick when the connections between principals and agents becomes too attenuated; lacking feedback from the rigors of competition, people become crazed.
Evidence for this can be found in Wisconsin, California, and many other states of the (financially unsteady) union.
The full lesson is not merely that unions can’t be trusted with politicians, or politicians can’t be trusted with unions.
None of us can be trusted without limits. First and foremost, we need citizen-imposed limits on government.
Our right to a reasonable and responsible and affordable government trumps the right of our government employees to “collectively bargain” in the back room with our politicians.
26) Teachers Unions 101: "A" is for "Agitation"
By Michelle Malkin
If public school teachers spent more time teaching in classrooms and less time community-organizing in political war rooms, maybe taxpayers wouldn't feel as ripped off as they do. Before the Big Labor bosses start complaining about "teacher-bashing," let's be clear: An increasing number of rank-and-file teachers feel exactly the same way.
Retired New York teacher Vinne Cusimano, who was required to pay forced union dues in order to work, wrote me this week after receiving the March 2011 edition of his union's monthly publication. The cover of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) magazine reads: "Defend What Matters! Educate. Collaborate. AGITATE." Inside the pamphlet, NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi rails against "malicious politicians" in Wisconsin and elsewhere proposing "extreme anti-union" budget cuts. He urges his members to join "advocacy" efforts to "maintain critical resources" and lectures about the need to "value education over ideology and greed."
Cusimano, who taught for four decades in the Empire State, fired back at Ianuzzi in an open letter:
"As a member for over 40 years, I have never been so disappointed at the stand you are taking to call members to 'AGITATE!' We are trying to tamp down the rhetoric and you are outward(ly) inciting agitation. How dare you! You are supposed to be for the students/teachers. ... How can you support 'EDUCATE,' 'COLLABORATE,' and then encourage agitation?"
More to the point, what business does Iannuzzi -- a fat-cat union official who rakes in nearly $300,000 a year (plus a $100,000 pension) while his organization's net assets are more than $117 million in the red -- have lecturing anyone else about "ideology and greed"? Instead of imposing fiscal discipline on NYSUT, Iannuzzi and his cronies have gone on a spending spree -- dumping nearly $10.5 million into left-wing Democratic politics this past year alone. The NYSUT boasts a lobbying staff of 500, a 200,000-square-foot palace in Albany and a $213 million operating budget -- paid for through compulsory union dues of about $300 a year from some 600,000 members.
"Agitation," of course, is a full-time job for teachers union officials in New York and across the country. As the New York Post reported exclusively this week, the city Department of Education compensates some 1,500 teachers for their union activities and also subsidizes other teachers who take their places in the classroom: "It's a sweetheart deal that costs taxpayers an extra $9 million a year to pay fill-ins for instructors who are sprung -- at full pay -- to carry out responsibilities for the United Federation of Teachers."
The UFT soldiers "collect top pay and fringe benefits, but work just one class period a day." Nice non-work if you can get it.
NYSUT, by the way, is the parent of the double-dipping UFT, which itself rakes in $126 million in member dues -- but only reimburses the city less than $1 million out of the $9 million it costs to take teachers out of the classroom to serve at the altar of Big Labor. UFT is also a chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which spent nearly $2 million on the election of President Barack Obama in 2008. (In return, you may recall, the Obama administration granted the UFT one of its coveted health care Waivers for Favors last year -- exempting the behemoth union in a sweetheart deal from the federal mandate's costly rules on phasing out annual health coverage limits.)
The forced-dues racket is big business for teachers unions crying poor. In Ohio, the state's education association siphoned nearly $23 million from rank-and-file school workers to fatten up its union staff. The Ohio Education Association donated more than $1.6 million to Democratic campaigns last year and tossed off five-figure checks each to union and progressive allies in Oregon, Colorado and Policy Matters Ohio, a left-wing think tank funded by radical billionaire George Soros.
At the federal level, the National Education Association squandered $13 million in teachers' dues on every pet liberal cause and crony from the AFL-CIO ($150,000) and AFSCME ($90,000), to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate ($200,000), Media Matters for America ($100,000) and the White House brigade at Health Care for America Now! ($450,000).
The goals of the teachers union machine are not academic excellence, professional development and fairness. As former NEA official John Lloyd explained it: "You cannot possibly understand NEA without understanding Saul Alinsky. If you want to understand NEA, go to the library and get 'Rules for Radicals.'"
The goals are student indoctrination, social upheaval and perpetual agitation in pursuit of bigger government and spending without restraint. No wonder the signature "solidarity" color of the teachers union protests this month is red.
27)Wisconsin: 10 Facts That Deny Former U.S. Secretary of Labor's Coup
By Brett McMahon
Has there ever been a statement more clearly demonstrating the liberal and union sense of entitlement than “Governor Walker’s Coup D’Etat,” the headline of former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich's latest whine at Talking Points Memo?
By describing the vote in Wisconsin as a coup, Reich expresses more perfectly and more completely his side's elitist mentality than any words yet written or spoken. The tone of his rant is a combination of outrage and condescension — like he can’t believe anyone could have the nerve to challenge big labor and get away with it.
And it appears Reich really can’t bring himself to believe or understand what happened, or else he wouldn’t call it a coup and he would be forced to more accurately describe it as the first sane act in what is to become a nationwide fight for our future.
Merriam-Webster defines “coup d’etat” as: “a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially: the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.” Most definitions also note the overthrow is accomplished through illegal or unconstitutional means.
Forget for the moment the Wisconsin Democrats who fled the state in an effort to monkey wrench the legislative process. Forget the bussed-in union activists and the protesters who occupied the capitol building. Focus instead on the band of Midwestern guerrillas, as Reich must imagine them, who toppled the Wisconsin government. Here are the facts behind that “violent overthrow”:
1) The legislature and Governor of Wisconsin were freely and fairly elected.
2) The legislation was passed within the rules of both bodies of legislature.
3) Only about 5 percent of the state's population is directly affected by the legislation. That percentage is from the U.S. Census Bureau, which listed 284,963 full-time equivalent state and local employees in its most recent 2009 data. The total population of Wisconsin in 2009 was 5,654,774.
4) That minority is paid by the overwhelming majority of the state's population.
5) That minority has accrued significant debt obligations for which the balance of the state's population is directly financially responsible. Wisconsin’s unfunded pension obligations equal a 32 percent share of its GDP.
6) That financial responsibility is the direct result of the negotiations conducted for the small minority's benefit.
7) Those negotiations were conducted between that minority and prior elected officials.
8) Those prior elected officials received millions of dollars in campaign contributions and “volunteer” work on their behalf from that minority. Unions contributed millions of dollars directly and indirectly to Wisconsin Democrats. The Wisconsin Education Association Council PAC alone spent almost $1.6 million supporting Democrat candidates during the 2010 elections.
9) Those contributions were collected from a small minority by the state as a withholding from their paychecks.
10) Those paychecks are only possible from the taxes extracted from the majority of the population.
No wonder Reich is so upset. Wisconsin has finally freed itself from the fiscal and political shackles imposed on it by a small percent of its population, ending decades of pay-to-play politics between state Democrats and unions. Not only that, but his side lost by, of all things, a vote in the legislature that unions have spent so much time and money to secure.
And now all that is left for Reich are hyperbolic statements about overthrown government, blustery threats of recall and a tired canard about the Koch brothers. Reich has been forced to come to grips with the realization that his position is only supportable through the blunt force of the state.
The rest of us are arriving at a far different conclusion: that we have to take care of promises we have made to working Americans but kill a structure that will kill our economy if we do not act. In that sense, we do not have a coup detat but we could certainly use a coup de grace.
28)Facing Public Union Realities
By Terry Paulson
Dealing with public union benefits and collective bargaining rights is a very charged issue. No one relishes anyone losing promised benefits or jobs, but a balanced approach to our fiscal crisis requires shared sacrifice and a hard look at what government priorities to protect and fund.
On Wednesday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Republican senators stared down union leaders, demonstrators and absent state senators and passed a law limiting the collective bargaining to negotiating salaries for most public employees.
President Obama has expressed concern over this "assault on unions." Some union signs call Walker the "Mubarak of the Midwest," and Walker's face has been superimposed on Hitler's. Gov. Walker makes an easy target, but the resulting media circus disregards the fact that many states have no collective bargaining rights for public unions, and many more are moving to do the same.
Gov. Walker and others face possible recall elections over their actions. But, even though thousands may have taken to the streets in protest, conservative politicians are counting on support from millions of frustrated taxpayers. There’s reason to expect that support.
When the U.S. economy was humming along, no one noticed or complained about the public employee salary and benefit packages. But with states struggling with unprecedented deficits, taxpayer outrage has been heightened.
In cash strapped CA, higher taxes have just stifled the private sector, motivated corporations to leave the state, and strangled job growth. The economic pain is not shared equally. According to the Employment Development Department, while private-sector workers have lost over a million CA jobs since the recession began, CA government employment has increased 1,200 jobs. CA now has over 489,000 state workers who are paid by a million fewer taxpayers, many of whom have seen their incomes compromised.
In the private sector, when a union strikes, customers can find a competitor. With public employees, there is a virtual monopoly. Yes, rich parents can send their children to a private school, but the only affordable, “free” choice is a public school.
As a result, collective bargaining is an invitation to disaster for state budgets. Allowing public unions to use union funds to support the campaign of politicians and expecting those same politicians to protect taxpayer interests in collective bargaining, is unrealistic. When you are beholden to unions and you’re using someone else’s money, it’s easy to be extravagant.
Larry Kudlow reports: “Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart.” Now, aware of the imbalance, more voters are electing politicians committed to limiting union power and renegotiating unsustainable contracts.
Wisconsin’s visible battle is just a tip of the iceberg that unions face. Private sector union membership has declined steadily in recent decades from over 35 percent 40 years ago to barely 7 percent today. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the union membership rate for public sector workers is over seven times higher at 36.2 percent.
Outside of government, the labor movement in America is barely alive. Unions have become irrelevant to most working people. Why? First, more leaders have moved from historical command-and-control models to more engaging strategies that encourage commitment and involvement. Leadership Engagement Surveys have shown improved trust in leadership and overall job satisfaction. Second, unions depend on a sizeable number of dissatisfied employees and a desire to want to stay in their current job. The new Y generation seems to have no patience for staying in a job they don’t enjoy. If the job isn’t working out for them, they’re ready to leave for another opportunity.
Martin Feldstein notes a glaring difference between the success of public and private unions: “Since governments, unlike private firms, don’t have to compete with products from abroad or from other producers, they can often pay higher union wages and pass those costs along in higher taxes.”
Frightened people fight change. Public union members are frightened, and they’re fighting changes that could ultimately help them and the public they are called to serve.
New approaches are revolutionizing government incentive systems. Mark Aesch, CEO of the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, took over the money-losing Rochester transit system five years ago. Inefficiencies have been addressed, service has improved, fares have actually been lowered, and deficits have been turned into a multimillion-dollar surplus. While neighboring transit systems in Albany, Syracuse, and Buffalo have increased fares, Rochester has instituted a performance system that rewards public workers for performance and results. Instead of fighting change, public workers are now benefitting from higher wages and public support for improved service. The four neighboring New York transit authorities are now negotiating to join the party!
In a column in the Wall Street Journal, Gov. Walker spoke of his hope to balance the state budget and to free schools and local governments to have the tools needed to reward productive workers and improve operational efficiencies. Commenting on Indiana’s changes in collective bargaining six years earlier, Gov. Walker said, “The average pay for Indiana state employees has actually increased, and high-performing employees are rewarded with pay increases or bonuses….”
Change is coming. May it be done with collaboration instead of rancor. May the shared sacrifices instituted be fair, and may they set the stage for renewed optimism where public and private workers can share in a more balanced, profitable and sustainable future.
29)"You Will Be Killed, And Your Families Will Be Killed"
By Guy Benson
More details are emerging from Madison regarding the Left's meancing and anarchy robust exercises of democracy:
Death threats -
The following is the unedited email:
Please put your things in order because you will be killed and your familes [sic] will also be killed due to your actions in the last 8 weeks. Please explain to them that this is because if we get rid of you and your families then it will save the rights of 300,000 people and also be able to close the deficit that you have created. I hope you have a good time in hell. Read below for more information on possible scenarios in which you will die.
“We tried to get out of the building after the vote, because they were rushing the chamber, and we were escorted by security through a tunnel system to another building. But, after being tipped off by a Democrat, they mobbed the exit at that building, and were literally trying to break the windows of the cars we were in as we were driving away,” Republican senator Randy Hopper tells NRO. Such tactics, he sighs, were hardly unexpected. “I got a phone call yesterday saying that we should be executed. I’ve had messages saying that they want to beat me with a billy club.”
General turmoil -
Protesters have penetrated the inner assembly hallways. Assemblymen are trapped in their offices with their doors barricaded. Protesters are trying to break into their offices.
The Wisconsin fleebaggers are still hiding out in Illinois.
MORE… John Jagler, spokesman for Jeff Fitzgerald, on phone with Fox. They are trapped in his office. Had to literally step over protesters outside his office. Protesters waving signs. Go limp when police lift them for removal. They are pounding on glass and doors, jiggling locks. They are “vowing to hold this ground”.
Wisconsin Capitol police just announced: “Capitol building is on lock-down until it is secured.”
30)Done: Wisconsin assembly passes collective barganing bill, 53/42
posted at 5:48 pm on March 10, 2011 by Allahpundit
Last night on Twitter, some enraged union sympathizer said the senate’s passage of the bill was like a progressive 9/11. Which, I guess, makes the assembly’s passage of the bill — what? The progressive Alderaan? The progressive asteroid-that-wiped-out-the-dinosaurs? Anyway, it’s really, really bad.
A reminder: These allegedly sacred collective bargaining rights, for which America’s richest redistributionist is prepared to wage political war, don’t exist at the federal level. Wisconsin public employees still get to bargain collectively for wages. Obama’s federal work force, by comparison, gets squat — along with a two-year pay freeze. And of course, he’s catching no significant static for it from his union-cartel pals, who are now weeping blood over Scott Walker. That’s how unserious they are about this fight on the merits. As a political issue, insofar as weaker unions means weaker Democrats and vice versa, it’s pure dynamite. As an economic issue? Eh.
After police carried demonstrators out of the state Assembly Thursday, Republicans entered the chamber and approved Gov. Scott Walker’s bill repealing most collective bargaining by public employee unions.
The body voted 53-42 in favor of the proposal, sending the bill to the Republican governor after an epic month of struggle unlike anything in living memory in Wisconsin politics.
All Democrats voted against the bill and were joined by four Republicans – Dean Kaufert of Neenah, Lee Nerison of Westby, Travis Tranel of Cuba City and Richard Spanbauer of Oshkosh. All other Republicans and the body’s lone independent, Bob Ziegelbauer of Manitowoc, voted for the bill…
In a statement, Walker hailed the vote.
“I applaud all members of the Assembly for showing up, debating the legislation and participating in democracy,” he said. “Their action will save jobs, protect taxpayers, reform government, and help balance the budget. Moving forward we will continue to focus on ensuring Wisconsin has a business climate that allows the private sector to create 250,000 new jobs.”
I’ve got more links coming, but let’s get this up now. Stand by for updates. Exit question via Mickey Kaus: Did Walker win? Will he still have won if the polls turn even worse and the GOP starts passing amendments aimed at softening the bill?
Update: I take it everyone’s already seen the harrowing death threat received by GOP senators last night, yes? In that context, let me give you two quotes to contrast. First, from Robert Costa’s report on the scene at the Capitol:
Mayhem engulfed the state capitol following the vote. Thousands of protesters streamed into the four wings of the historic white-granite building, screaming at the GOP lawmakers, who were quickly escorted out by police. College students from the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus mingled with union leaders, teachers raised fists with progressive organizers. Cries of “Shame!” echoed throughout the marble halls.
Senate Republicans were harried by swarming crowds. “We tried to get out of the building after the vote, because they were rushing the chamber, and we were escorted by security through a tunnel system to another building. But, after being tipped off by a Democrat, they mobbed the exit at that building, and were literally trying to break the windows of the cars we were in as we were driving away,” Republican senator Randy Hopper tells NRO. Such tactics, he sighs, were hardly unexpected. “I got a phone call yesterday saying that we should be executed. I’ve had messages saying that they want to beat me with a billy club.”
Remember, Michelle Litjens described the need for police escorts for Republicans inside the Capitol 10 days ago. Now, compare what Hopper said to this:
Police in riot gear at Capitol, for chicken shit Republicans to enter building. Unbelievable.
That’s a photo caption of police indeed decked out in riot gear posted on Facebook by — ta da — Democratic assemblyman Mark Pocan. Death threats are happening, the cops have their shields out, and yet somehow Republicans are “chicken shit” for worrying about security. There’s your daily reminder of what a fraud the “new civility” is.
Update: A little bonus on the “new civility” front: Here’s Jesse Jackson in Madison today, like a moth to the flame of a left-wing media circus, warning that the protests will “escalate” and vowing that “either you’re going to have collective bargaining through a vehicle called ‘collective bargaining’ or you’re going to have it through the streets.” All he means is there’ll be wider demonstrations, but no conservative mouthing ambiguous, vaguely ominous sentiments like that would be given the benefit of the doubt. Complaints about media double standards are the oldest lament in the righty playbook, but in this case it can’t be emphasized enough:
Imagine if Republicans blocked a Democratic labor measure by absconding from the state and their tea-party supporters took over the state capitol in rage, necessitating police protection for Dems. Does anyone, even on the left, dispute that the tone of the coverage would be drastically different?
Update: Echoing my point above about how the left is incensed at a political defeat here, not an economic one, NRO hails Walker’s “very modest victory”:
The worst that government employees will endure is a requirement that they pay 12.6 percent of their own health-insurance premiums and 5.6 percent of their own pension contributions. And they all will receive something of value: a regularly scheduled vote about whether to be represented by their unions, which often serve no one’s interests but those of the union bosses themselves.
And that is the real source of the rage on the left: Mandatory union representation, empowered by mandatory collective bargaining and mandatory dues deductions enforced by the state, creates an enormous flow of cash for Democratic political candidates and their pet causes. From 1989 to the present, five of the ten biggest donors to American political campaigns have been labor unions, including public-sector unions such as the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The overwhelming majority of those donations go to Democrats. The union bosses and their Democratic patrons know that giving workers more of a choice about union representation will diminish that power and reduce that cash flow. That is what this is about, for all of the cheap talk about “civil rights” — as though federal employees in Washington were being treated like second-class citizens because their unions do not enjoy the same princely powers until now wielded by Wisconsin’s.
It’s a modest victory with major repercussions, enough so that lefty Greg Sargent claims an early poll from Survey USA shows two GOP senators in grave danger of being recalled. Eight are being targeted; the left would need to replace only three to gain control of the senate. The GOP will still control the assembly and Walker’s not eligible to be recalled for another 10 months, so there’ll be no undoing the bill in the near term, but Republicans should pay close attention to their tactics and learn. Everything that’s happened these past three weeks — the fleebagging, the mob takeovers of public buildings, and especially the recalls — is now completely fair game for the right. Those things always were fair game in theory, but we know how the double standard works, don’t we? That’s why so many liberal bloggers who’ve been whinging about the filibuster since Democrats took back the Senate suddenly find fleeing the state to destroy a quorum copacetic. So enjoy your new, expanded array of tactical options, tea partiers. And be sure to thank a Democrat and/or union protester for giving them to you!
31)Six-Figure Bus Drivers and Other Working-Class Heroes
By Ann Coulter
Can we stop acting as if people who work for the government are the heroes of working people?
Fine, we understand that Wisconsin public sector employees like the system that pays them an average of $76,500 per year, with splendiferous benefits, and are fighting like wildcats against any proposed reforms to that system. But it's madness to keep treating people who are promoting their own self-interest as if they are James Meredith walking into the University of Mississippi.
This isn't how we usually view people fighting for their own economic interests.
When Wall Street opposes financial reforms or a tobacco company opposes new cigarette taxes, no one hails them as "working men and women" who "deserve a decent pay and decent retirement." We're not told Wall Street has a "fundamental right" not to be regulated, or tobacco companies promoting their own interests are just trying to "help working people and middle-class people retain a good job in America." People on the other side of the issue aren't said to be "just trying to kick the other guy in the shin and exterminate him."
And yet all that was said by the Democratic governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, on MSNBC's "Hardball" last week, about government workers fighting to preserve their own Alex Rodriguez-like employment contracts.
Yes, we understand that public sector employees got themselves terrific overtime, holiday, pension and health care deals through buying politicians with their votes and campaign money. But now, responsible elected officials in Wisconsin are trying to balance the budget.
MSNBC is covering the fight in Wisconsin as if it's the 9/11 attack -- and the Republicans are al-Qaida. Its entire prime-time schedule is dedicated to portraying self- interested government employees as if they're Marines taking on the Taliban. The network's Ed Schultz bellows that it is "morally wrong" to oppose the demands of government employees.
Yes, and I guess pornographers are noble when they launch a full-scale offensive against obscenity laws.
Public sector workers are pursuing their own narrow financial interests to the detriment of everyone else in their states. That's fine, but can we stop pretending it's virtuous?
Because of the insane union contracts in Wisconsin, one Madison bus driver, John E. Nelson, was able to make $159,000 in 2009 -- about $100,000 of which in overtime pay. Jackie Gleason didn't make that much playing bus driver Ralph Kramden on "The Honeymooners." Seven bus drivers took home more than $100,000 that year.
When asked about the outrageous overtime pay for bus drivers -- totaling $1.94 million in 2009 alone -- Transit and Parking Commission Chairman Gary Poulson said: "That's the contract."
It's ludicrous to suggest that these union contracts were fairly bargained. Only one side was at the negotiating table. Ordinary people with jobs were not at the meetings where public sector compensation was discussed.
Union hacks play on our heartstrings, weeping about the valuable work government employees do: These are the people who educate our children, run into burning buildings and take dangerous criminals off our streets!
Politicians who do not immediately acquiesce to insane union demands are invariably accused of hating teachers, nurses or cops. In California, this has been standard operating procedure for decades. The voters never seem to catch on.
In 1972, E. Richard Barnes lost his re-election campaign to the California state Assembly after being accused by cops and firefighters of coddling criminals.
In fact, Barnes, a conservative Republican, had one of the toughest records on crime. But he had voted against fringe benefits and better pension benefits for public employees.
Years later, in 2005, Don Perata, Democratic state senator from Oakland, suggested that the legislature reconsider the requirement that 40 percent of the entire state budget be spent on public schools. The teachers' unions instantly plastered his district with fliers calling him anti-education. Perata is a far-left Democrat, who had himself been a teacher for 15 years before entering politics.
Fine, we like teachers, firemen and police officers. We appreciate them. (And for the record, it is statistically more dangerous to be a farmer, fisherman, steelworker or pilot than a cop or fireman. Soldiers also have pretty dangerous jobs, and they don't get to strike.)
Does that mean we should pay them $1 million dollars a year? How about $10 million? After all, these are the people who educate our kids, run into burning buildings and take dangerous criminals off our streets!
Assuming the answer is no, then apparently we're allowed to discuss government workers' compensation -- even though they do important work. As George Bernard Shaw concluded his famous quip (often attributed to Winston Churchill), "Now, we're just negotiating over the price."
Why do public sector employees have absurd overtime rules? Why don't they pay for their own health insurance? Why do they get to retire at age 45 with a guaranteed pension of 65 percent of their last year's pay -- as state police in New Jersey do?
This is asymmetrical warfare. Seven percent of the population cares intensely about public sector union contracts -- and nothing else. The remaining 93 percent of voters can't be bothered to care.
Meanwhile, state after state spirals into bankruptcy.