Free Markets, Free People

Wisconsin heats up while "civility" takes a holiday on the left

Wisconsin is a great example of special interest constituency politics. I’m not talking about politics that focus on the constituents in your district or state if you’re an elected representative or senator.  I’m talking about special-interest constituents who provide you money and backing when you seek election or reelection – whether from your district or not.

That’s pretty much what is going on in Wisconsin boils down too.  Wisconsin’s Republican Governor, Scott Walker has proposed a number of ways to “repair” the budget.  In summary, those aimed at public service unions place limits on their existing power:

It would require most public workers to pay half their pension costs – typically 5.8% of pay for state workers – and at least 12% of their health care costs. It applies to most state and local employees but does not apply to police, firefighters and state troopers, who would continue to bargain for their benefits.

Except for police, firefighters and troopers, raises would be limited to inflation unless a bigger increase was approved in a referendum. The non-law enforcement unions would lose their rights to bargain over anything but wages, would have to hold annual elections to keep their organizations intact and would lose the ability to have union dues deducted from state paychecks.

Apparently such limits are simply outrageous.  Unions hold annual elections?  Public workers pay more toward their pensions and health care costs?  And, of course, the bargaining “rights” curtailed in everything but wages?

So that’s prompted an astroturf campaign which has involved organizations outside Wisconsin, to include the White House.  The one thing public sector unions can do effectively it seems is “flash mobs”.  Reports of advertisements in Illinois aimed at recruiting activists for protests in Wisconsin were common.

The Democratic National Committee also has involved themselves in the local fight

The Democratic National Committee’s Organizing for America arm — the remnant of the 2008 Obama campaign — is playing an active role in organizing protests against Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s attempt to strip most public employees of collective bargaining rights.


OfA Wisconsin’s field efforts include filling buses and building turnout for the rallies this week in Madison, organizing 15 rapid response phone banks urging supporters to call their state legislators, and working on planning and producing rallies, a Democratic Party official in Washington said.

So anyone who thinks this is all “spontaneous” might want to buy a clue.

Meanwhile, all the Democratic state senators in Wisconsin have run off to Rockford, Ill to avoid having to do their jobs.   You see, Republicans hold a majority, but are one short of a quorum needed to pass legislation.  So without the Democrats, the Senate is unable to act on legislation.  Democrats have issued a “list of demands”:

“We demand that the provisions that completely eliminate the ability of workers… to negotiate on a fair basis with their employers be removed from the budget repair bill and any other future budget,” Miller said.

He also demanded legislative oversight on changes to the state’s medical programs, which are targeted for changes in the bill. The bill would also require union members to contribute to their health care and pensions.

My guess is there’s some negotiating room there, but if I were the governor I’d tell Dems that there’ll be no talk about their demands until they act like adults and show back up in the capital ready to do their jobs.   And Governor Walker has laid out the alternative fairly clearly:

Walker said the only alternative would be layoffs of 10,000 to 12,000 state and local employees.

Of course, without a quorum, that isn’t the strongest hand in the world.  But what Democrats are doing sure seems like a childish tantrum in my eyes.  Republicans may not have a quorum and state government may grind to a halt because of it, but I doubt that voters are going to blame members of the GOP for that. 

All of this has spawned the usual misinformation as charges and counter-charges fly.  Ed Schultz provides an example of a completely false statement about the controversy according to Politifact Wisconsin.  Said Shultz:

Under changes being debated, state employees in Wisconsin "who earn $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year might have 20 percent of their income just disappear overnight."

Not true.  Although state employees would have to pay a higher percentage for their benefits (in the 6 to 11% range) none are looking at “20 percent of their income disappear[ing] over night”.

Unions have been losing favor in the eyes of the American public for years, with a fairly sharp downturn in their popularity in 2007.  Since then their favorability rating has stayed about the same, but unfavorable numbers continue to build:

Americans’ attitudes about labor unions changed only slightly over the past year, following a sharp downturn between early 2007 and early 2010. Currently, 45% say they have a favorable opinion about labor unions, while nearly as many (41%) say they have an unfavorable opinion.

In January 2007, 58% said they had a favorable opinion of unions; 31% had an unfavorable opinion.

Tantrums like this, astroturfing and the plain old uncivil behavior aren’t going to help their case.  Ann Althouse has some examples of the latter.   It appears that Adolph Hitler has made a comeback among the left in Wisconsin.   Civility is only a requirement for those on the right, apparently.  The left – well it’s the left and any insult and comparison, no matter how outrageous, is perfectly fine. Godwin’s law is in effect in Wisconsin.

I think Wisconsin is only the beginning of these sorts of spectacles and fights.  Entrenched bureaucracies and unions aren’t going to give up their power easily and go quietly in the night.  How they conduct themselves in this sort of fight will be important though.  The point, one assumes, is to bring visibility to their arguments and persuade the public to back them.  If that’s the case, I don’t think the way the Wisconsin protesters (and legislators) are prosecuting their case will be held up as a model to be emulated.

Cuts are coming – whether made willingly or forced by reality.   There’s no escaping that.   Gov. Walker is trying to get ahead of that curve.

Human nature says no one wants to see their ox gored, regardless of reality’s demands.  But in a battle for public opinion, acting like children, calling people Nazis and importing out-of-state protesters in what is really  a local fight doesn’t seem to be the best way to get the public on your side.



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61 Responses to Wisconsin heats up while "civility" takes a holiday on the left

  • Compare the progressive’s reaction here to their reaction to Republican filibustering.  In one circumstance, they excoriate politicians who hold up legislation and keep state business from being done.  In the other circumstance, they applaud politicians who hold up legislation and keep state business from being done.  All depends on your political PoV I suppose…

    • But one is perfectly legal, according to rule, and ethical.  The other is a violation of law, the oath of office, and the democratic process.  Other than that…

      • Not sure what you mean when you say the Wisconsin debacle is a violation of the law, but then again I’m uninformed about their laws. 

        However, the walk-out IS a violation of Senate rules requiring a majority vote to allow a Senator to be absent for an entire day.  I doubt the Republican majority voted that way!  Also, the majority can compel absent Senators to show up.

        • But the rules do not clarify what that compulsion may be.

        • I dunno specifics, but the Gov. in some states can issue a capias warrant, commanding any LEO under his jurisdiction to bring the carcass of the outlaw coward thug “law-makers” to him.
          If not, a judge certain could do exactly that.

  • This is being run from the White House.  Obama and the unions are using this as a test to see if they can brazen out the budget crises looming in several states.
    Today, Lil’ Dick Trumka will flog the crowds with a passel of lies.  He famously said not long ago that there was plenty of money in America for EVERYTHING…so that makes him a Krugman-quality economist, as well as being a criminal.
    But the anti-democratic behavior on display here will separate the wheat from the chaff…  The outlaw cowards will have have to come home eventually, although the Tilted Kilt DID seem enthralling!

  • The average Milwaukee Public School teacher will be receiving $100,005 in compensation this year – $56,500 of that is in salary, and a whopping $43,505 is in benefits.
    I’m not a school teacher so bear with me here, but what kind of benefits are worth $43k a year for a $56 job ?

  • “I’m not a school teacher so bear with me here, but what kind of benefits are worth $43k a year for a $56 job ?”
    Well, the ones where you can “walk off” your job for a couple of days, forcing closer of your ‘business’, without being fired, for starters….

    • Or call in a transparent lie, and then show up at an open-air rally carrying a misspelled or historically laughable sign…with students in tow.  Teachers?  Well, of a sort…

  • First Egypt, now Wisconsin?  Is this the emergence of the anti-tea party?

    • Idiot, the Collective has been around for ages….

      The people of America are not your kind of dupes, Erp.  A bunch of cosseted civil service employees hysterically evoking Hitler because the are asked to pay SLIGHTLY more of their lush benefits will not play well.

    • Not sure … but the Tea Partiers are chasing those Wisconsin Democrats around Illinois.

    • Sens. Joe Lieberman, Tom Carper and Susan Collins introduced a cybersecurity reform bill that explicitly prohibits the president from shutting down the Internet.
      The Cybersecurity Freedom Act of 2011, introduced late Thursday, is nearly identical to the legislation introduced last year by the trio, except for two changes.
      First, it adds language explicitly stating the president can’t shut down the Internet. Second, it includes language permitting the owners of assets deemed critical infrastructure by the federal government — and therefore subject to additional Department of Homeland Security regulations — to appeal that decision in a federal court.

      There won’t be a repeat of Egypt.

    • You’re not serious, right?  This was a joke post.

    • Heh – yes Captain buttwipe – the Egyptians are protesting the Tea Party movement here in the United States.  The Tunisians were angered over Republican control of the House, AND the Arizona immigration bill.  The Baharani’s were inflamed at the thought of not funding Obamacare, The Libyans are standing fast with their Union teacher brethren up in Wisconsin.
      It’s about the Tea Party, yes indeed.
      So, you REALLY have a couple of degrees in Education, yeah?  You’re SURE you don’t live in your parents basement in GrossPointe?

    • Tea party types(*) are often critical of Republicans.  These protesters are in lock step with Democrats.
      Tea party types often agitate for the government to cut spending and stop getting involved in health care.
      The Wisconsin anti-government protesters are wanting to keep deficit spending and keep the government knee deep in providing “free” health care to government employees.
      Here’s a perfect example of the contrast between individualism and collectivism, which you were pretending a few weeks ago was some undefined, nebulous notion.
      (*) The “tea party types” are a heterogeneous group.  Some are libertarian/individualist, while others are “Astro Turf” types, who are just Republicans in patriots’ clothing.  And, there are a smattering of people who are clueless (like those who say “hands off my Medicare” when they think they’re protesting government takeover of health care), bigoted, or focused on issues like immigration (where they end up on the wrong side of the issue).

    • It IS about Obama in a way though, it’s the World Economy, stupid.

    • Trollin’ trollin’ trollin’
      Through our threads he’s rollin’
      With his ego swollen
      Raw Erb!

      No way to understand him
      I think it’s time you banned him
      We need to be free of his disease…

      I’m anticipatin’
      More BS he’ll be statin’
      Taunting you all is such a breeze…

      Tell the lies! Spit ‘em out!
      Sling the bull! Suck ‘em in!
      Troll some more! Troll ‘em in…
      Raw Errrrrrb!

      Tell the lies! Spit ‘em out!
      Sling the bull! Suck ‘em in!
      Troll some more! Troll ‘em in…
      Raw Errrrrrb!

    • We’ll know when they start gang-raping newscasters.

  • No, Scott, this is the emergence of the people who vote for a living as the scent of retrenchment reaches their nostrils. Their brains are swelling and they think they’re back at the Haymarket Riot.

  • The president’s political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to mobilize thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.

    As noted, this is being run out of the White House.  It is ALL about maintaining union power, and the unimpeded flow of union money and support to the Deemocrats…particularly the Community Organizer In Chief.

    • What I love is the ‘outrage’ of people supporting the teachers, clearly they think the money to pay for these benefits if the State stays on the hook for them, will come from, more than likely ‘the rich’.
      We’ve done such a good job of dumbiing down.  I guess none of them ask themselves where the Teacher’s Union will be when their taxes go up and they can’t make ends meet.  I guess they’ll just continue to claim the ‘rich’ are robbing them.

      • Two things–I heard a spokes-hole for the Collective call for increasing Wisconsin corporate taxes.  This, of course, over-looks two important things; 1) corporations do not pay taxes…they collect them from their customers, and 2) businesses are MOBILE.
        Second thing; this is about cynical, crass politics.  On the one hand, these thugs have never cared about WHERE the money was to be found…just that they could get it.  Additionally, the fight is about inflaming and motivating the Collective.  If the MAJORITY backs down, lay-offs and furloughs will be the next necessity, and THOSE will be exploited just the same way and by the same people.
        That is the game being played.

        • The tragedy here Rags, is ‘the people’ who may NOT agree with the teachers can’t just not show up at work to go down to Madison to SHOW the teachers how they feel.
          The question at this point is, is the populace angry enough yet to do the same thing the teachers are doing, or does that come 6 months from now when a new budget has been drafted, the union held it’s line, and the cost to live in Wisconsin has risen yet again to keep them fed.

          • That is why the TEA Party rally is set for Saturday!
            And, in a way, the people ALREADY spoke at the ballot box.  The GOP guys ran on who they WERE and what they would DO.  (Not like the Collectivists who lie.)
            They took both houses and the governor’s seat.

        • You know how this goes – the President is currently practicing it – when voters or courts don’t go WITH you?  Ignore them.  It’s very Democratic (Democratic, the party, rather than Democratic the government style).

    • There are some stark political realities at play here.  I think that the last several years have made it very clear that people generally want two things: they want to pay less (lower my taxes) and they want to receive more (increase my entitlements).  There could be a conflict here as non-government workers start to demand that unions representing government workers begin to tighten their belts.  For the left, growing the size and influence of unions is as critical as it is for the right to curtail it.
      I wonder if we’re at a sort of tipping point, where unions may start to see a real erosion of support or a significant increase in influence, depending on how things go.  Everyone wants to pay less and receive more, and gov’t unions may become a bogeyman for many Americans, draining tax dollars at an unsustainable rate in order to get a much better deal than those who pay taxes to provide them with those benefits.  At some point, something has to give.

      • The metrics say that union support has slipped sharply.  This kind of crap with push it harder.

        • Having large chunks of your money stolen from you by crooked polis  to pay off “public servants” flush retirements will tend to have that effect.

    • Astroturf ??!  Where is Axelrod ?

  • To the extent that Scott is pretty much a fulltime political activist, which according to his description of his teaching is also what he is often up to in his classroom, and given that he only very rarely knows basic facts and concepts of his own field, I’m seeing some savings, however small, for the hard-pressed taxpayers of Maine.

  • Rush had a good point on his program today: it is (based on my limited “sampling”) for MiniTru to actually talk about how much the Wisconsin teachers are paid.  It’s the dog that didn’t bark: if they were underpaid or threatened with losing enough pay / bennies that it would look to be a real hardship to most Americans, the figures would be plastered all over MiniTru.  That we DON’T see this is evidence that the teachers are paid very well, so well that it would hurt their cause were the numbers to be commonly known.

    It’s mighty hard to ask somebody getting along on $30k or $40k to pony up more taxes so that a relative handful of other people can keep raking in $80k or $100k.

    As others have noted, this is a full-court press from the left: the unions, the democrat party, and MiniTru are all working hard to cast this as a case of an eeeeevil Republican governor trying to impoverish poor, defenseless school marms.  If they lose, this kind of thing might spread to other states.  The DNC cannot long survive without the unions and their ability to transfer tax revenues to the DNC via union dues.  Even if they win, though, I think that it will be a hollow victory.  First of all, facts are stubborn things, and the fact is that Wisconsin is (like a lot of other states) in financial trouble.  They’ve GOT to find the money from somewhere.  More, people are seeing The Chicago Way being played out: politicians leaving town to avoid a vote while mobs of overpaid union teachers WHO SHUT DOWN THEIR SCHOOLS TO GO PROTEST mill around the state capital, waving signs covered with hateful slogans even while MiniTru tries to spin it that they are the victims.  They might get away with it for a while, but people don’t really support this sort of thing and (to borrow from The Dear Golfer’s spiritual advisor) the chickens will eventually come home to roost.

    • I gather the average in Madison is 100k – pay plus benefits.

      • I wonder what the average private sector worker in Wisconsin earns?  For that matter, what do the police and firefighters in Madison earn?

        And are the schools in Wisconsin that good?

        • wisconsin:
          average firefighter salary, 37k.
          average policeman salary, 42k.
          average teacher salary, 46k.
          That is lifted from a post on another site, and I put it here without vouching for it.
          That is BARE salary, excluding benefits, which roughly double the teacher’s pay.

    • This is odd behavior from Obama.  In Chicago, he and Ayers worked against the teachers union

  • I have a few questions about the Wisconsin situation and I’d appreciate it if anyone could school me on this.
    First, I didn’t know that the AWOL politicians could be brought to the Capitol by state troopers.  They can really be compelled to be there?  Also, can they be extradited from Illinois?  If they’re involuntarily returned, will they be under arrest?  Is there any action that can be taken against them if they can’t be extradited and choose not to return to Wisconsin?
    Second, if there isn’t a quorum in the legislature for an extended enough period of time, will the state government shut down, e.g. if their budget expires and they can’t pass a new one?  If so, how long is that period?
    Third, can anyone explain to me what was going through the Democrat legislators’ minds when they decided this was their optimal course of action?  I comprehend making a wrong judgment about the public mood, but it seems to me that if they’d thought this one through in a game-theoretic sense, they’d have realized it was a stupid course of action.  It reminds me of nothing so much as a child holding his breath until his mom gives him a lollipop.  All Mom has to do is not cave in, and the child loses the lollipop whether he continues holding his breath, or breathes before he passes out.  So not caving is the optimal course of action for Republicans, and therefore you’d think the Democrats could reasonably expect the Republicans to take it, no?  I think I want to play high-stakes Tic-Tac-Toe with these people, if they’re really that incapable of thinking more than one move ahead.

  • “A new poll from the Washington-based Clarus Group asked:
    Do you think government employees should be represented by labor unions that bargain for higher pay, benefits and pensions… or do you think government employees should not be represented by labor unions?
    A full 64% of the respondents said “no.”
    That includes 42% of Democrats, and an overwhelming majority of Republicans; only 49% of Democrats think public workers should be in unions at all.”

    • Andf our piece of excrement president has thrown in his lot very publically with the unions.  Great. He’s all in?  Lets break this jackhole.

  • This is obviously a religious issue, where the doctrine of the Unions has superseded the Constitution. No longer do people enter government to serve and protect its citizens out of a sense of duty, but rather, to make a career promising as much advancement as they can extract from the majority of the citizenry who in all reality now work for them.

    They should all be fired and a clear defining law instituted that solidly establishes and impenetrable Wall between Union and State.

    • ” No longer do people enter government to serve and protect its citizens out of a sense of duty”

      And just when were those happy days?

    This is really quite good.  Note the relative unemployment and costs.