The situation in Wisconsin
I’ve been busily reading everything I can about the Wisconsin situation as it stands right now. It has been an interesting exercise. Of course, one look at Memeorandum and you can instantly tell which ideological side a particular blog falls on. Also interesting are the titles of some of the stories/posts. Talk about sensationalist.
Of course, that’s not to say that we’re not hearing the same thing from some of the participants on the protests and demonstrations. Things like this:
“In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten,” said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller. “Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people.”
And where were the Democrats? In Illinois. BTW, it was actually a few weeks and 30 minutes as the Democrats were invited, nearly daily, to come back from their self-imposed exile and participate. A fact that James Joyner notes in his reply to the above quote:
Oh, nonsense. They were overwhelmingly elected in November and prevented from acting only by bad faith on the part of the Democratic minority. And the Democrats have the ability to either try to force Republicans out via the recall process or rally back to a majority in 2012 and undo this legislation.
That’s the process, isn’t it? Just as it appears that the majority of the country thought that the passage of the health care bill in Congress was a travesty and made the point on November 2nd of last year, now Wisconsin voters – who put the GOP into the majority – have a process they can use to reverse what has happened. But pretending that it was “disrespectful” to do what they did or a conspiracy to “take government away from the people” is, as Joyner notes, “nonsense”.
Apparently the move by the Republicans in the Senate was precipitated by two things as Christian Schneider at “The Corner” points out:
A letter Democrat Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller sent the governor today, indicating Miller’s unwillingness to further negotiate any details of the bill, was what prompted the GOP’s decision to take the bill to the floor.
“It was like, ‘I’m in the minority, and I’m going to dictate to you what your options are,’” said one GOP source about Miller’s letter. It was just three days ago that Miller had sent Fitzgerald a letter urging more negotiations, despite the fact that Governor Walker had been negotiating with at least two Democrat senators for nearly a week. “With his recent letter, it became clear that all he wanted to do was stall,” said the GOP source.
Another action that provoked the GOP senators to act was Democrat Senator Lena Taylor’s very public decision to have a spring election absentee ballot sent to her in Illinois. The spring election is scheduled for April 5th, which indicated Taylor’s desire to stay out of the state for another month. “That sure didn’t help,” said one GOP source.
Gov. Scott Walker has an Op/Ed in the WSJ that’s an interesting read. One of the points he raises is about what unions are claiming and how unions are actually acting:
The unions say they are ready to accept concessions, yet their actions speak louder than words. Over the past three weeks, local unions across the state have pursued contracts without new pension or health-insurance contributions. Their rhetoric does not match their record on this issue.
Of course it could be said that they are simply establishing their negotiating position. But my guess, given the outcry these past weeks, is that they feel they have the backing not to have to negotiate the cuts they previously said they were willing to make.
Since the bill has been passed the uproar will most likely continue for a couple of days or so, peak and subside. Outside forces have been attempting to finance and enable recall drives. Under WI law, a politician has to have been in office for a year before he or she can be recalled. Interestingly that applies to only 16 Senators, 8 GOP and 8 Democrats. Even more interesting is every one of them has a recall petition being initiated against them.
As I understand it, Walker won’t be eligible for recall until next year. Will the public still be motivated at that time to sign on or will it go the way of Indiana?
When Gov. Mitch Daniels repealed collective bargaining in Indiana six years ago, it helped government become more efficient and responsive. The average pay for Indiana state employees has actually increased, and high-performing employees are rewarded with pay increases or bonuses when they do something exceptional.
In fact, an oft neglected part of the story, which John Fund revealed recently, is why Walker and the GOP are taking the action they’re taking:
The governor’s move is in reaction to a 2009 law implemented by the then-Democratic legislature that expanded public unions’ collective-bargaining rights and lifted existing limits on teacher raises.
A state already headed for the financial shoals saw a Democratic legislature expand the “rights” of the unions that had help put them in office and lift the limits on pay for other government union members. I have it on good authority that the GOP Senators, when faced with this legislation, didn’t flee to Illinois.
Recalls aren’t easy things to do, and, we’ll see how they work out in Wisconsin. My guess is, after everyone has a chance to cool down a bit, the recall drives – for both sides – will meet with less and less success.
And, of course, depending on which side is most successful is making the case for their side, voters will either return Democrats to the majority in 2012 and see the bill repealed or the voters will decide what was done wasn’t such a bad thing (we’ll see how the budget deficit looks next year) and leave well enough alone.
We’ll monitor and report.