The situation in Madison Wisconsin has been so well covered by Ann Althouse on her blog, that I have not felt it necessary to mention it. Yesterday, the situation began to change. This is what union rule would look like:
The state Senators had passed the limited budget bill that included only the collective bargaining provisions. The Democrats had blocked the fiscal portions of the bill by fleeing the state two weeks ago. Walker has had this option since they left but he and Majority Leader FitzGerald, were negotiating with the Democrats in hopes the standoff could be ended. The negotiations (not reported by the MSM, of course) broke down when it became apparent that the Democrats are nationalizing this controversy. Walker then encouraged the Senate Republicans to go ahead with Plan B. They did and the law was signed by Walker yesterday.
Why has this issue been so inflammatory? There are even leftist academics who are advocating serious violence.
My prediction: 10 years from now public higher education, at least in many states, will have ceased to exist. 20 years from now state governments will realize that they still own the buildings and property on their former state university campuses and start charging us rent to use them. 25 years from now citizens will complain that they can’t afford to send their children to college–any college. But by then the peasant class will be so firmly established that it won’t really matter.
Welcome to the 19th century.
Meanwhile, the Republican criminals in Wisconsin forced through their attack on workers’ rights, leading to an uproar in Madison. (Thanks to Steve Nadler for the link.) At some point these acts of brazen viciousness are going to lead to a renewed philosophical interest in the question of when acts of political violence are morally justified, an issue that has, oddly, not been widely addressed in political philosophy since Locke. (Ted Honderich’s somewhat controversial work on Palestinian terrorism is a recent exception.)
Here is a respected academic advocating political violence on the pattern of the Palestinians. The Cloward-Piven Strategy lives again ! Naturally, the two authors were sociologists.
Why has this rather routine process in a midwest state gotten such national attention? There are at least two reasons. One is that Obama has to win Wisconsin next year to be re-elected. Wisconsin has been a blue state for many years and was the origin of Progressivism with the La Follette family. It is even the origin of the public employee unions, as the AFSCME began there. However, the Republican swept state offices in the 2010 election. Why ?
The wave of red crashed ashore in Wisconsin as well, as Republicans took over the governor’s mansion, a Senate seat, two U.S. House seats and the state legislature.
Political newcomer Ron Johnson defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold by a comfortable 5-point margin, and Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker took the governor’s office by a similar margin over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Republican Kurt Schuller defeated incumbent state Treasurer Dawn Marie Sass, and Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was re-elected.
Secretary of State Doug LaFollette was the only Democrat left standing among statewide officeholders.
Democrats lost control of both houses of the state legislature, making Wisconsin the only state in the nation where Democrats lost a governor’s office, a Senate seat and a complete legislature, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Why the furor ? After all, the issues were not earth-shaking ones.
Why did this happen ?
State taxpayers were concerned about the fiscal situation. Walker had been left a huge deficit by his Democrat predecessor. Some of this was denied by the hard left which said that there was no deficit. This has been disproved.
To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January.
Actually, the alleged “new spending consists of promised tax breaks for employers who bring new jobs to the state. No new jobs, no tax breaks. Democrats have trouble with these matters. It requires math. The same left claims that the Social Security Trust Fund actually contains funds.
In other words, Walker’s decisions did impact the budget — but not necessarily the budget for this current fiscal year, which is facing $137 million shortfall.
“The vast majority of the cost of those bills … will be in the next budget, the 2011-213 budget, which has not even been debated yet,” says Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute.
Instead, this current year’s deficit is mainly due to other factors: the nearly $60 million Wisconsin owes Minnesota, and deficits in various state departments, including the corrections department, the medical assistance program, and the public defenders’ office.
“This stuff [the Walker legislation] will add to the deficit of the upcoming budget, but it has no immediate impact,” says Healy. “Gov. Walker is trying to be responsible and actually do something to try to stop the bleeding. And for anyone to say that somehow he made the current situation worse is just plain wrong.”
Ezra Klein, a 26 year old UCLA graduate with no financial experience seems to be the source of this accusation. Mr Klein would do well to study the matter more, even carefully reading the letter he quotes, before making accusations.
Under the new law, government workers will vote annually on whether they wish to be represented by a union, and the state will not be compelled to extract union dues from employees’ paychecks on behalf of the unions. Health-care and pension benefits for government workers will be set by the people’s elected representatives outside of the union-dominated collective-bargaining process, and wage increases will be indexed to inflation. Government workers still will enjoy salary-and-benefit packages that in most cases exceed what those workers could hope to command in the private sector, along with such hard-to-price benefits as enhanced job security.
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
The provisions on union membership and mandatory dues collection are stilettos aimed at the heart of union political power. In Indiana, governor Mitch Daniels decertified public employee unions by executive order when he took office two years ago.
On his first day Daniels reversed an executive order signed by a Democratic predecessor granting collective bargaining rights to state employees. Union membership plummeted overnight. “I think they were happy to have the extra thousand dollars that would have gone to dues,” Kitchell said. Decertifying the public-employees’ union has spared Indiana pressures that have crippled other state governments. Unhindered by union demands, the governor instituted a “pay for performance” scheme, rewarding state employees who met explicit goals with raises ranging from 4 percent to 10 percent. The salaries of underperforming employees stayed flat. No one was fired, but every time a job went vacant a supervisor had to justify hiring a replacement. The number of state employees has fallen from 35,000 to under 30,000, back where it was in 1982.
Here, I think, is the heart of the Democrat/union fury at Scott Walker. Unions, especially public employee unions, are heavy hitters in politics and support Democrats almost exclusively. The push for “card check” by the Obama administration during the last Congress was an example of payback for union support. Private industry unions have found themselves unable to win elections in attempts to organize workers at non-union plants. Therefore, they have tried to get “card check” passed while the Democrats held Congress. Card check is a term for non-secret ballot elections. The voter has to make his vote public and therefore subject to the sort of pressure seen above in the video.
incoming legislators would do well to heed the public’s desire for big government and big labor to step back and allow the free enterprise system and job creators to get our economy moving again.
One of the signature issues of the election was the misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act” and its “card check” provision that would have effectively eliminated private ballot voting for employees deciding whether to join a union. Poll after poll warned that voters—including union households—would reject any attempt to circumvent the secret ballot, and they made good on their word. More than 40 candidates who had voted for, cosponsored, or endorsed EFCA were asked not to return—including at least 31 who co-sponsored the bill in the 111th Congress.
It is important to note this was an American issue, rather than a partisan issue. In the Senate, eight candidates who supported card check lost while West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, who came out against the bill, won. And voters in four states, Arizona, Utah, South Dakota, and South Carolina, passed measures to head off any potential efforts to kill secret ballots in their states.
This is an issue related to that in Wisconsin. Unions need money and dues are the “mothers milk of politics” to quote Jesse Unruh, late political power in California. Why do they need money, aside for political power? You will not read this in the NY Times or LA Times but unions are in deep financial trouble.
‘We spent a fortune to elect Barack Obama,” declared Andy Stern last month, and the president of the Service Employees International Union wasn’t exaggerating. The SEIU and AFL-CIO have been spending so much on politics that they’re going deeply into debt.
That news comes courtesy of federal disclosure forms that unions file each year with the Department of Labor. The Bush Administration toughened the enforcement of those disclosure rules, but under pressure from unions the Obama Labor shop is slashing funding for such enforcement. Without such disclosure, workers wouldn’t be able to see how their union chiefs are managing their mandatory dues money.
Alarm is coming even from inside the AFL-CIO — specifically, from Tom Buffenbarger, president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who sits on the AFL-CIO’s finance committee. Bloomberg News reports that he is circulating a report claiming the AFL-CIO engaged in “creative accounting” to conceal financial difficulties heading into last year’s Presidential election. As recently as 2000, the union consortium of 8.5 million members had a $45 million surplus. By June of last year it had $90.6 million in liabilities, or $2.3 million more than its $88.3 million in assets. “If we are not careful, insolvency may be right around the corner,” Mr. Buffenbarger warned.
Here may be the answer to the furious and violent reaction to Scott Walker. The dues provisions and annual election provision may cut union income by up to 90%, especially in a tight economy when that $1000 in dues money could come in very handy. After Mitch Daniels ended mandatory dues collection in Indiana, union dues income from public employees fell 95%. The recent furor and walkout by Democrats in Indiana concerns that new legislation would affect private unions and their dues. Daniels has suggested that the legislature delay this issue for now. The proposals would make Indiana a “right-to-work” state.
By the end of 2008, the SEIU also owed Bank of America nearly $88 million, including its headquarters loan and another $10 million for unspecified purposes. This is the same BofA that the union has spent the past months attacking as the face of Wall Street excess. The SEIU has protested outside of Bank of America offices and demanded the resignation of CEO Ken Lewis. We assume no one forced the SEIU to invest in real estate or borrow from a bank to finance it.
An SEIU spokeswoman says the union works on a four-year cycle, in which it goes “all out for the presidential election” and then rebuilds its finances. She adds the union has paid back more than $10 million of the $25 million it borrowed last year. But it’s nonetheless true that the SEIU’s liabilities have continued to climb each year from 2003 to 2008.
The dues and annual election provisions, if copied by other states in serious fiscal peril, could cut the union movement off at the knees. That is where the fury originates.