“The difference between a democracy and a dictatorship is that in a democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.”-
For those who take the time to research it, several things about the Wisconsin governor’s battles with his public sector unions are clearly evident:
1) This about more than simply resolving a funding issue.
2) It is part of an orchestrated strategy-and the conductor directing the music is not located in the Madison State house.
3) Republican governors, for the most part, appear determined to make an ideological point, even if it costs their state(s) a great deal.
Now that last bullet is probably key, and says more about what has happened to the Republican party than anything else. In today’s intellectually challenged GOP-it is more important to pander to the ill informed and uncaring lower 30% than do anything to benefit the majority of the citizenry. In that regard they are perhaps bringing Bukowski’s quote true-moreso than we realize.
“But the public sector unions are greedy and they will bankrupt us in the long run” , you say, “they are getting a much better deal than the rest of us and its not fair-they should have to sacrifice too.”
Not really. For the most part public sector employees make less-and they know that coming in the door.
The image of public workers as sitting fat and happy while those in the private sector struggle has proved potent. But its accuracy is open to wide debate, and not just among politicians of different stripes. “You ask 10 economists about this, and you’re get 12 different answers,” says Keith Bender, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
So do public union workers, while enjoying better job security, actually receive richer pay and benefit packages than those in the private sector?
Bender is one of the economists who argue in a recent study that public workers actually receive less compensation in combined wages and benefits than those in comparable jobs in the private sector.
Key words, they say: “Comparable jobs.”
In a study last year for the National Institute for Retirement Security and the Center for State and Local Government Excellence, Bender and co-author John Heywood, also a UWM economics professor, assert that wages for typical state workers are 11 percent less than those in the private sector with comparable education and in comparable jobs. Local workers earn 12 percent less, they say.
When the cost of benefits is factored in, Bender and Heywood say that their calculations show that the so-called total compensation for state workers is 6.8 percent less than for those in the private sector; local workers’ total compensation is 7.4 percent less.
That too says something less than complimentary about our ill informed citizenry-rather than try to improve the lot of the private sector, it’s more important to engage in a race to the bottom to see which corporations can screw their employees the worst. Got it. It’s against your own best interests, you do understand-but I understand how you feel.
Most of what you “know” about the public sector unions in Wisconsin and Satan’s Scott Walker’s efforts to destroy unions is not correct. Not even wildly close. Let’s review what the governor is really proposing.
Walker’s proposal can basically be described a three-fold program to revamp the way Wisconsin provides public services and in the process radically reduce, if not destroy, any semblance of a social safety net. His plan involves three big things:
1) Defund and delegitimize public sector workers. Both in terms of legal standing with the state government and in public perception. Denying them fundamental rights that have been a part of the labor landscape for decades is a part of that plan. As a result-he will have a free hand in reducing their benefits and reducing their health care coverage.
2) Privatize government assets-this to be done through the use of no-bid contracts to reward those who support the governor and his party. It gives him a free hand to avoid public interest checks and balances designed into the state laws and the Wisconsin State Constitution.
3) Cut benefits for Wisconsin citizens- specifically by re-writing Medicaid rules to give the governor, not the legislature the power to write rules. As a result, Governor Walker will be able to arbitrarily drop thousands of current beneficiaries. He is seeking nothing less than removing legislation from the process-to allow him to govern Medicaid by executive order. Because this violates both the spirit and intent of the ACA-the second shoe to drop is to use these rules changes as basis to attack health care reform.
Pretty neat trick if he can pull it off. He claims he campaigned on this. There is only one problem with that statement-he didn’t. Scott Walker is essentially trying a form of bait and switch on the Wisconsin electorate. Fortnately , for the short term at least, a sizeable number of voters saw through the ruse and are now exercising the same rights their tri-corner hat wearing counterparts exercised last year. As John Cole noted: “That’s true if you forget that most teabagger protest was based on lies like death panels, while Walker really does want to bust unions, and that Walker never campaigned on ending collective bargaining, while Obama’s campaign made HCR a centerpiece. Also, too: those who are pissed about Democrats leaving the state as a form of filibuster can start complaining in earnest when those lawmakers run away every single time there’s a bill up for vote.”
When you crunch the numbers and look at it in light of existing practice elsewhere-the truth comes out a little different:
Economic nonsense is being reported as fact in most of the news reports on the Wisconsin dispute, the product of a breakdown of skepticism among journalists multiplied by their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.
Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans.
Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.
Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.
Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system (or as the argument goes, “pay their fair share” of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin’ s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.
The labor agreements show that the pension plan money is part of the total negotiated compensation. The key phrase, in those agreements I read (emphasis added), is: “The Employer shall contribute on behalf of the employee.” This shows that this is just divvying up the total compensation package, so much for cash wages, so much for paid vacations, so much for retirement, etc.
That, BTW is a model of many pension plans-not just Wisconsin’s.
Furthermore-and this seems to be continually forgotten, the union had already agreed to the increased contribution a long time ago.
What most people don’t know is that, until Scott Walker came along, Wisconsin public pensions were among the nation’s healthiest. It was a “national leader” in managing its long term liabilities and retiree health care. So if it was just about money-Gov Walker could have declared victory when the union agreed to his concessions.
Also ignored is the fact that Wisconsin was on track to actually run a surplus-at least it was till Walker rammed through a series of tax cuts to help a favored few-and create a deficit in Wisconsin’s budget.
But this is not about money in the long run-it’s about accomplishing every true believer in Teabagger land’s wet dream: the destruction of unions and the end of Medicaid. Taking to its core-this fight for Scott Walker and his supporters is about showing their enemies ( which is anyone who does not believe in their Darwinian vision of the future-symbolized by the unions) that they mean business and will not compromise. Its about shifting power and wealth into a select few hands.
The most disturbing parts of Walker’s legislation have gotten very little coverage. His bill would strip the legislature of any role in setting guidelines for the program leaving the power exclusively in the Governor’s hands. Why? Because it gives the governor a free hand to slash Medicaid rolls to record lows. Even some of the Governor’s supporters will be hurt if this happens. Especially since-unless the ACA stays in place -many of them will not be able to obtain private insurance because they will have pre-existing conditions, and /or will not be able to afford the premiums of private insurance. In the long run that raises everyone else’s premiums because of the added burdens they will impose upon our emergency room system.
And then there is the privatization. Privatizing cuts public supervision out of the process and invites skimming and poor service. For folks like Walker, this is a feature, not a flaw. Poor services leads to increasing distrust of government. Having already created an environment where it has become impossible to raise taxes-no matter what the circumstances-it’s the kind of negative feedback loop that favors Walker’s wealthy friends. After all it’s worked so well elsewhere:
Processing of welfare, food-stamp and Medicaid claims in Indiana was plagued with difficulties when the state outsourced the system to International Business Machines Corp. and Affiliated Computer Services Inc. two years ago. Indiana and former outsourcing partner IBM sued each other Thursday, May 13, the latest chapter in an increasingly sour relationship that went bad when the state decided last year to cancel an ambitious social services system. In October 2009, Gov. Mitch Daniels pulled the plug on Indiana’s 10-year, $1.6 billion outsourcing contract with IBM to streamline welfare eligibility in the state. Launched in 2007, the new system let citizens apply for welfare benefits online, in person or via telephone, and it implemented process changes designed to speed up and standardize eligibility determinations. Daniels called the concept—which drew criticism for high error rates and slow processing of eligibility requests—unworkable.
If you’re not willing to consider tax hikes to help balance the budget you’re just not serious about deficits, period. It’s just not possible to cut your way to a balanced budget while simultaneously slashing taxes for businesses and the wealthy. The myth that low taxes will lead to business investment and job creation is just that – a myth. These myths have wormed their way into the conservative psyche, just like the myth that lower taxes will generate higher revenue.
We’ll just skip the debate about the wisdom of draconian cuts during the middle of a severe recession shall we?
Now ask yourself this question-if ending collective bargaining for public sector unions is such a necessary tool for controlling costs, why then did the governor exempt Police and Firefighters? In theory what should be good for one should be good for all.
To their credit-the police and the firefighters have seen through this smokescreen and have stood in support of the other unions. Perhaps they recognize that this is just round one and downstream , un- satiated elites will come for them too.
I think it is an interesting commentary on how low we have sunk as a society-that we have come to the point where teachers are viewed as evil and as the source of all of our problems. I, personally, have a hard time with that. I had some great teachers who had an effect on my life-without Miss Kaigler and Mrs. Holman I would never have gained any writing skills with the English language, or gained an appreciation for some of the great books of our century. They were part of a union-but they also cared about their students. Then again-I was lucky to live in a township with some pretty high property taxes that were plowed back into the schools. Of course this was before, Grover Norquist started whining about his property taxes. I’m a product of a public school system-and I turned out pretty well.
If this were solely about saving money-Walker would be playing his hand a lot differently. And he might have more support-even from union members (its a forgotten fact that the union vote is not monolithic, studies repeatedly confirm about 35-40% of union members vote Republican). If you simply believe Walkers talking points, one gets the idea that its about saving money. However-as the facts come out and people see his real agenda, they really don’t like it. Because I think, deep down they know that Walker and his buddies won’t stop there. “Pretty soon we will shoot someone you really care about-now give me those god damn detonators” (Obligatory Die Hard reference).
The polls back this up-especially when you break it down by income:
*Among those who make less than $24,000 annually, 74 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 14 percent who favor it.
* Among those who make $24,000 to $59,000, 63 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 33 percent who favor it.
* Among those who make $60,000 to $89,000, 53 percent oppose the proposal, versus only 41 percent who favor it.
* Among those who make $90,000 and up, 50 percent favor the proposal, versus 47 percent who oppose it.
Now unfortunately, I don’t think time is on the union’s side-Walker can wait them out; he can start laying them off. It will prove worthwhile though, if it can expose the real war on the middle class, that true blue conservative policies creates-and Scott Walker unwittingly laid that blueprint out for all to see. If that gets the Democratic party away from the two “F”‘s (Fags and Feminism) and back to economic issues-he may actually have done them a favor. Time will tell.
Yipee kay yay, motherf*ckers!
UPDATE:My Canadian Counterpart has his take up here.