Right Thinking From The Left Coast
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Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Wisconsin War

Good Lord:

Thursday is a big day for the budget fight in Wisconsin, where Republican Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a plan that would strip public employees of most collective bargaining rights, with the full legislature set to take it up today. Meanwhile, the protests against the bill are continuing to spread—with school closings in a lot of areas around the state.


Teachers have been calling in sick in large numbers for days—so much so as to shut down schools—and many of the same teachers are attending the protests in Madison. What began in Madison, has expanded to other districts across the state. Schools are closed again in Madison Thursday, as well as in other towns around Dane County. In western Wisconsin, schools have also closed in the La Crosse area. And other schools have closed in the Milwaukee area. No schools have closed in Milwaukee itself, but teacher absences are up above normal.

Under Walker’s plan, as TPM has reported, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn’t rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index. Walker and state Republican leaders have said the plan is necessary to deal with the state’s budget shortfall.

There are reports of protesters putting cross-hairs on pictures of Governor Walker and calling him a dictator (so much for the new civility).  Teachers have been bringing students to the protests—a standard tactic, but one that should be illegal.  And the Democrats have apparently fled the state to deny the legislature a quorum on the plan, which is about the most craven thing I can imagine.

I’m not certain about stripping collective bargaining rights from state employees. Bainbridge has a great roundup of the history of public sector unionization noting that many, including FDR, thought it inappropriate for government.  In the private sector, unions and employers have an adversarial relationship that reaches an equilibrium between company profits and worker compensation.  If a company pays its workers more than the market will allow, their product loses market share. In the public sector, however, this is not the case.  The union becomes an interest group in a monopoly.  If the government pays it workers more than the market would allow, they can simply raise taxes.  And we have no choice but to pay them.

I’m not quite persuaded that public unions need to be abolished.  And I’m not sure that Wisconsin is doing is precisely legal.  Moreover, their budget situation is not quite as dire as, say, Illinois or California.  But I am sure that this is not “dictatorial” or “anti-democracy” or any other pejorative that the unions and their dogwashers are throwing out there.  Governor Walker was elected.  So was the legislature.  Arguably, they were elected to do things like this. If people don’t like it, they can vote them the hell out of office.  I’m sure a Democratic legislature will be more than happy to give the unions whatever they want.

Update: Organize for America is involved in the protests and Obama has spoken out against the measure.  The stakes on this one could be very big.

Update: Allahpundit on the Democrats literally fleeing the state.

You know, reading all this, I’m thinking back to the “party of no” crap during Obama’s first two years and wondering how the media would have reacted if the GOP had decided to protest the Democratic agenda by not showing up to work anymore. Unlike this, that move wouldn’t have blocked any Senate business: It only takes 51 for a quorum so the Dems and their 60-seat majority could have safely proceeded on legislation. Yet the screeching about unserious Republican sore losers being incapable of governing, etc etc, would have been endless. And before anyone objects, no, today’s walkout isn’t the equivalent of a filibuster. Like it or not, the filibuster’s a mainstream tactic blessed by both parties when they pass the rules for the Senate at the start of the term and happily used by whichever side is in the minority. It’s business as usual, for better or worse. A walkout isn’t — although maybe it will be now. Is that the left’s goal in this? To turn fleeing the state into a legit American political tactic?

Actually, I know this has been done at least once before when Texas was being redistricted.

This entire episode reinforces what I said the other day.  When the real budget cuts come down, the shit storm from the Left is going to make the Tea Parties look like tea parties.  You think you’ve seen incivility before?  Just wait until their issues are at stake.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 02/17/11 at 07:05 PM in Politics   Law, & Economics  • (0) TrackbacksPermalink
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