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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 02/22/2011

Column: Wisconsin is about power, not money

By Ezra Klein

You've probably heard politicians fret that state governments - or, worse, the federal government - will default on their debts. House Speaker John A. Boehner called the prospect of a federal default "a financial disaster not only for our country, but for the worldwide economy." Nasty stuff.

But it's worth asking why a default would be such a problem. Can't we just launch a missile at our creditors, or promise to do better next time? Well, no. Our creditors have power over us. If the actors who make up the entity we loosely refer to as "the market" -- that means everyone from banks to hedge funds to China -- don't get paid back, they'll go nuts. They'll realize we're fiscally irresponsible. They'll stop lending us money, or at least start charging us more when they do. Interest rates will skyrocket, and the economy will grind to a halt.

So America's various governmental entities are looking for ways to avoid defaulting on their debt -- or at least defaulting on their debt to the powerful. That addendum is important, because one of the strategies that's emerging is to default on debt to the less powerful, the people who don't have the power to wreck our economy.

This is a crucial fact about the economy, and one often underplayed by economists: power matters. It's worth more, in many cases, than money. And that's what's really at issue in Wisconsin. It's why Gov. Scott Walker is uninterested in taking concessions from the unions on wages and benefits if they don't come alongside concessions on collective bargaining. What he wants isn't a change in the balance of payments. It's a change in the balance of power.

The deal Wisconsin made with its state employees was simple: Accept lower wages than you could get in the private sector now in return for better pensions and health-care benefits when you retire. Now Walker wants to renege on that deal.

Rather than stiff the banks, in other words, he wants to stiff the teachers -- but the crucial twist he's added, the one that's sent tens of thousands of workers into the streets, is that he wants to make sure they can't fight back once he does it.

The reason you can't stiff bondholders is that they can make a state or country regret reneging on the deals they've made. They can increase borrowing costs far into the future, slowing economic growth and, through the resulting economic pain, throwing politicians out of office. That gives them power. An ordinary teacher does not have access to such artillery. Unless, of course, she's part of a union.

Unions - through collective bargaining, strikes and other means -- give workers power. They make reneging on contracts with their members painful. They also make negotiations less lopsided.

They're not perfect, of course. They sometimes negotiate bad deals, or misbehave, or hand good money over to bad people, or put their short-term interests ahead of the public's long-term interests. But then, so do corporations and politicians.

But their power matters for more than just debt repayment. For all their faults, unions tend to see their constituents as not just their own members, but the "working class," broadly defined. That's why you'll find labor's fingerprints on everything from the two-day weekend to Medicare to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 - none of which require you to flash a union card before you can benefit from them. They act -- quite self-consciously -- as a counterbalance to corporate power. There's no reason, after all, that unions should be leading the fight to see the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy expire. That's political capital they could be spending on reform of the nation's labor laws. And yet they are.

To get a sense of what a world without unions would look like - a world where power is distributed radically differently - you need look no further than Walker's own proposals. In his State of the State speech, he said, "The decisions we face are not easy and the solutions we must approve will require true sacrifice." He's already called for plenty of it from not only state employees, but also the low-income residents who rely on Wisconsin's BadgerCare program.

But some won't have to sacrifice nearly so much. Walker's campaign platform called for sharp cuts in corporate taxes, including "eliminating corporate taxes for the first two years of operation." His budget repair bill proposes to allow the state to sell energy plants "with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state," and goes on to say that "any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest."

What you're seeing there isn't necessarily a world where deficits are lower. Rather, it's a world where power is distributed very differently. You can argue that that's a good thing, though I'm skeptical. But let's not confuse a discussion over political power with a discussion over deficits.

By Ezra Klein  | February 22, 2011; 8:30 AM ET
Categories:  Articles  
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Comments

I agree that this battle is about power, but it is not a two-sided war, but a three-sided triangle because it is pitting the unions against the governor and legislature against the electorate of the state. Even though I am on the side of the unions, I have to admit that I am somewhat worried that they are fighting against the will of the people being expressed through their duly elected representatives. I may not like (in fact I hate it) the will of the people, but this is a democracy, right?

Posted by: AuthorEditor | February 22, 2011 9:31 AM | Report abuse

and likewise it'll be about power and not money when in "X" number of years Democrats reinstate the collective bargaining rights in regards to pension and benefits.


"But some won't have to sacrifice nearly so much. Walker's campaign platform called for sharp cuts in corporate taxes, including "eliminating corporate taxes for the first two years of operation."

So basically you're bashing him for trying to increase employment in his state. Studies long ago showed that 90% of small businesses fail within the first year. He's trying to lower that number. He's not saying that "fill in the blank, nameless, faceless corporate monstrosity" would not pay corporate taxes. He's saying that a "NEW" corporation would not pay corporate taxes for two years while it gets off the ground.

I guess you didn't learn from the false stories that you and Rachel Maddow spread about the budget "surplus". I appreciate you correcting your error but there are a lot of loons out there still running with it which should make you be more responsible when you print these things. Has Rachel admitted her errors?

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Vision nailed it.

Unions were not encouraged in government by the great Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

However, John Kennedy wanted to reward the AFL-CIO, so he signed an executive order to allow federal workers to unionize. Since then, he and other Democrats have continued to consolidate political power from the public sector unions.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

" It's why Gov. Scott Walker is uninterested in taking concessions"


he has a moral obligation, as an elected official, to sit down and negotiate, in order to reach an agreement.
there is no "uninterested in taking concessions," in a democracy.
no man or woman is "above" the democratic process in this country, no matter how militant, close-minded and self-important, they think they are.

Posted by: jkaren | February 22, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

"he has a moral obligation, as an elected official, to sit down and negotiate, in order to reach an agreement."

No, he doesn't.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Ezra:
"The deal Wisconsin made with its state employees was simple: Accept lower wages than you could get in the private sector now in return for better pensions and health-care benefits when you retire."

Yet another falsehood perpetuated by the left. There is a line of college graduates (and post-college grads) who would love to have the jobs held by most of Wisconsin teachers. There isn't an endless supply of lucrative jobs available in the private market that most teachers forgoe to work in public schools.

That's not to bash the teachers, as I believe they provide a valuable service and are entitled to whatever they can earn.

Note: I use the word "earn" here, not "bargain", on purpose to distinguish the good teachers [who don't need a union to protect them] from the sliver of bad teachers [whom to union exists to protect to keep the union dues flowing].

It's patently false to imply most teachers gave up big salaries in the private market in exchange for sub-standard wages in the schools. If that's the case, ask your average teacher in Wisconsin to spend the next month sending out applications to private businesses, and see how any job offers stack up to the salary they are making today.

Posted by: dbw1 | February 22, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

walker doesnt even believe in "collectively bargaining" with other elected officials, that he has an obligation to work with, as governor... no wonder the cornerstone of collective bargaining means nothing to him.

if he is not willing to negotiate, or work with other legislators, but closes the door to further discussion, then he is not able to fulfill his responsibilities as governor, and it is time to look for a way to have him impeached, if he doesnt have the skills or integrity to serve with other legislators.

Posted by: jkaren | February 22, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

jkaren,

the people of Wisonsin spoke clearly on November 2nd 2010 as to what they wanted. They gave Wisconsin overwhelming majorities for Republicans and they knew all along that this is what Governor Walker wanted to do. There was no surprise in this. From what I've read about him this is his "MO" from his days working for the county. If Wisconsin wants change they'll have to wait until their next elections to do so.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

"he has a moral obligation, as an elected official, to sit down and negotiate, in order to reach an agreement."

No, he doesn't.

Posted by: krazen
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

oh yes, he does.
what world do we now live in, where an elected official does not have an obligation to negotiate with other legislators, in order to reach consensus and agreement.
WALKER IS AN ELECTED OFFICIAL OF ALL OF THE PEOPLE IN WISCONSIN.
HE IS NOT A KING.
IT IS TIME TO START LOOKING INTO IMPEACHMENT, IF HE REMAINS UNWILLING TO NEGOTIATE WITH FELLOW LEGISLATORS.

Posted by: jkaren | February 22, 2011 10:14 AM | Report abuse

"he has a moral obligation, as an elected official, to sit down and negotiate, in order to reach an agreement."

No, he doesn't.

-----------------------------------------
So, krazen, you believe that Walker has the right to do this? If so, why?

"Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill proposes sweeping changes to the state's Medicaid programs, changes that could affect many of the 1.2 million state residents enrolled in public health programs like BadgerCare, Family Care, and SeniorCare. The provisions would allow the administration to revamp and even gut the programs without following state laws or the normal legislative processes."

//

"Hugh Davis, executive director of Wisconsin Family Ties, sent an e-mail to Democratic party officials typical of the thousands of e-mails advocates have been forwarding to legislators and other power brokers: "Lost in all the media coverage about worker rights is the fact that SB11/AB11 would grant unprecedented power to the administration to change Medicaid in Wisconsin without going through the full legislature."

"Allowing an unelected official (Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith) to essentially make law in the state, is in my opinion, an egregious violation of the separation of powers. Making law is the province of the legislature. As state democratic leaders are being interviewed by members of the media, please don't forget this onerous provision of the budget repair bill."

http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/health_med_fit/vital_signs/article_7e749b2a-3c97-11e0-94d7-001cc4c03286.html?nstrack=sid:327916|met:100300|cat:0|order:6

Posted by: creolechild | February 22, 2011 10:15 AM | Report abuse

@jkaren "walker doesnt even believe in "collectively bargaining" with other elected officials, that he has an obligation to work with, as governor... no wonder the cornerstone of collective bargaining means nothing to him.

if he is not willing to negotiate, or work with other legislators, but closes the door to further discussion, then he is not able to fulfill his responsibilities as governor, and it is time to look for a way to have him impeached, if he doesnt have the skills or integrity to serve with other legislators. "

Walker isn't the one who fled the state to avoid carrying out his responsibilities as an elected official. He is fully willing to work with the majority in the State Senate.

Rather than impeach the governor, Wisconsin would be better served to declare the empty State Senate seats as abandoned and vacant and hold special elections for those Senators who don't show up by Friday when the budget has to be voted on, or there are consequences to the debt.

Of course all of this is unnecessary. The simpler solution would be to strip the section on public sector organizing from the budget bill and introduce it as a stand alone bill for a straight up or down vote separately. This would resolve the quorum requirements.

Lastly, I would note that there was at least as much opposition to the health care law as there is to the Wisconsin budget bill, but I don't recall many liberal/progressives reconsidering passage in light of the opposition. Instead, the primary focus was on how they could get it through under reconciliation after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 22, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

"If Wisconsin wants change they'll have to wait until their next elections to do so."


that is not good enough.
he has no right to hold a state hostage, by refusing to negotiate, just because he was elected.
if someone is not fulfilling their responsibilities as a legislator, it is not good enough, in a democracy, to say that people have to put up with an unjust leader, until their term expires.
people smarter than myself, should be looking for ways to have him impeached, if he is recalcitrant to negotiate and find consensus.
that is why he was elected.
that is the basis of holding an office in the united states....the ability to REACH CONSENSUS, in a fair way....not by shutting down communication, and forcing legislators to flee.

Posted by: jkaren | February 22, 2011 10:19 AM | Report abuse

"So, krazen, you believe that Walker has the right to do this? If so, why?"


States have the legally established right to deny collective sector bargaining rights. This has been the case since North Carolina did it in 1959. The legislature also has the right to delegate Medicaid administration; this has been done on the federal level.

In any case, Walker already negotiated with the legislators. This bill has a majority for passage. That is why the Democrats are resorting to thuggish ILLEGAL tactics.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

"if someone is not fulfilling their responsibilities as a legislator, it is not good enough, in a democracy, to say that people have to put up with an unjust leader, until their term expires."

This describes the Senate Democrats - the Wisconsin 14.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

LOL. Yeah, how dare the Wisconsin Democrats try to flout the will of the majority? That's like 40 US Senators blocking the will of the other 60. Unimaginable!

Posted by: stonedone | February 22, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

"Walker isn't the one who fled the state to avoid carrying out his responsibilities as an elected official.?:"


he has forced them to flee, because he is unwilling to negotiate with them.
if he is not willing to negotiate with fellow legislators on a philosophical cornerstone of our system....then, he doesnt deserve to be governor.
now is the time to be looking for ways to have him impeached, if he continues be recalcitrant.
HE IS A GOVERNOR, NOT A KING.
he has no right to take away a philosophical cornerstone of our country, by shutting down a dialogue.
HE IS A GOVERNOR, NOT A KING.

Posted by: jkaren | February 22, 2011 10:26 AM | Report abuse

@jkaren ""If Wisconsin wants change they'll have to wait until their next elections to do so."


that is not good enough.
he has no right to hold a state hostage, by refusing to negotiate, just because he was elected.
if someone is not fulfilling their responsibilities as a legislator, it is not good enough, in a democracy, to say that people have to put up with an unjust leader, until their term expires.
people smarter than myself, should be looking for ways to have him impeached, if he is recalcitrant to negotiate and find consensus.
that is why he was elected.
that is the basis of holding an office in the united states....the ability to REACH CONSENSUS, in a fair way....not by shutting down communication, and forcing legislators to flee."

This position really is absurd in light of how progressives/liberals went about passing health care reform. Remember "elections have consequences" from President Obama?

There was no "consensus" reached. The Democrats had a majority in both houses of Congress and the Presidency, so they passed what they wanted to pass regardless of unanimous Republican opposition.

The only people holding the state "hostage" are the Democratic state senators who fled the state to avoid having to carry out their constitutionally mandated duties. That's why the State Senate sergeant at arms can have them arrested if they come back.

More fundamentally, as President Obama noted before the election these are the consequences when progressives/liberals/Democrats decide to "take their ball and go home" during the midterm elections and thus prove that they "weren't serious in the first place."

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/obama-in-command-br-the-rolling-stone-interview-20100928?page=7

Posted by: jnc4p | February 22, 2011 10:30 AM | Report abuse

jkaren,

if they had any basis to impeach him (which they don't) the Dems and unions would have conspired to do this already.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

"LOL. Yeah, how dare the Wisconsin Democrats try to flout the will of the majority? That's like 40 US Senators blocking the will of the other 60. Unimaginable"


Are liberals this stupid in real life, or do they just not believe in the Constitution and the Quorum Clause?

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

"he has no right to take away a philosophical cornerstone of our country, by shutting down a dialogue."

Fiction. Unionization in the public sector didn't exist for the first 170 years of our nation's existence.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

""Walker isn't the one who fled the state to avoid carrying out his responsibilities as an elected official.?:"


he has forced them to flee, because he is unwilling to negotiate with them.
if he is not willing to negotiate with fellow legislators on a philosophical cornerstone of our system....then, he doesnt deserve to be governor.
now is the time to be looking for ways to have him impeached, if he continues be recalcitrant.
HE IS A GOVERNOR, NOT A KING.
he has no right to take away a philosophical cornerstone of our country, by shutting down a dialogue.
HE IS A GOVERNOR, NOT A KING."

The "philosophical cornerstone of our country" is majority rule, as decided through elections.

And the proof that he is a Governor and not a king is that the bill has to be passed by both houses of the Wisconsin legislature, not promulgated by edict. Given that a majority of both houses support the bill, there is nothing undemocratic about it in the least.

All this incident proves is that when it comes to hyperbole and excessive rhetoric (remember the need for "civility" after Tucson) liberal/progressives can hang with the Tea Party any day of the week.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 22, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

for those of you out there crying this is the "end of unions" that's a load of garbage. You all know that once Dems are put back into power this will be the first thing they put right back into place and probably they'll overstep a bit too.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

"The only people holding the state "hostage" are the Democratic state senators who fled the state to avoid having to carry out their constitutionally mandated duties. That's why the State Senate sergeant at arms can have them arrested if they come back."

there is a larger principle at stake here.
the important right for collective bargaining is a philosophical cornerstone in our country.
walker is not above the democratic process to take away important and hard-won rights of the american people.
he has no right to do that, he is not a king.
if these state senators are arrested, it will be for upholding and fighting for the rights of americans, against a governor, who has no right to strip them away, by ARBITRARILY shutting down the democratic process.

Posted by: jkaren | February 22, 2011 10:40 AM | Report abuse

I guess we've got a new "Party of NO" don't we.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 10:42 AM | Report abuse

SEE THE DAILY KOS DIARY RE. THE KOCH INDUSTRIES WANTING TO BUY THE WISCONSIN POWER PLANTS ,,, I THINK THIS IS AT THE BACK OF THE WHOLE THING !

Posted by: sligowoman | February 22, 2011 10:44 AM | Report abuse

@sligowoman,

Ya i saw that liberal conspiracy theory about the Koch's running the wires. I agree that these energy deals should not be "no bid". heck nothing should be no bid nowadays but they're taking a giant leap (as usual) to assume this is payback for contriubtions. Where's the actual proof??? Also they're forgetting the perverse relationship between unions an Dems. Unions give more than 90% to democrats, 200 million in the 2010 election cycle. At least big business splits up more evenly their distribution of political contributions.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 10:53 AM | Report abuse

jkaren:

It's amazing, the hypocrisy of liberals and Democrats. Remember 2009, when they believed the elections of 2008 gave them carte-blanche to pass every pipe-dream of progessive ideaology, since the elections supposedly gave them a referendom to do so?

Funny how the story changes when it's the GOP that is swept into power. Suddenly Republicans have a 'moral responsibility' to negotiate? Where was that 'moral responsibility' during the health care reform debates, when Republicans were shut out of all negotiating sessions held by Obama and Pelosi for a year....and were only invited to the table after Scott Brown's election cost Democrats their iron-fisted majority?

Posted by: dbw1 | February 22, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

@jkaren "if these state senators are arrested, it will be for upholding and fighting for the rights of americans, against a governor, who has no right to strip them away, by if these state senators are arrested, it will be for upholding and fighting for the rights of americans, against a governor, who has no right to strip them away, by ARBITRARILY shutting down the democratic process. "

The democratic process is to have an election, introduce a bill, debate the bill, then vote on it. All of which has happened here, except for the vote.

The only people "ARBITRARILY shutting down the democratic process" are those Democratic State Senators who fled the state to do precisely that. And were quite clear about their intentions in doing so.

Posted by: jnc4p | February 22, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

jkaren:
"there is a larger principle at stake here.
the important right for collective bargaining is a philosophical cornerstone in our country."

Ok, now I think we are getting a little carried away here. I'm willing to give unions some props, but calling them a 'philosophical cornerstone' of our country is beyond reasonable seeing as how our country thrived fairly well for over a hundred years before unionized labor became any sort of signficant factor.

Unless, of course, you count the violence committed by the small segment of labor unions that did exist before the 20th century...but that wouldn't make sense, since violence only exists on the right of the political spectrum, correct?

Posted by: dbw1 | February 22, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

If an agreement was struck and agreed to (whatever it was) it needs to be abided by for the good of the agreement. If there's a question concerning teachers and education, this needs to be addressed at another time in another forum.

The union is representing all of whoever it represents and can't divide out the good versus the bad.

No matter what party anyone belongs to there is a biblical obligation to fairly administer to the will of the people as fairly as is possible (or reasonable) and to do so honestly and straightforward so that all understand what's taking place.

Union's wouldn't exist if we operated by the King James.

Posted by: OpinionME | February 22, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

"The only people "ARBITRARILY shutting down the democratic process" are those Democratic State Senators who fled the state to do precisely that. And were quite clear about their intentions in doing so."

because you cannot arbitrarily remove a cornerstone principle of american life, in the way in which he is trying to do it.
there is a LARGER PRINCIPLE at stake here.
and as for this comment:
"That's why the State Senate sergeant at arms can have them arrested if they come back."
that will be a new sight in the united states....
arresting state senators for fleeing from a state, because the governor shut down the democratic process, and tried to remove one of the hard-earned rights of american working people.
just let's see what happens here, if state senators are put in jail.
it wont be a pretty sight, in american politics.
and because a governor thought he had the right to come into office and dismantle part of the foundation for the rights of working people, in this country, UNFAIRLY.
governor brown will have his hands full, if state senators are arrested in wisconsin.
HE WILL EFFECTIVELY MARTYR THOSE SENATORS.
they will become heroes of all of the working people, and all people who value the right of collective bargaining, as a working principle in a democracy.

Posted by: jkaren | February 22, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

jkaren:
"arresting state senators for fleeing from a state, because the governor shut down the democratic process..."

Democrats sure seem to have a funny view of what constitutes the 'democratic process'. A duly elected governor and a duly elected legislature proposed legislation to be voted upon, which I think pretty much follows exactly the 'democratic process'.

The Democrats are invited to participate in the 'democratic process' and cast their vote, but instead choose to hijack the proceedings by running like cowards for the neighboring state?

Democrats only seem to favor the 'democratic process' when they hold filibuster-proof overwhelming majorities. Otherwise, they seem to gravitate toward disrupting and thwarting the 'democratic process'.

And speaking of 'democratic process', how's that card-check legislation that would deny union members the basic right to cast a secret ballot coming along?

Posted by: dbw1 | February 22, 2011 11:21 AM | Report abuse

"he has a moral obligation, as an elected official, to sit down and negotiate, in order to reach an agreement."

He has a moral obligation not to steal from his constituents and use their money on what he deems useful. There is no moral obligation to haggle over how many stolen dollars go towards any given political constituency.

Posted by: justin84 | February 22, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

"
that will be a new sight in the united states....

arresting state senators for fleeing from a state, because the governor shut down the democratic process, and tried to remove one of the hard-earned rights of american working people.
"

"because you cannot arbitrarily remove a cornerstone principle of american life, in the way in which he is trying to do it."


You are colossally, profoundly ignorant of American history.

The quorum clause, and arrests due to violations of the quorum clause, have existed for 225 years.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 11:30 AM | Report abuse

@jkaren ""That's why the State Senate sergeant at arms can have them arrested if they come back."
that will be a new sight in the united states....
arresting state senators for fleeing from a state, because the governor shut down the democratic process, and tried to remove one of the hard-earned rights of american working people.
just let's see what happens here, if state senators are put in jail.
it wont be a pretty sight, in american politics.
and because a governor thought he had the right to come into office and dismantle part of the foundation for the rights of working people, in this country, UNFAIRLY.
governor brown will have his hands full, if state senators are arrested in wisconsin.
HE WILL EFFECTIVELY MARTYR THOSE SENATORS.
they will become heroes of all of the working people, and all people who value the right of collective bargaining, as a working principle in a democracy."

They won't be put in jail. They will be brought to the capital and delivered to the State Senate Sargent at Arms to help fill the quorum and then the vote can take place. The Democratic State Senators can then vote yes, no, or present if they prefer.

Note also that this was done by the Democrats in Congress back in the 1980's.

"Packwood Arrested, Carried to Senate in Filibuster Showdown

Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) was carried feet first into the Senate chamber by Capitol Police early today as Democrats ordered the arrest of absent senators in a dramatic filibuster showdown over a Democratic bill on spending in senatorial campaigns.

Packwood's arrest came after Democrats forced filibustering Republicans to hold the Senate floor in nonstop session through the night in an attempt to wear down their opposition to the bill.

But as midnight approached, Republicans called the Democrats' bluff by ordering a series of quorum calls and then vanishing, leaving only Minority Whip Alan K. Simpson (Wyo.) to hold the floor. Democrats were unable to muster a quorum on their own and, in a highly unusual move, voted to have the sergeant at arms arrest absent senators in a move to keep the Senate in session until a quorum of at least 51 senators could be obtained."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/30/AR2009063001596.html

David Brooks had an apt description of your position today:

"Walker’s critics are amusingly Orwellian. They liken the crowd in Madison to the ones in Tunisia and claim to be fighting for democracy. Whatever you might say about Walker, he and the Republican majorities in Wisconsin were elected, and they are doing exactly what they told voters they would do. It’s the Democratic minority that is thwarting the majority will by fleeing to Illinois. It’s the left that has suddenly embraced extralegal obstructionism."

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/opinion/22brooks.html?ref=opinion

Posted by: jnc4p | February 22, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

@jnc4p

I'm pretty sure jkaren is a toddler. Any rational adult wouldn't continuously scream 'cornerstone, cornerstone, cornerstone' without a shred of evidence.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

"There is no moral obligation to haggle over how many stolen dollars go towards any given political constituency."
" Any rational adult wouldn't continuously scream 'cornerstone, cornerstone, cornerstone' without a shred of evidence"

this is what collective bargaining represents to millions of americans...your insults and cynicism, notwithstanding.
and for millions of americans, it is a right that no single governor can threaten to take away from workers.


"The right to collectively bargain is recognised through international human rights conventions. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies the ability to organize trade unions as a fundamental human right.[3] Item 2(a) of the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work defines the "freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining" as an essential right of workers."

Posted by: jkaren | February 22, 2011 11:40 AM | Report abuse

@jkaren ""The right to collectively bargain is recognised through international human rights conventions. Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights identifies the ability to organize trade unions as a fundamental human right.[3] Item 2(a) of the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work defines the "freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining" as an essential right of workers.""

The National Labor Relations (or Wagner) Act of 1935 is actually the controlling law in the United States on this. Public employees are specifically excluded from having a "right" to organize as a union.

"The National Labor Relations Act or Wagner Act (after its sponsor, Senator Robert F. Wagner) (Pub.L. 74-198, 49 Stat. 449, codified as amended at 29 U.S.C. § 151–169), is a 1935 United States federal law that limits the means with which employers may react to workers in the private sector who create labor unions, engage in collective bargaining, and take part in strikes and other forms of concerted activity in support of their demands. The Act does not apply to workers who are covered by the Railway Labor Act, agricultural employees, domestic employees, supervisors, federal, state or local government workers, independent contractors and some close relatives of individual employers."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Labor_Relations_Act

Posted by: jnc4p | February 22, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

@jkaren - If you haven't seen this before, you may wish to read it:

"The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable."

Franklin D. Roosevelt - Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service August 16, 1937

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15445

Posted by: jnc4p | February 22, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Walker campaigned on a lot of things that I opposed.

He campaigned on giving back the money for High Speed Rail. I think that was stupid and short sighted. But he said he was going to do it, and he won. OK.

He campaigned on cost cutting. I don't think that's the right solution by itself. But he said he was going to do it, and he won. OK.

He campaigned on lowering taxes for some. I think that's the wrong approach. But he said he was going to do it, and he won. OK.

He did NOT campaign on changing an established (40 - 50 years) and successful (look at our schools and our state services) policy.
He did NOT campaign on selling state assets no-bid.
He did NOT campaign on replacing career civil service positions with spoils appointments.
He did not say that he was going to do any of that.
He did not win on any of those things.
NOT OK.

Note. A "budget repair bill" is supposed to be used ONLY to fix a current budget, ending June 30. He is using it as a power grab. He is using it to make permanent changes. NOT OK.

To jncp4 who said ".. strip the section on public sector organizing from the budget bill and introduce it as a stand alone bill for a straight up or down vote..". The Senate Majority Leader tried to do just that earlier this week. He withdrew it, apparently because did not have the votes in his own caucus.

To those who complain that the unions don't give enough to Republicans. The Republican party opposes unions. Unions should support that policy because....?

Posted by: bill_who | February 22, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

@bill_who

The Democrats didn't campaign on running to Illinois, did they?

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining" as an essential right of workers."

Do employers get to enjoy the freedom of association as well? And the right not to work with unions?

Posted by: justin84 | February 22, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

@billwho,

wouldn't it also work the other way around, "Why would Republicans support union policies if they don't donate to them?"

And then we had another drummed up criticism of Governor Walker that said that he received donations from the firefighters and police union so that's why he kept them out of this deal. I guess if they were in cahoots together firefighters and police wouldn't be protesting like they are.


Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Once more, the posters on this blog are showing the rest of us (as if we needed reminding) how people who are so convinced they are right are boring.

Posted by: nickthap | February 22, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Ezra's right, this is about power, not deficits. The ability of public employees to collectively bargain in 2020 is not related to the deficit faced by Wisconsin this year. The state government made a deal with its employees that it finds inconvenient or untenable now, and rather than renegotiate in good faith, they're hoping they can just walk away from the deal with fewer negative impacts than they would face walking away from their creditors.

This isn't to say that the current deal is unchangeable. Parties in both the public and private sector enter into agreements all the time that are made untenable by changed circumstances or unanticipated realities. It happens. The solution is the renegotiate, not unilaterally change. Workers need something to give them power vis a vis their employers, and this is about taking away that option.

Posted by: MosBen | February 22, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

People: Regardless which government enacted the law, permission and the right to collectively bargain exists.

I perceive the union is fighting for, among other things, the answer to the questions: Are government employees at fault for the fiscal mess and if yes, what should be done? More than the current request, less, something else and where does it end?

I am wondering how government employees got tangled up and targeted to take the blame (for lack of a better word) for subprime mortgages which lead to housing foreclosures, Bernie Madoff enterprises where wealthy people expected to become wealthier, the Middle East misunderstanding(s) where former President Bush was more interested in going after Sadam than Osama, oil spill in the Gulf, hurrican Katrina, and other issues that has caused this country to financially flip into the red.

Is the hunt for a scape goat and a large government workforce is the target? Do we want everyone to submit a pint of blood? What is it?

Posted by: OpinionME | February 22, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Scott Walker's previous union-busting (to address budget "crisis") fiasco:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/113212479.html

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 22, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Governor Walker:

For the record, the governor told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the charge that he was exempting police and firefighters was "ridiculous." He said he didn't recommend changing the rules for police officers and firefighters because he didn’t want public safety work disrupted.

The public sector unions are engaged in fascism; the idea that our democracy is blackmailed by it's workers at the threat of physical harm, which is the implied threat of a police or firefighter strike or its equivalent slow down is fascism. Along with "card check" physical intimidation, this should cause shame in any one who supports it. There is a quote from FDR going around that "militant tactics" associated with labor unions do not belong in the public sector because the government's work ought not to be hindered because it is so essential.

Moreover, in what is a power grab by the Democrats the disregard for the education of our poorest children is overwhelmingly obvious. Whatever else one might say about the absurd public school system we have, whatever economies might be had involving teacher pay and whatever increased ability we have to fire mediocre teachers at will (if they are wrongly fired, the private sector will "scoop" them up), is all to the children's benefit.

Like the slavery they championed 150 years ago, and the Jim Crow laws they championed 50 years ago, this quasi-slavery of both school children and the hard working voters and taxpayers ove all income levels will be the Democratic Party's shame. Somehow you'll pretend it was you "liberals" who were so viscious, but it is here and now.

You'll fail. You've succeeded in ruining other nations, but you'll fail here "democrats." The USA is too noble, strong, intelligent, brave, and free.

Posted by: Commenting1 | February 22, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

People: Wisconsin isn't unlike other states experiencing fiscal issues. The federal government has forced salary freezes to its workforce - its a shame to do that to the military who (in my opinion) don't get paid enough. The federal workforce is being asked to go on furlough, something about high 5 versus high 3, etc. and I'm wondering how and why government workforces became a target in the financial issues that plague the nation.

Let's just say for the sake of an argument, that all government employees comply with whatever their states and federal governments request, how will the problem be solved and how long will the problem be solved?

If government employee's didn't cause the problem(s) is this the way we want to answer the question?

Posted by: OpinionME | February 22, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"Ezra's right, this is about power, not deficits."


Yep. That's how public unions got formed federally in the first place, thanks to John Kennedy and the AFL-CIO.

Posted by: krazen1211 | February 22, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

"This is what I mean by my constant insistence on 'moderation' in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

- President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 22, 2011 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Commenting:

It's like you never learned anything in school about history (not suprising)

Just for n aexample of your bizarre thought process, how will the private sector "scoop" up the children from the poorest in the public school system. Who will pay? Do you want to publicly support that system as well with tax dollars?

The things you write make no sense on any level.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 22, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Ezra's right, this is about power, not deficits. The ability of public employees to collectively bargain in 2020 is not related to the deficit faced by Wisconsin this year.

Posted by: MosBen | February 22, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

yes but MosBen they'll be right back there with the same problems in 2020 when/if the Dems regain power and hand those concessions back to the unions.

As a commenter here the other day said we should keep surpluses in place (unlike was done in our state of NJ) for "rainy days" and then we wouldn't need to raise taxes or cut services during times of a deficit.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

vision wrote:

"yes but MosBen they'll be right back there with the same problems in 2020 when/if the Dems regain power and hand those concessions back to the unions."

That's called an election. Isn't that the argument the Walker is making right now, that when you win you can do what you want? Why can't the Dems change things IF they resume power?

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 22, 2011 2:50 PM | Report abuse

visionbrkr, this year, with collective bargaining in place, the public employees have agreed to concessions based on the current economic reality. If the economic reality improves, then maybe the public employees will ask for some benefit based on that economic reality. Maybe everyone involved in that latter negotiation will agree to establishing a rainy day fund, but that's another issue. If in 2020 the economic reality requires the parties to revisit the deal, then that's what they can do. That they have to negotiate does not doom them to making bad deals or being locked into bad deals if the situation changes.

We're still feeling the effects from a once-in-a-lifetime economic collapse. Lots of people are hurting, and the public employees in Wisconsin seem willing to take a haircut because of the changed circumstances. Why does that mean we should abandon the practice of negotiating entirely?

Posted by: MosBen | February 22, 2011 3:04 PM | Report abuse

@johnmarshall,

yes it is. that's their right in the election to do that and its my right to point out the perversion of the system and the reason behind that perversion. And when they vote out Governor Walker then they can act up on that and until then we have a new "Party of No" that i'd be real ticked off at if i was a Wisconsin taxpayer.


@MosBen,

I've changed my position on this becasue of the fact that I don't believe that TRUE negotations actually take place. If they did then I'd be fine with this being able to continue. But when benefits like this are put in place that are so far outside the realm of the rest of the country then obviously our Representatives are being cajoled to give greater benefits to those political contributors. If they're not then they're really horrible negotiators and need to be fired.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

vision:

This is about ending the right to unionize, and really about the GOP's attack on the whole New Deal structure of government. The New Deal shifted ownership of the government away from business, where it had always been toward at 50-50 partnership on some level.

Starting with the Reagan administration, that whole theory of government as an intercessor for the common people has been chipped away in ways even Reagan wouldn't recognize.

As I wrote this morning, the idea that a worldwide financial crisis initiated in the real estate industry and on Wall Street can be used to destroy uninvolved unions while enriching the same people who caused the crisis is an extraordinary testament to the power of money and disinformation over the gullibility of the American people as a whole!

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 22, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Would all the parrots who are citing FDR state, on the record, their support for a return to the 1937 ratio between employee and executive compensation? And 1937 tax rates?

Trying to use New Deal rhetoric to argue for New Gilded Age policies shows either pathetic ignorance or pathetic deceit.

Posted by: pseudonymousinnc | February 22, 2011 4:18 PM | Report abuse

johnmarshall,

As I said I'd be fine with him reinstating the right to unionize if the union negotiations were actual, well negotiations. Divise a system to do that and I'm on board with reinstating the negotiating rights. But again it has to be two groups that are diametrically opposed or pretty close to it for it to be an actual negotation. I do some benefits negotiation in what I do and trust me there's a reason they call them "cadillac plans".


And the fact that Wall St was responsible and the mortgage industry is correct but he point is the strucutral deficits were there even without those issues. They just forced them to be looked at years earlier than would have been because of the recession.

Either way come 2019 these cadillac plans are going away or unions are going to pay dearly (40% excise tax) to keep these benefits that aren't nearly worth that.

Posted by: visionbrkr | February 22, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

psuedo:

I may be thick, but it's not really clear who you're attacking here. LOL

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | February 22, 2011 5:30 PM | Report abuse

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