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Posted at 5:11 PM ET, 02/23/2011

The mood in Wisconsin

By Ezra Klein

Eric Kleefeld reports from Gov. Scott Walker's news conference:

The first questioner asked Walker whether he could be trusted to negotiate in good faith, given he had discussed with "Koch" methods of tricking the Democrats into coming back to the Capitol building, and after he alluded to having considered bringing "troublemakers" into the crowds.

"For us I think it's real simple. First I want to say I take phone calls all the time," Walker said, before being interrupted by a reporter in the crowd who yelled, "Not mine!" ... Regarding the idea of planting agitators in the crowds, Walker said: "We've had all sorts of options brought to us by staff and lawmakers and people across the state, but as you heard we dismissed them."

Regarding the idea of bringing the Democrats into the Capitol to talk, only to have the Republicans use their presence in the building to declare the Senate in session for the budget -- as Walker said, "I'm not negotiating" -- Walker said: "I'm willing to talk, but ultimately I think it has to lead to a vote. I don't think that's a trick."

When the Q&A was over, Democratic state Rep. Brett Hulsey -- who had gotten in the room before the press conference began, took the governor's podium to give his own remarks and to take questions from reporters.

At this point, some young staffers from the governor's office opened the double doors wide so that the sounds of the thousands of protesters came pouring in, drowning out Hulsey. The reporters then asked for the doors to be closed, but the young men stayed at the doors, keeping them fully open.

As I wrote earlier, it's very easy to imagine a deal that defuses the situation in Wisconsin and lets everyone declare some sort of victory. What's hard to imagine is Walker making that deal.

By Ezra Klein  | February 23, 2011; 5:11 PM ET
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Next: Reconciliation


Governance, like Coase theorem, requires sunshine and good faith to work.

Posted by: arm3 | February 23, 2011 5:48 PM | Report abuse

Walker and his crew obviously have the mentality of thugs. He's all weaselly evasions, double-talk, and cute stunts. He wouldn't even acknowledge that the union has already compromised on pay and benefits. Does Wisconsin have recall elections?

Posted by: steveandshelley | February 23, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

walker is in way over his head, now.
the more stiff-necked he is, the worse things are getting, for him.
he could be his own aesop's fable.

Posted by: jkaren | February 23, 2011 7:13 PM | Report abuse

It's time to try putting the pressure on repubs who are supporting his play. It's time for recall petitions on all repubs. If he looses their support he is toast. If you can't recall him, recall his supporters.

Posted by: altmangrp | February 23, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

It's time to start recall petitions on the repub supporters in the state. Put pressure on wisc state senate, and if a few fold he is toast. There must be a few in unsecure seats who may be reasonable.

Posted by: altmangrp | February 23, 2011 7:58 PM | Report abuse

I wonder what this means for a presidential bid? What does Paul Ryan have to say about this? Is there a connection between Ryan and Koch? This impersonator should have called him too!!!! How does Mr. Plale fit in??? What a tangled web we weave. At least this takes the attention off of Rod Blagojevich!! How much wood could a woodchuck,,,ah, never mind.

Posted by: HarveyHefflenbecher | February 23, 2011 8:00 PM | Report abuse

All of FDR's concerns about public unions have come true; they've used their power to wreck government service, e.g., we spend 300% more on education with no result except incredibly well paid teachers and administrators. On average $100,000/year for a 7 month job (180 days a year) virtually self-supervized is too much for that job. That's just the average; why is any teacher in public schools making more than that? The answer is, of course, to provide taxpayer funding to the Democratic Party. This is wrong and the saddest part is the most acute victims are the poorest of our children, particularly minority children. Those children, compounding the travesty, often have such horrific homes that school is their only hope of becoming different than their often violent and viscious parents and family.

I remind you, the Democrats created the modern urban ghettos in the 60s and 70s via public unions and various other means. Finally Republicans are turning back the tide.

Posted by: Commenting1 | February 23, 2011 8:50 PM | Report abuse

--*[I]t's very easy to imagine a deal that defuses the situation in Wisconsin*--

Yeah, get the government out of the education business. Rescind the stupid mandatory attendance laws, return all the stolen education money to its rightful owners, and I guarantee Wisconsin will do better than the 34% literacy rate among government-"educated" 8th graders.

Here's a TED video that Klein isn't likely to link to:

The government (in collusion with the unions) is ruining education. Get it out.

Posted by: msoja | February 23, 2011 9:13 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, you want a deal where everybody wins?
How can you imagine that teachers who walk out on the kids or urge them to march on the capitol, now need to be rewarded? Can you imagine if you were a Wisconsin parent of a public school child..
a.) how disruptive the wildcat strike would be
b.) how dicey it would be to say how you really feel about the public unions and then send your children into the hands of these teachers who may well retaliate against the children of those who don't toe the union line.
c.) how simply dangerous things are becoming as the state is occupied by out of state union muscle designed to intimidate the citizens of Wisconsin.
d.) how odd it is to have out of state thugs who are apparently presidentially approved telling teachers and public workers to walk off their jobs.
Ezra, maybe you just don't know any better, maybe you come from a class of folks who just despise everyday people and don't really understand what it's like to get a paycheck just stripped bare by taxes, go to the store and get eaten alive by sales taxes, buy a house and have the property taxes go through the roof and then realize that most of that money goes to the care and feeding of the "public servants" ....folks who can never be fired, folks who have little or no concern about their retirements and golden plated health care... Ezra, I get the feeling that you are part of the riding in the wagon class rather than part of the pulling the wagon team.
You seem to see unleashing New York thugs in Wisconsin to threaten the elected representatives as standard operating procedure I want these thugs to go out of this state....
Why don't you do a piece on the percentage of union members who continue to pay those dues if they are not forced to do so... that would be enlightening?

Posted by: Cheesy1959 | February 23, 2011 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Commenting1 is spouting ridiculous numbers with no basis in reality. My wife has been a public school teacher in Wisconsin for 14 years. She makes significantly less than half of the $100000 claimed as an average. I'd be stunned if you could find any teachers making that ridiculous number, much less half. Benefits cost an average about $25000 per year here, so even adding that on it would be a very rare teacher getting anywhere near $100000. As to it being a 7 month job, they get 8 weeks off in the summer and 1 vacation day during the school year. The 2,3,or 4 weeks of vacation any other professional with a college degree gets more than covers time off for in year breaks.

Posted by: ekescher | February 23, 2011 10:36 PM | Report abuse

I will continue to keep posting this comment so long as the conservative commenters keep spreading myths.

As everyone now knows the workers have agreed to give up compensation. The fight is to take away the basic right to collective bargaining, to take us back to the early 1900's. Where is Upton Sinclair now that we need him?

But look, my Dad always told me, "Look at the bottom line, Leonard." Here the bottom line is whether public workers get more in total compensation than comparable private ones. The data are clear. There are many studies. Here are two:

"Jeffrey Keefe, an associate professor at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, said public employees do not make more than comparable private employees. According to Keefe, comparing private and public employees with the same educational level, experience and work schedule shows private employees make 11 percent more in wages and 5 percent more in total compensation than public workers."

The nonpartisan National Institute on Retirement Security found that, on average, total compensation is 6.8 percent less for state employees and 7.4 percent less for local employees than for comparable non-government workers.

And here is a different bottom line.

Only five states do not allow collective bargaining for educators. Those states and their ranking on ACT/SAT scores: South Carolina, 50th; North Carolina, 49th; Georgia, 48th; Texas, 47th; Virginia, 44th. Wisconsin, with its collective bargaining for teachers, is 2nd.

Posted by: lensch | February 24, 2011 7:16 AM | Report abuse

It's refreshing to see activism kicking again in WI and in the middle east. I haven't seen much of it since the 70's while in junior HS, and during the 80's and 90's we pretty much went to sleep while we became a very materialistic society. Activism is the heart of democracy. It's good to be vocal against injustice.

If we let conservatives have their will, aka Mr. Walker, wages for the average American will be driven down to poverty levels. Capitalism is healthy, but it needs checks and balances and a counterweight. Capitalism does not have a conscience. The American middle class must be preserved. I am not a huge fan of unions, but they do protect the middle class against capitalistic greed by wealthy merchants.

We need to break out of the mentality that our budget problems cannot be solved by raising taxes. What a ridiculous position. The ONLY way we can fix the deficit mess is by making a combination of prudent and intelligent budget cuts and raising taxes. The only way Mr. Walker seems to think he can fix his state deficit is to cut taxes on corporations and decimate public jobs. There are better ways.

Posted by: gfoster56 | February 24, 2011 7:23 AM | Report abuse

Democrat Representative Michael Capuano from The Socialist Peoples of Massachusetts spoke in front of a group of striking workers in Wisconsin. These people were carrying pictures claiming the new governor and Hitler were separated at birth. These same people carried signs showing Scott Walker’s head in the crosshairs. The same people carrying signs claiming that they were here to gang-bang Fox News anchors - the way Lara Logan got handled in Egypt. These are same workers who are making death threats against Ann Althouse for covering their activities in Madison, WI. Here’s the wit and wisdom that the Congressman had to offer.

“Every once and awhile you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary.”

Just who’s blood do you recommend spilling here, Congressman? What gives you the right to be such a filthy, war-mongering pig against your very own people? Are the people the union strikes against not also your fellow Americans, Congressman? Have these people on strike not shown the propensity to violate the laws of state and common decency?

Posted by: NO-bama | February 24, 2011 8:54 AM | Report abuse

The republican mantra of cutting taxes is not healthy for this country as is historically evident. Yet, democrats capitulated and even piled it on in the fateful December compromise. Now we have these budget shortfalls, much of which has been self-inflicted because of all these revenue cuts, and the American worker is taking the brunt of the blame. State capitals are under protest, as public workers are being made the scapegoat. Their rights as union members are being stripped all with the help of large corporate contributors and benefactors. The Democratic political base is under attack and all we hear from elected leaders is compromise with the attackers.
Soon it will be too late. Soon the backbone of this nation will have been so beaten and bloodied that recovery, if possible at all, will be measured in decades not years. The rich have amassed all the wealth. Corporations have amassed all the power. What do we the American working class get? Evidently, the right to live work and die as surfs in the new American reality.

Posted by: jdschaf | February 24, 2011 9:24 AM | Report abuse

--*The fight is to take away the basic right to collective bargaining, to take us back to the early 1900's. Where is Upton Sinclair now that we need him?*--

Yeah, those Wisconsin classrooms (with their 34% literacy rate) are the sweatshop/factory towns of the new millennium. Really.

Posted by: msoja | February 24, 2011 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, you need to have the docors check the blood flow coming from the right carotid artery, which is well underperforming the blood dupply being delivered to the left side of your brain.

This interview, hyped by MSNBC as so damning is much ado about nothing.

And as for the open doors that made it hard for Brett Hulsy to be heard, how about protestors shouting over Fox News correspondents and even MSNBC broadcasts when someone supporting the governor was being interviewed.

Posted by: buggerianpaisley1 | February 24, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

You say that teachers don't make $100k...
but rather they make "less than half of that"
There is a web site, I think it's called "sunshine" or some such thing that lists the exact salary and benefit package of each and every public teacher in the state.
I looked at a sprinkle of teachers in the small towns I know well and while there is some variation I would say that most small town teachers have pay and benefit packages in the $70,000-$80,000 range....
The web sites also list the "percentage of full time" and that seems to be running in the low 60% range... so I would submit that on a proportional basis these teachers, if they were actually had full time rather than part time jobs the implied pay/benefit package would be bouncing right around $100,000.
In the bigger cities the teachers make more.
In any case, I think that most people would agree that the present "health and welfare" deal is corrupted by the sticky fingers of the union bosses. From what I understand, the present system of giving all of the healthcare funds to the union bosses and letting them "shop" for insurance is costing the citizens of Wisconsin $68 million a year.
That's about $12 for every man woman and child in Wisconsin being slipped into the back pockets of the union bosses... Nice Huh!
And let's face it, if these unions weren't all mobbed up there would be dissent, there would be a few teachers brave enough to call for an end to it... the painful silence from the folks whose union dues are being stolen against their will, the absolute toeing the line by the members says one thing to me, these people are afraid of their union bosses.
They are like abused children afraid to speak out held in sway by a class of union thugs who hand these local down from father to son like family heirlooms... if you piss those guys off you're gone.
Look at that protest at Walker's home... some little local union thug orders 2,000 oherwise sane people to go and yell at somebody's kids, and they do it! That tells me that there is something amiss here.
If some parent said just what I'm saying here, out loud in the presence of teachers or God Forbid a union thug, can you honestly tell me that his children wouldn't be retaliated against?
The teachers really shouldn't be gang members it's not good for the society...
For God's sake man, they're making death threats againt the Governor.

Posted by: Cheesy1959 | February 24, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Hey cheesy - You got the wrong guy. I never said that teachers don't make 100K. I simply pointed out that public workers receive less total compensation than comparable private ones, and that states that forbid collective bargaining for teacher don't do so hot preparing likds for college.

Posted by: lensch | February 24, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

There should be an immediate investigation of the things Gov. Walker said on that phone call. He admits to one crime outright when he says that he and his aides discussed sending thugs out to cause violence ( Conspiracy) and then at the end of the phone call he accepts a bribe when he agrees to be flown out to Cali for a party to celebrate a victory over the unions. Blago did not do as much on his phone calls and he is no longer governor and had to fight the charges in a trial. Where are the Federal prosecutors on this one? The phone call was across state lines giving the Feds jurisdiction.

Posted by: rslip | February 24, 2011 4:35 PM | Report abuse

You tell me my numbers are wrong and then proceed to back me up. Take "less than half of $100K", add $20-25K in benefits and you get...70K. Do you think there are a ton of other college grads with 15 years in their field making less than that (55K + 15K benefits)? I'd say the vast majority are doing at least that well or better.

Posted by: ekescher | February 24, 2011 8:58 PM | Report abuse

Thank you.Not.

John F#!?ing Kennedy for letting Federal Employees Unionize !!! In 1962? So, now we know who stuffed the Taxpayers. So, he could consolidate/secure his Campaign funds.... ?

FDR DID NOT! I Repeat DID NOT! support Unionized Government Workers!

It should be illegal. They are the definition of Fascism. They are NOT Democratic! They have NO Competition in the Workforce competing with them. They are Closed Shop, On The Waterfront type organizations. They don't carry guns, they carry Lawyers.

My Point GREECE... where Government Unionized Workers all of them Closed Shop, wrecked and Gangsterized the whole Country and Economy.

People there have polled 60% against they're own Civil Workers to LOOSE they're jobs, not just take pay cuts!

We need Honest, Democratic, Competitive, Unions in the Free Market. Better Work, Better pay.

The Taxpayer is the Boss, and he knows a Crooked Deal when he and she see's it.

P.S.How about Fixing The Wall Street and Insurance Problem, while your at it.
Ie., Glass-Stegall and McCarran-Fergussan Acts.

Goodnight and goodluck.

Posted by: enzolox | February 25, 2011 3:43 AM | Report abuse

--*Do you think there are a ton of other college grads with 15 years in their field making less than that (55K + 15K benefits)? I'd say the vast majority are doing at least that well or better.*--

The vast majority of people making over $50K a year would be fired for turning out results on a par with the Wisconsin education establishment. A thirty four percent reading proficiency for 8th graders ought to have the whole enterprise shut down and sold off to the highest bidder.

Posted by: msoja | February 25, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

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