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Posted at 8:45 AM ET, 02/21/2011

Yes, there is a reason to rein in public employee unions

By Jennifer Rubin

On Fox News Sunday Gov. Scott Walker didn't sound like he was buckling in his stand-off with public employee unions:

First off, those Senate Democrats should realize, if you want to participate in a democracy, you got to be in the arena. And the arena is right here in Madison, Wisconsin. It's not hiding out in Rockford, Illinois, or Chicago, or anywhere else out there. Democracy means you show up and participate.

And they failed to do that. They're walking out on their job. They're doing what's contrast to the many, many thousands, almost 300,000 state and local workers across Wisconsin, who despite those protesters, most of them showed up and did their job like they're paid to do. For us, this is about balancing the budget. We've got a $3.6 billion budget deficit. We are broke. Just like nearly every other state across the country, we're broke.

It's about time somebody stood up and told the truth. And the only way for us to balance the budget at the state level or at the local level is to make sure that we give those local governments the tools they need to balance the budget, and that's what we're proposing.

Sensing an epic defeat, the unions have conceded on Walker's economic demands. But he is not done yet:

And for us, we're willing to take this as long as it takes, because, in the end, we're doing the right thing. We're doing the right thing for Wisconsin. And we're leading the way, as we did in the past in Wisconsin, on reform. We are leading the way again when it comes to budgetary reform.

And for us, we have to do this. Again, we've had for decades -- we had leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike, who pushed off the problems. Well, there's no place to push them off to. Two years ago, my predecessor and many of the same majority Democrats that time who are now hiding out pushed through a budget that took $2 billion of one-time federal stimulus money and used it to balance their budget. . . . They didn't make the tough decisions then. We're going to make them now because we have to, to get the state's economy going again and to get our budget balanced.

And yet liberals insist that Walker is singling out public-employee unions unfairly. Ezra Klein wrote:

There's been a lot of concern lately that states or municipalities will default on their debt. This is considered the height of fiscal irresponsibility -- an outcome so dire that some are considering various forms of federal support. But the talk that states or cities will default on their obligations to teachers or DMV employees? That's considered evidence of fiscal responsibility. And perhaps it's a better outcome, as defaulting to the banks makes future borrowing costs higher and can hurt the state economy in the long run. But it's not a more just outcome.

Perhaps Ezra doesn't understand the legal definition of "default," but the analogy is inaccurate. Walker is seeking to reset the terms of union wages and benefits; no one is proposing to simply stop paying. Union contracts and "give backs" are negotiated every year by labor and management. The notion that whatever is given can never be lost is the sort of maximalist labor mind-set that led to the demise of multiple private industries in the United States.

The Wisconsin debate comes down to a simple question: do the voters and their elected representatives have the final say in how the state spends its money? The unions and their backers argue that through a variety of hardball tactics -- sick outs, legislative absenteeism, etc. -- that the unions, a small sliver of the population, get to control the outcome.

This is at the root of the objections to the very concept of public employee unions. On this I'll defer to the liberal icon FDR who warned against collective bargaining being "tranplanted" into the public sector. ("A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.")

Moreover, Ezra and other liberal commentators would have us believe that Republicans are unfairly picking on public sector unions. This ignores some very compelling math. A brief review of the enormous union obligations incurred by states should be enough to convince fair minded people that this, as Willie Sutton said of banks, is where the money is. In California that money amounts to hundreds of billions in unfunded liabilities for union pension plans. This is not a new phenomenon or one limited to California.

For years, analysts like Steve Malanga of the Manhattan Institute have documented the influence of public employee unions and the impact on state coffers. Back in 2005 he wrote:

State and local governments used tax surpluses and the 1990s stock-market rise to gold-plate pension programs, with disastrous effect once the stock boom ended. By 2003, state and local pension funds had accumulated over $250 billion in unfunded liabilities, reports the National Association of State Retirement Administrators, leaving taxpayers on the hook. Pension costs in California's state budget skyrocketed 14-fold, from $160 million in 2000 to $2.6 billion in 2005, and are headed to $3.6 billion in 2009. New Jersey's pension costs are rising so quickly that without reform they will consume 20 percent of the state budget in five years, up from 8 percent this year. Illinois' state budget pension obligations will reach $4 billion a year by 2010, which could make them a bigger share of the state budget than local aid to education.

(Malanga's piece should be read in full for an informative overview of the political control that unions now exercise over elected officials, making collective bargaining anything but an arms' length negotiation.)

With the 2008 financial melt down and heavy losses in the stock market, these trends all worsened. And now it is a time of reckoning. Voters, who understandably believe that they and not union bosses, control state government elected representatives who promised to reorder the relationship between government and public employee unions. Elections have consequences and so does math. Pretending that public employee unions are the victims and not a major cause of states' fiscal problems is not going to wash.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 21, 2011; 8:45 AM ET
Categories:  economy  
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Comments

The real argument Jennifer is making here is this: Unions tend to support Democrats, so Republicans changing the law to make it more difficult for them to support Democrats is an appropriate goal.

I seriously doubt is this was a Democratic governor/legislature seeking to change the law to make life more difficult for a Republican-leaning groups in the name of a budget crisis, Jennifer would be quite so supportive.

Having said that, I think it is completely appropriate for a state in a budget crisis to ask for givebacks such as what is being done in Wisconsin. However, taking away collective bargaining rights and making it so members have to vote every year to reaffirm the union's right to negotiate on their behalf is designed simply to harm an interest group that does not support the Governor.

Posted by: mustangs79 | February 21, 2011 9:07 AM | Report abuse

mustangs79, you said it perfectly! Renegotiating contracts--asking for givebacks on wages and benefits--is quite appropriate. But "negotiating" is a two-way process. Walker's plan is a one-sided declaration that only wages will be negotiable from now on. Benefits, such as retirement and health insurance, won't be. THAT is where he seems to think public employees shouldn't have the same right as private employees to negotiate.

Posted by: CherieOK | February 21, 2011 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Um, why do those on the right continually ignore Walker's gift of $140,000,000 in Wisconsin business tax welfare?

So, Walker gives welfare gifts to his business supporters in just about the same amount of dollars he wants to take from WORKERS?

Well, isn't that special (interest)?!?

Posted by: tjwdraws | February 21, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Most liberal drones can't make the distinction between public and private sector unions. Even FDR, their progressive hero, realized the difference and banned federal workers from organizing. There is no negotiation per se in a public sector union, since union dues will always be used to elect a friendly "opponent" who will negotiate on behalf of the public, and there is no adversarial relationship at the bargaining table like that which exists in private sector unions. Democrats in Wisconsin and other states are defecating in their drawers because so many Tea Party governors have been elected in Democrat strongholds with a mandate to bust up this unholy and incestuous relationship between unions and the Democrat party. The Mafia was in the same uproar over Eliot Ness and the Untouchables.

Posted by: ddaly7 | February 21, 2011 9:45 AM | Report abuse

I get kick out all the good govt liberals who rail about the corrupting influence of money on elections but have been silent for decades with regards to the unethical and corrupting influence of collective bargaining agreements between public service unions and governors.

Here in NJ, I have paid an additional $21,000 in property taxes from 2001 through 2009. With Christie, 2010 was the first year they didnt go up. Where did all that money go? I dont see any improvement in the school system. My guess it went into the public union pockets through back negotiations with a Democratic Governor.

Posted by: mlbmedia | February 21, 2011 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Negotiating with unions is an oxymoron.

Posted by: thebink | February 21, 2011 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Confusion reins in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin battle is misrepresented when it is described as being solely about union rights. While union rights are a part of the battle, the unsupportable size of all governments is equally in the mix. Those who think the government is too expensive, too pervasive and needs to be downsized aren't all against unions, but are against the size of government that has reached a point where it is an albatross around the neck of the community. Average Fed salary 81,258, average private sector 41791, average Fed benefits 50,462, average private benefits 10, 589. from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. What's wrong with this picture? While the long heard cry from public sector workers was for parity, I can only wonder how they would react to retirement parity???
Citizen Editorial Cartoons http://www.saintpeterii.com

Posted by: saintpeterii | February 21, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Wow Jennifer, you seem to have reviewed all of the right wing research but have ignored every thing else.

The central problem with your argument is the fact that it ignores the fact that unions have given back many of their pay and benefits over the past 20 years. For example, over ten years ago in my school district, teachers gave up health benefits after they were retired. Do you know how they did this? Through COLLECTIVE BARGAINING. It works. You just hate it because it gives the little guy power. People like you and Walker would prefer to just avoid that step and just screw people over unilaterally.

Further, the budget crisis is a result of bad government decisions made by members of both parties. The problem is not that pensions existed (what exactly is wrong with a retirement program by the way? I bet you have one), the problem is that they were not adequately planned for. Instead, tax cuts were passed, money was spent elsewhere, and now we are in trouble. Why should employees who worked hard and earned their pension be seen as the ones who are responsible and vilified by people like you?

By the way, people like you and Walker are all against government power and think the government is inefficient and whatever. Yet, you think that we should eliminate unions so the government can make unilateral decisions without the input of their CITIZEN workers. Typical republican hypocrisy.

Posted by: realitycheck35 | February 21, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Republicans must identify an ENEMY with every issue. Who's the easiest to attack over excessive spending? Why, public employees of course - lazy, unethical, crooked, "can't make it in the private sector" - every fault known to man. Conservative legislators in every state I've lived in do the same thing. There may be only one group that gets blamed more... the Jews.

Posted by: 82ndairborne | February 21, 2011 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Wow Jennifer - Do the Koch brothers pay you directly or are you just a sycophant?

Discuss their involvement in Walkers gubernatorial campaign, their funding of the group advising the Wisconsin GOP on labor relations, Walkers exemption of the unions that supported his campaign, and his 140 million dollars in tax breaks - then maybe what you have to say can be taken seriously. As it is, you just cut and paste republican talking points.

Posted by: rapchat1 | February 21, 2011 10:35 AM | Report abuse

A big part of our country's economic problems are wage “inflexibility”. As a higher percentage of people go to work for the government, the less flexible the workforce. Government employees want the best of everything like 100% healthcare, early retirement, employment security, and constant pay raises.

Well I hate to break it to you, but the rest of us can't afford to pay it anymore. Just look at General Motors, the unions refused to budge until it became obvious they would go from making $30+ per hour to $0 per hour. Then they demanded the taxpayer bail their stubborn butts out. That is the situation our country is in today. "You can't have our cake and eat too"

Posted by: Alethean | February 21, 2011 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Walker was given a surplus and over a few short months gave away tax breaks to the businesses who supported him so now it's red!

He wants to dismantle the unions any way he can...when he was in Milwaukee Walker secretly gave huge salary increases to those who supported him at County exec. and got away with it.

In attacking the teachers...it will trickle down and affect all of Wisconsin...Walker is a tyrant and should not be tolerated.

75,000 demonstrated in Madison and each large city also had demonstrations in the thousands! What does that tell you!

Posted by: Badger21 | February 21, 2011 10:55 AM | Report abuse

tjwdraws wrote: Um, why do those on the right continually ignore Walker's gift of $140,000,000 in Wisconsin business tax welfare?

So, Walker gives welfare gifts to his business supporters in just about the same amount of dollars he wants to take from WORKERS?

Well, isn't that special (interest)?!?
---------------------------
No it's smart economics policy. Tax cuts encourage new businesses to relocate to your state. They also encourage current businesses to expand and add more jobs. States with leadership who understands economics (Republicans) promotes this as a way to add new tax revenue to state coffers without raising taxes or forced to make further, deeper budget cuts to social programs. AZ just did this and landed a new $5 billion dollar Intel plant. AZ now has the fifth lowest corporate tax rate in with he country. Compare us to CA where sky high taxes and excessive regulations are the norm. Where would a business looking for a new site for a plant build it- CA or AZ? Intel just showed us the answer.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | February 21, 2011 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Let a President, even a Republican one, chime in on this struggle for democracy on Presidents Day:

"All that harms labor is treason to America. No line can be drawn between these two. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar"

According the Honest Abe, there are a pack of fools, liars and traitors in the Wisconsin (Ohio, etc.) legislature.

Posted by: Spiritof761 | February 21, 2011 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Alethean, it's interesting you use the term 'inflexibility.'

A key ingredient of collective bargaining and democracy is flexibility. That's how contracts and legislation is supposed to be created, most of the time.

The unions get that there will be givebacks. Maybe, just maybe, they'd like to be able to participate in that dialog.

One could argue that Gov. Walker's single-mindedness that only he can resolve Wisconsin's problems is inflexible.

As an interesting side story, there's a pizza place near the Wisconsin Capitol building that is now only taking orders from people who want to donate food to the protesters. So far they've gotten calls from people in 30 states and five countries, including Egypt.

Posted by: MsJS | February 21, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

As a non union worker, I am supporting the union folks. I have to rights to collective bargain. No Rights! The right would like to make me jealous of the those who have collective bargaining rights. Why do the GOP protect the New Robber Barons who want to squash all Unions. Why do the GOP say they are for me, when they are stopping the oversight of shady dealers of Wall Street. I follow the money and it seems that the GOP have cowered again to their Corporate Gods!. Sad.

Posted by: edtechlab | February 21, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

As a non union worker, I am supporting the union folks. I have to rights to collective bargain. No Rights! The right would like to make me jealous of the those who have collective bargaining rights. Why do the GOP protect the New Robber Barons who want to squash all Unions. Why do the GOP say they are for me, when they are stopping the oversight of shady dealers of Wall Street. I follow the money and it seems that the GOP have cowered again to their Corporate Gods!. Sad.

Posted by: edtechlab | February 21, 2011 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Why do you Unionistas think there's a huge "Rust Belt" across the US? It's because UNIONS DIDN'T STOP when they got 40 hour work weeks and safe working conditions. The companies had to go out of business and now CHINA makes everything! The only industries that haven't folded yet are public government services, and guess what, sports fans? WE'RE ON THE BRINK OF FOLDING - LOCALLY and NATIONALLY....name 2 things that grow and metastasize until they kill off their hosts - CANCER and UNIONS

Posted by: ddaly7 | February 21, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

As FDR pointed out, collective bargaining against the taxpayers is inappropriate. Why should taxpayers provide above-market-level wages and benefits to public employees under threat of a strike? As we've seen, the politicians will gladly grant exorbitant medical benefits and pensions that will become unaffordable a decade or two later, after the politicians have left office.

Those bills have now come due, and there is no way for the states to pay them. It's the same crooked Ponzi scheme approach that we face at the federal level with Medicare and Social Security. All Ponzi schemes fail. These piggish unions are doomed, because the states, which can't print money, have no choice but to balance their books.

Posted by: eoniii | February 21, 2011 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Don’t confuse private and public-sector unions.

It is not a negotiation when oftentimes a majority of those “negotiating” for the government are receiving union dues and support that keep them in office. It’s a shakedown.

Posted by: kevin79 | February 21, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

First Scott Walker gives $140 million away to corporations (because they're Republicans).

Then he asks public servants to pay for that $140 million he just gave away (because they're Democrats).

Jennifer, do I have anything wrong here??

Posted by: danw1 | February 21, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Restriction of collective bargaining is violates free speech (in my opinion). On the other hand, so does the closed shop and many other union rules. Nobody should be forced to hand over union dues that will support politics that one does not necessarily agree with. Those in favor of coll. bargaining AND other union rules like closed shop are not, in reality for freedom at all, they are merely pro-union. I'd be willing to support unions once they clearly come out in favor of freedom.

Posted by: loader2000 | February 21, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Restriction of collective bargaining is violates free speech (in my opinion). On the other hand, so does the closed shop and many other union rules. Nobody should be forced to hand over union dues that will support politics that one does not necessarily agree with. Those in favor of coll. bargaining AND other union rules like closed shop are not, in reality for freedom at all, they are merely pro-union. I'd be willing to support unions once they clearly come out in favor of freedom (don't even get me started about card-check).

Posted by: loader2000 | February 21, 2011 1:09 PM | Report abuse

"However, taking away collective bargaining rights and making it so members have to vote every year to reaffirm the union's right to negotiate on their behalf..."

That's also appropriate for the State legislature's activities, since only through their actions are unions authorized to represent employee groups - against the interest of the public, as expressed through the legislature.

The State should get wholly out of extracting union dues from members and handing them over to union officials. Taxpayers have no duty to pay the cost of that bookkeeping. Let the officials, who benefit, do that chore.

And yes, end the concept of union organization via one member, one vote, one time. The leadership frequently takes political actions independent of its membership - so hold it accountable via annual membership votes.

Posted by: InsufficientlySensitive | February 21, 2011 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Democats like government employee unions. The union members vote 95% Democrat- in every election. They pay sizable dues most of which goes to Democrat candidates for public office. In payment the elected Democrats- executives and legislators- pass legislation that favors the government employees. Nearly 50% of California's budget goes to fund public education to the benefit of teachers and administrators, and, oh yes, of "the kids." Generous health benefits and retirements augment the salaries but most teachers do not consider the benefits as salary. I was a teacher for 41 years and we hated Republicans. Why? Because they threatened our deal with Democrats- mutually beneficial back-scratching. It is a corrupt system.

Posted by: mhr614 | February 21, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Democats like government employee unions. The union members vote 95% Democrat- in every election. They pay sizable dues most of which goes to Democrat candidates for public office. In payment the elected Democrats- executives and legislators- pass legislation that favors the government employees. Nearly 50% of California's budget goes to fund public education to the benefit of teachers and administrators, and, oh yes, of "the kids." Generous health benefits and retirements augment the salaries but most teachers do not consider the benefits as salary. I was a teacher for 41 years and we hated Republicans. Why? Because they threatened our deal with Democrats- mutually beneficial back-scratching. It is a corrupt system.

Posted by: mhr614 | February 21, 2011 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Oh boo hoo hoo. If the government union employees don't like it they can go get a job in the REAL world, where you have to answer to a boss and produce results and work until you're 67 and pay for all of your benefits and retirement savings.

I dare you. I dare the union employees to get a job where they have to compete!

Posted by: TheMSMControlsUs | February 21, 2011 1:26 PM | Report abuse

I am drooling at the prospect of the Democrats running in 2012 as the champion opf the government unions.

Vote for us! You'll slave away until you are 67 years old so our teachers and cops and firemen can retire at 50 with gold-plated pensions and bloated benefits!

Posted by: TheMSMControlsUs | February 21, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

"Wow Jennifer - Do the Koch brothers pay you directly or are you just a sycophant?"

God, this is hilarious. You people read a few breathless stories about some dudes who fund some libertarian-leaning causes, and it becomes your brain's go-to prop.

After a while, it'll be on to the next bogeyman. It's always something. You can never just accept that there are humans among you who genuinely favor small, limited government, and who couldn't care less what the "Koch brothers" think about it.

Posted by: BChris | February 21, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

First, this isn't about any union of private-company employees. This only concerns unions made up of government employees. Non-government union workers ought to realize that the teachers' unions are NOT their friends. Teachers are YOUR employees.

Second: Private-sector unions played an important part in gaining legal protections for workers against employers back in the time when sweatshops and dangerous conditions were real issues. Government workers at one time faced their own kinds of employer-caused injustices, mostly stemming from the desire of elected officials to appoint and employ all of their own friends and family, which necessarily meant firing lots of government employees every time an elected position changed hands. But now, government employees are protected by the Civil Service system - they can no longer be fired arbitrarily - the new mayor can't fire you and replace you with his worthless brother-in-law.

Third, government employee unions become a hugely coercive anti-democratic force once they get big. They can spend their massive piles of dues on elections - which means they're paying for the election victories of the people who are supposed to be their bosses. Politicians who don't obey their contributor unions don't get re-elected, so they end up giving their unions tons more money and clout than they deserve.

All of you private-sector union people - the government unions want you to think this is all about union solidarity, but it's your paychecks they're really after. Don't be fooled.

Posted by: bobby_bb | February 21, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm a member of a public employee union. I love Gov Walker's proposal to require regular re-authorization elections for such unions. In my own academic union, a leftist/deconstructionist caucus regularly wins union elections with the votes of about 15% of the total bargaining unit. About 1/3 of faculty members have chosen to be fee-payers, i.e. they pay a fee to the union equal to dues but are non-members, often out of disgust with the politicization imposed by the dominant faction. Roughly another 1/3 are members but don't bother to vote. Re-authorization elections would force such unions to pay attention to the interests of everyone they are supposed to represent.

Posted by: mikem23 | February 21, 2011 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Governor Walker shouldn't make labor pay. He should simply raises taxes on corporations. Sure, that'll chase them out of state, but then Wisconsin will be free to enjoy the socialist dream of a state with all government employees. Ahhh, smell that sweet freedom!

Posted by: diesel_skins_ | February 21, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Colletive bargaining is not a "right." It's a privilege, and like driving, it can be taken away. In the case of unionized gubment workers, they have enjoyed their gold-plated pay and benefits for too long, on the backs of taxpayers.

For example, as healthcare costs have risen, they have tapped the taxpayers to fund the rise. For the taxpayer, it's double jeopardy because their healthcare costs are also rising, but THEY have to pay for them, occasionally with the help of their PRIVATE employer. This can cost jobs because the EVIL RICH do want to make a profit. Not so the NEW RICH - gubment workers. They are not profit motivated; they just want the cash.

It's time for gubment unionized employees to SACRIFICE as their exhalted leader Obama as asked. (BTW don't use HIM as an example of sacrifice).
This situation is no different than all causes ginned up by the left - sicrifice is for you, not for US.

Posted by: Boray1 | February 21, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

One aspect of this that remains unsung is how difficult it is to deal with monopolies in any guise. Whether John D. Rockefeller or SEIU, whether government sanctioned or from cowboy entrepreneurs, monopolies are one-way streets, and not good for the consumer at large. Monopolies center too much money and power in too few hands. Many Wisconsinites want to unstack the deck a little.

Posted by: Longview2050 | February 21, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

There are some compelling reasons to not favor unionized public employees. In the example of teachers, the local union can, and does, support people running for office. When the union endorses and supports a school board candidate with money, the teachers are in the business of hiring their own bosses.

When the union begins collective bargaining with the school district, the board members are not able to be honest brokers on behalf of the taxpayers. In fact, they are likely to be more concerned with what the union thinks than the taxpayers.

Public employee unions support city council members, state legislators, and members of the US Congress. The relationship between public employee unions and our elected officials is dubious at best and corrupting at worst. The Hatch Act prohibits federal workers from doing many things at election time on behalf of candidates, but their unions can do the same things and no one seems to think this is wrong.

Private unions negotiate for their private interests against the private interests of companies. Public unions negotiate for their private interests against the public interests of tax payers, but the government negotiators are often in their offices because the people on the other side of the table put them there.

This is not right and should not be allowed to happen. But I am not optimistic that this corrupt practice will ever be ended.

Posted by: curranj | February 21, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

As a conservative teacher in Wisconsin, I feel that I am living in a bizzaro world where no one even bothers to do any research about, you know, WISCONSIN. Instead, this has become one big shouting match betwen national liberals and conservatives. Brietbart was here on Saturday, admitting no conntection to Wisconsin. So was Jesse Jackson. Idiots.

And now we get this article. Sloppy, sloppy journalism. None of your links discussed WI at all! It's all crap about NJ or CA or IL. Sloppy. So, Jennifer, seeing as how you didn't bother, here are some facts about Wisconsin.

-The budget deficit is $3.6 billion bi-annual ($1.8 annual). We are in far better shape than most mid-west states.

-We have a pension fund that is extremely healthy, boasts an S80 billion balance and is one of the strongest in the country. It is the envy of the crappy pension system in Illinois.

-Education spending in WI has been capped 3.6% a year for the past 18 years under something called the QEO. We have, literally, had to cut programs to keep the busses running (as fuel prices have most certianly increased more than 3.6%).

-Individual school districts negotiate pay and benefits. The governor's plan would not allow local school districts to negotiate WRS payments or health benefits. This is just plain silly! As a conservative, I know that government works best when it is closest to the people. Our local school boards are far mor capable of determining pay and benefits than is the governor.

-Teacher pay in WI has not kept pace with nation-wide teacher pay. It has not kept pace with nation-wide private sector pay. For an apples-to-apples comparison, check the BLS site on average pay for individuals with an "advanced degree". Men with an advanced degree (median) age 25 and over, Q4 2010, make about $82,000 a year. I make $55,000. With a masters degree. I work 40 wks a year. Asssume a private sector individual with masters (and 14 years experience) gets 20 days PTO, so they work 48 weeks a year. So, we work 20% less, but make 33% less. Simply put, adjusting for lenght of contract and taking into account educational attainment, we STILL make far less than the private sector. And private sector benefits are very similar, adjusting for level of education.

-Due to pay caps and difficult bargaining, our district saw a 10% increase in pay from 1997-2007. Nationwide, wages increase over 25% for the same time period.

-According to the BLS, teachers in WI make 12% less than the national average. The average pay for a teacher in WI is 48,000. National average pay for teachers is just over 55,000.

-Again, WE'VE BEEN CAPPED FOR 18 YEARS!

-Eliminate collective bargaining? OK. Then your local school boards will have to negotiate the pay of all teachers, nurses, lunch ladies, custodians and para's separately. Very expensive, to say the least.

-Oh, and one of six people that voted for Walker was a union member.

Posted by: Arkjer | February 21, 2011 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Arkjer, you left out a couple of pertinent facts:

· According to the Pew Foundation, Wisconsin has the fourth-largest unfunded pension liability per resident. The unfunded pension liabilities are over $77 billion.

· According to the Tax Foundation, for the past three decades Wisconsin’s state and local tax burden has consistently ranked among the nation’s highest. The state and local tax burden (as a percentage of income) currently ranks ninth nationally.

Posted by: eoniii | February 21, 2011 3:07 PM | Report abuse

It should come as no surprise to anyone that unionized public sector workers regard their unique privileges as "rights" and themselves as "victims" when they're asked for a spot of "shared sacrifice." That's for the peasants, don't y'know, not for those safe inside the State's tender embrace. What's mystifying is that a sensible conservative should expect liberal commentators to have a problem with that. This is just the way they are, Miss Rubin: GOVERNMENT UBER ALLES!

"Choice" is reserved for agents of the State and women seeking abortions. The rest of us are supposed to shut up and do what we're told.

Posted by: fporretto | February 21, 2011 3:23 PM | Report abuse

"Moreover, Ezra and other liberal commentators would have us believe that Republicans are unfairly picking on public sector unions. This ignores some very compelling math."

Math isn't a subject the reality based community ever took in college. There's no feminist, Marxist, racialist, or LGBT way to slant it.

Posted by: Peejay | February 21, 2011 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Silly liberals. You have no idea what is coming because for five decades you have treated business and taxpayers like sheep to be sheared to fund your policy preferences. Never mind that those policies have collapsed like overcooked asparagus and that the taxpayer and small businesses are dead or dying.

You think that this is business as usual? You will look back on these times in five years and wonder how you could have missed the obvious signs. Public employee union wages, pensions, and benefits will be wistful reveries of times past--and just about the last thing on your mind.

Batten down the hatches, my pretties, because the new world order is coming and it won't be controlled by either political party. It will be controlled by the simple arithmetic of destroyed private, corporate and public balance sheets. You just don't get it, at all, do you?

Posted by: pburich | February 21, 2011 3:46 PM | Report abuse

All you blue states please keep raising taxes on businesses and high income individuals. It really helps us when we ask them to move here providing us with both jobs and the revenues needed to keep our tax rates low.

Posted by: Bobo4 | February 21, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Sorry I left out the here is Texas.

Now y'all keep on a rasin' those taxes, you hear?

Posted by: Bobo4 | February 21, 2011 3:54 PM | Report abuse

danw1 says:
"First Scott Walker gives $140 million away to corporations (because they're Republicans).

Then he asks public servants to pay for that $140 million he just gave away (because they're Democrats).

Jennifer, do I have anything wrong here??
Posted by: danw1"

Yes you are utterly and completely wrong. Stop getting talking points from msnbc and the NY Times and do a search yourself.

http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/feb/18/rachel-maddow/rachel-maddow-says-wisconsin-track-have-budget-sur/

Posted by: dallison | February 21, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Would anyone explain to me why collective bargaining rights are necessary for public unions? In our economy, there are things that persist for a reason, but why to public employees need or deserve a union at all? Why should a minority of the population of Wisconsin or any state get to dictate its own pay and benefits? This is a union that takes money from workers (whether they join the union or not) to promote their own political agenda. While the President, Democrats and Liberals rail against corporations and the private sector, unions have with political clout and stealth periled our States and municipalities and why? Because they believe through their hubris that they are more important than other taxpaying employees.

In this modern time, there is no justification for collective bargaining rights from public employees. People should make their choices regarding employment. If one opts for a teaching position leading to tenure or an impossible to fire government job, then with that security should come cost, not the best pensions and benefits in the land on the backs of the rest of hard-working tax-payers.

There is no rational justification for collective bargaining rights of public employees anywhere, except as justified by liberal political warriors trying to protect their own political base.

Posted by: kwp10021 | February 21, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

eonnii;

According to that pew study you just mentioned...

"In 2000, just over half the states had fully funded pension systems. By 2006, that number had shrunk to six states. By 2008, only four—Florida, New York, Washington and Wisconsin—could make that claim."

So, what the heck are you talking about?

Posted by: Arkjer | February 21, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

kwp10021 -

Sigh. How do you propose that a school district determine the pay for 400+ employees (from principals to food service to bus drivers to paras to the nurse to teachers)? Have each individual negotiate separately with a nine member school board? Have the school principals make the decision?

Collective bargaining ain't perfect, but let me know what is better, please? Or are you of the opinion that the entire state negotiates their contracts with the governor? Local school boards make these decisions!

Damn, people. It is also not that hard to remove bad teachers. Our contracts have clear language for removal. It is up to the principals to follow-through on observations and remediation, then discipline and termination.

The perception of what is happening and the reality of what is happening is so far out of whack...

Posted by: Arkjer | February 21, 2011 5:09 PM | Report abuse

I am sick of this collective bargaining argument and in full support of eliminating the concept altogether. The art or lack thereof of collective bargaining is powering someone else to act on your behalf regarding your employment. If I was you, I would cowboy/cowgirl up and represent yourself just as I. If you lack the confidence of negotiating on behalf of yourself I would highly suggest getting enrolled in a self help program. Here is the deal from Main Street USA… We pay our DMV workers to provide us a service, particularly customer service. A DMV to most of us is a day off from work, frustrating paper trail and people unwilling to serve. The unions are providing year over year raises to employees, longer lines, waiting times and higher fees. Government should be no different then the private world where we pay for performance and cut inefficiencies. You didn’t cause the collective bargain processes to fail, your union failed to provide value of their services.

Posted by: hettesheimerM | February 21, 2011 5:41 PM | Report abuse

"How do you propose that a school district determine the pay for 400+ employees (from principals to food service to bus drivers to paras to the nurse to teachers)? Have each individual negotiate separately with a nine member school board? Have the school principals make the decision?"

This is one of the strangest red herring's I've seen in a while. You do realize that the majority of workers aren't unionized and yet, somehow, they manage to set pay scales. They actually use most of the same methods that work fine. In fact they work better without a union bosses because they are constantly forced to make decisions based on internal union voting rather than what makes sense. So math/science teachers have to be paid the same as the social studies teachers despite the fact that it's 10x harder to recruit the former. But the union doesn't care, why should they? It's totally irrelevant to them.

And for people to argue that "it's easy to fire teachers" that's just laughable. All teachers unions have consistently made it clear that they will fight tooth-and-nail to protect all teacher regardless of how bad they are.

http://www.dfer.org/2010/10/superman_debate.php

Posted by: plucky1 | February 21, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

"First Scott Walker gives $140 million away to corporations (because they're Republicans).

Then he asks public servants to pay for that $140 million he just gave away (because they're Democrats).

Jennifer, do I have anything wrong here??
Posted by: danw1"

How liberal. Only a committed lefty can call it a "giveaway" when a person or company is permitted to keep their own money.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | February 21, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I love the ridiculous comments defending the blatantly anti-democratic tactics of the Democrats in the Wisconsin state Senate and their union, hooligan overlords.

Your rhetoric doesn't have any relationship to public employee unions. "Greedy corporations" aren't involved in this fight. The publicly elected officials who entered office pursuant to the vote of the citizens of Wisconsin are doing exactly what the they were elected to do. The taxpayers of Wisconsin are done overpaying for government services.

The most powerful interests in this country are public employee unions. They contribute more money to politics than "corporate" America does. Unionized public employees are now paid significantly more than private sector workers and they've used collective bargaining to obtain obscene benefits that no one in the private sector has and no one, public or private, deserves. Shiftless government bureaucrats who perform 50% of the work for about 150% of the price don't need to retire in their 50's with 90% of their pay and lifetime health benefits.

The state of California has a $500 billion unfunded pension liability because of the sweetheart deal that they struck with the Democrat legislature and Gray Davis in 2000. Public unions have used raw political power to obtain ridiculous benefits and now, Demopcrats are squealing like stuck pigs. Democrats are right, this is about political power. If these unions supported Republicans, they would be taking exactly the opposite position. Not only are these unions distorting our democracy, they are ruining our economy. Democrats, your days are numbered.

Walker isn't doing the bidding of "corporations", he is doing the bidding of the tax payers who elected him to office.

Posted by: jt007 | February 21, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I find it somewhat humorous that many commenters on this string, and countless talking heads of the lefty persuasion on TV, insist on referring to college-educated (many with multiple degrees) people as "workers". That's the parlance of the old Soviet bloc.

To refer to someone who gets paid $100,000 to work eight months out of the year as a "worker" is a laugh. I have a college degree, but somehow "the man" makes me work all year round for the same wage. And I have to pay my own money toward my own health insurance, retirement, etc.

Workers? Ha. Have them get a real job and then tell me how bad they have it.

Posted by: mattwalter | February 21, 2011 8:39 PM | Report abuse

Plucky1, you state "This is one of the strangest red herring's I've seen in a while. You do realize that the majority of workers aren't unionized and yet, somehow, they manage to set pay scales."

Being a teacher with standards means that you make people angry from time to time. Occasionally I have a kid get mad at me because I catch him cheating or I won't accept an assignment three weeks late. Occasionally I have to tell kids and parents no. I'm actually pretty popular, I coach a couple of sports, I have great parent support, but occasionally someone gets mad at me. Police are the same way. Simply put, you make people mad if you are in a position of authority.

Without a collective bargaining agreement to back me, if I piss-off a powerful parent they can complain to management, apply pressure and I'm out of a job. That's a fact. Now, you may say "so what, that's life in the private sector". Fine. But this will result in a massive relaxation of standards as teachers try to maintain their jobs by being quiet and not rocking the boat.

As for your "waiting for superman" thing, you are using New York City public schools to indict Wisconsin public schools. Don't you see the stupidy in that? In Wisconsin, each district has it's own policies for removal of teachers based on contract language. In my district, teachers have been removed for cause many times.

Again, this is Wisconsin. We have a very robust charter school system. We also have SCHOOL CHOICE! You can go to any public school you want in this state. Also, if there is a program you want to attend and it is not offered at your local school, your local school has to pay for you to attend. This is called "youth options". Immagine that! Many of our high school seniors attend local colleges for advanced math and science classes that we cannot offer, and our local districts pay!

So, to sum up, this IS WISCONSIN!
-Capped ed spending at 3.6% for the past 18 years
-School choice
-Youth options
-Robust charter schools
-Individual school boards negotiating contracts with their unions
-AND it is illegal for teachers to strike

Again, people, please do some research and stop using Califorina or Illinois or whatever to justify your position. In some states, public sector unions are out of control. In Wisconsin, we've made concessions on pay caps, school choice, youth options and many other issues for the past 18 years. Now we're getting bit in the butt and being called lazy and irresponsible, when, for the most part, we've done what can to keep our state afloat (and our midwestern state is in far, far better shape than most). Sure, be mad at the people that call in sick. They are jerks. But stop making these awful generalizations about how every teacher in Wisco pays zero for benefits or cannot be fired. Jeez.

Posted by: Arkjer | February 21, 2011 9:04 PM | Report abuse

Corporations are a union of businesses formed to provide diverse support and increase political capital to the owners, Labor Unions are one of the few organizations able to meet such entities head on to provide a level playing field for workers.

Decades of corporate anti-union propaganda have had the desired effect on the American public, who now have an unfavorable view of labor unions, but have an astonishingly favorable veiw of corporations.

Few working Americans tie the reductions in pay and benefits they now have to the union busting that has taken place over the forty years.
I saw it happen firsthand - when Reagan broke the air traffic controller's union, within two years, real dollar wages began to fall across the country, and state governments began cutting workers benefits and wages in every state that has a "right to work" law ( a we can make you unemployed for anything law and you can't complain).

When Virginia's douglas wilder broke the coal miners union, it was less than a year later that Virginia's state workers found out how powerless they really are. Since douglas wilder's era, VDOT alone has dropped almost 50 percent of it's workforce, endure lowering of the value of the remaining worker's, cuts in health insurance, cuts in sickleave, cuts in benefits across the board.

Yeah, let them continue to blame labor unions, bust them down baaaa-aad, and the watch the middleclass completely disappear.

It's no accident that every politician is now a stooge for corporate america - the bought the media outlets in the 1970's, making newspapers, televion and radio their mouth pieces, and in doing so set the stage for the purchase of the entire statelevel political machine, sans protest from the fifth estate, and have over the last three decades silently purchased the federal political machine, as well as outright ownership of three of the supreme court justices.

Welcome to America, where a few thousand people own everything and everyone else.

Lincoln freed the blacks from one slavery, only to set the statge for their great grand-children, and the great grand children of their owners to be enslaved even more deeply, more profoundly than even the most vicious overseer could ever imagine.

just think, we not only cede our birthrights to our new massa's, we fight for the privilege to give them every shred of decency, every shred of dignity ever accorded us by those magificent words of the world's most cherished document: "We The People..."

RIP, free people of the USA, we hardly knew ye.

Posted by: maxtor0 | February 21, 2011 10:22 PM | Report abuse

eonnii;

According to that pew study you just mentioned...

"In 2000, just over half the states had fully funded pension systems. By 2006, that number had shrunk to six states. By 2008, only four—Florida, New York, Washington and Wisconsin—could make that claim."

So, what the heck are you talking about?

Posted by: Arkjer
---------------------
I got that factoid from a post by Douglas Holtz-Eakin at NRO. I've read the Pew report and you do seem to be correct that the Wisconsin pension fund is well-funded. Sorry for the apparent misinformation.

Posted by: eoniii | February 22, 2011 12:29 AM | Report abuse

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