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The War in Wisconsin

The Democratic assault on democracy.

By 2.18.11

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Wisconsin's State Senate Democrats fled the state on Thursday rather than going to work where their presence would have allowed a vote on state budget cuts and controversial rollbacks of public sector union collective bargaining rights in the state that has had them longer than any other. It's not the budget vote precisely that they're avoiding but rather a provision that would essentially strip teachers unions of collective bargaining rights, something no public sector employee should have anyway.

The police were sent, without results, to find even one Democrat to bring back to the Wisconsin State Senate. The leftist Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent spoke to one of the brave Democrats who said they would all stay away until the collective bargaining provision was taken out of the budget.

The War in Wisconsin is, due to its relative simplicity, perhaps the clearest yet demonstration to the American people of three key facts, most of which everyone knows deep down but only a small subset (often called "conservatives" or those evil "libertarians") actually believe:

• Democrats care more about protecting union wealth and power than any other political goal.

• Democrats care only for outcome, not for rules, process, or even democracy itself if the people inconveniently elect Republicans, and

• The media is made up of partisan Democrats in a way that makes them a reliable source of propaganda and an unreliable source of information.

I thought initially that this issue would be a political winner for Republicans -- perhaps even more so outside Wisconsin as we watch the cheesehead spectacle. In fact, if the GOP were smart, they'd make a BIG issue out of teachers taking kids out of school to come protest.

Now I'm nearly sure that it's a winner for Republicans because Barack Obama has jumped into the fray, suggesting that the move against public sector collective bargaining "seems like an assault on unions." First, YES! Say it loud and proud! We should (non-physically) assault public sector unions at every turn for the sake of our nation's economic and political health. Second, and more germane to today, eliminating collective bargaining for public employees is a critical step toward restoring budget sanity to any state.

The left is going all-in to stop this vote, realizing it could be the crack in the dam allowing widespread disallowance of public sector collective bargaining rights, which are one of the key reasons that the past couple of decades has seen the pay of government employees -- who have unbelievable job security and benefits -- go from somewhat under the private sector to far over the private sector. Obama's campaign apparatus is busing in people to protest -- the old rent-a-mob trick aka "astroturf," always done by the left and always charged as a ploy of the right. As Quin Hillyer points out, however, the left "want their targets… to feel fear of the mob."

While many or even most public sector jobs are useful and some are even necessary, public sector unions are neither. They are leeches sucking the blood of the body politic. Actually, that's unfair to leeches because they know to get off before they kill the host, leaving the host to recover for a later blood-letting. Democrat leaders and unions (sorry for the redundancy) believe that they're sucking the blood from a host with unlimited supply, or at least one who can be forced to be such as long as unions spend a big percentage of their dues helping Democrats get elected. They must have been shocked to learn that even a host as accustomed to being bled as Wisconsin cried "no more parasites!" in the last election.

Trying to reattach their teeth to the vital pulse of the state, teachers across the state called in sick Thursday and Friday, with some of them encouraging their students to do the same or to walk out of classes. A high school student interviewed on television yesterday marching in front of the state capitol was asked why he was there and he said "to stop whatever it is they're doing here today." If that's the quality of the public education they're receiving, perhaps there's a silver lining to the teacher sick-out, but causing kids to hate, and I do mean hate, one political party without giving them any real understanding of an issue is not just bad teaching. It's immoral, un-American, and unacceptable.

Similar intentional twisting of words and reality was made by Wisconsin Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller, who said that the Democrats had left the State Senate because they were "trying to allow opportunity for democracy to work." In other words, democracy means "We won the election, we wrote the bill," as Nancy Pelosi famously said, only when Democrats are in charge. If Republicans have a majority, democracy apparently means thwarting democracy. But then these are people for whom Obamacare means that costs will go down and you can keep your current coverage, so they're clearly not afraid of living in an Orwellian world in which words mean what you say they mean.

Speaking of Obamacare, if the Republican response to the Democrats' bribes, "deem and pass," and misuse of budget reconciliation had been to flee D.C., while one could have understood the impulse (on that or any other day), the public -- even most conservatives -- would not have stood for it. Democrats believe they live and govern by a different standard, an outcome-based one rather than a rules-based one.

And unfortunately they are substantially correct due not least to the disparate treatment of the two political parties by the equally outcome-motivated "journalists" who lurk in major newsrooms across the country. Imagine for a moment the headlines had Republican U.S. Senators or Congressmen left the Capitol in an effort to stop a vote on Obamacare, a bill attacking economic and personal liberty for an industry that represents nearly one-sixth of the entire American economy. Perhaps "GOP abandons Republic," or "Secession!" or "White Republicans hate Black President" would all have been front page, above the fold.

Now consider the media's approach to Wisconsin Democrats fleeing the state to prevent a vote of a duly-elected legislature on a matter of state budgets and contracting rules (which is what collective bargaining rights are):

• "Obama joins Wisconsin's budget battle, opposing Republican anti-union bill" (Wash. Post) -- Actually, it's a budget bill with a provision or two that unions don't like. You didn't see them calling Obamacare an "anti-medical device bill," did you?

• "Democrats flee Wisconsin to protest union curbs" (Reuters) -- This one briefly gives one hope that the Dems would stay away, though neighboring Illinois, where many of them went to avoid Wisconsin police jurisdiction, would seem to have enough of an infestation already.

• And one of my favorites from the Washington Post's always-wrong-on-economics Harold Myerson: "Workers toppled a dictator in Egypt, but might be silenced in Wisconsin." All this does is make you wonder if the Egyptians might end up with a government of "Progressives" and wish they had Mubarak back. If they think they're poor now, just wait until their public sector workers get collective bargaining rights. Furthermore, what part of events in Wisconsin gives any impression of workers being silenced?

But the people have mostly stopped being fooled, as shown by widely declining newspaper circulation and old-line news broadcast viewership and, more importantly, by the stunning rebuke of Democrats last November.

Wisconsin is a liberal enough state that the government and people might cave in at the sight of 25,000 workers and students chanting in front of the state capitol. But even there, my money is on a victory for a long-lost economic rationality and a continuing pushback against public sector unions, the most anti-democratic (even if pro-Democrat), anti-liberty, and economically damaging force in our nation. Americans, even with cheese on their heads, see through the union parasitism and through the plaintive cries of "democracy" made while thwarting it, even with the ever-thinning cover of the ever-shrinking liberal media.

With similar battles already heating up in other states, even under a Democrat governor in New York, the Egypt metaphor does carry the important lesson of potential contagion. Unlike the portrayal by their fellow travelers in the media, however, the unions are parallel figures to Mubarak, sucking billions out of the citizens' pockets. The parallel to the military is the Wisconsin electorate, which finally stopped supporting a corrupt autocracy once a better alternative was seen. And those fighting back, as the long-suppressed Wisconsin Republicans finally are, will have success against the regime, in this case public sector unions, in a way that will awaken brave souls across the country.

Thus Wisconsin's fight is truly "the people's" fight, even though in precisely the opposite way from how the left and the unions intend us to believe. There's no turning back here, for Wisconsin or for the nation.

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About the Author
Ross Kaminsky is a self-employed trader and investor and is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute. He is the host of The Ross Kaminsky Show on Denver's NewsRadio 850 KOA on Saturday mornings from 6 AM to 9 AM. You can reach Ross by e-mail at rossputin(at)rossputin(dot)com.