In countries ruled by despots, if you want change you demonstrate until you get it. In Wisconsin, you send a mob to the state capitol to prevent the legislature from doing its job.
Several thousand teachers, clueless students and an assortment of thugs did that in Madison last week to prevent the legislature from voting on a bill to require teachers to pay into their retirement program and to increase the minuscule amount they pay for their health care plan. The bill also would restrict collective bargaining by their union to wage issues.
The new Governor, Scott Walker, was elected last November on pledges to do the very thing he and the legislature have been doing the last week or so. The voters returned Republican majorities in both houses. It’s fair to assume all have been carrying out the wishes of the voters with this legislation.
The Democrats, now in the minority in the state senate, didn’t agree with that assumption. All of them took a powder last Friday, fleeing across the state line to Illinois. Since Wisconsin law requires at least one member of the minority party to be in attendance to form a quorum, business was stalled. Clearly, these Democrats believe in majority rule only when they are in the majority.
On Thursday, more than 1,000 teachers called in sick. What kind of message does it send for a teachers to call in sick when she is not sick? Most people call that lying. Furthermore, is it not fraud when they call in sick while spending the day shouting and carrying protest signs at the state capitol and being paid sick leave by the taxpayers?
The numbers are revealing. Wisconsin teachers average $89,000 a year in salary and benefits.
The average U.S. private sector worker gets $61,000. The Wisconsin proposal is to raise teachers’ contributions to their health care plan from five percent to 12.5 percent and to contribute half of their monthly pension plan deposit. By contract, private sector workers with 401(k) plans, pay in 100 percent. Their employers may (but are not required to) supplement this, usually at the end of the year when profit and loss figures are toted up.
In Washington, the president chimed in by saying he thought the state’s proposed legislation amounted to “an assault on unions.” It is, of course, none of his business, but then, once a community organizer, always a community organizer. Saul Alinsky would have loved the scene in Madison.
The Democratic National Committee and the National Education Association (the umbrella teachers’ union) probably connived in the planning of the disruption. If not, it certainly had their tacit approval.
Meanwhile, in California, Governor Jerry Brown has submitted a budget with some cuts, but the center piece of his plan is to call a special election to let the voters decide if they want to extend certain taxes scheduled to “sunset.” If vote they “no, ” Brown has made a list of draconian program cuts that would follow. This is a smart ploy. He must get two-thirds approval from the legislature to put these items on the ballot. Some Republicans threaten to vote against it. If it goes down, Brown will blame them for (1) refusing to let the voters vote and (2) move directly to the draconian cuts and blame the Republicans.
Meanwhile, there is not a peep out of him about reforming the state’s overly-generous public employee pension plans. They are unsustainable and he is the one person who gets the unions to swallow reform. Perhaps he is waiting to see the outcome of the special election matter before showing his hand. Ironically, it was he in his first stint as governor in the Seventies who issued the order to permit public employee unions to engage in collective bargaining.