Wisconsin Agonistes

March 4, 2011

It’s been so long since I’ve written here, and so much has happened in the world. Forgive me if I’m a little rusty.

John Boehner is the Speaker Of The House, the Egyptians have ousted their authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak, from Tunisia to Libya there is widespread revolt in that region of the world, Charlie Sheen is taking up full-time residence at the Waldorf Hysteria, and there have been Oscars and Grammys handed out to musicians nobody knows and movies nobody’s seen. Where to begin?

In Wisconsin, naturally. This is a story that has really gripped the body politic because 1) it portends a huge, forthcoming fight across the nation, and 2) because it’s so weird.

Here we have a newly elected Governor and Legislature (Republican) that is trying to deliver on one of their campaign promises: to pull back the power of the public employee unions via collective bargaining. The newly outnumbered Democratic legislators, suffering from either piqué or panic, left town and are currently living in a hotel across state lines rather than vote. The government unions, meanwhile, are protesting loudly and rudely.

I’ll assume that by now, two weeks into this story that’s been leading the news, everyone is familiar with the issues: Governor Scott Walker and the Republican legislators want the unions to pay for some of their benefits and they also want to take away the unions’ right to collectively bargain for non-salary demands. The Democrat legislators suffered a major case of the vapors at the very idea that unions might have to give these up, so they left town. The unions have conceded on paying for some of their benefits, but still refuse to give up their collective bargaining rights.

The real question here is whether or not the unions should have ever had collective bargaining rights in the first place. And the answer to that question is “No.”

I’ll repeat that: No.

This really isn’t a difficult question, and the only real controversy that arises from this is the same controversy that arises if you try to take a dog’s bone away while he’s still gnawing on it. Keep in mind that we are not talking about private unions. The question here involves public unions, which is a polite way of saying government unions.

To phrase the question correctly, it should be: Should unions have the right to bargain with people they have helped to elect at the expense of the taxpayer? The way it works in the real world is that Politician A promises to give the unions anything they want. The unions then give scads of money to Politician A, mobilize Get Out The Vote efforts, and generally promote the candidacy of Politican A. Politician A then gets elected thanks in no small part to the union efforts, and thanks them by writing them a blank check to be paid for by all the taxpayers of a given state.

In collective bargaining between the government and the government union, where is the real negotiation? Where is the compromise between a union that wants more and a politician who is indebted to these same unions? This would be as cute as watching a dog chase his own tail if it weren’t costing the states and taxpayers billions of dollars, but since this incestuous relationship between government and union is bankrupting states it’s more like watching a snake eat itself.

The unions are not alone in this. I can’t blame the unions entirely for the economic woes of various states, but they certainly bear part of the burden. Governor Walker needs to stick to his guns, and plunge right through that union line. As I write this, he is preparing to lay off something like 1500 union employees to help close the budget shortfall in Wisconsin. These layoffs do not need to happen and would not happen if the Democrats returned to the state house and did their jobs.

Make no mistake here: the Democrats in Wisconsin are willing to put 1500 people on the unemployment line, destroying their livelihoods and damaging the financial health and security of their families, because they are afraid to stand up to the unions that own them. And the sad part is, the unions don’t care. They’re more than willing to lose some people if it means keeping their power structure in place. Sick, sick, sick.


The Roundup: Hot Air asks whether legislators packing up and leaving town—fleebagging—is the hot new trend. Michelle Malkin displays to the world what passes for civility when unions feel threatened and also reveals one of the hidden hands behind the union protests: the White House.

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