Entries Tagged as 'Wisconsin'

Wisconsin After Recall

August 16th, 2011 at 12:20 pm 20 Comments

The Wisconsin recall battle is not just a political story. It’s a story about painful change coming to a troubled state.

In March of this year I visited my hometown, Spooner, Wisconsin — population 2,700.  Spooner’s school system has about 1,300 students (which may seem high for a city that small, but Spooner’s school district is 550 square miles – which gives you a sense of just how rural the area is).  The district is low income, with a per capita income of $22,700 a year.

Click here to read more

Priebus’ Big Wisconsin Win

August 10th, 2011 at 7:00 pm 21 Comments

Chalk up another win for Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.

The four Republican victories in the Wisconsin recall elections means that the GOP maintains control over the state senate. But for Priebus, this was something more personal – he has strong ties in Wisconsin, as the former chairman of the state GOP.

Click here to read more

In Wisconsin Recall, GOP Was Outspent

August 9th, 2011 at 11:29 am 32 Comments

In the Washington Post, Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza provide an overview of the Wisconsin recall elections for several GOP state senators. While the outcome of the recall is still unknown (Cillizza and Blake are expecting between 2-3 gains for Democrats) it is interesting that despite the extremely high profile of these elections, that Republicans have been outspent by Democrats.

[These] recall elections have have such unusual turnout and have received such inordinate attention from national third-party groups trying to influence the races and send a message. In fact, the recalls have essentially been special elections on steroids, with spending reaching nearly $30 million.

Click here to read more

Big Labor Pushes for a Judicial Coup D’etat

April 5th, 2011 at 1:47 pm 67 Comments

The election of judges has a long and storied history in the United States.  While federal judges get lifetime appointments, state judges are often elected, particularly in south and west of the Mississippi where populists didn’t want judges to be far from the people they served and close to big Eastern interests.

Unlike some in the law I haven’t had a problem with this.  In states with elected judges, the people at least have a chance to get rid of judges who’ve gone off the rails.  We don’t have that option in the federal system.  Most judges are reelected most of the time, undermining the complaint that judges fear ruling impartially.

Wisconsin however now has a barn burner.  A lightly credentialed judicial leftist is using the recent “flight of the Democrats” to oust a conservative judge.  She all but campaigns on a promise to overturn the law striking collective bargaining on issues other than wages.  Judge Prosser has been the target of calumny regarding prosecutions he made a quarter century or so ago.  We await the liberal call for civility in attacks on Judge Prosser.

I have no idea how the election in Wisconsin will turnout.  But if the unions, and the liberals on the Court, can show they can destroy a conservative judge at whim the legislature becomes nearly superfluous.  I hope Judge Prosser turns back the tide Tuesday but am not confident he will.  In low turnout elections, unions usually win.


WI Dems Launch State Recall Effort

March 2nd, 2011 at 5:40 pm 41 Comments

Sam Stein at Huffington Post reports:

The Wisconsin Democratic Party has launched a fundraising campaign to recall state Senate Republicans who have supported the budget bill by Gov. Scott Walker (R) that would strip collective bargaining rights from the state’s public employee unions.

The email the party sent out on Wednesday afternoon is excerpted below:

In 60 days you can take Wisconsin back. It’s that simple.

This morning citizens from around the state took the first steps by filing recall papers against key Republican Senators who have stood with Scott Walker and pushed his partisan power grab that will strip thousands of middle class teachers, nurses, librarians and other workers of their right to collective bargaining. And we learned just last night that their disastrous budget that will cut millions from our schools and universities.

In 60 days you can take Wisconsin back by recalling the Republican Senators who have decided to push Scott Walker’s divisive attack on the rights of workers and his assault on schools, universities and local communities. Can you contribute $60 today to support the Democratic Party’s recall efforts?

Make no mistake, these Republican Senators are vulnerable to recall for their radical partisan overreach. Senator Randy Hopper won his last election by just 184 votes. And Alberta Darling won her last race by only 1,007. By recalling just three of the eight Senators we are targeting, we can regain control of the Senate.

But we need your help today. The clock is ticking and we have just 60 days to collect the signatures we need to force a recall. Every day and every dollar counts. …

If we can recall at least three Senators and regain control of the Senate, we can end the ugly games Republicans in the legislature have played in the last few days — unplugging phone lines, bolting windows inside the Capitol shut, and withholding the paychecks of Democratic legislators.

The state party’s formal involvement in a recall effort, an idea previously bandied about only by labor officials and activists, represents a new stage in the high-stakes battle between Walker and the state’s public unions.

Click here to read more.

Poll: Voters Back Union Bargaining Rights

March 2nd, 2011 at 5:36 pm 8 Comments

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Americans strongly oppose efforts to strip unionized government workers of their rights to collectively bargain, even as they want public employees to contribute more money to their retirement and health-care benefits, the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

Eliminating collective bargaining rights for public-sector workers over health care, pensions or other benefits would be either “mostly unacceptable” or “totally unacceptable,” 62% of those surveyed said. Only 33% support such limits.

The results don’t bode well for Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican governor, Scott Walker, who is locked in a standoff with statehouse Democrats and unionized state workers over these rights. Many of the Republicans gearing up to take on President Barack Obama in 2012 have seized on the budget battle in Wisconsin, a crucial swing state, as evidence the country wants to dramatically scale back government spending.

The poll shows 68% of the respondents would like public employees to contribute more for their retirement benefits and 63% want these workers to pay more for their health care. Only 29% and 34% find these moves either “mostly” or “totally unacceptable.” A clear majority, 58%, also find it acceptable to freeze government workers’ salaries as governments get a handle on spending, whereas 40% think that would be unacceptable.

Click here to read more.

Public Sector Unions: Dragging the Dems Down

March 1st, 2011 at 12:57 am 58 Comments

FrumForum is dedicated to creating a Republican Party and conservative movement that can prosper in the America that’s been created by the demographic, generational and technological changes that first destroyed the FDR coalition and then frayed the Reagan coalition.  I think it’s fair to say I hold to the “three legs of the stool” position.  Full spectrum conservatism — social, economic and national defense — is needed to form a majority but the issues and means used have got to change to attract different segments of the electorate.

Others want to jettison traditional marriage, or the pro-life plank, or want to isolate the libertarians, and even now, retrench from our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Some see completely new vistas for political combat—it would take me more time than exists to understand what “net neutrality” is all about.

But common, I think, to all of us on this site is the idea that the liberal Democrats have an advantage with the electorate of the future that Republicans, particularly conservative Republicans don’t.  I have always thought that John Judis and Ruy Teixeira’s thesis of a permanent Democratic majority based on demographics was plausible.  Nonetheless, they could be right on the demographic, cultural, and economic facts and still be wrong if an engine of organization is taken out of the equation, or if these growing constituencies fall out over an issue.  Judis at least sees the inevitable forestalled by 2010.

But Judis’s crie de coure over the Obama administration’s standing down on youth organization pales in comparison to something that, if continued, will completely rework the relations of the parties.  The largest army needs organization, cohesion and motivation.  Removing the public sector unions, removes all three from the Democrats.  The results are foretold here.

The decline of private sector unionism is an old story.  The troubles of the public sector unions are not.  Unlike the GOP, where the movement conservatives provide the foot soldiers, and the rich country club and business interests provide the money, the Democrats get both foot soldiers and money from the unions.  Bill Clinton’s Democratic Party would not cross them.

Unions have also had a sacrosanct cultural meaning on the Left, and I would argue the center, for many, many decades.  Republicans may allude to union thugs but the average person thinks Norma Rae.  So unions have provided votes, money and cultural good guy status to the Democrats.  The Democrats lost some of this with cultural liberalism.  This was in the shrinking private sector unions.  The public sector unions are fully on board with the cultural rot — I mean progressivism — of the Democrats.  But even in losing votes they did not lose the power of organized labor.

Now, this is changing.  Many democratic constituencies — those not in unions — are gaining resentment at the perks and job security the public sector employees maintain at public expense.  It is incredible to see such commentators as Richard Cohen and Joe Klein turn on the public sector unions even when they face Republican governors.  For unions this is the equivalent of Qaddafi losing his busty nurse!  Much of the animosity to such unions is in the knowledge class which is part of Judis and Teixeira’s governing coalition.

A political movement’s success is not determined by raw numbers in an opinion poll.  It draws strength from cultural, financial and “intensity” resources to actually produce votes.  Unions have provided all three for Democrats.  They have done this without being a constituency that inflames independents.  Now that has changed.  This is why Wisconsin is so important, as is Governor Christie’s efforts in New Jersey.  These states are traditionally Democratic.  Unions helped make them so.  If in those states public unionism is a liability, the jigsaw puzzle of electoral supremacy has been upended in a way no one saw coming five years ago, with consequences that could make Republicans competitive in places they have been shut out for a quarter of a century.


Topics:  , ,

Will Taxpayers Gain from Public Workers’ Pain?

David Frum February 28th, 2011 at 2:13 pm 83 Comments

Across the country, governors are fighting to curb the power of public sector unions. Taxpayers may benefit, but as my latest column for CNN.com discusses, there’s a catch: weakening unions may harm the economy.

Government is about to experience the same great shakeout as farming experienced in the 1950s and as manufacturing experienced in the 1980s.

Governments must cut costs and rationalize operations.

Which is why public-sector unions now find themselves on the firing line.

The issue is not that unionized employees are so very hugely overpaid (although some surely are overpaid).

The issue is that government must be overhauled. Governments must rethink what they do and how they do it.

Under any circumstances, governments find it difficult to adapt. See the sad history of attempts to close redundant military bases. Politicians know that the people who lose from change will vote to punish those who made the change — but that the people who benefit from the change will forget by Election Day.

But if any change also requires a renegotiation of a contract — potentially a strike — then politicians will move even more slowly.

This is the real issue at stake in Wisconsin. If Gov. Scott Walker wins, other governors will be empowered. They may not go as far as Walker and outright abolish collective bargaining over work rules. But then, they may not have to do so: Post-Wisconsin, unions will be a lot more hesitant about demanding that empty jails be kept running.

This new age of government austerity offers hope to taxpayers.

But the coming austerity also poses two great challenges:

1) Government is shrinking at the same time as the private sector is saving more and spending less. Where then is demand in the economy to come from? Or will we all slump together in some stagnant new low-demand equilibrium?

2) Reactionary as unions can be, they do put some floor under the wages of ordinary people. In the private sector, those wages actually declined in the 2000s. They now bid fair to do the same in the public sector in the 2010s. If not unions, what force will ensure that the benefits of future prosperity are shared by all, not hoarded by a few? …

Click here to read the rest.


Wisconsin’s Budget Fight is Only the Beginning

David Frum February 23rd, 2011 at 11:18 pm 58 Comments

What you are watching in Wisconsin is your future.

Since 2007, Americans have lost trillions of dollars in wealth. And ever since, we’ve been arguing about who should pay and who should be protected.

Wisconsin represents the next — and most painful — round of the argument. During the good years, states and cities made retirement promises to their workers. When you total all the promises – and compare them to the money set aside to pay the promises — you reach a gap of more than $1 trillion, according to the Pew Center on the States.

Where did the trillion go? Some was lost in the declining value of investments after the dot-com crash in 2000 and the financial crisis of 2008. Some of the trillion was unexpectedly added as rising health-care costs inflated the projected costs of state-worker retirements. But the largest part of the trillion dollar gap was accumulated by wishful thinking and political cowardice: States making workers happy by promising them payouts in the future, and trying to keep taxpayers happy by neglecting to set aside the necessary funding in the here and the now.

So, now a question: out of whose pockets should that trillion come? Should state workers be disappointed? Or should taxpayers pay?

There’s no ready answer to the question.

State workers have some valid complaints: states made contracts with them, they relied on the contracts, and now they expect the contracts to be honored. But taxpayers have a complaint too: Private-sector workers earn less than government workers. They enjoy less job security. And now they’re expected to pay an unbudgeted extra trillion in taxes to support the superior health and retirement packages of the public sector?

If there’s no ready answer, then how is the issue to be settled?

In the New York Times this week, David Brooks offered a wise ideal: “The cuts have to be spread more or less equitably among as many groups as possible. There will never be public acceptance if large sectors of society are excluded.  … [T]here is going to have to be a credible evaluation process to explain why some things are cut and some things aren’t. … The process has to be balanced. It has to make everybody hurt.”

Brooks describes exactly how the job of adjustment should be done. He also is describing exactly how the job won’t be done. The United States is not the country of rational and disinterested decision-making for which Brooks and so many others yearn. Maybe it once was that country, but it is not that country now. As we have seen through the debate over TARP, over stimulus, over healthcare – and now over public-sector pensions — whoever can muster the more powerful interest groups, whoever can mobilize more public anger, that side gets its way.

Bondholders have more muscle than mortgaged homeowners. Seniors have more muscle than the young. Upper-income taxpayers have more muscle than the unemployed.

So those first three groups usually win, and the latter three groups usually lose.

The public-sector workers of Wisconsin have learned that lesson, and they are adapting it. They want to break Gov. Scott Walker before he breaks them. They chant slogans about justice. But there is no justice, there is only muscle. The unions are flexing to test how much muscle they have. The taxpayers of Wisconsin — and all the other states to which this battle will soon come — have no choice but to do the same.

Originally published in The Week.