What’s at Stake
in Wisconsin’s
Budget Fight

February 20th, 2011 at 2:17 am | 60 Comments |

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The Wisconsin budget battle is really not about today or tomorrow but the day after tomorrow; it is far less about helping the state make up for a projected $137 million budget deficit than it is about changing the role that public unions play.

This budget shortfall was not unexpected. Indeed, Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, has pushed for policies that, in the short term at least, have exacerbated the state’s deficit. Walker and the Republican-controlled Wisconsin state legislature passed in January $117 million (over the next two and a half years) in tax breaks for businesses and health savings accounts. Part of the budget deficit is really the story of transferring some state subsidies from public employees to private businesses. That transference may be good or it may be bad, but it is a key detail of this battle.

Moreover, it seems as though union leaders are open to accepting Walker’s demands that members contribute 5.8% of their incomes towards their public pensions and at least 12.6% of their incomes towards health-care plans. This increased contribution would be a de facto pay cut for union members (for example, University of Wisconsin union members could see a 8-15% pay cut). Union leaders have suggested that they would be willing to make these concessions. If this battle were just about the upcoming deficit, it would be over.

But it isn’t. There’s one concession that unions are not willing to make: surrender their collective bargaining power. Walker’s proposal would deny most unions the ability to collectively bargain for anything more than salary (and even that would be limited); Walker’s proposal excepts from these collective bargaining rules his political allies in the police and firefighters unions. His proposal also puts up additional hurdles for unions to maintain their union status. These measures set the stage for a long-term structural change.

Consider education. The elimination of union collective bargaining could open up the door for destroying tenure, limitations on teaching load, pay for extracurricular activities, limits on working hours, and state funding for continuing the education of teachers. The end of collective bargaining could also help undermine public employee pension funds.

Scott Walker has borrowed a page from Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel and is not letting a crisis go to waste. As with Obama, the most contentious part of Walker’s proposals (collective bargaining) serves a far more structural purpose than a short-term one.

(A couple other structural notes: At a time when private sector employment is stagnating and wages shrinking, public workers are not going to be able to defend ever-increasing wages and benefits for themselves. Also, many public unions made the choice to full-throatedly back Democrats, which has limited their leverage over Republicans. With Republicans newly empowered in state legislatures across the country, the hands of public unions are significantly weakened. These unions could be paying a price for their partisanship.)

Originally published at A Certain Enthusiasm


Recent Posts by Fred Bauer



60 Comments so far ↓

  • hisgirlfriday

    Very interesting post. I am curious though which people would say came first though… unions supporting only Democrats or Republicans not supporting any union priorities.

    Eisenhower was very pro-union because he thought unions were what built the middle class prosperity and he thought labor unions were what separated us from being like the Soviets (and I think history proved him right when the Poland Solidarity movement helped bring down the Iron Curtain).

    http://www.historytimes.com/fresh-perspectives-in-history/20th-century-history/cold-war/750-60-years-ago-eisenhowers-labor-day-speech-1950

  • Rabiner

    A balanced piece which really crystallizes the issue. This is not over benefits anymore, this is about unions being viable in today’s world and Walker has no desire for that to be the case.

    If teachers decide to end the school year now as opposed to June I’d be completely behind them because in the long run its too important.

  • jquintana

    Excerpt of an article by Matt Welch in Reason magazine:

    We are witnessing the logical conclusion of the Democratic Party’s philosophy, and it is this: Your tax dollars exist to make public sector unions happy. When we run out of other people’s money to pay for those contracts and promises—most of which are negotiated outside of public view, often between union officials and the politicians that union officials helped elect)—then we just need to raise taxes to cover a shortfall that is obviously Wall Street’s fault. Anyone who doesn’t agree is a bully, and might just bear an uncanny resemblance to Hitler.

    Taking into consideration Obama’s rhetorical and tactical support for the Wisconsin union protests, that statement pretty much sums it up.

    • hisgirlfriday

      And you don’t think Walker busting the public unions is Walker doing the bidding of the companies who shelled out cash to elect him just the same as Democrats supporting unions who support Democrats?

      Maybe it’s a favor to Rupert Murdoch, who last fall hired away the NYC chancellor of schools Joel Klein and bought ed-tech company Wireless Generation for $360 Million…

      Educational technology experts say the purchase of ed-tech company Wireless Generation by media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. raises questions about how effective the partnership will be over the long haul, but they hope the move inspires further large-scale private investment in the K-12 technology market.

      http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2011/02/09/02bits-merger.h04.html

      After Klein resigned, News Corp. officials told The New York Times that they planned to make “seed investments” in entrepreneurial education companies. The acquisition of Wireless Generation may be the first of these investments. [...]

      “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching,” said News Corporation Chairman and CEO, Rupert Murdoch in a statement.

      Hmmm… I wonder if he could be planning to make a lot of profits off the privatization of education after the teachers unions are broken throughout the country and no one is standing in the way of politicians who think “fixing education” is handing out fat contracts to a Murdoch-owned company in the “$500 billion sector” that is U.S. “public” education.

      http://gothamschools.org/2010/11/22/murdoch-buys-education-tech-company-wireless-generation/

      • jquintana

        hisgirlfriday // Feb 20, 2011 at 6:29 am

        And you don’t think Walker busting the public unions is Walker doing the bidding of the companies who shelled out cash to elect him just the same as Democrats supporting unions who support Democrats?

        I’ll point out the difference: companies who support candidates do so voluntarily, and anybody who works for that company can quit if they don’t like it. And most private companies hedge their bets by contributing to both Democrats and Republicans. However, if you’re a private citizen of a state where your tax dollars go to support pro-union candidates, you have to pay for it whether you like it or not.

        This is the process:
        1) State treasuries are mostly filled from tax revenue collected from the private sector
        2) The private sector is comprised of private citizens along with private sector small businesses and large companies
        3) Public employees are paid out the state treasury
        4) Part of the public employees’ paycheck is withheld in the form of union dues for public employee unions
        5) These public employee unions take this revenue and use it to help elect pro-union public officials
        6) Once they’re successful in electing ‘their guy,’ public employee union representatives negotiate their contracts with the very public officials they help to elect.

        Anyone notice a problem here?

        Basically, whether you’re Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, Green, Conservative, Socialist, or Liberal, your hard-earned money is stolen from you to help elect public officials with whom you may not agree on many political issues. In turn, these public officials go to the unions who elected them and reward them with even more of your tax dollars in the form of padded union contracts. This is all the more insidious when you take into consideration there are millions of people out of work right now who would give their left arm for a job, while these public employee union members in Wisconsin get paid to ditch work all week and whine about having to make a tiny contribution to their health care and pension—a contribution about half that of the average contribution made by the private sector.

        • hisgirlfriday

          [blockquote]I’ll point out the difference: companies who support candidates do so voluntarily, and anybody who works for that company can quit if they don’t like it.
          [/blockquote]

          So people who belong to unions aren’t allowed to take action to decertify their union if that’s what they want and they’re not allowed to quit their job if they don’t like paying union dues or having their money going to pro-union candidates? Since when?

          And most private companies hedge their bets by contributing to both Democrats and Republicans. .

          There is NO difference between a labor union donating money to Democrats and corporations donating money to Democrats and Republicans. It just means the corporations have more money at their disposal to buy politicians of both parties.

          However, if you’re a private citizen of a state where your tax dollars go to support pro-union candidates, you have to pay for it whether you like it or not

          And if you’re a private citizen of a state where your tax dollars go to corporate welfare for corporations that support anti-union candidates, you have to pay for it whether you like it or not.

          So do we agree that both labor unions and corporations should be barred from donating to political campaigns then?

    • COProgressive

      Matt Welch wrote;
      “We are witnessing the logical conclusion of the Democratic Party’s philosophy, and it is this: Your tax dollars exist to make public sector unions happy.”

      Utter HogWash. OUR tax dollars exist as a means to create a civil society. OUR tax dollars exist to provide the support and services that OUR civil society needs to maintain a quality of life the people of that society choose.

      The converse of Matt Welch’s statement would be, the logical conclusion of the Republican Party’s philosophy, and it is this: Your tax dollars exist to make big business and corporations happy.”

      The truth is, your tax dollars are the dues you pay to live in a civil society. What is happening in Wisconsin regarding the Governors attempt to extinguish the effectiveness of the State unions is not civil. Perhaps it is the Governor who is in need of neutering.

      [b]Although it is true that only about 20 percent of American workers are in unions, that 20 percent sets the standards across the board in salaries, benefits and working conditions. If you are making a decent salary in a non-union company, you owe that to the unions. One thing that corporations do not do is give out money out of the goodness of their hearts.
      – Molly Ivins [/b]

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “If teachers decide to end the school year now as opposed to June I’d be completely behind them because in the long run its too important.”

    Ironically, you’d be very much making the point of those who want an end to teachers’ unions.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    Thanks for this reasoned and fact-heavy post.

    From the parenthetical at the end: “At a time when private sector employment is stagnating and wages shrinking, public workers are not going to be able to defend ever-increasing wages and benefits for themselves.”

    First off, as you point out, these folks evidently are willing to decrease their salaries.

    More broadly, it seems to me that this is the context here:

    Now, it’s not at all bad thing to get rich. It’s a great thing! Unhappily, though, what we’ve been seeing in our economy in the past decade is changes in tax policy that give more money to the wealthy, stagnating or decreasing incomes for the bottom 90%, and busted budgets. The argument that public-sector workers are politically unpopular because private sector workers are doing poorly isn’t a good argument for inflicting pain on public sector workers, in this context.

    Why not return tax rates to 1990s levels, back when wages were rising for everyone, we had a budget surplus, and the economy was consistently growing? Here’s a balanced budget drawing on that idea: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/13/weekinreview/deficits-graphic.html?choices=809205qv

    If reducing gov’t revenues made the world better off– as may well have been the case in 1980– then Walker’s plan would be great. But that just hasn’t been our experience lately.

    Walker’s plan, of course, is simply about inflicting pain even though it does nothing to ameliorate the budget situation that he’s been exacerbating. “Walker has taken an already pressing problem, made it incrementally worse, and then used it not just as an excuse to bargain hard on wages and benefits, but as an excuse to gut Wisconsin’s public unions entirely. (The Democratic-leaning ones, anyway.) It’s just not a good faith exercise.” motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/02/how-big-are-wisconsins-problems

  • GoyitoMKE

    I am not a union member, nor is any member of my large family (I have five siblings and two adult children).

    But John, the guy that picks up my family’s garbage, is a unionized public employee.

    The guy that plows our snow is a unionized public employee.
    The people that supply our clean water and sewer services are unionized public employees.
    The police officers and firefighters that protect us and our homes are unionized public employees.
    The teachers in my 15 year old’s school, and the people that clean and maintain her school, are unionized public employees.
    The workers who maintain our county parks are unionized public employees.
    The people who maintain the city streets, and the county and state highways, are unionized public employees.
    The people who teach at our fine University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the academic, administrative, security and support staff, are unionized public employees.
    The men and women that drive the County buses through our neighborhood, providing public transportation (primarily) to the elderly, students, and the working poor, are unionized public employees.
    The nurse, doctors, administrative and other support staff of our City of Milwaukee Health Service and our State of Wisconsin Health Service – those responsible for disease control, clean water and air, food safety in restaurants, etc. – are unionized public employees.

    Many, many of my neighbors are unionized public employees.

    The list goes on and on.

    So when Scotty Walker and his ilk attempt to unilaterally strip these people of their bargaining rights, and to decertify their unions, I take it very personally. It is nothing less than a cynical, mean spirited, political assault on the very people who help provide me, my family, and our entire community with a good quality of life by working for the common good, and I will not stand idly by and watch it happen.

    Walker and his vicious band of political thugs MUST be stopped.

  • llbroo49

    IMO this is why you should probably get an MBA and not a Masters Degree in Education or Social Work. I remember being in Business school and having Medical students, law students, and education majors think they were somehow better than those of pursuing MBAs because they (medical students et al) held lofty goals of helping society and their fellow man, while we (MBA students) were pursuing the almighty dollar.

  • hisgirlfriday

    That chart is just devastating and seriously makes me wonder how many more years this country has left. We cannot tax cut and spending cut and deregulate our way into a new middle class.

  • andydp

    I would go along with the Governor’s attempts at “budget cutting” but the Police and Fire unions that supported him are “exempt” from the collective bargaining part of his action. Police and Fire pensions are very liberal: they can retire at 20 years on 50% of their top three year average salary including overtime pay. I personally know some NYC police that are making more in retirement than I am working full time. (I am in no way saying they don’t deserve everything they earn for the jobs they do every day) What is not being publicized is a large part of that budget shortfall is the doing of the Governor and the GOP dominated legislature.

    Calling out the National Guard will not be a good idea. All you need is a few photos of a Guardsman dragging a teacher away and it will be part of the 2012 national election. It will galvanize the Democrats (and indipendents) into anti GOP factions. Can anyone see the slogans ? “Vote GOP and it will happen here !!!” or a “GOP is anti union/middle class campaign”

    In full disclosure I’m a union member as are my wife and son. But we (and many of our friends and colleagues) recognize the need to re evaluate and re engotiate. NY State employee union heads haven’t seen the writing on the wall yet, but they will as soon as 10,000 employees are furloughed (Which could include my son).

    Despite what you may believe, union dues cannot be used for campainging. Federal Law and some state laws prohibit unions from using dues dollars to make contributions to political campaigns. That’s why unions have political action committees (PAC). Contributions to PACs are voluntary. (I realize this last is open to debate but my union has separate funds if you wish to contribute)

    • gobsmacked

      Excellent comment…thanks. I also appreciate the words of GoyitoMKE above.

      I do find it interesting that the unions who supported the Gov. are exempt. And I find it troubling that the Governor would want to take away the power of collective bargaining. How exactly is that meant to help the budget shortfall (that the GOP actually created by the gift of tax credits to business).

      Also interesting is that the World is watching:

      http://politico-junkie.blogspot.com/2011/02/australia-wisconsin-in-news.html

    • dante

      Actually, I could be wrong, but can’t union dues be used for political purposes unless the union member specifically asks that it not be? Basically the default is that it can be, and the union member has to specifically opt out.

      Please correct me if I’m wrong…

      • hisgirlfriday

        I’m pretty sure that one of the consequences of Citizens United was that labor unions could for the first time use dues money toward political campaigns directly.

        • jonmarin

          I am the Treasurer for our local union. If you use dues (non-pac) for political purposes such as endorsing a candidate you will lose your tax-exempt status. The PAC portion of a teachers dues for the state of Wisconsin is a very small part of their total union bill. Last year is was $22 for the union that I belong to.

  • ProfNickD

    You know which side is the wrong side of the debate when Jesse Jackson makes an appearance.

  • Nanotek

    well written … but there may be more at stake … Wisconsin law allows recall for politicians who have served more than a year … and the middle-class union members know it

  • Posting From Fake America

    I’ve criticuized Republicans plenty of times, but I have to agree with them here. Government workers already enjoy the benefit of working for entities which do not face constant pressure to cut costs or jeopardize worker safety. The layoffs and wage and benefit cuts have been minor compared to what private sector workers have faced for decades. I’m also tired of the “unions created the middle class so we should have more unions today” argument. Little or no competition abroad is what created the emergence of a middle class. Labor supply has dramatically increased and no union can reverse that. Pro-union arguments are just as shallow as conservative arguments for cutting taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

  • talkradiosucks.com

    “You know which side is the wrong side of the debate when Jesse Jackson makes an appearance.”

    Funny, I tend to feel the same way when your name shows up in the comments list.

  • Slide

    1) Wisconsin’s budget shortfall was created by the Repbublican’s by giving more tax cuts to business

    2) 2/3s of all Corporations in Wisconsin pay no taxes

    3) Walker uses the phony crisis to ram a bill through that effectively ends collective bargaining for public employees

    4) Walker also adds other union busting measures to the bill such as the unions having to be re-certified every year, etc.

    5) Walker conveniently excluded the only public service unions that supported him in the last election.

    What scum.

  • Nanotek

    “And I find it troubling that the Governor would want to take away the power of collective bargaining.”

    can’t unions be considered a constitutionally protected right of association, under the 1st US Amendment and Art 1, Sec. 4 of Wis Constitution?

    “5) Walker conveniently excluded the only public service unions that supported him in the last election.”

    no words can describe his principles

  • ottovbvs

    As has becone blatantly obvious this an attempt by Walker to impose some Republican ideology on the state of WI. He wants to destroy the unions and make it a right to work state. My personal view is he’s completely over reached as right wing ideologists in America often do. Think of some of these school boards trying to impose intelligent design teaching, Gingrich shutting the govt down, Bush’s attempted privatisation of SS. Even if he’s able to kidnap some of these Democrats and drag them back to Madison to make a quorum any victory is going to be pyrrhic because the public worker unions will simply dig in for a campaign of passive resistance and they have enormous leverage and ability to throw sand in the gears. After a year of this Walker and the Republicans are going to be in world of hurt. Republicans are counting on their ability to demonize teachers and other govt workers in the state but I doubt it will be successful . Basically WI is a blue state, much of manufacturing is unionized so there’s going to be a lot of sympathy for any fight to preserve CBR’s. Breitbart and his cronies can show up in tiny numbers but it’s not material. Walker has roused much of the working and middle class of WI against him and he’s not going to win this in the long run.

  • valkayec

    Something I keep reading and hearing is that wages and benefits of public employees is “stealing” from the taxpayers. Wrong. They’re employees just as employees in the private sector are, and as such have just as much right to ask for a living wage and decent benefits as anyone else.

    I have just as many complaints about union behavior as anyone else, particularly the over reach seen during the last 20 or so years. But who’s blaming management for making bad deals? Who’s blaming the politicians for go along with bad deals or not putting money into pension funds as promised and using accounting tricks to make government balance sheets look better?

    Companies have been trying to rid themselves of unions since day one in order to maximize profits. Just as with eliminating banking regulations, this effort has been a long campaign to turn voters and the people in general against unions. Against the idea that people can come together as a group to say we can better wages, benefits, and working conditions. When that right is taken away, people lose their freedom. Part of their guaranteed right to free assembly and association as well as lobby governments or even businesses. I find this assault on unions an assault on our basic Constitutional liberties.

    • andydp

      Val: I’ve said this before but for every Clif Claven in a public union, there’s a “Wally” in private industry.

      Does it mean I approve of free rides by unions for health care or pensions ? Absolutely not. I pay into my 401k type pension and into my health care. NY State employees only have to contribute into their pension for 10 years then its “free”. My wife pays for her health care plan which is considerably less generous than the teachers. I’m not sure about NY teachers but in NJ they don’t pay anything for their health benefits – something I think is unacceptable.

      I’ve held the Steel Workers and the UAW almost fully responsible for the current status of their industries. Blatanly ignoring reality and continuing to act as if the US was the sole manufacturer was absolutely stupid. Of course their managements’ role in acceding to union demands is also something to think about. I had a boss here at the USPS that said to managers “don’t gripe about X or Y clause, YOU agreed to it”. You’re quite right management screwed up a lot of stuff.

      As for the “attack on unions” going on right now, I find it interesting the Wall Street Journal has an “infomal series” on unions especially public sector ones. Based on their letters to the editor, 99% of their readers think unions are to blame for everything including the shooter on the grassy knoll.

      Wisconsin’s case doesn’t hinge on the salaries which the unions have said they would talk about. Its the Governor’s stance on collective bargaining and the blatant favoritism for unions that supported him. I’m thinking the Police and Fire unions better start making plans for when he goes after them.

      • ottovbvs

        “I’ve held the Steel Workers and the UAW almost fully responsible for the current status of their industries.”

        Knowing a little about this having managed companies that sold widgets to the auto industry and having had run ins with the UAW it’s not quite as simple as usually presented. The Autoworkers certainly abused their power but you can’t absolve management of all responsibility for how they managed labor relations or the wider problems of the business like model proliferation, pipeline stuffing, quality, dealer proliferation, I could go on. Even where a good management like that at Cat which faced a year long UAW strike in the 90′s and won, they were fairly magnanimous when the stoppage was over because at bottom you can’t run any organisation without the cooperation of the workforce. This is where Walker is out to lunch if he thinks he can coerce WI public workers to give up their bargaining rights without a huge war of attrition. The Cheezers aren’t going to welcome prolonged disruption particularly when it’s over an issue like this where Walker’s actions are so obviously ideological.

      • valkayec

        Regarding the WSJ series, I no longer read the Journal. I used to love reading it too, but after Murdoch took it over, it’s editorials took on a decided Fox News slant. Now I depend upon Bloomberg news, Bloomberg Business Week, and Fortune for my business news.

    • hisgirlfriday

      I find this assault on unions an assault on our basic Constitutional liberties.

      The right to assemble in the First Amendment is to seek redress from the government, not your employer.

      Collective bargaining rights are not enshrined in the Constitution and can be taken away at any time by legislators who find it politically expedient to do so.

      Your right to overtime pay is not enshrined in the Constitution and can be taken away at any time by legislators who find it politically expedient to do so.

      Your right to workplace safety is not enshrined in the Constitution and can be taken away at any time by legislators who find it politically expedient to do so.

      Your right to a minimum wage is not enshrined in the Constitution and can be taken away at any time by legislators who find it politically expedient to do so.

      Your right to protection from employment discrimination is not enshrined in the Constitution and can be taken away at any time by legislators who find it politically expedient to do so.

      Your right to live in a society that doesn’t exploit child laborers is not enshrined in the Constitution and can be taken away at any time by legislators who find it politically expedient to do so.

      (I know… it sounds crazy… but a Missouri GOP state senator really did introduce a bill last week to repeal the state’s prohibition on kids under 14 working http://voices.kansascity.com/entries/missouri-senator-wants-repeal-child-labor-laws/ )

      If someone is a hard core libertarian Mises Institute junkie like Ron Paul who worships Grover Cleveland and thinks unions were bad for America back when the Progressive movement gave birth to them in the Midwest 120 years ago then… fine. But I’m sick of hearing people say things like… oh, sure, unions once served a purpose but our society has evolved and we just don’t need them any more.

  • llbroo49

    Actually, I am torn on this issue. In college I interned for a state agencey and after undergad, I worked for the feds (IRS). It was always “understood” that public employees took less pay in exchange for better retirement benefits and job stability. For example an examiner or auditor at the SEC or IRS made less money than their counterparts at one of the Big 5 accounting firms, but they had a better work life balance. As a matter of fact, I left the IRS because of limited promotion opportunities and the desire for more pay. I find that now I pay less now for medical insurance/ premiums (I work for a fortune 100 company) , make more in base salary, and the bonuses are not even comparable to what I was making as a public servant.

    I would only consider returning to public service if 1) I returned at the Senior Executive Level and/ or 2) if I became burned out and wanted to pursue a less aggressive career.

    I am not sure about state unions, but federal unions are relatively weak ( see Reagan/ air traffic controllers). At the IRS we could not strike or threaten to strike.

    Having said that, it would take a long time to terminate an employee. I recall several instances where employees were targeted for termination who were able to collect checks for over a year. They would just put them in a cubicle with no computer and no phone and hope they would just quit before the process ran its course.

    I understand that states need some flexibility in order to meet budget contraints and I understand that many less fortunate individuals resent the postions/perks that public employees enjoy. But some of the same people that lament the fact that we are collectively paying the salaries of public employees were the same people that bemoaned efforts to limit executive pay for corporations that received TARP funds.

  • ktward

    This isn’t a budget battle, and it turns out there’s way more at stake for Wisconsinites than collective bargaining rights.

    Buried (suspiciously) within this bill is yet another reason why the Gov & Republican legislators have tried to ram it through post-haste, resorting even to illegally voting the bill past the amendable stage. (The Dems cried foul and the Republicans were forced to walk it back.)

    [blockquote]“The bill proposes sweeping changes to the state’s Medicaid programs … [allowing] the administration to revamp and even gut the programs without following state laws or the normal legislative processes.”

    “Lost in all the media coverage about worker rights is the fact that SB11/AB11 would grant unprecedented power to the administration to change Medicaid in Wisconsin without going through the full legislature. Allowing an unelected official (Department of Health Services Secretary Dennis Smith) to essentially make law in the state … an egregious violation of the separation of powers. Making law is the province of the legislature.”
    [/blockquote]

    Why haven’t we heard about this before now?

    “It has been an exhausting week, [Dems/advocates/policy experts] say, so a big reason people haven’t been talking more about Medicaid is that the bill is being moved so quickly through the Legislature that it took them some time to catch up to its implications. ‘We’re just trying to keep our heads above the water,’ says one Democratic staffer who hasn’t slept for several days. Graeme Zielinski, communications director for the state Democratic Party, says the party is having trouble keeping up as well. ‘It’s like we have gunshot wounds to the head, to the belly and to our front. We’re doing triage to a very, very bad bill,’ he says.”

    This is an important read:
    http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/health_med_fit/vital_signs/article_7e749b2a-3c97-11e0-94d7-001cc4c03286.html

    Press release today at 1:00 pm CST:
    [blockquote]“A new coalition of more than thirty different groups representing some of the 1.2 million Wisconsin residents in Medicaid funded programs is holding a media event Sunday to try to raise awareness of provisions in Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill that could drastically revamp and even gut the state’s public health programs.

    “Members of the coalition include health care providers, advocates, public policy experts and members of various churches and such well known groups as Disability Rights Wisconsin, AARP, and ABC for Health.”[/blockquote]

    • Nanotek

      ktward@“Lost in all the media coverage about worker rights is the fact that SB11/AB11 would grant unprecedented power to the administration to change Medicaid in Wisconsin without going through the full legislature.”

      thanks … that is new to me

  • The Merchant of Venice Beach

    Good article and great thread everyone. I find other Republican sites noxious, screaming that all government workers are parasites. My wife is a nurse who works part time at 2 nursing homes, one privately owned the other run by the county. Essentially the pay and duties are the same at both places. Yet somehow she is a parasite during her work hours at the country nursing home, but an exemplar of the working class at the private facility. Those sites are simply deranged.

    One other small comment, lets not overblow this issue, this is essentially a Wisconsin affair. The citizens of Wisconsin brought this upon themselves and I shall not stress out one way or the other, except that I would never want to live in Wisconsin if Walker wins since he holds working people in such contempt.

    • ktward

      One other small comment, lets not overblow this issue, this is essentially a Wisconsin affair.

      You’re wrong. And here’s why.
      (I’m pretty sure the following points have already been outlined or touched upon by previous comments, but I’ll recap.)

      - WI was a key player in the organized labor movement. Don’t kid yourself for a second that Wisconsinites don’t remember that blood was spilt on their soil in the cause for humane working conditions. Today, we take for granted many hard won standards– from 40 hr workweeks/8 hr workdays to child labor laws to workplace safety. WI citizens actually fought for these standards through their right to unionize.

      - Walker’s attempting to bust unions. His pretense of “balancing the budget” has already been soundly debunked. It’s in light of this fact that the rest of the nation cares: if union-busting is successful in WI of all places, union-busting is a comparatively easy task in any other state.

      - Walker’s playing the political game of the GOP. The fastest way– especially post-Citizens United–to drive a stake through the heart of the Dem Party is to de-tooth the union PACs. Translation: this is no longer just about WI.

      - As my 12:55 post outlines, Walker has a whole lot of ugly policy hidden up his sleeve. The kind of ugly that even his own constituents never bargained for. For the rest of us, WI’s ordeal is a cautionary tale and we had better damn well pay close attention.

      • The Merchant of Venice Beach

        “For the rest of us, WI’s ordeal is a cautionary tale and we had better damn well pay close attention.”
        I think you misunderstand my intention. I agree with this but my point is too many people here are getting emotionally involved in something they have no control over. The people of Wisconsin brought this on themselves and they are getting exactly what they themselves voted for. As to cautionary tales, 8 years of George Bush’s incompetence should have been enough of a cautionary tale for everyone for a generation. There are just too many stupid people, even in blue states.

        So no, while I hope Walker gets his comeuppance, if he doesn’t this is the fault of the people of Wisconsin, not me so I shall not be disappointed.

        • ktward

          [M]y point is too many people here are getting emotionally involved in something they have no control over.

          Huh? Near as I can tell, where applicable this thread’s commenters are simply recognizing the dire implications that WI’s outcome holds for the rest of the nation. In this respect, even those of us outside WI do have means in which we might assert some measure of “control”: at minimum, by tangibly supporting the WI protesters.

          Most of us are too young to personally recall the multi-state solidarity evidenced by, for example, the civil war era and the civil rights era. But you’re not too young to have studied history, are you?

          I’m seriously trying to understand your point.
          Might you cite an example of the apparently superfluous “emotional involvement” to which you’re referring?

  • ktward

    @Nanotek-

    You’re welcome- and that’s some news, eh? Walker’s sneaky imperialist machinations defy explanation. I suspect that 2012′s gonna get ugly for the GOP in WI. And rightly so.

    • Nanotek

      ktward@”You’re welcome- and that’s some news, eh? Walker’s sneaky imperialist machinations defy explanation.”

      can’t let our guard down for a second … my dad used to tell me to keep an eye on the hand not waving in my face … a lesson I had forgotten

  • TerryF98

    “There’s a good reason why governments and corporations alike show trepidation when people are able to organize. Union is effective. For all the pretty speeches and all the ham-handed threats, the signal that the Iron Curtain was finally rising didn’t come in Berlin or Washington, D.C., it came in the shipyards of Gdańsk, when men dared to wave the flag of an independent union. Want to determine where governments are actually concerned about the rights of their people? You only have to look at how free people are to organize for a cause. Without that, no other rights matter. With it, all other rights will follow”

  • Gramps

    I’ve read some very cogent, constructive and insightful blog “threads”…this has been one of the finest.
    My faith in the eternal, survival, of the human spirit for family, friend and neighbor, has been renewed…honestly.

    Thank you, ladies and gentlemen…!

    • ktward

      Gramps– Who’re ya callin’ a laydee?!

      ;)

      • Gramps

        All them’s that do…and all them’s that don’t…
        Good Lord knows, I luv ‘em all…!

      • politicalfan

        I will take that Gramps. Blessings! ;)

        • Gramps

          Holy Jesus, Mary and Joseph…
          I luv Nigerian nuns, almost as much as everyone and everything else, in my sordid, life…
          However, yah ladies…

          Say hey…
          Yah gotta really, really…
          Reconsider…

          Honestly…!

        • politicalfan

          My Catholic grandma would be taking you to church lad! ;)

  • ktward

    We’re all Wisconsinites now. To learn why, here’s a decent primer. (It’s even titled “Primer”) …

    http://shoqvalue.com/wisconsin-union-solidarity-resources-information

  • Gramps

    Fine read…kt
    Thanks fer the link…!

    I know yah did that “Primer thinge” just so as I’d have enough confidence to read it…
    Hehehe…!

  • Primrose

    I find it amazing that the same party that can froth at the mouth about government regulating business think they have the right to regulate unions out of existence. What are unions doing but maximizing their economic potential?

    If you think the public good overwhelms that right, well then corporations also must sacrifice their profits for the public good.

    Also, when executives still got paid insane salaries and bonuses, though their organizations failed miserabley, the right said you can’t interfere with contracts, and we needed the best bankers, and, and, and….

    It disturbs me that so many of those on the right like the free market when it calcified class system that benefits them but not when anyone else even a little.

    Also our auto and steel industries failed because they failed to modernize, a decision the executives made not the unions.

  • politicalfan

    “With Republicans newly empowered in state legislatures across the country, the hands of public unions are significantly weakened. These unions could be paying a price for their partisanship.”

    Once a bright teacher starts reading the entire bill (and she tells another teacher, and so on and so on) and the entire bill gets aired out with all the potential impacts, I think there might be a price to be paid by both parties.

  • Balloon Juice » The Death and Life of the Great American Middle Class

    [...] to this threat, the party itself could be undone. And we’ll continue to read, over and over, sentences like this one: At a time when private sector employment is stagnating and wages shrinking, public workers are not [...]

  • takvar

    Fred Bauer writes a real good article about the crisis, but ends it with a dubious proposition. I like that the framing of the debate here is about the substantive issues. The article covers clearly what’s at stake, and within the context of the fairly-framed positions of both sides. In sharp contrast, the NY Times frames the story as one of political posturing. It is significant that Bauer acknowledges that this legislation has an upward effect on the distribution of wealth, and we should question that transfer. This is well-framed, well-argued, conservative journalism. However, Bauer dubiously states that unions would not be in this mess if they had supported a Republican senator politically. Wisconsin has at least 17 Republican state senators willing to abolish collective bargaining. Which one of them would Bauer’s union have backed?

  • andydp

    I have to tell you I agree with a lot of the comments about the civility and high degree of information that we’ve managed to talk about in this thread. Kudos to everyone !!

    Now for my comment:

    I may be wrong but when the Heath Care Act was being developed, the GOP kept saying “bureaucrats will be in charge of health care decisions”. From what I read, This bill would give an unelected Wisconsin bureaucrat the power to change Medicaid without going through the Legislature (or doctors)

    Does anyone else see the problem here ?

  • Otto

    I am reminded of a poem I once read. It’s titled ‘First They Came’ by Pastor Martin Niemoller. I’m sure many here have heard of or read it. The first two stanzas are particularly telling.

    “First they came for the communists,
    And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.”

    McCarthyism in the USA, sponsored by Conservatives decades ago.

    “Then they came for the trade unionists,
    And I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.”

    Sponsored by Conservatives, and still ongoing.

    Maybe it is time for the middle class of this country to throw off the yoke of their corporate masters and declare, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”

    I also love this quote,
    “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” ~ Sinclair Lewis, 1935

    It should be enough to make one pause and reflect, even if just for a second.

  • Gramps

    Dear, Governor Scott Walker, gimme a break…

    The Wisconsin budget was not out of balance by, 300 billion, until you and the GOP majority gave up 170 billion dollars of incentives and tax breaks to big business, in January!

    Last November you never campaigned honestly, by telling the voters of Wisconsin the major portion of your plan for balancing the budget, would be placed on the backs of our public servants by eliminating, their union’s collective bargaining contract clause.

    You’ve also conveniently covered yer backside, by delaying the draconian cuts you will be proposing in your new budget for state aid to counties and municipalities. until after March first.

    The first thrust in your devious, disingenuous plan, was and and has been, to cut off the states, public service unions, ability to negotiate and then you “drop the hammer” on the counties and municipalities, with your new draconian, budget cuts!

    I spent four years in Vietnam fighting for the good olde US of A…
    Governor Walker, at this point in your executive leadership… I wouldn’t follow yer sorry arse to a “slit trench” latrine, if I had projectile diarrhea…!

  • Gramps

    Tuesday, August, 09, 2011…
    Will be a seminal day in the…

    In the great state of Wisconsin…
    This is gonna be a really, really, special event…

    Mark the “geezer’s words…
    Hugs hons…!