Mad in Madison

As the U.S. Education Department conference on labor-management negotiations wrapped up in Denver, Wisconsin public-sector employees were protesting in Madison against  a proposed budget bill that curtails collective-bargaining  rights and makes workers pay more for health and pension benefits.  The demonstrators included many teachers who’d called in sick,  closing schools in Madison, Milwaukee and other districts for three days.  Protestors equated Republican Gov. Scott Walker with Hosni Mubarak, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

The Madison School District has gone to court to get teachers back to work, but a judge refused to immediately order teachers back to class.

. . . Strikes by teachers are prohibited by state law.

Teacher walk-outs also are very unpopular with parents.

With so many taxpayers taking pay cuts or losing their jobs and benefits, sympathy for public-sector workers is not high.

Ann Althouse, who posts signs of the times from Madison, wonders at one of the main chants in the Capitol:  “This is what democracy looks like.”  Walker didn’t seize power in a military coup and rule Wisconsin for 30 years. He was elected by a majority of citizens in November along with a Republican majority in the state legislature.

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Elections have consequences writes Joe Klein in Time:

An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that. There are no guarantees that labor contracts, including contracts governing the most basic rights of unions, can’t be renegotiated, or terminated for that matter. We hold elections to decide those basic parameters.

And it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker’s basic requests are modest ones–asking public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, though still far less than most private sector employees do. He is also trying to limit the unions’ abilities to negotiate work rules–and this is crucial when it comes to the more efficient operation of government in a difficult time.

President Obama’s political machine is organizing pro-union demonstrations in Wisconsin and other states, reports the Washington Post. 

Their efforts began to spread, as thousands of labor supporters turned out for a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to protest a measure from Gov. John Kasich (R) that would cut collective-bargaining rights.

By the end of the day, Democratic Party officials were organizing additional demonstrations in Ohio and Indiana, where an effort is underway to trim benefits for public workers. Some union activists predicted similar protests in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In a Clarus poll, 64 percent of voters — including 49 percent of Democrats — said “government employees shouldn’t be represented by labor unions that bargain for bargain for higher pay, benefits and pensions.”

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Comments

  1. Polls express the sentiments of the majority of voters. But common sense also tells unions that they are reaching the point of overextending their demands. Many workers have lost their jobs and those that are employed have little or no pension plan or health insurance benefits. It doesn’t resonate well when they hear that teachers are striking because they are asked to pitch in a modest amount to their benefit package.

    I fear that the issue isn’t really about teachers, and it certainly isn’t about what is best for kids. It’s about power. In the face of drastically lower membership numbers and less leverage in the private sector, unions are scrambling to maintain power in the public sector. It’s very possible they have overplayed their hand on this one.

  2. Mike is right!

    This is the sort of idiocy that encourages teachers with common sense to drop their union memberships!

  3. Democracy is not “majority rules.” Part of a democracy is that citizens have a voice, even if that voice is not always fairly represented by the government. Implying that because the Republicans won the district means that what the unions are doing is not part of a democracy is one of the weakest arguments I’ve heard you use.

    Protest is fundamental part of a democracy, it is the reason why your constitution enshrines the “right to assembly.”

  4. Democracies, despite the simplistic statements sometimes made by columnists, are not merely “rule by the majority”. The conditions of due process and the protections of rights are also essential to democracies. The minorities have rights which cannot simply be ignored.

    This is one of those times. Fortunately, democracies give these minorities mechanisms to protect their rights – assembly, protests, job action, and (in the case of Wisconsin legislators) freedom of mobility.

    Hard-right Republicans over the last four years have shown how a determined minority can disrupt the flow of government. They will not learn what happens when a much larger minority of people who have, for years, provided public services rather than lived off them, exercise these same rights.

  5. The unions are in a weaker position then they realize. Beyond hostile public sentiment is reality. 49 of 50 states are near bankrupcy. It seems likely that they’ll be significantly weakened by the time this is over, not only in Madison, but across the US. This is going to damage that symbiatic relationship of union/politician/democratic party that has underpinned blue states for decades.

    I feel for those teachers and other pubic service workers. While they may be short-sighted, they aren’t evil. So many on the left were willing to vilify the Tea Party as neo-nazi like and racist. It will be interesting to see how they respond to the marginalization of their perferred group.

  6. Richard Cook says:

    Stephen Downes and David:

    You do not live in a Democracy. You live in a Republic and I think the disctinction is important. Democracy is usually one of the worst forms of government right up there with Communism and Totalitarianism. Democracy usually degenerates into mob rule in a short time while a Republic is designed to prevent this. It is not a nit to pick. It is a significant difference.

  7. Richard Cook says:

    oops…thats distinction.

  8. tim-10-ber says:

    To me it seems like simple math — take the cuts and pay more for insurance and pension or suffer job loses. I don’t understand the problem…the tax-payers will not stand for this over the long all…public sector works have it too good without having to pay for benefits…it is high time they step up and help out…it will benefit all in the long run…

  9. Randy Harwig says:

    Let’s be clear hear: Gov. Walker’s plan is not just about getting public employees to pay 5.8% of their salary into retirement and larger share of their health insurance premiums. The unions have agreed to do this. Gov. Walker also wants to eliminate all collective bargaining rights.

    If the Governor’s budget fix passes the teachers have already been told to expect the elimination of their contracts completely as of June 30. Not one teacher in the state can expect to have a job. The schools can hire back whoever they want at what ever salary they want with whatever the salary they want to offer. Of course then the 5.8% for retirement and the extra health insurance premiums won’t matter as much.

    My sister is a teacher in a small, central Wisconsin town. They were advised on Wednesday that they will be non-renewed, the whole staff, on March 14 if the bill passes. The district will do this to avoid lay-offs and unemployment. Then after June 30 the district will call back who they want at whatever salary they feel fair.

    I am a Wisconsin teacher and my wife is as well. If the only effect of the bill is the retirement and the insurance, which we have agreed to, we will probably make it. If the effects are as we are told we will have no choice but bankruptcy, walking away from our home. We will not be alone.

    And the really controversial news will come in two weeks when the Governor proposes cutting $900 million from education over 2 years and prevents the school districts from raising property taxes.

    Governor Walker’s aim is clear: He intends to end public education as we know it.
    He does not wish to discuss it, he has rejected any notion of compromise. We in Wisconsin look at Minnesota and see a Governor working for solutions and then look at our Governor and see him working toward his next employment opportunity. We just want to help him get to his next job as soon as possible.

  10. superdestroyer says:

    The teachers unions will probably make temporary concessions in order to get the benefits back in the future.

    Wisconsin has gold-plated benefits for its employees and in most counties in Wisconsin, the best jobs are the government jobs.

  11. The people of Wisconsin should direct their anger at the traitorous uber-capitalists who shipped the state’s industrial might to China. Had we had more patriotic elites, Wisconsin would be like today’s Germany –brimming with high-paying and unionized manufacturing. Then they wouldn’t need to stomp on teachers.

  12. L. C. Burgundy says:

    There is no public employee collective-bargaining right in Wisconsin and there never has been. It was an invention of the 1960′s.

    The fact of the matter is public employees have no “right” to their jobs in and of themselves, and when your job relies solely on tax revenue, you don’t get to skip along your merry way ignoring the people who pay the bills, treating your job like an entitlement that you deserve, insulated from the pain everyone else has had to experience over the past few years. Having had unquestioned gold-plated benefits and salaries for years, the teachers are understandably upset, and the nuttier among them have already abandoned civil discourse.

    Voters do not have the teachers’ unions back on this anymore and I think they are going to find that out sooner rather than later.

  13. As Ezra Klein accurately explained in the WashPost column today, this attack on unions and collective bargaining is a smoke-screen based on voters lack of understanding of their budget problems. The public employees have seen no major benefits or pay increases in the past five years to lead to budget problems. The reality is that it’s all about lost revenue – a problem that has been compounded by expanded tax cuts to businesses in a time the state could not afford it.

  14. Cardinal Fang says:

    A poll taken last night by We Ask America, a non-partisan polling outfit, showed that the majority of Wisconsin residents *disapprove of the governor’s proposed plan.*

    http://weaskamerica.com/2011/02/18/weirdness-in-wisconsin/

    “As you may know, Gov. Scott Walker has proposed a plan to limit the pay of government workers and teachers, increase their share of the cost of benefits, and strip some public-employ unions of much of their power. We’d like to know if APPROVE or DISAPPROVE of Gov. Walker’s plan.” 43% approve, 52% disapprove.

  15. Roger Sweeny says:

    My sister is a teacher in a small, central Wisconsin town. They were advised on Wednesday that they will be non-renewed, the whole staff, on March 14 if the bill passes. The district will do this to avoid lay-offs and unemployment. Then after June 30 the district will call back who they want at whatever salary they feel fair.

    I very much doubt many of the teachers will be fired. In most public school systems, you cannot simply let a few teachers go–tenure and all that. Also, if you might not renew a teacher, you have to inform him or her several months prior to their contract running out (in Wisconsin, I assume the legal requirement is March 14). It looks like this town is thinking of pretend-firing all of the teachers, then hiring most of them back with a less-generous contract, and avoiding all the “due process” of tenure firings.

    Yes, they will hire them back with a salary and benefits package that somehow seems fair. Since many people are unemployed and/or have had to take cuts in their own compensation, they will probably expect some shared sacrifice.

  16. The federal government spent over $120 billion to bail out one company, AIG. Why can’t the feds bail out Wisconsin ($3 billion in the hole)?

    Our economic disaster was bred on Wall Street. Tax receipts have plummeted in the states as a result. And teachers –not billionaire bankers –are taking the fall. Does this situation seem just?

  17. L. C. Burgundy says:

    43% approve of a budget plan with a lot of cuts? I’m actually surprised the approval of the overall plan is that high. It’s not getting the same exposure as Wisconsin, but Gov. Snyder here in Michigan has managed to piss off just about everyone with his budget, which probably means he’s doing it right, with horrible things like people receiving pensions actually paying the same income tax people who actually work have to pay.

    I still don’t understand why Wisconsin teachers think that the rest of Wisconsin should subsidize their significantly out of step benefits and pensions they receive. The fact that they are so upset with it tells me they know they have been paid well beyond their market worth for some time and they will stop at nothing to confiscate the necessary funds for their golden eggs.

  18. L. C. Burgundy says:

    Ben,

    They did bail out the states. It was called the Stimulus, you might remember it. Lo and behold, papering over a big deficit in one year tends to just create a bigger problem with more pain the next.

  19. LC,

    Do you think the American middle class is in decline, as I do? If so, to what do attribute the causes? Don’t you find it sad that we’re demanding that teachers give up a solidly middle-class existence so that they can be as poor and frightened as the rest of the middle-class is becoming?

  20. Oh, is this how they do it in fricking FINLAND?

  21. L. C. Burgundy says:

    Ben F,

    I wouldn’t know, I don’t claim to be a sociologist. What I do know is that all wishing aside, states kept making promises they realistically couldn’t keep to satiate union demands. Most middle and even upper class private sector workers are also expected to manage their own retirement funding and accept more responsibility for paying for health care or have benefit cuts – pensions are almost totally foreign ideas now.

    Public sector unions are operated with perverse incentives that sooner or later result in this situation where they demand their increasing entitlements be met on the back of a shrinking private sector. They can either receive realistic benefits packages or a large chunk of them will have to be terminated entirely. Again, the fact that they protest so hard tells me they know deep down they have been enjoying more generous benefits than they could possibly hope to get elsewhere, therefore indicating they are getting paid well above market rates.

  22. Cardinal, that poll is clearly weighted badly, towards union members. Go look at the union/nonunion split, particularly on the one where they are asked if the Dems should go back and vote on the bill.

  23. Cardinal Fang says:

    “I still don’t understand why Wisconsin teachers think that the rest of Wisconsin should subsidize their significantly out of step benefits and pensions they receive. ”

    The unions agree, and have agreed all along, to modify their benefits and pensions. That is not the issue. They’re protesting Walker’s move to strip away all collective bargaining rights from unions that don’t support him. Mysteriously, the firefighters, state troopers and police, who just happen to have supported Walker, can keep their collective bargaining rights.

  24. Cardinal Fang says:

    Cal, why do you believe the poll is weighted badly? It appears to me to say that a bit less than a third of respondents live in households where someone is in a union. That sounds about right. Wisconsin is a highly unionized state.

  25. Walker is trying to eliminate the collective bargaining rights to give local districts the power to directly negotiate benefits and pensions (not wages) based upon their individual economic circumstances. Currently, individual districts have no purse control when it comes any type of teacher compensation. They have few tools to control costs at the local level when all salaries and benefits are negotiated at the state level.

  26. It appears to me to say that a bit less than a third of respondents live in households where someone is in a union.

    According to the BLS, just 15% of Wisconsin workers are unionized, so no, that should not “sound about right”.

    In both poll questions, the heavily skewed union response clearly affected the outcome. Non-union members were split evenly on their approval of the budget, and over 60% of them thought the Dems should come back to vote.

  27. Ben F.,
    I do agree with you that America’s middle class is shrinking. One of the biggest reasons is that we, as a nation, are no longer producing much of anything. As a people, we have either ignored what has been happening or we vote for people who have enacted laws that encouraged this decline. While there are some good teachers out there (there were when I was in school 25 years ago), our education system has declined dramatically. While I don’t blame teachers alone for this decline, they are partly responsible. Their unions, certainly, have favored socialistic solutions to problems and are anti-business. The vast majority of their political activism is for greater government control and more money along with less accountability for teachers. This has furthered the decline in education.

    The students coming out of public education, even the best and the brightest, are not very well educated compared with similar students in other countries. The public system has failed and teachers and their unions, who see first-hand the horrific toll the system is taking on the futures of its students, never takes a stand to truly improve on what they are doing. The system is run for the adults alone while millions of American children graduate each year wth very little to show for the thousands of hours they spent there. It is tragic.

    Public sector jobs should reflect private sector jobs in total compensation. As it stands, public sector jobs are excessively compensated and the state of the economy calls for immediate reductions in total compensation. We can’t keep spending what we don’t have. It is wrong to burden the future generations with this massive debt, especially since we have done a pitiful job educating them and creating a climate where there will be fewer jobs for them.

  28. –Don’t you find it sad that we’re demanding that teachers give up a solidly middle-class existence so that they can be as poor and frightened as the rest of the middle-class is becoming?

    Please. Teachers aren’t “solidly middle class” anymore. They’re the top of the heap.
    “Average MPS Teacher Compensation Tops $100k/year
    [Milwaukee, Wisconsin] MacIver News Service – For the first time in history, the average annual compensation for a teacher in the Milwaukee Public School system will exceed $100,000.

    That staggering figure was revealed last night at a meeting of the MPS School Board.

    The average salary for an MPS teacher is $56,500. When fringe benefits are factored in, the annual compensation will be $100,005 in 2011.”

    http://maciverinstitute.com/2010/03/average-mps-teacher-compensation-tops-100kyear/

  29. L.c. Burgundy says:

    The proposal does not eliminate collective bargaining rights…just limits the benefits that can be conferred and eliminates compulsory membership… More than reasonable. Needless to say, I think the WI Dems are picking the wrong hill to die on.

  30. –on’t you find it sad that we’re demanding that teachers give up a solidly middle-class existence so that they can be as poor and frightened as the rest of the middle-class is becoming?

    To the other half of the sentence, the rest of us are losing ground and frightened because *we cannot afford to keep paying for public sector unions and their outrageous benefits.*

    So, yes, I demand they stop fleecing us. If they did, there would be no fear, no disaster looming. This is reality. If they think they are immune, they are wrong.

  31. Gov. Walker inherited a surplus, which he immediately gave away in tax cuts. He’s now using the deficit he created to destroy the unions and thus what remains of the middle class in his state. He’s a typical Republican: entirely unconcerned about America’s future.

  32. The American middle class is in decline, but the top 1%, which used to command 9% of national wealth, now controls 20%. These are the guys who own stocks in companies that have off-shored production, or hired cheap immigrant labor for factories at home. Don’t you folks get it? The elite that hangs out with Fox producers in NYC has engineered this collapse, and then scapegoated the public workers who earn 1/10,000th what they’re reaping. You’re being played for fools, alas.

  33. L.c. Burgundy says:

    So, in other words, the gov is not going to tax people in Wisconsin dead (because that’s what it really is, despite union anti-economic and class warfare rhetoric) for the unions’ sake. Too bad.

  34. Cardinal Fang says:

    Cal, once again you prove unable to read charts. Look again at that poll. It doesn’t say the respondent is a union member, it says the respondent lives in a union household. Look at these numbers, for voters in Wisconsin:

    http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/116488043.html

    So in 2010, 26% of Wisconsin *voters* said they lived in union households. Voters skew Republicans, union households skew Democratic, so it’s perfectly reasonable that 31% of Wisconsin *adults* would say they lived in union households.

  35. The Wisconsin teachers are making the best argument yet for school choice vouchers. I imagine there will be a flood of parents pulling their kids out of Wisconsin public schools in favor of private after all the photos of the teacher’s misspelled and over-the-top signs.

  36. I’m very uncomfortable with the HItler and Mussolini comparisons. And there’s a direct correlation between invoking fascist leaders and rhetorical horse-hooey. Could our union members at least be more, well, original?

    That said, this is a precariously untimely moment for unions to be calling for pension and salary protections. because most of America is losing/has lost both.

    I’m a teacher and I think we need to make some concessions on this one.

  37. There should be a comma between “protections” and “because.”

  38. Cardinal, no. That doesn’t sound right at all. It sounds as if the poll population was rigged. Union households are 1 in 4, and that’s the voting population, which is going to be bigger than its actual share.

    Look, as always, you focus on finding obscure points that you think help you support a larger picture. And you utterly ignore basic reality.

    Fact one: your poll shows a significant to HUGE disparity in union vs. non-union households.

    Fact two: In 2010, Wisconsin voters unseated a three term liberal Senator, voted in a Republican governor and significant majorities in the state legislature.

    Fact three: union voters voted heavily Democratic in 2010 and, as just mentioned, the state went Republican in a huge way–which tells you that union voters weren’t enough to make even a little bit of difference.

    So try, if you can, to put this all together. The poll you cite clearly shows that union voters skewed the results. But union voters weren’t enough to stop the state from going Republican just recently. So your poll is misrepresenting reality.

    But of course, common sense and a two digit IQ would have told you that much, so I’m not sure how much good this explanation will do you.

  39. ben f-
    do you have anymore of that kool-aid? cuz there’s plenty of libs invested overseas, including the presidents new bff at GE.

    states need to do two things to help schools-remove external influences like unions and government regulations. both drive up the costs of education without improving student learning. it seems that wi is tackling the first.

    oh, and the awol senators are cowards. I hope they send bounty hunters to track them down.

  40. Super Sub,

    I’ll ignore your ugly final statement.

    Do you have a narrative that explains America’s decline? Why did we once live in a country where a large middle class could exist on one salary, where jobs included pensions, where America had a trade surplus –and now we don’t? What’s going on?

  41. And I realize that some rich people are liberals, but these rich people vote Democratic and want to be taxed more (Warren Buffet has explicitly stated this) They realize how wrong-headed our current situation is. Tax rates for the rich have not been this low since the Hoover administration.

  42. People who think they are taxed too little are free to send whatever sum they think appropriate to the IRS, which will be happy to accept it. I haven’t heard of many doing so; in fact, John Kerry recently kept his yacht out of his home state to reduce his taxes (until the fact became public). The Warren Buffets of the country also have shelters, trusts and foundations that reduce their taxes. It is also well-documented that raising tax rates actually lowers tax revenue. The top 10% pay most of the taxes.

    Also, in those halcyon days you mentioned, the illegitimacy rate was very low and social programs (including medical) were basic to non-existent (my town and county had none, in the 50s). Illegitimacy and the social/criminal behaviors associated with family breakdown have huge costs. There is now a significant segment of the population that produces nothing but lives on the backs of the taxpayers.

  43. Ben F,
    Our standard of living is under pressure because of globalization, not because rich people aren’t taxed enough. Capital flows to the least restrictive environment. And, while our unique position in the world offers some advantages for taxing purposes, this is a calculation of diminishing returns as global capital competition increases. Unionization is simply a protection racket. While it protects a small class of government employees, it robs Peter to pay Paul. Peter isn’t happy. The way to protect “workers” isn’t to create classes that enjoy salaries, benefits, and protections beyond other middle-class private sector workers. Texas is a right to work state with weak public sector unions. Not coincidentally, Texas has had the greatest job growth in the nation.

    Our compatriots in Europe, with their stronger union traditions and large public sectors, are even less prepared to deal with globalization. Outside of Germany which benefits from interest rate imbalances within the Euro, GDP growth, demographics, and deficits are unsustainable. There is nothing but pain and more pain ahead for our European cousins.

    We can create flexibility in the labor market, free up local and state government so they are capable of addressing economic and social problems, keep our tax base lean and mean to attract employers, or we can continue down the spiral of diminishing returns with tight labor markets, high unemployment, high taxes and fewer economic opportunities.

  44. How about a protection racket for all of America? China and South Korea have been flouting Adam Smith’s prescriptions for decades –and flourishing as a result. They protect their industries with tariffs and government subsidies. Now they own us. The super rich in this country don’t care –because they still own shares in the formerly American companies like GE and Apple (most of whose employees and customers aren’t in America anymore). The Rust Belt has expanded to cover most of America. We’re a hollowed out shell, getting hollower by the minute. Getting leaner and meaner is not the solution. It’s time to consider neo-mercantilist policies for America. How did we develop industrially in the first place? Jefferson and co. put tariffs on British imports to shelter and grow American manufacturing. Our unthinking allegience to free market orthodoxy has not served the bottom 95% of Americans well.

  45. Cardinal Fang says:

    What is your problem, Cal? You don’t seem to be able to understand numbers very well. I don’t know why you’d think that union household members are more likely to vote than other Wisconsin residents, but even if you re-weight the Wisconsin poll so that only 25% of respondents live in union households, instead of about 31%, still a majority of respondents disapprove of the governor’s plan.

    I don’t understand the point of the rest of your rant. You say that Wisconsin voters elected Republicans. So they did. Now we wonder whether Wisconsinites approve of what those Republicans are trying to do. Well, the majority of the adult population doesn’t approve. That may inform Wisconsin elected officials who want to be re-elected one day.

    You say that union households dislike the governor’s plan more than non-union households. Of course they do. No one should be surprised by that. But why do you say “union voters skewed the results,” as if union households are somehow illegitimate? Union respondents (not voters, the poll didn’t purport to be surveying only voters) didn’t “skew” the results any more than young people, or any other group, “skewed” the results. Different groups have different views, and the poll adds them all up. A state with few union households would, perhaps, have different views, but Wisconsin is not a state with few union households.

  46. Ben F,
    Economic development doesn’t happen in a protective bubble. The phenomenal growth in our tech industries didn’t happen because they were protected; it happened because they were unregulated. Returning to Industrial Age America isn’t going to bring us economic prosperity. It will bring us lower wages and pollution, though. We don’t need to participate in a race to the bottom. Our advantage exists in our level of technological development, the sophistication and reliability of our markets, the rule of law, and democracy. You can surely see on your t.v. screen the cost of closed markets and political and social stagnation!

    You’re using China and India as scapegoats. It’s us, not them. While they do engage in mercantilist policies, so do we. We always have. We dump thousands of tons of agriculture products at below production prices on the international market every year. So does Europe. Why would third world countries invest in developing productive farming industries when they can purchase high quality American and European products at below cost? How do you think this activity affects local grain markets in Africa, Asia, and South America? It is unfortunate that agriculture employees so few people. Although, due to recent price inflation in corn and wheat, the price of farm land in the Mid-West has soared.

    You might be pleased to know that Ben Bernanke has attempted to address the global trade imbalance that China enjoys do to the fact its currency is artificially pegged to the dollar. An effect of QEII is the depreciation of the dollar; this forces China to print more Yuan for every day in its market. This creates inflation. Food prices in China have risen by 30% this year (yes, since January) alone.

    When states were flush with tax revenue during the ’90′s and early 2000′s, they promptly promised public employees greater and greater benefits, thus creating current deficits. Tax revenue has dropped precipitously since 2007, not because the rich are paying less, but because of the collapse of our financial markets. Our tax base shrunk. You can tax the rich up the ying-yang at 90% and you will never recover the level of revenue we experienced then. There aren’t enough rich people.

    Mercantilism is a pathway to poverty and war. I’m not going there. And I’m certainly not going there to prop up an industrial age social model that poorly serves millions of Americans.

  47. Richard Aubrey says:

    The US had a pretty good run. Our potential competitors had been smashed flat, the most productive age cohort killed in combat by the millions. Eventually, that gets fixed up.
    You’ll have heard that some University docs are out there faking up sick slips for the teachers.

  48. Excellent response to Ben F, Stacy in NJ! You explained it all really well. Ben, I suggest you research a bit more about globalization before you spout off Daily Kos talking points. If you actually think the U.S. is in decline or that China “owns us” then you really are not paying attention. Substitute Japan for China and your hysteria would be coming right out of the 1980′s.

  49. Stacy,

    You articulate well the standard free marketeer view that’s been ascendant in the USA since Reagan. Many Democrats, including Clinton, have subscribed. But all I’m seeing is decay. It just seems to me that a fresh way of looking at economics is called for. What is an economy and what is it for? It seems to me that we in America have the knowledge, resources and ability to provide pretty well for everyone here –and that we can toss in a modicum of economic and health security while we’re at it. But why is this not happening? Why, instead, are we getting more and more absolutely desperate families –families who work hard and yet cannot pay for health care, who are losing their homes, are on the brink of destitution? Why are there fewer and fewer jobs that pay above Walmart wages? Why are more and more communities infested with meth and hopelessness? Meanwhile Wall Street workers who do nothing productive are swimming in billions of bonuses. Something is wrong with this picture. This mess, it seems to me, is what we’ve gotten from decades of free market, laissez faire, low tax policies. I’m ready for a change.

  50. Regardless of the unrelated issues discussed here about Wisconsin and the country as a whole, fire all of the teachers who failed to show up for class. Every single one. Every educator should be ashamed of the behaviors demonstrated by the teachers in Wisconsin.

  51. Ben F,

    As the wife of a Wall Street “fat cat” I’m going to take a moment to offer you some information. You might not be aware of it, but thousands of people work on Wall Street. Most don’t earn much above the median income in NY State. The fat cats you and folks like you are so willing to punish are rare animals indeed. A handful of individuals make the millions and billions you want to confiscate. Most of those individuals are politically connected. You know, like those folks that recently met with President Obama for a round table discussion on how to improve employment opportunities in America. Many of them contributed to his campaign. I absolutely agree with you that we have problems with crony capitalism in the United States. My problem with your arguments is that you’re conflating this issue with other problems. Have you ever heard of the forgotten man? The forgotten man is the guy or gal who works as a restaurant manager, book store clerk, or plumber who doesn’t enjoy the protection of a union. They pay the taxes in all forms to support public service unions. Now, if they were provided with a superior service than perhaps the disparity in pay and benefits of these two classes of workers could be rationalized. But, in addition to paying union wages and benefits, they suffer the services provided by our mediocre at best public sector. That’s not the end of the story though. We also think about how the forgotten man might have used those tax dollars if they hadn’t been confiscated. Every dollar paid in taxes is a dollar that a private individual cannot use for their own purposes. Who uses money more efficiently, individuals or bureaucracies?

    The bailout of union jobs at General Motors was crony capitalism. The subsidized production of political favored green technologies by General Electric is crony capitalism. Crony Capitalism happens when government uses tax dollars to pick winners and losers and large resourceful organizations get in line for favors. Unions and especially public sector unions are complicity in this grand bargain. Union dues equal campaign contributions equal special treatment of favored groups. It’s a self reinforcing loop. We can destroy crony capitalism if we limit our government’s ability to choose winners and losers. When we destroy crony capitalism we free the forgotten man from the burden of unproductive taxes.

    I understand your concern for working Americans that are seeing their opportunities diminished, but the last thing we need to do is give additional control to government and favored groups. To compete in a globalized market place (and we will complete – we can’t stop the world and get off) we need to unleash these trapped resources, not pour more down the glory hole.

    The blue state social model is crumbling under the weight of its inefficiencies. This doesn’t mean we will live in anarchy; it means we need to build a model that is more flexible and responsive to our situation as it actually exits rather than how you wish it existed. Wishing won’t make the Chinese any less ambitious or the Africans any less hungry.

  52. ben-
    you are forgetting the first rule of capitalism- charge as much as the buyer will pay. as buyers as a class gain more income and buying power, sellers will charge more.
    two things have led to the decline you cite…first, the shift to two income households has driven prices up, punishing the single income households.. secondly, the rise of credit as the primary form of payment has driven prices up also. credit has also caused a perverse downward spiral…as people use credit more, more wealth is transferred to banks and investors, driving prices up. as prices rise, consumers rely more on credit. wash, rinse, and repeat.
    people used to be able to pay for medical expenses out of pocket…now due to the ubiquity of health insurance, prices have skyrocketed causing insurance companies to drop non-profitable customers.

    regarding the doctors writing.sick notes- hopefully the state licensing board investigates and revokes their licenses due to fraud.

  53. Good for the teachers of Wisconsin.

    As noted everywhere on the Internet, Walker has done the following:

    Refused to negotiate, despite the fact the unions have agreed to take pay cuts and pay more for benefits.

    Threatened union members, who are demonstrating per their constitutional rights, with violence (like the govt. used to do in the 20s). What will Faux News say when the National Guard starts attacking little old ladies?

    In short, Walker is an ass, has been one for a long time, and will continue to be one until he gets a good bitch slapping.

  54. MiT-

    What violence did Walker threaten them with? Protests such as this can, and have, easily led to riots causing massive destruction and personal harm. To not have an emergency plan prepared in such case is irresponsible and puts the citizens of Wisconsin in danger.
    Secondly, Walker and the Wisconsin government have no obligation to negotiate with the unions.

  55. Cardinal Fang says:

    “you are forgetting the first rule of capitalism- charge as much as the buyer will pay. ”

    You are forgetting the second rule of capitalism: if you charge high prices, someone else down the street will undercut your prices and get all your customers. Exhibit A: WalMart.

  56. Wow, Joanne. As someone living in Madison who attended the protests on Saturday, your coverage seems straight out of FOX News – with regard to the issues at hand and with regard to the tenor of the protest against Governor Walker. There are so many better sources for “fair and balanced” coverage of exactly what the debate here is all about — and state polls that indicate that a majority of Wisconsites oppose the Governor’s budget plans — that I’ll leave it up to readers to find those for themselves.

  57. You folks are wrong to link Ben F. with Markos M.  His positions are closer to Patrick Buchanan.

  58. “This mess, it seems to me, is what we’ve gotten from decades of free market, laissez faire, low tax policies. I’m ready for a change.”

    Okay, Ben F, you want to tell us *which* supposed decades these were? And would you also point out the opposite decades in which heavy regulation and high taxes have produced better results?

  59. Quincy,

    Under Eisenhower the top marginal tax rate was 90%. No kidding. The 50′s and 60′s were prosperous, no? Reagan brought it down to 39% or so.

    If Reaganomics was so great, shouldn’t we be much better off right now than Britain and North-central Europe, which have had a vastly more robust public sector, more labor restrictions, more unions and much higher taxes for the past 30 years? But we’re not better off. In fact the biggest European nation, Germany, is faring much better than us. Germany, like Korea and China, has had a government-sponsored industrial policy that has turned their nations into exporting powerhouses. We’ve been laissez faire and allowed corporate America to offshore American industrial know-how and jobs. And the most Reaganite European country, Ireland, is hurting the worst. Eviscerating government is not the solution. What? Do you think the unaccountable corporate titans are going to be better stewards of our commonwealth than a democratically-elected government? I’m not saying the individuals in those corporations are not patriotic, but the corporations themselves are by definition unpatriotic. If throwing America under the bus yields higher profits, they’ll do it.

  60. Ben F,

    You’re going to tell me that we should go back to the 1950s and 1960s? Really? Look around you, just for a moment, at how vastly better off people have it today than in those times…

    How many families had more than one car in 1960?
    How many families had more than one television?
    How many families could afford to travel abroad?
    How many families could afford the variety and quality of food available at the local Safeway or Whole Foods?
    How many families could afford to make international phone calls on a regular basis?
    How many families could afford a bedroom for every child?
    (Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.)

    Moreover, both the 1950s and the 1960s have their counter-periods of economic pain, because economics is cyclical (and forever will be). The prosperity of the 1950s (and late 1940s) was the long-overdue adjustment after a period of extended depression for the US civilian economy stretching from 1929-1945. Factor out war production and US civilians had it bad for a decade and a half.

    What caused the longest, most severe depression in US history? Government. Every time the economy began showing signs of life, FDR saw another opportunity to increase tax revenue, promptly putting it back to sleep. The years 1936-7 are particularly instructive in this respect. During the depression, and under war production, the businesses of the nation labored under repressive regulation that kept the economy underproducing for over a decade. It would have been even worse had the National Industrial Recovery Act not been gutted by the Supreme Court.

    Coming out of WWII, Harry Truman had the power to continue wartime production regulations. In fact, his economic advisors encouraged him to do just that. Fortunately, Truman erred on the side of freedom. Had he not, you would not have a 1950s economic “boom” with which to argue for more government.

    It should be noted that the period from 1945-1965 had at least four recessions. (In my view, the recession of 1945 should be considered as part of the larger depressed period of 1929-1945 in terms of evaluating domestic economic conditions.) The period was notable for neither large gains nor large losses in GDP. Even though the postwar period saw a very real improvement in the economic condition of the US, it did not see a concomitant increase in GDP. The “boom” was the effect of industrial production enriching the people of the US instead of being used to fight a war.

    This very mediocre economic performance continued steadily for the next two decades. This was not the world-changing prosperity of the Industrial Revolution or the 1980s and 1990s, but instead was slow and steady economic growth with almost no growth in living standards over the period. In fact, the only reason this period is remember fondly are the government-wrought hells that preceded and followed it.

    Which begs the question, why did I cite 1965 as the end of this “slow-but-steady” period? The period from 1965-1984 is known by economists as “The Great Inflation”. As with all inflations, there was a period of unsustainable growth followed by a period of depressed growth. The prosperity of the latter half of the 1960s was paid for with the decade-long malaise of the 1970s and the painful adjustments of the early 1980s. Five years of government-fueled prosperity for 14 years of government-fueled problems? No thanks.

    “If Reaganomics was so great, shouldn’t we be much better off right now than Britain and North-central Europe, which have had a vastly more robust public sector, more labor restrictions, more unions and much higher taxes for the past 30 years?”

    With regards to Britain, only a fool could argue that we *aren’t* far better off than they are. In every measurable category besides health care, we have the British roundly beat. Even in health care, one must consider that the NHS is responsible for both the care provided and the statistics, throwing the latter into doubt, and that health care in the US is already the most regulated, government-dominated sector of the economy. Knowing what my family has gone through with the NHS the last few years, I’m quite willing to say that we probably have them beat there too.

    The situation with other European countries is similar. The Iberian peninsula is no hotbed of economic activity, neither are Italy or Greece. France has an entire underclass of immigrants completely locked out of their economy.

    That leaves Germany and the Scandinavian countries as examples of heavier government involvement in the economy with prosperous results. Again, this must be examined. Firstly, the prosperity in these nations is generally more akin to the prosperity in America from 1945-1965, lacking any huge surges forward in GDP. Secondly, they’ve been helped by the consistent discipline to avoid untenable budgetary situations like the one unfolding in Madison. To say we should be more like Germany in resolving our current public budget situation is to be arguing *for* public worker sacrifice, not against it.

    “And the most Reaganite European country, Ireland, is hurting the worst.”

    Why is Ireland hurting? Not because of corporate tax rate cuts. Ireland was so irresponsible with spending it would be on the ropes with corporate taxes at 12.5% or 25.1%.

    “Do you think the unaccountable corporate titans are going to be better stewards of our commonwealth than a democratically-elected government?”

    To believe that any political entity can make better economic decisions than an entity involved for its own self-interest is nothing short of delusional. The problem here is not that there are too many self-interested players in the market economy, but that there are too many political ones. We’re not living in a free market economy, haven’t been for decades. We’re living in a corporatist economy, where there is a regulatory machine provided by government but steered by the unaccountable corporate titans whom you rightly decry.

    In fact, the phenomenon of regulatory capture that has led to our megacorporations is rather similar to that on display in Madison right now. At the end of the day, my money is on the unions winning the day over the interests of the taxpayers at large. Why? The unions are a concentrated group with a singular interest. The taxpayers are a much more diffuse group with much more diffuse interests. The concentrated group will have the leverage in this showdown. Similarly, corporations have leverage in the creation of laws and regulations, which are regularly crafted to their benefit and our detriment. The answer to the latter is emphatically *not* more government, because that will only give the corporations *more* power to use against the little guy.

  61. Supersub,

    Before the demonstrations even began he was threatening to bring out the National Guard.

    Do some research and you’ll find the National Guard has been used many times in the past to break strikes with violence.

  62. MiT-
    Mike, I’m well aware of the history of the National Guard’s history with respect to strikes.

    I’ve also been following the Madison situation pretty closely since it began (on multiple sources) and don’t remember hearing about Walker mentioning the NG until after the protest started. Now, I don’t live in Wisconsin so I am relying primarily on CNN, so I might have missed something. I also have yet to see any actual threat of violence or a claim by the governor that the NG would be used to break the protest. Can you kindly produce a link to a trustworthy source?

    That being said, the NG has been used widely in various situations without any violence. Plain and simple, with the actions of the unions, the possibility exists that essential government services (police, fire, prisons, etc) could be shut down as a result of protester interference or sympathetic striking, and the state needs to have a plan in place to protect its citizens. The NG is the best equipped and prepared force to do so.

    I find our President’s comments regarding the importance of collective bargaining as a worker’s right extremely funny given that the AFGE (American Federation of Government Employees) completely lacks any collective bargaining rights. You’d think that if collective bargaining was such a priority for the President that he would work to give federal employees the right. He criticizes Wisconsin for refusing to negotiate with unions when his own government also refuses to negotiate.

  63. To any “Europe is paradise” believers –
    I’ve been to Europe, and yes, in some areas of various countries it seems as if they are a utopian society – clean, healthy, etc. Yet, I’ve also traveled no more than 20-30 minutes away from those areas and seen places that are cramped, run down, dirty, and probably look the same way they looked in the 1950′s. Once you take off their masks, you realize that they have warts too…

  64. Roger Sweeny says:

    I used to think that everything bad in the world was caused by the devil. But now I realize that was just ignorant superstition.

    It’s actually caused by corporate America.

  65. I’m with SuperSub; Europe has lots of warts. One of them is unemployment, particularly among the young; this includes college grads (think Tunis and Cairo)Another is the existence, in France, Netherlands and Germany, of neighborhoods of unassimilated and unemployed Muslims that are hostile to Western culture and non-Muslims. Those Paris banlieus where “youths” riot and burn vehicles are no-go areas for police and firemen, unless in force and in riot gear are prime examples. Several years ago, I was briefly in Amsterdam with my then-college son, and the major tourist areas were scattered with trash (including syringes) and there were many groups of very unfriendly-looking Arab males blocking the sidewalk. Not only were we advised to avoid Rotterdam, even my 6′ college athlete admitted to feeling unsafe; we left early. During his language study in Germany, he was told of similar areas to avoid, despite the fact that his German was good enough to pass for a native and he also spoke and played serious football (soccer), during a European World Cup. I’ve read that Sweden has a similar situation in Malmo.

    As far as health care is concerned, I’ll take what we have, thank you. Our prostate cancer surival rate (95% plus) is TWICE Britain’s; which does not do routine screening as men age. Not making the diagnosis saves lots of money on treatment. Britain’s breast cancer rate is also MUCH higher than ours, as are other cancers and heart disease and they stopped doing chronic renal dialysis in the 70s. If car accidents and murders are excepted, we have much the lowest mortality rate in the world. Also remember widespread deaths from the heat wave that hit France in 02; no air-conditioning and half the medical personnel were on vacation. Also, I’ve never seen so many people on permanent crutches; both congential problems (I saw adult club feet) and degenerative (here would have total hip or knee) – and the Paris subway is far from handicap-friendly.

    Unlike the rest of the world (possible exception; Canada), we count every baby that takes one breath as a live birth; the Europeans count only those above a designated weight and/or gestational age. As I discovered while volunteering at an international sports tournament, some African countries only register the births on January 1, for those babies who survived their first year; the whole team had Jan 1 birthdates and looked at least a year older than their same-birth-year American/European counterparts. I wouldn’t put much faith in the accuracy of their reporting, either – or in that of the Third World as a whole.

  66. MiT-
    One more thing…
    Do some research and you’ll find the National Guard has been used many times in the past to protect citizens and property after protests have initiated violence. Something tells me that the average Wisconsonian is more afraid of protesters than the National Guard.

  67. Shall we just wait and hope and pray that the big companies will bestow jobs on us? What if it never happens? Governments are not perfect, but they’re the only ones who are looking out for us. Quincy, I agree that corporations have too often captured our regulators and representatives (money=power, maybe more power than citizens’ votes, alas). But it seems to me our only hope is to reclaim democracy from the oligarchs, get money out of elections, and restore a government that will steer our ship of state for the benefit of the average citizens, not the insulated rich who will thrive even if the rest of America goes to hell in a hand basket. There are many examples in the world of oligarchic nations (e.g. Egypt, Colombia, Russia) where wealth never trickles down to the powerless majority.

  68. “But it seems to me our only hope is to reclaim democracy from the oligarchs, get money out of elections, and restore a government that will steer our ship of state for the benefit of the average citizens, not the insulated rich who will thrive even if the rest of America goes to hell in a hand basket.”

    So, what you want is a miracle then? As long as the ship of state has the broad regulatory power you wish to see it with, it will always be a target ripe for capture by special interests such as corporate titans and union bosses. That’s what the founders of this nation understood so well, and what their descendants have sadly forgotten.

    The only way to get what you want, a government that acts to the benefit of average citizens, is to destroy the massive regulatory machine and replace it with a simple, easily-understood set of laws that can be understood by all citizens. This will rob the special interests of the primary weapon they use against us every day: government. A vast regulatory machine can *never* be steered to the benefit of the common man.

  69. Semi-OT:  I found a link elsewhere to a piece of the Wisconsin bill which would essentially allow the state’s interests in all heating and powerplants to be sold to private interests, with or without competitive bids, for whatever the bureaucrats involved feel like taking.

    Koch Industries is reportedly a major interested party.

    This is just like the crony capitalism which created the Russian oligarchs.  It’s time for that bill to be shot down.  The big shame is that the Democrats and unions are going to take the hit for stopping what amounts to grand theft with legislative and gubernatorial complicity.

  70. Supersub,

    The threat of bringing in the National Guard was made long before there were any protests, so yes you did miss that.

  71. MiT-
    So, to be clear, Walker stated that the NG would be used to stop the protests or to disperse the protesters?

  72. He claimed he would use the NG to break strikes. You can take it several ways but I doubt very seriously he’s planning to have NG soldiers teaching schools.

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said Friday that he was willing to mobilize the state’s National Guard force in order to address the potential repercussions of his stated proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for state employees.

    The man is prepared to use armed soldiers to “address the potential recpercussions”.

  73. First of all, even the Huffington Post states (from the AP):
    “Walker said Friday that he hasn’t called the Guard into action, but he has briefed them and other state agencies in preparation of any problems that could result in a disruption of state services, like staffing at prisons.’

    The guy mentioned that he met with the heads of every state agency and the Wisconsin National Guard, which despite being able to be activated by the governor, is part of US military. So, essentially, he simply told reporters who was in attendance and then stated that they would solve problems that arose due to the protests.

    It is a HUUUUUUUUUUGE leap to then claim that he is threatening violence against the protesters. By the way, this is a concerted effort by just about every national union, meaning that teachers are only one group of the protesters. History has also shown that as strikes progress, unions that do not originally strike become sympathetic and begin to strike to to take other action to assist the striking unions.

  74. The pro-public union supporters love to imagine that the Gov is bringing the National Guard out against them because that would put them in a heroic light. But they are nothing like the protesters in Egypt and Libya. Instead, they are middle-class, well-paid bullies demanding that the very people who pay them should remain at their mercy whenever they decide to “collective bargain” themselves ever greater benefits.

  75. It’s fun in a sad sick way reading these comments. Joanne has posted another thread concerning the closing of half of Detroit’s PS’s. That’s what happens you prop up inefficient public sectors at the cost of productive individuals – they run away – far away – and take their tax base with them.

    We can call this the pandering government/public sector death spiral.

  76. Supersub,

    Once again, the man has threatened to bring armed soldiers into what he gets to decide are “potential repurcussions”. Its exactly the kind of thing you would expect in third world countries run by dictators.

  77. MiT-
    I’m going to guess that you are unfamiliar with the various activities that the National Guard can perform. Two weeks ago the Connecticut National Guard was called out after the massive snowstorms we got in the northeast. Wanna guess what they were doing? Plowing and removing snow from building roofs that were in danger of collapsing. Something tells me that they weren’t carrying weapons.
    http://www.or.ng.mil/sites/CT/News/Pages/2011-2-3_Operation_snow_day_VERNON.aspx
    I’ve seen them direct traffic, rescue stranded motorists, and even heard of them airdropping feed for animals at stranded farms. I bet the cows were so intimidated by them.
    Something tells me that you wouldn’t see Gaddafi’s troops doing any of these activities. Just let go of your anti-governmental paranoia.

  78. Repeat until it happens: Fire them all–every single one.

  79. Stacy… yes, “It’s fun in a sad sick way reading these comments.” Especially when we are bombarded with all the tea-bagger talking points that pass for insightful analysis… have you thought of writing for the FAUX News website?

  80. Supersub,

    I’m familiar with the various jobs the National Guard can fulfill, but let’s not forget they are first and foremost armed soldiers in a state where the Governor is concered about “potential repurcussions” and is now threatening “dire consequences”.

    State govts have a history of using the National Guard to suppress demonstrations and strikes. Does Kent State ring a bell?

    Walker was making threats before the first demonstrations began. He’s a little mind backed into a corner, I wouldn’t put it past him to try and order the National Guard against the protesters.

  81. Jab, Didn’t you hear? We’re suppose to have a new “tone”. Flinging out ad hominems won’t persuade the other side; it just makes you look petty and desperate. Try again, but this time try an actual substantive argument.

  82. MiT-
    The fact that you have to rely so much upon generalities and stretch to make connections to unrelated events just highlights the weakness of you argument. Walker also said he met with the state agencies at the same time to prepare for the “potential repercussions”… does that mean he’ll be arming DMV or Dept of Taxation employees and using them against the strike? I bet they’d be more trigger-happy than the NG.

    State governments also have a history of using the NG to reestablish order and protect citizenry during times of crisis. States also have a history of dealing with protests without the NG. States have a history of using the NG to plow snow. I’m not sure what you want me to conclude from your argument unless you want me to accept your cherry-picked piece of history and ignore the rest.

    Considering that the NG is a component of either the Army or Air Force, and the President has unlimited power to “activate” (take control) of the NG as of the Walker Amendment in 1987, unless Obama really get’s PO’d at the unions, there’s nothing to fear about the NG.
    Assuming that Walker is as crazy as you suggest (I doubt it), here’s how your proposed fear would play out.

    NG Officer to State Adjutant General (SAG): Sir, the governor wants us to arm ourselves and force the protesters to leave.
    SAG to NG Officer: Hold on, lemme call DC.
    SAG to phone: Sir, the governor wants us to arm ourselves and break the protest. Yessir. Yessir. No sir. Give your family my best.
    SAG to NG Officer: Tell the boys to pack up. I’ll go break the news to the governor.

    Kent State. The situation was out of control before the NG even showed up. If the protesters start burning buildings a la Kent State then they deserve to be visited by the NG.