Friday, February 18, 2011

Wisconsin’s governor manufacturers a fiscal “crisis”, moves to crush unions and then threatens to call out the National Guard.

The brazenness of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker is truly breathtaking. I suppose I have been so naïve that it seemed to me that people like this really don’t exist. No one can be this… Cruel? Cynical? Devious? All while in plain sight, in the garb of “respectability” that is normally afforded a sitting governor.

So, here’s the short version, for those of you who haven’t been following this, from HuffPo.

Enter Scott Walker. Newly-elected GOP governor of Wisconsin with GOP control of both houses, it is understandable that he didn't think he had to ask for permission. But this was way, way over the top, both in terms of procedure and substance.

In terms of procedure, it does not play well to announce a radical bill that will devastate long-standing promises of economic security and then allow only three days for debate before the final vote on ratification. Asked why he did not give the unions even an opportunity to negotiate, Walker's answer joins the litany of the greats along with Richard Daley, Sr., and Huey Long: "To those who say why didn't I negotiate on this? I don't have anything to negotiate with. We don't have anything to give. Like practically every other state in the country, we're broke. And it's time to pay up."

That position was slightly undercut by his insistence that the only alternative would be to lay off 6,000 state workers. It does not quite do to insist that there is nothing about which to negotiate and then to identify a point of negotiation in the very next sentence. All of that, of course, was right before he said that the National Guard is standing by to intervene if public employees try to strike.

In terms of substance, it is hard to know where to begin. Walker's "Repair the Budget" bill is primarily a union-busting measure, many of whose provisions have no fiscal consequences at all. The bill requires public employees to make contributions to pensions and the costs of health care, but union representatives insist that they have no objections to those provisions. They insist that what they care about is the curtailing of collective bargaining rights. But maybe they should read the bill again. Here's a particularly juicy bit:

"Wages would include only total base wages and would exclude any other compensation, including, but not limited to, overtime, premium pay, merit pay, performance pay, supplemental compensation, pay schedules, and automatic pay progressions [emphasis mine]."

In other words, the entire salary grid for teachers would be thrown out, and school districts would be free to define and implement new salary systems from scratch. That's in addition to giving the administration unprecedented authority to redefine Medicaid eligibility (but only downward), and enough other material to fill 144 pages.

OK, I guess that sets the picture. The governor decides that, because of this “fiscal emergency” where the state is absolutely broke, he will gut any and all unions. Sure, that follows. But, if that wasn’t bad enough, guess what? Walker pretty much manufactured the entire “crisis” himself in his first few days in office by giving tax cuts and other gifts to the people and organizations that helped him get elected. Via TPM.

Wisconsin's new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker's collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times.

The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures -- service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money -- rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker's doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.

Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

"Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he control," says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future -- a public interest think tank. "He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts... so he could rush through these other changes."

Got that? The state could have possibly ended up with a surplus this fiscal year if it WEREN’T FOR THE DIRECT ACTIONS OF THE GOVERNOR HIMSELF!!

And that’s the reason why unions need to be broken up, and the National Guard called out to deal with any striking workers.

I would like to know what all those Tea Partiers who voted for this criminal were thinking. How much worse do they think a Democrat would be in that office? This guy is gutting the future of most of the middle class who are unfortunate enough to work for the state. “Get the government off the throat of the people! And let’s bust all unions and take away all collective bargaining rights at the same time, O.K.?”


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