Legislators & Unions

The “Wisconsin Affair” held and holds some valuable lessons. Perhaps the most astounding one happened last November when the voters managed to place the legislature (both houses) and governorship in the hands of republicans. They even sent the first republican in 18 years to the U.S. Senate, replacing ultra-liberal Russ Feingold, about as far-left an operator as there is.

The state, like most states and the U.S government, as well, is deep into deficit problems, needing more than $3 billion to break even. The voters obviously were tired of the “same old same old,” so they threw the bums out. This meant that the majority expected some drastic measures to be taken since only drastic measures, such as significant cuts in spending and government costs, could save the day.

As expected, the Wisconsin lower house passed and sent to the Wisconsin Senate legislation that involved fiscal matters among other things but was unpalatable to the Senate democrats, a considerable minority of just 14. Instead of contending for their side in the Senate, the democrats simply left the state, bivouacing in neighboring Illinois, never mind that they were deserting the jobs to which they had been elected. This is another lesson – legislating by nullification since any bill involving money could not be passed without a member of the opposing party being present.

One wonders how long the democrat senators expected to hold out, thus tying up all budgetary legislation. Sooner or later, they would be compelled to participate but seemed too dense to understand this…thus another lesson, to wit, that idiots can be elected to public office.

Labor Unions are the darling of the Democrat Party and with both huge amounts of money and sweat equity routinely buy the legislators and legislation needed to make them happy. The instant legislation gutted most of the collective bargaining under which the state and unions had done business (and monkey-business) for decades, thus losing for the unions the golden goose that had propelled their members to far greater wages and perks even dreamed of by workers in the private sector.

Elections are held in order to effect what the voters want. In November, the voters spoke but the unionists couldn’t believe anyone would touch their sacred cow – collective bargaining, though not all states have it. Under this system, employees can strike if they don’t get their way, thus shutting down any part of government they wish. Most Wisconsin workers are not unionized and apparently saw they had become the golden goose, supporting what amounted to a legislative oligarchy and preferred class.

The lesson the protesters (government workers, including school-teachers) seem not to have learned is that anything that is awarded by government can be reformed or even nullified. Collective bargaining had been in effect through legislation for decades until the greed of both legislators and union-workers made it into the tail that wagged the dog. The voters had had enough. One only has to examine the wages, retirement ages, pension plans and health benefits in probably all states to understand why.

This is from the Wall Street Journal of 25 February (Robert M. Costrell): “The average Milwaukee public-school teacher salary is $56,500 [for 10 months], but with benefits the total package is $100,005, according to the manager of financial planning for Milwaukee public schools.” Mr. Costrell broke down the whole system, completely as a result of collective bargaining, and it included such things as the teacher paying nothing at all into his own retirement plan (1996 collective bargaining). The state also pays another 4.2% into the retirement plan (1982 collective bargaining). Government employees pay nothing into their health plans, and the government pays half of costs on the dental side, as well. Because of similar plans, teachers in many states retire in their fifties, take new jobs and build up more retirement benefits.

The most valuable lesson to be learned, however, has to do with the mob-mentality of the protesters. The hate-speech used was a good example of what the president has referred to in recent times as the reason for inculcating a more civil discourse. When the protesters and the bloggers called Governor Walker a nazi, they merely made themselves look stupid. When they took over the state capitol building for days, bidding fair to make it into a pig sty, they appeared coarse, crude.

This mob-mentality is scary. One wondered when its members, probably the best remunerated state workers in the whole country, would start burning cars and torch buildings. Millions of people in this country would give virtually anything to work for Wisconsin government. Labor unions are important in the private sector since they actually represent union workers, but in Wisconsin the legislature, bought fair and square by the unions, represents the union workers, and the state’s coffers are ready for legislative plunder 24/7. Everybody else can eat cake.