Conservative Policies and Democracy in Wisconsin?

Recently, we have seen the uprising around the state capital of Wisconsin called “democracy in action”. Let’s take a look at that idea.

Firstly, governor Walker and the legislators ran on a group of conservative policies including the actions he has taken to rein in the power of the unions as regards state workers. So in the resulting elections, the people of Wisconsin cast their votes knowing that if Governor Walker and his conservative legislators held true to their campaign promises and put into place these conservative policies, the unions would be restrained in their power and their pay. This, it seems to me, was the true expression of democracy. Then, in what I hope becomes a trend, the politicians actually kept their word and are now attempting to enact the conservative policies they promised.

Secondly, the Democrat legislators that fled the state. What is their role in this debacle? Are they continuing to accept their pay from the state while they refuse to show up for work? Will they accept their per diem expense alottments while staying out of state and refusing to do their sworn duty and show up to the state house for votes?

Thirdly, what is the role of the union organisers and others in promoting a strike or work stoppage that is in contravention of their own agreement with the state? What is the role of medical professionals in falsifying medical records for those employees that refuse to show up for work, but show up at the state capital to protest? What sanctions should they experience?What is the role of our President, the minority leader and other politicians when they side with the workers and their illegal work stoppage?

Fourthly, what can be said of the whole issue of state workers being unionized and the resulting chaos that comes with a downturn in the economy? Franklin Delano Roosevelt said the following in regards to unionizing the government work force:

“The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.” Roosevelt went on to say that the government workers work for “the whole people”.

Here is the problem. Just as in the private sector, union bosses point at tax revenue in good times and demand more for their workers. But then when downturns in revenue occur, they cry foul and want job protection. With collective bargaining in the State of Wisconsin averaging 15 months, how can the state react to dropping revenues in a timely manner? When you look at the average pay of workers across Wisconsin the teachers are making roughly double that amount, and the vast majority of these private sector workers have to pay a large portion of their own health care cost, and have no pension. And do private workers have TENURE? Do they have a guarantee that they cannot be fired? The President’s Department of Education says that two thirds of eighth graders in Wisconsin cannot read at grade level. Would a private worker that produced a 2/3’s scrap rate keep his or her job?

So is this democracy in action? Or is this an attempt by an unruly and largely illegal mob to keep the good times rolling at the expense of lower paid taxpayers? And how does the Democrat Party, which for years has said it was for “the little guy”, square their stand against the taxpayers and voters of Wisconsin and for the higher paid unionized state workers? President Obama says that we should tax the “wealthy”. And he defines wealthy as a taxable income of $123,000 for taxpayers filing jointly. Well, two teachers averaging $55,000 yearly are mighty close to his definition of wealthy! Bottom line, conservative policies have once again shown the incoherence of the Democrat Party. They would have done well to heed FDR when he warned against unionizing public sector workers. And in my opinion, this protest in the state capital is at the minimum an illegal work stoppage,and at the maximum an attempt at mob rule overcoming the rule of democracy as expressed in a free and fair election!

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3 comments for “Conservative Policies and Democracy in Wisconsin?

  1. Greg Holman
    February 22, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    really good report that looks at teacher salaries in Wisconsin, a little dated from 2002 but pretty good. It basically says teachers are over paid, except for the very best teachers who can’t receive higher wages based on performance. You could even make the argument that by not allowing performance based salaries you are driving away the most talented people to the private market. Governor Wallace suggested in his campaign website doing performance reviews and giving bonuses to ones who did well and firing those who did not.

    I would not say Governer Walker campaigned on the issue of defeating unions. Perhaps it could be construed that he was going to ask the unions for cuts but he certainly never said he was going to strip them of bargaining rights. Here is his education plan from his campaign website:

    He did say he was going to save the schools 68 million by letting them join the state employee health plan.

    I would say my only problem with Governor Walker’s plan is his stripping of bargaining rights seems a little draconian and he certainly did not run on this issue.

    On public employees unionizing, it certainly is an interesting topic and there are good reasons why many people and courts don’t think they should be allowed to unionize. The following is a good comprehensive review of court cases on whether public employees have a right to organize under the first amendment.

    On taxing the wealthy, we have a graduated taxes so even putting a line at $123,000 makes very little difference to the taxes paid until you start making $150,000 to $200,000. plus I believe obama wanted to cut the Bush era taxes at $200,000 and $250,000 for married couples.

    So i agree and i disagree. I do think teachers are probably over paid but I do not think their collective bargaining should be taken away. I am in favor of performance bonuses that could have some teachers make more.

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  3. greg holman
    February 23, 2011 at 10:28 am

    “When you look at the average pay of workers across Wisconsin the teachers are making roughly double that amount, and the vast majority of these private sector workers have to pay a large portion of their own health care cost, and have no pension. And do private workers have TENURE”

    This is not fair either because teachers have much higher education level than the average person in Wisconsin. In terms of tenure, I’m not a huge fan for the reason that it takes away a principals ability to fire bad teachers.

    The best comparison group is probably private teachers. I believe the difference is in the 20% range, but even that has serious problems. They have less education requirements. Two, they are often part of a religious mission and the people take a below market rate because of certain convictions, it would be like comparing social workers to nuns, which isn’t very fair. Third, private is often a less stressful environment with small class sizes and much more control over their students because it so much easier to kick them out of school (it is incredibly hard to kick a kid out of a public school) and most likely the kids are more wealthy because their parents can afford tuition. Finally, it is probable that the best teachers are going to public schools because of the better salary. Do we complain when Starbucks employees make more than McDonald’s employees?

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