Who Moved My Cheese?

If there was any question in your mind, a recent Forbes article pretty much laid out the issues in Wisconsin.

This is NOT about salaries.

The Wisconsin public service unions have already agreed to wage concessions. 

It is also NOT about budget shortfalls. 

Wisconsin’s current budget is balanced.

It is partly about pension obligations.

ALL of the money going into the union pension plans comes from the salaries of those participating in the pension program.  There is NO taxpayer money currently funding any pension payments to retired union workers. 

The problem is that the State of Wisconsin decided like a lot of other states that it wanted to be in the insurance business and they weren’t very good at it.  Now hard times have hit the state and they aren’t sure that they will have the money required to fund pension obligations at some point in the future. 

That’s not the fault of the union.  They have certainly kept their part of the bargain.  They paid in their money and the state promised to use that money to fund their retirement.  The terms and conditions are clear.  It’s all in the contract between the state and the union.

Rather than figure some honorable way to keep the state’s obligations to their public sector workers, the new Governor has manufactured a crisis in an attempt to break the union, void their contracts, and strip public workers of the right to organize and bargain as a group in the future. 

But that wasn’t enough.  The right wing media has jumped on the bandwagon and has been demonizing union members as greedy, lazy, and incompetent.

This is particularly interesting in the context of the last two years of Republican championing of bailouts and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.  I haven’t done the math, but I suspect that the amount of money that we are spending on those tax cuts could easily fund the pension shortfalls that states like Wisconsin are projecting.

This isn’t even the most disturbing thing that the new governor has proposed.  Besides slashing budgets and handing out huge tax breaks to corporations, he has a new rule on his desk which would require a supermajority (2/3 vote) to increase taxes.  This raises hubris to dangerous level.  He is so convinced that he is right that he is willing to sacrifice the basic democratic process of majority rule in order to protect legislation he was able to enact during a brief period where he has the votes to do it. 

Why would he even suggest something like unless he was fearful of being turned out of office?

This is how demogogs operate, not elected officials.  They get elected in a wave of discontent and then dismantle the process by which they and their policies can be voted out.

Can you imagine the uproar if Obama even suggested a similar rule regarding changes to his healthcare legislation?

Current polls show strong support for the public sector workers position even though there wasn’t much support for unions in general.  I predict that that Governor Walker will fail and as will similar attempts in other states.  We will see a resurgence of organized labor to make sure that the working man’s story gets out there.  This may spell the beginning of the end for the tea party too.  They are going to find themselves more and more out of step with mainstream America and will find increased organized opposition to their radical conservative agenda.

9 Responses to “Who Moved My Cheese?”

  1. Galen says:

    Progressive says it all. Christian is secondary. Can we say Democratic?

  2. Keith says:

    Couple of quick comments.

    On a time line basis, the Dem senators left the state so a vote could not happen. At that point they had conceeded nothing and they had done no negoaicating. After they left the state they decided to make the govt look bad by agreeing to every benifit cut but made the big stink about the union pat….. (following your mostly correct logig, i wonder who the big contibutors to those dem senators are?) I wonder if you would take a closer look at sho’s there on the weekends doing the portesting and where they’re from. Hint it’s not racine or kenosha.

    point to…i would not have choosen the union fight that walker did. I think it was kinda foolish. He could not lose the benifit agruement and after that the union is irrelivent mostly. Poorly choocen fight. However he did run on this and the and the senate and house were swept into office with over whelming majoities…..only was doing what he said he was going to do.

    Here’s part of your agruement;
    Rather than figure some honorable way to keep the state’s obligations to their public sector workers, the new Governor has manufactured a crisis in an attempt to break the union, void their contracts, and strip public workers of the right to organize and bargain as a group in the future.

    Well, in light of S.S., medicare and medicaid, along with ALL THE OTHER unfunded public liabilities, what is an honorable way? Our publicly elected officails on every level have proven themselves incompetent and made deals with union that are doomed to failure. Defined pension plans are the worst of these deals and health care for life a very close second. So how do we honarable get out of deals that simply never should have been made and will bankrupt every level of public government? Like GM Ford and Chrysler and S.S. we cant. we reach a point where the deal needs redone.

    I’m pro union by the way…..Have one in my plant. In my humble opinion a union is an evil which MUST exist to fight a far greater evil….

  3. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Keith,

    I don’t doubt that the democratic state legislators in Wisconsin got some money from the unions.

    As far as whether Walker shared his plan to limit union bargaining power during his campaign, there is a Politifact.com piece which fact checked that claim and found it false.

    http://politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/feb/22/scott-walker/wisconsin-gov-scott-walker-says-he-campaigned-his-/

    They also did a pretty good breakdown of the issues.

    http://politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/mar/03/scott-walker/wisconsin-gov-scott-walker-says-wisconsin-broke/

    To sum up the article, the state is not broke as the governor has been claiming and he does have options.

    He has simply decided that the doesn’t want to raise taxes or tell voters that almost half of the budget shortfall he is currently projecting for future years will be made up by increased tax revenues from economic growth.

    The honorable thing to do is to raise taxes and while at the same time entering into good faith negotiations with the union to readjust their benefit plan to something the state can afford. The bottom line these days is that unions DO understand that they have to participate in process. In Wisconsin, for example they have already agreed to wage reductions.

    Using the auto companies, GM and Chrysler were able to renegotiate their union contracts because of bankruptcy. You watch. Ford is going to end up getting close to the same deal from the unions. The unions will then use that slightly better deal as a template that GM and Chrysler will have to belly up to.

  4. keith says:

    http://www.620wtmj.com/news/local/117732923.html

    Last November an election was held….the dems lost nearly everything on all levels. Look at their response.

    Jeff what would you be writing if th Tea Party had gone to congress during healthcare and did this and what might you have said if the republican senators had gone to Canada?

    We need to all get on the same page to solve our problems and not see things through our one sided views. The debt commission has done that.

  5. Jeff Beamsley says:

    The tea party DID go to congress, disrupted public meetings, and threatened public officials. The threats were wrong then and they are wrong now.

    Republican senators didn’t have to leave Washington for Canada. They had the option to fillibuster which they used more during the first two years of the Obama administration than ever before in the 200 year history of the Congress. So they, like the Wisconsin dems, did basically the same thing. They prevented the majority from getting much done.

    My issue wasn’t with that, it was with the attempt by the current Republican majority in Wisconsin to prevent any future Democratic majority in Wisconsin from reversing this legislation.

    That in my opinion is going beyond the pale and demostrates a dangerous distrust of the democratic process.

    As far as getting on the same page, I think that it is going to be a while before that happens for the folks in Wisconsin. Lots of bridges have been burned and there are some more being doused with accellerants as we speak.

    I also agree with Rick Ungar at Forbes. This attack on teachers is going to be a central issue in the 2012 campaign. Union members and their families and friends who may have been voting with Republicans in the past because of social issues, are going to punish all Republican candidates for what happened in Wisconsin. Walker just gave the Democrats the wedge issue that they have been looking for. Polls already show that 60% of Wisconsin voters oppose what is going on and they are the ones closest to the issue. Obama and the Dems will drive a truck full of democratic candidates at all levels through the hole that this issue will open with voters. That’s because most people appreciate their teachers, police, and firefighters. They don’t like the way the right wing media has been treating them, and they certainly don’t want to see their teachers treated the way that teachers were treated in Wisconsin.

    Walker has provided a graphic example of how tea-party backed candidates govern. I’m confident that a strong majority of voters in 2012 are going to say, “not here”.

    http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/03/04/gov-scott-walker-has-lost-the-war/

  6. Keith says:

    Have you listened to Walker be interview?…..what attack on teachers?

    The dems and the Unions are creating this. MSNBC is provoking action. Ed with every interview is suggesting strikes to everyone he interviews an its clear they have never considered one. I really hope you are taking up my suggestion of a few weeks ago that for 60 days you watch MSNBC (the ed show, Lawarence, Maddow, and Matthews) CNN (any of them), Fox (bill O’) and listen to a bit of Rush. You’ll truely get a flavor of what I’ve been saying. Forget what side you’re on just listen at how each present the situation. its stunning what the left does in the media.

  7. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Didn’t I just say that Walker has created an opportunity that Unions will take advantage of?

    This is just a little bit of political disection.

    Walker had choices, as we have discussed. He chose to poke the unions and the democrats in the eye with a sharp stick. Why do you think he did that? It could be that he really believes that is was the best thing to do for the economic health of his state and he was willing to sacrifice his own political future and essentially at least the next two years of political harmony in his state for it.

    I personally don’t think so.

    I think he thought that he could create a controversy in a situation where he had all of the power, so that he could represent himself as one of the new breed of union-busting republicans and ride that wave to some national office, maybe even the Presidency.

    It backfired and he was left with no plan B.

    His national political career is over before it even started and he will be lucky to finish out his term. (My prediction)

  8. Keith says:

    I think he thought it best for his state. what will be interesting is to see if it actually works. Will the state be on better finacial foot now that this has been signed into law……he ran on it, it was in the open and not hidden.

    also, the number of healthcare waivers issued in obamas plan now exceed 1,000. so much for this thing being good for everybody. if it were then why would you want EVERYONE involved.

    I need a favor. i think this michelle backman has a screw loose. much like nancy, though to a lesser extent, i don’t find her credible. the only thing she’s good for in my humble opinion is pulling the “r” lever. what is this $105,000,000,000 “gottcha” find she is talking about regarding healthcare? (my business is going very strong right now and i have no time to really do much but pound out a few sentences to you)

  9. Jeff Beamsley says:

    Here’s the list on the hhs site.

    http://www.hhs.gov/ociio/regulations/approved_applications_for_waiver.html

    These are one year waivers from the annual limit requirements. In most cases these waivers are provided because particularly in small markets, if one or more of the limits in the law were imposed, insurance providers would leave the market. If you look at the list, you’ll see that vast majority of the plans getting waivers are covering a very small number of people. So the issue is that the economics don’t work.

    The other set of waivers is for the handful of states with regulations that are in one way or another in conflict with what the federal law requires.

    Bachmann is crazy.

    Politifact.com has the details if you want to read them.

    http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/mar/08/michele-bachmann/michele-bachmann-charges-health-care-bill-spent-10/

    The $105B number is fairly close. What was wildly innacurate is that this cost was somehow hidden. It was part of the debate on the bill. It was also included in the CBO calculations that projected a $230B reduction in the deficit.

    There is no gotcha.

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