Progressives Need to Do Some Soul Searching

I was listening on the radio today the brouhaha that is occurring up in Wisconsin.  Basically the Democratic legislators have all left the state en mass (to deny a legislative quorum) and progressives are being bussed in from all other the Midwest to participate in increasingly confrontational protests.

All to protect benefits of government workers.  I understand that many progressives don't accept that taxes cannot be increased infinitely.  But to the extent there are really some reality-based (lol) progressives out there, who actually understand that there is a limit to how much can be spent in a given government budget, they are going to need to do some soul searching to decide how much education or Medicaid spending they are willing to give up to support the pay packages and fat retirements of government workers.

  • me

    OMG, yeah. Why anyone in their right mind would protest for higher taxes, less competition for critical jobs, protection for the inept and compensation packages that the freely employed could probably not even dream of is far, far beyond me.

  • LoneSnark

    Your mistake is thinking this is a conflict over political philosophy. It is not progressives that are being bussed in, but union supporters and the union is probably paying them handsomely for the effort.

  • Dan

    I support what you say in theory - I'm against paying higher taxes so government workers can have "fat" paychecks and easy retirements (though I know some government workers and their salaries are anything but fat). I also haven't followed the situation in Wisconsin too closely, so I'm not going to comment specifically on what's going on there. I'm sure the unions are behind this to some extent.

    On the other hand, on a national level, Republicans have set up government workers as the straw man in their drive to cut the budget, when in reality government salaries play a tiny role in creating the huge deficit. When it comes to making cuts that would really take the deficit down, particularly in regards to defense spending, the Republican party is silent.

  • EarlW

    ...and don't forget the kids who have been taken out of school and bused to these demonstrations.
    They are clueless pawns, and will be left with the impression that the 'bad' government is taking something away from their teachers.

    This action in itself should justify the firing of teachers.

  • RichK

    I live in Wisc. The governor is trying to close a budget gap of 3.5 billion. 60% of the state spending goes to salary and bennies at various levels when you take into account state employees, aid to schools, aid to towns/villages/cities, aid to everything else. Unless you control these, which hasn't been done in a long time, you're screwed. Wisc was one of the first to allow government unions although what treatment the workers needed protection from has never been explained to me.

  • steve053

    I live in WI and have been following this. What I find most interesting is that the proposed changes are for State employees, not just teachers. I'm not reading about DOT sites being closed due to a 'sick-out'; or state prisons needing the national guard to help for a day due to a 'sick-out'; or state troopers not responding to calls because of a 'sick-out'. With the number of schools closing each day due to teachers calling in sick you'd think there was a plague of mammoth proportions sweeping the entire State. Just goes to show how much more radical the teachers are compared to the rest of State goverenment employees.

  • Mesa Econoguy

    This is why I left the state (along with the weather).

    Complete nutjob bureaucrat morons.

  • txjim

    As my moniker indicates, I live in TX. I am in full support of what is happening in WS. My message to the Gov and taxpayers of WS - Bring it on homey! We have your back! To the WS folks who are looking to move to TX to avoid the train wreck: save your money - we have enough problems with our flavor of Pepsi govt. Ah hell, what am I saying, you probably like beer, bbq and small govt as much as me. Come on down and we'll team up to fight big bro. With Cheese. And mountain oysters.

  • Not Sure

    "Wisc was one of the first to allow government unions although what treatment the workers needed protection from has never been explained to me."

    This is something that has always puzzled me. If workers need unions to protect them from the government, what about the rest of us? We're the ones paying the bills- don't we deserve some protection, too?

  • Nick

    In WI here as well. Here is the actual text of the bill.
    http://legis.wisconsin.gov/JR1SB-11.pdf

    There's no doubt in my mind that it is an attack on unions. Walker says stripping most of their collective bargaining rights is necessary because even if they agree to pay more for their benefits now, they'll just negotiate it back later and wipe out the budget again.

    Public safety employees (police, fire, corrections) are not included.

    These are the major bits I've picked up from the summary and reading partway through it:

    * "...In addition, unless a referendum authorizes a greater increase, any general employee who is part of a collective bargaining unit is limited to bargaining over a percentage of total base wages increase that is no greater than the percentage change in the consumer price index."

    It was reported that wages would be indexed to inflation, but the bill summary states it actually CAPS wage negotiations to increases in the CPI. That really doesn't give the unions much wiggle room- at best, their wages will stay totally flat unless a majority of voters approve a referendum to give them a raise.

    * "This bill requires an annual certification election of the labor organization that represents each collective bargaining unit containing general employees. If, at the election, less than 51 percent of the actual employees in the collective bargaining unit vote for a representative, then, at the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement, the current representative is decertified and the members of the collective bargaining unit are nonrepresented and may not be represented for one year."

    The union has to elect a representative every year- that part is good.
    But, more than 50% of ALL union members have to vote for the same person, or they have no rep for a year. That just seems to be Gov. Walker being a jackass. When's the last time the President of the United States got the nod from 50% of ALL eligible voters?

    * "Current law provides that state and municipal employees who are represented by a labor organization have the organization dues deducted from their salaries. Except for salary deductions for public safety employees, this bill prohibits the salary deductions for labor organization dues. This bill also allows a general employee to refrain from paying dues and remain a member of a collective bargaining unit."

    Right now, all workers in union shops in Wisconsin are forced to pay union dues.

    * Currently, protective occupation participants (police, etc.) and elected officials/executive participating employees both have a multiplier of 2% (sometimes 2.5%) factored into their pensions, while other participants are set to 1.6%. The bill sets everybody at 1.6%.

    * "A current group of state employees are appointed to state positions as limited term appointments in the state civil service, which are provisional appointments or appointments for less than 1,044 hours per year. This bill prohibits limited term appointments from participating in the WRS, as well as prohibits these employees from receiving health insurance under the GIB program."

    Put simply, part-time and provisional civil service appointees will no longer be allowed to participate in the state's retirement program.
    They won't be eligible for the state's group health insurance program anymore, either.

    * "Currently...The employer share of [health care] premium costs for employees who work more than 1,565 hours a year is an amount not less than 80 percent of the average premium costs under the various health care coverage plans. The amount for represented employees is subject to collective bargaining and the amount for nonrepresented employees is established in various compensation plans.
    This bill provides that the employer may not pay more than 88 percent of the average premium cost of plans offered in the tier with the lowest employee premium cost."

    * "This bill requires GIB to design health care coverage plans for the 2012 calendar year that, after adjusting for any inflationary increase in health benefit costs, reduces the average premium cost of plans offered in the tier with the lowest employee premium cost by at least 5 percent from the cost of such plans offered during the 2011 calendar year."

    * "GIB must include copayments in the health care coverage plans for the 2012 calendar year and may require health risk assessments for state employees and participation in wellness or disease management programs."

    * "Under current law, the governor may declare a state of emergency if he or she determines that an emergency exists resulting from a disaster or the imminent threat of a disaster. This bill authorizes a state agency to discharge any state employee who fails to report to work as scheduled for any three unexcused working days during a state of emergency or who participates in a strike, work stoppage, sit-down, stay-in, slowdown, or other concerted activities to interrupt the of operations or services of state government, including specifically purported mass resignations or sick calls. Under the bill, engaging in any of these actions constitutes just cause for discharge."

    So, that's why the teachers are shutting down the schools. It's their last chance to do so without getting fired before this bill passes...

    * "This bill increases the amount of state public debt that may be contracted to refund any unpaid indebtedness used to finance tax-supported or self-amortizing facilities from $309,000,000 to $474,000,000. Such refunded debt must be contracted before July 1, 2011."

    Walker wants to increase the state's (public) debt limit by 53%. I'm assuming he wants to issue bonds to the public to pay off debts to private contractors & banks for state facilities.

    * "This bill eliminates the UW Hospitals and Clinics Board, a state agency assigned the single duty to enter into a contractual services agreement with the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority to provide the services of state employees who are in clerical, blue collar and nonbuilding trades, building trades crafts, security and public safety, and technical collective bargaining units. The bill also transfers all employees of the UW Hospitals and Clinics Board to the UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority."

    Makes sense. Doesn't even lay off personnel.

    * Gets rid of the "Wisconsin Quality Home Care Authority" created in 2009. Basically, it's a middle man that connects adults living at home but needing additional care to home care nurses. It also gave those nurses collective bargaining rights.

    * UW faculty and academic staff are apparently removed from a lot of collective bargaining provisions in current law. I wasn't able to glean a lot of detail from a quick skimming.

    The governor says there's no room at all to negotiate. You can see why the Democrats refuse to show up and allow a vote.

  • Henry Bowman

    Dan,

    What you say about outlays is probably correct for Federal workers. However, for almost all states, the biggest expenses are labor -- both direct wages plus benefits. For example, the Illinois pension plan (not the health plan!) is in the hole by $86 billion! This is a serious amount of money for a state. Pension and health plans for state workers will quickly bankrupt most states without major modifications.

  • marco73

    At the gym this morning, all the morning shows had video of the Friday protests in Madison. An obvious play for the cameras.
    One of the network morning shows had found one of the "missing" 14 Democratic senators, and he was giving a live interview. It was absolutely hysterical to see this fellow, hiding out in Illinois, making the case that "students missing classes are seeing that this is how democracy works." Yeah, by running away when you lose an election.
    The interviewer was softballing questions as much as possible, but really messed up when she asked the senator what was the biggest issue.
    He said "$130 million in cuts on the backs of hard working teachers."
    He went on: "The governor just has to come to the table and find somewhere else to trim that money."
    So the interviewer just asked a followup: "well, where do you think you can cut $130 million?"
    The poor senator sputtered for probably 2 minutes absolutely avoiding cutting anywhere. From his perspective, there was nowhere in Wisconsin's multi-billion dollar budget that they could cut a measly $130 million.
    And that my friends, is why the governor is going to win. With that level of opposition, the Democrats and unions are toast.

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    > Progressives Need to Do Some Soul Searching

    Are you suggesting they HAVE souls to search?

    Or that they have no souls and need to search for something like one?

    There's a very special place in Hell for postmodern Democrats.

    In their dark, evil little hearts, they know they're doing wrong.

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    > On the other hand, on a national level, Republicans have set up government workers as the straw man in their drive to cut the budget, when in reality government salaries play a tiny role in creating the huge deficit. When it comes to making cuts that would really take the deficit down, particularly in regards to defense spending, the Republican party is silent.

    Dan, you're a fool.

    "Defense spending" is far more of a boogeyman than your claim of "government workers" could ever be.

    The problem lies in entitlement spending -- unfunded mandates of cash -- that comes before all else is paid for.

    And yes -- government workers get a HUGE part of that. State level pensions and benefits virtually ALWAYS -- and especially so in those states in the biggest fiscal trouble -- represent a very large proportion of the overages. They are far from the largest problem area in FEDERAL spending (Social Security and Medicare trump there), but on the state level, these salaries and benefits for public sector employees average far, far above their private industry equivalent. In aggregate summary they have been shown, time and time again (Cali is a particularly obvious case study) to be a prime source of the real fiscal problems of almost every state.

  • me

    @IgotBupkis

    I am glad you made sure of historical data before spouting nonsense about which political tribe impacts spending the most. Or did you?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_debt_by_U.S._presidential_terms

    Unions and the compensation they have exacted from taxpayers are ugly. Keep in mind, though, that that's just a part of the problem, and excessive fingerpointing in one direction is thus counterproductive.

    Just to balance things out a bit: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-isnt-wall-street-in-jail-20110216

  • me

    And to be very specific here: my point is not that Republicans have historically been costing me more than Democrats. My point is that both sides keep jacking up the total price for fewer rights and liberties and that as long as everyone agrees to be part of one club of the two clubs and loudly proclaiming that it's the fault of the other side while engaging in exactly the same behavior, nothing will change.

  • Not Sure

    "as everyone agrees to be part of one club of the two clubs and loudly proclaiming that it’s the fault of the other side"

    These are not two clubs, but one- the Big Government Club. The two factions of this club only differ in the details of how they think the country (read: you and me) should be managed. Neither club accepts the idea that people can run their own lives without constant guidance (at the point of a gun, of course) from their betters in the Big Government Club.

  • me

    @Not Sure: Damn straight. Thank you. :)

  • caseyboy

    Unions had their place in history bringing some balance to the worker, employer relationship. Coal miners worked under dangerous and difficult conditions and when they got their pay they spent it in the company store. Almost like an indentured servant. I get the union thing in that instance, but who do our public workers need to be protected from? Their fellow citizens? Are we "robber barons" seeking to exploit the masses? Heck, we're part of the masses.

    The pubic service union is the most perverse example of what is wrong in America. Politicians allow public worker unions, union dues collected go to political campaigns, politians increase the minimum wage and union wages tied to the minimum wage go up. Higher union dues are collected from those higher wages allowing political contributions to increase. Anyone seeing a pattern here? And, all the while this dance goes on our taxes and our public debt increases.

    We are being sucked dry by the parasite that is government.

  • Bill

    @Nick wrote: * “This bill requires an annual certification election of the labor organization that represents each collective bargaining unit containing general employees. If, at the election, less than 51 percent of the actual employees in the collective bargaining unit vote for a representative, then, at the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement, the current representative is decertified and the members of the collective bargaining unit are nonrepresented and may not be represented for one year.”

    "But, more than 50% of ALL union members have to vote for the same person, or they have no rep for a year. That just seems to be Gov. Walker being a jackass."

    You misread the bill. The language does not refer to a person, but to the union. So if less than 51% vote to retain the SEIU or the Teacher's Union, that union is out, and may not attempt to return for a year. Good choice, as it avoids the issue of a union which has been decertified attempting to come back the next month.

    It has been ridiculous that government workers get the protection of both Civil Service and union protection, but the real evil is that government bureaucracies have no incentive to resist unreasonable demands....that's how we have gotten into this mess with totally unsustainable pension promises. The politicians giving in, while knowing they have no way to fund the promises will not be around when it's time to pay the piper.

    Since private companies have to account for these obligations, should they agree to similar unreasonable demands, their balance sheets would be affected, and either the company folds, or the Board of Directors chops some heads.

    I'd really like to see this go nation wide.

  • Craig

    I think the unions are getting their just desserts. Years ago, they wedded themselves to the Democrat party, largely so union leaders could have power and a place at the table. Well, now the political pendulum is swinging the other way big time, and the unions expect the GOP to treat them well? This after unions have regularly spent millions of dollars of dues money on Democrat campaigns?

  • me

    Speaking of spending... here's a few extreme examples: http://www.sacbee.com/statepay/?name=&agency=&salarylevel=100000

    How about we start by capping the salary and retirement payouts per year to, say, 90k?

    I know the argument is that this will no longer allow us to retain such immensely accomplished corrections officers, but surely, if they contributed through private enterprises, there would be immense network effects? ;)

  • Nick

    @Bill: Thanks for the correction.

    It is effectively the same thing, though- 51% of all workers, or no representation at all. They're just voting for a party instead of a person.

  • me

    @Craig: so you say that Unions and their perks would be great if only they had supported the Republicans?

    Headshake.

    Unions are a problem. So are Democrats and Republicans, and, IMHO, anyone who stands in the way of free markets.

  • Craig

    I'm saying the perks are a result of the symbiotic relationship. If unions were about workers, not power, their benefits would be less, but they'd be supported across the spectrum.

  • Mark

    The three biggest myths in the United States:

    1. Teachers are overworked and underpaid ;

    2. Teachers are making sacrifices for the love of children and ;

    3. Whatever the teacher's union endorses is good for children.

    The real problem with our educational system is that the vast majority of people believe all three of these myths wholeheartedly. They do not see the reality that teachers make an above median salary, have a work day of about 6 hours, have an average work year of 170 days (65% of the working days in a calender year), have not just gold plated but solid gold benefits, tenure, and the ability to retire around the age of 55.

    THe fact is that most of the real teaching today is done with pre-packaged materials; study guides, worksheets, quizzes and tests as well as prepared answer keys for the same. About the only "original"thing that the teachers do is pass along their own leftist propaganda (my son watched the Al Gore movie FOUR times in one month at school, made only the more funny because his classes were English, Math, Spanish, and Social Studies).

    Further, the fact is that teachers are not far from the bottom of the barrel academically. The median SAT/ACT scores of an Education major are amongst the lowest of any major and the study of education is not a rigorous study. American need to start worrying about the process of educating a teacher. It has become totally radicalized and these radicals DEMAND 100% toeing the radical line (my brother is studying to be a teacher as a 2nd career after being a succesful businessman, received an F for a well written paper that did not cater to the whims of his communist professor, and then TAPED the meeting he had with her, very entertaining but disturbing material).

    But, in the end, it is the AMERICAN CITIZENS fault. We believe the myths. We do not show up to vote in the local school board elections and let the NEA union endorsed candidates win every time. We allow our universities and colleges to teach radical propaganda instead of knowledge. We get what we deserve.

  • http://herdgadfly.blogspot.com/ gadfly

    caseyboy said: "Coal miners worked under dangerous and difficult conditions and when they got their pay they spent it in the company store. Almost like an indentured servant. I get the union thing in that instance ..."

    When you read about West Virginia's Mine Wars in the early twentieth century, speculation comes to mind that the miners may have been better off without the union agitators.

  • me

    @Craig: K, that statement I can very much agree with. I have to admit that one of my hot buttons is the entire Dems vs Reps issue. I hold with the statement that "I don't believe in elections, the politicians always win". ;)

  • Russell

    I just realized that it is illegal for employers to work together to set wage rates, yet it is fully supported for the employees to do the same thing. How does that add up

  • markm

    Nick: A union decertification election isn't a multiple-candidate election, but a choice of the current union or no union.

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    @me:
    > I am glad you made sure of historical data before spouting nonsense about which political tribe impacts spending the most. Or did you?

    I'm glad you grasp that the ones who actually control the so-called "budget" are Congress, and not The PotUS, so your link is, unsurprisingly, a disingenuous farce at best.

    Even a casual reading of the link reveals this tidbit:
    > it is the House which defines the spending through the final wording of the bills.

    More critical, however, is the fact that the article barely touches on the REAL issue, which is Public Debt (as though your only debt that counted was your mortgage. 'What? Credit Cards? Who the hell cares about those?')

    Which ties us to this farcically absurd line:
    Bill Clinton D 1997–2001 65.4% 56.4% 0.45 -9.0%

    Wikipedia, of course, "not having any political affiliation", never contains obvious bovine excreta masquerading as fact.... After all, the total actual debt -- the Public debt -- You know, the numbers that actually, really count -- during Clinton's second term didn't go UP, while his admin did something which, were it done by a company, would land the officers in jail, as moneys for one purpose which was off the books was used to pay down moneys ON the books -- that is, social security funds weren't used to buy bonds, which were then applied to the so-called "federal deficit" to make it appear to have decreased when in fact it went up just like every OTHER year.

    That's not meant to argue it both ways -- the fact is, it's Congress that futzes up the budget. But Clinton's so-called "surplus" was nothing but an accounting trick. And if that Wiki page actually broke down the Public Debt instead of the largely irrelevant scam of "national debt", it wouldn't show the same thing.
    (P.S. you might notice which party was in charge of Congress during Clinton's second term, in which, at least, the RATE of growth did slow... NAWwww, you'd never notice THAT)

    It's quite interesting that they don't seem to want to put up The Big 0's projected numbers, which pretty much total MORE THAN ALL THE PREVIOUS RESIDENTS OF WH & CONGRESS COMBINED.

    And all this STILL comes down to a ludicrously unfounded presumption by you that I approve of EITHER one of these #$%#$^$&$& SOB parties doing this crap. A point you at least ack for yourself @ February 19, 2011, 12:32 pm

    If the Dems had been behaving rationally at any time in Bush's time in office, I would gladly have voted the prick GOP members in Congress that were kiting checks out of office. As it was, that option was closed off by the lunatic Dems pretty much making it clear what they'd do... exactly what they did, which was to run the economy down into a hole in the ground.

    Sorry, I'd happily place the entirety of the 109th to 111th Congresses up against a wall and have every single one of them SHOT. THEN take away all their assets from their heirs and apply it to the Federal Deficit. A drop in the bucket to be sure, but not a damned one deserves a dime they have after screwing the pooch that badly.

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    > I hold with the statement that “I don’t believe in elections, the politicians always win”.

    Then you get exactly the government someone else wants for you...

    Dems and GOP are far from perfect. But no, sorry, the Dems are much more consistently fiscally irresponsible, while the GOP is all too often pro-business -- in the sense of "protection racket".

  • IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society

    @me:
    From over on Patterico:

    > The House rejected a measure cutting an additional $22 billion from the Republican spending bill, as conservatives ran into a wall of opposition from the GOP establishment over the depth of reductions to federal funding.

    Pick out every single SOB in the "GOP establishment" who voted against this and just have them tarred and feathered.

    Literally, not figuratively.

    Tired of this crap.

    22 billion. It's jack sh**. And they won't even pass that? OK, it's now finally time to start The Hangings.
    >:(

  • me

    @IgotBupkis

    I think our positions might be a lot closer than one would think, reading your last few statements :)