RANCHO SANTA FE, CA., February 21, 2011– Madison, Wisconsin has become the battleground for a new type of “State of the Union” address. The term “address” is still applicable because a “dialogue” would require the two sides to exchange ideas … and that doesn’t appear to be happening. As you might expect, there are a lot of misconceptions floating around because it makes for good TV. It’s time for “common sense” to fill the void!
As a college student, Scott Walker once ran for the presidency of the Associated Students of Marquette University. He was accused of violating some campaign guidelines and admitted to some of the transgressions. The Marquette Tribune declared him “unfit for the presidency” … and a promising career in the real world of politics was born.
Governor Walker has held various positions at the State and Local levels in Wisconsin. In his prior offices, he has demonstrated an ability to restore fiscal responsibility and “walked his talk” while doing it. As Milwaukee County Executive, he voluntarily gave back nearly 50% of his salary for several years to demonstrate his commitment.
When the Governor cites Wisconsin’s “$3.8 billion deficit,” he’s citing a trend rather than the current reality. Wisconsin is actually running a $137 million deficit that’s projected to be $3.8 billion in the next two-year budget. So, the Governor is “fanning the flames” a bit. If he used the President’s economic logic, he just as reasonably could have projected a balanced budget … maybe even a surplus!
Governor Walker’s proposal strips away collective bargaining rights except with respect to wages. However, wages are capped by the Consumer Price Index unless otherwise approved by a voter referendum. This is patently unfair! Why should the voters have any say in how taxpayer dollars are spent? This is America!
The Left smells blood at this point and begins to circle the wagons. Union members and Liberal supporters swarm the Capitol building. Republicans are blamed for trying to break the unions on behalf of “big business.” There’s only one problem: the unions in question only represent government employees; there isn’t a “big business” to be found. Never mind … just ignore that.
Interestingly, government employees have lost their collective bargaining rights in Indiana and Missouri in the last few years, and 24 other States have eliminated or at least limited collective bargaining for government employees as well. To add insult to injury, a renowned Conservative President once condemned the thought of collective bargaining for government employees … Franklin D. Roosevelt. Okay, bad example!
Just out of curiosity: Why would FDR be against it (other than not having had the advice and counsel of President Obama)? It seems that some people are just naturally skeptical about a process like the following: union workers pay dues; part of their dues is used to get certain candidates elected; the union then negotiates for higher wages with those same elected officials; and the higher wages result in more union dues. Hmmm … what could go wrong with that scenario?
The Wisconsin legislation also calls for government union workers to pay 5.8% of their salaries toward their pensions and 12.6% of the cost of their health care coverage … as opposed to the zero percent they pay today. In The Left isn’t Right, The Common Sense Czar pays tribute to the savvy marketing of the Democratic Party while in The Right is Wrong he decries the inept marketing instincts of the Republican Party. This is a great example.
President Obama played the “middle-class card” (which is beginning to trump the well-worn “race card”). “It’s very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends … it’s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.” This connects the government union workers to the masses at a more personal level. Great move!
The Republicans, true to form, countered with their doe-in-headlights strategy of “we’re just trying to reduce the deficit.” If they thought like Democrats, they would have isolated the government union workers and “cut them from the herd;” demonizing them in the minds of their middle-class counterparts.
How so? Just point out that “neighbors and friends” of the government union workers earn about $12,0001 less per year in similar jobs and have to pay 7.5% for their pensions and 20% for their health care coverage. The legislation just tries to level the playing field a little. When you think of it that way, it seems like the Governor is just trying to stop the union’s “assault” on poor middle-class citizens in the private sector who are trying to survive today’s economy while working hard and paying their own way.
Then, the Republicans could point out that the legislation explicitly excludes those government union workers who protect and defend the property of those same middle-class citizens: the police and firefighters. This always tugs at the heartstrings of the masses, but those on the Right seem to have lost touch with that nuance years ago.
Republicans have done a fair job of mocking the hypocrisy of the Senate Democrats’ ploy to run and hide in another State. This juvenile, “we’ll hold our breath until we turn blue” strategy is an embarrassment. It appears that Illinois has become Canada to Wisconsin’s Vietnam. Let’s just grant amnesty to the Senate Democrats. Maybe they’ll come back to Wisconsin and do the job they were elected (and paid) to do. Otherwise, they’d better hope that voters no longer distinguish between conscientious objectors and real veterans.
While the United States is actually a Republic, our politicians (who apparently haven’t read, or at least don’t understand the Constitution) like to refer to our country as a democracy. For a moment, let’s accept their premise. In the Middle East, protestors are clamoring for democracy, while in Madison, Wisconsin, we have politicians trying to avoid one. Here’s the dilemma: you can’t have “Majority Rule” only when you have a majority! Step up and do your jobs … or step down. There are plenty of unemployed individuals who would love to take your place.
And while we’re beating that drum, let’s not leave out the teachers. While they may not be in class, they are certainly still teaching our youth. On the positive side, they’re teaching them “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Excellent! Unfortunately, they’re also teaching our children that it’s all right to lie (about being sick), cheat (by filing for sick pay), and steal (by accepting payment). Do you know what this means? It means that there’s a whole new generation of politicians being properly trained by our teachers.
Of course, the venerable “profession” of medicine has also joined in the fray. Well-meaning physicians have displayed the propensity to distort the Hippocratic Oath to one spelled nearly the same. By willfully aiding and abetting the perpetration of fraud (in the form of issuing false “excuses”), they reinforce the public’s growing concern over the sanctity of our health care system. In some perverted way, the President may be able to use this as an example of why healthcare reform is so vital. If driving out fraud is important, let’s start with the doctors.
Perhaps the most interesting element of this drama is the lens through which it allows us to view the present state of politics. Shuffle a few pictures of the union protestors in Wisconsin with protestors at the Tea Party rally of your choice. Then, try to separate the two. It won’t be easy.
One of the popular placards in Wisconsin featured a coiled snake with the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me.” Another said, “Death to Tyrants.” Yet another said “Don’t Retreat … Reload” with cross-hairs over a picture of Governor Wallace. Just when you thought that only the extremists on the Right used that type of rhetoric! Maybe the union workers were just trying to be “fiscally conservative” and bought their signs secondhand.
Then, there’s Nancy Pelosi. Nancy tweeted, “Workers must have a seat at the table to fight for good wages & a safe workplace – I stand in solidarity (with the union).” Wow … that’s so Sixties! Right on, Nancy! Power to the people!
Let’s tie that back to the Tea Party. Picture members of the Tea Party … surrounding our Nation’s Capitol … having bought back all of their signs. Would Nancy “stand in solidarity” with them; would she lobby for their “seat at the table” to fight for a better economy and a safer country; or would she run the maze of tunnels under the Capitol with her fellow Murinae to escape across the Potomac just beyond the reach of the Sergeant at Arms? The Common Sense Czar will place some Wisconsin cheese in the tunnel to guide you, but please don’t stop to eat it.
If it sounds like The Czar is disgusted by the whole charade, it’s because he is. The Tenth Amendment is pretty clear. This is an issue for the Wisconsin State Legislature. While the First Amendment gives our federal officials the right to comment, sometimes discretion is the better part of valor. There are enough things for them to fix in Washington, D.C. without venturing beyond their jurisdiction. Maybe if the Beltway crowd demonstrated a little more success in resolving their budgetary issues, the States might be more inclined to listen to what the feds have to say.
In the interim, The Common Sense Czar will have to continue traveling around the country apologizing for our federal arrogance. Who knows? If he does it enough, maybe he’ll win some sort of Peace Prize … or the Medal of Freedom.
T.J. O’Hara is an internationally recognized author, speaker, and strategic consultant in the private and public sectors. In 2012, he emerged as the leading independent candidate for the Office of President of the United States and the first nominee of the Whig Party in over 150 years.
This article first appeared in T.J. O’Hara’s recurring column, The Common Sense Czar, in the Communities Section of The Washington Times.