Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has already lost whatever it was he was fighting for days ago. The question is, is he stupid enough to ante up what's left of his credibility to prove a point? With a 3.2 BILLION deficit looming just around the corner, is he planning on paying state employees with actual peanuts next year, unless the price of peanuts go up?
The state's Democrats will ultimately have to come back. But they never had anything to lose in this debacle. The only ones with any political skin in the game on this one are the Wisconsin Republicans, and to a lesser extent, their fellow brethren in the Ohio legislatures and others who seem to be in lock step with their "kill the unions" agenda. The union members in Wisconsin have their backs against the wall. They are almost in the same boat the Egyptians were in last week.
Walker's real problem is public scrutiny. One hundred and forty six page bills, like the two thousand plus page healthcare bill the Democrats passed last year, are bound to have some embarrassing tidbits in them. Like this questionable proposal to outsource state government work to Deloitte Consulting, a firm that, as the writer puts it, "outsources much of it's own work of this type to India."
People who can barely work their remote controls at home suddenly become aware of the amount of taxes corporations really pay in your state when its on TV every night, corporations like Harley Davidson, who can book A BILLION in pretax profits and pay only ONE MILLION in state corporate taxes. In case you don't know how much that is, its less than 0.01% of Harley Davidson's profits for 2008.
The only number in this whole debacle that even comes close to this is the Consumer Price Index percentage increase for the year, which is 0.2%. In other words, most of the state of Wisconsin's public employees would retain only the right to bargain for less than a $100 raise this year.
Are you getting this yet?
Wisconsites are. A pro-business poll and a pro-labor poll both show the same thing - Governor Walker is well on his way to matching Sarah Palin's unfavorable numbers among Wisconsin voters.
If I were you, I would turn my TV off tonight and root around at the links below for a few minutes. NOBODY in Wisconsin sees this as anything more than it is.
Eau Claire (Wisc.) Leader-Telegram:
And while the way some protesters expressed themselves went overboard, the motivation for their sentiments was real. Walker's sudden attempt to eliminate most collective bargaining rights for public employees was heavy-handed, and some of his statements and actions since the Feb. 11 budget repair bill announcement have unsettling police-state connotations. ...
Add to this Walker's categorical unwillingness to negotiate with public employees, his efforts to avoid critics (after an appearance at an Eau Claire business Tuesday, he "slipped out a side door and into a waiting vehicle" to avoid hundreds of protesters, the Leader-Telegram reported), and his beefed-up security detail, and it seems our new governor may be on a power trip.
While that doesn't make him a dictator, Walker's "my way or the highway" approach won't win him any friends, and that will make it even harder to solve the state's critical problems.
John Nichols at the Madison (Wisc.) Cap Times:
I have always argued that Wisconsin leads the nation: We do better, ask little and give much. Our ancestors fought to end slavery, break up the trusts and make our state what Teddy Roosevelt called America’s “laboratory of democracy.”
A week ago, it seemed as if the laboratory was producing something toxic -- an assault on public servants that would quickly spread from Madison to other state capitols where Republican politicians want to use fiscal challenges as an excuse to score political points against unions.
But then Wisconsin pushed backed.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Democrats in the state Senate should return to their jobs and stop pretending their escape to Illinois was about democracy. It wasn't. In fact, quite the opposite. Democracy has creaked to a halt in their absence.
Republicans, led by Gov. Scott Walker, should stop pretending their budget repair bill is only about repairing a budget. It's not. It's also an attempt to break up Wisconsin public employee unions. Not necessary, governor.
But even now, there is ample room for compromise.
Green Bay Press Gazette:
This newspaper, which endorsed the governor in his race against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, has a tradition of supporting fiscal conservatism on the local, state and national levels. We think Walker is on target in his intention to reduce a massive projected deficit. And frankly, it's difficult to imagine every public employee union in the state would have agreed to the changes Walker seeks. Still, bypassing labor without even trying only muddies the waters.
Walker wants public employees to accept changes in pension and health care contributions already thrust onto workers in the private sector. We support the governor's insistence on taking those steps. That said, his approach casts the debate as an anti-union campaign, and not a tough-but-fair shared sacrifice.
We also are troubled Walker's budget repair bill makes an exception for police, firefighters and the Wisconsin State Patrol. When he introduced the bill, Walker said Wisconsin always has treated those groups differently from other state employees, but critics have a valid argument in that their exemption smacks of political payback for support in the fall election.
The Northwestern in Oshkosh, Wisc.:
The problem with Gov. Scott Walker's state budget repair bill isn't what it ends, but what it begins. If it ended at simply requiring public employees in Wisconsin to pay a higher share of health insurance and pension costs, it would be a tough, but reasonable and appropriate response to a projected $3.6 billion budget deficit.
Truth be told, the bill is the beginning of an effort to roll back the right of workers. Its lesser-known provisions set a dangerous precedent for granting the executive branch broad emergency powers where an emergency does not exist. The speed in which the bill is heading from proposal to adoption is also of concern. It is slated for a vote Thursday, just six days after it was released to the public. The fact that a national special interest group, The Club for Growth, began broadcasting ads in support of the proposal at the same time the bill was released shows that this is not a homegrown effort to fix Wisconsin's problems, but an orchestrated, ideologically driven campaign.