Thursday, February 24, 2011
Gone to the Mattresses
Political differences in Wisconsin have gone beyond a budget issue to a power struggle threatening to shatter the foundation of the Democrat Party.
The facts are government workers collectively make political contributions to help elect public officials who will then have the authority to set their pay and benefits.
What Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin is trying to do is limit collective bargaining by Government Employee Unions only to pay and presumably working conditions.
As way of brief background, Wisconsin like many States has run out of money and has faces large deficits. Apparently in the Badger State, government employees do not contribute at all to their health care plans and only a small portion to their pension fund.
News reports the employees are willing to start contributing but their protests are about the loss their collective bargaining rights over matters other than pay. The contention is the unfunded pension liability facing Wisconsin State Government is between $88 and $100 Billion. This near $100 Bill are an obligation of the People of Wisconsin made to their State Workers without providing the means to fund the pension.
In effect government workers have become the elite class. Persons working in the private sector have had to pay more for their health insurance (if they were lucky enough to have that benefit). Many employers in the private sector have quit making contributions to workers pensions or even dissolved their plans.
Particularly of note, many private sector workers have loss their jobs in the manufacturing sector or have seen their benefits disappear. They don’t understand why they must fund a government who bestows these benefits even though the State can not afford them. The "New York Times" had a report on this phenomenon this week.
The Governor is not attempting to take the worker’s rights to participate in the political process. He is attempting to change the rules (through the democratic process) so there is a level playing field. These are benefits bestowed upon government workers by their Democrat team with out any provision to pay for the benefit.
The Democrat party and Organized Labor have been political allies for well over half a Century. What has changed in the last twenty years or so is that Unions like the United Auto Workers, AFL & CIO and the Teamsters have lost members while the NEA (National Education Association) and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees have grown and become very powerful.
What is happening as States are trying get in control of their budgets they have run into a struggle with the most powerful block within the Democrat Party.
Democrats have gone to the mattresses. The President’s political operation, Organizing for America, has worked with union officials to organize the rallies in the various States. When he was first asked about the situation in Wisconsin, the President immediately said, was “An assault on Unions.”
This is a battle they must win. It goes right to their base.
In terms of the 2012 National Election, this might be the issue of the campaign. This issue I believe is a loser for the Dems. Most Americans while they respect public employees and officials do not believe that they are better or deserve more than the Citizens who must pay the bills.
Interestingly these events are playing out in the Midwest states of Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. In 2008 these States were all in the President’s win column. These States have lost jobs. In recent elections have become governed by the GOP. In the 2010 elections, Republicans won the Governor’s Chair in all four (Walker, Daniels (in ’08), Kasich, Snyder).
The next few weeks or longer will be very tense, the Political Stakes are very high.