Will Wisconsin become another France?

When I was in college back in the late sixties, as student riots and massive union strikes regularly crippled the French economy, I recall thinking it was great living here in the U.S., where a free-enterprise economy insulated us from such counter-productive and shameful displays of civic greed.  What a difference four decades of ever-expanding government can make.

Last year’s riots in Greece, and violent demonstrations in the U.K. – all birthed by the anger felt by students, teachers, union workers and others who have grown increasingly dependent on government subsidies and hand outs, and who now face modest cuts to those benefits – are being played out in America’s heartland.  Teachers and public-employee unions in the Badger State are angrily protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s modest austerity plan that would curtail public-sector union power in some areas, and require those workers to pay a small part of their health care benefit package and slightly increase their contribution to the very generous pension plans they enjoy.

You’d think by the response, the governor was forcing union members to surrender their first-born child to the state.

Yet, even more shameful than the vehement union reaction to these proposals – which includes publicly comparing Walker to Adolf Hitler – has been the cowardly reaction by Wisconsin’s Democratic state legislators (Walker is a Republican).  Rather than work with the new governor and Republican majorities in the legislature, the Democrats simply turned tail and ran to the neighboring state of Illinois; thereby denying the governor and their Republican colleagues the necessary majority to vote on budgetary matters.

Just how draconian are Walker’s proposed measures to help close Wisconsin’s burgeoning, $3.6 billion deficit?  In fact, not draconian at all.  The new governor’s first-ever budget proposal would require government workers to contribute a modest 5.8 percent of their pensions, and 12 percent of their health insurance benefits; both amounts below the national average. The proposal also would limit the ability of public-sector unions to collectively bargain; thereby helping to ensure taxpayers are not held hostage to unreasonable demands on their wallets in the future.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Walker is promising no layoffs or teacher furloughs in exchange for passage of these reforms. However, he has warned he will be forced to layoff some 6,000 state workers if action is not taken. The Democratic legislators who fled the state apparently would rather see public employees laid off, than support modest benefit contributions by employed state workers.

Public-employee unions, grown arrogant from decades of ever-more generous benefit packages, are fighting tooth and nail to hang onto their gains.  They exhibit no willingness to help shoulder any of the costs the taxpayers at-large have to pay in these rough economic times.

Walker is not alone in recognizing that steps must be taken to rein in such largesse.  Even California and New York are entertaining minor reforms to ease the burden that public-sector benefits have imposed on their budgets.

Whether the Wisconsin Governor and his legislative colleagues will prevail in this epic battle remains unclear; and the outcome will have significant ramifications in Ohio and other states that are heavily union-laden, as well as in the nation’s capitol.  But the battle now being waged in America’s heartland offers a focused glimpse into our country’s future.

Whether we become another France – a country long held hostage to powerful unions and debilitating social benefit programs – or begin the slow but vital climb back up the ladder from the depths of government entitlements and deficit-spending, may be determined right here, right now, in Madison, Wisconsin.

by- Bob Barr, The Barr Code

186 comments Add your comment

mike

February 23rd, 2011
10:56 am

Strange out how Mr Barr attended college and somehow missed those turbulent times of the sixties. From what I remember it was a time of protesting the Viet Nam war. You remember the war which a lot of your present leaders took so many deferments to avoid. The protests where the FBI infiltrated groups and planted false evidence in groups who seemed to have a difference of opinion. Lets not forget the beat down and murders of civil rights workers. Or the killing of those Kent State students. Lets not even discuss the police actions at the national political conventions just to name a few. I suppose it depends which side of the fence you were on during those times whether or not they effected you. By his present article you can see what side he was on. Sort of like the teacher telling students black folks were brought to this country to help the farmers.

SteveH

February 23rd, 2011
11:00 am

“Public-employee unions, grown arrogant from decades of ever-more generous benefit packages, are fighting tooth and nail to hang onto their gains. They exhibit no willingness to help shoulder any of the costs the taxpayers at-large have to pay in these rough economic times.”

If you have to lie to make your case, you have a bad case. Barr is lying. As the conservative newspaper the Orange County Register notes, “Union leaders said they would agree to the higher payments, which are equivalent to an 8% pay cut, to help the state close a $3.6 billion budget shortfall through 2013. The governor, however, also wants public employee unions restricted to only be able to bargain over wages and not hours or benefits.”

That’s right, the unions have already agreed to the governor’s terms on paying more. But he wants to break the unions and won’t be satisfied until he’s done that. He refuses to take the union concessions and Barr is lying about it.

Bob

February 23rd, 2011
11:00 am

No Bob, the State of Wisconsin could afford it if the union agrees to cuts and the tax cuts for businesses, primarily big businesses, go away. This is simply a ploy to kill union bargaining rights, pure and simple. Even the union has stated that they will take the cuts if their union bargaining rights and maintained.

That one guy

February 23rd, 2011
11:02 am

@ LA

Teachers do not start at 46k. That average is raised due to masters degrees and 10+ years of service. I have a friend who has a masters degree in education and is currently making less than 40k. I started at 34k. I currently make 36k. Not a lavish lifestyle like you are trying to portray. Not every teacher works in a large city where the average pay is bloated.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
11:04 am

“Not a lavish lifestyle like you are trying to portray. ”

Never said it was a lavish lifestyle. Your words not mine.

“Not every teacher works in a large city where the average pay is bloated.’

Since when did Kenosha, WI become a big city?

LA

February 23rd, 2011
11:05 am

“That’s right, the unions have already agreed to the governor’s terms on paying more. But he wants to break the unions and won’t be satisfied until he’s done that. He refuses to take the union concessions and Barr is lying about it.”

LOL!!!!! I really love ignorant people.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
11:07 am

“I have a friend who has a masters degree in education and is currently making less than 40k.”

And I care, why?

“I started at 34k. I currently make 36k.”

You made that choice to teach. I couldn’t care less what you make as long as my taxes aren’t paying for you to whine and cry and protest while lying about being sick.

That one guy

February 23rd, 2011
11:10 am

You made that choice to teach. I couldn’t care less what you make as long as my taxes aren’t paying for you to whine and cry and protest while lying about being sick.

I did not go to the protests. Quit assuming. I also have no problem paying in for pension and health care. Its the collective bargaining that this is over. I was giving you examples of pay that are nowhere near the 70k you mentioned earlier.

That one guy

February 23rd, 2011
11:11 am

“You made that choice to teach. I couldn’t care less what you make as long as my taxes aren’t paying for you to whine and cry and protest while lying about being sick.”

I did make the choice to teach. I love what I do. You had the choice to go into whatever field you were entering knowing far in advance what your taxes were going to.

That one guy

February 23rd, 2011
11:12 am

Also, most teachers work longer than 8 hour days and take classes during the summer. So the 180 days a year point is moot.

That one guy

February 23rd, 2011
11:14 am

Since when did Kenosha, WI become a big city?

http://www.citypopulation.de/USA-Wisconsin.html

4th largest city in Wisconsin.

DawgDad

February 23rd, 2011
11:20 am

Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to be missing the main point here. Several states including Wisconsin are going bankrupt. What happens then? They will try to pass the buck to the taxpayers in other states via the Fed. The political fallout could easily rip this country apart at the seams.

The taxpaying citizens of the United States are in grave danger of completely losing control of government. When that happens, your rights and freedoms will be controlled by a “boss-class” to be doled out as it serves their interests.

joe

February 23rd, 2011
11:28 am

Did you hear the sound bite of the female teacher in WI who chimed in with this gem- ‘First, he (Hitler) got rid of the unions, then the jews…’ No wonder kids, who are being taught by idiots in public schools like this lady, don’t stand a chance.

Unions are $ucking the marrow from the bone of this country…the times of taxpayers footing the bill for unions and illegals is over. We are broke and we cannot afford to stay on this track anymore. Those union bus drivers making six figures with 6+ weeks paid leave per year should have never gotten to this point.

captguitarman

February 23rd, 2011
11:39 am

The gorilla in the corner that many don’t seem to understand is that campaign funding from the Dems’ wealthiest, most reliable, and most consistent source (labor unions) is at stake. This is an all out union effort. The head of the AFL-CIO is heavily involved, the President is heavily involved (yes – he may be behind he scenes – but he is heavily involved), and unions both public and private from all over the nation are heavily involved. Wisconsin Dems/unions have already agreed to the modest give backs in pension and health care payments. It is the collective bargaining and other provisions they are desperate to protect. They not want any precedent set anywhere that would impact their power to blackmail, coerce, and extort concessions by striking and withholding essential public services – which is exactly how the states have, over the years, gotten into this financial predicament. Public employee unions should never have been given the right to strike in the first place, but the Dems all over the nation made that possible, and now that horse is way out of the barn, and is going to be tough to ever coral it again — as we are seeing. But even more importantly, the state takes the union dues out of the paychecks of public workers, gives it to the unions, who then pass the money straight on to the Dems. Wisconsin public employees currrently have no choice in this. If you are a cop, fireman, teacher, bureaucrat, highway mainteance worker, etc. the money is withdrawn for you. It is not voluntary. The new Wisconsin law makes it voluntary, and you have to re-up for it every year. The possibility of that choice has the Dems in Wisconsin and every where else terrified. How ironic coming from the party of “choice.” But that is another whole essay. If this catches on in Wisconisn, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, California and other public union bastions, it will be a Dem disaster. Desperate measures for desperate people. The Dems have run away in Indiana, and will probably do so when the time comes in other states – who have to balance their budgets since they don’t have a printing press like the Feds have. The use typical union tactics, shouting down people, screaming, marching, demanding, being pubic nuisances. So far, and to their credit – the time tested method of union thugs beating up reporters people who disagree with them has not been used yet. They scream that “this is what democracy looks like!!” No, actually it’s not. Democracy occurred in the peaceful November elections when the voters of Wisconsin elected a majority of Republican legislators and a governor who campaigned on balancing the budget and taking these kinds of measures. By fleeing the state and hiding out, the Dem legislators are obstructing the democratic process and conducting a de facto shut down of the state government. But, in their twisted world, choice is no a universally applicable virtue, and shutting down government is fine when they do it for their own selfish reasons. The silver lining for the Pubs and Independents who created the tsunami that devastated the Dems in November of 2010 is that this spoiled brat shameful behavior is going to help create an even larger tsunami in November of 2012.

Chris

February 23rd, 2011
12:04 pm

Very good article, and very informative. It’s a shame that these union workers have gotten so use to their huge pensions, that they pitch a fit like a 2 year old when an ‘inconvenient’ change comes their way. Get use to it people. The rest of America is having to reduce their personal budgets just to live every day. You are no better than the rest of us. Your labor unions are there to help you to not be taken advantage of…NOT to help you take advantage of everyone else, which has been the habit due to the labor unions having a powerful voice and powerful influence. In my days, that’s what we called a ‘bully.’ Get real, and join us in helping our country, instead of adding to the problem.

That one guy

February 23rd, 2011
12:12 pm

@Chris

It is not about the money. Its the collective bargaining being taken away. The union has agreed to the funds being used. They want the bargaining rights.

When this passes everyone in Wisconsin should be expecting property tax raises.

JF McNamara

February 23rd, 2011
12:23 pm

Hey Bob, maybe I missed the memo. The Union actually agreed to take the pay cuts he proposed. He refused to accept it because he wanted to try to strip Unions of power by passing anti-union laws.

It’s about more than balancing the budget.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:27 pm

“I did not go to the protests. Quit assuming. I also have no problem paying in for pension and health care. Its the collective bargaining that this is over. I was giving you examples of pay that are nowhere near the 70k you mentioned earlier.”

I posted a fact from a Wisconsin teachers website, ma’am. Couldn’t care less if you have no problem paying in. You should pay in from your own money and stop wasting taxpayer dollars over it. Collective bargaining is nothing more than demanding raises year in and year out.

Bottom line: Pay for your own damn retirement.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:27 pm

“I did make the choice to teach. I love what I do. You had the choice to go into whatever field you were entering knowing far in advance what your taxes were going to.’

Then again, your taxpayer dollars don’t pay for my salary.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:29 pm

“Also, most teachers work longer than 8 hour days and take classes during the summer. So the 180 days a year point is moot.”

Please post a link to back up that claim.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:30 pm

“4th largest city in Wisconsin.”

LOL!!!!! Yeah, Kenosha is one big city!

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:30 pm

Kenosha, WI = 98,187

There are more people who attend UGA football games on a single Saturday. Try again.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:31 pm

Kenosha, WI = 98,187

There are 83,222 in Rockdale, Co. Try again.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:33 pm

joe

Yep, and these morons are the ones teaching school in Wisconsin.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:34 pm

“It is not about the money. Its the collective bargaining being taken away. The union has agreed to the funds being used. They want the bargaining rights.”

If it’s not about money, then why are unions/teachers talking about how poorly funded their jobs are?

“When this passes everyone in Wisconsin should be expecting property tax raises.’

Got something to back that up?

Patriot

February 23rd, 2011
12:35 pm

There are two groups of people in this country – those who are net taxpayers and those who are net tax consumers. Who know which group you belong to. Everyone says that the struggle is between the rich and the poor, the have’s and the have-not’s. The reality is that when the real battle begins, it will be between those who have used the power of the state to take from others for their benefit, used the power of the state to exclude competition from their markets, used the power of the state to protect their monopoly on service or goods delivery, or used the power of the state to provide the funding mechanism for their employment and the rest of us.

My greatest fear is that the rest of us, thanks to the tireless efforts of the govnerment, may no longer outnumber the others. But fundamentally all governments rely on the consent of the masses. We need only withdraw our consent. It collapsed the Berlin wall and the Iron Curtain, it collapsed the government of Mubarack, and it can restore freedom and liberty to this country once again. A solid and committed withdraw of support. It is already well underway.

Patriot

February 23rd, 2011
12:43 pm

Several protesters in Wisconsin made the comment that the first thing Hitler did after taking power was to get rid of the labor unions. What this person failed to mention is that he also got rid of private schools and guns. Hitler was no fool. He knew that he needed the government-controlled education system to further his cause and to indoctrinate the children. He also knew that an armed populace was a huge threat to his plans as well.

And of course since his plans were to control the economy, he couldn’t have organized labor messing with those plane. Even FDR, another great fascist leader, once wrote to the head of a labor union that while he supported organized labor, such collective bargaining was completely unworkable in govenrment employment situations for many of the reasons we see going on in Wisconsin. Yes, even FDR was against government employee collective bargaining. Here is a link ot one of many hundreds of sites with the documentation:
http://tundratabloids.com/2011/02/us-even-fdr-was-against-collective-bargaining-for-public-workers.html

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:45 pm

“Yes, even FDR was against government employee collective bargaining. ”

I already posted his statement about unions.

Chris

February 23rd, 2011
12:52 pm

There SHOULD be restrictions placed on the labor unions, to keep them limited in their powers in demanding raises and such, at least to a specified percentage equal to the average worker’s pay in the entire State, private or public (or slightly above average for the highly educated fields). But with seemingly no restrictions, it’s no wonder with programs like this going on around the nation, that we are going bankrupt. There comes a time when responsibility should kick in, but when we elect those into office who want to be responsible and desire to do the best possible thing to help, and we stand against their decisions, then we accomplish nothing but chaos, not responsibility. This is where responsibility SHOULD kick in.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
12:54 pm

“There SHOULD be restrictions placed on the labor unions”

Yeah, but without unions, Democrats wouldn’t have any money.

Chris

February 23rd, 2011
12:59 pm

Well, first…I didn’t say get rid of them altogether…because I think if controlled properly, and honestly, they could be a good thing for all workers of America, but secondly, for your comment “Yeah, but without unions, Democrats wouldn’t have any money.”…would that necessarily be a bad thing???

Tricky

February 23rd, 2011
1:01 pm

Hey Bob, did ya hear that the President will no longer defend that horrible piece of legislation that you crafted?

Chris

February 23rd, 2011
1:04 pm

On the other hand, if the Dem’s money was reduced through this avenue, it would mean a couple of things…1. Our taxes wouldn’t be forking out so much due to the labor unions and 2. this same tax money that helps these unions, of which portions of that goes to the Dem’s, would not be indirectly helping out the Democrats too…
Just a thought…

LA

February 23rd, 2011
1:06 pm

Chris

I was being sarcastic. I’m all for getting rid of unions and couldn’t be happier to see Democrats lost their money.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
1:07 pm

Chris

It’s great to see the Democrats lose money and run from their own states. It shows the rest of the country just how effed up unions really are.

Chris

February 23rd, 2011
1:15 pm

I agree with you LA. I’m inclined to believe that if something’s causing a problem to my budget, that I’m going to do what I can to change it, or even eliminate it altogether, to keep the problem from persisting. That, I feel, is only a natural reaction that anyone would take to their own personal budgets. Why do these people think that the government is any different?

By the way, I knew you were being sarcastic…I just wanted to say it anyway.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
1:20 pm

Buh bye, unions.

Providence plans to pink slip all teachers

The school district plans to send out dismissal notices to every one of its 1,926 teachers, an unprecedented move that has union leaders up in arms.

http://www.projo.com/news/content/providence_teacher_layoffs_02-23-11_MCML6R3_v17.1a1cc6d.html

LA

February 23rd, 2011
1:22 pm

Chris

Yep, and the greedy union members seem to think that “taxing the rich” is the solution which PROVES that they don’t understand why people are pissed off and hate unions. Some WI teacher actually said on live TV, that taxing rich people would fix the problem.

I guess you can’t fix stupid.

Joe the Plutocrat

February 23rd, 2011
1:36 pm

Bob, you’re 0-2, pal. ‘civic greed’? that’s some clever language? but let’s say it does exist within the public sector unions – would you concede ‘corporate greed’ has as much influence on unbalanced state budgets? are not tax incentives, bailouts and subsidies a manifesttion of greed in the ‘free enterprise’ system? or, is wealth the result of altruism? and speaking of ‘free enterprise’ system, the right to “bargain’ (collectively, or independently) is included in the ‘free’ (FYI – the United States is a plutocracy – ‘the free market’ is a card trick – the house always wins. so, somebody needs to tell Governor Walker he needs to lay off the 6,0000 employees and be done with it.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
1:43 pm

“would you concede ‘corporate greed’ has as much influence on unbalanced state budgets?’

What corporate greed?

“bailouts and subsidies a manifesttion of greed”

Spell check is your friend. What bailouts has Wisconsin given out?

“somebody needs to tell Governor Walker he needs to lay off the 6,0000 employees and be done with it.’

Couldn’t agree more. There are MANY unemployed teachers that would love to fill those jobs.

Patriot

February 23rd, 2011
1:44 pm

Joe the Plutocrat – There is no FREE MARKET in america. The only thing you are blaming is corporatism/merchantilism/crony capitalism or whatever name you want to give it, but it is not FREE MARKET Capitalism.

When the governor advocates elminating government provision of services and allowing a free, competitive market to provide education, fire, security, trash, charity, then we will know that he is serious about REALLY fixing the state budget problems.

Joe the Plutocrat

February 23rd, 2011
1:45 pm

DawgDad, you obviously never took my advice an looked up PLUTOCRACY in the dictionary. what is with the “America is in danger” warning? the “boss class” (plutocrats) have been running the show for years. plutocracy in action.

Chris

February 23rd, 2011
1:45 pm

Yep. So true. I mean…at one time when I didn’t know any better, I thought that taxing the rich would be a great idea, because I thought “he’s rich, and I’m not. He can afford it.” But then a certain someone I’ve been listening to lately on talk radio put it into perspective for me. Many rich people got rich, because they worked hard to get there. Yet they are still just as American as I am. They are still my equal. So how right would it be to tax him more, and leave me out of the equation, when I’m just as much an American as he is? All men are created ‘equal’, right? And if, my own construction company in which I own, happens to do great, should I be punished with higher taxes if I ever became rich? Absolutely not! I don’t own anything large right now, and as a matter of fact, I have no employees, and work out of my home, but if I were to get into that position of being rich, it would not mean that it’s justification for getting taxed more! As it stands, I’m already taxed on so much, and as I learn more, I find that there is more added on that I didn’t know about before. And sometimes there’s so much taxing going on, that a person would think that it would be better to just work for someone else, rather than own their own business. But this mindset of taxing the rich is just crazy, because an honest person who’s rich, wouldn’t have anything left by the time the government was done, if they continue to add taxes to them. Sorry for getting off the main topic here, but I just got started, and just wanted to finish my thoughts out.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
1:46 pm

Patriot

Watch out. Joe the Plutocrat likes to tell us all how smart he is. He once claimed to be a psychologist yet he misspells half of his rants.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
1:48 pm

Chris

What’ really ironic is that people like Obama go around talking about the “evil rich” yet they themselves are rich and many of them don’t even pay taxes. Heck, several of Obama’s staff got caught evading taxes.

Gotta love the people who fall for their lies.

LA

February 23rd, 2011
1:50 pm

“you obviously never took my advice an looked up PLUTOCRACY in the dictionary.”

MANY people don’t take your advice, Gump.

jpcuvelier

February 23rd, 2011
2:00 pm

You came to France But you had understood nothing, you’re right to be returned on your campaign

Joe the Plutocrat

February 23rd, 2011
2:02 pm

Patriot, I think we’re on the same page – see my 1:45 to DawgDad – I ‘call it’ PLUTOCRACY. what dimwits like LA fail to understand is; “bargaining” is an essential component of a “free market”. LA, yeah slick, I guess you’re right. there has never been a lobbyist in the Wisconsin capital building. the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers, University of Wisconsin Athletic Department (Big 10), Miller Brewing, or any of the dairy farmers in Wisconsin never got a subsidy. tax break or incentive. this is all the work “greedy teachers”. I’ll tell you what I told somebody yesterday, my dad is a retired teacher in NJ (same issues). he never went on strike, never took a day off, and he accepted his pay and benefits. if the ghosts of Wisconsin (or NJ) negotiate a short-sighted or bad deal, then RENEGOTIATE THE DEAL. laying this all at the feet of “unions” is infantile. with whom did the union leadership “collectively bargain”? again, if you want to fantasize about democracy and free markets, have at it. a plutocracy by definition includes public (unions and politicians) and private sector (lobbyists, corporations).

Chris

February 23rd, 2011
2:02 pm

LA,
I’ve thought about that, and yet I’ve not heard anyone in the media talk about it. Wonder why that is? It doesn’t make sense for rich Democrats to push for taxing the rich, when it’s just gonna turn around and bite themselves in the rear. It not only makes no sense, but if they actually had pushed it through, then I believe we would have heard more stories of tax evasions, but from the same people who pushed it through.

It’s just hard for me to believe that people actually ARE that stupid, and/or really believe that WE are that stupid. Do they not realize that pretending to have so much ignorance is highly unprofessional? I mean really?

LA

February 23rd, 2011
2:08 pm

“the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers, University of Wisconsin Athletic Department (Big 10), Miller Brewing, or any of the dairy farmers in Wisconsin never got a subsidy.”

U of Wisconsin is a public school that gets taxpayer dollars. They are not a private corporation. The other “corporations” as you call them, are not bankrupting the state. Miller is owned by Coors.

“my dad is a retired teacher in NJ (same issues). he never went on strike, never took a day off, and he accepted his pay and benefits.’

Good for him. Not sure what that has to do with the greedy unions in Wisconsin.

“laying this all at the feet of “unions” is infantile. ”

If it’s “infantile” then why are the unions the only ones crying?

“again, if you want to fantasize about democracy and free markets, have at it. ‘

We’re a republic.

“a plutocracy by definition includes public (unions and politicians) and private sector (lobbyists, corporations).”

Unions make up 12% of the workforce. Not sure where you get that unions make up a large part of this country.