There are many lessons to be learned from the protests and outright abdication of duty by public labor unions and Democrats (but I repeat myself) in Wisconsin. One of them is that there can no longer be any doubts that President Obama has radical ideas about the proper balance and relationship between the federal and state governments.
From the Washington Post:
President Obama thrust himself and his political operation this week into Wisconsin’s broiling budget battle, mobilizing opposition Thursday to a Republican bill that would curb public-worker benefits and planning similar protests in other state capitals.
Obama accused Scott Walker, the state’s new Republican governor, of unleashing an “assault” on unions in pushing emergency legislation that would change future collective-bargaining agreements that affect most public employees, including teachers.
The president’s political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to get thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.
Their efforts began to spread, as thousands of labor supporters turned out for a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to protest a measure from Gov. John Kasich (R) that would cut collective-bargaining rights.
By the end of the day, Democratic Party officials were organizing additional demonstrations in Ohio and Indiana, where an effort is underway to trim benefits for public workers. Some union activists predicted similar protests in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Let me make my position perfectly clear: The president of the United States has no business whatsoever interfering, especially by using his campaign apparatus, with a state government’s dealings with its employees.
No. Business. Whatsoever.
His eagerness to jump into the fray in Madison, like his ill-advised wading into the dispute over the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates two summers ago, not only betrays his disturbing instinct to think nothing is beyond the bounds of his office. It actually demeans the office itself. As Matt Welch writes at Reason.com:
Just think — there once was a time (for more than a century, actually), when the president of the United States thought it too imperious to deliver the State of the Union via a speech to a joint session of Congress, since that would smack of telling a co-equal branch of government what to do. Now we have a president not just taking rhetorical sides in a state issue, but actively mobilizing his political organization to affect the outcome(s), even though (to my knowledge) nothing that Gov. [Scott] Walker or any other belated statehouse cost-cutter is doing has a damned thing to do with federal law.
This is not sending in the National Guard to enforce a federal court order to integrate the schools in Little Rock. Despite what you may have heard — from President Obama, for instance — Wisconsin’s governor is not “making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally.”
What the governor, newly elected Republican Scott Walker, wants is to sharply curb collective bargaining for benefits — which in that state, like many other jurisdictions, are unsustainably generous and threaten to sink the entire state’s finances — and require employees to contribute less than 6 percent of their salaries toward their pension plan and pay $1 for every $7 that the state pays for their health-insurance premiums.
But even if Obama personally finds such a policy as horrific as Wisconsin’s revolting teachers (oops, teachers in revolt) do, the fact remains that it is not the president’s business.
If Obama or his attorney general thinks Wisconsin would be violating an aspect of federal law, then the Department of Justice could sue the state — but only after it acts. Instead, he and his political organization are trying to pre-empt an ostensibly lawful action by the state’s government.
Folks, in case it wasn’t clear before: There is nothing — nothing — that Obama considers outside the purview of the federal government. His meddling in Wisconsin is the logical conclusion of that ideology.
Speaking of which, Welch argues this is about much more than Obama alone:
We are witnessing the logical conclusion of the Democratic Party’s philosophy, and it is this: Your tax dollars exist to make public sector unions happy. When we run out of other people’s money to pay for those contracts and promises (most of which are negotiated outside of public view, often between union officials and the politicians that union officials helped elect), then we just need to raise taxes to cover a shortfall that is obviously Wall Street’s fault. Anyone who doesn’t agree is a bully, and might just bear an uncanny resemblance to Hitler.
The president’s heavy-handed involvement, along with House Republicans’ refusal to sign off on any new bailout of the states, means that this may very well be America’s biggest and most widespread political fight in 2011. It’s a cage match to determine first dibs on a shrinking pie. A clarifying moment.
– By Kyle Wingfield
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