President Obama’s support of union protesters in Wisconsin highlights more about him than his plain words. It reveals that not only does he undermine the real effort of positive change by Governor Walker’s bill to reduce the State’s deficit, the President also condones the failed entitlement policies which have bankrupted Greece and other European countries. It is evident that a government becomes destructive to the needs of the governed when its growth is due to a symbiotic relationship with special interest groups such as public employee unions, and is bound by a conflict of interest in redistributing public funds for political spoils. The common repetitive narrative to justify such actions on premise of ‘protecting the rights of the middle class’ is negated by the stark reality and truths which are contrary to the interests and consent of the people. Furthermore and probably most troubling, this attitude encourages and facilitates a culture where entitlements are interpreted as rights to supersede personal responsibility. Such a culture not only starves economic growth, it also accommodates the emergence of a failed un-productive nanny state.
Mr. Obama recently expressed his support for the protestors while admitting he knows nothing about the bill but went on to say:
“These folks are teachers and firefighters and are social workers and they are police officers” he said, “and it is important not to vilify them”.
The President is right that he knows nothing about the bill because it explicitly excludes police and firefighters. However his reaction ignites serious questions, can President Obama exemplify the necessary leadership to do what it really takes to reduce the current $1.65 trillion deficit which quadrupled under his watch and continue to rise? Would he rather ignore the wishes of voters who elect representatives to solve deficits so he can cater to the special interests such as public sector unions? Mr. Obama and his Democrat allies have been beholden to public sector unions because of the gravy train of union member dues funneled to fund their political power. In return the public-union leaders negotiate ever-larger pay and benefits from the very politicians they help elect. All at the taxpayers expense in the form of higher taxes and more debt most often borne by the middle class. The unions in effect sit on both sides of the bargaining table and the government negotiating on taxpayers behalf have a huge incentive to ignore taxpayers interest in contract discussions. As such, any attempt even in the interest of tax payers to reform the abuse of this flow of funds is fiercely opposed by public sector unions and Democrats such as President Obama all in the name of ‘protecting’ children and ‘rights’.
Americans voted in November for real change and rightfully expect true leadership in solving real issues. The elected Republican lead Congress and Governors like Scott Walker have the task to avoid going down the unsustainable path of higher deficits, taxes and debt. The states and the nation overall are at a crossroads and need real solutions based on reality and truths. The elements that feed a fiscal crisis cannot be kicked down the road any longer without dire and perhaps irreversible consequences. While Washington can borrow from the Chinese or call on the Federal Reserve to buy bonds or print money, states must make the difficult budgetary choices of either higher self defeating taxes or getting costs under control. It is important to note that high deficits and debt is not only due to the escalating cost influenced by public employee unions, but it is a key contributor and one which leaders or representatives can do something about.
Governor Walker is faced with a $3.6 billion deficit and the nation’s fourth largest per capita unfunded public-pension liability. His proposed bill requires public union members to contribute 12.6% to their health-insurance up from less than 6% and to contribute 5.8% towards their pensions, up from 0.2%. These are modest contributions compared to what most taxpayers who work in the private sector pay for them selves. The comparable nationwide employee health care contribution is 20% for private sector workers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to the Employee Benefits Research Institute the average contribution towards pension benefits was 7.5% in 2009. Without these reforms taxpayers would eventually have to pay higher taxes to subsidize the generous benefits and salaries of government union workers. In addition without these reforms the number of new hires in the public employee sector would be severely restricted, funding to other state obligations would be compromised and Wisconsin would eventually have to lay off up to 5,500 public workers. This also illustrates another point which President Obama and Democrats should realize, controlling costs and getting budgets under control is a real way of ensuring the ability to save and create jobs.
The main issue of contention between Governor Walker’s bill, and public employee unions is the proposal to end some collective bargaining by most government employees for benefits. They would still be able to bargain for higher wages but future wage increases would be capped at the federal Consumer Price Index unless specified by a voter referendum. This not only enhances accountability and keeps public employee pay in line with the same constraints experienced by the general public, but the viability of such wage increases can be determined by the taxpayer who ultimately pays the bill. How could this hurt the middle class as implied by supporters of the unions in Wisconsin?
Democrats and unions around the country are stirring up groups to protest at other state capitals. Many of these Democrats have abandoned their own calls for civility and are silent to the many vile behaviors exhibited by the protestors they support. Earlier when the protests began, about 40% teachers called in sick and many were fraudulently given ‘sick notes’ from doctors so they could take part in demonstrations while still getting paid. Some of these teachers included the same teachers who sued the Milwaukee school board last August to get Viagra coverage restored to their health-care plans. Robert Costrell a professor of education reform and economics at the University of Arkansas wrote an article last Friday in the Wall Street Journal- ‘Oh, To Be a Teacher in Wisconsin’. It highlighted how the excessive power of collective bargaining has lead to fringe benefits which cost almost as much as their salary. The article helps to reinforce the point by Governor Walker to limit collective bargaining rights for benefits. It would give statewide local governments and school districts the flexible management tools to avoid layoffs and get budgets under control. Even liberals such as FDR and former Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee Frank Zeidler understood the consequences of collective bargaining and spoke put against it. Collective bargaining is not a constitutional or natural right and is limited or banned in 24 states.
Governor Walker’s aim of ending collective bargaining for benefits and work rules has been described by President Obama as an “assault on the unions”. However the real assault has been inflamed by President Obama but led by Organizing for America, the group formed from President Obama’s 2008 campaign and aided by liberals including the Democratic National Committee. This real assault by these groups is on the general public’s trust in government to be responsible stewards of taxpayers’ resources, which instead has been used as a means to an end to ensure the political power of many Democrats, including President Obama. The assault is played out on taxpayers as they are constantly expected to pay for huge benefits for government workers while hundreds of millions of union member dues can be redistributed to elect mostly Democrats instead of paying for these union members own benefits. Changes in Governor Walker’s proposal would end the government’s role in collecting dues from paychecks of union members and then sending them back to the unions. Unions instead would responsible for their own collection of dues. Members would not be mandated to pay these dues as they are now and would require that public-employee unions be recertified annually by a majority vote of all members, not just by a majority of those who cast ballots. Governor Walker explains that, “If workers have the freedom of choice on their own dues money and a real voice in their union, they may get better representation.” Mr. Walker went on to highlight that he will not be changing the civil services rules which actually protect the employee rights that people care about, such as, the strongest protections in the country on grievance procedures, merit hiring and just cause for disciplining and termination. Rights which supporters of the protestors give the impression are protected by collective bargaining, but are not. The facts are that union members would actually have more rights and say in how their own money is spent rather than surrendering it to their union bosses to do as they will. How could this be an assault on union members as described by President Obama and other liberals when members will actually have more freedom and rights? Kimberley Strassel in her recent article- ‘Union Power for Thee, But Not for Me’- pointed out that if President Obama is so upset with Wisconsin’s proposed labor laws, why does he not allow federal workers to bargain collectively?
These facts are ignored by Democrats and their union boss cohorts because it would reveal their real motives for attacking Governor Walker’s bill and inflaming protests. The proposals would reduce the growing union dominance in the Democratic Party, their monopoly position which gives them undue bargaining power would be restricted, and automatic deductions of union dues would break the cycle in which the government collects dues and gives then back to the unions, who in turn funnels them back to their favorite candidates to gain more pay and benefits. In typical liberal fashion, Democrats under the premise of being a protector and provider of rights for a group, Democrats seek to grow government and give themselves more political power by actually reducing the freedom of the group they purport to defend.
According to Myron Lieberman, a school teacher who became a contract negotiator for the American Federation of Teachers, since the 1960s collective bargaining has so “greatly increased the political influence of unions” that they block the sorts of necessary change that other elements of society have had to accept. This was mentioned in John Fund’s recent article in the Wall Street Journal – “What’s at Stake in the Wisconsin’s Budget Battle” , which also posed the question , “Who’s in charge of our political system-voters or government unions?
The rhetoric by protestors to associate their actions with the freedom and democracy movements in the Middle East cannot mask the truth.They are more synonymous with the protests in Athens after the implications of going broke ceased the provision of certain entitlements. It is a path which Wisconsin and the rest of the country will take if deficits continue to spiral out of control. The protests in Wisconsin and around the country will no doubt include calls by liberals for ‘taxing the rich’ to solve a fiscal crisis. The response to that, why should government be given more of other peoples’ earned money when government have proven in many cases inept in using it in the interest of taxpayers? Government has been more apt to spend taxpayers money on political motives compared to the taxpayers themselves who are more likely to spend it on economic investments and progress. In addition, encouraging the culture of ‘taxing the rich’ mantra only seeks to absolve the personal responsibility and accountability required to handle real problems. Governor Walker and other leaders around the country realize this and that is why it is important they succeed in real reforms.
Some liberals will defend union support of Democrats and criticize Republicans who get large support from corporations, but so does President Obama and other Democrats who at times are the largest recipients of such donations. In addition, corporate donations are their own money, not other peoples’ money. Most liberals did not have a problem when President Obama supported billions of dollars in U.S loans to an offshore drilling company partly owned by key liberal billionaire contributor George Soros – to drill off the coast of Brazil. While at the same time many Americans will lose their jobs and our capacity to drill for our own oil because of the his administration’s moratorium against drilling.
As we head into the 2012 election cycle there will be no doubt that the outcome of budget battles taking place in Wisconsin and other states around the country between governors and unions will be apart of the debate. It will reveal those who show real leadership in solving issues, and are capable of getting budgets under control. Taxpayers know they have been taken for granted for far too long and will ultimately decide who is on their side or who will be destructive to their fiscal or economic future. Just as the founders intended, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, the people will have the right to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.
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