We don't know how the battle of Wisconsin will turn out, but there are a lot of straws in the wind, and they all suggest labor is winning. Consider: 1. The polls show the public is siding with labor. One poll, by the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner but using straightforward questions, shows the majority of Wisconsin voters oppose Scott Walker's anti-union moves. Another national poll from Gallup shows a national majority of voters would oppose a change like the one Walker is proposing. (A Rasmussen poll found different results, but seems to be transparently cooked.) 2.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal has gotten a lot of attention for what it would do to the state’s public employee unions. And rightly so. If Walker gets his way, state workers will lose virtually all power to negotiate over compensation and the unions themselves will become far weaker. As Greg Sargent noted on Monday, a Walker victory would likely embolden Republican governors in other states, many of whom are planning their own assaults on public employees. But that’s not all Walker’s budget proposal would do.
Ezra Klein and David Brooks both make similar points about the wildly slanted nature of Scott Walker's austerity program. Here's Klein: In his State of the State speech, he said, "The decisions we face are not easy and the solutions we must approve will require true sacrifice." He's already called for plenty of it from not only state employees, but also the low-income residents who rely on Wisconsin's BadgerCare program. But some won't have to sacrifice nearly so much.
It's one thing to argue that unions are wrong about charter schools or that they need to pay more for their health insurance. It's quite another to suggest they shouldn't exist. That was Paul Krugman's point this morning and it's Kevin Drum's point here: Every single human institution or organization of any size has its bad points. Corporations certainly do. The military does. Organized religion does. Academia does. The media does. The financial industry sure as hell does.
The fight in Wisconsin is about power--the power to organize into unions and the power to influence politics. But it is also about money. If Republican governor Scott Walker weren’t claiming that the state’s public workers were wildly overpaid, and if a lot of people weren't inclined to believe him, his proposal to crush the state's public employee unions wouldn’t be on the verge of becoming law. As an empirical matter, Walker’s claim seems suspect.
Anti-labor forces have waited decades for the opportunity that they are now trying to seize in Wisconsin. Republican Governor Scott Walker’s plan, echoed in proposals put forward by several other conservative governors, to take away the collective bargaining rights of most Wisconsin public employees under the guise of deficit reduction represents a bold effort to undo a half-century of labor history. It would turn back the clock to the early 1950s, a time when public workers still labored under a form a second-class citizenship. The goal?
Joe Klein says that Governor Scott Walker only wants a few modest tweaks: it seems to me that Governor Scott Walker's basic requests are modest ones--asking public employees to contribute more to their pension and health care plans, though still far less than most private sector employees do. He is also trying to limit the unions' abilities to negotiate work rules--and this is crucial when it comes to the more efficient operation of government in a difficult time. Ezra Klein, no relation, has, er, a bit more detail: Walker tries to sell the change in collective bargaining as modest.
The last few months of 2010 have been illuminating when it comes to the priorities of the Republican Party. By jumping at the Obama-McConnell tax deal, Republicans underscored the fact that protecting the marginal tax rates of high earners—not reducing the federal deficit, and not even denying Obama legislative success—is their party’s primary focus at the federal level. It says something that most conservatives who opposed the tax deal did so on the grounds that it was not permanent, or that it did not completely eliminate the estate tax.
Despite Governor-elect Scott Walker’s strong desire to dedicate Wisconsin’s federal high speed rail money to the state’s highway network, it will stay high speed rail money. Use-it-or-lose-it is the clear message from Washington. That may be sinking in and Walker has now stated his preference to dedicating rail money to the state’s existing service, rather than building new. Whether or not he’ll be able to do that, it is interesting to look at existing rail ridership in Wisconsin. Forthcoming Brookings analysis of Amtrak passenger trends shows fairly strong growth throughout the state.