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President Obama’s Uncivil Defense Of Spoiled, Uncivil Wisconsin Public Unions

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Posted on February 18 2011 4:00 pm
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Instead of seriously trying to reduce the federal deficit, President Obama has sought fit to attack Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for trying to balance Wisconsin’s runaway budget. President Obama claimed that Governor Walker’s proposed reforms to the public union collective bargaining rights and his demands for increased contributions by Wisconsin’s spoiled state workers to help pay for their cushy benefits and pension plans are an “assault on unions.”

Governor Walker is confronting the public labor unions, whose sweetheart deals under previous administrations have pushed the state towards fiscal bankruptcy. If something is not done immediately, the state’s budget deficit for the next two year cycle could rise to $3.6 billion. Unlike Obama, who ducked the hard choices on entitlements and other controversial issues when he presented his own budget for the 2012 fiscal year, Walker is courageously confronting his state’s financial problems.

Governor Walker’s proposed reforms have drawn union and Democratic Party-organized protestors to rally in Wisconsin’s state capitol, carrying hate-filled signs comparing the Governor to Hitler and to the deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and likening their protests to demonstrations in Cairo. One Democratic lawmaker, state Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), has compared the Governor’s proposals to actions taken by Hitler in the early 1930’s.

In fact, the successor to President Obama’s own campaign arm – Organizing for America – has been playing an active role in coordinating the protests. Coupled with Obama’s charge that the Governor is committing an “assault on unions,” the President has evidently abandoned his call in Tucson last month for civility in political discourse.

Abandoning their students, more than 1,000 public school teachers have reportedly called in sick. And abandoning their legislative duties, the state Democratic legislators skipped town as state lawmakers were preparing to vote on the reform bill. Governor Walker challenged the Democrat runaways to end their “theatrics” and to

Show up, debate the bill, offer amendments, have a healthy debate

The Democrats are counting on Article VIII, Section 8 of the Wisconsin Constitution  (dealing with special voting procedures for fiscal bills) to require their presence in order for the Governor’s proposed reforms to be valid. Fiscal bills require a quorum of three-fifths elected in each house, which would leave Governor Walker one member short if all Democrats stay away:

On the passage in either house of the legislature of any law which imposes, continues or renews a tax, or creates a debt or charge, or makes, continues or renews an appropriation of public or trust money, or releases, discharges or commutes a claim or demand of the state, the question shall be taken by yeas and nays, which shall be duly entered on the journal; and three−fifths of all the member selected to such house shall in all such cases be required to constitute a quorum therein.

However, there is a good argument that Governor Walker does not need the runaway Democrats to show up.The limits on collective bargaining are not fiscal in nature and should be able to pass without the absentee Democrats. Even the caps on what the state would contribute to state employees’ health care premiums or pensions do not arguably come under this provision because they do not involve taxes, new or renewed appropriations or the creation of a new state debt. In fact, what Governor Walker is asking for is the opposite – state employees paying more out of their own pocket for their own benefits. According to an opinion of the Wisconsin Attorney General that is referenced in the annotated version of the Wisconsin Constitution,

Past decisions of the court consistently tend to limit the definition of what is a fiscal law and not every bill with a minimal fiscal effect requires a recorded vote.

As expected, the New York Times weighed in with a lead editorial today blaming Governor Walker for bringing “his State Capitol to a halt.” The Times claimed that the Governor is responsible for the chaos of thousands of workers

pounding on windows and blocking doors, yelling “shut it down””

The Governor apparently bussed the union thugs to the state capitol and put the slanderous signs in their hands. Also, if the Times is to be believed, the Governor spread some germs to the teachers who called in sick and transported the cowardly Democratic legislators out-of-state to duck their legislative duties.

How absurd! Governor Walker is simply asking state workers to contribute more to their own benefits and pensions, at a level that will still be substantially less than workers in the private sector normally have to pay. As the Times admitted, Governor Walker is seeking to increase state workers’ contributions to their health care premiums from 6% to 12% – which would still be a full 15 % lower than the average employee contribution to premiums around the country (public and private) of 29%. Governor Walker wants Wisconsin state workers, who contribute almost nothing to their pensions today, to pay 5.8% – which, the Times notes in its editorial

is a little less than average for government workers around the country

So what has the Times editors in a lather? They object to the fact that Governor Walker is not only trying to restore some fairness to the current benefits Wisconsin state workers are receiving, as measured by their peers in the private sector and by the benefits received by government workers outside of Wisconsin. The Times editors do not want the Governor to prevent a recurrence of the disparity down the road by limiting state workers’ collective bargaining rights to the core issue of their wages,  rather than continuing to extend to all of the goodies that they have managed to extract over the years, subsidized by hardworking taxpayers.

The Times concedes that the benefits for Wisconsin’s state workers are “currently quite generous” but claims “they weren’t stolen.” Actually, in concert with state politicians receiving donations from public employee unions who have bought favors from those politicians for far too long, the outsized benefits were stolen from Wisconsin taxpayers.

In attacking Governor Walker instead of joining him to solve a fiscal time bomb, President Obama is proving once again that his “pivot’ to the center is all for show and that he still most comfortable in the progressive, left- wing end of the political spectrum which gave him his start.

Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam

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