On Wisconsin (Pardon the Pun)

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 19, 2011

Say this for Scott Walker; he’s showing a lot of courage:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) says his party has been emboldened by massive protests against his controversial budget plan.

Walker said demonstrators who filled the state capitol building in Madison and the boycott by state Senate Democrats — some of whom fled the state in protest — have steeled the resolve of members of his party.

“If anything, I think it’s made the Republicans in the Assembly and the Senate stronger,” he told Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren in an interview Thursday night. “They’re not going to be bullied. They’re not going to be intimidated.”

Walker also fired back at President Obama, who sided with the public employees, saying on Fox News Friday, “We are focused on balancing our budget. It would be wise for the government and others in Washington to focus on balancing their budgets, which they are a long way off from doing.”

Walker might have also wanted to ask whether the President didn’t have anything better to do than to get himself involved in a local dispute. One would have thought after the Henry Louis Gates episode that someone in the White House would have informed President Obama that he doesn’t have to comment on every little conflict that happens in the country, but apparently, if that message was delivered, it certainly did not take.

I hope that the state troopers get their men and women. It would be perfect payback for the snit that Wisconsin Democrats are throwing; apparently, losing an election justifies trying to shut down state government purely out of spite. Perhaps teachers with the blue flu in Wisconsin, and those in Michigan can be informed that it is time to look for different careers.

This editorial sums up matters well:

Democrats in the state Senate threw a temper tantrum Thursday – essentially they took their ball and went home.

Actually, they didn’t go home. They apparently went to Illinois, just out of reach of their obligations.

By boycotting an expected vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, they were able to prevent action on the measure. Twenty senators are required for a quorum; the Republicans have only 19.

The Walker plan is deeply divisive. We’re not supportive of some aspects of the bill, either, including those that will make it nearly impossible for unions to negotiate. And we think that police and firefighter unions should not be excluded as they are now. But public worker benefits need to be reined in, and Walker is right to target them.

State Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), apparently with plenty of time on her hands Thursday afternoon, posted on her Facebook page, “brb,” slang for “be right back.” Too bad she and her colleagues weren’t.

One leading Democrat – Obama was his name, as we recall – put it well after winning the White House in 2008: “Elections have consequences,” he told Republicans at the time. Indeed they do. The Democrats’ childish prank mocks the democratic process.

Now, of course, the President’s message is “elections have consequences, but those consequences ought to be respected only if Democrats win.” There can be no more dramatic demonstration for the White House’s–and the Democratic party’s–disregard for the democratic republican process, the rule of law, and the business of government than their backing for this snit by Wisconsin Democrats.

And by the way, spare me the argument that unions concerns are on the level. I beg to differ:

It would be very interesting to see how many outsourced protesters are at work in Wisconsin. As the video, and as this story make clear, the tactic of outsourcing protesters in union disputes is quite common. Note in the story that outsourced protesters receive no benefits from the unions that hire them. And note as well that this tactic has elicited the outrage of homeless advocates; the homeless are being used and manipulated by the unions, the work they do does not go far enough to pay for essentials like rent, and working for the unions prevents homeless people from having the time to go out and look for jobs that pay more, and offer benefits.

  • Anonymous

    That’s small government conservatism for you. Gin up a budget crisis, then use it to crush the rights of unionized workers. Threaten to deploy the National Guard. When your political opponents boycott the legislature, use the state security services to round them up (who were conveniently spared from the union-busting legislation). When the unions agree to concessions on pensions and healthcare benefits in exchange for keeping collective bargaining rights (http://www.jsonline.com/news/statepolitics/116470423.html), flatly refuse them in order to continue your assault on middle class workers.

    Just a day in the life of a small government conservative hero, I guess.

    • Decriminalize Commerce

      Unions are fine. Just take away their special privileges: ability to strike w/o being fired, etc. Why should they have that ability? Why are businesses and business owners treated like chattel?

      Read your history, folks, businessmen were turned into criminals through clever legal slight-of-hand in the early 20th century. Check out the Trading with the Enemy act, and how it was used to criminalize commerce during the FDR Screw Deal.

      Conservative? Right wing? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

    • Pejman Yousefzadeh

      I am sorry your side lost in 2010, but that’s no excuse to act like children. Either grow up, or stop complaining about US Senate filibusters (which at least are allowed by the rules), and warning of the consequences of federal government shutdowns. No one likes a hypocrite.

      • Anonymous

        Are you kidding? Opposing the filibuster means unilateral disarmament with no prospect of reform? Haha, fat chance. When Republicans have more than 51 and less than 60 senators and propose filibuster reform, then we can talk.

        When Democratic state Senators in Wisconsin do what they can to buy some time and sway public opinion to their side in an effort to prevent a shameful power grab by a Republican governor, I will support them using whatever tools they have at their disposal.

        And if you really think a state legislature boycotting one vote is comparable to a routine 60-vote supermajority requirement in the US Senate, then charges of hypocrisy cut both ways. Why aren’t you and Mitch McConnell standing in solidarity with your principled bothers in Rockford, IL?

        • Pejman Yousefzadeh

          When Democratic state Senators in Wisconsin do what they can to buy some time and sway public opinion to their side in an effort to prevent a shameful power grab by a Republican governor, I will support them using whatever tools they have at their disposal.

          Then stop calling yourself a small-d democrat. You obviously have no regard for the will of the people. Walker isn’t engaged in a “shameful power grab.” He is reversing legislation from 2009; were the Democrats engaged in a “shameful power grab” then? He won the election, and therefore has the right to propose legislation such as this. As for why I don’t stand in solidarity with my “bothers” [sic], it is because I don’t consider the actions of Wisconsin state Democrats to be equivalent to a filibuster in the Senate. The latter is allowed by Rule 22 of the US Senate rules. The former is not allowed at all. My point–and this should be obvious–is that if you are not willing to complain about the former, you have no standing to complain about the latter.

          • Anonymous

            Oh please. Then Mitch McConnell has no regard for the will of the people either. The Senate has Rule 22. The Wisconsin state Senate has a quorum rule. Its a stunt in Wisconsin, of course, and its not like they’re never coming back, so enough with the melodrama about usurping democracy. They are buying a few days to win the public opinion battle. Why are you so afraid of subjecting Walker’s actions to a few days of public scrutiny?

            I think your friend Paul Ryan put it best: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison these days.” http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2011/02/17/rep_paul_ryan_on_wisconsin_protests_like_cairo_moved_to_madison.html
            Yes, I suppose it is about time Walker stepped down and allowed for an orderly transition of power. ;)

          • Pejman Yousefzadeh

            Wisconsin’s state senate has a quorum rule. Wisconsin’s state senate does not, however, authorize walkouts. And any melodrama on this front has been generated by Democrats. There can be–and will be–plenty of scrutiny on the issue once the state senate is allowed to function again by Democrats whining about the fact that they lost an election. The only ones afraid here are Democrats who don’t like the fact that 2010 happened, and the people of Wisconsin made clear that they didn’t want anymore of the Democrats’ agenda.
            I am sure that you would be delighted if Walker stepped down, but unlike Mubarak, of course, he won a free and fair election–something your side continues to ignore, since, well, you lost that election. And as Ryan also said, “”It’s not asking a lot, it’s still about half of what private sector pensions do and health care packages do. So he’s [the Governor is] basically saying, I want you public workers to pay half of what our private sector counterparts and he’s getting riots.” Of course, I would understand the whiny reaction to Walker a bit better if his stance on public sector unions were the same as the stance adopted by FDR and his contemporaries.

          • Anonymous

            The problem is that Ryan was wrong. This is not about budgets or pensions or healthcare. As you can see in the link I provided above, the unions have agreed to these concessions. This is about crushing a rival political constituency and no democrat — small d or big D — should let that happen without a fight.

            Also, characterizing peaceful protests as riots is very Mubarak-ish.

          • Pejman Yousefzadeh

            Just because the unions agree to some concessions does not mean that those concessions are enough to amount to good public policy; as the link that I provided in my last comment makes clear, what is being asked of the unions is entirely reasonable. And you will forgive me for not taking the “peaceful protests” comment all that seriously, when protesters come out with cross-hairs on the picture of the Governor, and compare him to Hitler. I thought that using cross-hairs was a bad thing, but I guess that as long as Democrats are doing it to Republicans, it’s somehow okay in your book.

          • Anonymous

            Meh. I for one think civility in politics is fairly over-rated. And I certainly have no interest in a debate about whether liberals or conservatives are less civil. Conservatives cried foul when liberals made hay over racist tea party signs, so go to town if you feel you owe us payback. In either case, its designed to marginalize a large group of people with actual political concerns (whatever you think of their merits) by making their dumbest members out to be representative of the group. I think both of us know as much and would be bored by a debate on the topic.

            And back to the legislation, you and I both know this is meant to crush the unions. It has everything to do with politics and virtually nothing to do with budgets. Whether or not you think that’s reasonable is a matter of perspective. Personally, I am not a 100% union person and backed efforts in DC to bring the teacher’s union to the table on tenure, in exchange for opportunities for merit pay. The difference is that I generally support a strong counter-balance to management/government and you do not.

          • Pejman Yousefzadeh

            Actually, I support a strong counter-balance as well. But that counter-balance has to live and operate within means. You seem to think otherwise. I am not interested in “crush[ing] unions,” your strawman notwithstanding. But by showing that they don’t believe that elections have consequences–unless, of course, their side wins elections–unions appear to be entirely interested in marginalizing and crushing themselves.

          • Anonymous

            The “elections have consequences” bit is a canard. Winning elections provides the opportunity to pursue political change, it does not mean your opponents unilaterally disarm. It also means those changes are pursued within constraints like public opinion. Barack Obama winning the 2008 election did not mean he was free to announce the invasion of Canada. It meant he had the opportunity to pursue HC reform. No one suggested conservatives had no right to oppose that legislation.

            And lets get over the idea this is about budgets or unions living within their means. Walker came into office with a projected surplus. He blew up the deficit with tax expenditure bills so he could declare a crisis which would then be used as justification for busting the unions. (http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/02/dems-closed-much-larger-budget-shortfall-in-wisconsin-without-destroying-worker-rights.php?ref=fpa) This has nothing to do with legislation from 2009. The unions have repeatedly agreed to the Governor’s requested give-backs. This goes back to 1959 when WI became the first state to allow public employees to organize.

            In NY and CA, similar cuts to pensions and benefits are being made, but “…unlike Scott Walker, the Democratic governors are limiting their reforms to pensions and other items relevant to the budget. Walker is doing that and 1) going after collective bargaining rights and 2) asking for mandatory annual elections to determine union membership. And those measures are patently designed to weaken labor for all time, long after the crisis is over.” (http://www.slate.com/blogs/blogs/weigel/archive/2011/02/18/scott-walker-s-big-gamble.aspx)

          • Pejman Yousefzadeh

            The “elections have consequences” bit is a canard only when your side loses elections. Reversing legislation passed in 2009 is hardly similar to invading Canada, and having the state senators stay in Wisconsin to do their jobs is hardly “unilateral disarmament.” Please also stop with the nonsense that the state has “a projected surplus.” That’s just not true, no matter what spinmeisters like the gang at TPM, and Rachel Maddow like to say.

          • Anonymous

            Then stop with the nonsense that public employee unions caused a budget shortfall. If its about the budget then why were cops and firefighters (Walker supporters) exempted?

            WI state employees did not earn the right to collective bargaining in 2009. Forcing them to hold yearly elections is not a reversion to pre-2009 policy. Its an attempt to bust the union.

          • Pejman Yousefzadeh

            How dare the unions be asked to hold yearly elections! Why, democracy might break out! Also, I never said that public employee unions caused a budget shortfall. Stop with the nonsense that claims that I did.
            Are you finished trying to monopolize my comments board over the fact that your side lost an election and is sore about it, or do you have more to complain about?

          • Anonymous

            Haha. No I will hand it over to the masses clamoring to write congratulatory comments here. Have a good one Pejman.

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