For one day, it would seem that Illinois is not the most screwed-up state in the Great Lakes region (the day’s not over yet, though):
(picture from Ann Althouse)
There’s also people waving Egyptian flags and comparing newly elected Governor Scott Walker to Hosni Mubarak, which would seem ironic – because of the word “elected” that I used to describe him – but apparently not, according to Wisconsin state senators (via WSJ):
“The story around the world is the rush to democracy,” offered Democratic State Senator Bob Jauch. “The story in Wisconsin is the end of the democratic process.”
Note – amazingly – that Sen. Jauch is referring to a pending vote, and not the fact that he and his colleagues fled across the state line to (scenic) Rockford in order to keep said vote from happening. I would say it’s the adult equivalent of taking your ball and going home, but it’s not even an equivalent – it’s adults actually doing just that.
But wait! It gets better! Here’s president of the American Federation of Teachers in Wisconsin, Bryan Kennedy:
“The people of Wisconsin are crying out for democracy – democracy in the workplace, and democracy in the halls of our state capitol. Let’s hope our legislators have the wisdom to listen,” he said.
This feels a lot like when someone says something asinine, people react to it poorly, and then that person makes some kind of complaint about free speech. Freedom of speech is not freedom from the consequences of speech, just like democracy doesn’t mean getting what you want. It means getting the opportunity to vote on what you want; sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t. The people of Wisconsin have democracy. In fact, they just had an election not four months ago. Here’s Joe Klein:
I mean, isn’t it, well, a bit ironic that the protesters in Madison, blocking the state senate chamber, are chanting “Freedom, Democracy, Union” while trying to prevent a vote? Isn’t it ironic that the Democratic Senators have fled the democratic process? Isn’t it interesting that some of those who–rightly–protest the assorted Republican efforts to stymie majority rule in the U.S. Senate are celebrating the Democratic efforts to stymie the same in the Wisconsin Senate?
An election was held in Wisconsin last November. The Republicans won. In a democracy, there are consequences to elections and no one, not even the public employees unions, are exempt from that. There are no guarantees that labor contracts, including contracts governing the most basic rights of unions, can’t be renegotiated, or terminated for that matter. We hold elections to decide those basic parameters. And 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.
And to the topic being so hotly contested – public sector unions – Klein adds this:
Public employees unions are an interesting hybrid. Industrial unions are organized against the might and greed of ownership. Public employees unions are organized against the might and greed…of the public?
Which is why even FDR, a man whose love for private-sector unions knew no bounds, opposed the notion:
“Meticulous attention,” the president insisted in 1937, “should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government….The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” The reason? F.D.R. believed that “[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.”
And as much damage as they can cause by striking, they have a more dangerous effect elsewhere (also from the really good National Affairs piece):
Although private-sector unions in the United States have engaged in leftist “social activism,” they have mostly concentrated their efforts on securing the best wages, benefits, pensions, and working conditions for their members: “pure and simple unionism,” as longtime American Federation of Labor president Samuel Gompers used to call it. Rarely do they demand more hiring, since — given the constant private-sector imperative to keep operating costs minimal — increasing the number of a company’s employees can limit wage and benefit increases for the workers already on the company’s payroll.
By contrast, as economist Richard Freeman has written, “public sector unions can be viewed as using their political power to raise demand for public services, as well as using their bargaining power to fight for higher wages.” The millions spent by public-employee unions on ballot measures in states like California and Oregon, for instance, almost always support the options that would lead to higher taxes and more government spending. The California Teachers Association, for example, spent $57 million in 2005 to defeat referenda that would have reduced union power and checked government growth. And the political influence of such massive spending is of course only amplified by the get-out-the-vote efforts of the unions and their members. This power of government-workers’ unions to increase (and then sustain) levels of employment through the political process helps explain why, for instance, the city of Buffalo, New York, had the same number of public workers in 2006 as it did in 1950 — despite having lost half of its population (and thus a significant amount of the demand for public services).
Something to ponder with the recent news of Chicago’s population decline.