Contrasting Realities in Wisconsin

Posted by By at 23 February, at 13 : 17 PM Print

Day two on my two-part column, and already it appears that the Unions are taking some of my advice (just kidding). I have seen multiple reports now that the Wisconsin protestors are now willing to cut a deal on co-pays and pensions, but want their wage issues left alone and their full bargaining rights intact. It is a shrewd political move – keep all of your power, take a hit on benefits, and wait out the economy and the Walker administration. Too bad they weren’t willing to do that two months ago.

Even-still, yesterday we saw the wide-spread use of the union’s newest talking point: without Unions, the Middle Class will disappear.

This is absurd, and shows the level of desperation. As I noted yesterday, in the beginning Unions were necessary because Labor had no voice. They now have a political party, the Department of Labor, OSHA, the fair labor standards act, the wage payroll act, Whistleblower protection, the WARN act – I could list you dozens more.

The protections won through bargaining by Unions are codified in our laws now. And the middle class? The VAST majority of the Middle Class is NOT union members. They made it there without Unions – in fact, in many cases, in SPITE of Unions. We will all be just fine the day public sector employees can’t hold all of society hostage – better off, in fact, when “our friends and neighbors” have the same economic challenges we have. What I would give for a Reagan in the White House now.

Back to the list!

1. The contrast between the January demands for civility from the President and the February actions of the DNC, Organizing for America in Wisconsin and Ohio.

Wasn’t it just 5 weeks ago we all pledged to be civil? How does that contrast with the signs comparing Governor Walker to Hitler and Hosni Mubarak?

The types of comparisons being made on the left are both ridiculous and disgusting. Walker as Hitler? Yeah, requiring a co-pay and a pension contribution is the same as slaughtering the equivalent of the entire population of Wisconsin. And limiting collective bargaining rights of public employees is roughly the same as declaring 30 years of “emergency” rule.

Against that backdrop, I guess the President calling the rational actions of freely elected leaders enacting sound fiscal policy well within their purview an “assault” is ok – but I felt like he was drawing verbal crosshairs on Wisconsin for 2012 (that was a joke).

Regardless, it looks as if civility is the type of battle cry that we only hear from the left when it fits their narrative.

These images and actions – remember, the DNC and Obama’s political wing, Organizing for America, have used professional organizers to get the turnout up – are attributable to the people supporting the protestors and NOT clamoring this week for civility. The images are revolting and weaken any quasi-legitimate arguments the protesters may have.

2. The Contrast between a real popular uprising and the complaints of a privileged political minority.

Almost as revolting as the protestors lack of civility is their attempt to cloak themselves in the popular risings across the Arab word. This spectacular rhetorical license ignores one critical difference between those protests and the spoiled white folks trying to capture a 60s radical sheik by staging a sit in: the Arab world in revolt is ruled by a collection of dictators while Wisconsin is governed by a freely elected Governor and legislative body.

None of these protestors claim that Gov. Walker stole the election or that he is in any way illegitimately in power. Likewise, they make no such claims against the freely elected GOP majorities in both chambers. Why? Simple – because they were elected by a majority of Wisconsinites to do precisely the thing they are doing – confront and contain unrealistic spending.

The people in the streets in Libya, Egypt, Bahrain, Iran and elsewhere are risking death to gain ANY voice in there affairs; the people in Madison are protesting that they are in the minority view and lost a freely held election.

Morally, and on the basis of issues, there are NO connections between the two. None. Perhaps if they were actually facing death I would be moved; as it is I am watching a narrow slice of society (Public Union members make up about 2.5% of our population nationally) trying to hold the rest of us hostage to maintain their advantaged position.

Let me state this plainly: moral attempts to equate the protests in the middle east and those in Madison and Ohio are absurd; people here are eating pizzas and having a ball – people in Libya are being slaughtered.

3. The Contrast of President Obama’s decisiveness on the Wisconsin issues versus timidity with regard to genuine popular uprisings around the world.

Almost two years ago I was one of millions of Americans who sided with the Green Revolution in Iran. As events unfolded, I thought to myself that here was a moment that can change the course of history. That it did not at that time, was in part, due to our official ambivalence, as embodied in the words and (in)actions of our President.

Those days were a precursor to Egypt. The reluctant – perhaps timid? – initial response was so similar and non-committal that one has to wonder what would have happened had Mubarak moved in tanks day 1. It was several days – and missteps – before the Administration finally had its “final” response together.

Contrast the White House handling of that genuine crisis with the purely political in Madison; seeing a golden opportunity to solidify a restless part of his base, the President stuck his nose into a legitimate state legislative issue and took sides.

Unequivocally. The protestors in the streets of Libya could only wish to have so firm an ally in Washington D.C.’s most famous house.

There is a reason I raise this beyond wanting to point out yet another failing of this oh-so-mediocre President: it shows what he was truly prepared to do when he got in office.

That is not meant as a slight, it is meant as a caution when you consider 2012. This is a President who absolutely wanted to downgrade the role of the U.S. on the world stage. Good, bad or indifferent, you cannot argue the point – this was part and parcel of his foreign policy agenda.

He also came in with a head of steam to do all kinds of social engineering with our domestic policy – card check, energy policy, healthcare, DADT, cap and trade, etc. In essence, the Obama agenda in 2009 was disengage internationally and over engage domestically. It’s what he WANTED his presidency to be about.

This is evident in his reactions to events. He is exceedingly cautious with international developments – not necessarily a terrible thing, I will grant – but he is trigger happy on domestic issues. Remember the Beer Summit? He had to host that because he made a rash judgment about the nature of the event that was DEAD WRONG.

Contrast that with the situation in Iran in 2009 or in North Africa last month – in both cases our policy trickled out, first siding with the existing regimes and then gradually shifting when faced with both domestic and international pressure. We never articulated a cohesive stance until the issues were, for all intents and purposes, decided. In these types of situations, the President is indecisive at best, timid at worst.

Not so in Wisconsin – he jumped out to support the unions without seriously considering if it was appropriate to do so in his role as Chief Executive of the Federal Government. After all, the President severely limits federal employee bargaining rights under executive order. Otherwise, we would have a Military Union and the troops would make more than an assistant night manager at McDonald’s. I wonder where the NEA stands on THAT issue.

Regardless, remember this when you are casting about for a leader for 2012 – President Obama, so far, has proven himself to be ill equipped to face what is happening around the world. It’s no longer a campaign hypothetical.


At the end of all this chatter, we return to the dirty secret that the Unions and the President refuse to face: this is a legitimate issue for states to decide – just as, it was for past governments to decide to ALLOW bargaining. This is no constitutional or natural right – it is a political creation, and as such, it is subject to the will of the people.

The people just spoke in Wisconsin when, for the first time in over 80 years, they gave the GOP the Governor’s mansion and the statehouse. Polls suggest that Gov. Walker is winning the fight so far. But if he is truly overreaching the will of the people, expect them to speak again when election time rolls around. And one has to assume that, in four years, the Unions will push to get the Dems back in power in Mad-Town to give them back anything they lose now – be it imposition of a co-pay or bargaining rights.

Which brings us as close to a concluding observation as I can find (frankly, this is just beginning and will make for a most interesting summer as state budgets and union battles intertwine and erupt nationwide):

Does the Union’s “all-in” tactics and attitude mean they KNOW they will never get back what they lose because public opinion has swung away from them? It just might.

(To read Scott’s companion piece to this click on Rock The Capital.)


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This post was written by:
- who has written 77 posts for Rock The Capital
Scott Paterno is an accomplished policy analyst and political consultant based in Hershey, PA. Mr. Paterno, never one to sit still, has practiced law, run for a house seat, and worked as lobbyist in Harrisburg and Washington. Paterno is Vice Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Fund and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Political Science. He is happily married with three children. - Email scottp

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