One of the zombie distortions about Wisconsin that just won’t die is that Dems and unions are subverting the popular will by continuing to target Republicans over their rollback of public employee bargaining rights. The argument is that by electing Republicans last year, the voters endorsed that agenda.
In reality, if anyone is subverting the popular will in Wisconsin, it’s Republicans.
Charles Krauthammer makes the Dems-subverting-popular-will case this morning in his column, pointing to it as proof that Dems are more beholden to labor than they are to the people:In last year’s nationwide “shellacking” of Democrats, for example,Wisconsin gave Republicans control of both legislative chambers and elected a Republican governor who made clear his intention to rein in public-sector union power.When the Republicans tried to do as promised, Democrats, lacking the votes, tried to block it by every extra-parliamentary maneuver short of arson. State Senate Democrats fled Wisconsin to prevent a quorum. Demonstrators filled the statehouse for days and nights on end. And when the bill finally passed nonetheless…they found a pliant judge to invalidate the law. A famous victory, but short-lived. On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the ruling…Instructive cases all, demonstrating how those who lose popular support — Democrats at the polls, unions in their declining membership — can subvert and circumvent the popular will by judicial usurpation…
This is a very cleverly distorted version of what actually happened. Note Krauthammer’s sleight of hand in claiming that Scott Walker “made clear his intention to rein in public-sector union power.” The reason Krauthammer uses this vague and indirect wording is because Scott Walker never campaigned on the central proposal that has generated months of controversy — the plan to gut public employee bargaining rights. He did campaign on getting fiscal concessions, but not on bargaining rights — indeed, his sudden announcement of that additional proposal is exactly what triggered the protests in the first place.
This is a matter of simple, demonstrable fact. When Walker began claiming that he had in fact campaigned on this proposal, PolitiFact asked Walker’s staff to produce evidence of it. His staff couldn’t come up with a single convincing example, leading PolitiFact to rate the claim “false.” Walker himself subsequently admitted under persistent questioning that he had not explicitly campaigned on the proposal. The only thing established by Krauthammer’s choice of wording is that he is well aware of this truth.
What’s more, multiple polls have shown that majorities of Wisconsintes oppose the proposal. In a rational world this would suggest that it did not constitute not subverting the popular will when Democrats and unions also opposed it — even when they tried to go to court to stop it. The people of Wisconsin never endorsed his proposal. They opposed it. Period.
Reasonable people can debate whether the Dem fleeing of the state was fair game. But the simple fact is that right now, it’s Republicans — not Democrats — who are perverting the democratic process in Wisconsin. Leading GOP officials have endorsed a scheme to run fake Democrats in Dem recall primaries in order to delay the recall elections against Republicans, in a last-ditch effort to hold the state senate. These elections were secured by the long and arduous collection of thousands of signatures. Dems got past hurdles designed to guarantee that there’s genuine and widespread support for holding them. By contrast, the GOP scheme — which has not been procedurally endorsed by the public — is quite literally delaying elections that the people of Wisconsin have said they want.
If anyone is subverting the “popular will” in Wisconsin, it’s not Democrats. It’s Republicans.
It is essential that here should be organizations of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize. My appeal for organized labor is two-fold; to the outsider and the capitalist I make my appeal to treat the laborer fairly, to recognize the fact that he must organize that there must be such organization, that the laboring man must organize for his own protection, and that it is the duty of the rest of is to help him and not hinder him in organizing. That is one-half appeal that I make.
Now, the other half is to the labor man himself. My appeal to him is to remember that as he wants justice, so he must do justice. I want every labor man, every labor leader, every organized union man, to take the lead in denouncing disorder and in denouncing the inciting of riot; that in this country we shall proceed under the protection of our laws and with all respect to the laws, I want the labor men to feel in their turn that exactly as justice must be done them so they must do justice. They must bear their duty as citizens, their duty to this great country of ours, and that they must not rest content unless they do that duty to the fullest degree."
Teddy Roosevelt, speaking in Milwaukee on October 14, 1912. The entire speech, from which this is excerpted, is worth a read. Referred to as the “It Takes More than that to Kill a Bull Moose” speech, Roosevelt had been shot just minutes before taking the stage. He spoke for 90 minutes, with the bullet still in him, before going for treatment.
We need more politicians/people like him.
Pulitzer Prize winning tax reporter, David Cay Johnston, has written a brilliant piece for tax.com exposing the truth about who really pays for the pension and benefits for public employees in Wisconsin.
Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans. Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, creates the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not. Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
How can this be possible?
Simple. The pension plan is the direct result of deferred compensation- money that employees would have been paid as cash salary but choose, instead, to have placed in the state operated pension fund where the money can be professionally invested (at a lower cost of management) for the future.
Many of us are familiar with the concept of deferred compensation from reading about the latest multi-million dollar deal with some professional athlete. As a means of allowing their ball club to have enough money to operate, lowering their own tax obligations and for other benefits, ball players often defer payment of money they are to be paid to a later date. In the meantime, that money is invested for the ball player’s benefit and then paid over at the time and in the manner agreed to in the contract between the parties.
Does anyone believe that, in the case of the ball player, the deferred money belongs to the club owner rather than the ball player? Is the owner simply providing this money to the athlete as some sort of gift? Of course not. The money is salary to be paid to the ball player, deferred for receipt at a later date.
A review of the state’s collective bargaining agreements – many of which are available for review at the Wisconsin Office of State Employees web site - bears out that it is no different for state employees. The numbers are just lower.
Check out section 13 of the Wisconsin Association of State Prosecutors collective bargaining agreement – “For the duration of this Agreement, the Employer will contribute on behalf of the employee five percent (5%) of the employee’s earnings paid by the State. ”
Johnston goes on to point out that Governor Walker has gotten away with this false narrative because journalists have failed to look closely at how employee pension plans work and have simply accepted the Governor’s word for it. Because of this, those who wish the unions ill have been able to seize on that narrative to score points by running ads and spreading the word that state employees pay next to nothing for their pensions and that it is all a big taxpayer give-away.
If it is true that pension and benefit money is money that already belongs to state workers, you might ask why state employees would not just take the cash as direct compensation and do their own investing for their retirement through their own individual retirement plans.
Mr. Johnston continues-
Expecting individuals to be experts at investing their retirement money in defined contribution plans — instead of pooling the money so professional investors can manage the money as is done in defined benefit plans — is not sound economics. The concept, at its most basic, is buying wholesale instead of retail. Wholesale is cheaper for the buyers. That is, it saves taxpayers money. The Wisconsin State Investment Board manages about $74.5 billion for an all-in cost of $224 million. That is a cost of about 30-cents per $100, which is good but not great. However it is far less than many defined contribution plans, where costs are often $1 or more per $100.”
If the Wisconsin governor and state legislature were to be honest, they would correctly frame this issue. They are not, in fact, asking state employees to make a larger contribution to their pension and benefits programs as that would not be possible- the employees are already paying 100% of the contributions.
What they are actually asking is that the employees take a pay cut.
That may or may not be an appropriate request depending on your point of view – but the argument that the taxpayers are providing state workers with some gift is as false as the argument that state workers are paid better than employees with comparable education and skills in private industry.
Maybe state workers need to take pay cut along with so many of their fellow Americans. But let’s, at the least, recognize this sacrifice for what it is rather than pretending they’ve been getting away with some sweet deal that now must be brought to an end.