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On Wisconsin

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Talking Points Memo is doing some great reporting on Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s odious little stunt, whereby he essentially committed arson and then announced he needed to get rid of collective bargaining rights, in order to pay for more firefighting equipment:

“Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he control,” says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future — a public interest think tank. “He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts… so he could rush through these other changes.”

“The state of Wisconsin has not reached the point at which austerity measures are needed,” Norman adds.

In a Wednesday op-ed, the Capitol Times of Madison picked up on this theme.

In its Jan. 31 memo to legislators on the condition of the state’s budget, the Fiscal Bureau determined that the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million.

To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January.

You can read the fiscal bureaus report here (PDF). It holds that “more than half” of the new shortfall comes from three of Walker’s initiatives:

* $25 million for an economic development fund for job creation, which still holds $73 million because of anemic job growth.

* $48 million for private health savings accounts — a perennial Republican favorite.

* $67 million for a tax incentive plan that benefits employers, but at levels too low to spur hiring.

In essence, public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda. “The provisions in his bill do two things simultaneously,” Norman says. “They remove bargaining rights, and having accomplished that, make changes in the benefit packages.” That’s how Walker’s plan saves money. And when it’s all said and done, these workers will have lost their bargaining rights going forward in perpetuity.

Apparently this fellow drank enough tea in the last few months to get the impression that he would be immune from any political blowback if he paid off his political cronies with money extorted from public workers. I suspect he won’t be the last GOP blowhard to get some reality therapy in the coming months.

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  • Davis X. Machina

    I wonder if the numbers are there to make this on balance a bad move.

    My fear is that crab-bucket syndrome — I have no job, you can’t have one; my job sucks, yours has to suck; my 401(k) vanished in the crash, you can’t have a pension either — is potent enough a force to survive any backlash.

    It may turn out to be potent enough to launch a national political figure or two.

    • Anderson

      Hey, if this clown sews up Wisconsin for us in 2012, then cool.

  • joe from Lowell

    I wish I had your optimism, Mr. Campos.

    Rallies like this didn’t stop the Iraq War.

    • efgoldman

      Joe – A couple of things:
      Rallies like this didn’t stop the Iraq War.
      True, but not necessarily relevant.
      The war took place far, far away, and was (at least initially) prosecuted by our [psychologically] far away volunteer military. The “enemy” was a genuine bad guy, although the pretexts to remove him and take over his country were and are totally bullcrap.

      In the Republic of Packerland, however, Tip O’Neill’s maxim – All Politics is Local – rules. Those affected are neighbors, relatives and colleagues. Even if you, personally, don’t get screwed, maybe your kid’s class size goes from 25 to 33, or all the band directors (or some of the football and hockey coaches), or your streets don’t get plowed so you can’t go to work, or your trash sits for an extra day and starts to really stink in the summer, or people start to die because the ERs are understaffed…

      The folks who live there have also noticed that public safety employees – police and fire – are largely exempt from the gubernatorial jihad. Now that wouldn’t be because those folks often vote for the GOBP, would it?

      State legislators, unlike congressmen and especially senators, are close to and among their constituents. They own and run the local law offices and insurance agencies. They are not immune to the kind of severe, up, close and personal pressure that’s being brought to bear.

      In the medium term, there is going to be a lot of buyer’s remorse in state houses all around the country in 2012. In the short term, there’s going to be a whole lot of pain an conflict. Lots of popcorn will be consumed.

      • joe from Lowell

        I hope you’re right.

    • Brad P.

      Rallies like this didn’t stop the Iraq War.

      So liberal rallies after public sector workers are made to contribute to their retirement plans in much the same way I do and lost some collective bargaining rights (even though they still have more privileges than almost every private sector), and the rallies are comparable to those that occurred before and during the unjust killing of tens of thousands of Iraqis?

      We’re blowing up two nations, even the “good guys” in our government sell out every reform to corporations, the fundamental rights of millions of immigrants are being threatened, the President is targeting American citizens for arrest and killing without the slightest of due process.

      But the real liberal outrage comes at a marginal loss of benefits that is supported by 80% of the state.

      • You don’t even recognize the divide-and-rule strategy when you’re the victim of it, do you, Brad?

        • Brad P.

          Are you kidding?

          I never had any sort of solidarity with public sector workers. They have turned their privileged state position into their own economic gain at the expense of those who either don’t have or don’t wish to have state privilege.

          And it isn’t like you have shown any generosity to civil libertarians who hail from the free market side of economic arguments.

          As far as I’m concerned the pigs lost their spot at the human’s dinner table, and this dog isn’t going to howl about it.

          • Shorter Brad P: I won’t rest until everyone is as miserably alone and exploited as I am.

            • Because I choose to be miserably alone and exploited!

              • joe from Lowell

                Sort like he CHOOSES to spend an hour and a half in his car every morning and evening.

                If he had the option to take a train instead, or live closer to work, because of government policy, that would make him less free.

            • Brad P.

              Shorter John Protevi: If not for government largess I would be miserably alone.

              And don’t tell my boss, John, but I am overpaid by the PRIVATE SECTOR!!!

              • mark f

                Brad, you’ve offered up how much you make. It’s something like $40k without health insurance. Dogshit tastes good!

              • Brad P.

                Its 40K with a $250 a month contribution to a health care plan of my choosing. I have a great deal of flexibility, I am respected, and my wage is commensurate with what I feel I need. I work for a company with about 45 employees, I know and like every single one of them, and I am in a position where I am constantly aware of the state and future of the company.

                I go to work everyday at a job I enjoy with people I feel a common bond with, and then come home to a wife that loves me and a home that suits my needs.

                If that is dogshit to you I feel sorry for you because you will never be satisfied.

              • mark f

                So to sum up:

                A modest salary and benefits package “commensurate with what [you] feel [you] need” = “overpaid.” Good thing your boss hasn’t decide to pay you what you’re really worth.

              • Brad P.

                So to sum up:

                A modest salary and benefits package “commensurate with what [you] feel [you] need” = “overpaid.” Good thing your boss hasn’t decide to pay you what you’re really worth.

                No, being willing to perform my duties for 20% less means that I am overpaid

              • Holden Pattern

                Brad’s happy bottom-half-of-the-income-distribution servility explains a great deal about his libertarianism.

              • DrDick

                Given the level of your reasoning and logic, I would have to concur with this assessment.

              • Brad P.

                You guys have absolutely no decency.

      • joe from Lowell

        Yes, a political rally for a cause you support and a political rally for a cause you oppose are both political rallies.

        Since I’m feeling generous, I won’t even charge you for that totally not obvious observation.

        Part of a becoming a grown-up is realizing that politics works the same way for the people you consider the good guys, and the people you consider the bad guys.

        Oh, but I forgot – you’re a libertarian. What do you care about becoming a grown-up, politically?

        • Brad Potts

          Just saying that Libs lose a lot of respect in my book. I consider myself one of those liberaltarian types as I am pretty radically liberal views on some topics (even economics, but believing the market can actually be a force for social change is heresy around here).

          But I’ve seen Barack Obama commit to unspeakably bad policy (assassinations, Bagram and Gitmo detainees, killing the public option in favor of lobbyist favored mandate, increasing the drug war over the dissent of states, recommitting to Afghanistan) where I thought liberals and libertarians might find common ground, and all I saw was whining about how Barack was disrespecting his base.

          All of these situations where truly oppressed people were having their lives completely shit on got self-righteousness. However, once a portion of liberals face a loss of negotiating position with the employer that they admit that we all chose, and they freak out.

          That’s why its your tea party moment. For all of your talk about morals and justice, its really just your skin that motivates you politically. Just like the tea partiers.

  • Ben

    Stunts like this and the efforts in Missouri to roll back child labor laws make me want to say “dammit asshats act like Americans”.

    Unfortunately I have to say “dammit asshats stop acting like Americans used to act”.

  • DrDick

    Now if this backlash will spread to the other 49 states and into DC, maybe we can have a sane and intelligent conversation about our current financial situation. I am not holding my breath, however.

  • Michael H Schneider

    You guys are missing Big Al’s point. Look at this:

    Generally, they get a good deal because the government is under no pressure to show a profit. It’s easy to spend other peoples’ money

    He’s saying that in the past the people of Wisconsin did a bad job, and elected people to represent them who also did a bad job. These representatives, these agents, acting within the scope of their authority, made solemn promises which Big Al now doesn’t like. He wants a do-over.

    Our founding fathers themselves wrestled with this question. In the Federalist Papers, the question is posed: “when is it okay to lie, in order to justify breaking a promise?” There answer, of course, is that it’s always okay to lie and break promises, if it’s in an effort to reduce taxes on rich people who can benefit from health savings accounts.

  • Stag Party Palin

    As FSM is my witness, I shall not stop bitching until LGM allows me to replace Large Happy Al with Dancing Badgers. And isn’t this a thread that cries out for some badgers????

    • DrDick

      Badgers are good!

    • Flowers

      Badgers? Badgers?! We don’t need no stinkin’ Badgers!

    • McKingford

      Et – Voila! Badgers!

  • thebewilderness

    The state employees have already expressed their willingness to share the pain of economic hard times in their state. In the contract negotiations.
    This governor has stated that he has no intention of negotiating with these employees. He intends to get rid of their right to collectively bargain.
    That is a very different thing from sharing the pain of hard economic times.

    That is smash mouth union busting politics.

  • wengler

    Governor Walker will back down. Not because he is a weak coward, which he is, but because he is running to the big money boyz right now crying because he doesn’t know what to do. Those grayed billionaires will slap him and tell him that doing the shit this way is going to wash away decades of work.

    You need to chip away you see. Divide and conquer. Those protesters in Madison don’t know when they are going home because this thing-their union and the collective bargaining rights it represents-is their only protection left in this world. Governor Shit-my-pants Walker engaged in a little premature revolution here. These are his July Days in the middle of February.

    An excellent anti-union plan in education is being pushed by the Obama administration right now. If the Teabaggers weren’t so obsessed with hating him, they would find Race To The Top and similar plans swimming with subtle ways to divide teachers and union members and destroy them from within.

    • “If the Teabaggers weren’t so obsessed with hating him,”

      they wouldn’t wouldn’t be doing the whole Tea thing. Content’s not really relevant. Or rather, hating Obama is the content, everything else is just window dressing.

  • Is it too much to hope that the recall organizers will work together?

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  • Tom M

    So, what you’re saying is, that in the name of freedom, equality and justice, people’s First Amendment rights to free association should be stripped from them?

    Right. Because this is coming.

    The new Constitution, officially called “AT&T Presents General Electric’s Constitution Of The United States Of America” is over 500 pages long and, as stipulated in New Article 9, the full text of the constitution shall never be made public.

  • Lewis Carroll

    Wow. It appears that Brad P. has no appreciation for differences in power when it comes to negotiation.

    I don’t know Brad P., but I would be willing to bet that the guy who wrote this knows a hell of a lot more about economics and markets than Brad does:

    “What are the common wages of labour, depends everywhere upon the contract
    usually made between those two parties, whose interests are by no means the
    same. The workmen desire to get as much, the masters to give as little, as
    possible. The former are disposed to combine in order to raise, the latter
    in order to lower, the wages of labour.

    It is not, however, difficult to foresee which of the two parties must, upon
    all ordinary occasions, have the advantage in the dispute, and force the
    other into a compliance with their terms. The masters, being fewer in
    number, can combine much more easily: and the law, besides, authorises, or
    at least does not prohibit, their combinations, while it prohibits those of
    the workmen. We have no acts of parliament against combining to lower the
    price of work, but many against combining to raise it. In all such disputes,
    the masters can hold out much longer. A landlord, a farmer, a master
    manufacturer, or merchant, though they did not employ a single workman,
    could generally live a year or two upon the stocks, which they have already
    acquired. Many workmen could not subsist a week, few could subsist a month,
    and scarce any a year, without employment. In the long run, the workman may
    be as necessary to his master as his master is to him ; but the necessity is
    not so immediate.

    We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though
    frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account,
    that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject.
    Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and
    uniform, combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual
    rate. To violate this combination is everywhere a most unpopular action, and
    a sort of reproach to a master among his neighbours and equals. We seldom,
    indeed, hear of this combination, because it is the usual, and, one may say,
    the natural state of things, which nobody ever hears of. Masters, too,
    sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour
    even below this rate. These are always conducted with the utmost silence and
    secrecy till the moment of execution; and when the workmen yield, as they
    sometimes do without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are
    never heard of by other people. Such combinations, however, are frequently
    resisted by a contrary defensive combination of the workmen, who sometimes,
    too, without any provocation of this kind, combine, of their own accord, to
    raise tile price of their labour. Their usual pretences are, sometimes the
    high price of provisions, sometimes the great profit which their masters
    make by their work. But whether their combinations be offensive or
    defensive, they are always abundantly heard of. In order to bring the point
    to a speedy decision, they have always recourse to the loudest clamour, and
    sometimes to the most shocking violence and outrage. They are desperate, and
    act with the folly and extravagance of desperate men, who must either
    starve, or frighten their masters into an immediate compliance with their
    demands. The masters, upon these occasions, are just as clamorous upon the
    other side, and never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil
    magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted
    with so much severity against the combination of servants, labourers, and
    journeymen. The workmen, accordingly, very seldom derive any advantage from
    the violence of those tumultuous combinations, which, partly from the
    interposition of the civil magistrate, partly from the superior steadiness
    of the masters, partly from the necessity which the greater part of the
    workmen are under of submitting for the sake of present subsistence,
    generally end in nothing but the punishment or ruin of the ringleaders.”

    — Book I, Chapter 8 of The Wealth of Nations

    • elm

      Employers can use their greater resources to coerce the workmen to accept lower wages?

      Unpossible! Only the government has coercive powers!

      • Brad P.

        It is pretty much defined by its claimed monopoly on violence. That is kinda what the state is.

        And yes, only the government does have the coercive powers that I am referring to. Government solely maintains the right to appropriate funds for nothing in return. Private entities are legally and morally required to exchange in order to support their payroll.

        • mark f

          Government solely maintains the right to appropriate funds for nothing in return. Private entities are legally . . . required to exchange in order to support their payroll.

          Legally required by what?

          • Brad P.

            A modern system of property rights?

            • mark f

              Enforced by what?

              • Brad P.

                As I said earlier, they have a legal and a moral obligation. That would mean that government and basic natural rules of ethical human behavior would be our forms of enforcement.

              • Malaclypse

                basic natural rules of ethical human behavior

                That is a whole lot of unstated assumptions you have managed to pack into just seven sentences.

              • Malaclypse

                Gah, seven words.

              • mark f

                government and basic natural rules of ethical human behavior would be our forms of enforcement.

                So government enforces private entities’ legal obligations? What did you mean when you said government appropriates funds for nothing in return?

        • DocAmazing

          Government solely maintains the right to appropriate funds for nothing in return. Private entities are legally and morally required to exchange in order to support their payroll.

          Never heard of “insurance”, huh?

          • Brad P.

            Rights to contingent future cash flows are tradeable goods.

            • Holden Pattern

              So, by “nothing in return” when government is the actor on its own behalf (and not enforcing private rights), you mean *exactly* what?

              (This should be good.)

              • Brad Potts

                Afghanistan
                Iraq
                War on Terror
                War on Drugs
                Corporate Subsidies
                Agricultural Subsidies
                Ethanol Subsidies
                Financial Reforms
                Prescription Drugs
                Killing the Public Option
                Big sugar protectionism
                Bridge to Nowhere and other Pork Projects

                There’s plenty more

              • Malaclypse
        • Hogan

          And yes, only the government does have the coercive powers that I am referring to.

          And are those the only coercive powers that exist?

    • DrDick

      That damned collectivist Adam Smith!

    • Brad P.

      I don’t know Brad P., but I would be willing to bet that the guy who wrote this knows a hell of a lot more about economics and markets than Brad does:

      Actually I am pretty sure that I know more about economics than Smith ever dreamed of. That isn’t bragging, as I would imagine that everyone here knows more about physics than Sir Isaac Newton ever dreamed of.

      Nevertheless, I find it amazing how often a liberal would discover the relatively common knowledge that Smith supported moderate government intervention and treat it like some grand revelation.

      • Lewis Carroll

        “Actually I am pretty sure that I know more about economics than Smith ever dreamed of.”

        Apparently not, since Smith had an appreciation for how power relations largely determine the relative return to labor, land and capital in an economy. An appreciation that you seem to lack.

        And as for *monopoly* on violence to coerce compliance with the law, that would include the enforcement of contracts and protection of private property, would it not? So it seems that you’re perfectly happy for government to bring its monopolistic violence to bear in enforcing only certain arbitrarily chosen rights. Others, not so much.

      • Malaclypse

        Actually I am pretty sure that I know more about economics than Smith ever dreamed of.

        And yet you never show any evidence of this knowledge. How do you manage to keep all the clever, knowledgeable posts bottled up inside?

        • DocAmazing

          Hiding his lamp under a bushel, that one.

  • DocAmazing

    Let’s just see how all of this plays out. Let’s see if the unions power to garner above average pay and above average benefits above comparable positions int he private market wanes or not.

    My bet is the states are broke and watching the unionized public sector workers who never face layoffs and have cushy pensions will simply piss off the public.

    And why not?

    • DocAmazing

      Please note the absence of a Gravatar. Our boy BGA is imping us, and not very skillfully.

      • DrDick

        Doc –

        I think you and I must be getting under little wienie Al’s skin since we are the only ones that he is imping.

  • Faggot Commie Bob

    Doc,

    I think FDR said it best.

    http://tinyurl.com/5teeavh
    “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees. Yes, public workers may demand fair treatment, wrote Roosevelt. But, he wrote, “I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place” in the public sector. “A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government.”

    • DocAmazing

      Not that BGA is worth responding to, but two things n=must be borne in mind with that quote: it’s truncated and out-of-context, and it was meant to placate industrialists at a time when Roosevelt needed their good opinion.

      • Faggot Commie Bob

        Your apology reminds me of Bill Clinton’s apology for Robert Byrd when he apologized for Byrd’s racism tell us he was forced into the Klan to get elected.

        Really?

        • DrDick

          What apology? Your illiteracy is showing once again. He just said you are distorting FDR’s position.

          • Faggot Commie Bob

            Really?

            The quote seems pretty solid.
            Perhaps you could offer up something besides your flapping gums?

            • DrDick

              Read what DocAmazing actually said.

      • Brad P.

        Or he was implying that militant actions in opposition to the state is militant action in opposition to the will of the people.

  • Faggot Commie Bob

    The issue is not what the unions would have you believe….

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/02/19/the_ghost_of_fdr_is_smiling_on_wisconsins_governor_108962.html

    Walker, you might have heard, wants some changes in how Wisconsin deals with unions. He wants state employees to pay 5.8% of their salaries toward their pensions (they pay almost nothing now) and he wants them to cover 12.6% of their health care premiums (their share would go up from $79 a month to about $200; the average private-sector sap pays about $330).

    Unions are enraged. They’ve been calling such increases unspeakable since Walker was elected handily in November. Then, Feb. 10, Walker went further. He’d allow public-sector unions to negotiate only pay, not benefits…

    • DrDick

      Funny, but the actual mews reports clearly state that he is intent on stripping public employees of all or most of their collective bargaining rights. They have already agreed to most of the givebacks he has asked for. Oddly enough, he is not proposing to do this for all public workers, just those whose unions usually back Democrats. He exempts police and firefighters who often back Republicans.

      • Faggot Commie Bob

        Are you saying that the figures I gave you with support are wrong?

        yes…no?

        • Malaclypse

          Having been away from the intraweb for a week, can I safely assume this is Big Wrongful Al?

          • DrDick

            Yep. Still as stupid and illiterate as ever. Also has not figured out how hyperlinks work.

            • Malaclypse

              Not even good at sock-puppetry. Oh Big Wrongful Al, is there anything you are good at?

              • DrDick

                No. This has been another episode of ….

        • DrDick

          Always Wrong JimBob –

          First, read what I actually said. Then click the effing links and figure it out for yourself.

  • Reading all Brad P.’s b.s. about public employees taking their pay by violence makes me so freakin’ glad I never picked up an Ayn Rand infection. Geez, but that is just the biggest pile of stupid.

  • Betty

    Brad, you seriously weaken your arguement with the constant name calling and referring to the liberals of this country as ‘ignorant’. News Flash,,I have met several ‘less than intelligent’ republicans and independents.

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