James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Scott Walker, America’s Thatcher

Mar 10, 2011 01:57 UTC

“Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.” — Margaret Thatcher, May 4, 1979.

Reducing the power of government unions has several major benefits: 1) It will begin to make it easier to rework pension and healthcare obligations; 2) it will begin to make it easier to restructure government so that it is more efficient and less expensive; 3) it will begin to end a system where a major political party often acts as a wholly owned subsidiary of a special interest; and 4) it will begin help save the U.S. education system where teachers unions are preventing children from being taught by competent teachers.

The very good news from Wisconsin:

Republicans in the Wisconsin state Senate passed the most controversial portions of Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill late on Wednesday, stripping out the sections that required the presence of their 14 absent Democratic colleagues in the upper chamber.

In an 18-to-1 vote, the Senate approved the curbs on collective bargaining by public employees that Walker has insisted are needed to help the state’s cash-strapped municipalities deal with a projected $1.27 billion drop in state aid over the next two years. The measure will now go to the Assembly, expected to vote on the matter on Thursday.

COMMENT

Mr. Walker recognizes that government employeee unions are different than private unions and should never have been allowed. Private unions adre limited by what the fruits of their labors can produce – get to much and your company goes bankrupt and the employees are out of a job. The government will never go bankrupt as it has the power to print money and raise taxes. Thus you can collectively bargain benefits way out of proportion to anything that your actual labor produces. I feel sorry for the individual employees who may loose some of their bargaining priveledges, but the free ride on the taxpayers has got to end.

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Scott Walker chops away at Democrat foundation

Feb 25, 2011 17:27 UTC

National Journal’s Reid Wilson paints a great picture of Scott Walker’s threat to government unions and the Democratic Party:

Consider how crucial unions are to the Democratic coalition. As Republican-allied groups like American Crossroads and the American Action Network poured millions into television advertising, the single-largest outside actor in the 2010 elections was the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.

AFSCME spent $87.5 million on the 2010 elections, an amount the Wall Street Journal calculated as about 30 percent of all spending for Democrats by outside groups. The Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association combined to spend another $84 million for Democrats, more than even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent during the midterms.

All three unions represent millions of the public-sector employees who are at risk of losing collective-bargaining rights in states like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. And all three, along with the rest of Big Labor, are spending big money on lobbying and public relations campaigns to defeat those legislative proposals.

If unions fail to stop the GOP assault, Republican victories would represent a major chink in the Democratic armor. A loss of some collective-bargaining rights means a speedier decline in membership. In turn, that means fewer dues-paying members to fund political activities in 2012 and beyond.

But Republicans don’t even need to win every legislative battle to sap union resources. The battles themselves can suck up money that might otherwise go to turnout operations for Democratic candidates.

Civil War 2.0 may turn governors into presidents

Feb 24, 2011 18:04 UTC

Six men with the rank of general during the Civil War went on to become  president of the United States. But a new kind of union battle — one being fought in places like Trenton and Madison and Columbus and Indianapolis — may be forging the next generation of leaders who will ascend to the White House. How state governors fare as commanders in this escalating conflict with Big Government Labor may determine who makes it all the way and who falls short.

For the most part, the political backlash against public unions is happening in the states. That’s where employee benefits are creating long-term budget problems. Total unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities could be as much as $3.5 trillion.

Savvy governors can thrust an issue like public sector compensation into the national consciousness and create a political niche for themselves.  And American voters like to promote state bosses  to national CEO. President Barack Obama was never a governor, but two-term predecessors George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan all were. The last sitting U.S. senator before Obama to go directly to the White House was John Kennedy in 1961.

In New Jersey, Chris Christie’s efforts at austerity have made him a leading 2016 GOP contender with many Republican activists still hoping he’ll change his mind and make a run against Obama next year. Wisconsin Republican Scott Walker has burst into national prominence by trying to strip public unions of some bargaining rights. And in liberal New York, Democrat Andrew Cuomo’s adversarial approach to labor might help his centrist appeal should he cast an eye on the Oval Office.

Among Republican activists, it’s almost impossible to be too tough on unions. That’s where the risk of overreach starts cropping up. Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, a possible 2012 candidate, already has killed collective bargaining for state workers. Yet conservatives balk because he won’t prohibit making union membership a condition for employment. Daniels sees that as a needless fight with organized labor, whose influence is already waning. As Josh Barro of the Manhattan Institute notes on his blog:

As of 2010, only 8.2 percent of private-sector workers in Indiana were members of unions. That’s a bit above the national average of 6.9 percent, owing to the state’s industrial base, but it’s also falling faster than in most states: down 37 percent in the last decade, compared to 22 percent nationally. Private firms don’t appear to fear excessive union power in Indiana; indeed, the state has had significant success in drawing non-union Japanese auto factories.

The political subtleties sometimes get lost in the heat of battle. Some in the Tea Party are bashing Christie for increasing the state’s spending in his newly announced budget. But the governor is trying to negotiate a deal with Democrats to go easier in exchange for sweeping pension reform. And if Walker should settle for something less than total surrender or go too far by firing workers, his sudden ascent could come to a halt.

The fight against public unions and for fiscal responsibility may look like to create a clear path to the presidency for now. But governors going down that road will need to beware of the many political mines strewn along the way. Still, a future American president may have his or her mettle tested in this new civil war.

COMMENT

Cal13, even if they can’t begin collecting signatures yet, whoever wants to recall Gov. Walker can certainly get started organizing. Has that happened?

At all?

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