Thoughts on Wisconsin’s Public Union Debate

I’m a little late getting to this, but I’ve been fighting a wicked sinus/ear infection and trying to finish up project that’s dragged on longer than it should have.

Anyway, suffices to say I don’t have a lot sympathy for those protesting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to reform collective bargaining privileges for most state government employees. As the Wall Street Journal explains:

Mr. Walker’s very modest proposal would take away the ability of most government employees to collectively bargain for benefits. They could still bargain for higher wages, but future wage increases would be capped at the federal Consumer Price Index, unless otherwise specified by a voter referendum. The bill would also require union members to contribute 5.8% of salary toward their pensions and chip in 12.6% of the cost of their health insurance premiums.

If those numbers don’t sound outrageous, you probably work in the private economy. The comparable nationwide employee health-care contribution is 20% for private industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average employee contribution from take-home pay for retirement was 7.5% in 2009, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute.

Frankly, those numbers sound more than reasonable to me, like most private sector workers I’ve seen my income decline and my cost of living rise over the last few years… I’m self-employed which means there are no matching contributions for me, I have to pay 100% of the cost of my health insurance, fund my retirement and pay my taxes out of my shrinking income. And, as a bit of an aside, I just got whacked with a roughly 46% increase in my health insurance premiums thanks to all the wonderful new mandates imposed by Obamacare… Thanks Mr. President!

Anyway, where was I, oh right… A lot of our elected leaders are talking about the need for “shared sacrifice” well from where I’m sitting it seems those of us in the private sector are being asked absorb a larger share of the sacrifice than our public sector counterparts. That has to stop, we simply can not continue burdening the majority of American workers with higher and higher state taxes and fees to finance benefit packages for the minority.

Like I said, I don’t see anything unreasonable Gov. Walker’s proposal, as Patrick McIlheran explains FDR’s ghost is smiling on Wisconsin’s Governor:

Somewhere, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is grinning past his cigarette holder at Wisconsin’s governor. They are on the same page regarding government unions.

Except that Scott Walker — Republican cheapskate, his visage Hitlerized on signs waved by beet-faced union crowds besieging the Capitol — is kind of a liberal squish compared to FDR. He’s OK with some collective bargaining.

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, mainly because he wants HSA-style health plans and 401(k)-style retirements for state workers, and unions would fight that, tooth and ragged red claw.

So unions erupted. Teachers faked illness in such numbers as to close school districts for days. Mobs beat on the doors of legislative chambers. And in some heavenly Hyde Park, the great liberal god of the 1930s is saying he saw it all along.

Anyway, beyond the numbers, the shameful and cowardly actions of Wisconsin Democrats who fled the state and incidents like the ones highlighted by Michelle Malkin and Ann Althouse aren’t helping the protesters cause. They just serve to reinforce the belief that democrats and public employee unions aren’t interested in having a mature debate on the merits of Gov. Walker’s proposal.


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