Like many people, I have been watching closely what has been going on in Wisconsin and in other states with public employee pension reform and protests. I understand that most conservatives believe that public employee pensions and benefits are bankrupting our states and that the system is unsustainable. I know that many on the liberal, pro-union side feel that this is an attack on unions and their power to prevent unions from giving so much money to Democratic candidates and causes. Many states are in fact broke and public employee benefits are a part of that. Nonetheless, many of the protestors are just hard-working public employees who feel they deserve the right to collectively bargain on pensions and receive what they were promised.
So where is the common ground? I would like to believe that we can start out by acting as adults in this discussion and that we can expect our law makers to do the same. I don’t have a problem with the protests. Protesting is as American as apple pie. Tea Partiers and pro-union protestors may disagree on many things, but both should feel empowered by their constitutional right to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition government for a redress of grievances.
What I do find irksome is the Democratic Senators in Wisconsin and now in Indiana that have fled the state and gone into hiding so that they cannot be compelled to vote on the bill. Isn’t that a slap in the face of our constitutional republic? The way it is supposed to work is that the people elect the representatives and the representatives vote on bills. Thus, which ever point of view garners more votes on election day gets more decision-making power in governing. Whatever the elected representatives think of Governor Walker’s bill, they get to offer amendments and then vote up or down. They shouldn’t run from that responsibility just because they are afraid of the result of the vote.
In 2008 voters ushered in large Democrat majorities that passed bills that Republicans were adamantly opposed to. Now Republican majorities hold the high cards and the Democrat legislators have to deal with their loss of power. That is the way our system works. That’s why they say elections have consequences. If, or when, the Democrats get power again in Ohio, Indiana or Wisconsin, I imagine they will propose bills to return bargaining power and or benefits to public employee unions. It will be their right to do so. For the most part, political candidates explain their opinions and intentions to voters and the voters decide whose plans they would like to see come to fruition. If voters don’t like how their representatives vote, they have the chance to throw them out of office the next election. Legislators running and hiding from voting is not part of the equation.
On a side note, I am equally perturbed by striking teachers getting fake doctors notes to avoid penalty or termination for their absences. If I were a student in one of their classes I would take that as a clear message that fraud is okay, as long as you believe in your cause. I wonder how that same teacher chides the next student to bring a fake doctor’s note to class for an unexcused absence. Certainly if I was caught lying to my boss about my absence I would expect to be reprimanded or likely terminated.
All Americans, red and blue, most hold ourselves to the highest standards when fighting for what we believe in. The ends do not justify the means. I find tea party signs comparing Obama to Hitler or Stalin as disgusting as the signs in Wisconsin comparing Governor Walker to Hitler and Mubarak. In order for productive debate and effective governance, we all need to disagree with honor. That includes both protestors and legislators. That must be our Purple Ground. We must remember that the “how” is as important as the “why”.
The biggest problem here is 3rd party spending! Isn’t it always? The American people are not given the entire story. The states have negotiated with the public employee unions and made promises for the cities’ and counties’ money without consulting them. All government is best handled on the most local level possible. Because we are not a “One size fits all” country or state.
And even when both Gil and I belonged to a union they had a voluntary contribution to the political fund. To use dues to promote a certain political agenda, assuming everyone in that union agrees with it, is really nothing but a “power grab”! I seriously doubt the real agenda of the public employees is to protect their members. Because there are 2 choices here. Put the money decisions back at the local level or see thousands lose their jobs and NO ONE wants that!
Another disturbing thing just game to my attention: SEIU’s (Service Employees International Union, an organization of 2.2 million members) new fight song in support of the protestors posted on their site today. Listen here:
The lyrics have me wondering if there aren’t those who want the protests to be a little less peaceful: “Ya got take the bastards down. Let them know. We got to smash them to the ground. Let them know. We got to take the bastards down. When the boss comes calling you got to stand your ground. When the boss comes calling let them know.”
I lean red on some issues, blue on others. But I view nearly every issue in black and white. With that in mind, here are a couple things I would do if I were Gov. Walker (announcing my intentions first in a speech to the citizens and taxpayers of the State of Wisconsin):
1.) I strongly agree that everyone in America has a right to protest or otherwise voice their opinion. I also strongly believe that taxpayers have a right to expect their government servants to show up to work if and when they are being paid to do so. Therefore, I would order the state controller to dock each state senator one day’s pay for every day that the Senator hid in Illinois. I would also ensure that no reimbursement was provided by the state for the costs of transporation, lodging, meals, etc. incurred by those Senators during their vacation in Rockford. In addition, if any state, county or city employee is found to be protesting other than on their regular day off, a day in which they used one of their alloted vacation days, or a day in which they took an unpaid personal leave day, I would fire them immediately.
2.) I would attempt to identify any and all doctors providing fraudulent “doctor’s notes”, and permanently bar them from being paid by the State of Wisconsin for rendering any medical services that are being paid for by the state government (i.e. Medicaid.)
3.) I would fully expect those affected by 1.) and 2.) above to sue me. To the best of my recollection, the Air Traffic Controllers Union sued Ronald Reagan as well. And I don’t believe any of those got their jobs back.
Do I agree with everything Governor Walker is doing? No.
Do I sympathize with the unions and their workers? No.