Hijacking an election

Susan B. Anthony once said, “Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform.”

Like many private sector individuals and businesspeople, I initially feared speaking out because of the scale of the hostility being displayed in this contentious debate over the budget repair bill and, frankly, the bullying associated with it.

But then I realized that if I didn’t speak out, the other side would succeed in hijacking the election. The very essence of democracy is at risk in this ongoing battle over Gov. Walker’s budget repair bill.

Let’s get right to the bottom line: I have no problem with both sides staging passionate protests and speaking out, but the truth is that 14 Democrat state senators tried to hijack the November election. The party that was unelected by the majority of the voters was trying to prevent the majority from passing legislation and exercising the will expressed by Wisconsin voters.

Consider a direct analogy. When the Democrats in Congress passed ObamaCare (using vote trading, coercion, and every other trick in the book to keep their own members in line), the Republicans didn’t high-tail it to Mexico and hide out south of the border to prevent the legislation from passing.

When Wisconsin Democrats, who controlled the Assembly, the Senate, and the executive branch over the last two years, passed expanded collective bargaining rights, unionizing for the UW system, tax and spending increases, and anti-business bills like combined reporting, the Republicans and the business community didn’t pack up their bags and go home.

Instead, they debated and otherwise engaged in the democratic process. When they failed to stop Doyle and the Dems, they sucked it up and went on with life.

Attention 14 Democrat senators: you lost the election for control of the Senate, so quit your whining and do the job that you’re being paid by the taxpayers to do. You weren’t elected to stage a coup; you were elected to represent the people of Wisconsin, not the unions, not the state employees, but rather the voters. If this past November’s election didn’t send you a clear message that the people of Wisconsin are fed up with these kinds of political games and that you’re violating the state constitution by not balancing the budget, then what on earth will it take for you to get the message?

These 14 Democrat senators were hiding out in Illinois because they didn’t want to abide by the state constitution, which requires that they balance the budget and eliminate a $3.6 billion deficit that THEY created in the last biennial budget. (Don’t forget that Walker inherited this financial mess – even after two years of negotiating, the unions still weren’t able to sign a contract with a state government entirely controlled by the Democrats. Is it any wonder that former Gov. Jim Doyle retired rather than tackle this mess?)

Taxpayers and businesses across this state are hurting after three years of the Great Recession. Most businesses and families have had to cut back or go without, and they’ve seen their retirement account values cut in half and their health insurance costs go up. Unemployment remains high, and municipalities and states are going to default on their bonds due to overspending. And the biggest single expense of all – public employee benefits – are triple (not double, triple) that of the private sector, on top of wages and compensation that runs higher than that in the private sector. (Paying $160,000 [with overtime] for a Madison city bus driver?! Come on!)

What don’t those 14 state senators get? Wisconsin is broke! They and their friends have been taking more cookies than they were allocated out of the cookie jar for years, and now the cookie jar is empty, and they’re mad. How dare Gov. Walker stop the party!

Adding to the problem is that public teacher salaries have increased an average of over 4% a year for a decade, with little to no payment toward their own pensions or benefits. This is way beyond what those in the private sector have.

And in spite of their greater (than private sector) pay and rich benefits, public-sector employees went on an illegal strike, lied to their employers by calling in “sick,” and abandoned their offices and classrooms for four days so that they could rally around the state capitol to protest their being asked to pay a very small percentage of their health care and pension costs. (They never bothered to consider the burden that their strike would put on the families of hard-working Americans, who then had to scramble to find child-care support for their kids or lose wages themselves because they were forced to stay home to watch the kids.)

In fact, the fraction of cost-sharing that public employees are being asked to pay is just that – a fraction of the cost that private-sector employees pay. (Remember, the cost for their benefits is three times the cost in the private sector; if they were willing to scale back on the benefits, no one would have to pay any additional cost.)

But alas, we all know that the real issue here is not about sharing the pain (well, it was until Walker turned it into being about something larger); it’s about power – union power. I was floored to learn that the taxpayers bear the expense of collecting union dues and forwarding it to the public unions so that they can use it against the taxpayers. Private-sector unions and nonprofit professional organizations don’t have the state or the taxpayers collecting their dues for them; why should the public-sector unions?

What the governor is really talking about here is simply ending the special privileges that the unions receive over other private organizations.

But of course, without the coercive and forced payment of union dues, not everyone would pay! When the public employees parading around the square spoke about this being about “liberty,” they at least got that right. It’s about the liberty of employees who don’t want to be forced to be a member of a union, or who don’t want to be coerced into paying union dues that later are used to undermine their own value system. There are plenty of them who are afraid to speak out publicly.

Then there’s the direct evidence that the states that have collective bargaining and strong unions also are the states that are broke. And guess what? Those states that are broke are also the ones, statistically, that have the highest taxes. That’s right; the facts prove that imposing higher tax rates does not equal a balanced budget or sound financial management. In fact, the opposite is true; higher taxes and more government spending and a larger government employment sector equal more of the same, and eventually that equals an empty cookie jar.

The present policy of liberals in Wisconsin spending and taxing is driving this state down the same path that Michigan went down over the last few decades. As Michigan has figured out, it’s not sustainable; eventually the party has to end. And if it doesn’t, businesses and taxpayers will continue to relocate to states that will treat them more fairly.

On a positive note, I will say this: I was pleasantly surprised by the demonstrators, because for the most part they kept it non-violent. On the other hand, the demonstrators trashed the state capitol building, violated the policy of not posting political banners inside state buildings (just look at all the signs posted inside the windows), verbally accosted peaceful bystanders like me and my daughter who went to watch the protests as a civics lesson, violated their employment contracts by not showing up to work (but of course, they still want to get paid), and made grotesquely unreasonable comparisons between murderous thugs like Hitler and various elected officials.

And then there were the carpetbaggers – those from out of state who came here to rev up the level of bullying. I found it terribly ironic that the United Auto Workers (UAW) union showed up here. My question for them is: How’d UAW representation work out for you?’ Decades of UAW collective bargaining completely obliterated the car manufacturing industry in this state and, combined with poor management, literally bankrupted GM and Chrysler, driving auto manufacturing overseas and to Southern states. The economic devastation of Detroit is mind-numbing; the place looks like a neutron bomb went off – plenty of buildings, just all empty – the occupants forced to leave town.

Then there’s the continuing threats and intimidation. I have personally listened to recordings and read e-mails that local businesses have received, threatening them with boycotts, lost sales, picketing, and other consequences if they don’t support the unions. The intimidation goes like this, “if you don’t publicly repudiate Scott Walker and his budget repair bill, we may picket your business, not shop there, and boycott you.” My attorney says a group conspiring to intimidate and threaten to cause harm to a business is illegal. (I would urge businesses that have received threats to forward them to the attorney general for prosecution.)

After all the crap that the private sector has gone through over the last three years, with the cost cutting, the cuts in benefits, retirement accounts, and layoffs, it’s difficult to stomach taxpayer-funded employees complaining about having to share in the pain for once, especially after they have enjoyed pay raises, benefit increases, and guaranteed pensions. I realize they’ll never understand, but we in the private sector understand. And let’s not forget who they work for – us!

Let’s distinguish between public employee unions and private-sector unions. I am one of the largest employers of private union labor; typically, each building we build is comprised of 65% to 90% union labor and materials. They provide quality work and good value in a competitive marketplace. Public unions, on the other hand, are monopolies; they control 100% of the labor pool in an industry like education or state employment. (Special legislation grants them the privilege of being government endorsement monopolies.)

These unions then use their monopoly power to negotiate with elected officials and use public money (through forced payroll deductions from taxpayer funds paid to public employees) to get those candidates elected to office, therefore creating an inherent conflict of interest. The unions then negotiate pay and benefits with those same officials that they just got elected, and they have, on more than a few occasions, threatened to remove their support if that politician doesn’t give them what they want. And by the way, just because this power was granted legislatively doesn’t make it “right.” The government doesn’t bestow such monopoly power on private unions or private companies; why should it be allowed to do so in regard to public unions?

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