|Madison, WI 2/19/2011. John Maddente LLC|
It was a clear day at the Capitol.What wasn't reported quite as clearly was the composition of the Pro-Walker forces, which were outnumbered, I guess, 20 to 1 thanks in part to throngs of out-of-state union demonstrators. One problem with the media characterization, was that they consistently reported the Pro-Walker group only as a "Tea Party" rally. Obviously, Tea Party members were out in force (and I was proud to be among them), but the group contained a broader cross-section of voters including GOP members and even a few Blue Dog Dems including a courageous soul hoisting a sign labeled, "I'm A Teacher For Walker." I suspect that man has more company, particularly coming from private school teachers that are non-unionized and paid significantly less in wages and benefits than their public school counterparts.
But back to the afternoon event. It was non-violent, but labeling it as "peaceful" stretches the adjective. The union faithful were strategically deployed in a circle, perhaps a dozen members wide, that encircled the entire capitol building.
This meant that Pro-Walker supporters had to walk through them, often suffering insults, in order to get to the muddy basin of the capitol steps where Walker supporters gathered. One thing organized labor is good at, besides shaking down taxpayers, is organizing their clan to demonstrate en masse. In three separate instances, protesters tried to engage me "in dialogue" which I ignored to avoid a fruitless and potentially heated debate. Another unreported development, occurred near the lectern of the pro-Walker gathering. Suddenly, the speaker's booming voice went silent. Turning to my friend, I said, "That was no accident." Seconds later, a union mole was ushered away by Sheriffs and the sound system began to work after someone plugged it in again. I wonder if the guy who unplugged the sound system was also chanting, "This is what democracy looks like!"
Union members marching around the capitol circle chanted, beat drums and hoisted signs, most of which contained civil inscriptions but others with words and images of Governor Walker that are unprintable on this site. Again, I saw no press coverage of these signs, though they were hard to miss. I hoped that the union member owners of those particular signs are not teaching children. I'm not sure some of them should be near children. To be fair, I saw one or two signs in the pro-Walker camp that I also found objectionable, but nowhere near as many as those from the union side.
In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, columnist John Fund distills all this clamor into a one question. Mr. Fund asks, "Who's in charge of our political system - voters or government unions?" For decades, of course, the answer in the Badger State has been unions. That's about to end. The objective is not busting unions, it's about requiring them to pay a reasonable share of their lucrative benefit packages and maintaining some control with voters.
Fortunately, legislators do not need the 14 absent Dems to vote on the collective bargaining provision (which pertains to benefits not wages) of the bill. The reason is that it is a non-fiscal action which requires a voting quorum.
Collective bargaining is a mechanism many want scaled back, because without doing so, it leaves only a patch until the next budget cycle. Such "bargaining" over the decades is what led to the disproportionate wage and benefit packages that now bedevil us.
Pushing it down to the local levels makes sense. Instead of allowing the Left to spin this as destruction of collective bargaining rights, it's more accurate to phrase it as a partial conversion to distributed bargaining.
The rest of us cannot routinely "bargain" for higher benefits at any level. We receive a package, not a guarantee of lifetime retirement income, or Cadillac health care plans. If we find our employers' benefits unacceptable, we have the same option union members have - find a new job. We did not and do not, have the "right" to hold taxpayers hostage.
One notion advanced by some on the Left, is that this legislation is all a surprise hijacking that nobody talked about before the election. That assertion is also false. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaking this morning on Meet The Press, explained how measures in the bill causing such a stir, are a well documented facet of candidate Walker's campaign before he took office and voters knew as much when they elected him. Arguably, it is a significant reason they did elect him.
What is shockingly unprecedented, of course, are the 14 fugitive senators. It's a disgraceful signal to young people, or anyone considering public service. When things get tough, all you need do is flee the state - just take your ball and leave. That way, no one can play. How sad.
I hope that this stalemate doesn't turn violent. We can disagree without throwing punches. What I saw yesterday worried me.