Josh Marshall’s very good TalkingPointsMemo blog has a very good story, written by Brian Beutler, about how Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R/Tea Party) has exacerbated the state’s budget crisis with pet projects whose funding remains largely unspent, while blaming public-sector workers for wages and benefits not being “in line” with those unfortunate souls not as well remunerated as many of these unionized workers. Among these programs, Beutler outlines three main ones that, in all, cost Wisconsin $140 million–enacted in January–as he claims there is a $137 million deficit. They are as follows:
- “$25 million for an economic development fund for job creation, which still holds $73 million because of anemic job growth.
- $48 million for private health savings accounts — a perennial Republican favorite.
- $67 million for a tax incentive plan that benefits employers, but at levels too low to spur hiring.
In essence, public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda.”
This is really something about which the thousands of protesters and their supporters must make hay. That is, opponents of the governor’s draconian anti-union proposals–which include allowing public-sector workers to negotiate wage increases only up to the consumer price index (except for police and firefighter unions who happened to support Walker in the last election), holding annual votes on members’ desire to remain unionized, year-to-year contracts, allowing de facto right-to-work status for public-sector workers by allowing them to choose not to be union members while enjoying said benefits, making public-sector workers pay more out of their paychecks for health insurance and pensions, and more–must cogently and repeatedly take the fight and the discourse into the realm of policy. They must win over the public in Wisconsin–and nationally for that matter, for this is unquestionably a litmus test for unions across the nation, some of whom in Ohio, for example, are already facing proposed legislation similar to public-sector workers in Wisconsin.
Workers must join this battle and do so now, or find themselves on the defensive for the foreseeable future.