"Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else." — Frederic Bastiat
Sometime in the afternoon on Thursday, February 17, 2011 fourteen Wisconsin State Democrat senators piled into a little yellow bus and headed for Illinois. They were fleeing to avoid participating in a vote of a bill pending in the Wisconsin legislature. By their absence they could prevent a quorum in the senate, thus preventing a vote on a bill that would limit collective bargaining for public employees.
Not only does the bill ban collective bargaining rights for teachers, it requires educators to contribute 5.8 percent to their pensions and 12.6 percent to their health care. Currently, educators pay 0.2 percent for their pensions and 4 to 6 percent of their health care costs — much less than the private sector.
These 14 state senators were spotted at a Best Western hotel in the Rockford area by members of the Tea Party who had cameras and were recording the movements of the senators. Upon being spotted by the Tea Party members the senators jumped in their little yellow bus and headed for another location with the Tea Party members in hot pursuit while they were in contact with the Wisconsin State Police, who had orders to detain them if they crossed back into Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker had ordered the state police to apprehend the senators and bring them back to the capital in Madison. At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Walker said he's willing to talk to the senators who want to force Walker and GOP lawmakers to negotiate revisions to the bill, which would strip most public employees of their collective-bargaining rights.
"I'm going to tell them they get paid to come to work, and they should be coming to work," he told reporters.
Walker went "On The Record" with Fox News' Greta Van Susteren Thursday night and reiterated his appeal for the senators to return to Wisconsin.
"Democracy doesn’t come by hiding out in another state," he said. "I made a personal appeal for all the senators to come back."
In a statement he released earlier, Walker, who just took office last month, said the actions of the lawmakers were "disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of public employees who showed up to work today and the millions of taxpayers they represent."
Senate Republicans hold a 19-14 majority but can't vote on the bill unless at least one Democrat is present. "It's kind of unbelievable that they're elected to do a job and they wouldn't show up to do it," Republican state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald told Fox News. Fitzgerald said the boycott may force the State Assembly to vote first on the bill.
"This isn't something I've ever seen in the state of Wisconsin," he said. "It's a very volatile situation right now but those people were elected to do a job and unfortunately they're not doing it. They're not representing the people of their district."
Fitzgerald said despite the heated debate, and individual threats against lawmakers, the majority of Wisconsin residents approve of the bill. "Although the protesters have been very rowdy, very one sided on what legislators are hearing, there's a silent majority out there that spoke on November 2nd , said, you know, we have to (head the state) in the right direction to put our fiscal house in order. So that's what we're going to do.”
The bill has sparked a storm of protest for three days. Teachers marching at Wisconsin's Capitol Building in Madison shut down schools for a second day Thursday so they could demand collective bargaining rights that they say are essential to keeping kids in school.
Dozens of schools closed as a result of high absences as thousands of protesters, including students and teachers, marched on the Capitol building to demand state lawmakers strike down a bill that would require union concessions worth $30 million by July 1 and $300 million over the next two years.
The Democratic National Committee's Organizing for America said it is playing an active role in organizing protests against the bill. And, as usual President Obama has stepped into the middle of a state issue to support his union backers.
President Obama weighed into the debate, saying that making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain "seems like more of an assault on unions."
"I think it is very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends," he said. "These are folks who are teachers and they're firefighters and they're social workers and they're police officers."
It is important "not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees," Obama said.
The bill, which also bans collective bargaining rights for teachers, requires educators to contribute 5.8 percent to their pensions and 12.6 percent to their health care. Currently, educators pay 0.2 percent for their pensions and 4 to 6 percent of their health care costs.
The teachers have shown their true colors and they are red. They are demanding that the Wisconsin taxpayers continue to provide them with lavish benefits — benefits well beyond those in the private sector. The average pay for a Wisconsin school teacher is $66,000 per year with $33,000 in fringe benefits. That’s a hair under $100,000 per year in total compensation. They also have tenure and job security. How much is enough?
The actions of the teachers have closed many schools. They have taken member of their classes to the demonstrations, children as young as eleven and twelve years of age who haven’t the slightest idea of why they are there. Did the parents of these children sign permission papers for these children to be taken from their classes to attend a political demonstration? If not have the teachers committed a criminal offense. What liability have they brought upon themselves and their respected school distracts by dragging the children to the demonstrations?
The left cares not about laws or liability. They care only about how much hey can milk from the taxpayers. The unions in Germany have a saying that goes; “Du sollst nicht töten die Gans, die goldene Eier legt” that literally translates to “don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.” This is why the private sector unions in Germany rarely strike and world closely with management. They know that if Mercedes Benz does not do well neither do they.
Today membership in private sector unions has declined to around 7% while membership in public sector unions is growing by leaps and bounds. This is why Obama jumped into the Wisconsin debate. He has a dog in the fight — his support from the public sector unions.
At the federal, state and municipal levels of government the public sector unions are killing the goose. Their pay is higher than the private sector for comparable work. Just look at the results lower paid parochial school teachers get with less money. It’s an incredible lopsided comparison. These public sector unions have burdened us with billions of dollars in unfunded pension and health care liabilities — liabilities government can’t meet without massive job killing tax increases.
As example take these two cases. Joe Smith has a large fruit stand in the central market. His stand is large enough for him to require three assistants. He is doing well selling his apples and oranges at a competitive price. His fruit is fresh and the quality is good. He pays his staff a competitive wage and 50% of their health care.
One day Joe’s employees come and tell Joe they want him to cover 100% of their health care and give them a 10% raise. Joe says if he does this he will have to raise the price of the fruit by 15% or increase sales by 40% without adding more staff. This will require that his present staff with have to increase their productivity by 40%. He also tells them there are two other fruit stands in the market. One owned by Hector Sanchez as a family run business and the other by Kim Jong Jill and his extended family. Since their overhead is lower they will not raise prices and Joe’s customers will turn to the same fruit at the lower price. Joe will have to shut his business down and layoff his employees. They have killed the goose.
The other case is that of a public school in your home town. The school district is bouncing along as best as it can with the taxes is receives from the local property owners. Property taxes are high, but most of the residents go along and dutifully pay the taxes. Two things happen. One is a bust of the housing bubble and homes are appraised at a lower rate, so there is less revenue from the tax base. The second is the teachers unions demand a 4% raise and a higher contribution to their benefit package. Unlike Joe who can’t raise prices the school board or district can coerce a higher tax contribution from the residents. You see they, as Lenin would say, have the guns. They have the power of enforcement and can take your money whether you like it or not — all in the name of the public good.
It is time for public service unions to go. When I worked in the civil service I was told I made 10% less than a comparable position in the private sector, but I had job security and a good health plan. Now the public worker makes 10-20% more than his private counterpart, has a platinum health care plan and a guaranteed pension.
I pray Gov. Walker has the spine of Ronald Reagan or Boston's Mayor Andrew James Peters. Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and Peters the entire Boston Police Department for striking. Public employees should not have the right of collective bargaining. They are employees of the public, that means you and I. In the words of Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge in support of Boston Police Commissioner Edwin Curtis for firing the entire Boston police department “There is no right to strike against the public safety, anywhere, anytime.” I believe this pertains to all public sector employees.
What happens when the unionized police refuse to enforce the law on their union brethren at one of these demonstrations? What kind of government will we have?