ideologue n. an adherent to or advocate of some ideology
source: Webster Dictionary.org
My last US based location before my move was Wisconsin. Having lived there 6 years I have become connected with with it and its politics much more than I am with either Michigan or Alabama. The recent backlash against the progressive answer to our nation’s ills produced an unprecedented sweep of conservative minded leadership. The result of this has been placed on the national stage by a feverous battle of wills between fiscal conservatives and progressive pro union groups. As I have some inside insight and continue to keep abreast of the situation via various sources I find it amazing in this day and age of twitter, Facebook, 24/7 cable news, and instant publishing local newspaper websites that so much misinformation, misinterpretation, and outright lies were incubated and delivered with fervor not seen since the LA riots after the Rodney King police brutality verdict.
It is no secrete I am conservative minded, politically of course. I have passed another milestone lately the years and experiences have added another layer, or ring, to my life. As we age we tend to filter what we see and hear. This is a self protection mechanism really, one that selectively validates our world view therefore giving us comfort and psychological support we, and our views, are right and correct. As we have years invested on our particular paths we need this comfort in order to ensure our dividends will pay out a positive return. Every so often we meet cross roads that test and shake our world views and these are dangerous events as we tend to filter our views, see what we want to see, hear what we want to hear. The only real way to inoculate oneself from these pitfalls is to; A) identify the cross road B) approach the situation with healthy cynicism C) use logic and past experiences to check your initial conclusion D) view the alternatives before dismissing them. Sound complicated? Its easy, think of all the situations we use this process in our everyday life to survive. What to wear, what to eat, what tasks to undertake, what priority each event in our lives takes, when to go to bed. So why is it that this process has broken down and started to falter so much in the last 2 years in America?
Of course people will say this criticism of my culture and society is viewed through tinted glasses, perhaps, but I am aware of my slants and views and make no excuses for them… placing me ahead of those unaware of their views as I am more guarded to keep as much of an objective take as I can. Call it an “Emperor’s New Clothes” aversion, but surrounding yourself with “yes men”, even if they are in your head, only leads to disaster. So what does all this have to do with ideology or political gridlock? If you have to ask this you are a new reader or have forgotten my style of approaching a topic.
The Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill has widened the chiasm between the political left and right in the state. Passions overflowed like the waters over Niagara Falls, and just like the Falls, it overflowed in just one direction and from one side. Watching the players and theater over the last month has been frustrating and at time comical. From the 14 Democrat senators who fled the state to deny a quorum, for 3 weeks, to the tens of thousands of protesting teachers and doctors giving out notes so they could claim a sick day off work, it all made for a comedy of errors. Oh, and now one of the 14 is proposing a state constitution amendment to make it illegal to do this again, why??? The more troubling aspect was despite the tragic events of the beginning of the year with Democrat Repressive Giffords being shot along with numerous people at a local event, the rhetoric had again raised to soaring levels of hate and anger with death and violence taking center overt reoccurring themes against the governor and GOP members with no press scrutiny and that spoke volumes to what has been unfolding over the past 2 years. How can I exaggerate chalk outlines on the Madison square and live ammunition from a high powered rifle casually strewn over the capital grounds?
The larger picture is much more interesting than the smaller micro view of the bill’s dissolving of collective bargaining for public state employees or pension and healthcare benefit contribution levels. The problems with this political theater is it falls into the trap of losing the forest for the trees. The battle is not over union “rights” (a grotesque misnomer by every rational stretch of the definition) but over power and preserving the status quo. Despite all the hype, promise, and aspirations of our 44th president the reality is he and his administration are a rehash of the same old same old, just updated in a post millennium exterior. Has he instituted a new era of transparency within government that has restored faith in American politics? Has he created a new era of accountability that has restored pride and honor to American politics? Has he or his party delivered on anything substantive to correct the path of decades of debt and out of touch political processes separating the masses from the bedrock principles and foundations of American politics?
No, and that was evidence at the November thumping the DNC took ushering in one of the largest swings in political landscape in both federal and state/local governments. His policies, practices, and tactics gave birth to the largest and strongest grass roots political movement seen in generations. The proverbial sleeping giant of fundamental belief in the nation’s core founding principles has risen and taken charge of the political debate, to the chagrin of the main stream media and their political party of choice darling Democrats. So what does this have to do with anything? Follow the money. The macro view of the fight, and real fear of the DNC is a domino effect where public sector unions, the largest financial contributors to DNC campaigns, begin to lose their status quo power in numerous states. Its always about the money in politics.
The reasoning for this is simple, and logically induced. For one collective bargaining is NOT a right. If it were then Federal employees would have it, and they do not. Why is there little to no mention or marching on the White House demanding Federal union workers have collective bargaining? Second, rights are guaranteed in the constitution, those that are deemed important enough are placed in the Constitution and they are granted to ALL citizens, not just some public sector union members in one state and not private sector unions or public sector unions in another state. Lastly collective bargaining has resulted in public sector unions establishing and maintaining legacy pensions and health care benefits long extinct in private sector jobs (except the auto industry and we all saw how well that is working out). Add this together with how public sector unions in the states that have them operate; statue union laws in many of the union states prohibit non-union workers, state payroll collects union dues and delivers to the union head office automatically, tenure rules keeps only longer serving and more invested union members in the rank and file, union leadership is drafted from pensioners and true believers to keep unwavering front office support, political clout and contributions are leveraged against local governmental board members who negotiate contracts. Horsepucky I hear, hogwash I reply! If this were not the case why is it public sector unions in Wisconsin are rushing to sign contract extensions for 2 years now while the WI Democrat Secretary of State delays and stalls the law publication giving unions and friendly local districts 10 days to get extensions in place knowing they can’t raise taxes or increase any local fees to make up the looming state aid cuts to education coming (resulting in all the new teachers not tenured to bear the brunt of the layoffs retaining the older and higher paid true believers)? The tactics are dirty, the money is dirty, and the power if corrupting. The progressive left rails against big corporation contributions and influence in the private sector, yet they turn a blind eye to the facts 36.2% of the work force comprising of public sector unions make up the largest groups of DNC donors with $87.5 million funds handed over in 2010 (by contrast outspending all RNC contributors by $31.5 million) . By contrast private sector unions make up only 6.9% of the work force and while slanted DNC they act more responsibly and conduct business more civilly (which yells volumes when the teamsters are tame compared to teachers, bus drivers, and janitors).
Speaking of money, do you know who the highest paid Wisconsin state employees are? If you think its the governor or elected official you are dead wrong. In 2009 the highest paid WI employees were buss drivers, coming in at $159,258 is John E. Nelson or which $109,892 was overtime pay. His co-worker, Greg Tatman, earned $125,598 putting them among the city’s top 20 earners in 2009. In fact 7 bus drivers made over $100,000 that year. Speaking of over time, just the Madison WI bus system alone drummed up $1.94 million in overtime. Who are the rich and who are the middle class in Wisconsin? When the highest paid public workers are bus drivers making more then 2.5 times his annual salary in overtime, well we have a problem. Don’t think the schools or other public sectors are any more sane. Given a choice to not be in the union, forcing the unions to collect their own dues, take a majority certification vote annually, therefore jeopardizing their largest political leverage, money. Yep, its all about the money, for money buys access and ensures favors for friendly and symbiotic relationships ensuring a friendly environment cementing the status quo. How does that look for the change ushered in with all fan fare in 08?
Who is wearing rose colored glasses now? Have I selectively filtered through all my fiscal conservative bias and out all the wimpy, hypocritical, and lily livered biases to validate my world view and self image? Have I shut down my objectivity or cynicism with prejudice? Actually that wouldn’t be any fun. Regurgitating bumper sticker talking points and nationally outlined emotional bullet points is rather boring and repetitive. In all honesty both sides are manipulating the 20% of the population that swings the election cycles from one extreme to the other. We are in a time when they will be most likely running from one extreme to the other. This is troublesome because it resembles a run away diesel engine. Anyone familiar will know unless you choke and slow down the cycles the engine will speed up to the point of tearing itself apart. I am smart enough to see through the GOP smoke and mirrors as well as the DNC set. Still the GOP side is much milder as its actually trying to fix the fiscal mess of Wisconsin with a real solution combating the real problem, high taxes and too much spending. Just as the UAW found out the GM and Chrysler union won gains during flush with cash times can’t be sustained forever. Seeing the public sector unions only grabbed more and more and never conceded or restrained themselves they set the stage for a radical and painful solution we see today.
As for the overall argument at the very kidney of the matter, remember money is the heart of this situation, the relevancy of unions in America. Most of the DNC propaganda concerning pro union relevancy is actually just the opposite, irrelevant. Oh, here come my politically slanted opinions again. Well, consider this. First, child labor laws nationally and in all 50 states prevent people under 16 from working without a permit and limit the hours and days they can work, so union protections against child labor is mooted. Second, 40 hour work weeks, overtime pay, holiday pay, and shift limitations are all outlined by labor laws both nationally and in all 50 states. Third, OSHA oversees workplace safety and laws ensure safe, productive, and standards for work place environments nationally and in all 50 states. Forth, national and state laws enforce equality in the work place by outlawing discrimination based on sex, age, religion, and even offer workers with disabilities avenues to work. Fifth, federal and state laws prevent environments where corporations set up environments where they own the factory, town, and company store setting up indentured servitude conditions. Lastly, if unions were the only thing standing in the way between freedom and oppressive working conditions, why do they only make up 6.9% of the private working sector? Remember union membership has been falling steady for 12 years, yet pay and benefits have not fallen, why is that? Why do companies provide company match for 401k, group medical plans, insurance options, vacation days, sick days, etc.? Because their competition does, not because the 7% of union work places (mainly factory, construction, and auto workers) do. In order to attract and retain top talent companies have to provide incentives, both financial and life quality.
For the public sector unions, they make up 5 times the number of employees but still are restricted to less then half of the US states. Do public employees in the majority of the US States suffer or have worse working conditions then the minority working in states like Wisconsin? Besides the tax payer funded plush fringe benefits no. Remember, all because of payroll, pension, and lavish healthcare (sold by the unions) and role over sick days with insane overtime (remember the Madison bus driver), it takes several private sector employees to pay for just 1 public sector employee. How much? Good questions and it varies from state to state and city to city. State and local taxes are small compared to FICA and income tax rates. These state and local taxes pay for all services, including civil servant payrolls and benefits. Property taxes pay for schools and other city services (renters have this tax added into their monthly rent so they pay it too). While the Federal government does help pay for roads, schools, medical and safety through matching or granted funds the majority comes from tax payers. Civil servants collected taxes are a wash as they can’t really count their taxes due to their pay it comes from is actually collected from their private sector neighbors. If your total state and local taxes come to 14% of gross pay you can bet the majority covers civil servant payroll and pension funding. Speculation would state 5%, so it would take 20 tax payers to fund 1 employee’s pay with the remaining taxes to pay for the building, lights, vehicles, mass transit, sewer, garbage, parks, etc. (remember property taxes pay for schools, police, and fire). At least private sector unions costs are held in check with company health, if the costs spiral out of control the company goes bankrupt and fails or re-structures. Government does not go bankrupt.
We have laws protecting workers and ensuring their real rights, you know the ones in the constitution, are protected. The laws force fair and balanced working environments and go well beyond fairness unions tolerate. Unions have tenure rules forcing a last in, first out policy instead of merit. Speaking of merit, you don’t get paid based on work performance but on years in service. Unions do not allow non-union workers in the same work place. If you no longer want to be in the union you have to quite and most likely move to another state. You have to pay the dues, of which proved above go towards political action campaigns, and if you don’t agree with what your dues go to, well you have to pay anyway and your voice is oppressed. Unions reward loyalty as only those who support and mirror their stance advance and progress up the ranks. Unions have transcended from quasi mob affiliate to full blown legalized mobs ripe with extortion, intimidation, oppression, assaults, and cohesion as well as conspiracies the mob never reached financially. For these reasons unions need to be flushed and allowed to regroup only when they can demonstrate they can operate in similar manners to their private sector brothers and sisters and government spokesmen actually negotiate with the unions instead of being their patsies and giving them what they ask for. The Wisconsin union’s stance is thin, tissue paper thin on all fronts of its arguments. I have not seen 1 articulate and valid point over 3 weeks of heated emotional rhetoric. Notice I didn’t state debate, because just as I learned in the Navy, you can’t rationalize with a drunk, and it seems to apply to liberals as well. They shout, yell, and sound bite and prevent real and honest debate. They can’t stand to hear an opposing view and only wish to restrict free speech, free flow of ideas, alternatives to the status quo, and offer no viable alternative to closing the multi-billion dollar budget gap their own party created over 4 budget cycles. If they would be honest and just state they want to tax corporations (the very vehicles they use to invest their current pension fund pools, IRAs, and receive the overall majority of the tax revenue collected from), the overtime laden rich bus drivers and other with personal income above 100,000/year, small business owners (who’s taxes are based off of gross income before payroll and internal business re-investment), and yes, the poor tax payers and citizens through sales tax, license fees, and other nickel and dime fees. They can’t state this because that 20% of the voting block who decide elections would run from them back into the GOP camp in an instant.
No, my eyes are wide open on this. I admit my biases but can back up my positions. I can offer proof and logically derive my conclusions from facts and unbiased information. I see where the other side is coming from and understand their position and why it is they are doing what they are doing and saying what they are saying. I dare one of those foaming at the mouth teachers to do the same and will compare their argument to mine to see which is more sound and able to stand the test of scrutiny. Their arguments are riddled with half truths and fallacies including straw man, slippery slope, and ad homonym. The telling contrast is the southern neighbor, Illinois. Wisconsin has pledged to close the budget shortfall without raising taxes and improving the tax climate to attract more employers with a target of 250,000 private sector jobs that will bay for the public sector spending (including payroll), and finally to cut state spending. By contrast Illinois has maintained the status quo, raised taxes, issued more bonds taking on more debt (putting off the repayment for years), and increasing state spending. Time will tell which state will be closer to fiscally sound standing and health. I am afraid the only one with blinders on are the ones refusing to talk through the issue, and that includes running away from the state for 3 weeks to grand stand and give the union puppet masters extra time to out maneuver coming budget plans (hamstringing the local communities and forcing them to lay off teachers creating a perceived political plus for them as they can stand the laid off teachers before the crowds and state it was the GOP who caused it). Who has blinders on, time will tell.