Why Real Progressives Should Support Scott Walker

The case for putting the public good before what's good for public employees

Before Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker became a recall target for his efforts to reform collective bargaining in his state, I was a guest on a Madison radio show discussing the influence of public-sector unions and the significance of the state’s unfunded pension liabilities.

Instead of “Wisconsin Nice”—the reference to the polite, conflict-avoiding nature of Badger State culture—I faced a torrent of angry callers who accused union critics of trying to destroy the quality of life for working people. I asked one caller: What do we do about unfunded liabilities, those debts that current pension promises place on future generations? “I won’t answer your question,” he said, refusing to dignify this perfectly reasonable question with a response.

The radio show was a preview of what was to come in Wisconsin—a season of angry diatribes, militant union marches, not-so-nice attacks on a governor who, after all, has done nothing more than reform a debt-laden system and has actually saved union jobs and saved unions. Rather than engage the issues, the left has chosen to echo the approach taken by callers to that radio show—stomp their feet, yell, and scream and absolutely, positively refuse to provide an alternative path.

There’s something bizarre in all this, a reminder that the once-proud movement of working people has morphed into an upper-middle-class movement of coddled public employees who do not care about debt levels and eroded public services. They have their gold-plated pensions and no one better touch them or else.

Progressives used to pride themselves on their desire to help the poor, but in Wisconsin these days they’d rather throw the poor under the bus—a public bus, of course, with a union driver—to protect the relatively wealthy class of workers who administer government programs. So we’ve watched the antics—legislative Democrats heading to Illinois to deny the governor a quorum for his budget vote; truckloads of union activists and boatloads of union money pouring into the state capital; attempts to portray Walker as someone who is destroying the state.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the recall. Wisconsin’s economy is rebounding, its debt receding. The state is gaining jobs everywhere except in downtrodden Milwaukee, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett serves as mayor, and where union control has its tightest grip. At this late stage in the race, it’s purely a numbers game as both sides bring out the ground troops to get their voters to the polls. Democrats will surely resurrect dead voters in Milwaukee, so I’m hoping that Walker’s margin of victory—polls show his lead at 5 to 7 points – is strong enough to exceed the expected margin of voter fraud.

Both sides are being careful, avoiding anything that might backfire. For the pro-recall movement, that means desperately avoiding the central issue. For instance, the Barrett campaign Web site features a story on Walker’s supposed attack on hunting—yes, hunting—because of a privatization effort he is spearheading. The Walker Web site isn’t too much better, as it focuses on crime problems in Milwaukee.

Many national pundits are focusing on the implications for the national presidential race, and on President Obama’s chances of being re-elected. There are some clues in it, as national Democrats steadfastly avoid the state. But we all know that the Walker recall is a referendum on public-sector union reform.

One of the nation’s biggest problems surrounds public employees, their compensation levels, and the degree to which their special privileges and demands are destroying public services and bankrupting cities, especially in my home state of California. Wisconsin is arguably an even more progressive state than California. It was the first state to allow public-sector workers to turn into the equivalent of Teamsters. But California has taken the matter much further than anywhere else in the nation.

California used to be the model for the nation in terms of its provision of public services. But without political competition there has been no push back as the unions grab more and more. No wonder the Golden State’s roads are crumbling and our services are tarnished. The only answer from the union movement and their Democratic patrons, including the current governor: higher taxes. The real question is whether Wisconsin voters want their state to turn into California but without the warm winters.

In particular, the Wisconsin governor recognized that collective bargaining is the core problem, in that it remains the key obstacle to improving public services through competition and truly progressive reform.

“The collective-bargaining component of Walker’s plan has yielded especially large financial dividends for school districts,” wrote Christian Schneider, of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, in City Journal magazine. Individual districts have saved millions of dollars because they can send their plans out to bid rather than buy it from the union-monopoly health trust. That’s money they used to save teaching jobs. Progressives should applaud, but instead they march on Madison. What phonies they are.

While California’s government is hopeless, we are seeing serious local reforms often spearheaded by progressive Democrats. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is promoting a pension reform initiative on Tuesday, and he’s doing so with support from progressives in his city. Reed says there’s a big difference between union Democrats and progressive Democrats. The former are protecting one special interest group and the latter have the public good in mind. It’s a compelling argument as we head into the final days of the Wisconsin recall.

If Walker wins, reform will spread across the country. If he loses, Wisconsin will head down the path of California or maybe even Greece, where rising debt, soaring taxes, a surly union movement, and crumbling public services will be the order of the day. No wonder the recall
movement wants to play on emotion rather than answer serious questions.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. He is based in Sacramento.

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  • The Unknown Pundit||

    Why Real Progressives Should Support Scott Walker

    The case for putting the public good before what's good for public employees

    LMFAO. Oh man, that brought me to tears. Putting the public good first. Do go on.

  • juris imprudent||

    Fortunately (or not), progressives are immune to irony and cognitive dissonance. They will merely assert that no public good can be achieved that isn't also good for public employees (and their union-dues supported masters).

  • o3||

    all i see is an irradiated kochtopus stomping milwaukee

    exterminate...exterminate

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Less herpity-derpity will allow you to figure out what "irradiated" means.

  • Bill Turner||

    Oh, you dictionary toting smart person, you. Let's not let something like intelligence stand in the way of rabid hyperbole in the interest of god knows what, okay?

  • Michael L. Carroll||

    Cute rant, but no argument.

  • ||

    Your mouth is talking, Orrin. You might want to see to that.

  • Brutus||

    Removing all doubt again.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Why Real Progressives Should Support Scott Walker

    Let us know when you find some.

  • dbobway||

    How in the world have we come to a time where good news has come to the people of a state, even the public employees of a state, helped along on by the governed body of that state, and they want to kick them out. How did we get here?

  • Bill Turner||

    See also: Public School Teachers.

  • wareagle||

    certain groups get accustomed to doing things their way and anyone who threatens that is targeted. It is no more complicated than that.

  • rigdum funidos||

    the same way as Greece. by paying people to do nothing, taxing people who do anything, and not balancing the budget.

  • WarrenT||

    Is Wisconsin getting better? Greenhut didn't provide a link so I don't know what info he used to make that statement.

  • Bill Turner||

    Reason's own Shikha Dalmia - http://reason.com/blog/2012/06.....out-wiscon

    "Wisconsin’s department of revenue predicts the state will have a $154 million budget surplus by the end of the budget period in 2013 and will place half of it in the state’s Rainy Day Fund."

  • Pippers||

    You will also see partisan terms like "big labor" tossed around in that article as well. I wrote it off.

  • Registration At Last!||

    Ah, Wisconsin, where only the police unions get a license to steal.

    And those dirty Democrats with their voter fraud which nobody can cite a single instance of (unless it was defrauding ACORN's own treasury with phony registration slips that never turned into votes).

    Good thing Walker is taking the high road with his "dead baby" commercial.

  • Bill Turner||

    So you're cool with everyone having a license to steal? The enemy of progress is a utopian demand. Utopian ideals are not only stupid, they're often held up by jaded cynics.

    No offense, but your argument indicates that you are either stupid or a jaded cynic. No offense meant at all.

    Moron.

  • Registration At Last!||

    So now its "utopian" to object to the elevation of the police into a Praetorian Guard with a exclusive prerogative to make union demands on the taxpayer?

    Could you set the bar any lower? (Hint: No, you could not set the bar any lower.)

  • Bill Turner||

    Where to begin... You're still a moron.

    So you're cool with no changes whatsoever, until we can change everything at once. That would really make this country awesome. Let's go back to Jim Crow laws because we aren't treating immigrants from Mexico equally is the gist of what you are saying.

    Get it? Or am I trying to "fling a tennis ball through a plank of wood?"

    Moron.

  • General Butt Naked||

    Oh RAL, the thing that can't get enough cop boot to lick wants them brought down a notch all of a sudden. Hmm, wonder what happened?

    Maybe the boyz down at the precinct got weirded out when you started licking the dog shit from the treads of their dress shines when you were performing yer 'public service'? Jeeze dood, you really have to control yourself or they're not going to let you play 'cops and rapers' with them anymore.

    I must say that when you're deprived of your boot-licking fun you get a mean streak, anon. It's like you stopped crying and started stomping yer feet.

    I'm sure we're all really intimidated by your intellect so go easy on us big guy.

  • Sevo||

    OK, one red herring, followed by a strawman (or two?), ending with envy.
    Yep, stinks like a lefty.

  • ||

    Tears. Yummy butthurt tears.

  • ||

    Reed says there’s a big difference between union Democrats and progressive Democrats. The former are protecting one special interest group and the latter have the public good a buttload of special interest groups in mind.

    Ftfy.

    Pffft. Rs and Ds having the public good in mind? I call bullshit.

  • Bill Turner||

    Walker "fundamentally transformed" the state of Wisconsin with hope and change that everyone can believe in and proved beyond doubt that, yes, they can!

    Sounds just as stupid draped in a different color cloak.

    That said, regardless of what special interests were in play, the damned idea worked, and that ain't half bad from a "mainstream" politician.

  • R C Dean||

    And those dirty Democrats with their voter fraud which nobody can cite a single instance

    Google is your friend.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....95571.html

  • Marshall Gill||

    Google is your friend.

    Not when you are full of shit.

  • Bill Turner||

    Sounds like you'd know.

  • Brutus||

    I'm thinking about voting in Eric Holder's place this coming November, but I'm gonna have to vote early so I beat James O'Keefe to the ballot.

  • Bill Turner||

    Sorry, I already checked and Holder already has 15 absentee ballots submitted. Of course, they'll all have to be counted, because Holder is such a common name and we wouldn't want to disenfranchise a family now, would we?

  • Michael L. Carroll||

    Resorting to profanity and simple name calling. Yep, sounds like a lefty.

  • Registration At Last!||

    Google is our friend, but WSJ editorial is the enemy. You might as well cite PRAVDA.

    Come back with something from a respectable news source ... like the WSJ news-reporter coverage, as opposed to its wingnut editorialists.

  • Bill Turner||

    Like what, the "Daily Kos?" God almighty, it must be raining in the fever swamp again.

  • Mickey Rat||

    "Progressives used to pride themselves on their desire to help the poor,..."

    They still pride themselves on their desire to help the poor. It's just that helping the poor has to be done in the right way, so icky free market, non-collectivist methods will be shunned, even if they are effective.

  • Bill Turner||

    What he said.

  • GeoffT||

    What an amazingly good example of garbage in, garbage out.

    First, the Wisconsin Retirement System's latest (2010) CAFR reads "The funding value-based funded ratio was relatively unchanged at 99.8% funded" (http://tinyurl.com/7j65vxa).

    So the debts you claim are foisted upon future generations do not exist. I'm sure you'll cry now that the projected rate of return is wildly optimistic (despite history flatly contradicting you), in which case you have to have a peek at the Wisconsin statutes to see the self-correcting mechanisms built in (http://tinyurl.com/75dnbro).

    "Wisconsin’s economy is rebounding" - worst in the region, according the latest Philly Fed report (http://tinyurl.com/7r8392m)

    "... its debt receding" - provided you don't count the $558 million that Walker borrowed with its $156 million interest cost (http://tinyurl.com/7wa6vbd).

    "the expected margin of voter fraud." - which explains why after spending so much taxpayer money looking into it, AG Van Hollen came up with 20 examples from the 2008 election, precisely zero of which were cases of people pretending to be anyone else. (http://tinyurl.com/6qpa4ta)

    As for the only report comparing the compensation packages of private and public employees in Wisconsin while controlling for education, experience and hours worked, public employees are undercompensated by nearly 5%. Before Act 10. (http://tinyurl.com/87kaeeh)

    Is this really the best you can do to pimp Walker; tout lies? Figures.

  • Registration At Last!||

    Throwing facts at this crowd is like trying to fling a tennis ball through a plank of wood.

  • Bill Turner||

    I'll dignify your comment with a response:

    You're still a moron.

  • Registration At Last!||

    When the patriots of Bunker Hill ran out of ammo, they threw rocks at the British.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Registration At Last,

    Throwing facts at this crowd is like trying to fling a tennis ball through a plank of wood.


    Besides the impossibility of putting the words "Intelligent" and "Rational" when describing you, looks like "comprehension" is not one, either. The "facts" that Geofft is throwing around are instead examples his misunderstanding of the information than true facts.

  • Registration At Last!||

    Yeah, why don't you tell everybody your brilliant analysis of U.S. Oil Production, Mr. Comment-on-Every-Post Even-When-You-Don't-Know-Sh!t?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Registration At Last,

    Yeah, why don't you tell everybody your brilliant analysis of U.S. Oil Production,


    You mean the rant you posted about peak Pennsylvania was an analysis?

  • Bill Turner||

    I'll play along and even use your information.

    1. The funding value-based funded ratio was relatively unchanged at 99.8% funded - and this will never change, not even if there were a severe recession that lasts for a decade?

    2. "So the debts you claim are foisted upon future generations do not exist." - Again, nothing can ever change?

    3. "'Wisconsin’s economy is rebounding' - worst in the region, according the latest Philly Fed report" - And that region is worse than where? Also, if the economy isn't rebounding, won't you be forced to concede 1 and 2 to me?

    4. "'its debt receding'" - provided you don't count the $558 million that Walker borrowed with its $156 million interest cost" here - http://reason.com/blog/2012/06.....out-wiscon

    5. "the expected margin of voter fraud." - which explains why after spending so much taxpayer money looking into it, AG Van Hollen came up with 20 examples from the 2008 election - Voter fraud investigations are always conclusive, right?

    6. As for the only report comparing the compensation packages of private and public employees in Wisconsin while controlling for education, experience and hours worked, public employees are undercompensated by nearly 5%" - Pity it isn't 10 or 20. Aren't "servants" usually paid less than their employers to allow for economic growth by the employer to sustain their jobs?

    Is this really the best you can do to bash a program that is working? Figures.

  • Registration At Last!||

    rebuttal fail

  • Bill Turner||

    Ok, last time: You are still a moron. Challenge my points if you can. Oh wait, I forgot.

    "Fail" makes you sound so much cooler.

  • Registration At Last!||

    You started the non-responsive insults. See supra. Don't do something you don't want done back to you.

  • Bill Turner||

    No, I accurately described your positions.

  • wareagle||

    bill,
    save your breath. There will be no rebuttal; only ad hominem. Is what it is.

  • Bill Turner||

    Actually, wareagle, I enjoy taunting him when I'm bored.

  • Registration At Last!||

    Actually, wareagle, I enjoy taunting him when I'm bored I have nothing substantive to offer.

    Fixed!

  • Bill Turner||

    Should have figured that an Auburn grad/fan/someone from Alabama/random guy with a bad screen name would have skipped over all of the substance to join a drunken fist fight.

  • GeoffT||

    12. You're grasping at straws. The lessons of history are that the WRS funding ratio *rose* during the Great Recession.
    3. You're grasping at straws. Pension funds (including the WRS) are of course heavily diversified and hence not dependent upon the economic performance of any one state.
    4. I'm afraid your link didn't come out right, so I can't check it (try a URL shortener?).
    5. You're grasping at straws. The author says he is "hoping that Walker’s margin of victory—polls show his lead at 5 to 7 points – is strong enough to exceed the expected margin of voter fraud." implying that he thinks voter fraud might account for 5 points in a race that 2.6-2.8 million are projected to vote in. That's 130,000-140,000 cases of voter fraud he suspects might happen - 35 in every single precinct - that somehow would go completely unnoticed. It's nothing but a grotesque insult to hard-working poll workers and law enforcement, and shows you think that JB Van Hollen is an appallingly bad AG.
    6. You're doing down my fellow Wisconsinites, and I cannot abide that. You clearly want to see talent driven away from public service and your roads maintained and children taught by the lowest bidder. This is not a formula for economic success.

    You're refuted precisely nothing of what I've said. The article is premised upon lies. If you want me to go on to bash "a program that is working" with hard facts as well then I'll see if I can make the time.

  • Old Mexican||

    Progressives used to pride themselves on their desire to help the poor


    Yes, they're delusional in so many quaint and entertaining ways.

  • Old Mexican||

    In particular, the Wisconsin governor recognized that collective bargaining is the core problem, in that it remains the key obstacle to improving public services through competition and truly progressive reform.


    Actually, the key problem was the forced collection of union dues. Without that, the unions have no power, collective bargaining or not.

  • wareagle||

    and when dues stopped being mandatory, a lot folks dropped out in WI.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/.....99718.html

    and it's from the WSJ reporters, not some "wingnut" columnist.

  • Registration At Last!||

    paywalled! how convenient...

  • General Butt Naked||

    So you only accept free sources?

    No Science, or Nature for you.

    Fucking scum.

  • Bill Turner||

    I love you, man.

  • Stephdumas||

    Looks like the current mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed had saw the light from what I read on this article from City-Journal http://www.city-journal.org/2012/cjc0530sg.html

  • VigDaRig||

    This makes a lot of sense dude. Wow.

    www.Data-Privacy.tk

  • sweeterjan||

    Progressives used to pride themselves on their desire to help the poor, but in Wisconsin these days they’d rather throw the poor under the bus—a public bus, of course, with a union driver—to protect the relatively wealthy class of workers who administer government programs. So we’ve watched the antics—legislative Democrats heading to Illinois http://www.maillotfr.com/maill.....c-3_5.html to deny the governor a quorum for his budget vote; truckloads of union activists and boatloads of union money pouring into the state capital; attempts to portray Walker as someone who is destroying the state.

  • JoeWorker||

    Walkergate by the numbers:
    2: Convictions to date

    6: Walker aides and associates charged

    15: Felonies committed by The Walker 6

    77: Days since Scott Walker started his criminal defense fund

    91.5: Years in prison The Walker 6 could face

    1,000+: Number of emails Kelly Rindfleisch exchanged with Walker’s campaign managers while on taxpayer time

    1,380: Number of fundraising emails Kelly Rindfleisch exchanged on taxpayer time

    $62,232: Amount stolen from veterans and the families of fallen soldiers by Tim Russell and Kevin Kavanaugh

    $192,178: Stolen from Milwaukee County taxpayers by Tim Russell and Kelly Rindfleisch to run Scott Walker’s political machine

    $270,000: Amount in fines The Walker 6 could face

    source: http://www.politiscoop.com/us-.....-politics/

  • vicky||

    Scary.

    Walker is doing a great job. You dems left him with a mess, and the union thuggery had almost bankrupt the state...

  • Michael L. Carroll||

    The Democratic Party in California has another special interest group, the environmentalists, who are also working at cross-purposes to the public good. They are even working a cross-purposes to the union Democrats, because the environmental Democrats are driving businesses out of the state which causes loss of jobs, causing loss of revenue for the state, and therefore loss of pension funding, etc. As we saw in the case of the Keystone Pipeline, environmentalists and trade union workers make for odd bedfellows in the Democratic Party.

  • vicky||

    I support Walker. He is doing a fab job!

    I was hoping to read some great comments on this post, but it seems more like pre-teens fighting over words today.... Ah well, its a weekend.

    Go Scott Go.

  • adamlevin||

    The real question is , do you have any relationship with the Koch Brothers...because of course you are echoing word for word their mantra.

  • stalliscoach||

    Let’s start by saying that collective bargaining is not a right but a privilege. Much like driving a car, it is not guaranteed by the Wisconsin state constitution. As far as the limiting of public union influence throughout the state goes, I have many friends that are teachers and/or administrators who are happy about the changing of the guard. They have commented about the new found freedoms that they have in their profession. And yes they are VERY hard working professionals. The ones that I have spoken to are especially glad to know that the teachers that are not in the job to do the best for their customers (students), and are just taking up space, need to improve or they will be gone. They rattled off several people at their own schools that need to find a different line of work. Progressive Democrats would agree with this, union Democrats would not.

  • sweeterjan||

    edoms that they have in their profession. And yes they are VERY hard working professionals. The ones that I have spoken to are especially glad to know that the teachers that are not in the job to do http://www.ceinturesfr.com/cei.....-c-12.html the best for their customers (students), and are just taking up space, need to improve or they will be gone. They rattled off several people at their own schools that need to fi

  • maillot de bain magasin||

    While California’s government is hopeless, we are seeing serious local reforms often spearheaded by progressive Democrats. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is promoting a pension reform initiative on Tuesday, and he’s doing so with support from progressives in his city. Reed says there’s a big difference between union Democrats and progressive Democrats. The former are protecting one special interest group and the latter have the public good in mind. It’s a compelling argument as we head into the final days of the Wisconsin recall.

  • Rob Houck||

    This issue is larger than what is portrayed--it is rooted in Marxism. The Communist Party USA (CPUSA) has been a major backer of the attempted recall of Gov. Walker, and supported the unions. Marx, and the communists who foolowed his doctrine, strongly supported the idea of unions and organized labor. It fits in perfectly to the ongoing class warfare, which has its flames fnned by Obama for the last few years. It's part of his demented desire of the Balkanization of America, creating different segments of society as victimized groups of people as being oppressed by the cruelty of American capitalism. Communism, Marxism, Progressivism, and socialism; they all share in one common goal, which is to replace our Constitution with some form of socialism. They believe that is the only way America can be a fair democracy. And who, besides the Communist and Socialist parties, is continually calling for a "fair" America for everyone, but the President, himself. The majority of big-unions' bosses are communists or have close ties with the CPUSA. Most media outlets don't show or mention the communists and their signs at union protests and rallies. They were there at the beginning of the protests in Wisconsin, at the President's "One Nation" rally at the National Mall on 10-2-10, and every large union rally, but the media tries not to show them because they fear Americans might wake up to communism and socialism in America.

  • ralphs||

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