"Cheesehead Pharaoh" Cuts Budget, Unions Erupt
Union protesters are taking to the streets and Capitol hallways in Madison, Wisconsin this week, expressing their displeasure with the state worker reforms proposed by Gov. Scott Walker (R). The resulting hubbub suggests there is no limit to the tortured rhetoric these taxpayers' masters will employ to protect their privileged positions.
Christian Schneider's commentary at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) is well-worth reading for his roundup of the absurdities Walker's opponents were already employing against the reforms last week, including an assertion that the governor would call in the National Guard on families (after Walker simply mentioned the possibility of using Guardsmen to staff prisons in the possibility of a strike). The Teamsters issued a press release comparing Walker to "Hilter." But state Sen. Spencer Coggs (D-Milwaukee) won the week with this beauty:
The ghost of Martin Luther King must be rolling in his grave when he anticipates in the state of Wisconsin we're going to have what, in effect, will be legalized slavery.
"Mubarak=Walker" signs and slogans appeared as well, with The Washington Post's Harold Meyerson dubbing Walker the "cheesehead pharaoh of the Middle West." According to this incoherent view, a democratically elected legislature requiring public employees to contribute to their pensions—a reform that 80 percent of Wisconsinites support—is akin to running an oppressive state for three-plus decades.
The protests resulted in 17 districts cancelling school today, as 40 percent of Madison-area teachers caught a nasty case of the entitlements. Organizing for America, the Obama campaign-in-exile, also had a hand in arranging protest logisitics. So much for post-partisanship.
So why all the fuss? Milwaukee's WTMJ breaks it down:
Walker's plan would make workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care premiums. State employees' costs would go up by an average of 8 percent. The changes would save the state $30 million by June 30 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Unions could still represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized. Local police, firefighters and state troopers would retain their collective bargaining rights.
As Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) pointed out this morning on MSNBC, these reforms would still leave state workers paying about half the health care premiums of private sector employees.
For further edification, watch this video taken by WPRI staff.
More from Reason on the unions here.