As the fallout from Wisconsin's battle over collective bargaining takes shape, National Journal has asked experts from both sides of the issue to debate what it means. Is this crucial for fiscal stability? Is it a death knell for organized labor? What's at stake for other states and the nation as a whole?
Josh Culling: A Victory for Democracy
The past 20 days in Wisconsin, culminating with Senate Republicans’ decision last night to pass a standalone collective bargaining reform bill, have constituted a victory on a number of fronts.
It is a victory for the long-term health of Wisconsin’s economy. The state faces a $3.6 billion overspending problem that Gov. Scott Walker has vowed to eliminate without harmful tax increases. Part of that process involves cutting costs at the local level. Rather than allowing state aid cuts to result in painful local property tax increases, the budget repair bill gives local governments a menu of options to get their primary cost driver – government employee compensation – under control.
It is a victory for the democratic process. An election was held just over four months ago. Wisconsin voters chose to dispose of Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature and elect a Republican governor to replace Jim Doyle’s failed approach. For Senate Democrats and their labor union allies, that was not a sufficient mandate for change. The entire caucus fled to Illinois for nearly three weeks, a procedural technicality designed to avoid the 20-member quorum needed for action on budgetary items. They leaked a number of demands from their secret hideout and even offered a clandestine border meeting with Republicans (presumably toeing the state line from the Illinois side to stay safely out of the jurisdiction of Wisconsin troopers). Republicans patiently waited out the PR spectacle for as long as possible, finally throwing up their hands and taking the necessary action to begin Wisconsin’s economic rehabilitation process.
It is, perhaps more than anything, a victory for Illinois, which received a much-needed economic stimulus from a group of 14 vacationers.
Gov. Walker, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald refused to blink in the face of intense union-backed pressure, and have achieved hero status in the conservative movement for their principled (yet commonsense) idea that shared sacrifice is a prerequisite for getting Wisconsin’s economy back on track.
Paul Maslin: 'VICTORY'???!!! Pyrrhus Had Nothing on Scott Walker.
I was Gray Davis’ pollster from 1993 through his two gubernatorial victories and his ultimate defeat to a recall movement and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003.
Make no mistake, the union-busting strategy whose true nature was finally completely unmasked by the junta-like power play at the State Capitol in Madison last night will lead to Walker’s premature ouster from office. He has been trapped by too many lies and the punk nature of the attempted suspension of democratic principles (Lincoln had an actual war to fight when he suspended habeas corpus; Walker is trying to beat up on elementary school teachers) by him and his cronies. Whether or not we succeed in ousting enough Senators from office this year, and Wisconsin politics will be dominated for the next several months by those recall campaigns, the ultimate fate for Walker is sealed: he will be recalled from office as soon as legally possible.
Every move he has made in this farcical and sad Napoleonic play has dug himself deeper into a base that will not be strong enough to save him as the middle grows more and more angry at his actions. The “Koch” call (“Thanks a million”) exposed him as someone willing to talk to billionaires, unwilling to negotiate with duly-elected legislators. It was the first absolute evidence of a disturbing pattern: the same people who consider sending thugs into demonstrations to cause trouble are the same people who demonstrate juvenile behavior by withholding pay from legislators, fining them for their absence, and, ultimately, tricking the people of Wisconsin with a vote on the most heinous of their proposals after no debate with no Democrats present.
I was Tom Barrett’s pollster in the gubernatorial campaign which Walker won—under false pretenses, it turns out. Never in those two years did Walker ever mutter a word about destroying the collective bargaining rights of public employees. If he had, he would have lost then and spared the state and nation the ugliness and pettiness of his real beliefs. He has misrepresented the problems facing Wisconsin, he has lied about the actual purpose of his “repair” bill, he has spit in the face of a state justifiably prideful toward its democratic tradition, and now he will reap the whirlwind. The true “repair” bill will be the one that the Democratic Governor who succeeds him next year must pay to clean up the Walker mess.