The most exceptional thing has been happening in Wisconsin over the past few days. Governor Scott Walker has introduced a bill that will save the state about $300 million dollars over the next ten years – a sorely-needed chunk of slack in a budget that has, like so many other state budgets, gotten entirely out of control. Part of the bill affects Wisconsin teachers, of whom Walker is asking two things: 1) that they give up their collective bargaining ability on matters of leave and benefits (but not, and this is important, wages), and 2) that they pay 5.8 percent toward their retirement benefits and 12.4 percent of their health benefits. To be sure, these new demands are considerable – the health benefit rate would be more than double what they pay now – but the state would still require less from its teachers than do most other states or private employers in their own state. In other words, Wisconsin teachers have had a pretty sweet deal so far and the Governor is asking them to accept a less sweet, but still sweet, deal.
The teachers’ union responded to the bill by going ape-spit berserk. The union called for a sick out that required several school districts (mostly in areas represented by politically-vulnerable Republican legislators) to lock students out yesterday and today because over 40 percent of teachers simply refused to show up for work. Teachers dragged their students, some of whom had no earthly idea why they were there, to the protests at the State Capitol. Union members showed up at the homes of the Governor and Republican Senate Leader in such force and with such vehemence, that the Senate Leader’s family had to relocate. They took to the streets to call Governor Walker “Hosni Walker” and “Mubarak of the Midwest” and Adolph Hitler. They found allies with such brave progressives as Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson and progressive lemming Michael Moore, who echoed the ridiculous Egypt analogy. The President himself weighed in with a statement that the bill was an “assault on unions”. Even the Democratic National Committee waded into the fray, in the form of the Wisconsin chapter of Organizing for America. When the teachers were done their protests yesterday, they left the area a complete wreck.
Today, the entire story took a turn into the surreal. The state Senate was scheduled to vote on the bill, but could not because every single Democratic Senator fled the city and went into hiding to prevent the necessary quorum call.
At this point, the teachers’ union and their Democratic supporters have conceded the argument. They could not defend their refusal of Governor Walker’s relatively small demands and so they launched into ridiculous ad hominem, violent rhetoric (shudder!), and, eventually, cowardly flight. We should take instruction from what has happened in Wisconsin over the past two days. Public sector unions are, as I have said before, a blight on our states and nation. We should do everything in our power to rid ourselves of them entirely and make sure, by law if necessary, that they can never come back again. It would make me very happy if Governor Walker fired every single teacher who called out sick over the past two days. They let down the taxpayers of Wisconsin and, more importantly, taught their students that it’s okay to lie, cheat, and steal in order to get what you want.