February 18, 2011

Did Scott Walker create Wisconsin's budget crisis as a means to the end of cutting the public unions' collective bargaining rights?

That's what the NYT thinks:
Just last month, [Gov. Walker] and the [Wisconsin] Legislature gave away $117 million in tax breaks, mostly for businesses that expand and for private health savings accounts. That was a choice lawmakers made, and had it not been for those decisions and a few others, according to the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state would have had a surplus.

Wisconsin is certainly not as bad off as California, Illinois, and several northeastern states that are making tough budgetary decisions without trying to eliminate union rights. Nonetheless, the union-busting movement is picking up steam, with lawmakers in Ohio, Indiana, and several other states. 
It really is odd that Wisconsin became ground zero, because we didn't have the budget disaster that was going on conspicuously in some of the other states. I'm really trying to understand this. Why Wisconsin? A distinctive thing about us is how good our public employees' benefits are. The cut we — I'm one of them — are being asked to take is severe. (I'm looking at a loss of more than $10,000 a year, myself.) But it's hard to complain and appear sympathetic, because we're only being asked to go from paying 0.2% of the payments our salary into our pension fund to 5.8%, which probably looks astoundingly low to outsiders. We're being asked to pay more for our health insurance, but the coverage is extremely good, and the annual hit will be about $2,500.

So maybe we public employees in Wisconsin are a great target — a great starting place for what is a national movement by the Republicans. I'm trying to understand the party politics. Tell me if this is correct: There are vast numbers of public employees, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Once elected, the Democrats create more and more public jobs with greater and greater benefits, and, consequently, more voters who are even more locked into voting for Democrats. This is a cycle that approaches political graft, and the Republicans, to win, must overcome all those passionate, self-interested Democratic voters. Why wouldn't the Republicans embrace a strategy hostile to the public employees? Why wouldn't they drive a wedge between the public employees and all the other citizens in the state?

So I see 3 questions: 1. Is this what the Republicans are really doing? 2. How good a political strategy is it? and 3. Is it a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of public employees?

The 3 questions are interrelated, but they should contemplated separately... but who is capable of doing that? I'm trying to be fair, and it's possible that I'm in as good a position as anybody. I voted for Walker and support many of the things the Republicans are trying to do, but this budget plan — as I said — will cost me more than $10,000 a year.

224 comments:

1 – 200 of 224   Newer›   Newest»
Drew said...

Did Scott Walker create Wisconsin's budget crisis as a means to the end of cutting the public unions' collective bargaining rights?

That's what the NYT thinks.



Oh, well then the answer is an easy "no."

Chip S. said...

this budget plan — as I said — will cost me more than $10,000 a year.

The point, I believe, is what a failure to act will cost the people who are currently covering your benefits. Or, at least, those people who are left in Wisconsin after the necessary tax hikes.

PaulV said...

How many tricks are used to balance the budget in WS? Is retirement fully funded and is expected return on investment realistic. I will have to work until 70 now with fall of market and expected lower returns of investment.

shoutingthomas said...

This is a cycle that approaches political graft, and the Republicans, to win, must overcome all those passionate, self-interested Democratic voters.

Approaches political graft?

It's the very definition of kickbacks.

Make huge donations to Democratic candidates. Candidates, once elect, kick back higher salaries and benefits.

Yes, it is graft.

The spoiled brat public sector is now accustomed to this graft and regards it as its due. And, the spoiled brats are throwing a tantrum now that they are being threatened with an end to their scam.

The rest of us have to pay for this scam.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

This was Doyle's statement in 2009:

Doyle painted a grim picture in his annual "state of the state" message, but he did not spell out how much worse the state's two-year shortfall will grow beyond the $5.4 billion estimated in November.

So is the new fairy tale that Wisconsin magically solved its budget problems on the eve of Walker taking office?

Expat(ish) said...

One of my parents is a state retiree from the days when you didn't make as much working for the state but you got taken care of. I still think that is a good bargain.

However, now that state workers are taken care of *very* well in terms of salary, it doesn't seem fair that they have little/no fear of firing and still expect a juicy pension.

Maybe that is what the R's are tapping into. It certainly works for me - I don't see why public employees should be able to form unions and negotiate with management to raise my taxes.

-XC

Henry said...

In regards to #3 its worth remembering that historically, civil service reform was one of the great causes of the 19th century. When your minor civil service job was only yours at the whim of an elected official, all civil servants had to back up a candidate.

It's interesting that the public service unions taken the successful reform of the last century and put it in the service of politics. What the politicians were forbidden to do, the union has taken upon itself to do.

In many ways the issue isn't really about unions or business. It's about the power of government to override the choices of individuals and the importance of other institutions. The more power in government, the more it is lobbied for favors and the more the favors dispensed are crucially important for its supplicants. All roads lead to Versaille.

p.s. 10 years ago I paid $3K for a family HMO insurance plan. Now I pay $11K for the same type of plan but with a much higher deductible and higher co-pays. Welcome to the party.

shoutingthomas said...

So I see 3 questions: 1. Is this what the Republicans are really doing? 2. How good a political strategy is it? and 3. Is it a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of public employees?

1. Yes. At least, I hope so.

2. The only one that makes any sense.

3. Yes, unless you have devised some way to make everybody into a public employee.

Somebody has to pay the bill. And that is the private sector.

Paddy O said...

Wisconsin became ground zero, I'd argue, because it is a place with strong public employees unions, a budget crisis of some kind, and a newly elected Republican government.

In California, we have a major budget crisis, immensely strong public unions, but maintain a now wholly Democratic government.

So there's no battle because everyone is on the same side.

If it works in Wisconsin, there will probably be more battles elsewhere.

elliot said...

I don't know if busting the unions was Scott Walker's intention, but I hope that's what happens.

Democrats negotiating pay and benefits with the public unions that elect them is like having defense attorneys act as their own prosecutors...it's farcical.

Basically, we're about to find out who runs Wisconsin: the voters or the unions.

reader_iam said...

I don't know if you'd find this Chicago Tribune editorial titled "Lost: The Common Good" precisely on point, but it speaks to some of what you're asking, Althouse.

Note to readers: I'd advise not assuming what's in the editorial without clicking through just because it's the Trib, or for whatever reason.

wv: conses -- sloppy Twitter abbrev for consensus, and I should know ; )

jam said...

It will cost you $10K for benefits for yourself. Without the proposed changes, it would cost the taxpayers $10K for your benefits. It is fair to say that the taxpayers are becoming aware of the fact that funding your benefits is not worth it.

Kurt said...

It became ground zero because of the Madison area's reputation as a leftist bastion and because Obama's front group, Organizing for America, had good contact lists among the unions there. Also, recall that Wisconsin was the first place Obama visited after the state of the union address. For symbolic reasons, he can't afford to be the first Democrat since Mondale to lose in Wisconsin.

tim said...

Ann, I am truly sorry that you are going to take a hit.

For the first time in my 26 years as a working adult, I am without a job. My company got to the point where it just couldn't afford payroll. I assure you I lost way more than $10k.

There is the rub. You have millions of people who have had seismic upsets in their personal economies over the last couple of years and they see those who are being paid with "our" money complaining about having to chip in a couple more points on insurance and pensions. Pension?? What is that?? MOST of us say.

Harsh Pencil said...

I'm going to actually try to answer our hosts questions.

She writes: 1. Is this what the Republicans are really doing? (break the political power of unions)

Yes.


2. How good a political strategy is it?


IMHO, a very good one.

and 3. Is it a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of public employees?


Yes (again, IMHO).

This is much like Obamacare in the following sense: Political power is fleeting. Thus when you have the opportunity, it makes sense to do structural changes that can't be easily undone. Obamacare changes the relationship between the citizens and the state in a way that helps the left. Crushing public unions likewise is hard to undo (even if/when the democrats regain power, I'm not sure they will put back collective bargaining and face getting blamed for future budgetary shortfalls resulting from this). And it helps Republicans. And it has the added benefit of actually being good policy (unlike Obamacare).

Paddy O said...

However, it should be argued that Gov. Arnold went to battle against the public unions early in his administration. There were repeated ballot measures aimed at pretty much exactly this point.

He was defeated soundly. More than this he was entirely routed. He went to battle, waged a good fight, lost, was defeated in act and soul. Joined with the other side.

Schwarzenegger was our Josephus.

Emil said...

Not to worry Ann, all the shizzle people buy from Amazon after being directed there by your site will kick the big spiff (the vig) back to you which will more than offset these increased deductions.

Scott M said...

So is the new fairy tale that Wisconsin magically solved its budget problems on the eve of Walker taking office?

Ditto. I'm not grasping the math the NYT uses (fuzzy?) to claim that, but for a Walker GOP giveaway, the budget would have generated a surplus.

05612610-39fc-11e0-bac2-000f20980440 said...

http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lfb/Misc/2011_01_31Vos&Darling.pdf

Sofa King said...

It really is odd that Wisconsin became ground zero, because we didn't have the budget disaster that was going on conspicuously in some of the other states.

WHAT?!

I can see that the union propaganda is having an effect.

First of all. It is not true that we would have a "surplus" if not for the Walker tax cuts (some of which are only effective if, tax revenues are expanded in other areas through, e.g., increased employment). The NY Times (and the Cap Time Op-ed it is parroting) are not considering all the *unappropriated* expenditures that the state is on the hook for, which are considerable.

Second, they are talking ONLY about the CURRENT FISCAL PERIOD, which has already received huge infusions of stimulus and one-time federal aid. The coming budget has a gargantuan budget hole, which will have to be dealt with "real soon now" anyways. The coming budget is an unqualified disaster.

Please see http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Wisconsin_state_budget

Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott M said...

However, it should be argued that Gov. Arnold went to battle against the public unions early in his administration.

He was defeated soundly.

What was the makeup of the legislative body at the time?

Lisa said...

Take a look at Michigan.

Last year, we had a 3% mandatory fee imposed upon teachers to pay for teacher retiree healthcare. Only the bill that created this fee explicitly states that we have no right to expect access to health care upon retirement so I could conceivably pay this 3% for 25 years and then get 0 health care when I retire even though that is what that money is supposed to be paying for.

Last year, we took pay cuts (again) because the state cut per pupil funding (yet again).

This year, our new Republican Governor has proposed a budget which involves taxing pensions (which I support... after all, if they tax social security, pensions can be taxed), a mandatory 5% cut in public employee salaries, mandatory payment of 20% of health care premiums (I already pay more than this but many districts, including my own, have traded wage increases for health care over the last several negotiations), a 700 per pupil cut in spending and a huge gift to businesses.

The pension tax would have balanced the budget entirely if it weren't for the tax cuts for businesses. Despite the claim otherwise, there is zero evidence that cutting taxes for business increases salaries or opens jobs.

This action across the nation is designed to destroy public unions and public education.

All I know is that there are kids leaving universities today who walk out making more money than I do with a Bachelor's and no experience, GM is giving out $4,000 in bonuses this year to its line workers and yet somehow my pitiful salary is outrageous.

Our governor raised the salaries for everyone he brought in because you need the 'best people'. Yet apparently you don't in education.

Our priorities are messed up.

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

When the public employess unionize, the unions collect union dues. The union dues are used to get more Democrats elected. The Democrats expand government, which increases more union dues, which is used to finance more Democrat campaigns. It's a vicious and corrupt cycle.

It's a guaranteed source of finance to fund Democrat campaigns. And it means anytime Democrats control the purse strings, there is no incentive to ever reduce government spending. They just keep sucking more and more out of the private sector to expand the public sector for the purpose of financing more Democratic campaigns.

I honestly think this is why Obama's Organizing for America is now involved. If this corrupt system of using public sector union dues to finance Democratic campaigns collapses, a huge source of financing for Democrats goes away.

Henry said...

Paddy O. wrote Schwarzenegger was our Josephus.

Great analogy! All we need is Terminator's memoir.

reader_iam said...

There are many who've experienced way, way more than a $10,000 drop in actual salary, let alone paying way, way more for benefits of all types, benefits which often aren't as good to begin with--all this, with far, far, far less job security. It's a hard sell, at least from my point of view, to make the case that the time hasn't come for some serious reform, up to and including minimizing--in the sense of placing boundaries on--the role of private-sector type unions for public-sector jobholders.

And I'm not even hard right... .

Lem said...

So maybe we public employees in Wisconsin are a great target — a great starting place for what is a national movement by the Republicans.

A brand new conspiracy theory..

(Althouse is trying to trow her liberal readership a bone.. she got nothing ;)

Rick Caird said...

I am still trying to figure out how the NYT can describe tax breaks worth $117 million as being enough to close a gap of $5.4 billion. My math says it is short by a factor of nearly 50.

The NYT must be using some if that thar' new math. Either that, or we have a new window into their thought process and we can see why they are no longer profitable.

My word verification is "nopooke" which sounds like a description of the NYT.

The Crack Emcee said...

I voted for Walker and support many of the things the Republicans are trying to do, but this budget plan — as I said — will cost me more than $10,000 a year.

Two things;

1) Don't forget that "it looks astoundingly low to outsiders" part.

2) It seems to be catching on in other states, so, yeah, I'd say it's a good strategy.

DaveW said...

1) Yes. 2) Very good. 3) Without doubt.

Union members don't vote for republicans anyway. A quick google returns 12.4% union membership nation wide (NYTimes 2008). Union members have built in increases in salary and benefits whether the economy is up or down and the economy has been down for going on 3 years now.

Private sector employees are struggling with sky-high unemployment and little or no increases for several years. Social security has gone without a COLA for 2 years in a row.

So the vast majority of people in the country - the people paying public sector salaries - are struggling through a huge economic downturn while the public sector has continued to expand and is whining about having to make tiny contributions to their own retirement or health care packages.

It's good politics and beyond that it's good policy. Demanding that unemployed people, many facing foreclosure, pay higher taxes to lard the trough for public employees is ill considered and astonishingly greedy.

Lisa said...

As for the political graft piece, how is this any different than corporations giving republicans lots of funding and getting tax cuts or pork spending in return?

rhhardin said...

Wisconsin's mistake is failure to tax, in other words.

Unions even in the private sector are an abomination, an abrogation of rule of law.

Nobody can force you to negotiate with them if you don't want to.

In the public sector, it's corruption from the first, because the two sides of the negotiation are not adversaries in the matter.

Why Wisconsin, because you have to start somewhere.

The Crack Emcee said...

By the way, your admission of how much it's costing you personally is commendable, so I'm commending you on it:

That's the kind of clear-eyed honesty I'd like to see more of.

slarrow said...

1) Whatever the answer is, it's going to be speculative without some inside information of strategy sessions. My inclination would be to say that Republicans aren't that smart (painfully admitted as a GOP guy), but the Wisconsin bunch may be an exception (or having a really good year.)

2) I think it's an excellent political strategy. For one thing, it's a long-term strategy to fracture an opposing political group. Members of unions usually aren't hard-left Democratic cronies, but their leaders sure seem to be. Remove that power and influence, and the money and views of the rank and file can't be hijacked into positions antithetical to your party.

The other half is that while there's lots of political advantage in it, it really does address the serious fiscal problem states have on the horizon (or right in front of them, for some.) Having all these obligations considered sacrosanct and untouchable will bankrupt states. States need flexibility, and union contracts reduce that. So it tastes good and is good for you.

3) It is a good idea to reduce the power of public employees, on principle. We have a name for people who seek power through government involvement. They're called "politicians", and we have elections to hold them accountable. Having people in government seeking greater wealth and power without those controls is dangerous to a society. You can't pretend to be just another constituent group when you're a part of the system.

holdfast said...

It's not that they public employees mostly vote Democrat - that would probably happen anyway. It's that the unions provide massive support to Dem candidates in the form of both cash and labor. Basically they are bribing the people who are likely to become their management - and who will then need to retain the goodwill of the unions to stay as management.

As long as the economy was ticking along ok, Joe Average didn't get too fussed - sure if he thought about it he might be a bit miffed over the generosity of their health plans as his premiums went up by at least 10% a year, but Americans are generally a generous and fair people, most prfering to find their own success rather than covet their neighbor's.

Now with private sector wages frozen or falling, 10% unemployment and health insurance premiums going up like a rocket, people are paying attention to public sector workers DEMANDING their annual wage hikes.

Also, I think the perception was always that government jobs had better bennies but lower pay, so it was a fair tradeoff. With private sector wage stagnation, it's now often better wages, better bennies, earlier retirement and unfirable until then. Plus tax hikes already happening at the state and local level, and looming at the federal level, to pay for all that.

So maybe the GOP is lighting the spark, but the swivel servants piled the kindling and then soaked it in petrol.

Lem said...

to throw her.. sorry. I'm a tea spelling partier.

morningp said...

The figure of $117 million in the report was for health costs. The NYT, as usual, lied.

Browndog said...

I question whether the professor spoke out against the run-away public unions along the way, preceeding this budget crisis?

Does anyone in Wisconsin remember this:

Wisconsin Lame-Duck Democrats Bust a Jailbird Out to Vote on Union Contracts

Here's a quick reminder of what everyone seems to have forgotten, since it was so very, very long ago-

http://www.ntu.org/governmentbytes/wisconsins-wild-lame-duck.html

chuck said...

Someone has to pay the public employees. So the tax breaks are what Obama might call investments. Except they might produce actual returns. I myself would like to have a private healthcare savings account as the money would be there even if I lost my job. Having health care tied to employment is an unfortunate aspect of the current set up and I don't think government health care is a good replacement.

Did the Republicans invent the funding crisis as a wedge issue? I don't think so, it was just lying there waiting for someone to deal with it before the state went bankrupt. And I do expect some states to go bankrupt in all but the legal sense. It isn't an issue confined to Wisconsin, nor even the US.

Mike said...

$10,000? That's all? I would have expected your contributions to be more.

Scott M said...

As for the political graft piece, how is this any different than corporations giving republicans lots of funding and getting tax cuts or pork spending in return?

Because corporations do the same thing for Democrats, for starters. Try as I might, I can't think of an entity on the right that feeds directly from the government trough like the public sector unions do, that vote overwhelmingly GOP, and that the GOP then increases spending for.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

1. Is this what the Republicans are really doing?

It might be what Walker and other local republicans are doing, and they will get encouragement from some at the national level, but I really doubt that it was nationally planned, and there are still far to many big government republicans that would oppose this for their own reasons.

2. How good a political strategy is it?

It has short-term risks of appearing extreme to moderate voters. Those are dwarfed by the long term risks, both to the republicans and the country, of doing nothing.

3. Is it a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of public employees?

It is a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of the government.

tim said...

As for the political graft piece, how is this any different than corporations giving republicans lots of funding and getting tax cuts or pork spending in return?


Huh??

Didn't Wall Street go overwhelmingly for O?

I am pretty sure they did.

Kurt said...

Do you care to substantiate your claim, Lisa, or are you just going to repeat a standard leftist generalization at face value? More corporate money went to the Democrats and the Obama administration in 2008. But perhaps you're not familiar with all the perks the Democrats have given to "the Goldman Sachs" (in the words of the famous xtranormal video).

caplight said...

Didn't the President school us in the cold reality that, "Elections ha consequences," or am I wrong about that.?

wv: oubur=Gov Scott uber alles!

sane_voter said...

The lefties are petrified that if this goes thru in Wisconsin, Wisconsin!, then katy bar the door, as I can see every state where the GOP reigns doing the same thing. And if those states are able to right their budgetary ships faster than their blue cousins, then the red tide will threaten to wash over the rest of the country.

PETER V. BELLA said...

NYT- Consider the source.

Peano said...

this budget plan — as I said — will cost me more than $10,000 a year.

Without that budget plan, your benefits are costing others $10,000 a year. The question is, Why should others be taxed to pay for your benefits?

kathleen said...

I really don't mean to be insulting, but your three questions show astounding, stupefying naivete. Why on earth do you assume this is a matter of Republican political strategy? The money that was promised you is not there. It will never be there. The promise was a lie.

reader_iam said...

Not hard right was supposed to be a quip--to state it plain, I'm of what I guess most would say the mushy muddle, though I do tend to vote conservatively for national offices, and more conservatively for state-wide offices than local ones.

Original Mike said...

"...we didn't have the budget disaster that was going on conspicuously in some of the other states."

I don't think that's right. My understanding is that there was a big deficit in the current biennium that was papered over with one time fixes. The Republicans are claiming that the projected deficit in the next biennium is something like $3.8 billion. Now I've seen claims that this is inflated due to "baseline budgeting" (it is to Walker's advantage to make the deficit look as big as possible), but the deficit is large in any case. In fact, Wisconsin is right up there with the likes of California in terms of the size of the deficit compared to the budget.

I am not as well schooled in this as I could be, so maybe I have it wrong (and would appreciate being corrected if need be).

slarrow said...

By the way, if there is indeed a national movement to bust public unions, it isn't starting in Wisconsin. It started in New Jersey.

Lem said...

Chris Christie has proposed reforming tenure here in NJ..

Walker got nothing on Chris Christie.

rdkraus said...

Already good answers to the 3 questions (one more and you've got Passover).

As to ground zero, I think the key is Walker's approach. He's not "negotiating" around the edges here and there. He went right in with the knife to the heart of the problem and went after the unions in a way they know will really hurt them. Not just now, but in future negotiations when nobody is looking.

AA is certainly right that when we unwashed private employers/ees look at the meager amounts union workers are being asked to contribute, well, there's not going to be much sympathy there.

roesch-voltaire said...

Not just the NYT but all the state papers that looked at the numbers have reached similar conclusions , and therefore it seems like his goal, and many on this blog, is to eliminate, for starters, the public unions' collective bargaining rights. 2. Walker did not run on this issue, but seems to have mis-read the significance of his victory and this strategy to divide the middle class may back fire. Already a broad range of citizens from the fire fighters to members of the Green Bay Packers have come out in support of public employees.3. And to be fair, we will have to pay more for our insurance-- for myself about $120 more per month for health and of course more for retirement.3. But there is a danger in reducing economic base too drastically as it will affect all the businesses in Wisconsin. Imagine what will happen when 300,000 folks start leaving the Walker tip: %10 less for meals and new purchases.

SteveR said...

Having worked in both the public and private sectors, the current overall advantage to being employed in the public sector, is very clear. To deny that is just dishonest. There used to be a salary disadvantage but that's not generally true anymore.

If you just consider the retirement options alone, its a slam dunk. The bottom line is if you don't like the deal, go find a better job. None of these people are irreplaceable

reader_iam said...

And if those states are able to right their budgetary ships faster than their blue cousins, then the red tide will threaten to wash over the rest of the country.

I think this is certainly why WI is getting so much attention, both in terms of media coverage and involvement of other outside forces, such as national unions and, if the reports are true (and I'm recalling something I read the other day accurately) such organizations as the DNC.

Whether it's a deliberate strategy by Republicans--or more precisely, if that was the deliberate strategy at the outset of all this--I don't really know. But if it wasn't part of a deliberate strategy at the outset, I'd strongly suspect it is now... .

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

I'd like to add another perspective to this - one from a non-union public employee sector.

I work in Higher Ed at a 4 year state college in Washington. I am a non-union "exempt" employee who is paid below market wages for the work I do, but I don't complain about it. I have a job, after all, and there are many people out here who don't.

However, since the budget crisis hit this state a few years back, I have received zero merit raises, I now contribute more to my 401K while the state has cut the amount it also contributes, I am facing a salary reduction, and "furlough" days, and I had to switch medical benefit plans because the state got rid of my nice one and gave me crappier options.

However, also in that time, my union co-workers have continued to receive step increases, cost of living adjustments, a continuation of their "cadillac" benefits packages, no furlough days, and when CBA negotiations come around again I know they plan to give up nothing, and will most likely ask for more. How the democrat governor and legislature - supported wholeheartedly by these same unions in campaigns - will respond remains to be seen.

I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to feel any sympathy for public sector union employees. Difficult, indeed.

Scott M said...

Without that budget plan, your benefits are costing others $10,000 a year. The question is, Why should others be taxed to pay for your benefits?

Would you ask the same of soldiers/sailors/marines/airmen?

AJ Lynch said...

Like I said yesterday, your state's spending grew by 77% in the 8 years between 2003 and 2011.

Can the NYT blame Walker for that type of unsustainable growth? Did the NYT's revenue grow by 77%? Did the average Cheeshead's income grow by 77%?

Darren Duvall said...

I am a self-employed physician. I pay both sides of FICA and Medicare as well as 100% of my health insurance premiums and retirement savings. Should the government actually decide to cut Medicare to meet the SGR requirements, I will take a 32% cut on Medicare work I do. Since all of the managed care & insurance contracts we work with are multiples of Medicare's RUC charges, those will decline by 32% as well. This is over and above the normal ratcheting-down by insurance companies who annually seek to pay less for the same services and Medicare imposing its annual haircut on professional services. This year, Medicare is cutting professional fees for my specialty by about 10%, unrelated to the SGR cuts of 32% that are pending in about 10 months.

I actually support the Medicare reductions even though it will cost me far more than the budget plan will cost you, with the caveat that the cuts actually make a difference in the federal budget. I think most people are willing to sacrifice if their sacrifice means something. While I have great faith in the government's ability to cut my pay, I have very little faith in its ability follow through and use what it declines to pay me to stop the bleeding at the federal budget level.

At least the WI budget plan that calls for a sacrifice from you will actually address your state budget shortfall. I am pretty sure that my share of the Medicare SGR cuts coming in the next year will end up earmarked for high speed rail or some other boondoggle, and my kids will have that much dimmer a future despite the work I perform at lower reimbursement.

Dad29 said...

The NYT ignores the $3.5Bn+ 'structural' deficit--which was NOT created by Walker--in order to make its first point.

By the way, that $3.5Bn+ does not include Wisconsin's debt to the Feds for Unemployment Comp borrowings...

The issue is very simple: there ain't no money. And if Walker wanted to GET the money, Jesse James would tell him that it will come only from the middle class. (See tax theory 101.)

Granted: Thompson, too, was part of this problem, increasing State employment by ~50% during his reign. And let's not forget that bargaining was never done "at arms' length" because all Government employees got the benefits won by the unions.

But the party's over. The country, over the last 30 years, has spent its wad.

Public employees are the last ones to find out. I am (truly) sorry that this has to happen; I have a lot of friends and relatives in government jobs.

But who's kidding whom?

Lem said...

..according to the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state would have had a surplus.

I'm with Gov Mitch of Indiana..

There is no such thing as a "surplus".. whenever there is a savings you return it to the taxpayers.. its the taxpayers money.

That ought to be the law of the land.

JAL said...

When the state runs out of money in x years who is going to pay those pensions?

Just askin.

People who can't get jobs because business doesn't trust the government or the unions might like a modest chance at becoming economically 'independent' again without owing their soul to the "company store".

Slavery comes in different flavors, you know.

MnMark said...

Why is there even a University of Wisconsin Law School anyway? Why is the state government in the business of educating students to go into business as lawyers? How is that a state interest? We don't have a School of Plumbing at UW, do we?

Students can go get educated in the legal trade from some school operating in the free market. If there was ever a reason back in the 19th century to have a public university in the business of training people for careers like law, it has disappeared. I don't see why I should pay taxes for law professors' salaries and health plans and pensions so they can train a bunch of lawyers to go out and skin me in the marketplace.

holdfast said...

&Lisa

I get that this is not your fault, and must seem tremendously unfair (unless you were the math teacher to anyone who grew up to work in management in GM or Chrysler, in which case it is all your fault), but it is really just a taste of what the rest of us have been experiencing for 3+ years now - friends laid off, compensation shrinking and more work to cover for those laid off. Welcome to the party, pal.

Also, I don't know the details of the business tax cuts, but don't you think that Michigan could use some more business activity? Without business, no taxpayers at all to pay your salary.

AJ Lynch said...

Also, did the state's population grow by 77%? No, it grew by maybe 3-4%.

MadisonMan said...

It will cost you $10K for benefits for yourself. Without the proposed changes, it would cost the taxpayers $10K for your benefits.

That would be true if Althouse's salary was paid for by state taxpayers. I suspect it is more likely paid for by law students and their tuition.

So $10K less is paid to Althouse, the Law School gets to keep the extra $10K, and restaurants and businesses lose out on a potential $10K. And the tax on Althouse's income drops as well.

Some of this is offset -- partially -- by the end of furlough days, if they are indeed gone in the next budget. I never believe a budget number until it's passed.

Given the drop in discretionary spending that will inevitably come out of this (necessary) change, I don't see how Walker will create 250K jobs as Restaurants and Tourist places cut back.

David said...

There are vast numbers of public employees, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Once elected, the Democrats create more and more public jobs with greater and greater benefits, and, consequently, more voters who are even more locked into voting for Democrats. This is a cycle that approaches political graft, and the Republicans, to win, must overcome all those passionate, self-interested Democratic voters.

Yes.

But of course this is only one aspect of the graft. There are also industry subsidies, grants and programs of nearly every description for private industry and social and political interest groups, graft for science, graft in military contracting, environmental graft, graft for "racial justice," graft for education, graft for art, etc. etc.

Government spending, especially at the federal level, has become a massive enterprise to create constituencies for bureaucrats and elected officials. The Republicans and the Democrats do it. The Democrats are more sanctimonious about it, and have captured certain groups (unions, race, higher education) almost exclusively, but they are hardly alone in the scam.

David said...

And the elderly. Of course.

AJ Lynch said...

Let's face facts. The baby boomer pols have charged everything on the govt credit card for the last 30 years and the credit line is now maxed out. Gonna take ten years to pay it off.

MadisonMan said...

Why is there even a University of Wisconsin Law School anyway?

Because it makes money for the state?

Why should Wisconsin residents have to take their money elsewhere to be educated in law if that's what they want to do?

I think I'm only out about $5K with the new changes -- a little more than $100 more a month for health care, and $300 a month for retirement. It's almost enough to make me scale back my 403-B contributions.

David said...

MnMark said...
"Why is there even a University of Wisconsin Law School anyway?"

Because law schools can actually generate a profit. Why do you suppose so many were formed in the last 20 years?

Sofa King said...

Imagine what will happen when 300,000 folks start leaving the Walker tip: %10 less for meals and new purchases.

Does that logic apply to taxpayers whose taxes go up to pay those union employees too? Or is discretionary spending by government employees the only important discretionary spending?

WV: anger
Yeah, you could say that.

PETER V. BELLA said...

1.) I do not know if it is an over all political strategy. The voters- including you- elected the Governor and legislature. You knew what you were getting. Walker claims if the he does not get his bill passed he will be forced to lay off 6000 workers. Is it a strategy or a delicate balancing act? It may cost you 10 grand. The alternative is costing the livelihoods of 6000 people.


2.) How good the strategy is depends on how the electorate views it over time- not just a portion of it. What are the alternatives- more and higher taxes, mass layoffs, reduction in critical core services, reduction in services to the most vulnerable? Bottom line is how much is the electorate going to "suffer" or pay versus making public employees put skin in the game.

3.)It is good to level the playing field. Unions- private and public sectors- have way too much political power and sway. They are no longer unions- in the sense of standing up for employee rights. They are political organizations and a direct wing of a political party. They also have way to much influence in the Department of Labor- to the point there is no objectivity left.

I have not seen what the opposition strategy is- except to shut down the Wisconsin government. What are their alternatives? Or are they just the new party of no?

Sofa King said...

Because it makes money for the state?

Oh! So why not have the state manufacture cheese too, and run the grocery stores! If that's a sufficient justification, why not just make every profitable business a state-owned enterprise?

John said...

Lisa said:

This action across the nation is designed to destroy public unions and public education.


I say:

Sounds good to me. Especially the destroying public education part.

Lisa, I gather you are a teacher? If so, what is your degree in?

John Henry

garage mahal said...

The Republicans are claiming that the projected deficit in the next biennium is something like $3.8 billion.

The $3.6 billion deficit claim is bogus, that's based on $3.9 billion in agency requests. The difference between the amount requested for the 2009-2011 budget and the amount actually allocated was almost $3.5 billion, the amount nearly identical to Walker's alleged "deficit" for the next budget cycle. State agencies had requested a 9.7% increase but were actually granted a reduction of 2.6%.

Mickey said...

False choice. "Reducing the economic power of public employees" is not a good or bad idea. Public employees will be paid what the market says they'll be paid.

Or am I understanding this wrong? Is Scott Walker trying to get public employees to be paid below market equilibrium price?

Scott M said...

Gonna take ten years to pay it off.

Longer, much longer, if they insist on borrowing to pay off debt. The biggest problem there, as shown by Frank Gibbs 2.0, is that they won't even admit there's interest payments without being forced to, or how it gimmicks the entire concept of trying to operate from a budget.

There ain't no money left

Self-interest is a very, very powerful thing indeed. It's clouding over the logic and common sense of otherwise perfectly functional adults.

Real American said...

Maybe Walker can just blame George W Bush for all of the state's problems. Maybe Demoncrats will understand.

slarrow said...

So $10K less is paid to Althouse, the Law School gets to keep the extra $10K, and restaurants and businesses lose out on a potential $10K. And the tax on Althouse's income drops as well.

But you're assuming here that the $10K just disappears. It doesn't. It simply doesn't go to Althouse. Perhaps it does stay with the Law School which puts into circulation in some other way, or it stays in the hands of people who pay taxes or tuition who decide to use it to satisfy their needs and wants. Maybe instead of ending up in Madison, it ends up in Wisconsin Dells. Tough for Madison businesses, but just fine for the Dells.

AJ Lynch said...

AA/ Mad Man:

You should be happy that they are shoring up your pension fund and will have less worry that it will run dry when you are retired. You may view the pension ding more as added savings than added expense.

BarrySanders20 said...

We are at the tail end of the current budget, expiring on June 30, 2011. The only reason that deficit is not much worse is due to federal stimulus and budget tricks such as raiding the medical malpractice fund (which the WI Supreme Court ordered be re-paid $200,000,000).

Wisconsin's projected budget deficit needs to be viewed for the period of July 1, 2011-June 30, 2013. For that time period, it is $3,600,000,000. Divided by Wisconsin's population, that come to about $700 per person in the state.

Per capita, this is less than some of the worst states such as Cali and NY and Conn, which range from $800-1,100 per capita deficit estimates. But Wisconsin is still in the top 10 of worst budget deficits.

Whether this justifies Walker's prescription is up to the voters.

Ann might have to pay more, but it's about time. Nobody even talks about defined benefit pensions in the real world anymore. It's 401(k) plans out here, which are largely self-funded defined contribution plans. That is, we defer current income to save for our own retirement, if we can.

The absurd promises of the past have caught up to today's public workers. The same discussion needs to be had on a federal level with Medicare, Medicaid and SS.

MnMark said...

The governor should send people out to take photographs of all of the demonstrators and announce that any teacher caught demonstrating after having called in as sick will be fired.

MadisonMan said...

When the state runs out of money in x years who is going to pay those pensions?

Just askin.

When the stock market tanked during the Bush Administration, the amount of pension my FIL received dropped. The State did not step in and say "Here's some money so you don't go cold". Wisconsin's pension fund is separated from the Legislature, as in they can't borrow from it. So to some extent it's isolated from budget woes -- unless the Stock Market really crashes. Still, it's a pretty diversified portfolio. I mentioned last week that they are Facebook's landlord.

I'm not certain if the funding going in is sufficient for the future given the anemic growth of the US Economy, although the WRS Board is investing overseas too. The funding going in isn't being changed by the Budget Repair Bill, anyway, just the source of the funding.

So to answer your question: If the State runs out of money, then the pensions come from where they've always come from: Returns on investment. I don't know if that's how it works in other states. I suspect not.

Triangle Man said...

Some of this is offset -- partially -- by the end of furlough days, if they are indeed gone in the next budget. I never believe a budget number until it's passed.

The pinch in the next four months is going to come from "catch up" payments for the health insurance premium increase plus the retirement payments while the furlough reductions are still in place. At the high end, people can probably absorb the additional $300+5.8% per month, but it's going to seriously hurt some folks at the lower end of the pay scale.

Peano said...

Peano said: Without that budget plan, your benefits are costing others $10,000 a year. The question is, Why should others be taxed to pay for your benefits?

Scott M replied: Would you ask the same of soldiers/sailors/marines/airmen?

No. There is no free-market alternative to the military. There is a free-market alternative to government-subsidized education.

Triangle Man said...

The governor should send people out to take photographs of all of the demonstrators and announce that any teacher caught demonstrating after having called in as sick will be fired.

You're about three days late on that idea MnMark. Why don't you go back through the other posts and try and catch up?

michaele said...

I know you realize that many people have had to recalculate the amount they are having to set aside to fund their upcoming retirements. Times are tough.

Class factotum said...

My uncle, who is a captain for Delta airlines, took a 32% pay cut just to keep his job a few years ago.

My husband has not had a raise in years. His department has lost half its staff through layoffs, but the workload has not decreased at all. He works ~70 hours a week. No OT.

I am having a hard time feeling sympathetic to government employees being asked to contribute a fraction of what we in the private sector pay for our benefits.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

I don't see how Walker will create 250K jobs as Restaurants and Tourist places cut back.

He won't unless Wisconsin can find some way to increase private sector employment.

But the bigger problem with public sector employees is that by definition, they take more out of the economy that they put back into to it. Tips or not.

That doesn't mean that I think public sector workers are a bad thing. They are obviously necessary. However, their numbers should be minimized. And we should never kid ourselves that public sector employment will somehow lead to economic nirvana. The math just doesn't add up.

MarkW said...

this budget plan — as I said — will cost me more than $10,000 a year

No it won't. Not in the long term, anyway. Unlike unionized public employees whose wages are driven above market rates by pay-for-play politics and collective bargaining, university professors are paid competitive, market-rate wages. So UW will have to come up with the cash to make up the increase in benefit costs or it will start losing professors to private schools or public schools in other state that pay more.

shiloh said...

Not to worry Ann, all the shizzle people buy from Amazon after being directed there by your site will kick the big spiff (the vig) back to you which will more than offset these increased deductions.

Too funny!

Bottom line, as long as Ann makes at least (1) post daily to her Google blog, she's a happy camper!

John said...

I am glad to see you post how much this will cost you Ann. It put a bit more perspective on it.

I assume that the $10m is coming out of your gross pay. If so, assuming that you pay a marginal 35% or so tax rate, your actual out of pocket cost will only be about $6,500.

I feel a bit nosy asking this now but it would have been more useful had you posted the percentage hit you will take on your gross rather than the amount.

A DMV worker taking a $10m hit on a $35m gross (almost 33%) is considerably worse off than a law prof making 6 figures taking a $10m hit. If you make $100m, it would be a 10% hit.

And, since you pay a higher tax rate, more of the hit will be covered by foregone taxes.


John Henry

Lincolntf said...

The Democrats (and to a far lesser extent, the Republicans) have created an unsustainable system. Anyone who cares a whit about the future knows that the public employee unions have to be stopped if we expect our country to function normally. They've progressed from dipping into their children's piggy banks to opening bank accounts in their names and bouncing checks.
We've seen the true face of greed, and it's the same face your kids have to stare at every day.

MnMark said...

Why should Wisconsin residents have to take their money elsewhere to be educated in law if that's what they want to do?

Why in the world would they need to "take their money elsewhere" to get a law education? Go to a private law school! If UW Law were to close, there would be room in the marketplace for several new probably cheaper private schools for Wisconsin customers.

By your logic, the state should get into every profitable business...which would destroy the private sector in every area the state entered, since a private business can't compete against the state's power to force taxpayers to absorb losses. What you advocate is essentially communism: the state owning the means of production.

But you'll say "how ridiculous, I'm not suggesting the state take over all business." No, you're only suggesting it belongs in the profitable ones. Same thing.

Original Mike said...

@garage: I hope what you say is true, because then we're in better shape than I thought. Can you provide link(s)?

Drew said...

GM is giving out $4,000 in bonuses this year to its line workers and yet somehow my pitiful salary is outrageous.

Remember that GM is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the government. If you think of it as another Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac sort of thing, then it makes sense. The government looks out for its own first and foremost.

William said...

Althouse is closer to the end than the beginning. She seems a prudent person who has put a little aside. The $10,000 loss will, of coure, hurt, but that money will purchase that final luxury--that pearl necklace above the cashmere--the sense of nobility. I don't mean this as a personal criticism. The world would be better served if more geezers aimed for nobility in their emiritus years, but it is a luxury product that not everyone can afford......I would feel better about teachers if there were some students protesting in favor of the Governor. It really seems manipulative and base to use these kids as pawns in a civil service dispute. Teachers have a lot of influence over students. In this case it does not seem that they are using that influence to teach independence of thought or neutrality in cases where they have an obvious interest. As a tactic this will backfire against the teachers.

jr565 said...

Why are libs and union members so selfish, and place themselves above the plight of the common working man?
Why should the state go down to pay for benefits that are far outside the norm and which private sectors employees would give a left testicle to get.
Teachers in Wisconsin, I hope the governor does decide to bust the union and throw you all out on your ass.

Brian said...

Ann or Meade or anyone else,

I am listening to Vicky McKenna and she says the capitol building is trashed. Any photos to confirm or deny?

Jason (the commenter) said...

This is a rhetorical trick, and a self-serving one at that.

Looked at another way, the New York Times is saying public employees have to be protected at the expense of the rest of the people in the state of Wisconsin. Those budget cuts which unbalanced the budget went to help everyone else get jobs. There are limited resources. You can help the unemployed, or the people who live off of tax dollars.

I was not surprised to see which side the New York Times chose. I'm sure the Times is very unhappy at the thought of thousands of public employees having to deal with a reduced budget, and taking a second look at what they pay for newspaper subscriptions!

dogzilla said...

The state in which I live is Democrat/Progressive and, as a result, every 6th person works in a state or municipal job. Therefore, we're awash with union members. Naturally, to pay for all this our taxes are high and our private sector unemployment is huge because the smart money won't do business here.

Last year, my home was devalued by 7% but my property taxes have increased. Even my 18 year old car is being taxed again, after a moratorium on property taxes for automobiles over 10 years old.

I am self-employed and my income has been cut almost in half. My husband has taken a job in another state. Neither of us has had a salary increase to speak of since 2007 and we co-pay our health care through his job. We don't have pensions and our 401(k) was smashed to bits like everyone else's. We feel blessed to be working at this point when so many around us are not.

In the face of all that I am left to wonder how much more in entitlements does the public-sector think the rest of us can afford, especially if we're unemployed or under-employed? Many of us are paying more and earning equal to, or less than we earned a few years ago. Why are unions entitled to more benefits and security than those of us who are paying the bills?

Doesn't this sense of entitlement place unions in the same privileged class as the politicians who helped us create this mess? They pandered to unions and promised things that taxpayers can no longer afford. Union workers are now finally faced with the cold realities the rest of us had to confront a few years ago. Why should I be forced to live on less and pay more for the goodies unions have come to expect? I am not sure how this is going to turn out well for anyone without a hard reality-check by unions and their members.

MnMark said...

The interesting thing about being alive at this time in American history is that despite all the shouting back and forth across political lines (which let's face it, almost never changes anyone's mind) we are with mathematical certainty approaching a time when there simply is no money to pay for all this government that the libs have grown since Wilson and FDR. It is going to be so interesting to see what happens then. Do we slide into being another Cuba, another backwater failed socialist state? Do we have a Darwinian kill-off of the weak, leaving a bunch of John Galt types to re-found a free nation of free-enterprise lovers?

The power of compounding interest and the prevailing culture of "government should protect us from all financial harm" are on a collision course, and I am fascinated to see what happens.

garage mahal said...

OM--
State Rep Mark Pocan's blog

Then click over to the Fiscal Bureau website.

MadisonMan said...

sofa king: The State DOES make cheese, and it's delicious! It's sold at Babcock Hall here on campus.

PatCA said...

The boomer demographic is like a horse passing through a python. It distorts the fundamentals. I'm one of them, and a public employee who has taken a hit and will take another soon, and I say that's fine. I would rather adjust now than when I'm 75 because I believe that our pension/medical systems are NOT financially sound.

Walker's investment (to use O's word) in business will pay off in jobs and tax revenues; shoveling money into the pension hole will produce nothing.

It is a great strategy, mainly because it is the right strategy. The state garnishes our wages for union dues and sends them directly to the union--Walker is refusing to act as their collection agent any more. It is bribery, pure and simple. When I filed suit (and won) against fair share union fees, discovery revealed that 80-85% of "dues" went to Dem campaigns and PACs, the rest to representing employees.

If Walker and the GOP succeed, maybe I will have a sound pension. Maybe the drunks and the nappers I have worked with will feel the chill wind of accountability. These are the people, the "collective," who are protected by "collective bargaining," so yes, it's a good idea to reduce their influence.

It's gone too far. Go Walker!

edutcher said...

This is all happening because of the fiscal crisis not only nationally, but in many states.

So 1 - No, Walker is obligated by law to balance the budget. He has no choice and the Gray Lady is lying (surprise!).

2- Given what the American people are seeing, it's going to be golden. The Lefties and the Demos are probably going to look back on '09 - '12 the way the Wehrmacht looks back on Barbarossa.

3 - Even Franklin Roosevelt was against the idea of public sector unions. You work for government, it's service, not like a regular job. Also, as holdfast noted, "government jobs had better bennies but lower pay". That was the deal and people thought it fair because it was public service. Now it's grab as much as you can and the union slugs demonstrate for higher taxes, so the working stiff tends to get a tad resentful.

DaveW said...

Union members don't vote for republicans anyway.

A lot of union guys were Reagan Democrats, but wouldn't say so publicly, out of fear.

Probably the same now.

Henry said...

roesch-voltaire wrote: Already a broad range of citizens from the fire fighters to members of the Green Bay Packers have come out in support of public employees.

You do realize that this "broad range of citizens" is just two different unionized shops.

Though, from what I've read, baseball players tend to be more loyal to their union than football players to theirs.

What's the Brewers' players' position?

I'm a Shaaaaark said...

"Some of what I've heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they're just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain, generally, seems like more of an assault on unions," Obama told the local reporter. "I think everybody's got to make some adjustments, but I think it's also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens." - Obama

"I think it's also important to recognize that our states and our citizens make enormous contributions to public employees." - I'm A Shaaaaark

Sofa King said...

Then click over to the Fiscal Bureau website.

Great! All we have to do is get more one-time federal stimulus spending!

AllenS said...

Lisa,

Is the New York Times a corporation? Are ABC, NCB, CBS corporations? Is GE a corporation? How about General Motors, is that a corporation? Who do these corporations give the most money to, Republicans or Democrats?

Drew said...

I have a sense that this NY Times article is merely passing along a union lie.

http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/feb/01/one-wisconsin-now/one-wisconsin-now-says-scott-walker-and-legislatur/

I think I know why "Diamond Jim" Doyle decided not to run for re-election. He saw that the shit was about to hit the fan, and he ran away like so many Democrat State Senators.

When Obama got in office, all we heard from Democrats that poor, beleaguered Obama now had to enact crazy stimulus spending because of evil George Bush.

But somehow our financial shit-storm is all Walker's fault, not Jim Doyle's?

Peano said...

...will cost me more than $10,000 a year.

Boo hoo.

patsy said...

The cost of 10K per year to you is about 1/2 of my pension after working in the private sector for over 35 years. Every year my pension is cut into due to higher medical co-pays and I get less coverage. I am hanging on by my teeth and the unions want us to pay higher taxes so that benefits will not change for them. What is that about? The public be damned I guess but let's pillage and plunder first and make sure they have nothing left in their wallets.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

members of the Green Bay Packers have come out in support of public employees

Well I guess it's settled then! Has anyone asked the Milwaukee Admirals for their opinion?

Issob Morocco said...

Your question misses the point of unsustainable state employee pensions and healthcare benefits. I know the hit to you, but to someone who has lost their job because the company could not continue, a $10K cut looks pretty good. Hissy fit is an accurate description of the privileged union classes' reaction to a small upward change in their costs. Something those of us in the private sector see each year, especially on healthcare. And which I might point out, Obama and the Dems did nothing to solve with the passage of Obamacare.

Kristo Miettinen said...

Ann, I'll answer (as best I can) your three numbered questions, but first an answer to one of your rhetorical questions. You say/ask "It really is odd that Wisconsin became ground zero, because we didn't have the budget disaster that was going on conspicuously in some of the other states. I'm really trying to understand this. Why Wisconsin?"

This, to me, puts the effect before the cause. Reform is not triggered by crisis; crises are averted by reform. Therefore, the reason this is happening in Wisconsin now is because Wisconsin has a strong bipartisan tradition of good government. Timely reform is a symptom of good government. The reason this is not happening in your "other states" is that they have lost their traditions of good (modest, prudent) government. That is also why they are in crisis.

To your numbered questions:

1. Is this what the Republicans are really doing?

I doubt it. I think that Republicans, at least those in Wisconsin and similar places, want to fight for a respectable minority share of the public employee vote rather than write it off completely. Modesty and prudence resonate with many people; for every two people who angily say "hands off my money!" there is a third who quietly wonders "am I really getting only my fair share, or is this too much?" Many public employees are very aware of how little marketable value they have in the private sector, and that their pay is not set by any market mechanism.

2. How good a political strategy is it?

The answer is very location-specific. In big cities, not so much. In states dominated by their big cities, ditto. But in sparsely populated states with only smallish cities? Maybe quite good.

3. Is it a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of public employees?

I would answer a related but different question: I can see allowing public employees civil service protections, and I can see allowing them collective bargaining, but I cannot see both together. The underlying premises of the two sorts of protection stand fundamentally in contradiction. Civil service protection presumes that public employees are to be protected by being depoliticized; collective bargaining presumes that public employees are to be protected by being hyperpoliticized. We ought not allow both.

Original Mike said...

"You should be happy that they are shoring up your pension fund and will have less worry that it will run dry when you are retired. You may view the pension ding more as added savings than added expense."

I absolutely agree.

Original Mike said...

@garage: Thanks. I'll check it out.

MadisonMan said...

there would be room in the marketplace for several new probably cheaper private schools for Wisconsin customers.

There is a private Law School in WI already -- at Marquette.

Let me know when you discover that it's cheaper.

Pastafarian said...

Lisa said: "how is this any different than corporations giving republicans lots of funding and getting tax cuts or pork spending in return?"

You're asking what the difference is between:

a) Public employees demanding ever-higher wages and benefits, and using those wages to elect people who give them what they want, by taking it out of the pockets of businesses and their employees;

and:

b) Businesses using some of their own money to help elect people who allow them to keep more of that money, instead of having it "spread around a little bit."

Really?

You don't see the difference there?

I guess I should expect that from someone who thinks allowing taxpayers to keep more of THEIR OWN FUCKING MONEY is a "giveaway".

theMom said...

I don't have time to read all your commenters, so I'm sorry if all this has already been said. I would like to share this opinion from a rural Madison area ex-dairy farmer, a friend of mine who very aptly portrays the opinions of the "Joe the Plummer" conservatives. Please understand it was a rant. This friend was blowing off steam. I think it expresses well the opinions of those who support Gov. Walker.

"Everyone is whining about our Gov. Scott Walker. You would think that he had fired all those poor public servants! Oh my goodness. When everyone else in the entire country is being laid off, fired, loosing their businesses, and going broke, filing bankruptcy, our poor, poor state employees are crying in their paychecks about the loss of collective bargaining..... Show me one time when a farmer had an opportunity to bargain for anything? How about you, Mary? Did Joe and you get to go to the bargaining table every 2 years and demand more and more..... Do you get benefits for life? Our state and county employees do! Now Gov. Walker is asking them to pay in some of their own pension and health benefits. You would think the sky was falling. I wonder if they really think that the masses will feel sorry for them? Get real! Sign up for unemployment and see how you like it! Or better yet, be a small business owner (like yours truly) and not qualify for unemployment when you finally get told by the bank after a life time of slave labor that you can not have a loan to operate anymore. How would they like it if Gov. Walker pulled the rug out from under them like that? Oh most people just tell us, "You could have sold out sooner, no one made you stay in farming!!!!!" WELL NO ONE IS MAKING THEM STAY EMPLOYEES OF THE STATE!!!! GO GET A JOB IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR AND SEE HOW YOU LIKE IT!...I will need another nitroglycerin if I have to read one more sappy whining word from those spoiled snot nosed brats. They all need to be spanked."

My husband is a pastor in NW MN. We both attended UW-Madison. But as the writer of the above rant said, I can't really feel sorry, even for you, Ann. We can't even afford to have a pension. We put away $100 in our regular savings each month and a whopping $25 dollars in our long term investments. The amount you're losing is nearly 1/3 of our annual income. Many Americans live closer to how I and the above friend live, than within the WI gov't employee standards for salaries and pensions.

We have to scrimp and save and squeeze every cent out of every dollar we make in order to keep up with the constantly rising cost of living.

I pay almost $7000 a year, constantly rising, out of our already limited income, for health insurance with a $20,000 deductible. Yes, $20,000. We are covered in case of anything major, but mostly our $7000 is just down the tubes. We rarely go to the doctor, since every visit is an expense. When I deliver a child (or anything) I ask first about the expenses of various meds and procedures, so that I'm prepared to make those decisions based upon cost.

I love your blog and respect your opinions; even when they are different than my own, they are always well thought. But again, I can't feel sorry when gov't employees are asked to share in the cuts all of us have to make. And when the benefits are already WAY beyond my imagining, it's hard to squeeze out any sympathetic tears.

MadisonMan said...

You should be happy that they are shoring up your pension fund

How are they shoring it up? The amounts being paid in aren't changing.

Sofa King said...

@garage: Thanks. I'll check it out

Please note that appropriations did not fall as Pocan insinuates, (in fact they increased considerably), rather actual GPR expenditures did because the federal government bailed out the state. Unless this happens again, the state will have to come up with the GPR revenues for the whole lot.

Lisa said...

So businesses are allowed to use their money to elect people but people aren't?

Is your problem with unions funding politicians that you don't like who they support or you don't like individuals pooling their resources to support someone?

Businesses get PORK Spending from their money and they get tax cuts... ie., they pay less than their fair share. Either way it means more money to them. It is no different.

Scott M said...

@theMom

Well, that'll hopefully put it into a little perspective for some hereabouts.

michangelo said...

Aren't they doing it because they can? I mean, they have the governorship and the legislature. In Wisconsin. If not then, when?

Bruce Hayden said...

So I see 3 questions: 1. Is this what the Republicans are really doing? 2. How good a political strategy is it? and 3. Is it a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of public employees?

Ann - Extremely good questions.

1. Not sure how much intent there was in doing this before the election. Government unions have been a problem for quite awhile, but were most often thought a necessary evil.

2. I think very good, and even better that it is happening with the Republicans fresh off of a big electoral victory. So, by the time many of them are back up for election, the animosity that this has engendered will likely have dissipated a bit.

Government employees in general, and unionized government employees in particular, have gotten on the wrong side of the American public over the last couple of years. A lot of Obama's "stimulus" plan went indirectly to bail them out, and governments at all levels have continued to hire (at least up until just recently) and give raises to their government employees at a time when the rest of the country has been devastated by this recession. And, there sure is the appearance of unionized government employees saying FU to the rest of us.

Compounding this, is all the talk about how public pensions are effectively bankrupt, but since those pensions are sacrosanct, then they will have to be paid out of general revenues. And that means, that (mostly Democratic) politicians cranked up public employee benefits when times were good, in trade for votes, and then made sure that they couldn't be reduced when times were bad.

So, yes, the strategy is good. There is a lot of anger out there right now against public employees, and in particular unionized public employees who have used their political muscle to grab outsized benefits, in trade for political support for the politicians providing the perks and benies. The rest of the populace has suffered, and they have been protected, and maybe even benefited, from it.

3. Yes, it is a very good idea to reduce the power of public employees, and, in particular, public employee unions. They are a great part of the reason that the budgets of most of the states are in dire financial shape. I would suggest that the public employee retirement systems are really the biggest part of this, providing extremely generous benefits, with much less work, and then having those locked in, overriding all other spending needs of the state and local governments.

MadisonMan said...

And again, if someone has a link that shows the Wisconsin Pension fund is in dire need of money, I'd love to read about it.

Sofa King said...

Lisa -

What are you on about? Nobody at all is talking about taking away the ability of public employees to pool their resources, form a union, and lobby anybody they want.

What we are talking about is taking away their ability to monopolize labor negotiations with the state. That's something that NO OTHER corporation gets.

MnMark said...

There is a private Law School in WI already -- at Marquette.

Let me know when you discover that it's cheaper.


Are you purposely being dense?

When there's giant government entities in a market, it kills off the cheap private competitors. The only private ones who can survive are the ones who offer premium "exclusive" high-priced services. Get rid of the giant public below-cost options and there is room for a RANGE of private options, from the super-cheap Walmart-equivalent law school to the super-premium exclusive law school.

Kirby Olson said...

It makes government employees easy targets when to be one you almost have to be a Democrat. Same is true for the universities.

Ten thousand is a lot, but we don't know how much you make exactly, or what your expenses come to.

I'm just saying if you make 200 grand a year, that's no problem. What percentage of your income is the ten grand? That's what I'd need to know.

So far it hasn't come to this in NY state, but yet may. We have a Republican governor (Baby Cuomo). Had we gotten the other guy, he would be going to town with the budget axe trying to chop down the beanstalk of the left that the government has become, and trying to kill its geese that lay all the golden eggs, and perhaps take the lyre to the pawn shop.

No one knows quite what we have at present.

mark buehner said...

Another way of looking at it is that you are being compensated $10,000 too much- certainly more than a comparable private sector employee. You have great bennies and they are expensive? No kidding. The rest of us face that every day. When you have to pay for your gold plated benefits you start asking if maybe you could get by with something a little less comprehensive.

Rich B said...

From last November, the projections were for a deficit of $1.5 billion plus. See http://politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2010/nov/29/jim-doyle/gov-jim-doyle-says-wisconsins-projected-budget-sho/

How did that become "nearly in balance except for that scoundrel Walker"? Something is fishy.

Original Mike said...

@garage: So that just says requests aren't the same as what gets approved. Granted. Here's a question: If we don't increase spending in the upcoming biennium above the previous one (i.e. 0% increase), do revenues cover that or is there a shorfall? I there's a shortfall, how much is it in absolute terms and relative to the size of the budget?

Bruce Hayden said...

I would answer a related but different question: I can see allowing public employees civil service protections, and I can see allowing them collective bargaining, but I cannot see both together. The underlying premises of the two sorts of protection stand fundamentally in contradiction. Civil service protection presumes that public employees are to be protected by being depoliticized; collective bargaining presumes that public employees are to be protected by being hyperpoliticized. We ought not allow both.

I am not sure that I would have stated it this way, but I think that this is a good insight.

Why do we need public employee unions in the first place?

I think that we see that public employees probably have too much bargaining power, not too little. And the unions just make this worse. Much worse.

And, the fact that they now make political tradeoffs with politicians to get better salaries, protections, and benefits, in trade for getting the politicians elected is corrupt. Especially since the ones paying for this are the rest of us.

Calypso Facto said...

Funny link to Pocan, garage, who in the LAST budget cycle said:

“[Doyle's] budget proposal rises to the challenge of the national economic crisis and our historic state deficit ..."

That's the SAME structural deficit Walker inherited, so....? Pocan couldn't be just playing politics, could he?!?

Emil said...

Let's not kid ourselves. Of all of the folks visible on television screens protesting at the capitol - exactly 0 of them voted for Walker or Republican candidates. I'd say, look at the 2nd congressional district and see how many elected officials at any level are Republicans.

This battle, politically, is essentially the rest of the state v. the 2nd District. So far the media attention has been on the 2nd District Democrats and all the minions they can bus in.

The dog that is not barking in this situation is the rest of the state. There is no visible component to the vast majority of voters and taxpayers in the state who are in direct opposition to these protesters, but happen to be at home or at work and are not visible as they express their opposition to this protest effort.

Unfortunately in the world of cable news, the "if we can show it it is news, if we cannot show it it is not news" perspective has skewed the interpretation of these protests. These are a vocal and surely visible minority who are being heard. November 2010 was a different situation. Politics is the the answer to the question "Who decides?" And, in the Wisconsin Legislature, for the next two years, at least, it's the Republicans. I think they are big winners in this - as long as they do not fold.

Fred said...

The question that should be asked: Are state employees being paid more than the market will bear? In other words Ann, will you (and other state workers) seek a different job after this cut takes place?

I suspect for 99% of them, the answer will be no. The state should be supplying a pay and benefits package that is good enough to attract qualified candidates. I do not see any news reports about how the state is having a hard time finding workers.

Pastafarian said...

Lisa said: "So businesses are allowed to use their money to elect people but people aren't?"

No, use your money all you want. But know this: If you're a public employee, then the public is your boss, and determines your pay and benefits. And the public has spoken, and hired new middle-management to break the news. You don't like it, go out and get a productive job, and welcome to the real world.

And:

"Is your problem with unions funding politicians that you don't like who they support or you don't like individuals pooling their resources to support someone?"

My problem is with the unionization of a group that pretends to be professionals, and expects to be paid like professionals, despite the fact that they work 9 months out of the year and 7 hours out of the day, and behave like the children they're paid to babysit, by attempting to extort the public.

"Businesses get PORK Spending from their money and they get tax cuts... ie., they pay less than their fair share. Either way it means more money to them. It is no different."

Again, businesses' fair share is determined by the public, and not just union shit-heels, and apparently enough of the public in WI has seen what a bang-up job you Michituckians have done with your state economy (just this side of Zimbabwe), and they've chosen not to follow you down the road to ruin.

Original Mike said...

@MM: It's my understanding that the Wisconsin pension system is in better shape than almost any other state Iif I was at my other computer, I could provide a link). It was funded at almost 100% before the market crash. Haven't seen new numbers since then, but the market has also recovered since then, so it still should be pretty good. They do use overly optimistic invetment return assumptions (just like everybody else), so there is room for improvement. But it is not in crisis mode like some other states.

ricpic said...

How is Walker, as a Republican, playing games if the state budget deficit is $5.4 billion? Wouldn't business as usual under such circumstance be the height of irresponsibility?

Calypso Facto said...

There is no visible component to the vast majority of voters and taxpayers in the state who are in direct opposition to these protesters

Tea Party rally tomorrow at the capitol. Wish I were going to be in town to attend.

holdfast said...

@Lisa

Ah, you seemed so reasonable at first, but not you're being an idiot. Please tell me you don't teach anything more important than Home Ec or Wood Shop? Please?

So businesses are allowed to use their money to elect people but people aren't?

So I suppose that any conservative members of your union are not people, since their mandatory dues are going to support candidates that they may oppose? Your union leadership may be made up of individual people, but how is your union "people"? Anyway, if teachers and other state workers, as individuals want to donate to Dems, then go ahead. The fact that in order to become teachers, a noble vocation (at least in theory) they are required to join a union (anti-competitive anyone?) and thereby contribute to politicians that they may oppose, and who just happen to be the ones who set their salaries, is all kinds of wrong.

MnMark said...

Great quote: The unions, the teachers, and the President are defending the Brezhnev doctrine here. "The armies of socialism march in only one direction." If elections give them what THEY want, elections are fine. If not, they are meaningless.

Bruce Hayden said...

Let me add in my response to why it is a good idea or good politics, that if there were a trap laid here, the unions walked right into the trap. Their influence and power has always before been pretty much below most people's radar.

But this time around, we have a bunch of union members ignoring their primary responsibility to advocate for their own benefit, doing that at a time when everyone else has suffered much more than they have in this recession, and then lying about what they are doing to their employers so that they can get paid for it. And, the school districts go along with that, by canceling classes.

It really shows where all of their priorities are, school boards as well as teachers union members. Not where they are advertised to be - the children they are supposed to be educating, but for their own selfish benefit.

m stone said...

You should not count contributions to your pension as a loss. You GAIN it at retirement, probably at an increase. The only loss you incur is absorbing more health insurance costs, not $10,000.

MadisonMan said...

OMike, that's my understanding too, I don't understand a lot of the pension woe bashing here on althouse.

We need a state tag on every commenter.

DADvocate said...

What you, Ann, will pay for health insurance is about what I pay now for so-so coverage. Co-pays and deductibles probably cost me another $2,500 per year.

I don't think Republicans are trying to drive a wedge between public employees and others. Government is too big and too expensive. Something has to give. Plenty of us don't carea a lot for the typical public employee due to our experiences interacting with them whether it be in collge or at the DMV. My experience working in state government was worse than dealing with them as a private citizen. Tons of incompetence, apathy and laziness.

Since I don't believe this to be the case, discussing the strategy is moot.

A better scenario to cutting benefits is cutting personnel. Hopefully this will be done gradually over the years to minimize any negative impact.

CJinPA said...

had it not been for those decisions and a few others, according to the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the state would have had a surplus.

This is NOT about this, or any other, budget year/surplus. This is overdue fundamental change that will provide benefits for years.

Not sure about Wis., but I serve on a school board in PA, and this is the current reality:

1. You hire teachers at pay dictated by union pressure.
2. Taxpayers then pay for 'continuing education' for teachers which...increases their pay.
3. The increased pay...increases their pension payments.
4. Repeat.

This is not sustainable.

MadisonMan said...

How is Walker, as a Republican, playing games if the state budget deficit is $5.4 billion?

Right there is the problem.

No one knows what the budget deficit is. $3B? $5.4B? The past Governors have been horrible at paying for things. I'm not sure if I include Tony Earl in that group, but certainly everyone since.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Once elected, the Democrats create more and more public jobs with greater and greater benefits, and, consequently, more voters who are even more locked into voting for Democrats.

Well if the Democrats can persuade the majority of the electorate to fund these greater benefits of public employees with ever inceasing portions of the electorate's wages then more power to them.

rmc said...

Ann, I think you've got the denominator wrong on the pension contributions. It's not that we're paying 5.8% of the pension contribution, but 5.8% of our salary *as* a pension contribution. Here's how I read it (I'm also a UW employee.)

Before 2011, the contribution to our Wisc. Retiremet Sys. pension was 11.6% of our gross(ish) salary, and that 11.6% was *completely* paid by the state, none by the employee. Effectively, my salary was 11.6% higher than my paycheck said, but that 11.6% was paid into my WRS account. There's no option to for that 11.6% to be take-home pay.

If I my regular salary was $40k, the state paid an extra $4640 into WRS for me. Heckuva deal and painless.

Because of ongoing investment losses by the pension board, they started a mandatory deduction of 0.2% of our salary for WRS contribution. I believe that the split became 11.4% from the state, and 0.2% from the employee. So they'd take $80 from my salary, match it with $4580 from the state, and put the $4640 into WRS. Still a heckuva deal, and 99.8% painless.

Walker's plan is that the state and employee contributions should be the same: 5.8% of salary. That would mean they'd take $2320 out of my paycheck, match it with another $2320, and put the $4640 into WRS. I'd get a 5.8% salary cut affecting my take-home pay, but my pension would add up as usual.

I know that that's still a good pension deal compared to most people, and that the state needs to fix its budget. Among the more reasonable people I've talked to, the opposition is to the sudden cut in pay (starting in April) and the double whammy of this on top of the previous governor's 4% furlough cuts that run through June. If this kicked in for July when the furloughs end, or if the state's pension portion was cut and then gradually shifted to us, it'd be easier to take. But the former doesn't help with the current crisis, and the latter is probably controlled by the pension regulations.

rsb said...

Yes,no,and yes.

mark buehner said...

The teachers union want tax increases to pay for their contracts. Well and good. Lets tax teacher benefits to the level of the average worker. Problem solved, we're all on equal footing... except for those summer off. Gonna have to talk about that I think.

PatCA said...

Lisa,
Public employees have NO CHOICE in whether to give money to politicians. The money is deducted from our paycheck and then delivered to the union leadership. We never see the money. We never get to vote on who they give it to. Businesses and corporations and individuals CHOOSE who to give money to based on what they think they will get out of it.

Do you understand the difference?

jr565 said...

Aww the plan will cost Anne more than 10,000 a year. Her earning an extra 10,000 a year will be one of the reasons the state will be in the red this year. Considering the vast majority have to actually pay for said benefits, it's hard for them to cry when they see teachers benefits simply come in line with what everyone else earns.
They've had to tighten their belts, maybe now it's Anne's turn.

Alcuria said...

Bruce Hayden at 11:42 Am: It really shows where all of their priorities are, school boards as well as teachers union members. Not where they are advertised to be - the children they are supposed to be educating, but for their own selfish benefit.

Excellent point. You should hear some of the stuff that is said at regional conferences of school board members. There's plenty of boards that turtle during contract negotiations, with excuses such as "I don't want picketers at my house", "we don't want there to be tension in the community", etc.

Add to that the claim that if teachers are not paid competitively, they will go to a neighboring district to work. Based on personal observation in my little part of the world, that is false. Teachers that receive tenure are much less likely to leave (for reasons other than retirement, obviously) than teachers who are still in a probationary period. In many states, tenure conveys a property interest to a teacher and one that is very valuable - and teachers know that.

Boards of Education are very much part of the issue in many localities because they set the parameters for salary and benefits prior to negotiation.

former law student said...

10 years ago I paid $3K for a family HMO insurance plan. Now I pay $11K for the same type of plan but with a much higher deductible and higher co-pays.

Welcome to being ten years older.

Between 20 and 40 most people use (or used, 20 or more years ago) a minimal amount of medical care. But once you hit 40, the number of serious illnesses in the population starts ramping up.

The other factor is the new pharmaceuticals that work, but at a high price. A single dose of some chinese hamster medicine from Genesplice might cost $500.

Sofa King said...

OMike, that's my understanding too, I don't understand a lot of the pension woe bashing here on althouse.

Uh, you do know the state pension fund is not the only public pension in the state, right?

Do you remember how Scott Walker got his political start in Milwaukee County?

pbAndj said...

If we assume that blogging is already (sort of) a second job for Althouse. I think she should get a third job, to make up for the lost income.

Perhaps a barista.

Although, the Madison libs may be cutting back on lattes soon, as their pay is decreased. Espresso could be a contracting business in Madison.

OTOH, since the cops (being political pals w/ the Gov) are sitting pretty (when their not running after D politicians), maybe they'll move up to pastries and espresso, as the libs move to doughnuts and coffee. [As if the cops haven't already made the move up. I know that they have in my hood.]

shiloh said...

If elections give them what THEY want, elections are fine. If not, they are meaningless.

How many times did Rep senators use the filibuster in the 111th congress ?!?

btw, it's damn convenient lol Reps don't have to skip town in order to cancel a vote ie the (((will of the people))) as the filibuster is now part of senate procedures, eh.

A distinction w/out a difference when talkin' about what's happening in WI, eh.

hmm, wonder what the Founding Fathers would think about the filibuster ~ America surviving for (235) years notwithstanding.

>

Yea, Reps were crying a river 2009/2010 and now it's the Dem's turn.

The yin and yang of America's totally dysfunctional govt.

Did I mention America survives despite itself!

carry on

Rick said...

1. Yes, society will benefit from isolating the freeloading government worker unions, which are destroying state economies, and which are anti-merit and anti-competitive.
2. It is an excellent political strategy: In addition to leading to positive substantive improvement of state economies, this strategy energizes masses of formerly quiet citizens who saw no hope in breaking the strangle-hold of government workers.
3. Yes: See above.

Rick67 said...

Okay so Walker gave tax breaks and incentives. *How did that affect revenue?* The NYT casually assumes that was money "spent" that was "taken" from public workers. But that ain't necessarily so.

Speaking of self-interest... My wife used to work for the state before becoming a public school teacher 5(?) years ago. We voted for Blanco over Jindal because Jindal in the governor's office could mean (although highly unlikely) her position being reduced or eliminated. Pure self-interest.

We know how that turned out don't we?

Ankur said...

Scott M said.."Would you ask the same of soldiers/sailors/marines/airmen?
"

You hit on a very critical point right here, friend.

Hagar said...

Ann's questions are based on the fallacy that government employees - of which she is one - do productive work. They do not. They are overhead.

Now, I work for a small engineering consulting firm. Under current rules, my boss has to charge approximately 2.5 times my salary for my services in order for him to break even, i.e., the overhead to keep me working costs 1.5 times as much as I do.

Some years ago we did a small job for one of the National Laboratories. The engineering dept. at the Laboratory charged their organization, i.e. the Government, 4.5 times our total fee to merely review the plans and specifications I drew up.

See anything wrong with this picture?
My services - the only productive ones in this - just will not support this kind of overhead. You can hide it in the bureaucratic maze for a while, but eventually the system must crash.

Bruce Hayden said...

My experience working in state government was worse than dealing with them as a private citizen. Tons of incompetence, apathy and laziness.

In my callow youth, I worked for both a city (Denver) as well as the feds, and found the former to be far more corrupt. After the people I worked with got of probation, they seemed to work maybe 4 hours a day. We would be in the office for an hour our two in the morning, and then wouldn't show up again until the next day. It was obvious, after awhile, that they just went home at noon, and then did something else.

chuckR said...

Pluleeze. $117MM to encourage business to expand and for people to provide their own damn health insurance, versus a deficit that the first page of google results tells me is somewhere between $2.7 and $5.4 billion? Definition of inconsequential. As is the NYT - which can't die soon enough.

wv: baffske - what I think the Donks and unions are if they think their antics garner sympathy

MadisonMan said...

the opposition is to the sudden cut in pay (starting in April) and the double whammy of this on top of the previous governor's 4% furlough cuts that run through June.

I know plenty of people who live more on a financial edge than I, and the unexpected change in income will be wrenching.

My opposition to Walker's bill centers solely on the removal of Collective Bargaining for teachers, which is an intrusion by the State into something that should be decided at a local level. Why doesn't the Governor simply tighten the spigot of money running from the state to local School Boards (I know this is coming in the next Budget, so it's not really a hypothetical)? Then each local School District can decide how to handle the shortfall. Why does the State fear local control?

If I were Governor, here's what I would do:

(1) Cut everything by an equal amount. How fair is that! Let the Managers who are paid to manage deal with it.
(2) Eliminate some Departments and Programs.
(3) Cut Legislative employees in half, at least. Legislative employees exist to write laws. We have enough already.
(4) THEN -- once the Departments and Programs were well and truly dead and gone -- then I would cut taxes.

virgil xenophon said...

To all those here who wonder why law schools exist, the answer is simple: The "official" PR reason is to insure the public will be served by minimally qualified people. The REAL reason is to limit the number of lawyers (believe it or not) so as to keep fees up. In days past (the 30s at least) all one had to do is "read law" and pass the bar exam; ipso facto proof of one's competency. Louisiana's Huey Long never went to a law school, yet read law, passed the bar exam, and even argued cases before the Supreme Court (and brilliantly so,btw)

So the question is: Since some law school's graduating classes have a bar exam failure rate >50% of what use are law schools? I think I know the answer Ann would give, but I'll just repeat what a member of the bar and fraternity brother once told me: "Easy. They teach you how to make money."

garage mahal said...

do revenues cover that or is there a shorfall? I there's a shortfall, how much is it in absolute terms and relative to the size of the budget?

yea I've slogged through dozens of articles trying to find the real number, and certainly a good chunk of the requests will have to be approved. It seems the budget is in much better shape than two years ago, and according to the Fiscal Bureau the state will end the year with a balance of $121.4 million. Bottom line is you can't rely on Walker for any real numbers

Bruce Hayden said...

Interesting article from Professor Bainbridge on unionized government employees.

For example, from that right wing illumninary FDR:

"Meticulous attention," the president insisted in 1937, "should be paid to the special relations and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government....The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service." The reason? F.D.R. believed that "[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable."

Bainbridge also points out that:

In effect, public sector unionism thus means that representatives of the union will often be on both sides of the collective bargaining table. On the one side, the de jure union leaders. On the other side, the bought and paid for politicians. No wonder public sector union wages and benefits are breaking the back of state budgets. They are bargaining with themselves rather than with an arms'-length opponent.

And, talking about incestuous relationships, Bainbridge has a link back to Ann's blog.

Jacq said...

No, Anne, it wouldn't cost you $10,000; it will cost us $10,000 less.

virgil xenophon said...

Oh, and about the taxpayer funding of the armed services? People are a) simply paying protection money to the feds so they won't be drafted and b) buying insurance premiums against being enslaved by foreign powers. Any other questions?

Kristo Miettinen said...

Shiloh,

Name one Republican filibuster from the 111th congress, if you can (hint: there was one, but it got no press and quickly folded).

Cloture votes are not filibusters. And with the supermajority that Reid often had at his disposal, Dems went straight to cloture just because they could.

shiloh said...

KM

Again, a distinction w/out a difference ie a delay tactic!

take care

CJinPA said...

So, how many of these government workers are being laid off again?

Rick67 said...

Oh and I don't think Ann's mention of what she stands to lose was a complaint or asking for sympathy. Rather the opposite. Clearly she's saying "Walker's proposal hurts *me* financially - and yet I see the sense in this and see problems with the stand being taken by these protesters". It's the classic case (making a small assumption about her opinion on this) of caring about the common good over personal self-interest.

Now in fairness - and this is *not* a dig on the excellent professor - a cut of 10% or so will hurt someone making $30,000 far more than someone making $100,000. People with higher incomes generally have more disposable income (many living expenses are relatively fixed - no matter one's income) and can absorb the loss more easily. It might mean cutting back on some luxuries and non-essentials. For a person with lower income - who is just making ends meet - a 10% cut could be a disaster.

This happened to us several years ago. The boss said "I'm not asking for a raise this year - I suggest you all do the same". Well that's all good and fine for someone making twice what I make. He won't have as much to fix his in-ground swimming pool. Me? It meant taking my kids out of after-school care because we couldn't afford it any more and rearranging our work schedules to pick them up immediately after school.

Pay cuts at lower ends of the pay scale *do* hurt more. This does not obviate Ann's point.

JAL said...

@PatCA I filed suit (and won) against fair share union fees, discovery revealed that 80-85% of "dues" went to Dem campaigns and PACs, the rest to representing employees.

Bingo. Bingo.
And double that double Bingo!

cokaygne said...

Question 1: yes, the Republicans are doing this right of the bat to get the upper hand. If it succeeds in a state as liberal as WI, think about the impact in IL, MN, MI, and so on. Democrats would lose some serious money, and it is about the money from public unions more than just their votes.

Question 2: it is a tough call, but it may not be a good national strategy because it is too much too soon and voters hate partisan political conflict. It doesn't matter who started it, the unions will still provide funds, votes and manpower, but independents and moderates will be disgusted by the whole spectacle and stay home.

Question 3: it may be a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of public unions, but not this much. Most public employees just want to do their jobs. Walker is targeting them as much as the malcontents and union bosses.

Original Mike said...

"Ann, I think you've got the denominator wrong on the pension contributions. It's not that we're paying 5.8% of the pension contribution, but 5.8% of our salary *as* a pension contribution."

This is correct, but for Althouse it does come to about $10k (assuming her salary which has been bandied about here is correct), so I think she gets it but worded the post incorrectly.

holdfast said...

@MadMan

That was a very reasoned post, but here is a question - why are teachers able to organize at the state or national level, yet they are bargaining with local school districts, some of them quite small and frankly kind of amateurish? Seems like there is a bit of a power disparity there. The teachers union is able to bring huge, national-level resources in manpower, advertising and money to bear on a single fight with a specific school board - sort of like a couple of poor Iraqi troopers facing off against a company of M1A2s.

So maybe a compromise is the ability to bargain and organize at the local level but no more, and/or state help for school districts and caps on their ability to raise local taxes to stiffen their spines a bit, a la Christie.

Revenant said...

1. Is this what the Republicans are really doing? 2. How good a political strategy is it? and 3. Is it a good idea to reduce the political and economic power of public employees?

1. Yes.

2. It is a VERY good strategy. Private sector unemployment is chronic and not improving, while the public sector remains cushy and stable.

3. Yes.

MnMark said...

To all those here who wonder why law schools exist....

I didn't ask why law schools exist. I asked why a state government-run, partially-taxpayer-funded law school exists.

Rick said...

While I can't speak to the present, in the past, good law schools honed their students' ability to think analytically as well as to become familiar with the historical foundation of our legal system. Armed with that education, most students passed by bar exam, became lawyers, and then spread out into multiple career paths.

Alex said...

Lisa - This action across the nation is designed to destroy public unions and public education.

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

wormme said...

Scott M said.."Would you ask the same of soldiers/sailors/marines/airmen?

Er...I just checked with my Army buddy. He doesn't recall having collective bargaining rights. And protesting a decision by calling in "sick" would have been inadvisible.

I.E.--not the same thing.

Almost Ali said...

It didn't take Feingold long to come out of the worm-eaten woodwork, signaling why "Wisconsin" is only understandable through the Liberal prism.

And isn't it interesting that the chief rabble-rouser in Madison is none other than our community organizer.

Nora said...

"It really is odd that Wisconsin became ground zero, because we didn't have the budget disaster that was going on conspicuously in some of the other states. I'm really trying to understand this."

Prevetion of disaster is far better than dealing with disaster itself. If Walker was Democrate he would be celebrated for his wisdom and foresight (and union were staying at home, as it happens here in WA. I only know how big was teachers pay cut because one of my friends is a teacher), but he is Republican, so Wisconsin should wait for budget disaster, so Walker can be held resposible for it - this is NYT's as well as others leftist media MO.

Merovign said...

It was never whether you (state workers) had to pay for this or that, it was always that we (the public) have to pay for it.

We second class citizens can no longer afford to bear the burden of paying for all the extra goodies that the first class citizens (government workers) get.

And I could not imagine having an iota of respect for people having a temper tantrum and waving Hitler signs over the fact that they now will only get 90% better treatment than me rather than 100% better.

As far as public sector unions are concerned, you can keep them as long as you give up all the extra legal protections and benefits that private sector workers *don't* have, FIRST.

ken in sc said...

Military retirees, like social security claimants, did not receive a COLA increase in the last two years. Not only that, their withholding went up so that their take-home went down. In addition, Tricare supplements added another $100 to the deductible, adding to out-of-pocket medical costs. It's not a $10,000 hit but it's a hit nonetheless. Everybody is going to have to take some hits.

P.S. I did take a $10,000 hit in my 401K and mutual funds.

virgil xenophon said...

@Rick/

Yes, that's along the lines of the sort of reply I would have expected from Ann. And while both theoretically and nominally true enough within its own logic, if < than 50% of graduates of some law schools pass the bar exam on the 1st try, one wonders if perhaps law schools are a) failing on teaching the "analytical ability" bit and b) should skip the historical icing and concentrate on the basics.
It's like my Father used to say about the way businessmen look at the value of a liberal arts degree in prospective employees: "Ok, speak to me in French if you must, but make me a buck."

Historical perspective is nice, but successfully mastering the details of contract law, etc, are a MUST. And THAT may be garnered from books--or else old Huey Long would have never been allowed to argue before the Supreme Court, n'cest-ce pas?

virgil xenophon said...

@Rick, Part II/

Besides, what would happen to all the law school professors and their neat lifestyles if we went back to simply "reading law" and taking the bar exam? It's like the reason college Chemistry Depts fight like hell to keep organic chemistry as a pre-requisite in the pre-med curriculum. Without it 80% of college chemistry professors would be out of a job as easily 80% of all those taking organic chemistry are pre-med students.

Hagar said...

Oh, and the project I wrote about above was never built, since the entire budget for its construction was used up in the planning stage, so the whole thing was a waste - paid for by the taxpayers.

Jim said...

Ann:

At Northwestern Law School, faculty pay 5% of gross income for our basic pension, which is matched by the university, so we pay half of our total pension contribution.

For our best health plan, most tenured faculty pay $9,200-$11,700 a year (depending on salary) for family coverage. Individual coverage is $2,800-$3,600; employee and spouse coverage is $6,144-$7,776.

The amount you would pay for health care ($2,500 a year) is about what we pay for PARKING in the university lot next to the law school.

Still, your losing $10,000 would hurt.

Thanks again, Ann and Meade, for your great reporting.

Jim Lindgren

Oligonicella said...

"I voted for Walker and support many of the things the Republicans are trying to do, but this budget plan — as I said — will cost me more than $10,000 a year."

Do you support the budget plan?

Freeman Hunt said...

It is graft.

The Republicans should set themselves on picking up the votes of the honest public employees who oppose graft even if they benefit and the private employees of all stripes.

Rick said...

My experience is in California, where the bar exam has traditionally been pretty tough, but not unreasonably so. To pass, the applicant needed to have a good knowledge of multiple legal subjects, and ability to apply the law, and an ability to communicate in writing. Law schools that did not produce graduates with those skills had low bar exam passing rates.

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