Scott Walker: A Fiscally Responsible Governor or a Politician Who Is Playing Favorites?

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

There’s been a lot going on in Wisconsin in the past week. I hope most Americans are aware of the reason why so many Wisconsinites have converged on the state capital to hold demonstrations.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, claims that the state is in financial trouble. He’s asking teachers, plow drivers, janitors, nurses, garbage collectors, and other public sector workers to contribute more to their pensions and to pay a larger amount of their health premiums. It appears many of those workers are willing to negotiate with the governor and to consider having more money taken out of their paychecks for their pensions and health insurance. What those employees are not willing to do is relinquish their right to collective bargaining.

I can understand why Governor Walker is asking public employees to have more deductions taken from their paychecks during these fiscally difficult times. What I question is his budget-repair bill that would strip public employees of their right to collective bargaining. If the governor believes that taking away that right will help with the state budget shortfall, why isn’t he demanding that police, firefighters, and state troopers give up their right to collective bargaining too? Could it be political payback? Does that sound like a possibility to you?

Here is an excerpt from an article that Todd Richmond wrote for Bloomberg:

Walker has introduced a bill that would strip public employees across the board — from teachers to snowplow drivers — of their right to collectively bargain for sick leave, vacation, even the hours they work. But absolutely nothing would change for local police, fire departments and the State Patrol.

The bill smacks of political favoritism for public safety unions that supported Walker’s election bid last year and sets up new haves and have-nots in Wisconsin government, said Paul Secunda, a Marquette University professor who specializes in labor law.

“That’s called ‘thank you, I got your back,'” Secunda said. “There’s no surprise there. This is the worst type of favoritism there could be.”

 Well, Wisconsin firefighters are showing their solidarity with their fellow public employees. There’s a post at Mother Jones about an interview that Uptake’s Oliver Dykstra had with Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Professional Firefighters of Wisconsin. (Mother Jones also posted a video of the interview.)

Here are some of the highlights of that interview—which I’ve taken from Mother Jones:

  • “The reason that we are here is because it’s important that labor sticks together. There was a message from the governor’s office to conquer and divide…collective bargaining is not just for us, police and fire, it’s good for all involved. It’s a middle-class upbringing.”
  • “When firefighters see an emergency, one thing we do is respond. And we see an emergency in the house of labor, so that’s why we’re here.”
  • “Every day, if you notice, we lead the AFSCME employees, the SEIU employees, all the public sector employees into the building, because we are here to fight with them.”
  • “Collective bargaining is not about union rights; it’s about rights of workers…We ask Gov. Walker to come back and negotiate with the people, negotiatie with the state workers’ unions, and get things worked out, as opposed to just putting out this bill and we don’t hear from him again.”
  • “Us as firefighters, we have been exempted from this bill…There’s a 5.8 percent pay into the pension, there’s a 12.4 percent pay into the health care premium benefits…For the betterment of the government, for the betterment of the state, we don’t mind helping to pay for that. We don’t want to price ourselves out of a job. Ever. What we want to do is have a fair and equitable treatment among our members.”

I have great respect for the Wisconsin firefighters who are supporting their fellow public employees—even though they have nothing to gain politically or financially by doing so.

“We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” ~Benjamin Franklin


Mother Jones


595 thoughts on “Scott Walker: A Fiscally Responsible Governor or a Politician Who Is Playing Favorites?”

  1. Elaine M.
    1, February 26, 2011 at 9:23 am
    Really Bad Reporting in Wisconsin: Who ‘Contributes’ to Public Workers’ Pensions?


    Elaine M,

    EXCELLENT article. Many thanks.

  2. Elaine,
    Great link to the story about who is paying in to the employees pension plan. As Buddha suggested, the lies are flying out of Walker’s mouth so fast that it is hard to keep them straight. But it is supposed to be the journalist’s job to separate the fact from fiction.
    I am glad to see Walker taking heat for his scurrilous actions and lies.

  3. Latest on the escapades of Scott Walker: He was tossed out of a Madison restaurant when the patrons there booed him. It was first reported by a local blogger, Mind Stain.

    The story has been confirmed (I confirmed it myself which was pretty easy thanks to Teh Google and a phone call). The tavern owners asked Mind Stain to take down the name of the restaurant due to the calls they were getting, some of it hate calls.

    Here is another report on the story (I am not linking to any sites that show the name of the popular restaurant):

    I just had a funny (read: evil) thought. If you were Scott Walker, would you eat or drink something that might have been prepared by a union worker?

  4. Elaine,

    Thus proving the pols and the inept and corporate puppet media are working under the principles of both comedy and propaganda.

    “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” – W.C. Fields.

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” – Joseph Goebbels

  5. From
    Really Bad Reporting in Wisconsin: Who ‘Contributes’ to Public Workers’ Pensions?
    David Cay Johnston | Feb. 24, 2011

    When it comes to improving public understanding of tax policy, nothing has been more troubling than the deeply flawed coverage of the Wisconsin state employees’ fight over collective bargaining.

    Economic nonsense is being reported as fact in most of the news reports on the Wisconsin dispute, the product of a breakdown of skepticism among journalists multiplied by their lack of understanding of basic economic principles.

    Gov. Scott Walker says he wants state workers covered by collective bargaining agreements to “contribute more” to their pension and health insurance plans.

    Accepting Gov. Walker’ s assertions as fact, and failing to check, created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.

    Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’ s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.

    How can that be? Because the “contributions” consist of money that employees chose to take as deferred wages – as pensions when they retire – rather than take immediately in cash. The same is true with the health care plan. If this were not so a serious crime would be taking place, the gift of public funds rather than payment for services.

    Thus, state workers are not being asked to simply “contribute more” to Wisconsin’ s retirement system (or as the argument goes, “pay their fair share” of retirement costs as do employees in Wisconsin’ s private sector who still have pensions and health insurance). They are being asked to accept a cut in their salaries so that the state of Wisconsin can use the money to fill the hole left by tax cuts and reduced audits of corporations in Wisconsin.

    The labor agreements show that the pension plan money is part of the total negotiated compensation. The key phrase, in those agreements I read (emphasis added), is: “The Employer shall contribute on behalf of the employee.” This shows that this is just divvying up the total compensation package, so much for cash wages, so much for paid vacations, so much for retirement, etc.

    The collective bargaining agreements for prosecutors, cops and scientists are all on-line.

    Reporters should sit down, get a cup of coffee and read them. And then they could take what they learn, and what the state website says about fringe benefits, to Gov. Walker and challenge his assumptions.

    And they should point out the very first words the state has posted at a web page on careers as a state employee (emphasis added):

    The fringe benefits offered to State of Wisconsin employees are significant, and are a valuable part of an individual’s compensation package.
    Coverage of the controversy in Wisconsin over unions collective bargaining, and in particular pension plan contributions, contains repeated references to the phrase “contribute more.”

    The key problem is that journalists are assuming that statements by Gov. Scott Walker have basis in fact. Journalists should never accept the premise of a political statement, but often they do, which explains why so much of our public policy is at odds with well-established principles.

    The question journalists should be asking is “who contributes” to the state of Wisconsin’ s pension and health care plans.

    The fact is that all of the money going into these plans belongs to the workers because it is part of the compensation of the state workers. The fact is that the state workers negotiate their total compensation, which they then divvy up between cash wages, paid vacations, health insurance and, yes, pensions. Since the Wisconsin government workers collectively bargained for their compensation, all of the compensation they have bargained for is part of their pay and thus only the workers contribute to the pension plan. This is an indisputable fact.

    Not every news report gets it wrong, but the narrative of the journalistic herd has now been set and is slowly hardening into a concrete falsehood that will distort public understanding of the issue for years to come unless journalists en masse correct their mistakes. From the Associated Press and The New York Times to Wisconsin’s biggest newspaper, and every broadcast report I have heard, reporters again and again and again have written as fact what is nonsense.

  6. From Think Progress (2/25/2011)
    Wisconsin Professors Overwhelmingly Vote To Unionize, Citing Gov. Walker’s ‘Extremist Legislation’

    Today, protests against conservative attempts to strip public employees of their collective bargaining rights continued in Wisconsin and other states across the nation, with new Main Street Movement demonstrations against attacks on the working class planned in both New Jersey and Florida. is planning weekend rallies in all fifty states to “Save the American Dream.”

    This movement began as a response to Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) attempt to strip his state’s public employees of their collective bargaining rights, under the guise of a budget crisis. If Walker and the Republican legislature had their way, Wisconsin’s teachers, government employees, sanitation workers, and public university professors would be essentially barred from bargaining collectively. But in a direct rebuke to Walker, the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse voted overwhelmingly yesterday to join the American Federation of Teachers:

    Faculty at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse voted 249-37 of a unit of 328 in favor of union representation through AFT-Wisconsin, a statewide labor federation affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The vote comes in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker having introduced a budget repair bill that would slash workers’ rights and remove academic staff and faculty’s right to collectively bargain.

    “What we’ve seen at UW-La Crosse today is an extension of what we’ve seen across Wisconsin for the past two weeks,” stated Susan Crutchfield, an associate professor of English. “Like the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who have rallied in Madison, Superior, Fond du Lac, and dozens of other communities across our state, La Crosse faculty stood united today in saying, ‘We deserve a voice in the workplace.’”

    Prof. Crutchfield added that Walker’s union-busting legislation was one of the reasons that the faculty moved to approve the new union. “When it became clear that the governor’s extremist legislation had nothing to do with balancing the budget and everything to do with denying workers’ rights, UW-La Crosse faculty realized the urgency in this vote,” she said.

    Earlier this week, Gallup released a poll showing that 61 percent of Americans oppose Walker’s plan to bust public employee unions. The Plum Line’s Greg Sargent adds that, when these numbers are broken down, only those in the poll’s highest income category support Walker’s proposal, while “low-to-middle class folks all oppose it.”

  7. From The Washington Post (2/25/2011)
    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker threatens to lay off thousands of public workers

    MADISON, WIS. – The jobs of thousands of state and local workers slipped into deeper jeopardy Friday, as Gov. Scott Walker threatened to trigger as many as 12,000 layoffs beginning next week unless lawmakers enact his plan to strip public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights.

    Though unions have offered concessions they say would close the state’s budget gap, Walker remained determined to achieve a resolution that he said would give state and local governments leverage to limit employee costs well into the future.

    Without legislation to pare back employee health-care and pension benefits while repealing most collective bargaining rights for many public employees, Walker said he would be forced to make cuts elsewhere in the budget that could lead to massive numbers of state and local employees losing their jobs.

    “If we want to avoid the layoffs that will eventually come at the state and local level, the only way to achieve that” is to pass the bill, Walker said.

    The layoffs would mark an escalation of a battle that has paralyzed the state capital. Fourteen Democratic state senators have fled Wisconsin to prevent the state Senate from having a quorum for considering the measure. Walker backed off earlier remarks that the layoffs would begin this week.

    Nationally, Walker’s efforts to break the power of public service unions – being replicated to some degree in several other Republican-led states – have thrown public employee unions into an existential crisis.

    As a group, public employees generally earn less than comparably educated private-sector employees, but they tend to enjoy far better health-care and retirement benefits. The issue of their compensation has gained particular resonance at a time when states and municipalities across the country are struggling with huge budget deficits and ballooning costs for employees’ health-care and pension obligations.

    The controversy has lifted Walker to national prominence, and he says he is determined to make Wisconsin a leader in remaking the way state and local governments deal with their employees.

  8. From Democracy Now (2/22/2011)
    Matt Taibbi: “Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?”
    “Nobody goes to jail,” writes Matt Taibbi in the new issue of Rolling Stone magazine. “This is the mantra of the financial-crisis era, one that saw virtually every major bank and financial company on Wall Street embroiled in obscene criminal scandals that impoverished millions and collectively destroyed hundreds of billions, in fact, trillions of dollars of the world’s wealth.” Taibbi explains how the American people have been defrauded by Wall Street investors and how the financial crisis is connected to the situations in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio

    AMY GOODMAN: We’re seeing these mass protests in Madison, Wisconsin, and there’s other protests that are happening. We see the working poor, the middle class, under tremendous stress, and yet they’re the ones who are being hit hardest, not Wall Street. Explain what has happened. Why isn’t Wall Street in jail?

    MATT TAIBBI: Well, it’s an incredible story. I mean, just to back up and provide some context, I think, for this Wisconsin thing, and especially for the Ohio thing, given what their governor used to do for a living—

    AMY GOODMAN: Explain.

    MATT TAIBBI: Well, he was an employee for Lehman Brothers, and he was—

    AMY GOODMAN: This is Governor Kasich.

    MATT TAIBBI: Governor Kasich, yeah, and he was intimately involved with selling—getting the state of Ohio’s pension fund to invest in Lehman Brothers and buy mortgage-backed securities. And of course they lost all that money. And this, broadly, was really what the mortgage bubble and the financial crisis was all about. It was essentially a gigantic criminal fraud scheme where all the banks were taking mismarked mortgage-backed securities, very, very dangerous, toxic subprime loans, they were chopping them up and then packaging them as AAA-rated investments, and then selling them to state pension funds, to insurance companies, to Chinese banks and Dutch banks and Icelandic banks. And, of course, these things were blowing up, and all those funds were going broke. But what they’re doing now is they’re blaming the people who were collecting these pensions—they’re blaming the workers, they’re blaming the firemen, they’re blaming the policemen—whereas, in reality, they were actually the victims of this fraud scheme. And the only reason that people aren’t angrier about this, I think, is because they don’t really understand what happened. If these were car companies that had sold a trillion dollars’ worth of defective cars to the citizens of the United States, there would be riots right now. But these were mortgage-backed securities, it’s complicated, people don’t understand it, and they’re only now, I think, beginning to realize that they were defrauded.

  9. From Huffington Post (2/25/2011)
    The Real Political Math In Wisconsin
    By Howard Fineman

    WASHINGTON — The real political math in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget or the collective-bargaining rights of public employees there. It is about which party controls governorships and, with them, the balance of power on the ground in the 2012 elections.

    For all of the valid concern about reining in state spending — a concern shared by politicians and voters of all labels — the underlying strategic Wisconsin story is this: Gov. Scott Walker, a Tea Party-tinged Republican, is the advance guard of a new GOP push to dismantle public-sector unions as an electoral force.

    Last fall, GOP operatives hoped and expected to take away as many as 20 governorships from the Democrats. They ended up nabbing 12.

    What happened? Well, according to postgame analysis by GOP strategists and Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi — who chaired the Republican Governors Association in 2010 — the power and money of public-employee unions was the reason.

    “We are never going to win most of these states until we can do something about those unions,” one key operative said at a Washington dinner in November. “They have so much incentive to work hard politically because they are, in effect, electing their own bosses — the Democrats who are going to pay them better and give them more benefits. And the Democrats have the incentive to be generous.”

    This is how top Republicans see the matter: a vicious cycle of union-to-Democrat-to-union power that they are determined to break.

  10. From Think Progress (2/25/2011)
    Koch Front Group Americans For Prosperity: ‘Take The Unions Out At The Knees’

    In a speech earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Committee’s annual conference, Americans For Prosperity-Michigan Executive Director Scott Hagerstrom revealed the true goal of his group and its allies like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) efforts. Speaking at CPAC’s “Panel for Labor Policy,” Hagerstrom said that AFP really wants to do is to “take the unions out at the knees”:

    HAGERSTROM: It’s easy to go out there and fight taxes and increased regulation, you know we send out an action alert on taxes to AFP and we get thousands of people to respond. You send out one on a more complicated issue and it just doesn’t quite resonate…We fight these battles on taxes and regulation but really what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources to fight these battles.

    Taking “the unions out at the knees” has long been a goal of the Koch brothers and their many front groups. In the run-up to the 2010 elections, the Kochs worked with other anti-labor billionaires, corporations and activists to fund conservative candidates and groups across the country. Now after viciously opposing pro-middle class policies for years, Koch Industries is trying to eliminate the only organizations which serve as a counterweight to the well-oiled corporate machine.

  11. The only workers that Gov. Christie is interested in our the waitresses bringing him his next meal! The class war is on and the workers have made a few governors back off of their anti-union rhetoric. We have to keep up the pressure.

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