You know, after November, I wanted to take a little bit of time to digest the results and meaning of the election. I also wanted to see, as time went on, how quickly we’d see the logical end of the election be achieved.
I think we’re there now. Scott Walker’s made a mockery of the state. Sure, he wanted a fight. Sure, he wanted to rub the Democrats’ faces in his puddle of poo. But I don’t think he can possibly fathom how bad he looks right now, and how this debacle has cost him and his party not just the goodwill of the November elections, but of power. He can’t be recalled yet, but many in the Senate can. Everything he does from here on in will be under a microscope. And while he’s certain to have many more victories while he and the Republicans can over the next 2 years, I predict Walker will face a stiff recall election, as will many Republicans.
I’m going to go soft on Alberta Darling, however, because she’s the one person in the Senate who tried to stop the state from losing federal transportation dollars. Decertifying public unions will have that effect, and at the time I write that, her efforts to change the legislation are unclear. That’s the most credit I’ll give her today, however, because it seems that none of her colleagues want to hear of this. Plus, she still agrees with everything else in the bill, as far as I can tell.
We all know that budget legislation is used to push more than mere fiscal matters. So Walker’s misuse of the budget process is nothing new. Or, for that matter, nothing that both parties haven’t done time and time again. But in this case, he is stretching further than Plastic man. And something’s going to snap.
Did you know, that as a result of this budget, assistant district attorneys can no longer organize? That’s right, our prosecutors, who put bad guys behind bars, they’re being stuck to cost of living increases, decertification, everything else. The same is true of public defenders and other professional unions. My recollection is that child support enforcement attorneys and assistant corporation counsel attorneys are also unionized. So the people who went to law school, have student loans, and who work in public service are similarly S.O.L. What’s the consequence? Job loss.
Speaking of student loans, as far as I can tell, no more TA’s at universities, either, because they won’t be able to bargain for tuition to be paid. So they’ll have to get real jobs, and maybe won’t even be able to engage in academics like they did before. None of this will matter, however, because of the magnitude by which Walker’s budget plan destroys the UW System and UW—Madison.
As for teachers, here’s what’s happening now. Due to the fact that the Glendale River Hills School District (and others with signed contracts like Nicolet, Fox Point Bayside, etc) have a newly signed contract that doesn’t force the contributions Walker is imposing on everyone, he’s going to make up for that by yanking state aid to the tune of $500,000 next year. Hence, we’re being punished for being in the unfortunate position of honoring our obligations to the union to bargain collectively and having a signed contract.
Without unions, it will be no easier to get rid of ‘bad teachers’ than before, either. We still have no standards and no way of tracking teachers’ success or not. Instead, without a seniority system in place, removing entrenched (read: experienced, older) teachers that may not have as great of a track record will expose a school to claims of age discrimination. Now a district must contend with a single union as a whole body. Without a union, there’s no formal grievance process, and the school districts and other public entities, as I understand it, will be required to handle the time and expense of setting up a grievance process, committee, etc. Who pays for that? We do. At least lawyers will make more money.
The bill would also, according to the Journal Sentinel, “give the state Department of Health Service sweeping powers to change the state's Medicaid health programs for the poor such as BadgerCare Plus to address sharply rising costs for those programs.” To me, this means one of two things: service cut or cost increase to users. Neither is acceptable for Medicaid or Badger Care. Period.
Walker plans to sell off state heating plants and make certain public trust positions into political appointments, such as legal counsel or public information officer.
Don’t get me started
And the opposition has taken to attacking the protestors in Madison as if this were some type of example of their unworthiness. Some people believe that private sector workers would be reprimanded or fired for this type of protest. Perhaps, perhaps not. At least private sector workers are protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
Speaking of which, if jobs are privatized, which is part of the goal here (certainly with transportation, if not other duties), we won’t save money. After all, the private sector workers will unionize or bargain as needed.
Do I have a lot of sympathy for public workers? I have some. I think they should get hit, and perhaps hit a bit more than what they’ve had so far. After all, they work for the public government, and as public servants, they have to take the good with the bad, particularly in this economy. It’s part of the risk they take. But we as a community should strive to reward public service where necessary, not punish them for being good deed-doers.
I feel at this moment I should point out that none of these measures actually help the economy. They may (or may not) help the budget. But they don’t bring jobs. They don’t bring investments. We need a governor who is open to innovation and invites investment. For example, $800 million in federal aid to build high speed rail. Keeping our remaining manufacturing base intact. Instead, he’ll just make it harder for Wisconsin’s public servants to survive. This will have ripple effects throughout the government and our schools.
In a nutshell, Walker’s solution is extreme, drastic, punitive, and unnecessary. And that’s why the Democracts walked out. The Republicans new method of attack is frivolous: if you’re protesting, you’re not working, so you’re a hypocrite. That’s what they’re trying to sell about the Madison protests. Now that the Democrats won’t take part in the hyperaccelerated dismantling of the public sector, they’re accused of “not working”, too. In fact, they’re the only ones who ARE working. It was the Democrats who wanted public hearings. It was the Democrats who wanted the bill to be properly—and timely—considered without being rammed down the throat of Our Lady Forward. So while they aren’t in the Capitol, they’re still working harder than anyone else. Ultimately they may not win the battle, but they’re the ones who are guarding the public trust.
And don’t start bringing Lena Taylor into this. Oh, sure, Lena Taylor may have gone off the deep end by likening Scott Walker to Adolph Coors. I’d agree with anyone saying that it’s an unfair comparison because the most compelling similarity between WWII and the budget crisis is the image, in my head since last night, of 14 democrats in clothes made of drapes crossing the hills of Austria to make their way into Switzerland.
In this scenario, Scott Walker isn’t a crushing dictator. He’s the Baroness, a schemer simultaneously trying to woo her way into the Von Trapp fortune, turning Maria against General Chang, er, Captain Von Trapp, and getting the kids off to boarding school.
Somewhere, I envision the Democrats in their hotel room at the Best Western Clock Tower performing a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Edelweiss’, one day longing for their return. Maybe in a few years they’ll make the rounds at music festivals. You know, I’ve always envisioned a Sound of Music sequel where the Von Trapp family singers hire Sylvester Stallone to do one last mission—smuggle them back behind enemy lines in a boat traversing the pirate-infested waters of the Rhine River. Once there they travel from town to town in a Partridge Family-style buss, singing at beer halls during Oktoberfest as a cover for their involvement in the resistance movement.
The hills are alive….