Race to the bottom: Gov. Walker assaults jobs, innovation, and clean energy in Wisconsin

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"Race to the bottom: Gov. Walker assaults jobs, innovation, and clean energy in Wisconsin"

A cross-post by CAP Energy VP Kate Gordon.

Newly elected Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker held an event called “Wisconsin is Open for Business” the day he was inaugurated. But every move the governor makes shows him to be an anti-business, anti-innovation politician intent on running the state into the ground.

Let’s take clean energy. Clean energy industries offered a glimmer of hope during the past two years in the midst of a national recession that has hit the Midwest particularly hard. In Michigan, for example, total private employment dropped 5.4 percent from 2005-2008, while during the same period employment increased by 7.7 percent among the state’s 358 “green” firms. Michigan’s new governor, Rick Snyder, recognized the growth potential of these industries when he ran on a 10-point plan that emphasized the need to invest in clean energy sectors such as advanced batteries.

In Ohio, too, the green writing is on the wall. New Gov. John Kasich initially sounded off against clean energy, running on a platform that included rolling back the state’s renewable energy standard. But he reversed this position soon after his election when multiple business leaders told him how important green industries were in the Toledo area in particular. The city, which ranked in the bottom 10 by per capita income in 2000, has seen a renaissance as a hub for solar innovation and production. Over 6,000 individuals are employed in these industries in Toledo today, and the city is home to several major solar panel exporters including First Solar and Xunlight.

Gov. Walker, however, has apparently decided that Wisconsin should take a back seat to the Midwest’s green renaissance. The state has enormous potential to generate homegrown energy from renewable resources. Wisconsin has enough wind, solar, and biomass energy resources to produce power equivalent to the entire state’s electricity needs according to Environment America. But the new governor recently proposed a wind turbine siting law that would effectively shut down most wind power production. The new law, if put into effect, would require wind turbines to be set back at least 1,800 feet from any nearby property unless all affected property owners agree to the turbine in writing.

Only one-fourth of Wisconsin’s current wind turbines would ever have been built if this rule had been in place in the past. In other words, 2,250 fewer people would have construction or maintenance jobs, over a million fewer dollars would be flowing to rural communities in the form of land leases, and the 21 manufacturing plants in the state that supply the wind industry would have far fewer orders and would likely be closing their doors.

Gov. Walker is also taking aim at another potential growth sector: high-speed rail. Right now no passenger rail exists between Madison and Milwaukee, which between them house over 75 percent of Wisconsin’s entire population. A high-speed train running between the cities would serve commuters and business travelers, and it would provide a critical influx of visitors to both downtowns. It would also connect Madison to the existing Milwaukee-Chicago train route. Perhaps most important, studies have shown that the line would create over 13,000 jobs, eliminate 780,000 car trips annually, and save Wisconsin residents 2.76 million gallons of gas each year.

Investing in high-speed rail makes sense in Wisconsin. The state’s major university and state capitol are in one major city, but the majority of industry and commerce is in another. Connecting the two would be a major investment in Wisconsin’s future growth.

But Gov. Walker doesn’t see it that way. One of his first acts once in office was to defund the proposed rail line, turning down over $800 million in federal funds to support the project. That’s a lot of lost jobs today and lost revenue tomorrow.

Gov. Walker clearly wants to cut off Wisconsin from the clean tech revolution. But his job-killing, anti-innovation strategies don’t stop at clean energy. Over the past two weeks it has become clear that the governor wants to cut off the state’s entire public-sector workforce at the knees by using a budget battle as an excuse to take away these workers’ basic right to band together and bargain for better working conditions and fair wages.

This isn’t about the state budget. In fact, Wisconsin’s public-sector workers make about 8 percent less in wages than do workers in the private sector who have similar education and experience. And the state’s pension fund has an actuarial funding ratio””the ratio of actuarial assets as compared to liabilities””of nearly 100 percent. That means that the contributions to the state’s pension fund are sufficient to meet the needs of its retirees””in other words, Gov. Walker’s attempt to make this into a budget issue is a red herring.

Gov. Walker’s proposed state budget cuts are instead a transparent attack on public-sector unions, which are a major reason anyone even takes public-sector jobs anymore. Why work a job for less pay than you’d make in the private sector””an extremely demanding job like teaching in public schools or plowing two-foot drifts of snow in minus-20 degree weather””if that job doesn’t provide the stability, health and safety regulations, health and retirement benefits, and basic equality that come with being part of a union?

Gov. Walker undermines the state itself when he undermines public-sector workers. These workers provide essential services that are the backbone of the state’s economy. They educate children. They keep streets clear of snow and garbage. They process permits, cut through red tape, and keep essential city and state services moving.

Take away the benefits these workers have today””benefits that they have bargained for in exchange for lower pay than they might get elsewhere””and the quality of all these services goes way down. The result is a state with worse schools, worse public services, and an educated workforce fleeing to find a better deal elsewhere. In short, a state where no one wants to invest, start a new business, or make a new start.

Sounds like an anti-jobs agenda to me.

Kate Gordon is Vice President for Energy Policy at American Progress. She grew up in Madison, WI.

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35 Responses to Race to the bottom: Gov. Walker assaults jobs, innovation, and clean energy in Wisconsin

  1. Scrooge says:

    As usual Kate Gordon come across clear and understandable. I hope this article has legs. Walker could solve his current problem today by simply allowing teachers basic rights. The war on science also requires a war on education. By trying to dismantle EPA, NOAA, etc they are simply shooting the messenger. By defunding research they are attacking higher education by simply burning books.

  2. Chris Winter says:

    Gov. Walker’s purpose is to bust unions — but not the unions (for police and firefighters) that generally vote Republican. This despite the fact that the unions targeted would agree to concessions except the loss of collective bargaining.

    No more evidence would be needed. But there is more. Watch Rachel Maddow’s takedown of the Wisconsin governor:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26315908/

    (I hope that’s the correct URL. If not, you can find a link on this page: http://www.politicususa.com/en/rachel-maddow-walker-unions )

    Briefly, Walker tried the same stunt before. When he was Milwaukee County Supervisor, he fired the unionized courthouse guards (overruling the county board) and replaced them with guards from a British arm of Wackenhut. This ended up costing more.

  3. DaveE says:

    Maybe Walker is attempting to limit population growth in Wisconsin. Just make the state unattractive enough and everyone will leave.

  4. David Fox says:

    Proof, yet again, that people will vote against their own self interest. The police and fire unions supported Brown, why? When are people going to learn that we are in a fight to the death, literally, against the elites that are ruini, er running this country?

  5. Thanks CAP and Kate for continued excellent coverage. On the Koch angle:

    http://host.madison.com/ct/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_7e8aa25a-3ec0-11e0-9923-001cc4c03286.html

    “The expanded lobbying effort by the Koch brothers in Wisconsin raises red flags in particular because of a little discussed provision in Walker’s repair bill that would allow Koch Industries and other private companies to purchase state-owned power plants in no-bid contracts.”

    If possible, I’d like to hear more from CAP about the specifics of this provision, its benefit to Koch, and the relationship between Koch and Walker.

  6. Chris Winter says:

    Breaking news relating to the Koch brothers interest in Wisconsin: Somebody pretending to be David Koch called Gov. Walker and reached him. The 20-minute conversation (find a link at Mother Jones) included a promise to fly Walker to a resort in Mexico for a fine time. More important, it confirms a close business relationship between the Koch brothers and Walker.

  7. Chris Winter says:

    The fellow who “buffaloed” Gov. Walker is Ian Murphy, of The Buffalo Beast blog. Apparently that site is swamped with visitors, but the conversation is well distributed on the Web by now.

  8. Incredible update, Chris – thanks!

  9. Prokaryotes says:

    If the GOP really would like to save money, they would not have opted for NASCAR and Jet Engine spending plans and btw is in stark contrast to what they officially make public.

    If the REP’s do not change strategy (common sense) they will lose a lot of voters …

    This year and according to the latest SCIENCE, 2012 will likely bring unprecedented climate disruption – which will render any anti-environment politic, what it is – a threat, in the wast public opinion.

    That happens if your party is low with projecting future developments and an agenda which is against common sense and against the people.

    It is war! War with nature and the weapons are clean tech!

  10. Scrooge says:

    Wow just wow
    Huffington post has info on the koch/walker fiasco. And I thought I was exaggerating when I was remarking about kochs tea party, shadow govt, fascists, and the GOP. Maybe it isn’t exaggerating.

  11. Adrian says:

    One thing NOT being mentioned in the MSM very much is that the so-called budget crisis in WI was ‘engineered’ by Governor Walker. He gave away $140 million to ‘special interest groups’ when first elected and now – surprise, surprise – we have a $140 million deficit.

    Wisconsin had a budget surplus when Walker arrived and its pension funds were doing very well relative to many other States. Our teachers are arguably among the best in the country (based on SATS scores and high school graduation figures) and yet he is penalizing teachers (among many others) while offering tax-breaks to those who don’t need them.

    The Unions here have already conceded salary cuts and larger contributions to health care and pensions (public workers have been taking forced no-pay furlough days for over a year), but Walker is not interested in ‘fiscal’ issues. It is plain and simple – he wants to make Wisconsin attractive to businesses who don’t want Unions and don’t want to allow normal working- and middle-class folks to earn a decent living. As we have seen from other States, next on the agenda will be repeal of child labor laws and a reduction in school time (eliminating 12th grade), so that working people have another way to keep the wolf from the door and pretend that we’re all still ok – send the kids to work.

    Another bill being proposed here is to prevent DNR mandated disinfection of public water supplies – no doubt so that private companies can provide utilities for less

    This is an outrageous situation and I support those who are attempting to get Walker to change his mind (or have him recalled) 110%. I hope the protests there, which appear to be genuinely ‘grass roots’ and truly populist (in contrast to the well-funded and heavily PR’d teaparty gatherings) mark the beginning of a new movement in the USA that will cause many GOP members to change their ways. Otherwise, I fear the country will be irreparably damaged.

  12. Gord says:

    Nice piece by Dr. Maddow.

  13. Marco says:

    My wife is a member of a public union in Ohio. She’s a special ed teacher, and works incredibly hard–against numerous factors–to help her kids learn basic math skills. She’s compensated well, but she earns every penny. However, the issue remains: There’s an $8 billion hole in the Ohio budget. Unless she and all other public union employees give in on pension and benefits in Ohio, the fund will collapse. That’s reality. And to put this in perspective, the previous governor knew this catastrophe was approaching and chose avoid the problem. Now it belongs to his predecessor, Kasich. Union members can yell and scream and strike all they want, but at the end of the day there’s still going to be no money to sustain pensions and benefits. You can vilify guys like Walker, Kasich, Christy, etc., but the union benefits around the nation are teetering on the brink. Someone has to step up and do something to correct the problem, or jobs will simply be eliminated altogether.

  14. Marco says:

    Sorry, I meant to say “Now it belongs to his successor…”, not predecessor. It’s been a long day…

  15. Jay Alt says:

    Ilinois has a much larger hole in their pensions and overall budgets. They chose to have everyone help close it, rather than blaming one group.

  16. Scrooge says:

    The fight in WI is not over the budget. The teachers have accepted what’s needed. The fight is over the right of people to have a voice. It is simple union busting. How bad would the education system be if teachers become political appointees. Yes the budgets have to be taken care of but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

  17. Adrian says:

    Marco,

    the argument in Wisconsin is not about budget and pensions. As mentioned above, WI has been faring remarkably well through the economic disaster of the last few years and Walker came in with a budget surplus and a relatively healthy pension fund. Blaming the Unions and taking away ANY sort of collective bargaining beyond negotiating for a salary increase just keeping up with inflation is not a fiscal matter.

    I can’t speak for Ohio, but as a WI public worker (a scientist in a large University) I am already committed to an 8% cut in pay and a greater contribution to health care (I don’t actually qualify for pension yet). The Unions have offered concession after concession and the Governor simply has not met with them AT ALL since coming to power. He did not run on this mandate (Politifact has called him on this).

    This is a political act – not a budgetary act and his antics (including his latest phone call with a reporter masquerading as David Koch) demonstrate his intentions clearly.

    As Jay suggests above, why not have everybody solve the problems, instead of bleeding dry the middle class while simultaneously awarding tax breaks for more comfortable sectors?

    I am not a huge fan of Unions (I have voted conservative most of my life), but I recognize this as a step towards the further corporatization of America and the scape-goating of middle classes who were screwed by everything else that has happened because of the non-regulation of the financial industry. This is a bad move. It will lower EVERYBODY’s wages and benefits – other than, of course, those already making a very comfortable living.

    With your wife, I am happy to make a contribution and to pay more for my benefits and, as stated above, I am already taking days off without pay; but why take away my right to discuss my working conditions, health and safety at work and everything else that makes working for a living tolerable? It is an unnecessary step too far.

  18. Chris Winter says:

    As Adrian observes, the available evidence supports the view that union wages and benefits are merely a pretext. If you dig into the details of the relevant bill, you’ll find some interesting provisions. One grants to the state of Wisconsin the power to sell off, or contract out the operation of, state-owned heating, cooling and power plants without competitive bids, and “for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state.”

    To his credit, Rick Ungar at Forbes covers this in more detail:

    http://blogs.forbes.com/rickungar/2011/02/22/a-secret-deal-between-gov-walker-and-koch-brothers-buried-in-state-budget/

    As Ungar notes, none of this is proof of wrongdoing. But we know that the Koch brothers contributed heavily to Walker’s campaign, and that they’ve set up a lobbying office in Madison. Add in the content of that phone call and a picture starts to emerge.

  19. Marco says:

    The situation in Ohio is similar to Wisconsin’s. The Republican-led legislature is now offering to allow unions to keep their power to bargain for wages, but not for health and pension benefits. To be honest, I don’t have a problem with that. Again, I (and my kids) are covered by my wife’s health benefits, which are excellent, and certainly better than the benefits I can get through my own private employer. On top of that, I, like my wife, am a professional with a college degree, and she makes nearly twice my salary. To be fair, she was required to earn a master’s, and despite this, I honestly think she deserves to make more because she’s an educator, but she certainly isn’t underpaid. Again, this has benefited me very well and I’m hardly complaining, but it illustrates the fact that public unions can pull significantly higher wages and salary–a burden that is carried by the taxpayers. And now the system is going broke. The current course is simply unsustainable. It’s also been impossible to fix until now. No democrat governor would ever dream of even asking the unions to give back something. We see what happens when anyone suggests that unions do more with less (like the rest of us have been doing since 2008). Eliminating collective bargaining for pension and benefits makes sense. Why should unions be more privileged than 90% of the rest of working Americans? My employer gives us the option of several different health plans. You choose the one you can afford. What’s wrong with that? In addition, they provide matching funds for my 401K and a retirement plan when I turn 65 (as opposed to my wife’s plan which begins to pay benefits at 55). I’m fantastically happy with what I have! Please tell me why unions deserve to be treated as if they’re better than the rest of us.

  20. Chris Winter says:

    Marco,

    I think your assumptions don’t hold up. First, union membership has been declining ever since Reagan took office. (Remember the PATCO strike?) In 2009, as a percentage of the total American workforce, union membership was down to 12.3 percent.

    http://www.unionfreeamerica.com/union_membership.htm

    Among public employees, the percentage was 37.4 — a slight gain over 2008. That makes it sound like there are hordes of unionized public employees, doesn’t it? But look at the numbers: private unions lost 834,400 members; public unions gained 64,200. Public sector has less than 10 percent of the total.

    Certainly pensions and benefits are a big factor in the trouble many companies have had recently. The U.S. auto companies are a prime example. But it’s also true that those automakers made poor decisions wrt the models they chose to develop, hence lost profitability. And the housing crisis, the 2008 Great Recession contributed to the crisis. It’s misleading to lay all of these troubles on the union doorstep.

    Wikipedia notes that public approval of unions has risen in all industrialized countries during recent decades, but union membership has fallen farther in the U.S. than in others. Its article is instructive.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_unions_in_the_United_States

    Greedy and corrupt unions are a part of American history. The term “featherbedding” is widely understood. Googling turns up a lot of right-wing sites that push the “unions kill prosperity” lie. But no movement that has shrunk so much can fairly be said to be the dominant cause.

    By the way, I judge that first link to be biased and not telling the whole story. Here’s a better analysis of the situation:

    http://economics.about.com/od/laborinamerica/a/union_decline.htm

  21. Marco says:

    Chris Winter,

    I’m certainly not lumping all blame on unions. I don’t think lawmakers are either. I can’t speak to Wisconsin’s situation, but in Ohio there is an $8 billion gap in the budget which must be balanced, according to the state constitution. Cuts are being made everywhere. Kasich privatized the state board of development last week and he will likely try to privatize at least some of the turnpikes. Everyone and everything is on the table. We’re all doing more with less, and this should include public unions, which have been operating with bloated benefits and pension funds. It’s as basic as that. The only alternative is to make cuts everywhere else–ask everyone else to sacrifice and/or pay more taxes–and allow unions to continue operating untouched. It’s not fair. They need to pony up too. Let’s face it, as a worker in the private sector my taxes have increased, my expenses have increased, and my wages have been flat for three years now. It’s time public unions gave back something to help shoulder the burden that most working men and women–taxpayers–have been carrying for years now.

  22. Adrian says:

    Hi again Marco,

    I think you are asking the wrong question.

    Unions do not “deserve to be treated as if they’re better than the rest of us”. This is not their position at all. But what is being proposed by Walker is certainly playing to that mentality – “I’ve got it tough, so should you”.

    Personally, I have fallen foul of the abuse of Union power, many years ago when I worked for Ford Motor Company and was forced into a strike that I could not afford and with which I did not agree. However, that is a different issue, one of abuse of power. Later in life, in Britain, the utter intransigence of management at local government level led to me getting many workers to join a Union so that we could get what we were simply entitled to – the management were just reneging on contractual obligations. Without the Union and collective bargaining, they would have continued to do so.

    So I have seen both sides of the coin.

    Your comment that “No democrat governor would ever dream of even asking the unions to give back something” is demonstrably untrue, as Unions agreed to many concessions under the last Democratic Governor of Wisconsin, who asked for more than any previous Republican Governor ever had (check the facts – they are there as a matter of public record). My forced unpaid furloughs were conceded to a Democrat and discussions were already in place for a continuation of those furloughs AND a larger contribution to pensions and benefits. The issue is that Walker has REFUSED to even talk to the Unions AT ALL. This is also an abuse of power no less despicable than when it applies to Unions.

    The economics of this proposed abolition by Walker have been published by a State Economist and it is likely to lead to a REDUCTION in tax revenue for the State, a loss of non-government jobs and a loss of businesses due to the reduced salaries of government workers. And while you may be benefiting from your wife’s good fortune, do not believe that teachers are the ‘typical’ government worker and that government workers are well-paid. I have a PhD (13 years of post-high school training) and I could earn considerably more in the private sector. I give that up, partly because of my desire to conduct independent research, and partly so that I have some job security. Why would scientists like me stay in Wisconsin (or public sector) if that is no longer the case? This is ill-considered and simply political.

    Finally, I will turn your question about Unions around, and ask a more appropriate one (I think). Why should non-Union workers deserve to be treated as though they are worse than Union workers? The answer is simple – because hugely profitable big businesses WANT them to be and are buying your Governor’s attention. If Unions were not in place, many of the privileges you have as a non-government worker would not be available to you (40 hour week, weekends off, reasonable working conditions, safety at work, maternity and family leave, health care provisions).

    Again, blaming public sector workers for the governments empty coffers is an absolute nonsense. The deficit did not arise from overpaid and over-benefited public workers. It came from financial meltdown and bad management (including, in Wisconsin’s case, the donation of 140 million to special interests with PLENTY of money). The empty coffers could be filled by asking EVERYONE to make a sacrifice, including, dare I say it, the corporations who are currently rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of yet another ‘deregulated’ State while receiving tax breaks for which you, your wife and I cannot qualify.

    And the inequality you bemoan is the wrong one. The highest paid Hedge Fund Manager in 2006 earned a salary greater than the total of those earned by all 80,000 New York teachers over THREE YEARS (2006 – 2009). THIS is the inequality being promoted by the policies of folks like Governor Walker while he draws your attention to the idea that your wife has benefits the State can’t afford.

    In addition to which, Walker aims to sell off our utilities to non-bid applicants and will allow the development of protected wetlands – all in this current budget bill with the removal of collective bargaining – supposedly just to claw back the 140 million deficit HE CREATED by giving money to special interests. It is THAT transparent and will only benefit the wealthy. Sadly, the people of the State are probably going to let him do it.

    There HAS to be a better way.

  23. Leif says:

    I am afraid that I cannot be as fair to Marco as Chris.

    Marco states: “It’s time public unions gave back something to help shoulder the burden that most working men and women–taxpayers–have been carrying for years now.”

    The numbers very but ~80% of the wealth is controlled by ~1% of the population. I would add that much of that wealth has been accumulated over the past ~200 years of capitalistic dominance by exploiting, even abusing, the efforts of the same taxpayers Marco expresses concerned for. Those rapacious efforts continue to this day and the evidence is robust.

    It is past time for BIG MONEY to give money back to the people of the Nation, World, and Earth’s Life Support systems. The very foundation that they have manipulated profited from. (Humanity must go where the money is.)

    Survival is a Human Right!

  24. Marco says:

    Adrian,

    To reply:

    “Unions agreed to many concessions under the last Democratic Governor of Wisconsin, who asked for more than any previous Republican Governor ever had…”

    But apparently it wasn’t enough to maintain their survival for any extended period. In reality, public unions are bankrupting states. It’s not just Wisconsin. It’s Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada, Illinois, etc, etc. They may have made concessions on wages and benefits in the past, but it wasn’t enough to maintain their solvency for any prolonged term.

    “If Unions were not in place, many of the privileges you have as a non-government worker would not be available to you (40 hour week, weekends off, reasonable working conditions, safety at work, maternity and family leave, health care provisions).”

    You’re blurring the lines between private unions and public unions. Private unions certainly facilitated improvements in working conditions for all Americans, and I too have benefitted. By contrast, the concessions that public unions have won are completely financed by the taxpayer, not fat-cat corporations. Whenever public unions win extra sick days or increased wages or sweeter health benefits, it comes out of MY pocket, not Exxon, or GM, or Coca-Cola.

    “Again, blaming public sector workers for the governments empty coffers is an absolute nonsense…The empty coffers could be filled by asking EVERYONE to make a sacrifice…”

    This is exactly my point. EVERYONE should sacrifice. This includes public unions. They should not be given a free pass while the rest of the nation is asked to suffer. Cuts are being made everywhere. The nonsense lies with the expectation that public unions should be immune.

    “…including, dare I say it, the corporations who are currently rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of yet another ‘deregulated’ State while receiving tax breaks…”

    As opposed to what? Laying off more workers? Shuttering more storefronts? Cancelling plans for hiring and expanding? What would be the best course of action to punish these corporate monsters who simply refuse to hire workers? Saddle them with more taxes and regulation? Would that give them the means and incentive to grow? It hasn’t improved things so far, but give it a try if you think that will help.

    “And the inequality you bemoan is the wrong one. The highest paid Hedge Fund Manager in 2006 earned a salary greater than the total of those earned by all 80,000 New York teachers over THREE YEARS (2006 – 2009).”

    Okay, Adrian, I’m calling shenanigans on this one. This simply cannot be true. I don’t have 2006 numbers, but according to the Huffington Post the highest paid hedge fund manager in 2010 made $3.6 billion (David Tepper, Appaloosa Management LP). If you divide his earnings by 80,000 and then divide by 3, you get an average of $16,000/year. According to Payscale.com, the average K-12 teacher in New York makes $49,031. I’m not sure where you found your information, but it doesn’t add up. But more to the point, who cares? I don’t begrudge what anyone makes in the private sector. Alex Rodriguez is making $275 million over ten years to play a game for half the year. More power to him. I’m sure you—with a PhD—make much more than I with my BA. My hat is off to you. You spent the time, effort, and money to earn your degree and you deserve whatever sum you can acquire. But if, for some reason, your employer goes bankrupt or begins to lose money, you may be asked to take a pay cut or forfeit your job completely. This is a reality that 90% of Americans face every day. Public unions—subservient to the taxpayer—are being asked to face this same reality.

  25. Adrian says:

    Marco,

    I am not blurring anything. I did not say anything about a distinction between public and private Unions. As a generalization Unions have enhanced working conditions for everyone. Getting rid of them entirely (Walker’s ultimate goal – shown by additional rules on what they can and can’t do from now on) will lower working conditions for all workers. This is not budgetary – it is (I hate the term, but it’s apt) “Union busting”.

    If my calculations on New York were off by a factor of a one-third, I apologize. The point still stands. Teachers are not the ‘haves’ of this world. And who cares? you should, because it is these type of people who caused untold damage to the economy of the entire globe that now you and I are being asked to fund. THEY are not contributing, even though the language is that EVERYONE should contribute. Unions ARE contributing and have been for years.

    Why are Unions the scapegoats?

    Walker suggests that public employees are the “haves” and demand they share the burdens inflicted upon other workers, such as those at Harley-Davidson and Mercury Marine, for example.

    Mercury Marine’s profits between 2000 to 2007 were $1.1 billion and yet it paid ZERO in corporate taxes to Wisconsin!!!!!!! Who are the “haves”?? Who should contribute a little more?? EVERYONE? or just the workers?

    Harley Davidson has been highlighted as a company with “surging profits in deeper cuts” and those profits “are mostly going to shareholders instead of the broader economy.” (New York Times). Who are the “haves”?? Who should contribute a little more?? EVERYONE? or just the workers?

    So, in short, those poor workers at Harley and Mercury Marine, told how lucky they were to have a job at all, accepted huge paycuts not because their employers were in danger of going under, but because highly paid executives wanted to keep more money for themselves. Who are the “haves”??? Who should contribute a little more?? EVERYONE? or just the workers?

    And why would you wish this on EVERYBODY, just because the Unions have been removed from Harley?

    The store fronts you mention will be shuttered anyway, because the normal customers of small businesses are gradually going broke under the burden of maintaining the salaries of the real “haves”. But it seems to me that (and call me radical) the CEOs of Wisconsin corporations who are sitting on record profits while cutting jobs here, shipping jobs overseas and paying out record bonuses to their executives are the ones who should be the target of the budget-repair bill. Not your wife and not you and not me. We are already (and here I include government workers – union and non-union) already struggling after several rounds of wage freezes and introduced furlough days.

    You ask “What would be the best course of action to punish these corporate monsters who simply refuse to hire workers? Saddle them with more taxes and regulation? Would that give them the means and incentive to grow? It hasn’t improved things so far, but give it a try if you think that will help.”

    The problem is, the opposite tactic – giving them enormous tax breaks – isn’t working. They are still not hiring (other than abroad), so why not tax them (and ‘saddle’ the poor mites with regulation) and at least get something back?

    Your last sentence is a little weird (subservient to the tax-payer). I am a tax payer and so is every Union member, and we ARE facing the same reality to which you allude. We’ve been doing it for years.
    Like you, I begrudge nobody what they make in the private sector UNLESS I am being asked to cover their profits and managerial mistakes by losing the shirt off my back. We’ve all done that recently and we are still being asked to contribute more. Hugely profitable corporations were bailed out with your tax money and they haven’t changed their ways. They are now hugely profitable again and still not paying THEIR bit.

    Walker gave away our surplus – we had a SURPLUS. And now we are being told we are ‘unaffordable’. It is not true. It is not the public Unions who are subservient to the taxpayer when (I say it again in the hope it might eventually outrage you) $140 million of taxpayers’ money was GIVEN to wealthy special interest groups to convert Walkers inherited State surplus into a deficit and to provide a political tool to go after middle-class government workers and their unions.

  26. Adrian says:

    And for some interesting side reading, I give you the Florida Conservation Society’s viewpoint on what else Walker is proposing and the effects his “budgetary bill” will likely have….

    “It Threatens Wisconsin Forests – Large companies like Time-Warner use Wisconsin’s forests for their paper needs because of Wisconsin’s excellent sustainability practices. Without collective bargaining, Wisconsin foresters won’t be able to qualify for forest certification standards, a move that will threaten the health of Wisconsin’s forests and lose Time-Warner’s and other magazines’ business.

    It Will Decimate Public Transportation – Wisconsin receives federal transportation dollars to support its local transit systems – only if our transit workers are protected under state law. Without collective bargaining for transit workers, Wisconsin could lose $51.3 million in federal dollars that promote local transit systems, like buses and rideshare programs.

    It Will Politicize the Department of Natural Resources – Buried in the bill is a provision that would make legislative liaisons, lawyers, and spokespeople political appointees of the Governor, making it harder for them to represent the public – Us! – without fear of retribution.

    This is an unprecedented power grab that does nothing to create jobs or solve the budget shortfall!”

  27. Chris Winter says:

    Adrian wrote: “But apparently it wasn’t enough to maintain their survival for any extended period. In reality, public unions are bankrupting states. It’s not just Wisconsin. It’s Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Tennessee, Nevada, Illinois, etc, etc. They may have made concessions on wages and benefits in the past, but it wasn’t enough to maintain their solvency for any prolonged term.”

    I can only speak definitely about Wisconsin at this point, but that one state is enough to invalidate your claim. Did you not notice that Walker exempted the police and firefighter unions from his attempt to remove collective bargaining rights? No coincidence: these were the unions that supported him.

    And if you dig into that attempt, embodied in state bill 11 IIRC, you’ll find it has little to do with fixing the state budget. Which is good in a perverse way, since the state budget was in reasonable shape until Walker called a special session of the legislature and got it to pass $140 million in tax cuts for businesses.

  28. Chris Winter says:

    It seems this fellow Scott Walker is an unindicted Koch conspirator. ;-)

  29. Adrian says:

    Hi Chris,

    I want to correct you.

    Above you said that “Adrian wrote”…

    It wasn’t me!! ‘Twas Marco.

    I agree with your comments entirely.

    Cheers!

  30. Adrian says:

    A comment I liked from a banner at Wisconsin:

    Why is a 3% tax increase on the richest considered “socialism” but a 14% pay cut on the middle class is “doing your part?”

  31. Marco says:

    Adrian, are you sure you’re not a politician? You’ve done an admirable job of stearing this issue down a number of irrelevant backroads. So, back to the issue of public unions:

    Despite your claims that this isn’t a “budgetary issue,” (and Scott Walker is the anti-Christ) the reality remains that states are going broke (as in, “there’s no money”). People–public unions–are screaming because they’re being asked to contribute more toward penions and benefits (contribution levels that still don’t quite equate with what the vast majority of American workers pay). The Democrat party is standing with the public unions (and in many cases fleeing to hide in neighboring states) because unions are their political ATMs. If lawmakers in Wisconsin–and all the other distressed states–fail to make cuts (including those to bloated public union benefits) and, in fact, enact or raise taxes to strengthen union funds, then they will be doing nothing to save such funds and will actually be kicking the problem down the road for the next governor and legislature. At some point this problem must be addressed. If not this year, then a year or two or three in the future.

    It’s no more complicated than that.

  32. Adrian says:

    Hi Marco,

    I can see I’m not convincing you with my ‘irrelevant backroads’, but I’ll take it back to your last post and address each of your ‘relevant’ points thus:

    1. “The reality remains that states are going broke”

    Incorrect for Wisconsin. We had a budget surplus with a “projected shortfall for the coming 3 years”. It was a projected shortfall that could have been addressed multiple ways. Raise tax on beer by 19 cents a gallon? Or 2 cents on a pound of cheese curds? One way to address it extremely badly, and demonstrate fairly convincingly that you don’t know how to balance the books, is to give $140 million of tax payers money to wealthy special interests. Can we at least agree on that? Does that not seem to you like a ‘dick move’?

    2. “Public Unions are screaming”

    Yes, they are. But you are horribly wrong about the reason for their screams. Read the actual reports. Unions are not, repeat NOT screaming because “they’re being asked to contribute more toward pensions and benefits”.
    I won’t dwell on the economic mythology that government workers need to pay “more” for their pensions and benefits (they already pay 100% for them as part of a negotiated package which determines what portion of their overall remuneration is allocated to salary, and which part goes to pensions. When you consider how much money will actually be left for the average worker now when he/she retires in the future, they should probably have negotiated a bigger portion in salary – in short, they’ve probably been screwed, especially when you consider that Walker’s bill provides measures for him to take millions out of workers’ insurance funds IN ADDITION to everything else). Unions are ALREADY committed to allowing a larger proportion of salary to benefits and pensions. In other words, they are allowing their members to take an effective 14% cut in pay (and the likelihood is that the pensions will still not bear fruit at retirement). All negotiated under a Democrat who was committed to reducing projected deficits.

    3. “The Democrat party is standing with the public unions (and in many cases fleeing to hide in neighboring states) because unions are their political ATMs”

    There is so much wrong with this statement that it’s just not funny.
    “Fleeing” is a constitutional device well practiced by members of both parties. Abraham Lincoln “fled” to prevent a quorum. I’m British and even I know that. Whether it is an agreeable practice is the subject of an entirely different debate, but it is allowable and fits nicely with the practice of filibustering we hear so much about. I don’t see why Unions being the Democratic ATMs is deplorable if Corporations are the Republican’s ATMs. It is natural that ‘birds of a feather will flock together’. However, again, it is not so black and white. Several Unions supported Scott Walker and several Corporations support the Democrats. This is a political argument that holds little water other than in that fact that it points a little to why the political system is slightly broken. Let’s agree that Lobbyists suck (as a general rule), but they’re certainly not going away soon.

    4. “If lawmakers in Wisconsin–and all the other distressed states–fail to make cuts etc. etc. etc.”

    Seriously, you should read some of the data out there. Wisconsin has been making so many cuts (under the Democrats) that they have turned a projected 6 billion deficit (note again – “Projected”…not actual) into a projected 3 billion deficit (i.e. they have halved it) in less than a year. They had done so well, that they ended the last fiscal year with a SURPLUS that Walker GAVE AWAY.

    If Unions are the problem, look at the Republican model State of Texas. Surely there’s no deficit there because Unions are so feeble in Texas. Oh, but wait……

    I said it before and I’ll say it again, I am not a particular fan of the Unions. In Britain, I applauded Margaret Thatcher’s take down of Unions. They were dizzy with their own power and making us uncompetitive in the World market. But Scott Walker is trying to destroy them here for the WRONG Reasons. He is using a fake problem to scape-goat them and convincing people like you that an obviously failed policy of deregulation and trickle-down will work eventually.

    It hasn’t in 4 decades and IT WON’T NOW.

    He isn’t interested in the budget AT ALL – or he would have accepted the agreement of the Unions to acquiesce to his budgetary demands (they already did).

    IT’S NOT THE UNIONS.

  33. Chris Winter says:

    Adrian,

    Sorry about mis-attributing Marco’s quote to you. And thanks for pointing out the mistake.

  34. Adrian says:

    Further news for Marco is that Ohio (and no doubt other States like Wisconsin will follow suit) is trying to introduce a bill that will remove (or at least reduce) compensation for overtime IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR as well as for public workers. How is THIS supposed to balance State budgets?

    First step – hobble Unions by outlawing collective bargaining

    Second step – provide tax breaks for corporations

    Third step – provide legal basis for reducing ALL workers’ rights to a decent wage

    …..

    Result: Filter more of the country’s wealth from the bottom to the top.

    Trickle-up?

  35. Adrian says:

    This is pertinent to the ludicrous situation being promoted by Governor Walker who, according to one local journalist can only possibly survive by succeeding in turning ‘neighbor against neighbor’ likely changing Wisconsin permanently and for the worse.

    I implore everyone to read it.

    http://luminouspage.blogspot.com/2011/02/i-ruined-everything-why-it-was-more.html