A total of 49 Democratic state legislators from Indiana and Wisconsin have fled their states to prevent a fair up or down vote on legislation they do not want passed. The lawmakers from both states have taken refuge in Illinois. The most media attention so far has been given to the drama in Wisconsin, where 14 state senators have gone AWOL in order to deny the state senate a quorum of 20 senators, which is required for budget bills. This leaves the Republicans one senator short of a quorum-the division of power is 19-14.
What could possibly be so offensive as to cause this mass exodus of Democrats? In Indiana, the plan is to eliminate mandatory union dues via “right to work” legislation which would put the power in the hands of the workers rather than their union overlords. That’s apparently a big no-no to Democrats.
In Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker plans to reign- in public sector unions in order to tackle an immediate budget deficit of $137 million. Under Governor Walker’s proposal, collective bargaining rights for state and local employees’ wages would remain in place, but benefits and working conditions would be non-negotiable. Pay raises for state and local employees that exceed inflation would need voter approval. Furthermore, the plan requires state and local employees to contribute half their yearly pension contributions – which would be about six percent of an employee’s salary – right around the national average. State and local workers would also be required to pay 12 percent of their health care premiums, which is still less than half of the national average. State and local workers would also have to vote every year on whether to retain the union as their collective bargaining agent. Police and firefighter unions would be exempted from these rules.
These are reasonable measures to take, but Democrats and unions will have none of it.
The 14 Wisconsin Democrats are refusing to come back until their demands are met-they want the unsustainable status quo to remain in place. Governor Walker and the Republicans are refusing to budge. Any other working American would be fired-and rightly so. And if the Democrats don’t start behaving like responsible adults and come back to work, Governor Walker will have to lay off thousands of state workers-something he does not want to do.
In Madison, the capitol of Wisconsin, relentless pro-union demonstrators continue to protest the plan. I spotted one sign that said “Walker Wanted Dead or Alive” with the “alive” crossed out. Countless signs compared him to Adolf Hitler. Many teachers that were perfectly well got sick notes from doctors and, instead of doing their job, attended the protests in Madison. They managed to convince a number of their students to join the left wing hate fest. Students who were interviewed at the protests had absolutely no clue why they were there. Essentially, some teachers used children as political pawns. That, in addition to their use of falsified doctor’s notes, suggests that, like their Democrat allies in the state senate, they feel no particular obligation to do the job they are paid to do. They should all be fired.
A campaign of misinformation and outright lies has been at the forefront of this liberal circus. Claims that Wisconsin’s budget deficit is not large enough to justify Walker’s plans are bogus. Wisconsin’s immediate deficit doesn’t seem to be particularly huge (by state government spending standards) but the state has a bi-annual budget deficit of $3.6 billion, a much more alarming number.
There are claims that Walker has created the deficit problem by cutting corporate taxes which is not true since the new tax breaks would have no effect on this year’s deficit. Walker and the Republicans are constantly accused of wanting to take away collective-bargaining rights when that is simply not the case.
To the left, this appalling behavior is acceptable as long as the offenders are liberal Democrats. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said “I saw some of them [fugitive Democrat state senators] speak on TV, and they were very proud of the action that they took. I’m very proud of what they are doing.” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said he was “disappointed” with the legitimate tactics used by Governor Walker.
Regarding the childish and illegitimate tactics of the Democrat senators Quinn said: “They’re not hiding out. They’re visiting Illinois, and we’re happy they’re here. I talked to one of their leaders, I think on Sunday, and they’re always welcome.”
So, let me get this straight: what the Democrats are doing is perfectly okay because they’re happy? I wonder if Quinn would maintain that same bizarre attitude if everyone who worked for him stopped showing up for work because they were happy being somewhere else and doing something else other than their job.
Likewise, I wonder if Nancy Pelosi would have had the same attitude if Republicans in Congress prevented a quorum by fleeing the country when she was Speaker of the House (a purely hypothetical scenario since the U.S. House only needs a majority present for a quorum).
Democrats prefer to keep states on the road to fiscal ruin rather than address the overly lavish pensions, pay and benefits of public employees that are sucking states dry. In essence, they refuse to address reality. Governor Quinn, for example, had the brilliant idea of hiring nearly 1,000 more state workers in his own budget proposal to the Illinois state legislature.
Why would one of the most fiscally distressed states in the unions hire more workers? Yet this is what Democrats want, the unsustainable status quo to continue to the point where the whole country collapses.
Thirteen of the 14 runaway Wisconsin Democrats have a cushy relationship with public sector unions. At least one of these senators has received over $113,600 directly from unions. The PAC of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (the teacher’s union) spent over $1.5 million to elect Democrats to state level offices in 2010 alone. Other unions spent tens of thousands of dollars to get Democrats elected as well.
It works like this: Democrat legislators approve lavish pay and benefits for state and local employees, then the union bosses collect their dues from their members, and finally the unions donate large amounts of this taxpayer money to help get Democrats elected. And this cycle of corruption continues. Perhaps taxpayers should just be forced to fund Democrats’ campaigns directly. That way we could cut out the middle man. But alas they need the middle man to make it all legal. With that in mind, is it any wonder the fugitive Democrats oppose Walker’s moderate plan?
Throughout this drama, leftists have claimed that the pro-union extremists are fighting for democracy and the conservatives are trampling on democracy when, in fact, it is the other way around. Taxpayers are sacrificing more of their paychecks to sustain the lavish pay and benefits of their government counterparts.
Without “right to work” laws or the right to secret ballots the unions have all of the power and exploit the very workers they are supposed to protect. Yet liberals oppose these pro-worker reforms. What is democratic about a worker being forced to pay dues to a union they don’t support? What is democratic about denying state and local workers the right to vote every year on whether or not to retain their union? It is the Democrat state lawmakers that are purposefully avoiding participation in the democratic process. If they want democracy they should return to Madison and vote on the legislation in question.
Governor Walker is to be commended for taking a stand against the public unions, and the only problem with his proposal is that it doesn’t do enough to reduce the influence and power of corrupt union thugs.
There is no need for government unions. The only people who benefit from them are the corrupt union bosses funded by manda
tory union dues and their Democrat pawns in state legislatures and governor’s mansions.
This is about getting re-elected using taxpayer dollars. It is a cycle of corruption that must be ended by abolishing collective bargaining rights of government unions altogether. How is that for a proposal?
Bill Hanrahan is a third year student and the Secretary of the College Republicans. He can be reached at WH750431@wcupa.edu.