Blue: Level heads absent in Wisconsin, Washington

Brandon Blue

Crunch time, America. Do we keep living like the kings we think we are, or do we rein in the lavish spending?

If a governor in Wisconsin wants public employees to chip in and begin paying for their benefits, is that frugality or an “assault on unions?” 

President Obama thinks the latter. And consistent with his party’s herping and derping with the nation’s deficit, his proposed 2012 budget will add $9 trillion to our national debt by 2021.

Kari Paul at The Maneater said Obama’s proposed budget will “cut funding to inefficient or wasteful programs while increasing funding for programs like clean energy and education, which he believed would benefit the advancement of America’s economy in the global market.”

My take on clean energy is an entirely different article, but in passing let me point out that for each “green job” created, 2.2 jobs are lost — 9 jobs for every 4. For Obama to focus on green jobs over pretty much anything else, given the recession and unemployment numbers, is nothing short of insanity.

Just short of insanity is the proposal by Republican Scott Walker of Wisconsin to rein in the state’s spending. His plan would require, among other things, that most state employees contribute 5.8 percent of their salaries to their own pension funds, and that they contribute 12.6 percent of salary to health insurance premiums. That would reduce the take-home pay of state workers by 8 percent.

Walker’s mistake was that he introduced the proposal without negotiating with unions first. The New York Times hit it on the head in its Feb. 17 editorial.

“Benefits for Wisconsin’s state workers are currently quite generous, but … [t]hey were negotiated by elected officials and can be re-negotiated at the bargaining table if necessary.”

I’m not clued-in to Wisconsin politics or to the history of Walker’s attempts to negotiate with unions. But I’m pretty confident that, had they agreed with him on a single term, Wisconsin would be in a better state than it is now.

We could argue back and forth forever about the importance of cutting spending and what we think should be cut. But I have a feeling that no matter which side of the spectrum we fall we would agree that leaving the state is one of the most stupid reactions I’ve ever seen anyone in politics leave to get their way. It is literally taking your ball and going home. The game just stops where it was.

But that’s exactly what 14 Democratic lawmakers did last week to stop the vote on Walker’s proposal.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach, one of the 14 absent lawmakers, told from Chicago he feels “It’s (Walker’s) job to sit down and talk to people about here’s where we are, how are we all going to get where we all need to be.” Of course, in the same interview, Erpenbach stresses that he’s proud of the protestors in Madison.

Proud of the signs. Proud of the vitriol. Proud of the hate. Because most disgusting are the signs these supporters carry.

Just following the shootings in Tucson a month and a half ago, it’s comforting to see that 21st-century Americans aren’t yet past comparing one another to Hitler. Nor to drawing crosshairs over the faces of politicians they abhor.

I’m not surprised; Hitler signs are old hat to people when they protest the GOP. In the end, it’s the lack of rationality in this entire ordeal that makes it a compelling story.

Rather than negotiate with the unions, Gov. Walker has decided to propose legislation to strip them of collective bargaining rights.

Rather than negotiate with the GOP in the statehouse, Wisconsin’s Senate Democrats have decided to flee the state.

Rather than peacefully negotiate with lawmakers and protest at the capitol, state workers have devolved into name-calling and hateful rhetoric.

Expect to see more of this in the near future as the measures needed to balance state budgets only become more severe.