Expect more Wisconsins


The battle lines over public sector wages and benefits are being drawn in the state of Wisconsin and there is every indication the outcome will be messy. At issue is how government employees affect public finances. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker not only wishes to tackle this issue, but has gone a step further in wanting to permanently change how the state will conduct collective bargaining in the future.

Unions see this as a full frontal attack on the labour movement. The fact 36 per cent of union members work in the public sector, while only 7 per cent work in the private sector has made this an easy Republican versus Democratic battle about the role and size of government.

Democrats and labour argue that Republican governors are misinterpreting their electoral victories and using ideology to attack unions and the middle class. The GOP counters that deficits and the debt are the biggest threats to America’s future. These state showdowns foreshadow what will happen at the federal level when Congress will be asked to raise the debt ceiling this spring.

For the GOP, the mantra is cuts to taxes and spending, while the Democrats are looking at a mixture of cuts and tax reforms to increase revenues. Both parties know that entitlements such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will have to be tackled for real deficit cutting. And lest we forget defense spending. Obama and the newly emboldened Republican caucus know this, but no one wants to go first and spell out the cuts.

Meanwhile, governors like New Jersey’s Chris Christie and, to a lesser degree, Mitch Daniels of Indiana and John Kasich of Ohio are sounding the alarm and making headway in the polls for their blunt talk and results-oriented policies. It is clear that if Wisconsin’s governor gets his way, spending cuts will rise to the top of the agenda. The problem is the math involved and whether compromise is anywhere to be found.

When Ronald Reagan worked out a compromise on Social Security with Tip O’Neill, there was give and take. Bill Clinton eliminated the deficit with a mixture of cuts and tax hikes with some bipartisanship. It is the only way the numbers eventually balance.

Polls indicate voters want their political leaders to solve problems rather than engage in the ideologically inspired partisanship we are seeing in Wisconsin. But there is every reason to expect more of the confrontation and polarization we are seeing in Wisconsin before good sense prevails.

[John Parisella is Quebec’s delegate-general in New York City]


Expect more Wisconsins

  1. Union-busting is very popular in corporate circles

    It's also, of course, the other things in the bill that upset people.

  2. Walker not only wishes to tackle this issue, but has gone a step further in wanting to permanently change how the state will conduct collective bargaining in the future.

    Unions see this as a full frontal attack on the labour movement.

    Uh, OK, but Walker is trying to nudge public sector collective bargaining towards where it CURRENTLY IS for many other state (and the federal) governments.

  3. The fact 36 per cent of union members work in the public sector, while only 7 per cent work in the private sector has made this an easy Republican versus Democratic battle about the role and size of government.

    The fact that public sector unions extort mucho wealth and future promises out of compliant governments, then assess mega-rich dues out of members, then heavily subsidize the donkey party, may have a little something to do with what's going on, too.

    Forced subsidy of ONE political party through collective bargaining with a monopolistic employer spending other people's money once the contracts are signed, with no risk of going out of business to temper the excesses. What could possibly go wrong?

        • Are you suggested that teachers in the US are overpaid? I just looked at a report on employment spot that stated that the avg salary for a teacher in the city of Savannah, Georgia was $25,000.00 per year. There were other cities to where teachers are making pittance. Every state pays differently. Now what do you think a four year university degree is worth? What do you think an Engineer gets paid as opposed to a teacher or a nurse?

          • HINT: Look at public (that's code for UNION) vs. private in that table.

          • HINT: Look at public (that's code for UNION) vs. private in that table.

            All that shows is teachers in the private sector are underpaid.

          • The exact same thing is occuring in the US education system that is occuring in Canada. They have a lot of older teachers who are nearing retirement. So those people who are making $58,000.00 per year likely have 25 to 30 years experience. I am not sure what you think they should be making. Once they exist the system, the ones who are forced to take jobs at the lower paying private schools will be stepping up into the better paying jobs. I am shocked that you picked on American teachers as it is well known that they are underpaid. Why not go after the nurses as they are making better money? Or the firefighters? Perhaps the Police. All of those groups have all lost their ability to collectively bargain as well.

          • Public teachers over 30 years experience 12.05
            Private school teachers over 30 years experience 2.56

            This difference I would imagine is as soon as a teacher can get out of the private sector they do and/or as they get more experience the private sector employer looks to lower costs.

      • You asked for facts, part II…

        Teacher Retirement Benefits: "conventional wisdom is right: the cost of retirement benefits for teachers is higher than for private-sector professionals."

      • And let's read through Krugman's "mixed bag" conclusion on public sector compensation (where low-end workers make out very well in the public service, and high-end workers don't do as well). Clicking on through to the NYT's state payroll study, we find this wee little nugget:

        "The census data analyzed by The Times do not include information on pensions and other benefits, which is crucial for a fuller comparison because public sector workers typically receive more in benefits than workers in the private sector do. "

        No kidding!

    • Been suspecting for a while that MYL is not a person by a lobby voice. This has erased any doubt.

  4. When Ronald Reagan worked out a compromise on Social Security with Tip O'Neill, they STILL left Social Security as an already spent black-hole Ponzi scheme waiting to either collapse their country or slap future gullible seniors with awful poverty from failed promises.

    • Some statements make little sense and madeyoulook…stupid is an artist from what I see .keep it up up madeyoulookstupid . Lol.

  5. Bill Clinton eliminated the deficit with a mixture of cuts and tax hikes with some bipartisanship.

    …and total disregard for what already-spent Social Security reserves and unfunded pension liabilities had waiting in store. Eliminated deficit my a–.

    • See my link to Ritholtz above.You might have a serious perception problem.

      • Your buddy Krugman, in 2007: The last Congressional Budget Office long-term budget projection had Social Security spending rising from 4.2 percent of GDP now to 6.4 percent by 2050, a 2.2 percentage point increase – and Social Security, remember, is currently running a surplus to prepare for that eventuality.

        Really? Surplus, eh? Anybody (Joe? Maybe Nobel-winning Krugman?) want to take an itty-bitty peek under the surplus-adorned shell that is the Social Security vault? Do tell us what's under that shell…

        • Clinton knew that it wasn't really a surplus which is why his Vice President Al Gore ran on preserving social security (lockbox remember?) too bad America elected the first certifiable retard as president and he blew a nominal surplus and handed Barack Obama a 1.3 trillion dollar deficit.

  6. Polls indicate voters want their political leaders to solve problems rather than engage in the ideologically inspired partisanship we are seeing in Wisconsin.

    Tell that to the runaway Dem Senators, please.

    • Are you with Hill and Knowlton or what? You can be honest – this is just a little ol'Canadian website…

      • Thumbing me down eh MLY? I hope they're paying you ovetimne.

  7. This battle is long over due. And with the timing, the Republicans definitely have the advantage. After the little show put on by the Dems in Wisconsin, I can't see them making any electoral ground there for at least a couple election cycles.

  8. "36 per cent of union members work in the public sector, while only 7 per cent work in the private sector"

    So that leaves 57% of union members working… where, exactly?

    • I suspect John has mangled his numbers and his words. I presume he meant that 36% of public sector workers are unionized, whereas only 7% of private sector workers are.

      But that would surprise me, that almost two-thirds of public sector employees are NOT unionized. UPDATE: Then I just thought of the US military…

      • Think of most people, in Canada, who work in hospitals and universities, as well. Most aren't unionized. Mosty, it's the docs and nurses, teachers and policy folks. Generally, more education in the public sector leads to a unionized position.

        • Most aren't? In Canada? Really? I must say that doesn't fit with my understanding. I will have to dig for specific numbers over the weekend…

          • You're American I take it?

          • I think you'll find your understanding has a lot more to do with ideology than you might realize…

        • Actually, most public employees are unionized. Canada has a 71% unionization rate for public employees, and 16.0% unionization rate for private employees.

          Specifically for health care & education, they 54% and 68% unionization rate. Most jobs on university campuses are unionized (the University of Waterloo being the largest exception), as well as most support jobs in hospitals (for example HEU in BC).

          [1] http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2010110/pdf

          • Thanks for that — it makes much more sense to me, what with my alleged ideology and all.

  9. Interesting. China is fighting to get unions, and the west is fighting to get rid of them

    • Another thumbs down myl…being an American isn't necessarily a negative – unless you're pretending to be a Canadian.

  10. The Governor of Wisconsin is already making good sense – there's no way to keep paying through the nose for these priveleged few. What's so hard for socialists to figure out?

    Socialists take other people's money and spend it on themselves, when other people's money is gone, there's nothing left to spend – what is the difficult concept here? How dumb are these thugs?

    The more 'Wisconsins' the better, fire them all and privatize the schools, a voucher system would offer parents a choice and kids wouldn't get stuck facing lazy government workers every day – no wonder so many kids hate going to school.

    • I guess making a decent living is now a bad thing. Gotta give those corporations and CEOs their due. They have managed to convince us that making a decent wage is a bad thing and giving them huge tax cuts so they get obscene bonuses tax free for moving jobs to China is a good thing.

      • They haven't conviced me.

        Seriously, if you're going to go after unions (not an unreasonable thing to do in my view, particularly public sector unions) you must also go after executive salaries. And you must do both concurrently, at the same time, together and in tandem. Because for every argument the Philanthropists can make in respect of the unions, someone else can make in respect of executive salaries.

        And dont give me that crap about only public sector union overpayments are paid by the taxpayer. Because taxpayers are nearly always consumers, too. And if not the government, then who?

        • Jenn, I hope you get that it is the shareholders whose profits are siphoned off to exec compensation. And any business that is bogged down by excessive compensation is a sitting duck for the competition. Competition — the word that means squat in the public sector. If the price of goods & services are excessive because of dumb compensation deals, then the consumer has a choice to buy from the next business. No such luck for bus drivers, cops, public school teachers, hospital janitors…

          So YES, public sector overpayments are paid by the taxpayer. Make that tomorrow's taxpayer, in our current context of deficit public finances. Or, if we have no intention of paying it back, our sucker creditors are paying for the overpayments. None of these scenarios is a particularly positive moral stance of our society.

          Whereas private sector overpayments are paid by the owners of the business, and lead to tax revenues for the public purse.

          • Oh, bullsh$t, MYL. That's what supposed to happen, I'll grant you that. Instead, what really happens is the 'competition' increases their executive compensation to match. So the price of the good stays overly high, while the competition is between who can make the most millions in the big offices. I defy anyone to truly justify an employee paycheque–not an owner's return on investment–of over 1 million dollars per year. And when we see the total mismanagement in several of these companies (investment houses and automobile manufacturers come to mind) and how much those CEOs made for bringing the company to its knees, and you can see its just another big scam. Yes, they make the big decisions and deserve to be rewarded for good ones, but they are basing a 'good decision' on very short-term results, and so often those are long-term disasters. And yes, I know the stock market is now based on "what have you done for me this minute" but that's further evidence of how the entire system is broken.

          • We probably shouldn't bail them out then.

          • Probably? We definitely shouldn't bail out the executives. I have a hard time feeling the pain for the union members, either. However, when entire towns are completely dependent, and large regions are largely dependent, it hurts far more than the executives. Yet another reason to be furious with them (and ourselves for allowing entire towns to be completely dependent on any one industry). The hairdresser in Windsor and the bowling alley operator in Oshawa are the people I bailed out.

    • Thank goodness for Madeyoulook. Someone has an education in Economics. Exactly as Madeyoulook says, if shareholders want to put their money into companies with big salaries, it is their choice. With the current economy, exec salaries will not rise the same was as during the good times but union salaries will keep rising and retirement money is paid, no matter how the pension fund performs.
      Young people are seeing a government job as the best. Trudeau did say he wanted government to attract the best and brightest but there goes the machine that drives the wealth of our country.

      • Yes, the bonuses at the investment houses, since the crash, certainly bear out your contention. NOT.

        • You're talking about a handful of private sector people, there are thousands upon thousands of government employees.

          • 80% of the worlds wealth is held by 20% of the worlds people. A mere handful.

          • If a bank is robbed by only one bank robber, does that make it okay to you?

    • This is the most idiotic statement I have read . Philantropist should change his name to sadist !!!!!!!!

    • You are correct to paraphrase 'Wisconsins' .. it should be "Wisconsinites".

      It is also odd that public employee unions fight against the people (meaning citizens, taxpayers, voters, etc). It kind of conflicts with the image they're trying to sell. Just sayin'.

  11. Let's attack big government but not big police, big army and big prisons. Just concentrate on the intrusions of health and education where government comes into your lives and arrests you and takes you off to … wait a minute!

    • Do any of those public employees have the right to collective bargaining?

      Not that I'm in favour of banning collective bargaining in general, though I do believe that the public service should be vigorously and constantly challenged to avoid them becoming an aristocracy. However, you should note that they did come for the police and the prison guards first.

  12. Right on, toby….!

    Canadian growth industries (unionized):
    border security, etc
    All uniformed, many jumped-up nasties from my experience. BIG TAX EATERS from the one tax-payer source.

    • The complete compensation package is paid for by taxpayers. Trying to assert that is not the case is trying to insert FUD into the debate. This is the reason why there is little sympathy for the public employees except from other unionized/public employees
      Few if any public or private companies have defined pension plans. This is a cost issue that the private sector has addressed through 401k accounts. Companies can contribute but are not on the hook for a guaranteed rate of return for retirees that are living longer and longer.
      Good debate on this link – thank you for it. I do agrre with this comment though:
      Public employees should be treated like private. If you perform you stay if not… No seniority, the state should have the right to change things as a private employer would, outsource if it is feasible etc…
      I fear Unions have turned from a needed voice to a mob. Mobs always fall to the lowest IQ in a group. Listening to some of the people defending the status quo reminds me of Twain's theory: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt”

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      • Thanks for your analysis, but I think that I am siding with those pinkos at Forbes on this one…

  13. Before this civil row, I had no idea how much unions paid into Democrats' campaigns or the way dues are collected for the unions and of course, the amount of inflation/sock market protection of pensions. It is Greece.
    There needs to be complete transparency with government finances. There are many, many parties sucking at the teat, corrupting country that used to run well. It is not just the unions either. With the bonus money paid out to bankers AFTER their bail outs and the influence with how money flows, it is another poison.
    Frankly, I am surprised that America is not looking like Tripoli. The ordinary tax payer is a dupe.

  14. Walker is a lackey of the Koch brothers . He must be resisted .

    • i agree . Kochs are dangerous people . MANIPULATORS .

      • I would like the Republicans to go after the fraud on Wall Street. No one arrested 3 years later after the financial meltdown .Go see Inside Job . Agree with C.Ferguson !

    • Walker is just a puppet of the far right.

  15. Very partisan attacks by GOP in oreder to cut spending .

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