Skip to comments.In Wisconsin, the real struggle is over power
Posted on 02/26/2011 11:34:30 AM PST by Mrs. Don-o
[This article was e-mailed to me by a fellow Catholic who wanted help refuting it from a Catholic social justice perspective. IOW, not just "Aw, Ezra Klein is a WaPo Socialist", but a real analysis of the legitimacy (if any) and limits of collective bargaining in the public sector, Have a look at it, and at my few comments below. Looking to y'all for some enlightening discussion.
You've probably heard politicians fret that state governments - or, worse, the federal government - will default on their debts. House Speaker John A. Boehner called the prospect of a federal default "a financial disaster not only for our country, but for the worldwide economy."
And why will it be so bad for the economy? Because the powerful actors who make up the entity we loosely refer to as "the market" - that means everyone from banks to hedge funds to China - will go nuts. They'll realize we're fiscally irresponsible. They'll stop lending us money, or at least start charging us more when they do. Interest rates will skyrocket, and the economy will grind to a halt.
So America's various governmental entities are looking for ways to avoid defaulting on their debt - or at least defaulting on their debt to the powerful. That addendum is important, because one of the strategies that's emerging is to default on debt to the less powerful, the people who don't have the power to wreck our economy.
This is a crucial fact about the economy: power matters. It's worth more, in many cases, than money. And that's what's really at issue in Wisconsin.
It's why Gov. Scott Walker (R) is uninterested in taking concessions from the unions on wages and benefits if they don't come alongside concessions on collective bargaining. What he wants isn't a change in the balance of payments. It's a change in the balance of power.
The deal Wisconsin made with its state employees was simple: Accept lower wages than you could get in the private sector now in return for better pensions and health-care benefits when you retire. Now Walker wants to renege on that deal.
Rather than stiff the banks, in other words, he wants to stiff the teachers - but the crucial twist he's added, the one that's sent tens of thousands of workers into the streets, is that he wants to make sure they can't fight back once he does it.
The reason you can't stiff bondholders is that they can make a state or country regret reneging on the deals they've made. They can increase borrowing costs far into the future, slowing economic growth and, through the resulting economic pain, throwing politicians out of office. That gives them power. An ordinary teacher does not have access to such artillery. Unless, of course, she's part of a union.
Unions - through collective bargaining, strikes and other means - give workers power. They make reneging on contracts with their members painful. They also make negotiations less lopsided.
They're not perfect, of course. They sometimes negotiate bad deals, or misbehave, or hand good money over to bad people, or put their short-term interests ahead of the public's long-term interests. But then, so do corporations and politicians.
But their power matters for more than just debt repayment. For all their faults, unions tend to see their constituents as not just their own members, but the "working class," broadly defined. That's why you'll find labor's fingerprints on everything from the two-day weekend to Medicare to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 - none of which require you to flash a union card before you can benefit from them.
To get a sense of what a world without unions would look like - a world where power is distributed radically differently - you need look no further than Walker's own proposals. In his State of the State speech, he said, "The decisions we face are not easy and the solutions we must approve will require true sacrifice." He's already called for plenty of it from not only state employees, but also the low-income residents who rely on Wisconsin's BadgerCare program.
But some won't have to sacrifice nearly so much. Walker's campaign platform called for sharp cuts in corporate taxes, including "eliminating corporate taxes for the first two years of operation." His budget repair bill proposes to allow the state to sell energy plants "with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state," and goes on to say that "any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest."
What you're seeing there isn't necessarily a world where deficits are lower. Rather, it's a world where power is distributed very differently. Maybe that's a good thing. But let's not confuse a discussion over political power with a discussion over deficits.
As for the isconsin bishops, I kn ow they already weighed in with some sort of equivocating ecclesiastical bafflegab...
So, Ideas! Resources! Arguments! Counter-arguments! Ad maiorem Dei gloriam! Anybody got anything to offer?
The last post about how Walker sold himself for $43,000 to Koch, I’d follow-up with a list of how much money public sector unions spent in 2010.
So please help me think this through!
I’m sorry. I feel like a total idiot, but the position of the government-employee unions is just so self-evidently totally wrong that I can’t think of any arguments except “Duh!.”
“Care for educators like they care for your child”? Give me a break. I care for my children at no cost to the taxpayers ... so why don’t “educators” want to do the same? (/s)
But something is a foot all over the world. This is going to spread it will get worse. There is spiritual dynamic definitely going on our country too. We have to pray harder just so much is happening at once within a short period of time. God help us.
The argument is mute, They are trying to say teacherswho are being paid more than the privet sector will end up with less? BS first of all they are and will be paid more than privet sector event with the change. Second point is whom do they think is paying the bill for those high wages now? Some no faced corporations? It is those people in the privet sector making less than these coveting rouges.
I think you are misapprehending the situation. Priests and Ministers who argue in favor of “social justice” are impervious to rational discussions of fact and principle. They are possessed of a demonic heresy. They want to be as Gods, rather than to worship the one true God. The only thing to say to such creatures is “Get thee behind me, Satan!”
I am sorry I cannot help you from a theology standpoint as my points would be more evangelical than many Catholics would typically tolerate. But I will try from a semi-Secular Perspective.
Wisconsin (and virtually all states) have a budget problem in 2011. Voters in most of these states have voted in politicians that would not raise taxes. That leaves two options to balance a budget: pay each worker less, or fire a bunch of workers. Which is the more socially just -- give more money to a few and leave many desititue, or share the bounty from the Lord evenly among all?
I will try to present the truth as honestly as I can as I understand it.
Wisconsin is a government and should not be expected to provide for every need of its citizens. We are each responsible for providing for our needs and voluntarily helping others in need through our church or other non profit organizations. Americans are very generous to others.
Wisconsin and other governments has elected to provide public education funded by the taxpayers. WI provided civil service protection to government workers in the early 1900’s. The federal government under FDR establish laws for private unions and exempted governments. Later WI allowed public unions and collective bargaining. The Federal government does not allow collective bargaining.
These unions have bargained for wages, benefits and work rules. Some of this has been beneficial for all. Yet there was a strong tendency to give into the union demands by both Democratic and Republican administrations which tended to raise the cost to the taxpayer higher than the general wages and benefits of the community. It is always easier to give away OPM - other peoples money (taxpayers).
The unions seem to align with the Democrats and a good part of the union dues comes back to the politicians in the form of campaign contributions.
The cost of wages, benefits and work rules have gotten out of control and Wisconsin and the local governments can no longer pay for these costs.
It is time to reduce the costs, but also to correct the procedures that give the unions the political power to take more than their fair share.
I believe Gov Walker is a honest leader that is trying to protect the interests of all Wisconsinites.
There is too much shouting and corruption in WI and we need to understand the issues and not just listen to the loudest rhetoric.
For example, there is a 2000 report which documents a half billion dollar waste by WEAC on the health insurance premiums that they control without competitive bids.
I went down to the local local demonstration today to see what my local folks were upset about. Had an errand to do at Kinko's and they were right there - convenient walk across the parking lot. Evidently, there is legislation in Nashville that has TEA (not the Party) exercised.
So, I ask one lady what was their message. She mumbled something about pay cuts for teachers and loss of tenure. The a fellow, about my age, took it upon himself to set me straight.
Here's the deal. There's no money for education because the Republicans (who just this past election won the Governorship and control of the legislature) use all the money to build roads to nowhere so their buddies can get rich.
So, what's going to happen is that public education is going to be destroyed as all the rich people (like me) either send their kids to private school or homeschool. The public schools will be left as the caretakers of the poor and underprivileged and I don't give a damn about them.
So, I might as well start killing them all now, because that is my ultimate goal. I was unable to continue this fascinating look into my plans, as some woman dragged him away, at that point.
I realize this is not responsive to the topic of the thread, but I did want to share what I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.
Here is some useful info.
This indicates that they only know the surface issue as they have been told. An emotional reaction based on feelings.
Certainly they do not understand the history and the facts.
Too bad they don’t realize how much it will cost them in the long run. Too bad the hippies of the 60’s still haven’t learned.
I’m a Catholic. I’m also a teacher. Here’s what I see from where I sit.
One, kids are not getting the quality of education that they need to succeed. Why? Various reasons for this. Public educators are protected in several ways, most notably in requiring the following:
1, a 4 year degree.
2, a teaching certificate.
Now, presumably one would expect the quality of teaching to go up with the length of time spent in obtaining the credentials necessary for teaching. However, that’s not what we see. Instead we see the opposite. We see teachers trying to keep others out of their profession rather then focus on the prime responsibility, to provide a quality education to children.
I volunteer my own time to teach kids, to help them get what they need. In return people help me out. This seems fair. The better I do, the more people who want me to teach their kids without the burdens placed on by credentialism.
I have zero sympathy for the teachers who are on strike. They haven’t been doing a very good job and are insulated from market forces. Thus, they ought at the very least to be replaced by those who will take their duties seriously.
Thank you. Outstanding information. I’ll get back to this.
Public-Employee Unions: Facts, Figures, History
This site may give answers to questions.
They also say that NO ONE should be forced to join a union as a condition for employment.
I received 14 years of a Catholic education, yet the teacher I remember was a neighbor that worked for the World Bank. I remember saying that not how I learned to do it in school. I don’t remember his reply, but he taught me to think and how to solve problems.
Every profession tries to limit entrance and sets the rules.
This is a problem when government relies on special interest groups to understand a profession or a problem. Too many people use their position to self-promote their own intersts.
Education should be fun and challenging and teaching should be about educating and challenging kids.
The hardest part is finding people that we can trust to do the right (and hard) thing for the best interests of all.
As today’s sermon, we need to learn to trust in the Lord.
If everyone would just learn to be and do good, they would be much happier and they would understand that God was with them.
Their joint aim is to drain as much of the monies of the states into their maws as possible. By and large the teachers earn a smaller and smaller share of this,, Every cut is felt by those at the bottom . If schools economize, it is aide and teachers who laid off first. Newer before first, of course, but teachers near retirement are pressured into leaving. Want that extra year? Well, we need a busdriver. Administrators are going to protect their staff, even if classroom teachers have to go.
Stiff teachers. That’s a laugh.
We know how much they make on average per community. We also know how much on average their health insurance is and how much “we” contribute to their pensions.
They fare a lot better on average than the average private sector worker in Wisconsin, who, by the way, ADDS TO THE STATE’S BOTTOM LINE PRODUCTIVITY.
If the teachers don’t like it they can quit. However when this passes, none will. They know they will still have excellent job security and excellent benefits and excellent retirement plans, and more civil service law job protection than most private workers can only dream of. Their union bosses will still be making hundreds of thousands of dollars, far more than the Governor of this state. School administrators will still be making betwee 100-200 grand a year depending where they are. We’ve got the stats. We know who’s making what.
Kind of why the whining by these folks saying they have it so hard, ain’t working, they are whining to the folks paying their salaries and in general, have it significantly harder than they do - even after this bill passes.
Sounds about right. That is their level of argumentation / straw man construction.
Statement Regarding the Rights of Workers and the Value of Unions
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki, archbishop of Milwaukee and president of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, has issued the following statement regarding the rights of workers and the value of unions.
February 16, 2011
The Church is well aware that difficult economic times call for hard choices and financial responsibility to further the common good. Our own dioceses and parishes have not been immune to the effects of the current economic difficulties. But hard times do not nullify the moral obligation each of us has to respect the legitimate rights of workers. As Pope Benedict wrote in his 2009 encyclical, Caritas in veritate:
Governments, for reasons of economic utility, often limit the freedom or the negotiating capacity of labor unions. Hence traditional networks of solidarity have more and more obstacles to overcome. The repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine, beginning with Rerum Novarum , for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend their rights must therefore be honored today even more than in the past, as a prompt and far-sighted response to the urgent need for new forms of cooperation at the international level, as well as the local level. [#25]
It does not follow from this that every claim made by workers or their representatives is valid. Every union, like every other economic actor, is called to work for the common good, to make sacrifices when required, and to adjust to new economic realities.
However, it is equally a mistake to marginalize or dismiss unions as impediments to economic growth. As Pope John Paul II wrote in 1981, [a] union remains a constructive factor of social order and solidarity, and it is impossible to ignore it. (Laborem exercens #20, emphasis in original)
It is especially in times of crisis that new forms of cooperation and open communication become essential. We request that lawmakers carefully consider the implications of this proposal and evaluate it in terms of its impact on the common good. We also appeal to everyone lawmakers, citizens, workers, and labor unions to move beyond divisive words and actions and work together, so that Wisconsin can recover in a humane way from the current fiscal crisis.
I would suggest a stronger statement on the abuse of the system by the unions that hurt the worker and the taxpayer.
Unions have abused their power in demanding benefits and controlling participation through their own insurance company without competitive bidding and have wasted at least a half billion dollars over last 10 years.
They also abuse work rules and encourage illegal strikes.
Workers shouldn’t be forced to join the union or pay union dues.
Should the Catholic Church stand for true justice and truth or just issue a watered down position paper that doesn’t really address the issues? Is it divisive when one speaks the truth?
The deal Wisconsin made with its state employees was simple: Accept lower wages than you could get in the private sector now. . . a fact not in evidence . . .
in return for better pensions and health-care benefits when you retire. Now Walker wants to renege on that deal.I don't think private schools pay as well as public schools do. In fact, I was shocked to learn that a middle school history teacher was making significantly more than I as an engineer was making. And he retired young, so I take it that his pension benefits must have been OK as well.
Now I had the impression that he was quite good at his job, and that's OK - but don't tell me that he was making a huge sacrifice taking that P.S. teaching gig. This was NY State, not Wisconsin - but I question whether there was all that much difference, given what we're hearing about WI. The purpose of the union is to make sure that the teachers - good, bad, and indifferent - all get well paid. Well, sorry - you can make sacrifices and do good for the children, or you can do well - but you can't have your cake and eat it too.
Thank you, that was very interesting. Crazy people out there. I’m glad I rarely leave home.
Well, Walmart on Friday night ... teenage Russian girls arguing over the clearance racks, vaqueros Latinos looking rather guapos, tattoo’d rednecks with lots of little kids, and an astonishing array of people buying large amounts of beer.
Well, I’m taken by what Shoeless Joe says, in Field of Dreams.
“I’d have played for food money. Shoot, I’d play for nothing!”
What is a teacher worth? Everything... and nothing. How do you compensate someone who exchanges enlightenment? You can’t, not really. You can only pay them money. And the good ones find a way to get by without it.
>> We have to pray harder just so much is happening at once within a short period of time
And perhaps faster.
I never entered into a vocation where I was promised anything - my preference. I’m short of paying bills with my blood. My health insurance costs $20k/year.
>> So America’s various governmental entities are looking for ways to avoid defaulting on their debt
Contrary to the prevailing whim here on FR, we should raise the debt ceiling if to avoid the risk of default with the understanding the expansion would be contracted ASAP.
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