Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wisconsin Public Workers and Teachers

The growing debate, harsh rhetoric, and building animosity between local and state governments and their employees in Wisconsin is spreading to other locations.

Yesterday, a Nampa, ID school official, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna had his vehicle vandalized. Two tires were apparently slashed and Luna’s name was spray painted on the side of his pickup truck, then crossed out.  This was done during the overnight hours while the pickup was parked in his driveway.

The issues in Wisconsin is over a bill in the legislature that would have state and local government workers (teachers) contribute more to their retirement accounts and health care costs.  Also, the Wisconsin Legislature is attempting to take away some of the collective bargaining abilities of the unions. The bill will leave the unions with the ability to bargain for wages, just not other aspects like health care and retirement accounts.

President Obama has decided to insert himself into the Wisconsin issue, basically saying this is an assault on unions.  Personally, I really think he might be overstepping his position here.  First of all, why is the President of the United States getting involved with what is essentially a local issue? Has he not heard of states’ rights? He Has done this before, with the Cambridge cop and the Arizona Immigration bill.  I loved what Governor Walker said in his presser and other interviews today, “It would be wise for the President and others in Washington to focus on balancing their budget which they’re along ways from doing” (Fox News at 3:12).

Secondly, there is a very really chance that he has miscalculated.  The American people are suffering. Unemployment stands at over 9.5%. The only sector of the American economy that has not been impacted by this long-running recession is the public sector, which has been the fastest growing segment of employment.  While the private sector has lost millions of jobs, the public sector has gained hundreds of thousands (see here). The American people are starting to get upset that the federal and state workers are not taking on their share of the sacrifice during this economic downturn.  When people who are laid off or taking a job they are over-qualified for to make ends meet and they see that a Milwaukie School District teacher makes an average of $100,000 in wages and benefits there will be little sympathy. A smart Republican Presidential candidate will bring up this issue during the campaign, and the American people will remember.

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