Today, Wisconsin is “Ground Zero,” echos all sides of the ideological debate, as thousands of protesters still fill the capital in Wisconsin to denounce proposals by Governor Walker to trim generous public worker benefits .
Those who protest say it’s not about the budget nor the benefits but about some employees losing rights for collective bargaining. However, Senator Leah Vukmir, pointed out that, last session, even in a Democrat controlled assembly and Senate, the collective bargaining process took 18 months for public employees. The inference is that kind lengthy bargaining could paralyze a state government under pressure to act decisively to save their state from financial devastation and is no longer a luxury that the state can afford.
Since “President Obama has weighed in on this issue,” explained Senator Leah Vukmir to the Heritage Foundation, hinting that it’s about Obama elections 2012, ” they have made Wisconsin ‘Ground Zero’.”
If the unions … get busted up here,” agrees one Wisconsin union protester, “it’s going to be like a house of cards and all unions, across the United States are going to be broken.”
“Wisconsin is basically Ground Zero,” claims Wisconsin Tea Party member, Nancy Mistele to Fox News, “this is the revolution of our day.”‘
It’s not that a claim of “Ground Zero” is a claim of higher moral ground, but instead, that Wisconsin is where many feel the battle lines have been drawn that will determine the fate of unions across the nation as state governors and overtaxed businesses and citizens say the fiscal reality is that they can’t continue to yield to union contracts that are breaking the backs of state budgets.
Outside activists are pouring in, bussed and organized, since Obama spoke out against Wisconsin’s efforts to control runaway union demands in Wisconsin. David Mercer, former deputy national finance director for the Democratic National Committee, says it understandable and right that this would happen since, “there’s a great collaborative effort and relationship between labor and Democrats and the DNC for years and we’re standing by them in this battle to protect any kind of further threat to what the governor is doing in Wisconsin on collective bargaining.” Mercer stresses, ” We want to be in the negotiations for budget cuts and restraint and getting it on the proper track but, and at the same time, we’re not going to forfeit collective bargaining which is a right of the American working family.”
Union benefits in Wisconsin are reported to be far more generous than the national average and there exists a number of what many have called “myths vs facts” surrounding the debate as revealed in the following transcript:
- Wisconsin budget deficit of $137 million — a deficit projected to increase to $3.6 billion in the next two years, by 2013 .(Source: MSNBC)
- Wisconsin public employees contribute less than 1% to their pensions. Taxpayers pay almost 100%. Walker’s proposal requires public employees to pay 5.8%, which is below the national average. (Source: Minnesota Public Radio)
- A Wisconsin public school teacher’s total yearly compensation is almost $78,000 for an 180-day school year. (Source: Washington Times)
- Wisconsin public employees contribute ^% to their healthcare premiums. Walker’s proposal requires pubic employees to pay 12%, still less than half the national average. ( Source: Wisconsin State Government).
Recently, Governor Walker offered deep appreciation for the 300,000 state employees, just a small part of the Wisconsin “silent majority”, many, who support his proposals and haven’t missed an hour of work while a minority of their union brethren protest what many believe to be “myths” not “facts” — because taking the facts into account, to many it becomes obvious that this is an idealogical fight of immense political implications about the power of unions — not an issue of unfairness to public workers at all.
Perhaps Wisconsin is “Ground Zero” as the fight continues on whether unions should be allowed to paralyze state governments by holding the states hostage to the will of unions and their collective bargaining demands. Teachers are reported to have agreed to return to work on Tuesday, concerned that they are losing the battle of public opinion with their continued demands for collective bargaining rights, or else.
So many feel if the Democrat legislators would return, Wisconsin lawmakers could get back to their jobs as well. However, it’s possible that for every teacher who returns to work, two activists may take their place determined to make WIsconsin’s “Ground Zero” a win for unions even if it is a bust for state governments and the families of taxpayers.
At this time, the citizens of Wisconsin don’t have the right to “collective bargaining’ about whether outside activists should be allowed to invade their state to nationally politicize this budget battle, effectively turning their state into the “Ground Zero” union battle that Obama must win – no matter the cost to Wisconsin. Might someone in Washington D.C. please put that issue on the table?