Well finally it’s done. Scott Walker finally followed Charles Krauthammer’s advice and split the collective bargaining section out of the budget bill. Civil servants, who have apparently forgotten they are servants and have acted quite uncivilly during this imbroglio, have lost this battle.
What is the likely fallout from this bill?
Nothing much. Walker is at the beginning of his 4 year term and by the time he’s up for re-election there will be other issues on the minds of voters. The same cannot be said for the Republican legislators, some of whom will be up for reelection next year. I expect that unions will put nice big bullseyes over them – both figuratively and perhaps literally. Democrats will make gains – and not necessarily because of this vote; the popular vote swings between both parties and it has reached its greatest arc rightward. Democrats will replace Republicans as the pendulum swings left.
Wisconsin public sector employees will not be reduced to penury. The collective bargaining portion passed still allows for the practice to be used for raises up to the rate of inflation – something that has been skyrocketing (although the Fed says otherwise). Having to pay a few percent more for pensions and health care will continue to leave the employees in better shape than the majority of people in the private sector. Those are the people who actually pay the civil servants’ salaries and benefits, and they will experience some relief from this bill (though not much given the size of the state deficit.)
Although they have lost in Wisconsin, they put up such a fight that unions have already killed similar bills elsewhere and will most likely limit their losses nationally. Even the most conservative governors aren’t in a hurry now to pick a fight with the public sector unions while they enjoy the public’s sympathy.
So who won? The Wisconsin taxpayer, Gov. Scott Walker and the unions.
Who lost? The Wisconsin Democratic and Republican parties, and public sector employees.
Charles Krauthammer has been advocating that Walker should do that for weeks. I’m a big Krauthammer fan, especially since we’re both ex-liberals (he worked for the Mondale campaign, and I cast my first presidential vote for Mondale – regrets, I’ve had a few…) In the end I’m not sure why Walker didn’t split the bills to begin with. Part of me thinks he didn’t know he could do that, another part makes me think he wanted to provoke the Dems in order to make them look stupid. He’s succeeded.
But he’s also damaged the Republican party in Wisconsin; I fully expect some of those Reps to lose their jobs in ‘12. Walker is secure until 2014 but I’m sure the Republican state legislators are going to pay for this sideshow. In fact I think that those reps, the fleeing dems and the civil servants (who forgot they were servants and acted very uncivilly throughout this affair) are the losers. The unions – who pretended to justify the dues they collect from each civil servant’s paycheck, the WI taxpayer and Walker – who delivered on his campaign promise – are most likely the winners.
I hope other governors out there learn from this event. One lesson is that when you make cuts, you make them quickly – AFTER you’ve determined you have the votes for the bill to pass. If
you don’t have the votes, don’t support the bill. It’s freakin’ PoliSci 101 stuff.
Another is that Walker allowed the unions to frame the debate. Civil servants were portrayed as indentured servants of “the Man” instead of the overpaid, pampered servants of the citizenry they are supposed to be. I don’t know why Walker let that happen given the current climate. Again, is because he’s new at the job or is he plain stupid? Only time will tell.