Faced with a deep deficit, Wisconsin's new Republican governor, Scott Walker, stirred up controversy by proposing sweeping limits on the ability of public-sector unions in the state to bargain collectively over benefits like health insurance and pensions, costs that have been driving many states deep into the red. In short, public employees need to pay more of their own insurance and retirement costs. But leftist Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, a union stalwart, took out the mud brush in Wednesday's paper, comparing the Republican to dictators of Egypt...and of communist Poland and East Germany. The Post headline was "Wisconsin's Mubarak." Here's the nutty graf:
It's a throwback to 19th-century America, when strikes were suppressed by force of arms. Or, come to think of it, to Mubarak's Egypt or communist Poland and East Germany.
The last we checked, Wisconsin still had a legislature, not to mention a judicial system for checks and balances. But Meyerson also called Walker a "cheesehead pharaoh" of the Midwest:
Our unions have already been decimated in the private sector; the results are plain. Corporate profits are soaring, while domestic investment, wages and benefits (particularly at nonunion companies) are flat-lining at best. With nobody to bargain for workers, America increasingly is an economically stagnant, plutocratic utopia. Is everybody happy?
American conservatives often profess admiration for foreign workers' bravery in protesting and undermining authoritarian regimes. Letting workers exercise their rights at home, however, threatens to undermine some of our own regimes (the Republican ones particularly), and shouldn't be permitted. Now that Wisconsin's governor has given the Guard its marching orders, we can discern a new pattern of global repressive solidarity emerging - from the chastened pharaoh of the Middle East to the cheesehead pharaoh of the Middle West.
Gov. Walker upped the drama by suggesting the National Guard could be deployed to replace striking public employees. Meyerson doesn't consider it a form of petty tyranny for police or firefighters or school teachers to go on long strikes. People in Washington are getting their first news from Madison from a very pro-union voice. For balance, here's a little of the Republican view from a Wausau Daily Herald news story:
Walker said his only goal is balancing the state's budget and giving local governments the tools to cope with expected cuts to state aid.
Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, on Tuesday said he supports Walker's plan as a better alternative than laying off public employees.
"The fact is the credit card is maxed," he said. "The state is deeply in debt, and we have to solve it now."
Suder, a 13-year member of the Assembly, described the plan as "painful to legislate" because it asks people to pay more toward their benefits while the economy still is struggling. But he said Walker's proposal is needed to address a projected $3.7 billion budget deficit.
Suder said he would consider changes raised by other state lawmakers, such as adjusting the proportion of health insurance premiums and pensions that employees would be required to pay. Under Walker's proposal, public employees would pay 12.6 percent of their health care premiums and contribute 5.6 percent of their annual salaries to pensions.
"No one likes to say, 'we're going to be paying more' -- if you look at the national average, I don't understand the argument as to how this
is going to be more painful than losing jobs and massive layoffs," Suder said.