The Associated Press's Scott Bauer opened his report ("Wis. lawmakers flee state to block anti-union bill") from Madison, Wisconsin today by completely misrepresenting the nature of the legislation involved in the current standoff:
Faced with a near-certain Republican victory that would end a half-century of collective bargaining for public workers, Wisconsin Democrats retaliated with the only weapon they had left: They fled.
Wow. That's pretty serious. Any reasonable reader of that paragraph would believe that evil Republican Governor Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled legislature aim to end all collective-bargaining rights, break up the Badger State's public-sector unions, and relegate them to the ash heap of history.
But that's not what's at stake, as Bauer himself, after repeating the falsehood in his 34th paragraph, finally revealed what his definition of "elimination" is in Paragraph 36:
In addition to eliminating collective-bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage - increases Walker calls "modest" compared with those in the private sector.
Republican leaders said they expected Wisconsin residents would be pleased with the savings the bill would achieve - $30 million by July 1 and $300 million over the next two years to address a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.
Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.
Geez, Scott, if "unions could still represent workers," they still have "collective-bargaining rights" -- perhaps not as extensive as before, but they still have 'em. Zheesh.
What Bauer's opener does is ensure that news readers, listeners, and viewers around the country who are fed the AP's copy at subscribing outlets tonight and tomorrow will get a false impression that the dispute in Wisconsin is all about completely ending union representation of all public-sector employees. Clearly, that's not the case -- but almost no one will get to Paragraph 36.
A paragraph from the middle of Bauer's report which might as well have come from a joint Democrat-union press release (maybe it did) shows that it's not exactly difficult to determine where his sympathies lie:
Across the Wisconsin Statehouse, Democrats showed up in the Assembly chamber wearing orange T-shirts that proclaimed their support for working families.
As would be expected, Bauer also glossed over the incivility of the legislation's opponents, only acknowledging that:
- "Protesters unleashed venomous boos and screams at Republicans."
- "Some others even demonstrated outside lawmakers' homes."
- "Nine people were given citations for minor acts of civil disobedience."
Bauer also did not identify the level of Wisconsin public-sector wages. Michelle Malkin did, with averages and hundreds upon hundreds of specifics. That's ironic, because if we are to believe FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, it's the AP that's practicing "real journalism," and folks like Malkin are only providing "too much opinion based on opinion and too little news based on fact."
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.