Saturday opinion, Wisconsin edition.
EJ Dionne :
There is also this: Wisconsin doesn't face a huge budget crisis in the way that, say, New York and California do.
In fact, its budget difficulties were, in large part, created by Walker and his legislative allies. As The Times pointed out this morning (in an editorial entitled "Gov. Walker's Pretext"), the governor "is refusing to accept his own share of responsibility for the state's projected $137 million shortfall."
Matthew Cooper :
By taking aim at the ability of public employees to strike, Walker has found a tool that may well cut the state's budget deficit. In doing so, however, he has lit a fire under Democrats and a chastened labor movement that has gotten used to givebacks.
Collective bargaining is the infrastructure--the essential core of labor’s rights and power--and so attacks on that right go to the heart of the union movement. That is why the president weighed in on what is at first glance a local issue. If the battle of Madison spreads beyond Columbus and Des Moines to the rest of the country, we’ll be hearing a lot more on this topic from the president.
I wouldn't mind a fire lit under Democrats.
NY Times :
“We think that what’s going on in Wisconsin actually helps us here in Ohio,” said Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Governor Kasich, who is supporting a bill that would limit collective bargaining rights there.
But Wisconsin is proving to be a catalyst for Democrats and labor leaders, who are taking heart from the way thousands of workers have rallied to the cause.
Ezra Klein :
Let's be clear: Whatever fiscal problems Wisconsin is -- or is not -- facing at the moment, they're not caused by labor unions. That's also true for New Jersey, for Ohio and for the other states. There was no sharp rise in collective bargaining in 2006 and 2007, no major reforms of the country's labor laws, no dramatic change in how unions organize. And yet, state budgets collapsed. Revenues plummeted. Taxes had to go up, and spending had to go down, all across the country.
Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don't blame the unions. Not for this recession.
For all that, I actually wouldn't mind having a conversation over whether collective bargaining makes state government better or worse. But that is definitely not the discussion Scott Walker is having with his state. As both his State of the State speech and his proposal show, he's framed this entirely in fiscal terms. And that's an important difference. If he'd framed it in terms of governmental performance, he'd have to admit that he's trying to completely destroy the viability of the state's public unions, which is something he's been working hard to obscure. That's how you make government work differently.
But Walker isn't prepared for that conversation. Rather, he's been masking his proposal in a milder argument about pension contributions. But even that's not such a sure thing, as plenty of states without collective bargaining are facing massive deficits -- including Texas, which is beginning to look almost California-esque in its budget projections.
The rallies in Madison and other cities are about whether working people have any protections against the moneyed interests that bought the last election, not about wages and health insurance premiums. While the rich get richer and middle class prospects diminish, they've seen every opportunity to level the playing field crippled by the same people who supported Governor Walker’s election.
The playbook has been written: block the appointment of Elizabeth Warren who argued for consumer protection against credit card and mortgage predators. Gin up fear about the federal deficit to defund student loans, home hearing oil assistance, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Labor Relations Board, federally guaranteed home mortgages. Change layoff rules so better paid workers go first, revoke public sector collective bargaining.
Two from First Read
Walker, Wisconsin Ranger: The other surprising part of this showdown is that it's taking place so early in Walker's term, and so early in the legislative session. This isn't over cuts or pay -- folks are missing the point on this front. The Democratic state senators fled over the attempt to strip collective bargaining rights. And what's odd about this showdown is that one would assume this THREAT over stripping collective bargaining would have been used to get the cuts he wanted and the pension contributions that he needed for his budget. But he's going for the jugular all at once. It sets a tone for Walker for his entire four years, and sets a polarizing tone for the state politically for 2012. And it could make it hard for Walker to get much done after this showdown. But politically, it will make him a hero of the right, particularly anti-union activists.
Palin has more traction with the media than with Iowa activists: Yesterday, Sarah Palin delivered a speech in Long Island that generated a fair amount of media attention, especially as it relates to 2012. When asked whom she might back if she doesn’t run, Palin said, per NBC’s Catherine Chomiak: “I would look for is somebody who is, let’s start off with, a woman, a mom, somebody who's administered locally, state, interstate, with energy issues, so maybe a mayor, a governor, an oil commissioner, maybe someone who's already run for vice president.” (Hmmm, who would that be?) But as the Washington Post’s Dan Balz writes today, she appears to have more traction with the media than with actual Iowa activists, a conservative group that C.W. folks believe should be a natural base for Palin. Covering a focus group of these activists, Balz said, “Palin has a reservoir of goodwill but must overcome real obstacles. Georgia Vincent, an office manager, admires Palin but doesn't see her as presidential. ‘I have tremendous respect for her, but I don't think that the presidency is where her talents could be best used,’ she said.”
Sean Walsh wrote the most hysterical review of Goodnight Moon you'll ever see. Themes include Search for the Masculine Self and Materialism in American Culture. Bring your snark-o-meter.
The Obama administration rescinded most of a federal regulation Friday designed to protect health workers who refuse to provide care they find objectionable on personal or religious grounds.
The Health and Human Services Department eliminated nearly the entire rule put into effect by the administration of President George W. Bush during his final days in office that was widely interpreted as allowing such workers to opt out of a broad range of medical services, such as providing the emergency contraceptive Plan B, treating gay men and lesbians and prescribing birth control to single women.