Foreshadowing 2012

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As most Americans are now well aware, the confrontation in Wisconsin has become a “line in the sand” moment reverberating throughout the entire nation.  The sides are clearly defined:  Wisconsin’s public employee unions, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Barack Obama’s Organizing for America, national labor leaders, and the president of the United States, versus Wisconsin Republicans, Tea Party activists, and taxpayers fed up with runaway government spending.  Yet what Americans might not know is this:  the animus Democrats and their allies are confronting has been substantially created by Democrats themselves: welcome to a “stimulus generated” confrontation.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aka the Stimulus Bill, was ostensibly supposed to fund “shovel-ready” jobs and keep unemployment at 8%.  Since unemployment is at 9% officially (and close to 17% in reality), and president Obama himself admitted there was “no such thing as shovel ready projects” last October, one might be forgiven for wondering where a $787 billion package, which quickly increased to $862 billion in federal subsidies, ended up.

Where a substantial portion of it ended it up was in state coffers, where it was used to shore up budget shortfalls. “There’s no doubt that the stimulus has helped maintain state and local government employment…it was a lot of money for two years that was largely fiscal relief [to the states], meaning that they had some flexibility. If it hadn’t been for that, they would have been making major cuts,” said Donald Boyd, a senior fellow at The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the State University of New York at Albany. Now that the stimulus spending is decreasing, “[states] face really severe choices and clear voter sentiment largely against any tax increases. So that leads you to the spending side of the budget,” he added.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while private sector employees were bearing the brunt of the recession, government workers were largely spared:  between June 2008 and June 2010, “the number of private-sector employees fell by six percent, but the number of state and local government workers declined by less than one percent.”

And that was only the first stimulus package. Last June, the then-Democratically-controlled Congress and the Obama administration ponied up an additional $50 billion of deficit spending in “emergency aid” (read: more stimulus) to state and local governments.  They claimed the money was needed to avoid “massive layoffs of teachers, police and firefighters.” Republicans viewed it as nothing more than an attempt to “buy” the 2010 election.  Regardless, it was a one-time payout and the money is gone.

Thus, reality has intruded.  In Wisconsin, Republican Governor Scott Walker is faced with a $137 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year, and a deficit of more than $3.6 billion over the next two.  He has stepped into the breach with a plan that calls for Wisconsin state employees to contribute 5.8% of their salary to their own pensions, up from zero for most employees;  a 6% increase to 12% for their own health care (the national average is 29%); the elimination of collective bargaining for such items as benefits and vacation time; the pegging of wage negotiations to the Consumer Price Index, raises exceeding which would have to be approved by a public referendum; eliminating currently-required union dues for state employees; requiring annual votes for unions to remain organized;  and exempting police, firefighters and state patrol officers from collective bargaining limitations.

All of the above is accompanied by a promise not to lay off any workers.  If the measure fails, up to 12,000 of the state’s 300,000 public sector employees could lose their jobs. “I don’t want a single person laid off in the public nor in the private sector and that’s why this is a much better alternative than losing jobs,” Governor Walker told “Fox News Sunday.”

The changes resonate with a majority of the Wisconsin electorate.  Walker and Republican legislative candidates ran on a platform of fiscal austerity in the 2010 election, and in a state where Democrats controlled both houses of the legislature and the governorship, voters handed all three to Republicans–by substantial margins.  For the first three days, demonstrations had been dominated by angry public sector employees, giving many Americans the (media-fueled) impression that this was a one-sided fight.  On Saturday, however, thousands of pro-bill Tea Party protesters showed up. Many held signs saying they couldn’t get there earlier because, unlike the state workers who had abandoned their job obligations to protest, they were working.

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  • thomas paine

    Pew Research Center. Feb. 2-7, 2011

    "How about when you hear of a disagreement between state or local governments and unions that represent government workers, is your first reaction to side with the governments or to side with the unions?"

    Unions 44%
    Governments 38%

    "Which comes closer to your view? Do you think union agreements give union workers unfair advantages or ensure that union workers are treated fairly?

    Give unfair advantages 34%
    Ensure fair treatment 55%

    you lose

    • Supreme_Galooty

      When confronted with a pack of jackals, the first thing I want know is if they are hungry. I already know they are jackals. Conducting a poll – especially of my fellow citizens who have been subjected to the gentle ministrations of the American "educational" system their entire lives – only confirms my initial assessment: that most of them are simply ignorant with no desire to change that state of affairs. So while those two polled "factoids" may be meaningful to you in some abstract sense, to me they represent nothing of value.

      • thomas paine

        said with the insouciant wit of an elegant galant too superior to admit that other people could possibly administer their democratic right to vote with the same weight as his own obviously more valuable opinion

        • Supreme_Galooty

          Your comment, while somewhat shy of the mark, is actually the most accurate observation I've seen you make to date. Keep up the good work.

  • ydroustan

    You lose in 2012!!!!!

    • thomas paine

      You lose in 2012!!!!!

      FOX News Poll Feb. 7-9, 2011

      Obama 48%
      Romney 41%

      Obama 49%
      Huckabee 41%

      Obama 56%
      Palin 35%

  • Victor Laslow

    Instead of promoting a free Republic, Comrade Obama went with the dumb down America tactics; all to achieve a fundamental Change in our democratically elected Government. The good that comes from Social Activism is only for the oligarchy, the Socialist masters.

  • Bob Madden

    If this attitude of entitlement continues expect lots of democrats standing in unemployment lines very soon. I just hope we can hold out til 2012 without another crash. Government is not the answer, it is the problem.

  • Victor Laslow

    "Education is the only way to create wealth. To spread the wealth will not create wealth, it is the way to restrict advancement." Victor Laslow

    • Dan

      Yes. GOOD education — unencumbered and unpolluted by PC crap and by diluted programs of instruction and learning objectives.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      Education is NOT the only way to increase wealth, and neither is it the preferred way. The BEST way to increase wealth is a vibrant, active, unfettered market where all that is proscribed is fraud and coercion. Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I will assume that you make the common error of confusing schooling with education.

      It is the natural order of things that not only are very few people educated, very few people are even educable at all. The mere ability to read is NOT literacy, and likewise eight, twelve or sixteen years spent in today's schools does not normally result in an educated person. More often than not, especially at the higher levels, it results in a highly schooled parrot more remarkable for egotistical pretentiousness than for actual education.

      • Jim_C

        Your answer is why I think our educational system, grade 1 — university, is about 60 years overdue an overhaul.

  • Reg T

    Supreme Galooty, you are an articulate and discerning individual. Your responses are impressive and right on the mark.

    Education has become a parody of what it was intended to be, thanks to Dewey and many others since him. I returned to college in my late forties '98-'00), attending a curriculum for registered nurses. The most common refrain I heard from almost every young student at that institution was "teach me what is going to be on the test. Don't waste my time with all that other stuff." That was true in every class I took, from sociology to philosophy to anatomy and physiology.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      Thank you for the kind remarks. Yes, there was a schism in the education sector around the turn of the last century. There was the school that promoted an egalitarian approach, believing that ALL should be "educated." What they really meant, without actually knowing that they meant it, is that all should be given the opportunity to attend trade school or charm school. The opposing view was that education consisted of the cultivation of the MIND, equiping it to deal with weighty matters successfully – even if encountered for the first time and with no data, experience, or outside talent. Such cultivation of the mind was, at that time, believed to have been best achieved by the study of Greek, Latin, Philosophy, Mathematics, and History.

      • Jim_C

        In another thread I think I mentioned to you that conservatives, generally, don't have much worthwhile to say about education–mostly due to an extreme lack of information. They certainly know how to make vague, nebulous complaints. However (despite your willfully ignorant take on individual teachers) you do paradoxically seem to have a worthwhile perspective on the whole. In your view, what would you do with this vast population of ours? What would your picture be for reforming education/schooling/whatever you care to call the institution?

        • Supreme_Galooty

          1.) Repeal all truancy laws.
          2.) Forbid government funding of any sort, at any level.
          3.) Forbid governmental regulation of curricula on any level.
          4.) Forbid governmental regulation of teacher qualifications.
          5.) Allow backyard/basement/garage schoolhouses – without interference.

          Gotta run. There's more.

    • Supreme_Galooty

      I am reminded of the trained seals many years ago on the Ed Sullivan show who played Lady of Spain on an array of bicycle horns. It was very cleverly done, but I remember thinking at the time, "Does this make them musicians?" My mother in law graduated from one of the Seven Sisters in the twenties and her diction was remarkable. She made Bill Buckley, Jr sound a bit vulgar by comparison.

      I recall a family picnic once when one of the young cousins was acting up and his mother chided him saying, "Can't you learn to speak like Aunt Phylis? She's so cultured." Of course she WAS a very classy lady, but not because of her accent.

      So today's schools are in the business of teaching our children to speak like Aunt Phylis so that they will appear to be educated.