The Truth About Wisconsin

Jacob Laksin is a senior writer for Front Page Magazine. He is co-author, with David Horowitz, of The New Leviathan (Crown Forum, 2012), and One-Party Classroom (Crown Forum, 2009). Email him at jlaksin@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @jlaksin.


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Last week’s Republican primary in Wisconsin was not the biggest battle in the Badger State. That will come this June, when Wisconsin Democrats, backed by the raging might of state and national government unions, will attempt to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker in a fiercely contested general election.

It will be a difficult fight for the embattled governor. That stems in large part from the boldness of Walker’s 2011 budget reforms, which made him a hero to conservatives even as they turned him into a hate figure for unions and the left. First, Walker ended the unions’ automatic collection of dues from members’ paychecks, cutting off a major source of union funds. Next he required state workers to contribute a modest 5.8 percent of their salaries toward their pensions and to cover 12.6 percent of their health insurance premiums, thus bringing Wisconsin closer in line with private sector and national averages and giving the state a chance to get a grip on its spiraling finances. Most controversially, he restricted most public unions’ collective bargaining to salaries, canceling a corrupt and fiscally unsustainable cycle that saw unions negotiate generous perks with the same politicians they helped elect.

None of this has gone down well with the unions. If early signs are any guide, they will do everything they can to paint the reforms as a failure. As they push ahead with the recall, Walker’s opponents claim that he has presided over the “destruction of public education;” that he has forced thousands of teacher layoffs; and that he has triggered a “political and governing crisis.” The evidence, though, shows otherwise. Not only have Walker’s reforms not brought calamity upon Wisconsin, but there is a growing body of data that they have succeeded in precisely the policy areas that unions charge them with destroying.

Public education is a prime example. So far from being destroyed, the state’s public school districts have benefited from a wealth of savings made possible by Walker’s reforms. By limiting collective bargaining, Walker freed school districts to set contracts without union pressure for the first time in decades. The benefits have been significant. As the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute’s Christian Schneider points out in City Journal, collective bargaining produced contracts that forced the state’s school districts to purchase health insurance from WEA Trust, a non-profit tied to Wisconsin’s largest teachers union, the Wisconsin Education Association Council. But after Walker’s reforms limited collective bargaining, districts could strike that requirement from their contracts and put the provision of health insurance up for bid in a wider market.

The result was savings. Schneider notes that when the Appleton School District put its health insurance contract up for bid, the WEA Trust suddenly lowered its rates and promised to match any competitor’s price.” Thanks to the lower costs, Appleton is expected to save $3 million in the current school year. Appleton is not an anomaly. According to a report by the MacIver Institute, a free-market Wisconsin think tank, following the reform of collective bargaining, at least 25 school districts in Wisconsin reported switching health care providers or plans or opening insurance bidding to outside companies. The institute found that the measures will save the districts $211.45 per student. And the savings were not hypothetical. The institute found that, as of last September, certain school districts already had savings of $162 million dollars, or approximately $507 per student, as a result of Walkers’ reforms. If more school districts followed their example, the institute calculated, Wisconsin could see savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

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  • georgehend

    Companies will be barred from instituting caps on coverage when your costs for treatments goes up due to sickness, you can now get insurance with out caps on coverage at "Penny Health" search them online.

  • truebearing

    Walker should be lauded from coast to coast for proving what an insidious, unnecessary burden collective extortion has been on Wisconsin schools, and the taxpayers who pay for that corruption.

    As usual, the unions and Madison leftists are lying their asses off in a desperate, ruthless effort to demonize Walker before the truth can get out. The people behind this campaign against Walker are every bit as depraved as any Bolshevik or Nazi. I've stood face to face with them on the square at Tea Party rallies. Evil is the perfect description of the entire bunch.

    • Mark Hallman

      Well said, truebearing. We ought to call the positive benefits of putting the kabash on collective bargaining in the public sector "The Walker Effect".

      • truebearing

        That is a very good idea, and if you don't mind, I will be recommending that very phrase to some people who are working to defeat the unions in Wisconsin. Thanks!!!!

  • Chezwick

    In many ways, Wisconsin is ground zero of the country's painful struggle to gain control of its finances. Walker ran on a very specific platform and then – once elected – fulfilled it faithfully. For this, he was demonized by his opponents and now faces recall. Should the recall effort succeed, it will send a message to Democrats around the country that they can bully their way back into power after losing…and it will send a message to Republicans that responsible fiscal policy is political suicide. In short, the fate of the country hangs in the balance. The outcome will tell us whether or not the electorate is capable of denying itself the perks of the present in order to preserve the viability of the future.

    • intrcptr2

      The question is how well, or really even if, Romney can make hay with this this summer. If his handlers can properly execute a publicity campagin for Walker, nationwide, then Obama should go down in flames. Otherwise, it will b, as you've pointed out, business as usual, everywhere.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

        This is exactly the kind of leadership the country is begging for.

        We need to hear more about this fight, and the details that made Walker a success up to this point!

  • Jeff

    The only way the left can exist is to perpetuate poverty. It is their army and constituency. The political left are modern era slave owners. The only difference is that the slaves don't know that they are slaves.

    • Voslucky

      Good point … but what the left does is not only perpetuate poverty but also ignorant voters. The less informed the voter the better it is for the left. Lies are easily believable to those without critical thinking skills.

      • Kendrick1

        Ignorant voters are the result of Federal Aid to Education — The beginning of the end to education!!!

  • cynthia curran

    This is what you can do in a whitle state, unlike Texas the minority populaiton is probably only 17 percent. Only a handful of cities have large minority populaitons, a Republican could reform well the problem is the strong public unions. Wisconian with the exception of some towns is mainly a middle class state with low poverty among whites but high poverty with the black population.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      White folks aren't the only ones that want to be a success.
      We need to spell out that liberalism keeps you from success and having conservative liberties allows it.

  • Spider

    I just love to listen to these union cry-babies talk about how bad they have it now. They now pay 5.8 % for their pensions – I have a 401k and so I pay 66.6 % for my pension. I also pay more for medical and dental than they they do. I also don't have someone collecting cash to BRIBE my boss with so he will give me a fat raise every year with taxpayer money and make sure I don't have to work too hard…

  • jacob

    So the unions are pissed off because WALKER decided not to be any longer their union dues collector???
    TSK, TSK, TSK …
    Perhaps the AFL-CIO head-knocker who sees OBAMA 24/7 can talk him into getting HOLDER to sick his
    DOJ or perhaps even the IRS to "autopsy" WALKER in order to find some little dirty secret for dragging
    him in the mud the way his abject and servile media is used to do…

    It remains only for the Wisconsin people to realize what is good for them, see the proof in the pudding
    and stop believing, once and for all, in the mermaid songs of "CHANGE" from the White House snake
    charmer and his sycophants….
    I believe unions should be already a thing of the past, as the SIMON LEGREE type boss wen long ago
    the way of the dinosaurs and I dare bet people forced into unions, given the tight economy, have better
    use for their extorted union dues on themselves and their families than on the unions, which happens
    to be what what they fear the most…..

    • Kendrick1

      Don't forget the NLRB!!

  • lizaz

    Let's hope the WI voters will support Gov. Walker this June. His reforms are obviously working, despite the influx of union types from outside the state who desperately are to discredit the positive results noted so far. We will be watching this election with much interest and believe the informed WI people will support their excellent governor!!

  • maria

    Leader of bloody Russian revolution V.V. Lenin wrote "Union Labor is school of communism". It is true still. Plus Big Unions intertwined with Mafia and became kind of mafia. They use many tactics as they. Lie is the weapon #1 for Unions. another weapon is voters BRIBE using our tax payers money. It is scheme. Democrats/socialists/leftists are controlling Media and Schools to have brain washed voters. Hope Republicans will change this situation soon.

  • Sound&Fury

    If Wisconsin voters vote in the union stooge as a replacement for Scott Walker, who has brought a measure of fiscal sanity to the state, then it's on them from there on. We'll all watch this cautionary tale played out as an example of what not to do.

  • http://www.mailmagazine24.com bright knight

    It's unbelievable… the stupidity of the voters make me mad, maybe even angry! It's proven 1000times, that Socialism or related plans don't work and that the route of conservative politicians benefit ALL people, not only "the rich" (even those, who are not so fortunate, because the money that is needed to not let them behind is
    only availabe because of the conservative route). Unfortunately too many people just see the fancy package of the Liberals, wrapped in nice paper with lovely stickers – they don't see the crap that is in the package! Sorry for my French, I'm politically incorrect and call a spade a spade! The political correctness will kill us at the end of the day!

  • http://www.mailmagazine24.com bright knight

    It's unbelievable… the stupidity of the voters make me mad, maybe even angry! It's proven 1000times, that Socialism or related plans don't work and that the route of conservative politicians benefit ALL people, not only "the rich" (even those, who are not so fortunate, because the money that is needed to not let them behind is

  • Cathleen

    A huge problem that I see, are all those coming into Wisconsin, establishing fake residency and then voting in May and June and probably coming back in the fall, as well. Since the unions have stopped voter ID for the recall elections, we have no photo ID in effect for weeding out the out of state, out of country vermin, coming to vote in our state.

    How do we stop all these infitrating union lover voters that do NOT live in our state but will do anything to be able to vote here and WILL vote here? We are probably talking about multiple thousands who are not Wisconsinites but will vote as liberals, probably getting paid or getting incentives.

    Any ideas on how to identify them and kick them out of our state?