The Battle of Wisconsin Rages On

Labor leader Richard Trumka gives the nod of approval to the violent, hateful rhetoric in Madison.

Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, AFL-CIO Richard Trumka was given two golden opportunities to do the very thing the left claims is so important to them: tone down violent, incendiary rhetoric. He couldn’t bring himself to do it. Asked to condemn the angry words and images that union supporters have employed in Wisconsin, Trumka chose to dance around the question instead:

"We should be sitting down trying to create jobs,” he said. “In Wisconsin, a vast majority of the people think this governor has overreached. His popularity has gone down. They're saying to him, sit down and negotiate; don't do what you've been doing. So he's losing."

Even if one were to accept the dubious premise that Governor Scott Walker is “losing” his battle with the teachers union in Wisconsin, Trumka’s answer is at once disingenuous, troubling and typical of the leftist mindset. The disingenuous part is obvious: Trumka never actually answered a question that was posed twice. Imagine how the old media would have reacted if a conservative leader like Sarah Palin or Rand Paul sidestepped an opportunity to denounce violent rhetoric on the right.

What’s troubling, though sadly unsurprising, is what this reveals about the way a leftist leader like Trumka thinks. Asked to denounce a tactic, he comes back with an answer that implies that such tactics are working. Trumka doesn’t actually come out and say that the end justifies the means, but it’s pretty obvious that he feels that way. Far from discouraging leftist protestors from employing violent imagery and rhetoric, Trumka’s answer sounds an awful lot like a nod of approval for the results that those tactics have supposedly achieved.

But the “do as I say, not as I do” leftist mindset has been on full display as long as the standoff in Wisconsin has continued. The left says that public discourse ought to be civil, unless it involves a position that’s important to the left, in which case anything goes. Teachers unions are always demanding more for their members in the name of the best interests of the kids they educate, but they don’t have a problem orchestrating what amounts to an illegal strike when the union’s interests are threatened. Elections and majority rule are wonderful concepts on the left, until they lose an election and are in the minority. In that case, running away and hiding so that you don’t have to accede to the will of the majority is perfectly acceptable. If the battle of Wisconsin proves anything, it’s another demonstration of the self-serving hypocrisy that permeates the left in America.

Big Labor and their allies in the Democratic Party can see the writing on the wall and are desperately trying to nip this issue in the bud. Labor rallies held across the nation in support of the Wisconsin teachers union this weekend were very sparsely attended, which would seem to indicate that the rank and file’s heart really isn’t in this battle. It should be obvious to public sector union workers that change has to come, whether union leadership and the political party they support likes it or not. “The private sector for years has been making sacrifices to keep people working,” Governor Walker observed. “We should expect the same from government.”

The Heritage Foundation laid out the reasons why states have to trim the fat in very clear terms. Overall, state spending has increased by about 80% in inflation-adjusted dollars over the last ten years. A good deal of that spending is associated with health benefits and pensions, two areas where public sector employees contribute far less than their private sector counterparts. Combined state deficits are estimated to total about $125 billion by the end of the fiscal year. There is no way that states can stay solvent – especially in the current economic climate – unless they face reality and make deep spending cuts. And, as anyone who has been involved in business knows, the single biggest expense on the balance sheet of any large organization is the cost of labor.

In Wisconsin, some public school teachers complain that they have already taken pay cuts and that they can barely afford to feed their families as it is. Yet, the fact is that public school teachers make much more than teachers employed at private schools and have much more in the way of benefits than their private school counterparts. No doubt such tales of woe will continue to be told as state after state faces the fiscal realities of 2011. But, the brutal fact of the matter is that there’s nothing left for states to give, nor can they make any more extravagant promises. Whether we like it or not, we live in an age that demands austerity. The left can complain and can continue to employ the most reprehensible tactics in order to get their way, but it won’t matter in the long run. There’s no getting around reality any longer, no matter how desperately the left wishes we could all live in their fantasyland.