I’ve been following the Wisconsin Situation ever since I went to Madison early last year for a job interview and, from my hotel window, could see hordes of people thronging around the state capitol loudly protesting Gov. Scott Walker’s Senate Bill 11.
People were upset, that’s for sure, and I started looking into the situation to see what horrible things Walker must have decreed upon his state’s public sector workers in order for them to get so riled up.
“Why Walker Hates the Working Class.” “Why Does Scott Walker Hate Teachers?” “Walker is Declaring War on the Middle Class” — these are all headlines and questions that popped up in the aftermath of SB11.
I ended up reading through the bill (and by “reading through the bill” I mean reading the first few pages of a 144 page document and then reading other sources explaining what exactly it meant) and what I eventually learned is that Gov. Walker very simply asked those in the public sector to, gasp, contribute to their own pension funds and health care insurance. Quelle horreur!
I’m not gonna lie. It literally outraged me that so many people were so outraged over this proposition.
I don’t work in the public sector, and I can’t say that I hold some community-enriching job where I’m protecting people (police officer), saving people (firefighter) or educating someone (teacher). But I think that’s besides the point. As a non-unionized, private-sector worker, a significant chunk of my salary goes toward my healthcare insurance, and I’m investing and saving money on my own for retirement.
I’m not bitter about it, either. It’s called being responsible. It’s called putting away my money for my future care. What I don’t get is why public sector workers (and keep in mind that Wisconsin’s public safety workers, like firefighters and police officers, are exempt from SB11) feel that they’re above paying for their own retirement and healthcare. And not even fully — they’re just asked to CONTRIBUTE.
Let’s be real. You SHOULD be doing that.
I’ve been paying federal income tax since literally 5 days after my 15th birthday, and I believe I’ll be able to work in my field (writing) in some capacity until I die. That means that I am (and will continue) paying into Medicare and Social Security — two government programs that I know, with near 100% certainty, I will never benefit from. I am paying for other people’s care, as well as my own. Why can’t unionized public sector workers contribute to their own funds, instead of expecting the rest of the state to pay for everything?
The “system” is broken, on so many levels. But in Wisconsin, a man with a plan—a fiscally conservative plan—set out to fix his state’s problems.
As Democrats and public sector unions moaned, groaned, screamed, protested, and picketed, Walker eliminated Wisconsin’s $3.6 billion deficit and brought the state to a $150 million surplus, without even having to raise taxes. In fact, property taxes went DOWN. Employees are no longer required to pay union dues, but maintain the ability to collectively bargain, and union dues are no longer automatically (aka forcibly) deducted from paychecks.
Once union dues became voluntary, union membership dropped by thousands. As a Forbes writer puts it:
“Best of all, the myth that union bosses represent their members’ interests has been exposed as a lie. Now that union dues are voluntary, tens of thousands of union members have stopped paying them. Membership in the Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union (AFSCME) has dropped by half. Membership in the state’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is down by over a third. Given unions’ influential role in most elections, the national implications of this trend are staggering.”
Meanwhile, across the country, Democrats are calling for raised taxes, especially on the rich. While it may be necessary to raise taxes at some point, because let’s face it, our nation is in serious trouble, more states need to follow Wisconsin’s lead and eliminate government excess and poor policies. Multiple states are facing staggering pension problems, and they’ll keep getting worse unless more laws are passed requiring employees to contribute to their own damn pension.
Bottom line: Despite recall efforts reaching frenzied heights after collecting nearly 1 million signatures to trigger the election, Governor Walker is still standing. The people of [the traditionally blue state of] Wisconsin have spoken: Walker’s fiscally conservative policies are working, and the state (and its citizens) are better for it.
Walker, 1. Public Labor Unions, 0. Chalk that one up to common sense.