Yves Smith summarizes the situation quite nicely:
First, let’s debunk a couple of issues thrown out by Wisconsin governor Walker’s camp before turning to the real culprit in state budget’s supposed tsuris. The state budget is not in any kind of real peril. The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated that the state would end fiscal year 2011 with a gross positive balance of $121. 4 million and a net balance (after mandated reserves) of $56.4 million. Walker asserts there is actually a $137 million deficit. But where did that change come from? Lee Sheppard of Forbes estimated that Walker’s tax cuts for businesses would cost at the bare minimum $100 million over the state’s biennial budget cycle. Other sources put a firmer stake in the ground and estimate the costs at at $140 million. Viola! Being nice to your best buddies means you need to go after someone else.
The second major canard is that Wisconsin state employees are overpaid. If any are, it sure isn’t the teachers, nurses, or white collar worker. Note this chart for Wisconsin workers byMenzie Chinn at Econbrowser (hat tip Mike Konczal) is of data on total compensation, meaning it includes benefits such as pensions and health care. And as Chinn notes in comments to the post, the disparity in the 1990s and last decade would have been more skewed in favor of private sector workers.
But it is also true that elections have consequences. If there is a solid majority in the Wisconsin legislature who wants to break the unions, and a governor who is willing to sign legislation essentially eliminating the unions’ ability to obtain a meaningful contract, then shouldn’t the workers just suck it up?
Thing is that the reason we have devices like contracts, and like, for instance, judges appointed for life, is to preserve some continuity across the electoral cycle. Defense contractors don’t have to worry that a new administration will cancel a commitment. AIG bonus contracts turned out to be immune from popular opinion, or the desires of elected officials.
Republicans, recognizing their position is in the minority of both public opinion and the legislatures, most of the time, do their best to destroy impediments to faction when they are in power, or can hijack. That’s why the Senate was hamstrung by fake filibusters, and why Obama cannot get judges confirmed. In those cases, the GOP was engaging in a holding action until the Senate turns in their favor, and they can do as they please.
In this case, if they GOP can break these unions, they will indeed go the way of PATCO–unable to reconstitute themselves even in a more favorable legislative environment. That makes it worth the fight–and creates at least a moral authority for acting in opposition through public outcry.
Oh, and Athenae on Joe Klein.