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Wisconsin: Elections have consequences

BY GUEST OPINION | FEBRUARY 25, 2011 7:20 AM

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Over the past week, Wisconsin public employees have flocked to Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s budget-repair bill. Teachers have walked out of their classrooms, senators have fled the state, and President Obama has once again involved himself in state affairs. The left is painting the bill into an attack on the middle class, education, and unions. Some are even comparing the protests to the citizen-lead protests in Egypt.

Before such inaccuracies have a chance to continue, let’s set a few things straight.

Walker, who was swept into office during the 2010 midterm elections, is confronting the tough decisions right away. With a projected $3.6 billion deficit, his budget repair bill makes a reasonable request to avoid thousands of state and local layoffs. To balance the budget, he is asking public employees to contribute 12.6 percent of their health-care premiums and 5.8 percent of their annual salary to their pension plans, which is about the same as the private sector pays for public employee’s pensions and well below the national average.

The primary union-leader talking point is that the bill “gets rid of unions.” There are no provisions in the bill to get rid of collective bargaining completely, but the bill does cap total wage increases at the inflation rate. When the private sector has not received a raise in years, this is a completely sensible request. Public employees should never be entitled to a higher wage, when their employers, the taxpayers, cannot afford it.

Observe, for a moment, a picture of the protesters in Madison. Beside the signs that compare Walker to Hitler, you’ll see signs that say, “Unions Created the 40 Hour Week” or “Thank Unions for the Weekend.” Wrong again.

Private-sector unions began because of dangerous working conditions and a combative relationship between management and labor. Public unions began for political gain in the Democratic Party. Think about it: When people work in the government business, their interests align with the party of larger government. Private-sector unions fight with management because of an inequitable distribution of earnings; government unions are negotiating on increasingly scarce taxpayer money.

One common Facebook status states, “Wisconsin has higher ACT/SAT scores than the five states that outlawed collective bargaining (South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia).”

Maybe more Wisconsin students would know the difference between correlation and causation if they weren’t being used as political pawns by their state teachers’ union. Union involvement in teaching is not about what is best for the student; after all, if educating young people was the goal, union teachers wouldn’t cancel classes to protest.

The UI College Republicans will show the award-winning documentary Waiting for “Superman” at 8 p.m. March 1 in 71 Schaeffer Hall. The documentary discusses the current state of public education and how it is failing our country’s young people. All are welcome to attend.

Obama famously said after the 2008 election, “Elections have consequences.” The 2010 midterm elections are no different.

What is going on in Wisconsin is not about worker’s rights. It’s about one thing, and one thing only: cash. Walker wants to save the state from California-type insolvency, and the teachers’ unions want to continue their fiddling while Rome burns.

Comparing the protesters in Madison to those in Cairo is both stupid and offensive. The freedom fighters in Cairo were battling against a tyrant who had a 30-year stranglehold on power. The protesters in Madison are complaining about their over 52-year drain on the public coffers coming to an end.

Natalie Ginty is a UI junior and candidate for chairwoman of the Iowa Federation of College Republicans.


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