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A half-dozen states went to the polls this Tuesday, but today, all eyes of the political world were turned on Wisconsin. A two year ordeal of public demonstrations, litigation, legislative walkouts, and a series of recall elections in the state of Wisconsin has finally come to a close as voters turned out in massive numbers and voted to keep Republican Governor Scott Walker in office, making him the first Governor in American history to survive a recall vote.
Although the race was declared too close to call by the pundits, Walker was officially declared the winner at 9pm, having won a smashing 9-point victory over Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett. Along with Governor Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and all but one Republican state senator survived the recall vote by a large margin. In the heart of a potential battleground state, it was a smashing victory for the GOP, and a foreboding night for the Democrats should Wisconsin prove a bellwether come November.
The reasons for this are much the same reason Wisconsin has been in the national political spotlight since last spring. Having rode into power in the midst of the massive wave of Gop victories in 2010, largely led by the fiscal conservative Tea Party movement, Governor Walker immediately began work to cut taxes, reduce state spending and balance the state budget. One of his methods in doing so was to cut state worker pay and pensions by 8%, an action that would spark protests in Wisconsin, draw national media attention, and spark a polarizing debate in the country. The months that followed would provide some of the most bitter political infighting seen in modern America, and efforts made largely by government workers unions immediately began to have Walker removed from office, ranging from court cases to today’s recall vote, and as of tonight, all failed. While reasons for that vary, in many ways, it failed because Walker’s actions did just what he promised they would: the Wisconsin budget has a surplus for the first time in years, the state is actually hiring more workers on top of keeping all of the old ones, and the state’s private sector is growing.
Aside from a few laughable union supporters who claimed tonight was the night ‘America died’ or that it was the ‘end of democracy’, the voters of the state did just what they did in 2010. In direct contrast to his perceived image as a controversial confrontationalist, Governor Walker’s tone tonight was conciliatory, asking members of his state to work together (over beer and brats, a true Wisconsinite olive branch) and move forward for the good of the state, a tone shared by Mayor Barrett. It’s a message that must have an appeal across party lines in Wisconsin, after two years of bitter political infighting, especially as some of the fruits of Walker’s efforts continue to show.
While many people are looking at last night as a sign of things to come in November, I personally feel to do so is foolish for the most part. To the GOP who think they can take down Obama in Wisconsin, if not nationwide by similar margins, many of the same voters who voted for Walker said in exit polls they will vote for Obama in November. To the Democrats telling themselves they shouldn’t lose sleep over today’s results, those same exit polls had the Governor’s race in a dead heat. So while it may shed no light in November, I think it sheds light on a political issue that prove just as potent in years to come, that now is when the tide has finally turned on the entrenched national bureaucracy.
Like many, I was never a fan of public employees having collective bargaining power in the first place, as their “opponent” is the taxpayer, who has no say in the process. Plus, unions can, and often do donate heavily to whichever politicians raise their pay and benefits, which not only further hurts the taxpayers, but is a massive conflict of interest. Governor Walker’s actions in reducing public employees rights down to those of federal workers and many other states was just not that long term shocking to the voters;, especially when he didn't generally lay off a lot of people. No, what the results of the vote today is a bellwether for involves the future of government workers unions.
What the unions never anticipated during their media blitz last spring was that rather than take their word for it, Americans did the research, and what they found had many of them (myself included) taking the side of Governor Walker. Government workers are often paid twice as much as their private sector counterparts, do much less demanding work, are near impossible to fire, and have generous pensions paid for by the taxpayer long after the taxpayer generations after they have retired. Rather than express solidarity with the union’s cause and cries of mistreatment, many Americans across the political spectrum said much the same thing I did at the time, that if they can afford to sit in a statehouse for weeks at a time, the taxpayers are paying them too much. While many Americans may have grumbled about poor service or overpaying government workers in better times, in an era where most Americans struggle to find jobs, let alone pensions and job security, and where in a world of trillion dollar deficits having left such excess unsustainable, the union’s cries were largely met with skepticism, if not outright hostility. The days where Americans tolerated paying $100,000 a year pensions for retired tollbooth operators ended around the same time the recession made paying a toll a tax on the budget of many Americans.
The vote affirming Walker’s actions, as well as similar votes to cut pensions in states from California to Ohio, has many deficit hawks like me optimistic about future initiatives to balance budgets and reduce bureaucracy. If the results of last night’s elections prove to be the day the taxpayers turned the tide on government workers unions, it is a mortal wounding government workers largely inflicted on themselves. In the best of times, the massive pay and pensions afforded to government workers was pure decadence – in the midst of both the continuing recession and government budget crisis, they are an expense the American taxpayer can no longer afford, nor should they. Public sector unions got their start in Wisconsin back in the 1840s, it’s all too fitting their decline starts in Wisconsin today. If this is the beginning of the downfall of government workers unions, they have only themselves to thank for it. Well, that and democracy.
Living in New York, we do tend to look to Wisconsin as a vanguard of what potentially may come, and how voters will react to these issues. Personally, and as Chair of the NY Whigs, we couldn't agree more on your paragraph outlining the lack of citizen representation, or even a citizen's fiduciary as proxy, for collective bargaining negotiations. Therein lies the true answer. And one couldn;t even imagine the rhetoric that would sound off if anyone even discussed the issue of outlawing public employees unions, which, as the way the system is now set up with NO ONE caring about the workers' dollars being consumed via taxation, is a logcally correct solution. Not implementatble, but as logic goes, it solves the problem.
Which essentially sets the framework for a solution. We cannot outlaw PEU's, but we must set regulation and procedure specific to PEUs and politics as they have utterly abused the system, much the same as the Wall Street wags that the media and some government media hype types love to hate on.
The second takeaway I had was during an NPR interview with a Rep/Con strategist, and he was totally emboldened, as in this was a signal that the RepCons ought push their agenda and try and convert as many voters to their way of thinking before the fall elections. And that is precisely what he said in the interview.
My inital thoughts were sublme; he sounds like the quintessential true believer, but not in THE American dream, but in HIS American dream. He is a RepCon strategist lobbyist type so this is his life's calling bekoning to him, ego is inextricable, but his zealotness scares me , as its framed in acrimony and conqest, an anathema to truth. Inauthentic unnatual things ususally die of their own illogic, but this is not reality, its the politics of controlled perception..... so thier own illogic may not be the death of the RepCons and so on.
Back to point one, the NY Public Interest Research Group recently issued a report on political donations by pooled interests here in NY and We the individual citizens are outnumbered 70,000 to 1. 70,000 to 1. Which gives one a sense of how damn high the castle walls are.
NY Whigs have a sense of taking over where Gov Cuomo couldn't make it happen, not by lack of trying, ethics reform, public finance of elections and continuing his work in disarming public unions. Gov Cuomo, in a true testament to his political skills, has not set off many mines in a densely populated minefield.
I am looking for a candidate or party that I could support in this Novembers election. I was full of hope until I started to read your Whig (Republican in disguise) thoughts. I am really bothered by the LIE "Personally, and as Chair of the NY Whigs, we couldn't agree more on your paragraph outlining the lack of citizen representation, or even a citizen's fiduciary as proxy, for collective bargaining negotiations." Let me ask you, do you think the PEUs just write a collective bargaining contract and sign it and the local cities/townships have no say in the matter? You state the citizens have NO REPRESENTATION in these contract talks. Ok, then I guess the local ELECTED officials that use the city attorney (that in most cases is appointed by these same ELECTED officials) to negotiate these contracts represents who? THE CITY or TOWNSHIP (which is the citizens).
You state you want a citizen's fiduciary as proxy? What do you want you ELECTED officials to be responsible for then? You think PEUs make major $$$ donations to almost all politicians. Not true. Who do you think has bought off the Republican party in Wisconsin? A PEU or a billionaire businessman?
You act as if ALL politicians at all levels of government have NO fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers? While this is somewhat true, why not focus your attention on the politicians that are getting rich from "donations" while ruining government at all levels. Look how rich Obama has become while ruining this country. Why not pass laws making politicians responsible financially for bad decisions?
In regards to you 70,000 to 1 for political donations, why dont you stated what the 70000 number is broken down to? How much from Corporations? Upper class rich folks? PEUs? Please explain what a "pooled Interest" is instead of being misleading. I guess in you world of wearing blinders, everything is the fault of the PEUs. I personally will never even think of voting Whig and will recommend against any votes for a Whig based on this Republican party wannabe thinking.
In reading your post it would seem you are not from Wisconsin. Your Post has so many errors it hard to know where to start. Walker has not balanced the budget, he has ownly kick it down the road for future generations to deal with. He did not start by workers benifits, he destroyed thier right to have a union. Then he cut away at thier benifits. You failed to say the Union has already agreed to cuts so his power grab was just to kill Unions in Wisconsin. This is what the protest where about, Power grabs are not a Wisconsin idea of doing things. Your idea that Unions donate to which ever person raise thier pay and benifits is just plain ignorant. We here in WI have a long history of shared sacrifice, this is not it. As for the fruits of Walkers 1000's laid off, lowest job growth in the nation, reduced health care for those who need it the most, big money given to big busness, the list goes on. What did come out of this election is money buys votes. This is it simple in a nut shell. His adds ran day and night, with over 70% of his money coming from out of state. Even with lies in his adds, he did not pull them, even when the one he was quoting said it was "just not true" he still allowed them to run. This was a man who said he thought about using "thugs" to start trouble at rallies against WI Citizens. When tells his money friends he will devide and concur the people of this state. When they ran "fake" candidates to prolong the process....etc, etc. As I said your you are not from Wisconsin are you? Your ignorance is showing. And if you are stop lieing and look at the facts
It seems to me both the author, and sadly, Mr. Chaas the Chair of the NY Whigs have done little research in the subject of public employee compensation. Unless you count reading GOP propaganda as research. I was under the impression that the Whigs valued non-biased scientific based solutions. So in the spirit of brotherhood, and statesmanship, I share with you all such a study that clearly comes to a much different position on the compensation given to public employees.
Please take a few minutes to read this. You will find that the anti-union rhetoric is just that... rhetoric! There is no factual information to support the outlandish claims by either the author or Mr. Chaas.
My next point is regarding the illusion that labor donates unprecedented amounts to candidates in elections. While this was not explicitly stated, it was implied by Mr. Chaas. Sir... I direct you to OpenSecrets.org:
As you can clearly see, business out spends labor by double digits. More to the point, since you feel that PEU's are to blame, lets look at their contribution to the 2010 elections:
The TOTAL money spend NATION WIDE in the 2010 elections by PEU's was $14.4M. Compare that to the top 10 corporate donors:
In 2010, the top corporate donors donated a total of $343.3M vs. $14.4M.
PEU's are not the problem with government, or its fiscal struggles. I agree that election finance is in desperate need of reform. Eliminating PAC's, corporate and union donations, and either making elections 100% public funded (where all parties have equal access to funds and media) or, at a minimum, only capped contributions from individuals are allowed would ensure election integrity. But lets not point fingers at the workers who have done nothing but dedicate their lives to serving the community.
Modern Whig Party of Michigan
When I came to this web site I was hoping to see a party for the rest of us,but it seems not. If this is the Whig party of Wisconsin, it would seem the teaboys are working double time. I ask the National Whigs if this is you? It would seem this is not the progressive group I thought it was.
Greg, to be sure I have not looked at PEU singly, only the NYS public employees pension, which is an aggregation. In the analysis I am doing on this, the first thing that caught my eye was non-numerate, i.e., there are no representatives of the public on the list of Trustees, mostly union reps. That doesnt occur in the private sector and it is simply eggregious. ( the opposite was often true in the private sector where corproations raided their overfunded plans and screwed the workers long-term). I wont comment on "The Whole Truth"'s calling me a liar, as it is in black and white, in the document for all to see.
As is common in today's politics, "The Whole Truth" is neither.
Most private sector unions, aka AFL/CIO do this, as it is their own money and members monies funding the pension. Totally kosher. But in the case of PEU's, it is public money funding the pension, mainly through property taxes. Yet, we have no representation.
With the implementation of a property tax cap here in NY, this is going to be a rather dramatic issue coming up, as the pension is grossly underfunded now. Combine that with lower returns on the investment side with rapidly escalating costs ( many current NYS retirees have Cadillac healthcare paid for by the pension plan) on the expenditure side, and something has got to give. Literally.
What bothers me with the comments against me here is that somehow by realizing this fiscal reality I am called out as a schill of Republicans or the Tea Party. Faux labels and others' opinions of me are meaningless to me to be sure, yet it doesn't change fiscal reality.
Further, I never said anywhere that PEUs are the root cause of the fiscal problem. That is utterly ridiculous from a logical point of view. Do I think they should exist, actually not. But that is simply a theoretical point, as they do. And will contuinue to. ( I speak specifically to PEUs, and NOT unions in general here - to ensure my remarks are not twisted yet again).
In NY, just as serious issue as a grossly underfunded pesnion plan is the public dole, which is expanding to the point of breaking the system. Is that the PEU's fault? The Federal government's? Local politicans'? Who then? Who? The answer is WHO CARES WHO'S FAULT IT IS!!!!! Nothing gets done that way.
And the more emotion and diatribe, the less likely anything will get done until the system collapses under its own weight. This is why I loathe speaking to fiscal reality in NYS as it almost always causes responses full of diatribe, emotion and personal attack. As it has here by someone who doesnt even leave their proper name in the registration. Which tells me something.
Remember this folks; Numbers don't lie, PEOPLE do.
It is commonplace in today's political paradigm to lay blame. In fact today blame trumps solutions. That is the politicians' game and we are not politicians. We are Whigs. That is our progressiveness. The fiscal problems are clear to see for all who care to. And that does not make one a "label". But it may indeed make one a true leader.
As you correctly say Greg, money in politics IS the true problem, at ALL levels. And with SCOTUS recently reaffirming it's SuperPac decision, one might wonder how repersentation can be regained by We The People.
I will ask persmission to start our own 503(c) at the convention in August. A superfund with little restriction or need for tranparency to support true citizen representation and the modern Whig philosphy. We must arm ourselves, as our enemies have.
that's THE WHOLE TRUTH.
If I understand you correctly, your issue with PEU's is two fold? 1)That there is "no representation" for the taxpayer in negotiations with the union, and 2) there is "no representation" for the taxpayer on the pension board. Is that correct?
Now I know nothing of the NY pension system. I did visit the website for the NY State Comptroller, however, and a few quick facts jumped out at me. First it states the following:
"The New York State Comptroller is the administrative head of the Retirement System. As fiduciary, the Comptroller acts in the best interests of the System’s members and retirees. The Comptroller is the sole trustee of the Common Retirement Fund (valued at over $147.2 billion as of June 30, 2011). He also ensures that the 292 different benefit programs offered by NYSLRS are managed properly and effectively."
The NY State Comptroller is an elected position, correct?
Also, you state that the pension fund is "grossly underfunded." Again, from the website, the most recent financial report for FY2011 states:
"The System’s funding objective is to meet long‑term benefit obligations through member and employer contributions and investment earnings. The funded ratio is the ratio of actuarially determined assets against actuarial liabilities. The funded ratio for April 1, 2012 is: Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) 93.9%, Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) 96.7%."
93.9% and 96.7% does not sound grossly underfunded. Perhaps I am looking at it too simplistically. But NYS is not the issue I wish to debate.
The issue is a national one, as the focus has come to the so-called "outlandish" benefits the PEU's receive. I agree that pointing fingers and placing blame is not going to solve the problem. Finding the root cause of the current problem, however, should be part of any solution. How else do you ensure the same mistakes will not be repeated?
I have heard time and again that many individuals feel there is a conflict of interest involved in the relationship that exists between unions and the elected officials. That there is no one looking out for the taxpayer during contract negotiations. While I know my word means nothing to most, I will give it as a small example to the contrary. I was a member of a PEU of a historically Democrat supporting city. The union did support candidates, both financially and physically. While many of the candidates succeeded in winning their elections, my PEU received no increase in pay or benefits over the course of the past 10 years. In fact, during every contract negotiation, the PEU accepted reductions in both, as well as a reduction in staffing effectively increasing our workload and decreasing our compensation package further. Having spoken with numerous other PEU members from across the country, my experience is not unique.
Now, do I feel the system is perfect, certainly not. Is there room for reform? Absolutely! Is the answer to take away collective bargaining rights and/or PEU's entirely? No! The first step, following the Whig Philosophy, is to isolate elected officials from the potential conflict by prohibiting campaign contributions from all but individuals.
Second, is to ensure that the government unit actually makes the required contributions on time. Again, speaking purely from my experience, during the boom times of the 1990's my employer used actuary studies stating the pension system was "over-funded" to opt out of mandatory payments into the system. When the bottom fell out in the early 2000's there was a larger gap between assets and liabilities than there would've been had the mandatory payments been made. I would guess this was a common approach taken by many politicians as their shortsightedness saw an opportunity to use those funds on other projects to gain support for re-election.
Another potential change to the system is to reform the health care. That is a much larger issue, but also one that has caused significant stress on pension systems nationwide. Other changes include how the benefits are calculated. I do agree with the author, a toll booth operator collecting a $100k pension sounds excessive, but we don't have all the details either. There are a number of quirks in most contracts that allow the benefits to climb unreasonably high. If these minor issues were addressed, you could see a significant reduction in the benefit costs. While those will not be easily won in negotiations, I do believe it is obtainable.
Lastly, all these changes need to be made with the understanding that these men and women, our friends, neighbors, family, have dedicated their lives to serving the community. They were given a contract from which they based most of their life's decisions. How much extra to save for retirement, when to buy that new house, or car, or which college their children are attending. To drastically change that, allowing little to no time for them to adjust will ultimately cost taxpayers more money in the long run. It would put hundreds of thousands below the poverty line, increase crime, and decrease property values, not to mention the health care costs as people no longer can afford preventive care.
We need to do something about the problem, but lets look at different approaches, that is the Whig way!
Modern Whig Party of Michigan
As for the 503(c) concept, I understand fight fire with fire, but doesn't that make our position hard to defend if we do the same wrong things everyone else is doing?
Greg, I only mention the lack of representation on the pension. My concern about union involvment in politics is only the potential of conflicts of interest, just as they can occur with any large contributor. ( and many hve indeed usurped the system to their own ends)
All your points are utterly valid, and I fear I succumbed to some group think here frankly, to wit, the role of PEUs in the "problem" is debatable, yet this obfuscates the truth that PEU's are NOT the problem.
Challenging the assumptions in the NYS pension plan changes funding levels from the stated 94-97% to a number much, much lower. (and in the context of property tax caps limiting the contributory side, shows a rapid deteroration over time until there is a big die off of pensioners ) Additionally muncipalities appear to be borrowing funds to do it - a really bad, bad precedent (i.e, med/long term liabilities for working capital needs). Again, I'd rather not even comment on it until my analysis is done. Numbers dont lie, people do.
To get personal about it, the "blinders" everyone else in these deabtes seem to wear were on my face for a moment, obfuscating my Whig!
Now that my Whig Zen-see is back in order, I can clearly see that focusing on PEU's is incorrect, again, masking the truth of the matter - which lies in straight numbers I beleive.
That whole process can be utilized to maybe coin a global rule of Whiggery that not much can be boiled down to one or two "process bottlenecks" in public policy. It truly is a system of simultaneous equations and competing interests, and to seek compromise,ie., optimality given the constraints imposed by the competing interest, all this needs to be explicity recognized. Rationally, and non-emotionally. Even though emotion is what sells in today's perverse form of political representation.
This "fanning" of solutions as we can call it is something we dont see much of, and why no one who is truly paying attention can call us anything but Whigs.
The current players have based their postions on "unfanning" solutions,to try and make them simple and understandable to sell to the public. Sort of like marketing meets public policy. Hence the Ryan fiscal plan. Simple, sellable, not based in the reality of good public polcy however. ( particularly if social jsutice has any bearing on it)
Anyway, I've given msyelf the summer to complete the NYS pension review. Not only as a Whig ( a wannabe Whig at times it seems),but as a CFA charterholder, that analysis must be objectively and intelligently derived.
As to what occured in Wisconsin? Heck man, I dont really understand it all, particularly the political drama which is always a non sequitar to me.
Acting Chair NYS
I will wrap up this discussion with two comments.
1) This is why I am a Whig! A debate void of personal attacks where both parties exchange ideas based on legitimate information, understand the give-and-take of a debate, and are civil throughout. It was a pleasure... truly, while we may not agree on all the angles of such a complex issue, we can still work together. Very unique! (I would be interested in reading your analysis on the NYS Pension system when it is complete.)
2) Do not be so quick to dismiss emotion. After all, it is our passion/emotion that has drawn us all to being active Whig members right? :)
Modern Whig Party of Michigan
I suppose to be deeply personal about it, the emotion of Whig ought be, in my case, the controlled emotion of a martial artist, replete with third eye and disciplined moves which effect positive, swift and effective action.
This is why, as bizaare as it may sound, we ought dedicate an hour or so at the Convention to start codifying some of the decision rules, or decision hueristics of the modern Whig. Whiggery 101.
Here we've talked about "fanning of issues".
Elsewhere we've discussed "deflection to truth" and other mental tools of the modern Whig. Here deflection to truth was attempted by The Whole Truth, but not without the non-emotional passion of the third eye, i.e., not without getting personal. And I as well in reponse. Maybe its no more than old fashioned chivalry. Logic is the primary ingredient of deflection, non-emotional but confidently passionate logic. All with a GENEROUS coating of chivarly to disarm the cognitive pattern of the current political debate which is acrymonious, literally to a grave fault, blocking the realization of our Republic's true potential in the 21st century.
AS interstingly and As planned, the MWPhilosophy system works if you let it, as I learn stuff from y'all almost daily; making me a better citizen, a better Whig AND a better human soul. My vision of our country's future, and the core essential beauty of America, sharpens with each true dialouge we all share. THNX!
G.Chaas - NY