Today's Jack Kelly column is interesting. Kelly talks about how evil public sector unions are in Wisconsin, particularly taking aim at teachers (Governor Walker has largely exempted police and firefighters from making cuts in their wages or benefits, evidently because police and firefighters are more likely to give money to Republicans). Kelly cites a CPA (!) who says "If government workers were paid the same as equivalent private sector workers, no state would have a budget deficit". In point of fact, the Center for State & Local Government Excellence found in 2008 that state and local workers made around 11 percent less than comparably educated private sector workers.
In a rare display of honesty, Kelly does note that Wisconsin public employee unions have offered to meet the governor's financial demands, although Kelly fails to note the governor has simply refused to talk to them. Kelly instead rails against the evils of collective bargaining, implying the unions will simply demand more money and reversal of the concessions next year. But these same unions have had no raises in two years, and at least one year in the past accepted an unpaid furlough that amounted to a three percent pay cut. And this was with a governor who is a Democrat.
Plus, Wisconsin is not currently bankrupt. In fact, before announcing this bill, Walker pushed through tax cuts benefiting big business. Further, the pension fund that Kelly talks about in vague, general terms is in fact fully funded. As so many Democrats and labor leaders have said, this is not about the budget.
I have heard several pundits/reporters suggest the Republican motivation in this case is to bust public sector unions, with the goal of reducing union influence in general. And some of that may be true, but today on "Meet the Press" I heard that Howard Fineman has proposed a slightly more limited but focused goal. Pubic sector unions are known for giving money and labor to the Democrats. Changing public sector unions by eliminating the automatic contribution from members (and reducing the income of members) will remove public sector unions as factors in elections. This would pave the way to change the financial equation, where Republicans will be able to receive essentially unlimited amounts of money from corporations while Democrats will have many fewer and smaller sources of financing.
Meanwhile, Kelly goes on about how Milwaukee teachers are paid, on average, $100,000 for nine months work in wages and benefits. By the way, that doesn't taking home a hundred grand, it means taking home maybe sixty, seventy grand (how much does Kelly make for working one day a week?). But Kelly says, eight of the 100 worst performing schools are in Milwaukee.
My question is, by cutting teacher pay and benefits forever more, does Kelly think Wisconsin (and the rest of the country) is going to get better job applicants? That paying less will make the city's schools better?
Apparently, in their desire to gain power in local, state and the federal government, Republicans are willing to permanently damage the public school system, and much of the rest the government (I haven't even mentioned cuts to the SEC, the IRS and the EPA).