Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wisconsin = Ground Zero in the Escalating Struggle Between Hard-Pressed Taxpayers & Coddled Public Workers

Wisconsin has become ground zero in the escalating struggle between private-sector taxpayers and the government workers who live large off their labors.

Study after study in recent years has shown that public sector workers not only have higher job-specific wages than their private counter-parts but have much richer benefit packages as well, including pensions that private sector taxpayers can only dream about.

States and local governments are struggling mightily in the wake of the Great Recession, and some are functionally bankrupt. The largest single driver of this crisis is well known -- wages and benefits to public workers, who are usually represented by a union.

The new Republican governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, supported by a Republican majority in both houses of the state legislature, is finally standing up for the people who actually foot the bill for the largesse extended to government employees. He is proposing that benefits for state workers begin to come in line with those of the private workers who pay the bills.

Most private workers, the taxpayers, pay a big piece of their health care insurance costs, while I read that Wisconsin public workers, not unlike their counterparts across the country, pay little to nothing for theirs. Karl Rove states on the Hannity show that in Wisconsin “virtually every state employee pays zero” into his/her retirement plan. Meanwhile, in Illinois, a state with worse finances than Wisconsin, the number of retired public workers with pensions over $100k per year is skyrocketing. This is grossly unfair and unsustainable.

Unionized teachers are now mobbing and agitating in Madison, the state capitol, replete with ugly, violent imagery and revolting disrespect for the environment (Ann Althouse postslink; link; link).

President Obama, now lying (link) in speeches about cuts in his new federal budget plan, is calling this attempt by Wisconsin taxpayers to save their state from destruction “an assault on the unions.” In Illinois, Democrat Gov. Pat Quinn, who made his name posing as a taxpayer advocate (falsely, in retrospect), is proposing, for the state with arguably the worst finances in the country, I kid you not, a budget for the next fiscal year with increased spending and borrowing (link), even after a recent 67% hike in the personal income tax rate. Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.

This struggle needs to come to a head, and the sooner the better for our country. It can’t go on any longer. Either the taxpayers who foot the bill or the public workers who live off their labors will be in control. With one we recover and go forward, with one we devolve into bankruptcy and chaos.

John M Greco

Related Post:
Wisconsin Public Unions vs Taxpayers -- Dispatches from the Front