When the history books record l’affaire Wisconsin, public-employee unions will have plenty of villains. They will remember Republican governor Scott Walker, who proposed scaling back their ability to collectively bargain. They will revile Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, who cut off debate and “rushed” the bill to a vote after 61 hours of debate on the Assembly floor. But for the Left, the most enduring villain might be the billionaire Koch brothers.
When frequently vile Buffalobeast.com blogger Ian Murphy prank-called Walker, he pretended to be David Koch — thinking that would be the most embarrassing call Walker could take. (Or perhaps Murphy simply hadn’t perfected a Kim Jong-il impersonation yet. “Hey Scott, it’s your boy Kim!”)
The vitriol from protesting Wisconsin workers towards the Kochs emerged quickly and intensely. Signs ranging between lame and vulgar (often both) dot the public-union marches.
But what the protesters don’t realize is that they actually have a reason to root for the Koch brothers.
According to the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB), the Wisconsin Retirement System owns $5.5 million in Georgia Pacific corporate bonds. (Georgia Pacific is owned by Koch Industries.) This is the retirement system in which the overwhelming majority of state and local employees participate. These are the pension benefits that public employees are trying so hard to protect.
So here’s the challenge: Explain to a Wisconsin state worker that they are the ones helping fund the Koch brothers. Then sit back and watch the fun.
Granted, $5.5 million out of a $18.5 billion fixed-income bond fund isn’t a whole lot. (The state also holds about $5 million worth of Colgate bonds, meaning it is in the pocket of Big Toothpaste.) But one imagines the public unions’ vitriol will soften a little bit when they realize their retirement payout is incumbent on the success of the Kochs. They’re all part of the same money-making ecosystem, despite many state employees believing all their retirement funds are invested exclusively in dreams and rainbows.
So in the end, public unions should recognize that the real Koch will do them a lot more good than the fake one ever did.
— Christian Schneider is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute.