Scott Walker’s Miscalculation
I blinked and almost missed this comment by Josh Barro (“It’s Not Just Wisconsin,” March 21): “Under Walker’s proposed ‘budget repair’ bill, most state and local employees in Wisconsin won’t be allowed to bargain collectively for health or retirement benefits. . . . Police and firefighters would retain more expansive collective-bargaining rights.” So, which groups are losing their expansive bargaining rights, and why is Walker allowing police and firefighters to retain theirs?
Josh Barro Replies: The greatly reduced package of collective-bargaining rights will apply to all other public employees in the Badger State. Nationally, among public-employee groups, police and firefighters have often been the most successful at extracting unreasonable and unaffordable benefits packages through collective bargaining. This is due to their positive public image and the fact that, unlike the teachers’ unions, they are often cozy with elected officials from both political parties.
You’d have to ask Walker why he left Wisconsin’s police and firefighter unions intact. The consensus seems to be that it was a political calculation designed to avoid a confrontation; that said, it’s hard to imagine that the political firestorm Walker experienced could have been any larger had he gone all the way. Other governors, including John Kasich in Ohio and Chris Christie in New Jersey, have recently enacted labor reforms that affected public-safety workers. In light of their success, Walker’s exclusion of police and firefighters seems to have been a miscalculation.
Kevin A. Hassett’s article “Political Stimulus” (May 16, 2011) makes a strong argument that President Obama’s phony stimulus plan amounts to a lot of pork, and reminds us that the first tea-party protest (Seattle, Feb. 16, 2009) was called the “Porkulus Protest.” But twice in the article, the name of tea-party pioneer (and my good friend) Keli Carender is spelled incorrectly, and I just have to ask for a correction.
The Editor’s Reply: Be it so.
Double Your Commentary
I was quite excited to see the announcement on your cover that Steyn had returned. I checked to be sure he had retaken his spot at the back. My next thought was disappointment that Lileks had been displaced. Huzzah for the survival of “Athwart”! I tend to ration certain portions of the content so as not to consume everything on the day of the magazine’s arrival. Mr. Lileks’s column is part of that hoard.
Sterling Heights, Mich.