The real news from Wisconsin is union members putting in all that unpaid overtime.
So far, most of the presidential jockeying in the Republican party has been at the back of the pack. Sen. John Thune folded his campaign, wisely. Thune is a good man, but one term in the Senate and a base in South Dakota do not make for a powerful résumé. Newt Gingrich, who is expected to form an exploratory committee, lacks proportion rather than power. He is an ever-bubbling font of ideas, and a bold, if erratic, political strategist. He will have to show that he can make the jump in leadership skills from the House to the White House (there were times, in his tenure as speaker, when running the Republican majority seemed beyond him). He will find it nearly impossible to wage a faith-based campaign carrying the baggage of two messy divorces. His third marriage and his conversion to Catholicism may win him points in Heaven, but there are no primaries there. We hope he enlivens the debate and we wish him, as always, well.
Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana is getting a bad rap from some conservatives. They fault him for not backing Republicans in the legislature, whose efforts to enact a right-to-work law in the state prompted their Democratic colleagues to flee as in Wisconsin. It is true that Daniels’s initial comments were far too indulgent of the Democrats’ tactics. But if he is right in thinking that a fight over the right to work would reduce his chances of enacting an ambitious education overhaul including school choice, then his lack of enthusiasm makes sense. Private-sector unionism, which the right-to-work law would challenge, is already declining. Daniels has already, by executive order, abolished collective bargaining in the public sector. His education reforms would, among other good things, further weaken public-sector unions. On labor issues, the governor is not so much calling a truce as picking his battles.
We expect Rahm Emanuel to give new meaning to the term “swearing in.” The Second City’s second favorite son, Emanuel is the next mayor of Chicago. Overcoming a crowded field and pesky residency challenges, Emanuel won with a ubiquitous ground game — stumping at L stops and supermarkets from Wrigleyville to the far South Side — a formidable war chest, and a generic something-for-everyone platform. He even managed to avoid an April runoff by securing a clean majority, his White House connections helping him amass an amazing 59 percent of the city’s black vote (compare with Daley the Younger, who got just 8 percent his first time out). We knew the former ballerino could dance the White Swan that is campaigning, but governing Chicago will call for sterner stuff. The city is facing a 15 percent ($500 million) budget hole that is growing even as Emanuel plans his transition. Fixing it will require taking on the city’s bloated public sector, following the lead of Democrats like Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Albany. Is Mayor Rahm up to it? We know he has a reputation for toughness, but the Chicago unions aren’t run by the Girl Scouts, either.
President Obama proposed to make his health-care law more palatable by giving states more flexibility — of a type. The law enables states to apply for waivers from some of its requirements starting in 2017. Now Obama supports legislation to allow waiver applications starting in 2014. The federal government would grant these waivers if the states showed that their alternative plans would provide as much coverage to as many people as Obamacare. In effect, as Pres. George W. Bush’s health secretary Michael Leavitt points out, Obama is saying that states will soon get permission to ask for permission from the feds to set their own health policies. But it’s worse than that, since the standards for granting a waiver would privilege more left-wing alternatives to Obamacare. Many conservative proposals would enable the market to develop cheap insurance options that cover catastrophic health expenses. These proposals would not provide as much coverage as Obamacare even if they ensure the same access to care; and since these proposals would leave people free not to purchase even the cheap insurance, it could not be proven that they would benefit as many people as more intrusive plans. A state that wants to set up a single-payer system within its borders will face no such obstacles. In the guise of moving to the center, President Obama would make his health-care plan even more government-centric than it already is.