The Agenda

Kevin Drum on Wisconsin

Kevin Drum has a cynical – perhaps appropriately cynical! — take.

He notes the following:

(1) While most public employees will have to increase their contributions towards their health and pension costs, public safety workers are exempt. 

(2) Non-law enforcement unions will lose the right to bargain over benefits, bargaining over wages will be severely circumscribed, and there will be elections every year to authorize these less powerful unions.

Drum suggests that this effort is political — most state employees are Democrats, while public safety workers are somewhat less politically monolithic. This is a very interesting view.

There is, of course, another interpretation: public safety workers may well be more popular with the public. As hard as this fight has been for Scott Walker and his allies, taking on public safety workers might have proven an insurmountable challenge. This is hardly a courageous stance to take, and I think that public safety workers should have been included. But it should go without saying that, from Walker’s perspective, half a loaf is better than none.

One is reminded of the debate over PPACA. Many on the left saw the proposal backed by the president as a sinister accommodation with big business and a sure sign of bad faith, while others saw it as a politically achievable entering wedge to achieve a cherished progressive goal. It all depends on whether you’re willing to believe that your political opponents are cackling, mustache-twirling villains or that they are people who generally believe they have the public’s interests at heart and are trying to do their best to win a tough political battle.

I generally assume the latter is true, whether we’re talking about people on the left or the right.

Reihan Salam is president of the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.

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