When the government is unionized

So the largest trade union in the country these days is that of government workers.  Does that strike you as odd?  George Will, in the context of a column on what’s going on in Wisconsin, notes some paradoxes:

Such unions are government organized as an interest group to lobby itself to do what it always wants to do anyway – grow. These unions use dues extracted from members to elect their members’ employers. And governments, not disciplined by the need to make a profit, extract government employees’ salaries from taxpayers. Government sits on both sides of the table in cozy “negotiations” with unions. . . .

Walker’s calm comportment in this crisis is reminiscent of President Reagan’s during his 1981 stand against the illegal strike by air traffic controllers, and Margaret Thatcher’s in the 1984 showdown with the miners’ union over whether unions or Parliament would govern Britain. Walker, by a fiscal seriousness contrasting with Obama’s lack thereof, and Obama, by inciting defenders of the indefensible, have made three things clear:

First, the Democratic Party is the party of government, not only because of its extravagant sense of government’s competence and proper scope, but also because the party’s base is government employees. Second, government employees have an increasingly adversarial relationship with the governed. Third, Obama’s “move to the center” is fictitious.

via George F. Will – Out of Wisconsin, a lesson in leadership for Obama.

The Republican Obama?

Have the Republicans found “the one”?  Read the Washington Post‘s profile of the new Wisconsin governor, 43-year-old Scott Walker, whose hard line with the public employee union has teachers and other state employees taking to the streets.  (Note:  He is not taking away their right to collective bargaining, as is being charged.  Under his bill, which has Democrat legislators hiding out in Illinois to prevent a quorum for the vote, the union would still be able to negotiate wages, just not benefits, which Walker is seeking to trim by making state employees kick in more for their retirement and health insurance.)

At 25, he won election to the state Assembly and served for nine years. But in 2002, Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament, a Democrat, resigned in the wake of a county pension fund scandal, and Walker became the rare Republican to win office in the area by vowing to clean up the mess.

Friends and foes alike describe Walker as hardworking and amiable, a devoted husband and father of two teenage sons. They also call him a gifted and ambitious politician who has never strayed from his conservative ideals.

“He was tea party before there was a tea party. He’s always been ideologically pure,” said Mordecai Lee, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political science professor who sparred with Walker on a weekly television show during his Assembly days. “He would do whatever it took not to raise taxes. He never wavered, never doubted.”

Lee said Walker’s repeated success at the polls, even in Democratic strongholds, came as no surprise. He preached fiscal conservatism but also campaigned on his own frugality, noting that he packed ham-and-cheese sandwiches for lunch and drove a weathered Saturn.

“Scott Walker is the Republican Obama – he’s likable, he’s nice, so voters saw that [side] rather than the very ideological Republican,” Lee said. “He’s one of the most impressive politicians I’ve ever seen.”

via Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has history of going up against unions.

Mordecai Lee is a liberal activist who would always debate Walker on TV and talk radio.  I lived in Wisconsin not far from Milwaukee and remember Walker’s skills.  He somehow got elected as County Executive, against the typical big city corrupt Democratic machine, and just cleaned everything up. That too meant defying the unions and enduring their protests. 

Depending on how the Wisconsin events play out, I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes a Republican hero with a shot at the presidential nomination. One would think that he would need more experience–at least another term as governor–before going for the presidency, but he certainly has more experience than the current office holder did. But, hey, it’s Presidents Day, so we can speculate.

Egypt in Wisconsin

25,000 protesters are in the streets in Madison and 40% of Wisconsin teachers have called in sick, forcing cancellation of schools, as  new Republican governor Scott Walker is getting pushback for his proposal to limit collective bargaining by unions for public employees and to cut back on the cost of their benefits.

Walker’s plan would allow collective bargaining for wages only and force state workers to pay 5.8% of their salaries for pensions, up from 0.2%, and 12.6% for health insurance, up from  4% – 6% percent.

And now, to prevent a vote on the measure, the Democrats in the state legislature have boarded a bus and left the state, preventing a quorum so that the bill cannot be voted on!

Meanwhile Ohio is also threatening to cut back expensive benefits for state employees, and other states facing huge budget problems are wanting to do the same.

See State Democrats absent for vote as Wisconsin budget protests swell – CNN.com.

I’m very curious about what your average Wisconsinite–as I was a few years ago–things of all of this.

Tea partiers kill Patriot Act

Tea party Republicans  in the House of Representatives joined with liberal Democrats to vote down the Patriot Act, which gives the government wide powers to investigate potential terrorists, some say at the expense of civil liberties.  The Obama administration wanted to extend the bill, which is set to expire, and mainstream Republicans were on board with that.

The surprise defeat of the bill has lots of pundits confused.  Aren’t the tea partiers right wing extremists?  Aren’t they the type that want to lock up foreigners and clamp down on everyone’s freedom?  How could these conservatives vote against this conservative bill?

As I keep trying to explain to my liberal friends, there are many different kinds of conservatives.  This vote makes perfect sense and is in exact accord, for better or worse, with the Tea Party ideology, which is most emphatically not liberal, even though on this issue they voted with liberal civil libertarians.

The Tea Party stands for limited government.  Therefore, it can be expected to oppose measures such as the Patriot Act  that increase government power over its citizens.

The Tea Party has a high view of the Constitution, which it insists on interpreting literally and applying to the letter.  That means that Tea Partiers will be zealous defenders of the Bill of Rights.  Therefore, they can be expected to oppose the Patriot Act, which arguably violates some of those rights.   But by this same thinking, they will also oppose gun control measures, which also go against the Bill of Rights.

See how that works?

Patriot Act upset vote: Can tea party lawmakers, liberals be friends? – CSMonitor.com.

Did the Huffington Post sell out?

Did Arianna Huffington just sell out her fellow progressives?

In the literal sense, she undoubtedly has: The sale of Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million (including a large pile of cash going to Huffington herself) means this powerful liberal voice is formally joining the “corporate media” its writers have long disparaged.

There are also some indications that she has sold out in the ideological sense and committed the Huffington Post to joining the mainstream media – the evil “MSM” of “HuffPo” blogger ire. Announcing the deal, she and her new boss went out of their way to say that the new Huffington Post would emphasize things other than the liberal politics on which the brand was built.

via Arianna Huffington’s ideological transformation.

The views on Egypt

So neoconservatives are supporting the uprising in Egypt as evidence of the universal yearning for democratic values.  Pro-Israel conservatives, though, are hoping Mubarak holds on to power, since a democratic government might turn against Israel and support jihadi terrorists.  Paleo-conservatives are thinking the revolution doesn’t concern us one way or the other.  Most mainstream Republicans are supporting the President, in the name of that once-honored principle of politics stopping at the border and the need to show a united front in international affairs.

And the President is. . . .let’s see.  It’s hard to tell.  He’s supporting the protesters in their desire for freedom, but he is not saying Mubarak must go.  That may be the best course for now, since events really are out of our control.  But it’s hard to see the philosophy behind the policy.

Do Democrats and liberals in general have a foreign policy policy that shapes their position on what is going on in Egypt?  I could find the different conservative takes–confirming what I have often say about how conservatives, far from being a monolithic faction, actually have more ideological diversity in their ranks than liberals do.  But I can’t find a distinct liberal position on this.  Can any liberals in the audience help me?  Or is there the same ambivalence and range of positions that the conservatives have?

In backing change in Egypt, U.S. neoconservatives split with Israeli allies.


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