Many different special interests are busily crafting narratives about the Wisconsin battle that promote their agenda. I’d like to add my thoughts to the mix. In my opinion, what we are really talking about in Wisconsin is the governor’s attempt to force a pay cut on public employees.
Governor Scott Walker likes to speak in terms of the teachers “paying their fair share” of the cost of their benefits. Consider, however, that in any job Total Compensation = Salary + Benefits. So when Walker speaks of them “paying their fair share” for their own compensation; he’s really talking about a pay cut. His words are just a euphemism for them giving back part of their own compensation.
He likes to talk about how Wisconsin is broke and can no longer afford to pay its teachers. So he wants us to believe that his insistence that teachers take a pay cut is necessary to balance the budget. Yet he is scheduled to announce today a new revenue limit that would require a $500 per-pupil reduction in property taxes. Strange move for a guy trying to balance the budget, wouldn’t you say? If Wisconsin is so strapped that it can’t afford to pay its teachers, then why is it a good idea to reduce revenue from property taxes that help pay teachers?
The answer is pretty simple. Scott Walker is interested in “starving the beast” rather than being fiscally responsible. The beast in this case is public education in Wisconsin. He wants to remove the right of teachers to bargain collectively so that the government can strong-arm them into accepting pay cuts. The reason we allow groups like teachers to unionize is so that there is a balance of power when it comes to negotiating compensation. The fear is that without collective bargaining, the government will use its power to exploit teachers. Scott Walker is the poster boy for why unions are needed for those who work in the public sector.