Teachable Moments in Madison


by Gary Larson

“Ask NOT what you can do for your state, ask only what your state can do for you…”

This might well be the rallying cry for public employee union members hitting the streets in Madison, Wisconsin. Their action foreshadows reactions to must-do budget constraints in several other states caused, in large measure, by out-of-touch state pension liabilities and rising, unshared health care premiums.

The showdown pits the “have’s” — at least those with well-paying state and local government jobs — versus those lesser beings, also known as private sector employees. Those toiling in the latter field of private enterprise are forced by fiscal realities to help fund their own pension programs and health premiums. Imagine that!

Recall those thrilling days of yesteryear when these were called “fringe benefits.” Now, to most union members, these are inviolable “core benefits,” payable, in effect, by the full-bore taxpayers come hell – read NOW – or high water.

In Wisconsin, legions of teachers abandoned their classrooms, violating contracts, to voice their angst over a bill that would restrict their “right” to collective bargaining – only on their generous by-any-standard benefits, NOT on wages.

They lap up fraudulent sick day excuses from lawbreaking doctors to participate in a de facto wildcat strike, a work stoppage, while still being paid by their school districts by virtue of (?) the hastily-written “excuses.” In effect, their demonstrations are being paid for by us regular taxpayers. Have teachers and others no honor? Their actions in the street and at the Capitol in Madison causes classes to be canceled and some schools to be closed.

Meanwhile, 14 craven Democrat legislators flee the state to avoid voting on the issue, halting at least temporarily, the legislative process Fleeing state senators go to Rockford, Illinois, thus to be untouchable by Wisconsin law enforcement. Ingenious, no? Cowardly, yes.

Their departure is termed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, “…disrespect for the democratic process and for the very institution of the Legislature.” Oh, It’s all of that, and more – it’s a slap in the face of voters, indeed of democratic America. After all, voters sort of expected their elected representatives minimally to show up for duty. Is that too much for ideologues? Even those whose campaigns are enriched by certain benefactors?

In response, not really a reply, hide-‘n-go-seek legislators sneer at the governor’s plea to return to jobs they were elected to perform. Their unions-paid-off party first, and duty later? Besides, who dare bites the hands that feeds their political campaigns? Kept politicians are like that, unwaivering in their fealty to their union paymasters.

AWOL teachers call in “sick” with bogus excuses, a move they would not sanction for their students. Double standard here? Sure. Think of life’s lessons for their students: So it’s okay now to lie? To break contracts? (Cheat and steal, too?) How sad, these horrendous teachable moments events in Madison have become, about to spread elsewhere.

It is reminiscent of the 2003 walk-out in Texas. Democrats twice fled the state to nearby Oklahoma to prevent a vote on a redistricting bill. It was “their way, you see, or the highway.” Ultimately they failed, and map-based demographic facts prevailed over ugly partisan politics.

Those with longer memories will recall the air traffic controllers’ (PATCO) strike in the early 1980s. President Reagan, himself once a union president (Screen Actors’ Guild), fired the whole lot of air controllers who illegally stopped or slowed-down working at their well-paying federal jobs. Later a crop of newly-minted controllers, eager for such jobs, had the air traffic lanes in order again.

One wonders if such a mass firing was to occur in Wisconsin. Jobs vacated by the lying, work-stopping teachers, calling in “sick, would be filled quickly with substitute teachers and other wannabe teachers now unemployed or underemployed. They’d stream into Wisconsin in droves from all over the nation. And “Teach for America” would have a heyday.

Upon leaving their sworn duties, departing legislators exchanged high-fives with protesters. Protesters cried “thank you” to their departing Tweedledee and Tweedledums, their allies whom their unions supported handsomely with lavish campaign contributions. (Collusion? Well, sure it is. Corruption of the system? Yes, if the spade is called black, it is. Note how mainstream media shy away from any such obvious link? Shhh.)

At the same time, school-skipping teachers hurl hisses toward GOP legislators as they came to the Capitol . They chanted “(HI Hi, Ho Ho….”) and scream for what they call their “rights.” Some of the mouthy malcontents hoist placards comparing Gov. Walker with Hitler, replete with the swastikas. (Note how media did not use pictures of these offensive placards, quite unlike their “coverage” of Tea Party gatherings, zooming in on the less charitable placard?)

Next, will it be, for Republicans, the need for body guards? Thugs usually accompany such mobs. And will media get it right, finally, about real issues? After all, the proposed Wisconsin legislation does NOT take away collective bargaining rights over wages, only over what were once called, “fringe” benefits, now evolved into sacrosanct, entitled “rights.” We’ve come a long way, baby!

Putting public employees on a par with private sector employees? Why, who would stand for that? It all recalls Orwell’s Animal Farm howling satire: “Some are more equal than others.” To hell with the budget: Let someone else, perhaps the anonymous taxpayer behind the tree, to pay for the largess to public employees, to fund their PACs.

All hail, then, or bow down to, swaggering public employees’ unions and their PACs to pay off their doting legislators? Corruption, that it is. But don’t tell MSM. They’ll call it something else, such as “union busting.”

In effect here, a battle is being waged for the soul of America.

Ordinary citizens working their tails off to pay taxes and share in costs of their own benefits, would have lost control of government of the people, and by the people, replaced by government of the union, led by well-heeled union bosses. If this battle is lost, it will lead increasingly to government for the privileged public unions, their dues paying off lawmakers who kowtow to their demands. Raw corruption in paid-off legislators never had it so good.

Larson is a retired newspaper and business magazine editor residing in Arkansas. He is not the cartoonist of the same name.


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