It may not be the worst media story ever, but today’s Associated Press story on the Wisconsin government’s attempt to moderately trim unionized state workers’ bloated benefits is certainly the most outrageous case of liberal media bias this year. (But as Groucho Marx said, “Well, it’s early yet.”) The non-stop labor union shilling begins with its headline, “Wis. GOP Poised to Cut Worker Rights in Budget Fix.” The Republicans are going to “Cut Worker Rights”? What do they plan to do? The lead sentence tells us, “Wisconsin is poised to strip collective bargaining rights from most of the state’s 175,000 public employees in the boldest step by a new Republican governor and Legislature [sic.] to solve budget problems by confronting organized labor.” (Emphases added.) The “reporter” insinuates to the reader the Republicans are taking unprecedented, radical steps to rob people of their rights and blame the budget on Big Labor. Virtually every sentence of the article advances this biased nonsense.
The AFL-CIOciated Press dutifully reports than 10,000 union drones plain ol’ ordinary citizens marched on the state capital of Madison to discuss the bill’s “impact on middle-class families.”
The story quotes a 29-year-old teacher who moans, “It’s hard to go into a classroom and teach people about a society that’s moving backwards.” A few paragraphs later, the story states that Wisconsin is the birthplace of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and this move is “a dramatic reversal of Wisconsin’s strong labor history.” See? Republicans are turning back the clock (perhaps to the days when common sense prevailed and budgets were balanced).
After noting unions tried to “sway key moderates” to no avail (Republicans are all extremists), it quotes a Democratic lawmakers’ claim that the GOP-dominated state government “pushed these employees off the cliff.” It calls Governor Scott Walker “an outspoken conservative.” (In AP-speak, that’s bad.)
In the 12th paragraph, we finally get the details of this radical, epoch-reversing plan. State employees would have to “pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care premiums.” Unions could not ask for a pay hike that exceeds inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (which may be no small increase). The AP adds, “Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.” Police, state troopers, and firemen are exempt even from these restrictions. In exchange, the governor promised there would be zero state layoffs.
These reforms would save the state $300 million over two years and keep 6,000 state workers from being losing their jobs. For this, unions are marching, and the AP is screaming as though the governor has rescinded the Emancipation Proclamation.
Having briefly reported a few facts, AP goes back on the offensive. Although the governor says he is paring back an overly generous and ridiculously unsustainable program to save money during a recession, the AP adds that Democrats say “Walker’s real motive was to strike back at political opponents.”
Then, the agency treats us to more reporting of the protests, including anti-Walker quotations and a sob story about an aide set to lose “about a third of her $21,000-per-year salary.” It then lumps in some of Walker’s other bills to cut costs in an effort to smear all GOP initiatives with the same, anti-human brush before noting, “Democrats…have been powerless to stop to the juggernaut.”
The story ends by stating that similar measures are being considered in other states.
This is not reporting; this is a mugging.
Governor Walker’s reforms are pretty underwhelming. How many private employers have a dollar-for-dollar matching contribution to their retirement, see an employer pay almost 90 percent of their generous health insurance benefits, and are guaranteed a job? Most employees have seen their wages plummet, health care costs increase, pensions erode, and employment security continually called into question. If Big Labor wants to pretend to represent “the common people,” let its members suffer like the common people.
If anything, these measures do not go far enough. Public sector employees should be banned from unionizing or collective bargaining. Since they often style themselves “public servants,” they be compensated at a lower rate than their private sector counterparts, which would shrink bureaucracy by attrition and stop leeching dollars from the productive sector of the economy. They should also be accountable to the same market forces as other employees; namely, they should be able to be fired for rudeness, incompetence, or shiftlessness. Heaven knows how AP would headline a story about a governor who proposed such common sense measures as these.
As Republicans prepare to play the role of grown-ups saving state governments from parasitic union interests, they can expect a lot more biased reporting of this ilk. The question will be whether they have the courage to endure it and press forward with the reforms the American people want and need, or whether they will attempt to curry favor with the liberal media intent upon destroying them.