Two things struck me about PolitiFact's evaluation of claims by Governor Walker and WEAC on the impact of the Walker budget and collective bargaining reforms.
First, is the willingness of WEAC to attribute retirements to collective bargaining reform. Continuing to work would not diminish the retirement benefits of any teacher or other public employee. The only reason that one might decide to retire as a result of reform is a judgment that having one's take home income reduced by approximately 5.8% makes continued work no longer worth it.
I am prepared to believe that may happen in some - albeit perhaps not many - cases. Part of the reason that it may, of course, is the generous retirement compensation and early eligibility that has become so problematic. Still, I am glad to see our friends on the left finally come to recognize the impact of changes in marginal returns on incentives. For just as another 5.8% to the pension might cause some people to prefer retirement, an additional - let's say 5.8% added to the marginal tax rate - might cause some people to prefer leisure to work.
Second, the biggest problem with the WEAC ad is one that the Journal Sentinel misses. The paper argues that it was false to claim that nearly 4000 "educators" lost their jobs as a result of reform because some of these persons held administrative or support positions, some retirements and other staff reductions might have other causes and it could be wrong to assume that district who did not respond the the survey had the same experience as those that did. Fair enough.
But here's a more fundamental problem.
There was a net staffing reduction of approximately 3400 in responding districts. Roughly half that reduction comes from one district - Milwaukee - where the Governor's reforms were not implemented. Although one might say that these reductions were still attributable - at least to some degree - to reductions in state aid, they also seem to have had a lot to do with the districts' inability to use the Governors' tools for dealing with aid reductions. Those layoff are on the MTEA and other unions, not the need to balance the budget.