Can we please grow up?
Let’s deal first with the claim that “divide and conquer” sounds “nasty.” As the saying goes, politics ain’t bean bag. Outrage at politicians for acting like politicians is like getting upset at dogs for chasing cats. Walker and the Republicans tried to win. They adopted strategies to do so. All politicians do this and all of them speak more candidly about it with their friends. If we were to film Tom Barrett talking with, say, George Soros, we might hear something similar.
Sometimes these strategies involve incremental reform. You take what you can get now and plan to seek more later. To put it in a different context, if you want same sex marriage, you start with civil unions. Later, when the political climate is more favorable, you take the next step. (Cf. President Obama.) If you want to raise taxes generally, you begin with the very wealthy. Divide and conquer? Live with it.
How about the claim that the comments signaled some unstated future plan to adopt “right to work” laws applicable to private unions? “Right to work” laws provide that one does not have to belong to a union simply because a majority of one’s co-workers have decided to join. How you feel about that depends on how you value individual freedom as opposed to concern about someone obtaining the “benefits” of unionization without paying for them. Given that those individuals who choose not to join the union don’t believe that there are benefits – or at least that those benefits don’t justify the cost, I come down in favor of such laws. The Republicans say that they are not on the agenda and there is no reason not to believe him. But I wouldn’t be upset if they were to be proposed.
More fundamentally, however, the comments at issue don’t really seem to be about “right to work” laws in the private sector. Even though the Governor was asked about such laws, his answer was about addressing the fiscal catastrophe that he had inherited. He explained that limiting the power of public employee unions was necessary to get the state’s budget in order. This is, you will recall, precisely what he said in promoting Act 10. In other words, the Governor told his “billionaire supporter in private” exactly what he told the rest of us in public. Perhaps that is why he and Ms. Hendricks were willing to have their conversation on film.
This phony controversy is also ironic.
The comments that make Tom Barrett woozy – the idea that limiting collective bargaining would enable local governments to adjust to unavoidable reductions in state aid – describe precisely what Tom Barrett was able to do after Act 10 was adopted. He was not so “flabbergasted” that he was unable to balance the city’s budget by using the new law’s provisions. What shocks him now is what helped him last summer. What he criticizes today, he embraced then.
Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin