Democracy could be found in Wisconsin this past week, but not among the screaming protestors running wild throughout the Wisconsin State Capitol building. While Wisconsin’s elected representatives — minus 14 Democratic state senators who fled the state — were working hard on the job the people sent them to do, thousands of screaming protesters provided America with a preview of the union mobocracy coming soon to a legislature, city council or school board near you.
State, county and city governments across the country might well find themselves facing the same confrontational tactics that caused havoc in Wisconsin. The reason is that public employee unions have used collective bargaining to extract generous salaries, pensions and other benefits from taxpayers who can no longer afford to pay for them.
The unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions and health care benefits are estimated at $3 trillion, according to Orrin S. Kramer, chairman of New Jersey’s State Investment Council.
Voters are rebelling against public employee union demands that these inordinate benefits be preserved by raising taxes, again, on the productive people in the economy, most of whom have far less lucrative benefits, if any at all. In Wisconsin, the projected deficit was $3.6 billion just for the next two years. That’s why last November voters there elected Gov. Scott Walker and new Republican majorities in the state legislature. When Walker unveiled his proposed budget cuts and reforms last month, the public employee unions initially demanded higher taxes on “the rich” instead.
When Walker refused to raise taxes, government labor leaders agreed to pay a little more towards their benefits, but they also shifted the debate to the governor’s proposed reforms in the collective bargaining process that enabled the unions to expect overly generous benefits.
Union leaders — who receive an estimated $100 million annually in compulsory membership dues that are paid with tax dollars — were especially aghast that Walker proposed making union membership and dues an elective rather than a required paycheck deduction. That’s when the protests moved away from fervent political speech and toward the kinds of systematic confrontation and violence reminiscent of the SDS-inspired campus demonstrations of the 1960s.
Things reached a fever pitch as the Wisconsin Legislature approved Walker’s collective-bargaining reforms.
Republican legislators were often surrounded and threatened by cursing demonstrators; protestors repeatedly disrupted the legislative process; and chanting, screaming, horn-blowing crowds took over the rotunda and other parts of the State Capitol.
Outside agitators were shipped into the state by President Barack Obama’s Organizing for America, the SEIU and other national unions, and the organization formerly known as ACORN. As events reached a crescendo, demonstrators broke past security police, breaking windows and forcing doors open in mob actions clearly intended to bring Wisconsin government to a stop and to nullify the results of last November’s elections. Worst of all, many credible death threats were received by Republican legislators and are now being investigated by Wisconsin law enforcement authorities.