States have been wallowing in huge budget deficits since the financial meltdown of late 2008 and early 2009. While President Barack Obama’s stimulus package held the states over for two years, the gravy train has since run its course.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has found a perfect way to close the budget gaps left by an economic crash caused by years of predatory lending, shifty practices used by the nation’s largest financial entities and eight to 10 years of tax cuts for the rich: cut the salaries of those pesky, greedy lazy public workers.
A bill drafted by Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature does two specific things to unions and union members. Firstly, it cuts their pay and benefits in an effort to, ostensibly, balance Wisconsin’s budget, and secondly, it ends the rights of unions to negotiate with the state.
But let’s dispel the budget gap myth right away. Just before Walker announced the state’s $137 million shortfall for the fiscal year he announced $140 million in tax cuts for corporations, essentially cutting middle-class incomes to fix a “budget deficit” he had just created. Walker truly is the model Republican politician.
Basically, Walker gave to the rich by taking from middle class public workers, including the people who educate Wisconsin’s children. Think of him as a kind of anti-Robin Hood.
Forget about the drummed-up financial rationalizations behind the anti-union bill because Walker is clearly unconcerned with finances. That leaves one major aspect of Wisconsin’s bill to examine: stripping unions’ collective bargaining rights.
Collective bargaining rights are the rights of unions to negotiate with employers for wages, pensions, working conditions, overtime pay, training and benefits. Wisconsin’s bill only allows employees to bargain for raises that are less than inflation, meaning the value of workers’ wages will decrease every year relative to the economic environment.
To summarize, the bill will take from unions everything that makes them unions. It takes away the basic rights of workers to organize in an attempt to better their work environments and salaries and it greatly lowers middle class standards of living.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has recently said that he supports the idea of undertaking efforts to eliminate collective bargaining from Florida’s Constitution as well, even though he previously said he wouldn’t support such measures, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
The irony is that the same people who defended tax cuts for those who make more than $250,000 a year with cries of “socialism,” are now attacking the salaries and rights of average Americans through governmental power.
That type of hypocrisy is intensely concerning and ugly.
Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.