When three-fourths of the Boston police department went on strike in 1919, leading to broken shop windows and looting, then-Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the state militia and broke the strike. Coolidge declared, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time."
His courage propelled him to the vice presidency and eventually to the presidency.
Fast forward to Aug. 3, 1981 when the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) called a strike over better working conditions, better pay and a 32-hour workweek. In doing so, the union violated a law that banned strikes by government unions. Ronald Reagan declared the PATCO strike a "peril to national safety" and ordered them back to work under terms of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947. Only 1,300 of the nearly 13,000 controllers returned to work. Subsequently, Reagan demanded those remaining on strike to resume work within 48 hours, or forfeit their jobs. On Aug. 5, following the PATCO workers' refusal to return to work, Reagan fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order and banned them from federal service for life. Pro-labor Democratic president Bill Clinton rescinded this ban in 1993.
Now it's the turn of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker. So far, the 43-year-old governor, in office less than two months, has stood his ground against schoolteachers who called in sick (nice example for the kids) and other union members -- many of them bussed into Madison from outside the state.
When the federal government runs out of money, it can print and borrow more. When states run out of money they must cut spending to balance their budgets, or raise taxes.
The days of constant increases in pay and benefits -- including expanding pensions -- are over, not only in Wisconsin, but also in many other states.
One pro-union demonstrator in Madison carried a sign: "This is what democracy looks like." No, the last election is what democracy looks like. Governor Walker and the new Republican state legislators ran on platforms to reduce the state's debt. They are refreshingly living up to their promises. If voters decide they don't like their methods for getting out of debt, they can vote Republicans out of office in the next election.
"We won" and "elections have consequences," crowed President Obama as he and his once-solid Democratic congressional majority pushed through legislation that polls show most Americans oppose. Republicans seem to be getting more support now in their quest to force us to live within our means.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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