Paul Greenberg

You hear the band strike up and play it at least once during every Democratic national convention: "Happy Days Are Here Again." It's been the party's theme song since FDR swept the presidential election of 1932. ("Happy days are here again/ The skies above are clear again...")

But after Wisconsin's recall election that didn't recall its Republican governor, the Democratic anthem lacks its old bounce. And it's the Republicans who are ready to sing, probably "On, Wisconsin!"

Not only did the GOP's Scott Walker fend off a recall, he turned it into ringing endorsement of his first two years in the governor's office, winning by a larger percentage of the vote than received two years ago against the same, losing Democratic opponent.

Scott Walker won this election the best way -- by deserving to win. By fulfilling his campaign promise to put that state's budget on an even keel, and sticking to his guns. He did it despite the opposition's attempt to thwart his reforms at every turn in every way, including mass demonstrations and a walk-out of Democratic legislators.

Gov. Walker managed to turn the projected state deficit of $3.6 billion he inherited into a projected surplus of $154 million. Quite a turnaround. The kind definitely not in the offing for the U.S. government under its current chief executive.

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How did he do it? Mainly by cutting back on the exorbitant pay and benefits the unions were extracting from his state's taxpayers.

B.W. (Before Walker), members of the powerful public service unions in Wisconsin were paying less than 1 percent of their salary -- in some cases, absolutely nothing -- toward their generous pensions, and only 6 percent of their paychecks to cover their health-care benefits.

Now, even A.W. (After Walker), most of those employees still pay only 5.8 percent of their salary toward their pensions and up to a maximum of 12.6 percent for their health-care premiums. Which means they're still doing better than the average worker out in the real world, aka the private sector.

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No wonder Wisconsin's workers are opting out of their public employee unions in droves -- now that they can. Governor Walker's reforms made union membership a choice instead of an obligation. That's no small saving for, say, a teacher in one of the Madison suburbs, who now can take home an extra $1,100 a year by not having her salary docked for the union's benefit. And then, adding insult to rake-off, having to watch the union spend that money on political maneuvers like this recall.

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Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


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