There's so much good news to report out of Wisconsin, I don't know where to begin. I suppose this is as good a place as any:
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is ahead in his likely recall election even as his campaign raises — and spends — millions of dollars in expectation of a tough race later this year. According to a new Marquette Law School poll the governor leads Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a likely candidate, 50 percent to 44 percent. He leads former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, the only declared Democratic candidate, 49 percent to 42 percent margin, former Rep. David Obey 49 percent to 43 percent and state Sen. Tim Cullen 50 percent to 40 percent. Democrats started targeting Walker last year, when he spearheaded controversial legislation limiting collective bargaining for public employees. Under Wisconsin law, Walker was not eligible for a recall election until January of this year.
By all means, lefties, please pour more cash into this race. The Washington Post story quoted above focuses heavily on Walker's fundraising and political spending in anticipation of the recall election, yet ignores the massive money game on the other side. For instance, Democrats outspent Republicans by nearly $3 million in their failed attempt to re-take the Senate via recall elections last year, and the Left is re-filling its coffers to take out their prized bete noir in 2012. Even so, Wisconsin Democrats and their media allies are outraged -- outraged! -- that Walker has raised a pile of cash, some of it from (gasp) out of state, to beat back the sore-loser recall movement. Badger State taxpayers should be reminded that much of the money being used to attack their chief ally in Madison flows from government sector unions, which is to say, from them. This is the game government unions play. Their members' paychecks are extracted from public funds, and a portion of each paycheck (prior to Walker's reforms) went directly into the unions' pockets. This was mandatory and automatic. Those unions, in turn, donated generously to Democrats to protect their interests. Democrats, in turn, steadfastly opposed any Republican effort to break the vicious cycle -- even going so far as to flee the state to block votes. This nasty little anti-taxpayer racket carried on until Wisconsin Republicans displayed the political will and fortitude to break it up -- even in the face of menacing hoards and death threats.
The unions’ battle against Walker’s reforms has rested on the argument that the changes would damage public services beyond repair. The truth, however, is that the reforms not only are saving money already; they’re doing so with little disruption to services. In early August, noticing the trend, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Milwaukee would save more in health-care and pension costs than it would lose in state aid, leaving the city $11 million ahead in 2012—despite Mayor Tom Barrett’s prediction in March that Walker’s budget “makes our structural deficit explode.”
The collective-bargaining component of Walker’s plan has yielded especially large financial dividends for school districts. Before the reform, many districts’ annual union contracts required them to buy health insurance from WEA Trust, a nonprofit affiliated with the state’s largest teachers’ union. Once the reform limited collective bargaining to wage negotiations, districts could eliminate that requirement from their contracts and start bidding for health care on the open market. When the Appleton School District put its health-insurance contract up for bid, for instance, WEA Trust suddenly lowered its rates and promised to match any competitor’s price. Appleton will save $3 million during the current school year.
At the outset of the public-union standoff, educators had made dire predictions that Walker’s reforms would force schools to fire teachers. In February, to take one example, Madison School District Superintendent Dan Nerad predicted that 289 teachers in his district would be laid off. Walker insisted that his reforms were actually a job-retention program: by accepting small concessions in health and pension benefits, he argued, school districts would be able to spare hundreds of teachers’ jobs. The argument proved sound. So far, Nerad’s district has laid off no teachers at all, a pattern that has held in many of the state’s other large school districts. No teachers were laid off in Beloit and LaCrosse; Eau Claire saw a reduction of two teachers, while Racine and Wausau each laid off one. The Wauwatosa School District, which faced a $6.5 million shortfall, anticipated slashing 100 jobs—yet the new pension and health contributions saved them all. The benefits to school districts aren’t just fiscal, moreover. Thanks to Walker’s collective-bargaining reforms, the Brown Deer school district in suburban Milwaukee can implement a performance-pay system for its best teachers—a step that could improve educational outcomes.
Lowering costs, maintaining services, improving quality, closing the state's $3.6 Billion deficit without raising taxes, and demonstrably saving countless public employees' jobs. Most sane people would call that record a triumph of responsible governance. Wisconsin Lefties look at the data and shriek, "recall!" And I do mean shriek. Here's video of Walker delivering a strong and defiant State of the State Address in Madison last night. This clip splices together highlights of the speech, including at least four instances of unhinged opponents obnoxiously heckling the governor from the rafters. My favorite part comes around the 4:30 mark, when a crazed union-bot shouts over a passage about showing respect for political opponents. She mindlessly screams over the words, "respect for their fellow citizen," prompting Governor Walker to repeat himself, wearing a hint of a bemused smile and emphasizing the word "respect:"
Also note the bit around 1:05 when Walker rightly boasts that, thanks to conservative policies, the state's unemployment has dipped to a four-year low:
Tonight I'm happy to report that after three years of losing 150,000 jobs Wisconsin actually added thousands of new jobs in 2011. New business formations are up by over 2 percent. And our unemployment rate is down from a year ago. In fact, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is not only lower than the national average but much better than our neighbors to the south in Illinois. Most importantly, we improved the climate for job creators here in Wisconsin over the past year. Today, 94% of our job creators believe Wisconsin is headed in the right direction. That compares to just ten percent who thought the same thing just two years ago. And a majority of these employers say they're going to grow in 2012.
Republican members leap to their feet to applaud these objectively positive statistics. The Democrats sit and scowl. Democrats are a primary enemy of taxpayers everywhere, and that reality is especially apparent in Wisconsin. If you want to extend their ride on the frown-town express, you can donate to Walker HERE.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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