Althouse!) As many of you know, I lean to the left - but will also look for common ground. On this bill, there can be none. Here, I speak with conviction and with the certainty of truth. [New Argument at the end of the post]
My Argument (on the bill)
In discussing this bill and subsequent protests, we must first look to how we arrived at this stage.
Wisconsin is running a deficit for the current fiscal year. (Note: Wisconsin is technically in the black this year and this has been cited by several "news" sources. The reason for this discrepancy is that there are several programs in Wisconsin over budget, causing a budget deficit. For more, see this.) This deficit is projected to run a rather steep $3.6 billion over the next 2 (fiscal) years. NEW: Walker's legislative session has helped run the current problem up, according to the Washington Post.
Secondly, Wisconsin's public unions had contracts of all natures expiring at the end of 2010. They are currently on extension of those same contracts. Wisconsin's Public Unions negotiated new contracts at that time. The contracts contained pay freezes, benefit reductions and pay cuts. Then, Governor-Elect Scott Walker requested those contracts to be ignored. Here is the news story at the time.
After Walker assumed power, he has completely refused to negotiate whatsoever with the Unions. He then put forth a "budget repair bill" to address the problems this fiscal year. His budget for the upcoming years will be announced soon (originally due to present it Tuesday, it has been delayed). This bill can be split into two parts. The first part concerns Wisconsin's Unions wage and benefits. I'll refer to this as the fiscal part of the bill. The second part is an attempt to dismantle Wisconsin's 50 year history of unions. In part, the bill prohibits unions from bargaining on anything other than wages and requires them to organize a (costly) vote on their own existence each year. I'll refer to this part of the bill as the union section.
Certainly, the fiscal portion of the bill is appropriate in the budget repair bill. The union portion is not appropriate in this bill. This statement is true no matter how you feel on either portion of the bill. Walker is using the budget crisis and the cover of the fiscal portion of the bill to force the union portion through, and hopes that no one realizes this.
As the bill was introduced (a week ago today), there was a rapid series of events. At first, there were protests. Then, there were more. As the resistance swelled, the Democratic Senators of Wisconsin did literally the only thing they could to prevent this bill from becoming law. They left the state and blocked quorum. Since then, chaos has ensued.
I believe that Walker's deception forced the democrats to leave the state, and I believe this bill is the worst form of political partisanship. To support my positions, I will completely dismantle the counter-arguments.
The Counter Arguments
This bill is necessary to balance Wisconsin's budget.
This is the most common argument in support of this bill, and is used as a basis for a multitude of arguments against the protesters. This argument would be a great one, if the bill contained only the fiscal part of the bill. Considering that the unions have agreed to take both the pay cuts and benefit reductions listed in the fiscal portion, this statement is the guise under which the partisan attack in the union portion is occurring. It is a lie, plain and simple.
Walker and the Republicans won the election, the democrats should return and the vote should occur. After all, this is a democracy and there was an election. The public supports him!
This seems like a great argument. However, this argument does not account for the fact that there are really two bills rammed together. Most people in Wisconsin do not support the bill. This of course, shouldn't be a reason not to vote on it. The fact that several republican state senators have made it clear they support the fiscal portion of the bill but do not support the union portion. Walker is adding the union portion which is not supported and being forced through in the most undemocratic manner. Want to know why?
The protesters are lazy/stupid/greedy.
This is an ad hominem attack. It's a cheap attack against the people because of a failure to make a legitimate attack on their issues.
The protests are riots! It's not democratic!
Peaceful protests - no matter what Republicans say.
Your state is embarrassing/stupid/full of bums/violent/controlled by the unions.
Wisconsin stands together. Forward!
I'll add more. Feel free to make arguments in the comments.
A few people today have asked about the union portion of the bill. It breaks into three parts. The first portion removes "mandatory" dues. The second portion requires the unions vote each year to maintain their status as a union. The final portion removes the right to collectively bargain for anything other than wages (and even that is restricted). I'll address each part separately.
This refers to the fact whether or not a worker chooses to join a union, the dues (money from each paycheck) are still deducted. Considering that the union may support a political candidate that the individual member does not support causes this to provide a pretty serious issue about fairness and infringement of rights. The only counterargument to this is that if you allow workers not to pay dues, they may all each individually stop paying even if they support the union. This is because the unions bargain for the rights of all works, not just its union members. Either way - this is a portion of the bill that I could see myself supporting. [For a reference, 28 states currently have "mandatory" dues]
This one is pretty simple. You figure that each year the unions will vote to maintain themselves, so what? Well, the bill requires that it be a majority of all workers, not just the ones who vote. This means a non-vote is a no-vote. It also means each year the union will have to go through a long and costly process to maintain status. Clearly, there is no reason for this unless you want to try and bust the union.
Limiting collective bargaining:
I've heard a lot of reasons to do this, but all pretty boil down to "unions are bad and should be busted". If that's how you feel, fine, but that doesn't belong in a bill to fix the budget in the short term. Bring this as a separate bill! This is an absolute, all out, partisan attack. Most people on both sides acknowledge this. (Scott Walker is not one of them)