A few months ago, Americans watched television pictures of large riots and protests in countries such as Greece and Spain, where governments were facing severe, if not disastrous, fiscal crises. Leaders in these countries had proposed deep cuts and changes in government spending, which triggered the protests.
The reaction by Americans watching these pictures probably was something like, “Well, it couldn’t happen here.”
Move forward to this week, here in the United States, and look at what is happening in Madison, Wis. Members of Wisconsin’s public employees union have converged on the state Capitol. Teachers have refused to go to their classrooms, and city workers, firemen and others are protesting. Police were sent to locate Democratic state senators who refused to come to the legislative chamber to vote on the governor’s plan.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants to close the state’s $3.6 billion shortfall by increasing the amount union members pay toward pensions and health benefits and taking away members’ collective bargaining rights.
The bill would force public workers to pay half the cost of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage. Consider what percentage of workers in private, non-government jobs pay for their health benefit packages.
President Obama jumped into the dispute saying the governor’s actions are an “assault on unions.”
Does the situation in Madison portend what might happen throughout the United States if and when our government leaders, whether in Topeka or Washington, D.C., call for major and deep cuts in federal or state spending to bring fiscal stability to the state or nation?
Have so many people become so tethered and dependent on the federal or state money teat that any reasonable attempt to bring about fiscal sanity will trigger protests and riots?
Is there any way to encourage austerity to staunch the runaway spending and ever-escalating national debt?
How many public officeholders, whether it’s the president, governors, state legislators or city and county officials have the courage to do what is right and in the best interests of their country, state, city or county, knowing that such actions could cause protests and riots and likely result in them being defeated in the next election by those who promise more federal and state spending to win voter approval?
What’s happened in Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and other countries certainly could happen here unless common sense and sanity enters the political picture.
How many other governors have the courage of Wisconsin’s Scott Walker?