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Opinion

Opinion

Democrats become the party of ‘no’

February 25, 2011

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— The magnificent turmoil now gripping statehouses in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and soon others marks an epic political moment. The nation faces a fiscal crisis of historic proportions and, remarkably, our muddled, gridlocked, allegedly broken politics have yielded singular clarity.

At the federal level, President Obama’s budget makes clear that Democrats are determined to do nothing about the debt crisis, while House Republicans have announced that beyond their proposed cuts in discretionary spending, their April budget will actually propose real entitlement reform. Simultaneously, in Wisconsin and other states, Republican governors are taking on unsustainable, fiscally ruinous pension and health care obligations, while Democrats are full-throated in support of the public-employee unions crying, “Hell no.”

A choice, not an echo: Democrats desperately defending the status quo; Republicans charging the barricades.

Wisconsin is the epicenter. It began with economic issues. When Gov. Scott Walker proposed that state workers contribute more to their pension and health care benefits, he started a revolution. Teachers called in sick. Schools closed. Demonstrators massed at the capitol. Democratic senators fled the state to paralyze the Legislature.

Unfortunately for them, that telegenic faux-Cairo scene drew national attention to the dispute — and to the sweetheart deals the public-sector unions had negotiated for themselves for years. They were contributing a fifth of a penny on a dollar of wages to their pensions and one-fourth what private-sector workers pay for health insurance.

The unions quickly understood that the more than 85 percent of Wisconsin not part of this privileged special-interest group would not take kindly to “public servants” resisting adjustments that still leave them paying less for benefits than private-sector workers. They immediately capitulated and claimed they were only protesting the other part of the bill, the part about collective bargaining rights.

Indeed. Walker understands that a one-time giveback means little. The state’s financial straits — a $3.6 billion budget shortfall over the next two years — did not come out of nowhere. They came largely from a half-century power imbalance between the unions and the politicians with whom they collectively bargain.

In the private sector, the capitalist knows that when he negotiates with the union, if he gives away the store, he loses his shirt. In the public sector, the politicians who approve any deal have none of their own money at stake. On the contrary, the more favorably they dispose of union demands, the more likely they are to be the beneficiary of union largess in the next election. It’s the perfect cozy setup.

To redress these perverse incentives that benefit both negotiating parties at the expense of the taxpayer, Walker’s bill would restrict future government-union negotiations to wages only. Excluded from negotiations would be benefits, the more easily hidden sweeteners that come due long after the politicians who negotiated them are gone. The bill would also require that unions be recertified every year and that dues be voluntary.

Recognizing this threat to union power, the Democratic Party is pouring money and fury into the fight. Private unions have shrunk to less than 7 percent of the working population. The Democrats’ strength lies in government workers who now constitute a majority of union members and provide massive support to the party. For them, Wisconsin represents a dangerous contagion.

Hence the import of the current moment — its blinding clarity. Here stand the Democrats, avatars of reactionary liberalism, desperately trying to hang on to the gains of their glory years — from unsustainable federal entitlements for the elderly enacted when life expectancy was 62 to the massive promissory notes issued to government unions when state coffers were full and no one was looking.

Obama’s Democrats have become the party of no. Real cuts to the federal budget? No. Entitlement reform? No. Tax reform? No. Breaking the corrupt and fiscally unsustainable symbiosis between public-sector unions and state governments? Hell no.

We have heard everyone — from Obama’s own debt commission to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — call the looming debt a mortal threat to the nation. We have watched Greece self-immolate. We can see the future. The only question has been: When will the country finally rouse itself?

Amazingly, the answer is: now. Led by famously progressive Wisconsin — Scott Walker at the state level and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan at the congressional level — a new generation of Republicans has looked at the debt and is crossing the Rubicon. Recklessly principled, they are putting the question to the nation: Are we a serious people?

Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.

Comments

Tom Shewmon 3 years, 10 months ago

True BornAgain. A friendly reminder was sent last November of who really runs the nation. Obama, Pelosi and Reid think they do, and control the purse strings, who does what, who makes what and how and who thinks what, when, where and why. The Dems unholy alliance with unions, special interests and minorities of all stripes screaming "It's all about us!" have had a stranglehold on the left-wing of the Dem party. Again, they've been reminded. Dems and the left are exponentially more furious now then even than when W was in office.

scott3460 3 years, 10 months ago

Of course, we are. The country slips further and further toward fascism.

All who love the country and its people are filled with a rage that searches for effective means of changing the corruption currently in control. Those who profit from the destruction of our governments, who view the country as a troubled asset to be liquidated and who despise our working citizens are pleased with their progress currently, but the rest of us are getting mighty tired of their agenda.

Yes, Tom, a friendly reminder was sent, and is being sent in places like Wisconsin, about who really controls our government. You spoke the truth there. Many are appalled to see the fangs.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

"All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public-personnel management. The very nature and purposes of government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"[a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable." - Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

"It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” - George Meany, AFL-CIO President, 1955-1979.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 10 months ago

Which is why public employee bargaining frameworks are set up individually in law. In Wisconsin, for example, you are not allowed to strike. The same is true in Kansas I believe.

However, if you remove collective bargaining then employees do have the right to strike. In Wisconsin, this was once commonplace and could become so again if collective bargaining is struck down.

Thanks for referencing hurdles from 75 years ago that have been cleared thanks to collective bargaining.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

No, I cited sources revered by liberal Democrats - apparently, however, only when it suits their purposes. What Roosevelt said is indisputably true today, but in far too many states too few people have paid attention to it.

What has happened in Wisconsin has opened the eyes of many citizens to the gross excesses of public employee unions and their liberal Democrat enablers in too many parts of America. This is especially true in California, which is bankrupt.

If this weren't the case and the voters in Wisconsin were on the side of the public union bosses in their state, Barack Obama would have been there in person many days ago with Michelle and their entire entourage, lock, stock, and barrel, railing against Governor Walker while holding his subscription copy of Mother Jones in his hand.

Katara 3 years, 10 months ago

I am curious as to why you do not show the whole letter or provide a link to the full letter from FDR.

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15445

This is probably the reason why though: "The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. "

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

So what? FDR went on to say that regardless of that desire, collective bargaining has no place in the public sector because the employer is all of the people as a whole, and the very nature and purpose of government make the concept of collective bargaining inherently unworkable. As the result of Governor Walker's courageous stand in Wisconsin, millions have of Americans have now awakened to that fact.

Katara 3 years, 10 months ago

That is not what he said. I encourage you to read the entire letter again.

FDR cautions against "militant" tactics such as strikes but does not say that collective bargaining has no place in the public sector. He also recognizes that the needs of government employees are the same as private industry employees.

If Gov. Walker's stand is so courageous, why is he exempting some public employee unions? Particularly the ones that supported him?

If he (and you) truly believe that collective bargaining has no place in the public sphere, then both the police and the firefighter unions should also be stripped of their collective bargaining rights. There should be no exceptions.

He makes his case to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees on lies. That is not courageous.

Collective bargaining rights did not get Wisconsin into a budget crisis and have no impact on the debt of the state or the budget. The unions have agreed to cuts and to contribute more to health care premiums and pension. Gov. Walker rejected that. Gov. Walker is only interested in busting unions. He is not interested in the welfare of the state that elected him to his position. His actions have proven that and I am certain that a recall effort will take place by the citizens of Wisconsin once his first year in office concludes.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Katara, perhaps it is you who should re-read what FDR said:

"All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into public service." In other words, as I stated, he said that it has no place in the public sector. If you can't get that, then you're either drunk on left-wing Kool-Aid or need a course in remedial reading.

You go on to say, "Collective bargaining rights ... have no impact on the debt of the state or the budget."

Where in the world did you dig that up? "...[N]o impact on the debt of the state or the budget?" Are you serious? Did someone tell you that? For whom do public employees in Wisconsin work? Do you know anything about how they're paid? Do you live in a cave?

As for a "recall effort," consider this please:

As I said earlier in this thread, if voters in Wisconsin were on the side of the public union bosses in their state, Barack Obama would have been there in person many days ago with Michelle and their entire entourage, lock, stock, and barrel, railing against Governor Walker while holding his subscription copy of Mother Jones in his hand. "Recall effort?" Get serious. A strong majority of Wisconsin voters are sick and tired of public union tyranny, Walker ran on a specific platform to do exactly what he's doing, and the embarrassingly obnoxious conduct of those who are protesting about it, including those brought in from outside Wisconsin and many Wisconsin Democrat legislators themselves, are sealing their own fate.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Correction: "...[is] sealing their own fate."

Katara 3 years, 10 months ago

No, that is not what that sentence says. It does not mean that collective bargaining has no place in the public sector. It simply means that it does not work the exact same way as it does in private industry. Do you not understand what the word "transplant" mean?

Collective bargaining rights did not cause Wisconsin's debt. The Governor did by the first 3 tax breaks that he gave. On top of that the unions agreed to the cuts proposed & agreed to bigger contributions to their pension & health care. Gov. Walker rejected that. If the only reason for this bill is to put the state into a better place financially, the Gov. Walker would have accepted the union's offer. http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/02/wisconsin-gov-walker-ginned-up-budget-shortfall-to-undercut-worker-rights.php

Walker did not run on the platform to do what he is doing. Please stop repeating that lie. There was no mention of eliminating collective bargaining rights.

You still haven't answered the question as to why the police & firefighter unions are exempt if you (and Gov. Walker) truly believe that collective bargaining rights do not belong in the public sphere. There should be no exceptions if this belief is sincerely held.

And yes, from many other websites that I frequent, there will be a recall effort. WI law states that a recall effort cannot begin until the official has been 1 year in service. Wisconsinites are not happy with Gov. Walker. Polls are now showing that his disapproval rate is growing.

cato_the_elder 3 years, 10 months ago

Katara, a recall effort is already underway as we speak, but it's not the one you're hoping for. The cowardly Wisconsin Democrats who've jumped ship and gone out of state will all face vigorous recall efforts as the result of their collective, heinous dereliction of duty. Tea Party members are in the home districts of three of the most notorious ones today collecting signatures on recall petitions. Good riddance to each and every one of these bogus "public servants" for their abject failure to do their duty and be present to perform the job they swore to undertake and, I might add, for which they are being paid with taxpayers' money.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 10 months ago

How did we get here?

What do we find ourselves doing? STILL Cleaning up after repubs!

=====================================================

These are about corporate and political fraud not sound economic polices:

  1. The Reagan/ Bush Savings and Loan Heist( millions out of work)

"There are several ways in which the Bush family plays into the Savings and Loan scandal, which involves not only many members of the Bush family but also many other politicians that are still in office and were part of the Bush Jr. administration.

Jeb Bush, George Bush Sr., and his son Neil Bush have all been implicated in the Savings and Loan Scandal, which cost American tax payers over $1.4 TRILLION dollars (note that this was about one quarter of our national debt").

Neoconservatives are neither republicans nor the economic giants of our time!

The Reagan/Bush savings and loan heist was considered the largest theft in history at the time. George Herbert Walker Bush then took $1.4 trillion of taxpayers money to cover the theft. http://rationalrevolution0.tripod.com/war/bush_family_and_the_s.htm ========================================================== 2. The Bush/Cheney Wall Street Bank Fraud on Consumers(millions out of work) Yes, substantial fraud was involved. For example, mortgage companies and banks used deceit to get people to take on mortgages when there was no possibility that the borrowers would be able to meet the payments. Not only was this fraud, but this fraud depended on government authorities(Bush admin) ignoring their regulatory responsibilities." http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0709macewan.html

Neoconservatives are neither republicans nor the economic giants of our time!

  1. Only 3 major Financial Institutions were at risk in spite of what we’re told ? "There were just a handful of institutions that were terribly weakened. AIG the insurer, Bank of America and Citigroup, Those three were clearly in very weakened form. Many of the other big banks simply were not. http://www.democracynow.org/2009/9/10/good_billions_after_bad_one_year

Neoconservatives are neither republicans nor the economic giants of our time!

Flap Doodle 3 years, 10 months ago

Woo hoo! Reagan/Bush citation! Haven't seen that set of links in at least a day, merrill!

scott3460 3 years, 10 months ago

"The nation faces a fiscal crisis of historic proportions and, remarkably, our muddled, gridlocked, allegedly broken politics have yielded singular clarity."

...tax cuts designed to place the lions share of the country's wealth in the hands of a wealthy few bankrupt state and federal governments and do not work.

Corporations are enjoying the best profits that they've enjoyed in a long time. We've given billions and billions of tax cuts mainly to the most wealthy in this country.

Where are the jobs?

When does this trickle down to benefit the American middle class as we were promised?

When!?!

The corporations have received their benefits, the wealthy, as well. The anti government zealots are destroying government and fulfilling their wishes.

When, exactly, does this great scheme begin benefiting the middle class?

Richard Heckler 3 years, 10 months ago

Goldman -Sachs has come across saying the GOP plan will not work and is threatening the necessary economic growth.

Goldman Sachs Says GOP Budget Plan Will Hurt Economy

The GOP spending cuts have been criticized again.

A Goldman Sachs economist has warned that the $60 billion package of spending cuts proposed by the Republicans to counter President Obama's proposal could slow economic growth.

And if budget wrangling between the Obama administration and the Republican-dominated House of Representatives led to a shutdown? That, according to Goldman, could cost $8 billion a week, the Financial Times reported.

Goldman's warning follows Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner's recent claims that the Republican plan would cost jobs.

In the confidential report, obtained by ABC News, among other news outlets, Goldman Sachs economic forecaster Alec Phillips said the GOP plan could slow economic growth by up to 2 percent. Even a compromise deal, with $25 billion in cuts could slow growth by 1 percent.

In its latest spending plan, the White House predicted GDP growth of 2.7 percent this year.

Goldman's analysis contradicts the GOP's "cut-and-grow' fantasy," Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) told Reuters. "This nonpartisan study proves that the House Republicans' proposal is a recipe for a double-dip recession," Schumer added.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/24/budget-2011-republican_n_827543.html

Richard Heckler 3 years, 10 months ago

There are tons of people who had good jobs and no doubt had retirement plans and were being responsible UNTIL white collar criminals and their pals in the beltway killed this economy more than once.

Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and retirement funds due to:

  1. unexpected job losses to outsourcing created by mega mergers,hostile takeovers,buyouts and tax breaks

  2. the savings and loan scandal during the Reagan/Bush years

  3. ENRON

  4. Dot com fraud

  5. Bernie Maddoff

  6. Home loan fraud during the Bush/Cheney admin which put an estimated 11 million out of work

In essence we never know from one day to the next if we will be employed. And we all know Wall Street investing offers no guarantees of safety.

The government has been responsible for many many many losing jobs and their retirement plans therefore government should NOT do away with Social Security but instead create NEW industry and NEW jobs.

The government SHOULD create new industry to put people back to work considering repub governments participated in killing jobs by killing the economy.

There are tons of people who had jobs and no doubt had retirement plans and were being responsible UNTIL white collar criminals and their pals in the beltway killed this economy more than once.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

"The nation faces a fiscal crisis of historic proportions and, remarkably, our muddled, gridlocked, allegedly broken politics have yielded singular clarity."

But unions and working people didn't cause this crisis. It was caused by Wall Street, and folks like the Kochs.

But give the Republicans credit-- they have no hesitance to blame the union bogeymen for the financial crisis that the Republicans' corporate benefactors created.

Flap Doodle 3 years, 10 months ago

Just a minute ago a search on "The Reagan/Bush savings and loan heist" + merrill found 820 hits. Dude, give it a rest.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

O/P/R, refresh, repeat, O/P/R, refresh, repeat, O/P/R, refresh, repeat,

bad_dog 3 years, 10 months ago

Obama, Pelosi, Reid. Refresh, repeat.

Lamestream media. Refresh, repeat.

Palin's been ambushed. Refresh, repeat.

Pot meet kettle. Refresh, repeat.

Kyle Reed 3 years, 10 months ago

Wow...what brilliant insight you've posted. You do realize there is no requirment to post if you have absolutely nothing of relevance to add, right?

Seriously, that post was just dumb. Usually your posts are asanine, but I can a least tell you have some twisted point in there.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

Nothing. But since there is a good deal of truth in my "offending" post, Akreed chose to attack me rather than the truth he dislikes.

Kyle Reed 3 years, 10 months ago

I choose to attack you because you are a moron. Nothing more.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 10 months ago

What a joke. Republicans in Congress earned the title of "party of no" because they refused to negotiate.

Look at Wisconsin -- Democrats and unions are on board with all of the budget cuts proposed by the Governor. They have compromised on wages, on benefits, on a number of issues.

Meanwhile, the Republican Governor and Republican Legislature refuse to negotiate on collective bargaining.

Who, again, is the party of no? If you want to ask the nation are we a serious people, then you have to be serious about facing issues. "My way or the highway" is not serious, it is the attitude of a 3 year old.

gudpoynt 3 years, 10 months ago

Seriously.

Tom, BAA, scott, snap, care to respond to this?

"Party of No" refers to the party who refuses to negotiate. Which party best characterizes this, hmm?

Flap Doodle 3 years, 10 months ago

That's our bozo, being his usual classy self.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 10 months ago

One of the ironies of Republican whoring is that a majority of their sycophants (including you?) can't afford their services.

gudpoynt 3 years, 10 months ago

"Obama’s Democrats have become the party of no. Real cuts to the federal budget? No. Entitlement reform? No. Tax reform? No. Breaking the corrupt and fiscally unsustainable symbiosis between public-sector unions and state governments? Hell no."

Really? How about the fact that the Republicans have remained the party of no. Real cuts to the federal budget? No. Cuts to defense spending? No. Cuts to Medicare? No. Cuts to social security? No. Meet with union negotiators who have more or less conceded to pay a larger share of their benefits? No.

Jimo 3 years, 10 months ago

LOL If you're the type who refuses to take "yes" for an answer then sure.

"When Gov. Scott Walker proposed that state workers contribute more to their pension and health care benefits, he started a revolution."

That's strange - during the last Administration, state workers, legislators, and the (Democratic) Governor, worked out a plan for member to contribute more to their pension and health care benefits. GOP legislators nixed it.

This year there's no financial difference between (a) what the GOP has asked for and (b) what the union members have accepted. The GOP Governor refuses to accept that.

You'd almost think there was some goal beyond bargaining for salaries and benefits. Hmmmm...

heygary 3 years, 10 months ago

Charles, you are the man! What are you doing in 2012?

Mike Ford 3 years, 10 months ago

Wisconsin was a progressive state a hundred years ago. Any of the usual clowns on here ever heard of Robert LaFollete? Wisconsin is a Union State having companies like Miller, H-D, TREK bicycles excedera. I've driven through Wisconsin on my visits to Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oneida, and Stockbridge communities. The tpers up there must've been the same people who were upset when hunting and fishing rights were upheld by treaties for tribes and these clowns resorted to attacking the tribes with "Save a Walleye, Spear an Indian" stickers and attacking the federal government for protecting these tribes from the states who stole their lands. How dare that federal government stand up against state's rights. All of these clowns want the articles of confederacy so that they can get up from being brainwashed by FAUX and try to do productive things other than being trolls and talking nonsense on here. Before the GOP took on the Archie Bunkers, the churchies, and the racists, they were big business looking to squeeze the most of the workers for pennies with the politeness and regard for rules like the oil despot in "There Will Be Blood". Unions made the work days regulated and made child labor go away. They had sit downs at the car plants in the 1930's. The GOP was so heartless towards workers that Teddy Roosevelt left them to form the Bull Moose Party. The heartlessness hasn't gone away has it....

Jimo 3 years, 10 months ago

excedera?

Did you mean et cetera?

You should have meant et alii.

JustNoticed 3 years, 10 months ago

Krauthammer, like Roy Williams, can just kiss my ass.

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