Midwest Opinion: Gov. Walker reformed unions, not classrooms
By Grand Forks Herald Forum News Service Here's the thing to remember about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's education reforms. They're not about education. They're about money. Specifically, they're about the widely shared sense that America's publ...
By Grand Forks Herald
Forum News Service
Here’s the thing to remember about Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s education reforms.
They’re not about education.
They’re about money.
Specifically, they’re about the widely shared sense that America’s public services cost too much - and if there’s a way for taxpayers to get the same basic services while paying less for them, then elected officials should pursue it.
In the private sector, that’s exactly why Wal-Mart has succeeded, after all: Its stores give good value for less. (And teachers and college professors, no less than plumbers, dentists and real-estate salesmen, are happy to take advantage of that.)
Chief executives in the private sector routinely scour their balance sheets for savings on the “cost” side. Sometimes, that means battling a union, as American Crystal Sugar did not long ago.
And in Scott Walker, Wisconsin taxpayers simply found a champion who would take on the public sector unions the same way. The fact that he then won a recall election, got re-elected and now is running for president suggests that even in America’s blue states, a great many people feel that public-sector unions have amassed too much power.
Here’s another governor whose success argues for the same thing: Gina Raimondo in Rhode Island. As state treasurer, Raimondo led an effort to reform Rhode Island’s public-sector pensions. The result increased contributions for current workers, cut benefits for new hires and reduced cost-of-living allowances for public-sector retirees.
Rhode Island voters responded by electing Raimondo governor. By the way, she’s a Democrat: Her reform efforts were driven by “math, not politics,” she insisted.
Given that voters elected public-sector reformers in not only Wisconsin and Rhode Island, but also New Jersey and Michigan, among other Democratic-leaning states; given that even Minnesota came within a few thousand votes in 2010 of a Walker-style revolution; given that as of this month, there are seven Democratic versus 24 Republican “trifectas,” meaning states where one party controls the governorship as well as both houses of the Legislature-given all that, public-sector unions and their leaders should see the writing on the wall.
If they want to avoid Walker-style reforms that slash collective-bargaining power, they should work with Raimondo-style reformers to cut costs and curb excesses.
Remember, it wasn’t President Ronald Reagan who expressed his deep skepticism by writing, “All government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.” It was President Franklin Roosevelt - and the unions should be careful lest a majority of voters and taxpayers come to share that view.