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Krugman chimes in on Wisconsin

Paul Krugman Talk

Image by Taekwonweirdo via Flickr

Why am I continuing with this?  Because it is, without question, the most important event out there right now.  In fact, it’s approaching “day of reckoning”  status for the left.  Whether you believe it or not, we’re in a financial mess that can’t simply be kicked down the road anymore.  The Republicans in Congress lack the political will to do what is necessary.  They will follow the lead of the states, where Republicans are far more likely to get things done, simply because they can’t print their own money.

It’s pretty rare to see a local budgetary issue become the national phenomenon that is now Wisconsin.  And the liberals are out in force.  A good summary of their position is offered by Paul Krugman in the New York Times.  Because it’s full of unsupported nonsense, we will address it.

For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power.

Krugman is right.  It is about power.  But not the kind he’s referring to. 

What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. 

Krugman asserts a common liberal theme here–that big corporations bought the most recent election for the Republicans, and are now attempting to take over America by destroying the middle class.  Except what’s happening in Wisconsin has nothing to do with big business.  It has to do with the people of Wisconsin deciding that they are the ones who pay the bills, which include the salaries and benefits of the public employees who are massing in Madison.  And those bills are continuing to increase.  Krugman’s response: it has nothing to do with the budget.

Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.

Note Krugman’s use of vague phrases like “comparable qualifications” and his failure to cite to any authority for his general assertion.  Those are the signs of fibbers.  Well, others have done the research, and not surprisingly, Krugman is full of beans.  According to the MacIver Institute for Public Policy, a Wisconsin-based think tank, the median income of a Milwaukee Public School teacher is $56,500.00.  With benefits, the total income goes up to $100,005.00/year.  The Milwaukee per capita income is just over $19,000.00, and the median family income is $43,000.00.  With these figures  in mind, and the attitude of the Wisconsin people, it’s little wonder that the public employee unions have recently offered concessions.  The Governor isn’t interested.  Krugman’s view:

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain.

Krugman, like all liberals, believes tax increases are the first and last line of defense against, well, everything.  The problem is, the often-used, but never defined, “vulnerable” masses always seem to be exempted from the shared sacrifice of tax increases. 

Is this an attack on unions, as Krugman argues?  Certainly.  More specifically though, it’s an attack on public-sector unions.  Some ask why the Governor isn’t simply going after benefits and pensions, but also the union’s ability to collectively-bargain.  The likely answer is found in the significant difference between private-sector unions and public-sector unions when it comes to collective bargaining.  In a private-union scenario, there are actually two separate parties with competing interests entering into negotiations.  This relationship usually results in a mutually-beneficial result (ignoring the government bail-outs for the auto industry of course).  The same isn’t true in the public-sector scenario though.

Oftentimes, the public sector union ends up negotiating with the very same politicians it just helped get elected by way of significant campaign contributions.  At a time when the politicians are supposed to be negotiating on behalf of the taxpayer, they are instead negotiating on behalf of their political futures.  Because this relationship can never change, such negotiations should no longer exist.  A public-sector group wants a raise?  Ask the people of Wisconsin to give it to you.  It’s that simple.

Krugman then completes his piece by trying to scare you:

On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Obviously, corporations have more sway with politicians than the average Joe.  Why?  Because they contribute more money.  This works with both parties though, despite the left’s “we’re the people party” mantra, and largely cancels each other out.  Regardless of how much money is spent though, we continue to be a country where individuals vote.  And Microsoft doesn’t get any more votes than I do. 

Look, I have no problem with private-sector unions, and I would be against any effort to eliminate their opportunity to collectively-bargain.  Public-sector unions are a different animal though, for the reasons set forth above.  At the end of the day, I would be more concerned with my elected officials leaving the state to avoid a vote while talking about upholding democracy, than I would be about America becoming a third-world oligarchy.

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  1. Mary
    February 21, 2011 at 6:42 PM

    The hypocrisy of the enlightened left and the media has never been so obvious as that which is happening in Wisconsin. Civility? Could it be any clearer, now, that it was just a tool to silence the right and nothing else?

    As to the Democrats who ran for the border, otherwise known as “Fleebaggers”, they’ll go wimping back to Wisconsin as soon as they find out the taxpayers aren’t going to pay for their Illinois hotel rooms. (And no, sadly, I’m not the one who came up with the name “Fleebaggers”. It did make me laugh tho.)

  1. February 21, 2011 at 1:45 PM

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