Just in case you haven’t been following the events in Madison from the ground, take a gander at Bill Lueders’s comprehensive overview of Scott Walker’s War on Wisconsin.
Paul Krugman had another good piece on Wisconsin.
And from the NewsHour last night, a huge thank-you to Cal’s Harley Shaiken for finally giving voice to what has been making me so upset: the intimation, in how the debate is currently being framed, that for some reason it is bad for public workers—or for any workers—to have decent wages and good benefits. Why are people angry about this? You’d think someone would be saying, hey, maybe we should hold the private sector to higher standards and expect them to pay decent wages and provide things like health care and retirement benefits. But Shaiken is the only one who I have heard actually say that “the state ought to be setting the standard for better pay.” Amen! If business won’t do it, government should take the lead. And to hear Shaiken say this was also a huge vindication:
Well, these are very serious issues. And we do have a fiscal crisis on the state level. But we have to put that into a larger context.
That crisis was caused by the collapse of the economy, by the financial sector imploding and the recession that ensued, not by greedy or overcompensated public workers. Going forward, to the extent we have a problem, that’s a serious subject for negotiation between the elected representatives of the people in a state or a municipality and the elected representatives of the workers in that area.
That’s called collective bargaining. Mayor Bloomberg in New York put it very nicely. Where we have a problem, let’s negotiate. So, could we have a problem going forward? Of course. That problem is caused by issues unrelated to the public workers directly. They didn’t get us here. They may have to give something to get us out of here. But that is collective bargaining.
Thank you, Harley! And thank you, NewsHour.
And, finally, some food for thought in terms of this larger debate about “flexibility” to hire and fire (mostly played out in education). As we’ve been discussing here at home for several days now, when you making it easier to hire and fire people, you don’t save money: you just take the pay that would have gone to, say, the teachers and give it to a bunch of administrators who have to get hired to do the hiring and firing (and who think they should get paid a lot to make those decisions). Nobody saves any money, for sure, and teachers certainly don’t get any more respect or fair treatment.