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On Wisconsin: This time, Democrats are the obstructionists

Wisconsin It seems like only yesterday -– wait, actually, it was Friday  -– that The Times editorial page was decrying Republican lawmakers in California for collecting a paycheck while failing to do their jobs, refusing to negotiate on solutions to the state’s budget problems and instead simply letting Democrats handle the business of governance. But at least California Republicans are showing up for work. You can't say the same for Democrats in Wisconsin.

Turmoil that some have likened  to the Egyptian democracy movement has broken out in the Badger State, where Gov. Scott Walker, a conservative Republican who was elected after promising hefty cuts to state spending, kept his word by introducing a bill that would strip public employee unions of most of their collective bargaining rights. In response,  unions have organized massive protests at the state capitol, schools have been shuttered for days as teachers called in sick, and President Obama has called the bill "an assault on unions."

That’s democracy and free speech in action, but the tactics of Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin represent something else. On Thursday, Democratic members of the state Senate disappeared. Knowing they had no chance of stopping the Republican majority from passing the measure, they decided to halt all Senate business by denying a quorum.

Liberals have had nothing good to say in recent years about the naked obstructionism exhibited by Republican minorities in Congress and the California Legislature, but the tactic is just as reprehensible when practiced by Democrats.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is concrete evidence that elections matter. Walker and his conservative cohorts are doing precisely what the people of Wisconsin elected them to do. If they succeed and voters don’t like the consequences -– if schools can no longer recruit teachers because of uncompetitive compensation, or other public services deteriorate -– they can elect new leaders the next time around who can undo the changes. But this system breaks down when one party declines to participate or employs stunts to shut down the government.

Obstructionism is the enemy of progress. Even when it's performed by progressives.

-- Dan Turner

* Photo: Teachers and iron workers protest in Madison, Wis. Credit: Andy Manis / Associated Press

 

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Singh T. Junior

Scott Walker has high school degree. He was thrown out of Marquette University for cheating, where he had a "C" average. His contempt for higher education, universities, and teachers is obvious.

Elections obviously matter. Ironically for some factions of our society it did not matter when 5 Supreme Court thugs stole national elections in Florida 2000.

Singh T. Junior

Personal attacks and labeling the Supreme Court as thugs. I wonder which branch of OFA you belong to.

WallyG

Ted Kennedy was thrown out of Harvard for cheating. He murdered a woman he impregnated as a drunk driver. So Singh T Jr, you need to pull your skull out of that aperture and focus clearly on the issue, which is the taxpayers can no longer support through property taxes the demands of a single union that is throwing a tantrum! So what if the teacher's avge. salaries is $52000? The Avge salary of a working man in WI is $34,000 and he pays for his retirement and medical insurance! There's nothing unreasonable about the proposal that teachers pay THEIR FAIR SHARE but Obama seems to have become Prez Union Organizer and decided he would like to create chaos. As Obama told the Republicans, "I won" Scott Walker won, so shove it and get with the program and end the union tyranny of the taxpayers!

Singh T. Jr.

Who cares what Scott Walker has done in the past? The good people of WI knew and still voted him in. That is completely unrelated to this.
Clearly Singh has more contempt for Scott than it has consideration of a right an just point about a civilian version of derelict of duty, democrat or republican.
What a horrible example those "leaders" are showing. Even those "teachers" who boycot and leave thier students in the lerch are settign a wonderfull example. If you dont like something, dont participate, dont try, dont do your duty. Its pathetic and they all should be repremanded.

Singh T. Jr.

Who cares what Scott Walker has done in the past? The good people of WI knew and still voted him in. That is completely unrelated to this.
Clearly Singh has more contempt for Scott than it has consideration of a right an just point about a civilian version of derelict of duty, democrat or republican.
What a horrible example those "leaders" are showing. Even those "teachers" who boycot and leave thier students in the lerch are settign a wonderfull example. If you dont like something, dont participate, dont try, dont do your duty. Its pathetic and they all should be repremanded.

Big JIm Slade

Sorry teachers. The private sector's been getting hammered for a decade. Your turn.

We've run our of money to pay for your liberal fantasy. Doesn't matter whether it's Wisconsin, California, or the federal government- the bell is tolling for thee.

It doesn't matter how many whining "activists", starving children, or unemployed teachers with placards you parade on TV. You know how much money there is, now spend it more efficiently. Time to can the union members on the top!

Remember that Econ class you once took? I sincerely hope you were paying attention.

Robert Dupont

California's public schools were the pride of the nation and their decline should be squarely shouldered by de-funding under Prop 13.

Yes schools can be de-funded by Republicans crowing anti-tax rhetoric for years.

Walker and Cohorts are doing exactly what campaign funders (Koch Brothers) paid them to do, the public are now being made aware by the Unions and Democrats just what sort of far right non-sense they are in for.

Far from obtruction this is an awakening.

GrandInquisitor

Scott Walker only has high school degree.
Bill Gates only has high school degree.
Steve Jobs only has high school degree.
Larry Ellison only has high school degree.
Michael Dell only has a high school degree
Steven Spielberg only has high school degree.
Robert DeNiro only has high school degree.

Oops sorry DeNiro never got a high school degree.

And your point is?

Madison Resident

So what if the teacher's avge. salaries is $52000? The Average salary of a working man in WI is $34,000 and he pays for his retirement and medical insurance!

Well the "average Wisconsin working man" does not have a college degree - the average for a college educated professional is $64,000 per payscale.com - teachers need a degree....why would you ever become a teacher and make less unless there was something else that covered the gap? I don't want someone with a GED teaching my kids, I think teaching is a pretty important job...

GrandInquisitor

Scott Walker only has high school degree.
Bill Gates only has high school degree.
Steve Jobs only has high school degree.
Larry Ellison only has high school degree.
Michael Dell only has a high school degree
Steven Spielberg only has high school degree.
Robert DeNiro only has high school degree.

Oops sorry DeNiro never got a high school degree.

And your point is?

Sherry

Aren't unions like the mafia? They make you pay for protection? My husband was a teamster driver for almost thirty years and paid all his "dues(protection money) and when he got sick with cancer, they dropped him like a hotcake. Unions are not needed anymore, please. People need to quit thinking that they are "entitled" to everything under the sun. If, for the better of all, some have to sacrifice some things, like the union people sacrificing having to help pay for their retirement and other free benefits they get, then so be it. Quit whining. There are people in America loosing their homes on a daily basis and these union people are arguing about what entitlements they are going to loose. Let them walk in the shoes of a homeless family for a week then lets see what they say about all that icing that's on their cakes. And for the Democrats who are taking a "vacation" on taxpayers backs, shame on you! Do your job! People voted and you lost your majority now you look like a bunch of two year olds at daycare throwing fits because you didn't get your way. Suck it up and face the music. What kind of models are you being to our kids!

R Williams

This article and the comments above are horrible. First, in response to the comments. . . In California teachers barely make enough money to live off of! I have many friends and relatives who are teachers (some who have been teaching for 30 years) and they are trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Their pay and benefits have been cut. These are the people who educate our children. They should be treated with much more respect!!! The protestors in Wisconsin are not asking for more money or benefits. They are asking for bargaining rights. That is part of democracy!

In regards to this article, the legislators who fled ARE doing their jobs. They were elected to serve their constituents, the people that elected them. And that is exactly what they are doing.

What is going on in Wisconsin is not democracy, it's a Republican party dictatorship.

Singh T. Jr

I guess you should use your name when you write, and not my name. But that is okay, considering you are a supporter of Scott, it might be hard for you to understand.

Let me just put this in perspective. Scott Walker (who only has high-school degree) defeated Tom Barrett in 02 Nov 2010 general election.

Tom Barrett (former Mayor of Milwaukee) graduated from Marquette University High School, earned his B.A. in Economics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1976 and his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1980.

I don't know how people of Wisconsin voted for a drop out like Scott Walker with "C" average. But the damage is already done and what we see today are ripples of this sad event in the history of Wisconsin. I understand the elections have consequences. It is tough luck for me.

George Buzzetti

The writer just forgot to tell you that this governor just gave away $140+ million to his friends and that is a good part of the reason for the defecit. Their stated purpose is to ruin government. That is what they are doing unless it is for privatization. Then it is good and tough luck to those in the way of corporations raping us again. Remember the financial crisis unlike the S & L crisis in which over 1,100 were indicted and many went to jail. Just how bought and sold do you think our government for and by the people is?

Wisconsin has always been a progressive state. He does not want to negotiate with the employees, he wants to dictate. I thought that is why we got away from England. We learned in the 30's and 40's that dictators are not good. We are also learning about freedom from the middle east. How's that for a twist. We inspired them and they inspired us to say " enough is enough".

ABCE

.

Greg Maragos

There is no moral equivalency between the actions of California Republicans and Wisconsin Democrats. Republicans are showing up for work, stating their beliefs, and voting accordingly. Wisconsin Democrats are doing none of the above. Instead, knowing they are hopelessly out-voted, they refuse to show up for work, yet continue to draw their paychecks.

Just because Republicans are in the minority in California, it doesn't give Democrats the right to bully them into voting how they want them to. If you have a real issue with what is going on in California, then it seems to me that the real problem you have is with the state's constitution, not the Republicans who are exercising their right to vote as they see fit.

Elections have consequences, indeed. And one of the consequences that Democrats have to face in failing to attain a 2/3 majority is that they will have to manage to get by without raising taxes. Boo-freakin'-hoo. I know, California's taxes are absurdly low (cough, cough), but let's hope and pray the poor little dears in charge of Sacramento can figure out a way to balance the budget without raising them "temporarily" (again).

If the Dems are only able to muddle their way through with a combination of half-hearted spending cuts and more borrowing, guess what? There's another election in 2012, and I'll just bet that will help shake California out of its current funk.

Singh T. Jr

GrandInquisitor,

I never voted for Scott Walker, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, Michael Dell, and Steven Spielberg.

If you can understand the difference between private citizens and public officials, you will do yourself a great service.


Robert Dupont

Greg, California just dumped the 2/3 majority requirement tell the top 1% earners to get ready to pay their fair share of taxes!!

geoffey n lachner

California requires a 2/3 majority to pass any tax or any tax increase. Even putting the tax question to the people requires a 2/3 vote. they can stop any tax, therefore. They likely know this. The same is not true in Wisconsin, a bare majority is sufficient. the current deficit did not arrive by way of public workers, or their pensions. We know that Wall St. scamming, "defense" and tax breaks for the rich including the ignorant criminals of the W administrations got us here. So, not just content to take free money, the rich, and their enablers, Repubs, etc. pick on the most vulnerable of Americans, and their fully paid for "entitlement" as if that were welfare. Of course, they don't want one penny of their money going to help potential workers bargain with them for their labor. Let's get real, the unions, lawyers and other "elites" bother the money. They are the ones who understand how this game works.

geoffey n lachner

California requires a 2/3 majority to pass any tax or any tax increase. Even putting the tax question to the people requires a 2/3 vote. they can stop any tax, therefore. They likely know this. The same is not true in Wisconsin, a bare majority is sufficient. the current deficit did not arrive by way of public workers, or their pensions. We know that Wall St. scamming, "defense" and tax breaks for the rich including the ignorant criminals of the W administrations got us here. So, not just content to take free money, the rich, and their enablers, Repubs, etc. pick on the most vulnerable of Americans, and their fully paid for "entitlement" as if that were welfare. Of course, they don't want one penny of their money going to help potential workers bargain with them for their labor. Let's get real, the unions, lawyers and other "elites" bother the money. They are the ones who understand how this game works.

Robert Dupont

Greg, California just dumped the 2/3 majority requirement tell the top 1% earners to get ready to pay their fair share of taxes!!

GrandInquisitor

Singh T. Jr

Scott Walker was being denigrated for not having a college degree. My point is that most teachers have degrees in DoDa and the advanced degrees in education are an even bigger joke. Teachers are using credential inflation to justify their large salaries.

That was my point.

Singh T. Jr

GrandInquisitor,

The higher education is not a joke. Not having education is a joke, especially if you are a governor of a great state such as Wisconsin. But let us entertain your logic for sake of argument, that people of higher education are not smart and lack common sense. If this "C" grade drop-out governor decides to employ National Guard to quell the peaceful protestors, it will be a shameful day in the land of green and gold packers. Let’s hope it does not happen. Have a wonderful weekend and equally wonderful life.

Steve

To "Madison Resident"

$64,000 / 240 work days a year (52 weeks, less two weeks for vacation * 5 days a week, and less 10 holidays) = $267 a day. Must contribute to health care premiums and 401K (may or may not receive company matching).

$52,000 / 181 school days a year(2010 Wisconsin) = $287 a day. Receive Cadillac health benefits and a pension for life after x years.

So the "average college educated professional per payscale.com" makes $20 a day less and works 59 days more; does not have free health care, tenure or lifetime pensions. Probably doesn't have the luxury of being able to walk out in protest (without being let-go) and leave kids high and dry when the bankrupt public cannot afford to continue to pay them...

Someone has gotten too spoiled and now doesn't want to live like the rest of us.

We cannot afford to pay for all of their services. Government employees are in a different class then the rest of us, they are overpaid for the amount of time spent at work, their immediate and lifetime benefits are way too generous.

We are broke. We do not have enough funds to pay the state's bills and government employees benefits. Instead of making tough decisions, the legislators and teachers take the day off in protest - if you did this in your job you would probably be let go.

Emerald Laughter

It seems a worker revolution is inevitable in this country. Politicians have sold their souls and the birthright of Americans out to the corporations. Organized labor is our last line of defense, and they are trying to kill that now too. Hey gun nutz, get ready to exercise your 2nd ammendment rights!

shared sacrifice

Hand me the smelling salts: the LA Times criticizes Democrats!

The suggestion that california republicans voting as they are entitled to do is the same as fleeing to prevent a vote is evidence of ideological blindness, but I am impressed anyway.

Democrats like democracy--as long as they win: if not, they sue (Gore), flee (Wisconsin and Texas in 2004), hack your email (the guy who did it to Pain) or worse.

The Wisconsin Democrats are acting like factious anarchists in some third world country.

To quote President Obama, "elections have consequences." Deal with them.

Its a shame the dmeocrats care so much for the unions as oppsoed to the atxpayers.

eliaser

The governor needs to be impeached asap. 40,000 people protesting...sounds like Egypt. Keep up the protest and down with the regime.

Ex-teamster

Some unions at some times have worked to balance the scales and allowed their members to engage employers on a even playing field.

Other unions have managed to corrupt the relationship between employer / employee to the point where even going to the bathroom becomes a item for union negotiations.

I think the voters of Wisconsin have spoken and the unions should stand up and take their medicine. Who wants union rules that prevent incompetent employees and rotten apples to stay in the barrel and pollute the workplace and waste taxpayer's money? Do you?


WI resident & teacher

This is not just about teachers and I think that it is interesting that just after being elected republicans gave tax breaks to businesses that almost equal what they are trying to balance now. Also, what people don't know is that in paying into our pension it saves money in theory, but the amount of taxes coming out will be less which also means the state will loose $111 of the $137 million that they are saving by us putting money into it. Also, by removing the collective bargaining rights we will no longer be able to make monetary consessions as we have done to help balance the district budget. In my district teachers have said we don't have the money so let us build up personal days instead. By removing the collective bargaining rights we can no longer do this and we will just have to go for money even when it is not there.

Tellit

I certainly wonder how many millions of dollars in lost productivity the protesters so called "sick time" and the Dems convienent disappearance have cost the state of WI in the last couple of days. Walker's plan for govt employees to pay more towards their pensions and health care and eliminating collective bargaining is a reasonable idea in today’s financial situation. Sorry but there is no reason tax payers should continue to subsidize pensions and health care benefits that are not in line with the priviate sector. And govt employees should not expect us to not now not ever. However, excluding some employees from the bill sounds bias, discriminatory, or even like pay backs of sorts. Walker and other Repubs need to explain this discrepancy better because it doesn't pass the smell test.

Neither does this. It seems that despite his vocal objections to the federal health care reform law and WI participation in law suits against it, Walker has chosen to accept a 38M grant from the federal health care reform law to create a pilot health care exchange states are required to create by 2014.

Gov. Scott Walker accepting nearly $38 million, even though he has said he opposes the law and the exchanges it requires states to set up doesn't pass the smell test either.

It's too bad too, he talks a good game and seemed like he could do well in office but more and more it's sounding like he just doesn't have the skills.

Skippingdog

When a Republican Governor proposes the near-complete elimination of collective bargaining rights protected by over a half century of law, it's most certainly NOT the Democrats who are being obstructionists, any more than it will be the case when Republicans attempt to eliminate the Voting Rights Act or the Civil Rights Act.

Some things should be obstructed by decent people. Stripping legal rights away from a group is one of them.

P J Evans

Scott Walker took a budget surplus and within a month had turned it into a deficit by giving money and tax breaks to his buddies.
Now he's blaming state workers for his own actions.
What a dishonest governor he is!

P J Evans

Many teachers only get paid during the school year; they buy supplies out of their own pockets, and they take classes in the summer or have summer jobs to pay their bills.

Tom Birchfield

"DEAD WRONG"

As a registered Voter/Vet USAF, "I SAY YOU DEAD/WRONG! Not only are the "Democrats doing the right thing...."THE PEOPLE ARE ALSO! Last time I looked the Republicans did everything they could do to "BUST" the UNIONS" they failed under that "FOOL"/Republican /Ronald Reagan ruined U. S. labeled ketchup a vegetable, lost a whole generation of Americans, and left U.S. a debtor nation! "The Majority is the voice of the people andthe will of the people, "Will never be stopped, by will of the few."---Tom Birchfield

In conclusion, Republicans trying to "STOP...PREVENT...."COLLECTIVE BARGAINING!

..."Republicans will not succeed, "But the will of the people will!

..."RECALL YOUR GOVERNOR..."WISCONSIN, "AND PROTESTERS STAND YOUR GROUND!

..."A time when silence is betrayal."---Martin L. King

...I STAND WITH YOU WISCONSIN..."AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING!

gepids

I"ve been on the other sites, in Wisconsin they don't have the filibuster, so the only way to stop the vote is to leave. That way they will not have a quorum. This I got from poster saying they were from Wisconsin.

Also the author fails to mention that the state didn't have a budget deficit until the current Gov. sign a 120 m tax cut, which put the state into a deficit. Sound familar?

Ignoramus

@GrandInquisitor: Yup, just show up with your high school diploma at Microsoft, Apple, Dell and Dreamworks looking for a job. Break the ice by reminding HR their founders only had high school diplomas. U.S. high school grads will whup the worlds #2 economy, China...really?!?! Go get some meds from your fave high school grad 'pharmacist'...and pray you won't need surgery from your fave high school grad 'surgeon.' However, it is quite obvious you will vote for your fave high school grad 'prez' next year.

Linda

Astonishing how many people posting here have, apparently, missed two fundamental facts of this situation: 1. the PEOPLE -- yep, that includes "workers" who also have the franchise -- voted for Scott Walker, who campaigned openly on this platform; 2. those same PEOPLE also voted in a Republican legislature to support Walker's agenda.

What part of democracy don't you people get? Are you all so ignorant as to think that collective bargaining is a Constitutional right? Union membership, a form of "free association," is in fact a Constitutional right -- collective bargaining is not. Do you people not understand the difference? If not, I guess our public schools are even worse than I thought!

KeLeMi

No, the GOP is the obstructionist. They want to bust unions and to hell with anyone else.

Claudine Willis

GO WISCONSIN! Save the Unions! We can't go back to the time when employers held a horse whip over their employees.

CALFUTURE

Let me get this straight.
I work hard for a paycheck. A significant amount (more than my mortgage payment) is taken away in State & Federal taxes. 50% of the "services" I receive for taxes paid are in salaries of govt. employees. A portion of their salaries is required by law to pay for Union "dues". Those dues are then used to pay for advertising, political campaigns, PR and bloggers on this site to persecute me if I even question the pay & benefits negotiated. If it's not a personal attack on me, it's an attack on someone else to distract: it's the greedy corporations fault (don't think so, they actually pay me and give me a job), it's the banks fault, it's George Bush's fault, etc. How did we let this happen?

snf

Yet that is exactly what Obama is going to do, shut down the government when he vetoes the continuing funding resolution. The democrats prefer to abandon Democracy than see something not go their way.

The longer it drags on the worse the unions and their parasitic membership look in the eyes of middle-America.

Ryan Hanks

Lower taxes, lower taxes, lower taxes. Its been the Republican mantra for years, and after getting taxes to the lowest rate they have been since the 1930's we should be having a unprecedented economic boom shouldn't we? All we have seen instead is private companies posting record profits and laying off workers. Private sector employees shouldn't be whining about how there unionized brothers in the public sector make more money, they should be unionizing so they can make more money too. But instead I see typical cowardly leadership by the Republicans. Instead of taking responsibility they blame their employees.

Republicans will only be happy when we are working for $3 a day chained to our workstations.

Dave Parker

With all due respect, Mr. Turner, what in your bio - international news (with a particular focus on Africa and development), transportation (including ports and airports), law enforcement, corrections, energy, international trade and Hollywood - qualifies you as an authority on this? Is it that management couldn't get any of the political writers except Andrew Malcolm who is too partisan to write something like this to write it? Or is it the fact that you know your job is unlikely to be offshored, or given to the editorial writers of the Chicago Tribune -- and that you have a union that will protect you if either of those happens?

Scott Walker is union-busting, and people don't like it, and that's not the same as not letting any bills through the Senate, well, because the Republicans aren't in the majority. You know that.

Hal Goldburg

dan...... you are Gay.

djy

Dan...you've said it perfectly.

eric

Hey Dan - Point taken, but the more striking parallel to me is that Republicans in both states are guilty of (as you put it) "refusing to negotiate." Dems in CA and state workers in WI have been willing to make concessions. So far Repubs here aren't biting and Scott Walker would rather silence the "opposition" than engage in meaningful compromise.

morris wise

It`s easy for the state to hand out benefits, but it`s cruel to take them back. Wisconsin now wants to reduce it`s contributions to pensions and health care coverage. Try cutting down the amount of food given to your dog and you will understand why the dog and Wisconsin workers are angry.

morris wise

It`s easy for the state to hand out benefits, but it`s cruel to take them back. Wisconsin now wants to reduce it`s contributions to pensions and health care coverage. Try cutting down the amount of food given to your dog and you will understand why the dog and Wisconsin workers are angry.

Economics599

Wisconsin (state and municipalities) are the ‘employers’ of the unionists and are broke. The workers should thank the state for not laying then off but offering modest cuts. The exponentially more productive private sector lays off workers and restructures. Get with the real world! Or soon we’ll have foreign creditors dictate how we run our finances.

Economics599

It is an awesome disgrace that President supports the Leftist legislatures (or whimpsters) who stuck their tail between their legs and ran out of the state (they are fugitives). The same President who has created a contitutional crisis not adhering to the Court's ObamaCare ruling, who refuses to execute immigration laws, and who is illegally implementing Cap n Trade via EPA. Our President continues to lower the bar on President's Day.

 
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