Blue Corruption puts Wisconsin in Red

Wisconsin's ongoing crisis is exposing the channeling of taxpayer money to unions, and thence to Democrats. Taxpayers are being swindled by a system in which their interests come second.

Though there are currently moves afoot to alter some of the procedural details contained in Governor Walker's Budget Repair Bill, nothing of any substance has emerged thus far as the Democrat "fleebaggers" are still camped out in Rahmland and show no evidence of returning to Wisconsin to vote on the bill.

The budget, which Walker believes is critical if fiscal sanity is to be injected into an out-of-control spending process, also contains many provisions which drastically limit the bargaining powers of public sector unions and have been the sparks igniting the anger and outrage of public sector unionists not just in Wisconsin but across the country. Of course, unionists are not the only party affected by these provisions as they also have the effect of seriously reducing the power of Democrats.

It is not at all surprising that public sector unionists and their benefactors would react with fury, alarm, and hostility to any attempt to deprive them of powers they have long enjoyed.  In this they are not much different from anyone else; few of us would relish having benefits we have long enjoyed taken from us wholesale with the stroke of a pen, but this is what's happening in Wisconsin, and those who have been the beneficiaries of taxpayer's largesse for years are understandably upset.

But is their case just? It is if you think others should be forced to pay, and continue paying, for benefits you derive from a corrupt system -- and some of these benefits have corruption written all over them. It isn't if you demur.

Union dues are used for many purposes. Among other things, they are used to pay officers, hold meetings, organize and/or attend conferences, fund research, agitate, negotiate, and supply bodies for get out the vote operations. But perhaps most important of all, union monies will fund, and union operatives will work for, candidates who support its positions on the issues. Surprisingly enough, these candidates are just about always Democrats.

On average, public sector unions such as AFSCME, NEA, and SEIU nationally give anywhere from 98 to 99% of their contributions to Democrats. Moreover, union contributions constitute a relatively large share of the monies Democrat candidates receive. AFSCME alone contributed about $84,000.00 to Democrats in Wisconsin's 2010 elections, with about half of that sum going to the current Mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett, who was Walker's opponent in the gubernatorial race.  Of the fourteen Democrats in the state Senate, one took no money from any PAC, while of the thirteen others, ten received at least a third of their monies from union PACS, while five of these got over 50%, with one of those who's a member of three separate unions getting a cool 73% from union coffers.

Besides donating money directly to candidates, unions also spend indirectly through PACs for them as well. During the 2010 election cycle, the Wisconsin Education Association Council's PAC forked out almost 1.6 million for television ads for statewide Democrat candidates. Other unions spent about $67,000.00 on Democrats during the cycle while a lone Republican managed to get $20,000.00 out of them. Moreover, Advancing Wisconsin, a "progressive" group that opposes any attempt to lessen collective bargaining rights, contributed $560,000.00 and helped organize opposition to it.  Building a Better Wisconsin's "no-Republican's-please" PAC spent $42,000.00 and further helped the effort by funding a "push-poll opposing Walker's collective bargaining proposals while the Democrat front group, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, assisted by contributing $27,000.00 to state Democrats opposing them.

And what did the unions and their front groups get for their money? A Republican sweep of both legislative houses and the governorship, all previously held by Democrats! Why the overwhelmingly negative result?  As in many other states, the answer can be found in the unions' previous successes.  In Wisconsin, as elsewhere, previous Republican as well as Democrat administrations generally gave the unions what they wanted -- Republicans as a rule because they were afraid of the consequences of confronting labor head-on and Democrats because public sector unions constitute key components of their political base.

Union money was critical in helping Democrats sweep control of the Wisconsin state government in 2008. Democrats in turn helped out their union brethren by continuing past spending patterns until the state ended up with its current 3.6 billion dollar deficit. Moreover, unless checked, total state spending is projected to rise from 28.7 billion dollars in 2010 to 41.4 billion dollars in 2013, an increase of 44%. Hence, Walker's dilemma: he can fund the immediate budgetary shortfall by laying-off state workers, raising taxes, issuing more debt, or by requiring state workers to pay for half of their pensions and 12.6% of their health care premiums. He's chosen the last option but may be forced to adopt the first unless the fourteen Democrat senators return to the state capitol to vote on the proposed budget.

But if and when they do, the state is still faced with massive spending increases down the road, and it is because of these increases and the potential disaster that awaits the state if the corruption in the entire budgetary process is not eliminated that Walker has gone after union bargaining rights. Mike Flynn has outlined the details of this corrupt process. Public sector unions get their money from dues paid by public sector employees. These dues are paid out of wages and salaries which employees receive from contracts negotiated on their behalf by the unions. These wages and salaries -- and benefits as well -- are paid out of the coffers of the state treasury which, in turn, gets its money from taxpayers. So taxpayers, in effect, pay the unions to negotiate with the state on wages, salaries and benefits for their members. If these negotiations result in higher wages and salaries and/or more expensive benefit outlays, taxpayers are paying twice over.

Now put a partisan cast on this process. Of public sector union contributions to political parties, roughly 98% go to Democrats. So taxpayers, Republican as well as Democrat, pay unions to elect Democrats to state political offices who, in turn, are expected by these unions to increase employee compensation and, thus also, the burden on the taxpayer. The corruption of the entire system was nowhere better captured than in the image of former Democrat Governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine, shouting at a statehouse public sector union rally "We will fight for a fair contract." 

Unions are able to make sweetheart deals with state governments which increase the pay and benefits of state workers because, unlike their private sector counterparts, they do not have to confront management in the usual sense. Private sector unions, as a rule, must deal with companies that cannot offer wages, salaries, and benefits that threaten their bottom line. The beauty of the public employees' arrangement is that unlike private sector bosses, the taxpayer "boss" can't go out of business, and he is forever on the hook for any deficits that result.

Moreover, union members get to vote twice for representation at the bargaining table while non-union taxpayers vote just once. Union members, like all other taxpayers, vote for the government representative at the bargaining table, but unlike all other taxpayers, they also get to vote for their union negotiators. They, therefore, have a say as to who sits on both sides of the table. And as if this weren't enough, the private sector working taxpayer is doubly penalized as he has to pay not only his own retirement pension -- if he is lucky enough to have one -- but also both the pay and pensions of public sector employees. As Peggy Noonan put it, "When governors negotiate with unions it's not negotiation, it's more like collusion." However it's labeled, it's the taxpayer who's the patsy!
If you experience technical problems, please write to