We've all heard the chant from Wisconsin. Someone with a bullhorn bellows, "Tell me what democracy looks like," and the answer comes back from the throng, "This is what democracy looks like." Democracy? Really? It looks more like mob rule and an end to our form of government that, by the way, happens to be a Constitutional Republic and not a pure democracy. You would think professional teachers would know the difference.
But for the sake of argument and for the convenience of the readers of this blog let's assume for a minute that a Constitutional Republic is a form of democracy. What the protestors in Wisconsin are doing has more in common with the enemies of democracy than with friends of democracy. How many democracies do you know where elected officials run from their duly elected, constitutional responsibilities by getting on a bus and heading to an out-of-state resort? Are we sure that democracy is accurately represented by bused in mobs from far away states that have nothing to do with state government in Wisconsin? What part of democracy is being served by denying the results of the last election in Wisconsin?
If Democratic Senators in Wisconsin want to see what democracy looks like they will have to see it up close. They shouldn't have the luxury of hiding out in some undisclosed location while democracy grinds to a halt in Wisconsin due to their immature actions. The unions and their backers believe the best form of democracy is the form that exists only in their minds. It is a democracy based on sick outs, legislative absenteeism, and shameless doctors handing out bogus medical excuses as if they were already working under Obamacare.
As of November 1, 2010 the Wisconsin State Senate was home to eighteen Democrats and fifteen Republicans. After the 2010 election the numbers were reversed plus one for Republicans with nineteen Republicans and fourteen Democrats. In a sane world where democracy rules a sane person would conclude that the people of Wisconsin have spoken at the ballot box and the unions can't overrule the results and control the outcome through obstruction tactics. Yet Mary Bell, president of the Wisconsin Education Association Council picked up on the "this-is-what-democracy-looks-like" theme saying, "the power of government in this state does not come from this Capitol. It comes from the people."
What she really means is she believes power comes from the people who belong to the unions whose gravy train is about to run out of gravy. Wisconsin, like most states and the federal government, is broke. How broke? How about broke to the tune of a $3.6 billion budget deficit. Those protesting today will soon be lining up to receive pink slips if Wisconsin can't get its house in order.
If newly elected Republican Governor Scott Walker has his way, and I predict he will, the Republicans in the Senate will hold firm and the union will ultimately be forced to accept the will of the people. On Fox News Sunday Walker told host Chris Wallace, "It's about time somebody stood up and told the truth. And that the only way for us to balance the budget at state or local level is to make sure that we give those local governments the tools they need to balance the budget, and that's what we're proposing." He called on the Democrats in exile to come back to the table and participate in what democracy really looks like. He invited President Obama, who has publically sided with the unions, to butt out and take care of his own federal budget problems. Governor Walker may not have presidential aspirations but if he keeps this up he may be drafted as a candidate for 2012.
Steve Malanga of the Manhattan Institute saw this very situation coming as recently as 2005. He wrote, "State and local governments used tax surpluses and the 1990s stock-market rise to gold-plate pension programs, with disastrous effect once the stock boom ended." He pointed to skyrocketing pension costs in California, which ballooned from $160 million in 2000 to $2.6 billion in 2005. Malanga also pointed out that New Jersey's pension costs would rise to consume 20% of that states entire budget by 2010. New Jersey Governor Chris Christy would no doubt agree that Malanga is a prophet as that state faces an estimated $10.5 billion shortfall with what some estimate to be a potential $80 billion shortfall in unfunded pension promises piled on top.
In California, state pension plans now consume a staggering 80 cents of every tax dollar. In state after state, union and government worker retirement plans and other benefits are driving deficits that are bankrupting state governments. That is what disaster, not democracy looks like.