The Wisconsin saga refuses to go away. How about a short review of the episode thus far? How did it start? Well, one has to look at November first, where Republicans sweep the races in the state, taking the governorship and control of both houses of the legislature. They do so on the promise to deal with the financial problems looming. What problems? How about a projected deficit of over $3 billion?
So, after being elected, they set out to do what they promised. A bill is drafted to cut back on expenses, aimed at the mushrooming costs of benefits to state employees. The provisions include making those employees pay a greater share of their healthcare premiums and pension contributions—a share that is still less than what private-sector employees pay. The bill also cuts back collective bargaining for benefits, but not for pay.
In a reasonable world, this would be a reasonable bill. Oh that we lived in a reasonable world!
Democrat senators, knowing they will lose the vote on this bill, take advantage of a rule that requires at least 20 votes in the senate to pass the bill. There are 19 Republican senators, so the 14 Democrat senators decide to run away to Illinois.
Safely hidden in Illinois, the Democrat senators demand that Republicans negotiate the provisions of the bill:
Republicans respond that it’s a little hard to negotiate with people who aren’t there. They also remind the Democrats that they were elected to debate bills in the Wisconsin capitol, not from a hidden location outside the state. But that enrages the state employees, who decide to overrun the capitol building, threaten the families of Republican legislators [note: this is barely reported in the mainstream media], and trash the capitol, requiring a few million dollars to repair it.
The majority of those who descend upon the capitol are teachers whose absence from school shuts down a whole slew of school systems across the state. They are “sick.” That’s why they are not in school. A number of doctors are seen writing excuse notes for them as they, despite their illnesses, find the strength to continue their protest.
Finally, when all else fails, the Republicans pass a bill that removes the part that requires the 20 votes, thereby rekindling the anguished protests. They do so only after trying to talk with the absent senators, who, when it is discovered they have been in negotiations with the Republicans, break off those negotiations and criticize the Republicans again. Huh?
By this point, everyone is wondering if those Democrats will ever come home:
Ah, but not to fear. They do return to a hero’s welcome from the mob. They are declared to be the saviors of the people, despite the fact that they deserted their posts, were paid by the taxpayers for doing nothing, and acted like spoiled children as they fled the state they were elected to represent.
In a reasonable world, they would not be considered heroes. Will reason triumph? Stay tuned.