Unions: Members & Leaders

Protesters have finally left the Wisconsin capitol, but estimates are coming in as to the cost of that occupation. We’re learning now it could cost as much as $7.5 million to clean up and repair the damage they have done to the building. Most of that, $6 million, is to restore the marble inside the building; another $1 million to do the same to the outside. As one commentator has noted,

Imagine how many teacher positions, textbooks, and new computers the state could buy with $7.5 million. … Remember when attendants at President Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony trashed the National Mall? But 9.12 tea party protesters along with attendants at Glenn Beck’s 8.28 Restoring Honor event left the National Mall squeaky clean?

That has something to do with respect for the country and for property. The current protesters, their protests notwithstanding, seem to lack respect not only for public buildings, but for the proper functioning of the government.

And while these rank-and-file union members take time off from work to declare their solidarity, I think it might be instructive to look at their leaders, and the benefits they gain from being in leadership. A new study by The Center for Public Integrity shows where a lot of those union dues are going.

The study identifies the ten largest unions in the country, whether private or public. It then details the salaries paid to the leadership and how the money is being spent on political activity. Here’s a summary:

  • The largest union is the National Education Association [NEA] with 3.2 million members. Its president receives in salary and benefits $397,000 per year. The NEA spent $3.7 million on political activity for the 2010 elections, with 98% of that money going to Democrats.
  • The Service Employees International Union [SEIU] comes in second with a membership of 1.8 million. Its past president, Andy Stern, who is a close confidant of President Obama, received slightly over $300,000 in 2009, then got a 5% raise the next year before he left the post. Nine other SEIU leaders receive more than $200,000 per year. Over the past two years, the SEIU gave $2 million to Democratic candidates and $8,500 to Republicans. Notice the difference?
  • Third on the list is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees [AFSCME], which is one of the fastest growing unions in the nation. Its president was paid $479,000 in 2009; ten others receive more than $200,000. Political donations in the past two years total $2.3 million for Democrats and $13,000 for Republicans.

I could go on, but if you are interested, check out the article at http://www.publicintegrity.org/articles/entry/2964/.

Meanwhile, don’t tell anyone, but Ohio is poised to pass a similar law as the one proposed in Wisconsin, and it’s occurring without legislators leaving the state or massive occupation of government buildings. In other words, representative government is at work in Ohio. Elections do have consequences.

Definitely Not a New Tea Party

The protests in Wisconsin have spread to Ohio and are threatening to pop up in other midwestern states, but Wisconsin is still the most visible nationally. Republican governor Scott Walker continues to remain firm in his desire to bring costs under control, considering his state is looking at a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion. He ran on a platform of getting business up and running again. This is the first step.

On Saturday, for the first time, supporters showed up at the Capitol to encourage him. Keep in mind these are people who thought they should stay at their jobs during the week, unlike the protesters who have besieged the legislature prior to the weekend. Finally there were posters with a different slant:

If anyone tries to equate the current protests with the Tea Party movement, I would like to provide some enlightenment on the distinctions, starting with:

Goals

The Tea Party, while focused on economic issues, has an underpinning of resurrecting constitutionalism. The movement is not simply a protest against current policies, but a re-educational effort on the basics of good government. The driving force behind Tea Party concerns is that government has become too controlling, too large, and too out-of-bounds. The goal is to get it under control and provide more liberty for individuals.

The current Wisconsin protests are also focused on economics, but that focus is primarily self-centered. I hear no concerns raised about the good of the nation as a whole and the fact that we are going down the tubes financially. These protesters want “their” benefits, and they have transformed modest proposals into tyranny in their rhetoric. Gov. Walker is now a new Hitler because he wants to disallow collective bargaining on benefits packages for state employees. The proposal continues to allow the unions to bargain on wages, and all it is requiring is that these government workers do what the private sector workers have been doing all along—pay more toward their own pensions and healthcare costs.

Tactics

The Tea Party certainly holds rallies, but I’m unaware of any Tea Party function that invaded a state legislature and threatened the safety of the legislators and their families. The only intimidation Tea Partiers used was the threat of the ballot box. These new protesters have taken on the persona of thugs, which is to be expected given who is behind the protests [more on that in the next section].

The Tea Party also spends a lot of time on education of the electorate, making sure people grasp the essentials of constitutional limitations on government. These Wisconsin protesters simply demand what they believe belongs to them regardless of what they consider “out-of-date” concepts such as the rule of law. They had their chance in the last election; they lost. Now they are trying to overturn that election by brute force. That is thuggery at its worst.

Another major distinction between the two sides is that Tea Partiers didn’t leave their jobs to be part of the movement, whereas a significant number of the Wisconsin upstarts are teachers who walked away from their jobs to participate, even though it is unlawful that they do so without a legitimate illness or other major family event that might keep them from performing according to their contracts.

Well, that’s being handled readily. There are now confirmed reports that doctors [whether real of fake is uncertain in some instances] are busily writing notes at the protests for the participants, saying they [the doctors] have examined them [the protesters], and they are not at work due to illness. In other words, fraud on a massive scale is being perpetrated, and they don’t even bother to hide what they are doing.

This is inexcusable, and all teachers who are part of this fraud should be fired immediately.

And then there are the fourteen Democrat state senators who are Missing in Action. That’s part of the carefully coordinated plan as well, and they are just as irresponsible as the “sick” teachers. Does Wisconsin have a recall law? If so, now would be a great time to set it in motion.

Organization

The most fascinating aspect of the Tea Party movement is the spontaneity of it all. No one person or organization made this happen. It sprouted throughout the country as a grassroots response to what people saw happening in Washington, DC. Any union that has been formed through this has been voluntary in nature.

Regardless of what the propaganda about the current protests may say, there’s nothing spontaneous about them. They are union-organized and -sponsored. Furthermore, President Obama’s campaign group, Organizing for America, is deeply involved as well. Why might that be?

If union power is diluted, Obama’s reelection bid will be hurt significantly. He truly is “in the pocket” of the unions.

In my view, the entire Obama tenure has been an assault on the Constitution and the rule of law. What is happening right now in Wisconsin is merely an outgrowth of his philosophy. Republicans must be steadfast and face down this assault or the nation will suffer even more disastrous consequences.

Responsible Government … For a Change

So President Obama gave his view on the current state of our union. Then the Republicans responded, via Rep. Paul Ryan, with their approach, which is the polar opposite of the president’s. Even Rep. Michele Bachmann gave a Tea Party response. Two out of three got it right. That’s because there is a difference in worldview, philosophy of government, and economic policies as wide as the Pacific Ocean between the two sides in this debate.

Republicans are moving forward with their plans to reverse the backward movement of the past two years. On the economic front, it just makes good sense to change direction, even if you don’t adhere to a sound economic philosophy—our $14 trillion yoke of oppression makes it obvious that we cannot continue to follow the present path.

The old accepted procedure is to continue to raise the debt ceiling. There is a limit to that:

What is true of individuals is also true of governments. We need to recognize that and respond properly this time. As I said before, the only way the debt ceiling should ever be raised at this time is if there is an ironclad guarantee that massive spending cuts will be connected with it. Ideally, though, there should be no raising of the ceiling. We won’t default a minute after the vote; there will be time to figure out how to make the cuts that are absolutely necessary.

Will we see responsible government this time? Keep praying, and continue to hold representatives accountable.

The Real Purveyors of Hatred

I would like to introduce you to Eric Fuller, in case you haven’t yet heard of him. I’m not sure how much coverage this man is getting in the mainstream media, but he just may be the face of the unhinged Left.

Fuller was in the crowd in Tucson the morning that Jared Loughner decided to unleash himself on the world. Two of Loughner’s bullets hit Fuller—one in the leg and the other in his back. His injuries were not serious, and he is out on the street again doing what he does best—agitate.

Getting shot does not make Fuller a hero. In fact, the reason he was at Rep. Giffords’s meeting that morning was to confront any Tea Party activists who might show up, “to shout them down because I can make a lot of noise,” Fuller explained. His business card identifies himself as a “political circulator.” In fact, shortly before Loughner opened fire, Fuller was in a full-scale confrontation with a former Marine in the crowd. The discussion was apparently so heated that Gabe Zimmerman, Giffords’s aide who was killed just minutes later, had to intervene to stop Fuller from escalating the argument further.

Lately, Fuller has become infamous for a number of comments:

  • “It looks like Palin, Beck, Sharron Angle, and the rest got their first target.”
  • “Their wish for Second Amendment activism has been fulfilled … senseless hatred leading to murder, lunatic fringe anarchism, subscribed to by John Boehner, mainstream rebels with vengeance for all, even 9-year-old girls.”
  • In an interview with the New York Times: “[Republicans] appeal to simple-minded rednecks.”
  • In that same interview, he repeatedly referred to the “Tea Party crime syndicate.”

Then on Saturday, Fuller was in the audience at an ABC townhall broadcast in Tucson. One of the invited attendees was a Tea Party organizer, Trent Humphries. Throughout the meeting, those sitting by Fuller were increasingly concerned by his behavior, uncomfortable being near him. Finally, he rose up, took a picture of Humphries, and declared, “You’re dead.” At that point, sheriffs took him into custody and escorted him from the room. His final words to everyone in the room? “You’re all whores!”

Can any fair-minded person compare Fuller’s fulminations with words spoken by Palin, Beck, Rush, or anyone on the Right and draw a moral equivalence between them? All this talk of civility needs to begin with those who are the real purveyors of hatred, not those the media routinely accuses.

Note: After writing this post, I read where Fuller apologized to Humphries for his actions. One hopes this is sincere, yet being taken into custody and turned over for psychological evaluation can lead a person to do whatever is necessary outwardly to avoid consequences. I will be convinced this is genuine when his life mirrors his words.

Loughner: The Facts

When Megyn Kelly of Fox News interviewed Sheriff Clarence Dupnik on Sunday, she pressed him on the issue of whether any evidence existed that Jared Loughner was at all influenced by politics. Dupnik danced around the question, but ultimately had to concede that no evidence had turned up that the killer acted because he had been encouraged to do so by talk radio or any political movement.

Dupnik, of course, famously initiated that line of thinking with his ill-timed opinion at a press conference on Saturday. Ever since then, the media generally, and the political left specifically, have done all they can to cast blame on [in the following order] Sarah Palin, conservative radio and television commentators, and the Tea Party.

This rush to judgment is in direct contradiction to the facts. First, take a look at the mugshot for Jared Loughner.

Isn’t that about the most maniacal facial expression imaginable? The facts coming to the surface about Loughner belie any attempt to connect him with conservative politics.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, he is a self-confessed atheist. The Tucson newspaper has also intimated that there might be a type of shrine in the backyard of his home with a skull on top. That is not confirmed, but either he is an atheist or an occultist, which is not necessarily contradictory as he can be the latter and still deny the existence of a benevolent God.

He was kicked out of community college for his bizarre behavior; classmates felt threatened by his presence, with one even stating that she sat near the door to get out quickly, if necessary. His algebra instructor said he feared turning his back to the class in case Loughner might pull out a gun.

He was rejected from enlisting in the army. Privacy rules don’t allow the army to give the reason publicly, but it’s not hard to guess that either he came across as mentally unstable, or it was obvious he used drugs. He apparently is a Truther, believing that the Bush administration is responsible for 9/11, and he thinks the Mars Rover landing is a hoax perpetrated on the American public.

How about politics per se? The news has now been released that he is a registered independent who didn’t even vote in the last election. So much for being an outraged Tea Partier.

This mountain of personal information suggests one thing, and one thing only—this is a very emotionally disturbed man who lives in a fantasy world. Now, by that, I don’t mean he is insane; I believe he knows exactly what he is doing. He is responsible for his actions. He—and he alone—is to blame for what occurred on Saturday.

Yet the drumbeat of false accusations refuses to diminish.

There is hope, however, that the absurdity of the charges will undermine the accusers themselves. They deserve that fate.

The Tucson Tragedy

When we celebrated our one-year-old grandson’s birthday in Tucson on December 29, I went to the nearest grocery store to buy the ice cream. It was a Safeway store located in a shopping center on the corner of Ina and Oracle. On Saturday, that very store was in the news as the scene for a most horrific shooting. As I have watched the coverage the past couple of days, I can visualize from my own experience the very spot where one young man carried out his sinful deed. Less than two weeks ago, I was there.

The object of his ire apparently was his congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. He succeeded in shooting her in the head, yet even though the bullet went through her brain, she remains alive in an intensive care unit. Doctors are cautiously optimistic, but any recovery will be slow. In the process, the shooter, later identified as Jared Loughner, killed six people outright, one being federal judge John Roll; a total of twenty were injured by his bullets. Fortunately, he was captured on the spot and is now in custody.

Almost immediately, information on Loughner surfaced. I’ve seen his You Tube screeds. If you’ve seen them, you know they are largely chaotic in nature with a logic that sometimes defies definition. Without doubt, they are the product of a troubled mind.

He is an atheist—that much is clear. Beyond that, it’s difficult to find much consistency in his belief “system,” if that’s the proper term for it. On the one hand, he writes about reading the Constitution and believes in holding gold rather than fiat money. Yet he’s not a “conservative.” Two of his favorite books are The Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. His atheism separates him from traditional morality based on God’s law. One of his high school acquaintances remembers him as someone who was “left wing, quite liberal” politically. Another called him a “hater,” adding, “He was a goth-type. He was more of an outcast.”

In other words, he is in no way connected, philosophically or in practice, with modern conservatism or the Tea Party movement.

That has not stopped some extremists from using this tragedy for their own political purposes. Leftist bloggers have already blamed Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, and any opposition to the Obama agenda for Loughner’s actions.

I was watching the Pima County Sheriff, Clarence Dupnik, in his news conference Saturday evening when I was bowled over by his editorializing. I’d never heard of Sheriff Dupnik previously; I had no idea of his political leanings, but he didn’t leave a nationwide audience in the dark for long.

He immediately rushed to judgment, placing the blame for the shootings on what he called “vitriolic” comments from talk radio [code for Rush Limbaugh et. al.]. He then proceeded to trash his own state of Arizona, labeling it the most bigoted state in the nation [presumably for its strong stance against illegal immigration]. This man was supposed to be giving an update on the day’s proceedings; instead, he chose to unleash what I would consider to be “vitriol” of the lowest caliber.

Yesterday, in an interview with Fox News, Dupnik followed up his initial comments by declaring that Loughner’s actions were the result of an atmosphere created when “one party is trying to do something to make this country a better country and the other party is trying to block them.” For Dupnik, the party trying to make things better is the Democrats and the party trying to block them is the Republicans.

Can this man be trusted to be involved in an honest investigation of the facts?

The one thing the sheriff said that was true is that the political discourse has become heated. He didn’t help the situation, however; all he did was fan the flames with false accusations. The New Testament book of James provides this instruction:

But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Let’s allow the righteousness of God to come to the forefront at this time.

Chambers & Counterrevolution

More wisdom from Whittaker Chambers today. Reflecting on the sad state of society in 1925 with respect to its grasp of the dangers it was facing, he penned these poignant words:

The dying world of 1925 was without faith, hope, character, understanding of its malady or will to overcome it. It was dying but it laughed. And this laughter was not the defiance of a vigor that refuses to know when it is whipped. It was the loss, by the mind of a whole civilization, of the power to distinguish between reality and unreality, because, ultimately, though I did not know it, it had lost the power to distinguish between good and evil. … The dying world had no answer at all to the crisis of the 20th century, and, when it was mentioned, and every moral voice in the Western world was shrilling crisis, it cocked an ear of complacent deafness and smiled a smile of blank senility—throughout history, the smile of those for whom the executioner waits.

As I read his analysis of 1925 America, I can’t help but think about American society as we get ready to enter this new year. How do we compare with the America he witnessed? Are we dying and don’t know it? Is the executioner waiting for us?

Chambers always said that it wasn’t good enough to be a conservative. Here’s why:

Counterrevolution and conservatism have little in common. In the struggle against Communism the conservative is all but helpless. For that struggle cannot be fought, much less won, or even understood, except in terms of total sacrifice. And the conservative is suspicious of sacrifice; he wishes first to conserve, above all what he is and what he has. You cannot fight against revolutions so.

Christians have become more politically active; the Tea Party movement, apparently comprised of a majority who consider themselves Christians, has made an impact on politics. Yet politics is only one part of the answer, a part that can hold back the onslaught, but can never overcome it. There is a deeper level where the real battle is engaged. It is a spiritual battle, and only committed Christians—perhaps the counterrevolutionaries Chambers mentions—are the ones who can  and must carry it forward.