Debunking Tea Party Talking Points in Wisconsin
The Tea Party groups that are coming to counter protest at the Wisconsin state capitol Saturday have been given an strict set of talking points to stick to from their controllers at the Koch Brothers front group Americans for Prosperity. When they arrive on their camels, scratch that, their astroturfing buses from both in and out of state, the following is what you can expect to hear over and over, along with my analysis debunking each point.
“Quick facts about Wisconsin’s Budget Repair Legislation”
The plan is about reform: Wisconsin’s Budget Repair legislation is about enacting modest – but critical – reforms to public sector entitlement programs that are long past due. The proposal takes on some of the most egregious violators of taxpayer dollars including public employee unions and public sector pensions.
This plan is about destroying the last stronghold of organized labor in America: the public sector. Union participation was over 1/3rd of the work force 50 years ago, but has dropped to less than 10% today, except in the public sector. This bill is designed to not only go after wages and pensions, but end the ability of state workers to collectively bargain in the future, something that has nothing to do with any supposed budget “crisis”.
Ending public sector collective bargaining: The plan would end the practice of public sector union bosses strong-arming politicians for exorbitant benefits and absurd contract concessions. The plan rightly calls for an end to the ability of certain public sector unions to band together to pressure policymakers into unnecessary contract concessions.
Conservative groups like AFP have no interest in preserving ANY collective bargaining. They understand that workers are much easier to control individually, and seek to lower wages, lessen safety regulations, and end grievance mechanisms to maximize corporate profits that go almost exclusively to the rich.
Respecting the taxpayer: When public sector workers – who are paid with taxpayers dollars – resort to bullying tactics to gain sweetheart contracts filled with plush benefits unheard of in the private sector the taxpayer loses every time.
This is an attempt to portray public employees as not critical to the state, but these people perform critical functions like plowing snow, fixing roads, and making the government run. Further, it is mysteriously absent why public workers such as firefighters, police, and state troopers unions are exempt from this bill.
Respecting the public’s trust: When teachers choose not to teach purely to pad their already lavish contracts with taxpayer dollars they are violating a sacred public trust. Using students and their parents as leverage in contract disputes is a tried and true practice of teacher’s unions that must end.
There is no evidence that teachers have ever pressured students or parents to attend these demonstrations. The value of a strong education depends on attracting talented professionals to schools, not chasing them away.
Stopping out-of-control benefit costs in the public sector: The proposal would prevent unions from forcing extravagant pension and health benefits on the state that only serve to further cripple state budget. Also, the plan would make the commonsense change that public sector wage increases could not exceed a cap based on the consumer price index (CPI) unless approved by voters.
o Also, some contracts would be limited to one year and wage rates would be frozen until the new contract is settled
There would be no serious crisis had Walker not rammed through tax cuts for the rich and big corporations. “Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit, but he and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes — or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues — the “crisis” would not exist.”
The public vs. private sector: In Wisconsin, private sector workers make 74% of their state-level public sector counterparts. This is the 48th worst pay differential in the nation and clearly shows that the public sector employee unions aren’t hurting for better pay or benefits.
This is a blatant lie. A study on this issue was just released a week ago that exposes it: “On an annual basis, full-time state and local government employees in Wisconsin are undercompensated by 8.2% compared with otherwise similar private sector workers.”
Paying a fair share: The plan also would help ease the tremendous financial burden placed on the state by its bloated pension plan by finally requiring some public workers to pay their fair share into the program.
o Overall, public employees would fund 50 percent of the annual pension payment – a total that would require a modest contribution of 5.8 percent of 2011’s salary.
Again, if the financial burden on the state is being caused by tax cuts for the rich and large, multinational corporations. Walker is deliberately making the budget situation worse in order to break the backs of public unions.
In typical Tea Party fashion, the talking points are filled with pejorative terminology like egregious violators, strong-arming, absurd contract, bullying, plush benefits, lavish contracts, extravagant health benefits, and bloated pension. They are designed from the top down to give the illusion of a common voice among conservatives about this issue, and like all propaganda, when the points are actually examined in detail, the whole charade begins to unravel.