Scott Walker may have wasted political capital by sparing Wisconsin’s police and fire fighters

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Mike Riggs
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      Mike Riggs

      Mike Riggs is a staff writer at The Daily Caller. He has written and reported for Reason magazine and reason.com, GQ, the Awl, Decibel, Culture 11, the Philadelphia Bulletin, and the Washington City Paper, where he served as an arts and entertainment editor.

Floating in the sea of state employees who flooded Madison late last week are specks of black and blue. They are not waiting for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to end his fight against collective-bargaining privileges for state employees, but for the crowd of teachers, custodians and others to get unruly.

They are police — state and local — as well as firemen, and all of them are exempt from the bill that has shut down Wisconsin’s schools and its state government.

“Currently, we’ve had a long tradition and when it comes to fire and police service in the state of Wisconsin,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker told Channel3000. “Statutes are very different when it comes to whole series of rights and responsibilities.”

But in other states, even “essential” personnel have slimmed down.

“When Mitch Daniels abolished collective bargaining for state workers in Indiana by executive order, his move included the state police,” the Manhattan Institute’s Josh Barro told The Daily Caller. “The reforms being debated in Ohio include police and fire workers.” In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie has locked horns with the New Jersey State Police over retirement requirements. Currently, NJ State Police employees can begin drawing their pensions at age 55, regardless of when they joined the force; Christie’s reform would make it so that employees have to work 30 years before they can begin drawing pensions.

In Wisconsin, the state police, several police locals, and a firefighters union (just a fraction of the states more than 300 public safety union organizations) endorsed Walker in the gubernatorial race. That he’s sparing them now, when so many of his gubernatorial peers have confronted the cost of essential personnel, has both his critics and allies wondering if he’s rewarding allies and punishing his foes.

“Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it’s as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions,” wrote the New York Times’ Paul Krugman.

Libertarian blogger and Troy University professor Stephen L. Taylor wrote that it is “not an unreasonable supposition” that Walker is rewarding the firemen and policemen who helped him during his campaign for governor. “I would go beyond that and not ask why Walker is doing what Walker is doing,” Taylor added, “but rather ask why we have not seen (or, at least, I have not seen) his ideological allies calling for him to include police, firefighters and state troopers in the bill?”

But it’s not as simple as Krugman makes it out to be. “Politically, police and fire unions are not Republican bastions; they split their allegiances between the parties,” Barro said. “Because they are a swing constituency, Republican politicians have more incentive to try to make nice with them than with other public employee unions. … I can understand why [Walker] would make a strategic choice to exclude them — politicians pick their battles all the time with an eye toward coalition building — but I do think it’s unfortunate.”

If Walker were hoping to gain politically by sparing police and firemen, his plan has likely backfired. Last week, Tracy Fuller, director of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association, denounced Walker’s decision to abolish collective bargaining privileges for public employees.

“I specifically regret the endorsement of the Wisconsin Trooper’s Association for Gov. Scott Walker. I regret the governor’s decision to ‘endorse’ the troopers and inspectors of the Wisconsin State Patrol,” Fuller wrote. “I regret being the recipient of any of the perceived benefits provided by the governor’s anointing. I think everyone’s job and career is just as significant as the others.”

Fuller and the WLEA, which includes state police as members but is a completely separate organization, endorsed Scott’s opponent, Tom Barrett.

Chris Matthews joined the fray on Monday night by arguing that Walker was playing favorites. “Why does the Governor pick on the unions that didn’t endorse him in the last campaign but give a free ride to the firefighters and the cops who did and the localities?”

His guest, Wisconsin Republican state senator Glenn Grothman, slammed Matthews as “completely uninformed,” adding, “The firemen’s union around this state have campaigned against Republicans, and the statewide police have repeatedly campaigned against Republicans.”

Walker said during a CBS interview last friday, “There are 314 fire and police unions in the state. Four of them endorsed me. All the rest endorsed my opponent.”

Politifact clarified that it was three locals and the state police that endorsed Walker. “During the campaign last November, leaders of the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association and Milwaukee Police Association appeared in an ad supporting Walker and blasting his opponent, Democrat Tom Barrett. Walker also won endorsements from the West Allis Professional Police Association and the Wisconsin Troopers Association.”

Barro defended the bill as better than nothing, despite the exclusion of essential personnel. “I don’t think Wisconsin has to be precedent-setting in this regard, even if Walker’s reform package passes with an exclusion for police and fire.”

This article has been updated.

  • mckeestown

    “Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning — are exempted from the ban; it’s as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions,” wrote the New York Times’ Paul Krugman.
    Mr Krugman also wrote in another article:

    “The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch.”
    And now he supports the oligarchy superwealthy unions.

  • teapartypatriot

    The question remains, why did Gov. Walker NOT include ALL of the money-sucking public-sector unions in the effort to control costs. Why were the fireman and police public-sector unions exempt? THERE SHOULD BE NO, NO, NO, NO, NO EXCEPTIONS TO THE RULE to CONTROL THE PUBLIC-SECTOR UNION RIP-OFF OF TAXPAYERS.

    • indy1

      Because he didn’t want total anarchy?

  • Joe Steel

    Apparently, Scott “Moammar” Walker has cut-off internet access from the Capitol, too.


    Can someone remind why he’s not really a banana republic dictator?

    • des1

      You mean where people are illegally sleeping and intimidating politicians and their staff? Really?

      You are so f’ing stupid it’s just shocking.

    • truebearing

      No rubber hoses, beatings, arrests, and waterboarding? Damn! Why can’t he treat that scum to the tactics they’d use if the roles were reversed?

      I say lock the capitol building up, except for the workers and elected officials. Let the worthless commies freeze. Maybe they should improve their relationship to the means of production and get a job washing dishes so they can rent a room.

  • Tess_Comments

    I do not know if I agree with exempting Police and Firefighters from this bill.
    Chris Matthews was WRONG.
    Chris Matthews joined the fray on Monday night by arguing that Walker was playing favorites. “Why does the Governor pick on the unions that didn’t endorse him in the last campaign but give a free ride to the firefighters and the cops who did and the localities?”
    Walker said during a CBS interview last friday, “There are 314 fire and police unions in the state. Four of them endorsed me. All the rest endorsed my opponent.”
    Politifact clarified that it was three locals and the state police that endorsed Walker.

  • kookie

    I have noticed that the protesters in Wisconsin are all white, old and they look very angry. I wonder if the media has noticed this also. Probably not, they just say that about the Tea Party.

  • dirtytricksjusttowin

    Great hit job on Gov Walker Riggs. You sound like Chris Mathews. Tell the truth….among the Firemen and Police, how many voted for Gov Walker.

    Tell the whole truth.

  • J Baustian

    Quote: “Walker said during a CBS interview last friday, “There are 314 fire and police unions in the state. Four of them endorsed me. All the rest endorsed my opponent.”

    Why was this buried in the 15th paragraph? Does this not go to the heart of the argument? Did Paul Krugman ghost-write this article?

    • indy1

      If the Daily Caller is going to be just another New York Slimes, why bother coming here? This article was slanted to the Democrats. Even Politifact showed the lib talking points were bogus yet the Daily Caller ran with them for several paragraphs.

  • bellesforever

    Aren’t you all missing the point?Collective bargaining should never be given up..without it all of us will suffer..no more power to the people but only power to the corporations..the few that did endorse walker have all now taken back their endorsements..hello doesn’t that say something as well..

    • thephranc

      Almost 80% of the work force doesn’t have collective bargaining. They are doing just fine. The power the people have is to go find another job. If companies don’t pay enough they lose their workforce to some one who does.

      Taking back endorsements doesn’t say much at all.

      • maggiethecowdog

        It’s quite a bit less than 20% who have collective bargaining. And to say that they’re doing fine is open to questioning

        See graph: http://illusionofprosperity.blogspot.com/2007/12/historical-real-hourly-wages.html

        Real average hourly wages adjusted for the CPI peaked in 1973 at just under $20 an hour. They were down to $16 in 1995 and every covered by only about $1.50.

        In short, they rose most during the period of high unionization, and have been dropping ever sense unionbusting has been in force. If the GOP succeeds now in removing the last vestiges of unions, what countervailing force is there to keep wages from a slow decline the Third World standards?

        Even if you resent those with a higher wage because of their union, where in all of this do you see a better deal for the working person? How will Walker’s and Christie’s and other new governors’ policies lead to more money in a working person’s pockets? I just don’t see the mechanism.

        The tax breaks being offered for those at the high end, and only marginally so everybody else. The rich are not investing in places of work in the United States. The tax breaks we’ve given them is going abroad.

        If we take away all union wages, where will the new market rate set wages? $12, $10? less? What will set the floor? With wages less much less than $10 a day in China, and South Asia, why would big business even want US right to work states’ levels?

        Corporations are collectives by definition. If there is to be any give-and-take for the working person, destroying their ability to collectively negotiate and leave them high and dry as individuals ensures rock bottom incomes.

        At this point, what purchasing power do they have? Supply-side economics says industry going to China makes product so cheap that the lowered American incomes come out ahead. But these products are not cheaper. And if the dollar falls, the more dollars a required the import the same good. Supply-side economics has clearly been a disaster. The lower wages it predicted has occurred but not the lower prices, and that means poverty.

        What the GOP is doing now would just make it that much worse, and Obama lacks the balls to say “Enough!”

        • des1

          Look, I appreciate the fact that you tried to sound reasonable and fact-based, but your post is just nonsense. “Real wages” can’t continue to rise indefinitely. That money is generated by the cost to consumers of the products and services we buy. There is a limit (unless you want to live in inflation hell where a loaf of bread costs $100). Minimum wage has risen dramatically, which means things have improved for the poor and the people who are just starting out in the job market.

          Our economy and it’s volatility has opened doors for some people to become incredibly wealthy, far beyond what any of us could imagine just a generation ago. But there is no mechanism possible to spread that wealth to the rest of us. The best the government can do is encourage investment by private businesses so we all have opportunities.

          My father made $20/hr back a couple of decades ago, but he did it at a job that killed him before he hit retirement. I can make that sum easily with a limited college education and at no risk to my health. So no, I don’t have the chance to become Bill Gates, but I do have the chance to carve out a decent life for myself and my child without killing myself prematurely in the process.

          Unions can be beneficial, but like corporations and the rich people you jealously smear, they are run by greedy people whose only interest is themselves. They demand more and more from the businesses until there is nothing more to give and the jobs disappear. You want to see what really strong unions can accomplish? Go move to Detroit. On the bright side, you can buy a house for less than what someone in the middle class makes in a year. Go have a party.

    • The_anniebanannie

      “..without it all of us will suffer.”

      Explain how that will affect me and any other person who doesn’t choose to give my hard-earned money to a union boss?

      • des1

        Don’t you love how Liberals conveniently forget to include union dues in their estimations of people’s salaries? I guess when I make $20/hr in a union shop, that’s just all my money. The union won’t take any of it so it’s all profit.

        Thanks Mr. Trumka, Stern, and Hoffa. You guys are regular philanthropists.

  • lollytyg

    When a public union sits down at a bargaining table, they are sitting down against another public employee. Not a private employer.
    And the fight is on.
    When the private employer signs, he’s out the money. Period. And has to maybe not hire the few he was planning on, nest quarter or year.
    When the public employee signs, he knows he’s got ammunition to ask for more budget next year, and really couldn’t care less. We’ll pay. He won’t.
    I actually support budgets for the police and fire departments. But Education has no business, in government. None. Government education is exactly that.
    You work nine months, and get paid for twelve. No other employer on the earth does that and makes a profit. Then you get a summer job, and whine because you have to start actually paying for your retirement and health-care.
    Well, guess what, I’ve paying it my whole life.
    What makes you special? Do you really believe I owe you a living or retirement?
    Your education is no more valuable than mine. Your life is no more important than mine.
    If everyone in this country stood up, and yelled, “We want the same deal!”, your taxes would triple, ours would too, you’d get another raise, and we wouldn’t, and you get buried in a walnut casket, and leave money to your kids. We get buried at sea, and my kids keep paying your debt.
    Get over it. My life is as important as yours.
    Can’t deal with that? Stick a gun in your mouth. We’re better off without you.
    As for me, I’m treading water, slowly sinking, but I’m not quitting.
    And, yes, it’s a thankless job, but nobody ever thanked me either.

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