Media’s talk about ‘rights’ is biasing public against Gov. Walker

John Guardiano Freelance Writer
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The media loves polls and considers their results to be sacred. If a poll shows that the people support a bill, that bill must be just and right. And, conversely, if it shows that the people oppose a bill, then, by definition, that bill must be bad and illegitimate.

So it is, we are told, that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s bid to reform collective bargaining must fail: because the people oppose Walker’s proposal.

Only the polls don’t show that. Instead, they show that people are opposed to “stripping” workers of their collective bargaining “rights.”

And therein lies the problem. As soon as you label something a “right,” you give it the political equivalent of a halo: It is now holy and untouchable. And so, deep shame must befall any politician, such as Walker, who seeks to deny his constituents something as American as a “right.”

In other words, the polls show that Walker is losing the public relations war. But this is not surprising given the incredibly biased language — “stripping” people of their “rights” — that the media is using to describe his very modest reform proposal.

Walker would limit (not strip) collective bargaining for government employees. The latter could continue to bargain collectively for wage increases up to the level of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index. However, the people of Wisconsin could authorize greater wage increases via statewide referendums. Moreover, public safety employees (police and fire) are exempt from Walker’s proposal.

Benefits (pensions and healthcare) would not be subject to collective bargaining; and government employees would have to contribute five percent to their pension and 12 percent to their health insurance. (They now contribute nothing to their pension and six percent to their health insurance.)

But I suppose these, too, are sacred “rights” that must not be abridged: the “right” to a guaranteed free lifetime pension and the “right” to contribute less than 10 percent to your health insurance.

Ironically, one bona fide right that Walker would protect is the right of Wisconsin state workers not to be forced into a public employees union, with union dues forcibly confiscated from their paychecks.

Under Walker’s proposal, the public employees unions would have to hold annual votes to stay organized; and unions could not force employees to pay dues.

But for some reason, we don’t hear much talk in the media about this right. We only hear about the collective bargaining “rights” that the supposedly Machiavellian Walker allegedly wants to take away from hardworking school teachers.

If members of the media want to be fair, they should talk more about state employees’ real rights and less about manufactured “rights” such as collective bargaining.

It was that notorious right-winger, Franklin Roosevelt, after all, who opposed collective bargaining for public-sector workers. As he put it:

All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.

FDR realized, as today’s so-called liberals mostly do not, that there is something fundamentally corrupt about empowering public employees unions with mandatory union dues to support political candidates for high office and then, once those candidates are elected, “negotiating” with them for wages and benefits.

That’s a conflict of interest, not a right. Too bad the media doesn’t report this story accordingly. They should start by refraining from any mention of collective bargaining “rights.” How about, instead, just calling it what it is, “collective bargaining,” and letting readers and viewers decide whether it’s a “right”?

John R. Guardiano is a writer and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. He writes and blogs for a variety of publications, including FrumForum, the American Spectator and The Daily Caller. Follow him at his personal blog, ResoluteCon.com, and on Twitter @JohnRGuardiano.