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Rights and Freedoms

Local Issues, Politics

There has been a lot of talk, some of it quite loud, over the last month--actually 25 days--about rights and freedoms. We are being deafened by screams that the Walker budget Repair Bill's section restricting collective bargaining by public service unions is an attack on freedom and the middle class; that it violates hard-won union rights. Harsh accusations indeed. But, what are they really saying?

There are several categories of rights. There is, of course, the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States. Things like the right to bear arms, right of privacy (oops, that's not really there), among others. These rights are essentially cast in stone and can be undone only by constitutional amendment. Constitutional rights do not seem to be at issue here since none of them appear to infringed by Gov. Walker's bill.

There are God-given rights, like the right to life and free will. I'm not sure what the others are, but lots of folks refer to them. Walker seems to be safe from these also, whatever they are.

Then there are legal rights, those bestowed by legislative action. Ah, now we seem to have something. There was legislation passed some years ago that established collective bargaining for public service unions. However, that was a legal right created by a law. Such a right can then also be removed by legal action, which is the present case. These are equivalent actions, neither superior in any way to the other. What a legislature bestows it can take away, no foul.

O.K., what about those freedoms that the evil Republicans are taking away from us, the middle-class public. Certainly not the freedom of assembly or freedom of speech. Those are also in the U.S. Constitution, but seem to be safe from right-wing predation. Then there is: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It may be argued that the "pursuit of Happiness" (sic) and maybe even some Liberty is being infringed, but this is from the Declaration of Independence which, while a worthwhile sentiment, does not have the force of law. Also, I don't think the writers of the Declaration had public service union collective bargaining rights in mind.

The bottom line is, it is difficult to identify any real freedoms or rights that are being infringed, except the right of unions to fleece the public. Oh yes, the recent ongoing circus in Madison and elsewhere, like Illinois, is only and solely about the union right to collect dues and entice membership by negotiating rather generous benefits from strength gained through political contributions to those with whom they are negotiating. It is not about workers' rights, which are not being infringed or taken away. The majority of public service workers who do not belong to a union seem to be doing quite well on their own. Union workers will still have jobs with decent wages and reasonable benefits, and somewhat greater job security, compared with the rest of the employed folks.

So, all the noise, largely created by union agitators, professional demonstrators who seem to show up at every public protest, retired teachers with nothing better to do and college students who seem not to have to attend classes, is about the public service unions, not the workers. It's about union power and money, nothing else.

It is unfortunate that the Republicans had to resort to separating out fiscal elements from the bill to pass it with a simple majority. Interestingly, this tactic was advanced by none other that Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who dared them to do it in a speech about a week ago. Personally, I'm impressed by the intestinal fortitude displayed by Governor Walker and the Republicans, who were under unprecedented pressure from the unions, both locally and nationwide.

Unfortunately, it isn't over yet. I have heard that national unions and/or union sympathizers have allocated $30 million to fund recall campaigns against eight Republican senators. How's that for outside interference in state affairs?

The Wisconsin Taxpayers' Alliance in two recent bulletins clearly and succinctly outlines the fiscal games played by the last two administrations to balance a hopelessly out-of-balance budget with non-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) tactics, creating a massive structural deficit. Walker is the first governor in quite awhile to address Wisconsin's budget problems head-on without gimmicks.

The only way to balance the budget without dumping the deficit onto taxpayers is to cut spending. That he is doing to the accompaniment of the deafening roar of a chorus of gored oxen. I for one respect him for his honesty and courage. Way to go, Scott!

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