The events in Wisconsin this week confirm the worst fears about Obama's vision for America. In Obama's America, public debt is as American as apple pie, and the bigger the pie, the better. federal debt, state debt, municipal debt – no matter: it's all good.
The governor of Wisconsin, in trying to balance the state budget, asked public employees to pay half the annual cost of their pensions and 12.6 percent of their health-care cost. They object and say they can't afford it. Democratic senators fell into line and literally fled the state to deny the state legislature a quorum for voting on the governor's proposals. Over 25,000 public employees and students have been protesting the governor's plans by occupying the Capitol building and obstructing business.
Other state unions not affected by the governor's proposals have nonetheless joined what amounts to a political temper tantrum. Caught up in the circus are thousands of high-school and college students inspired by their teachers to boycott class and join the protest. The unions generously provided printed signs for the students to carry comparing Gov. Walker to Hitler and Mubarak.
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A group of students interviewed by a local television station could not give a coherent reason for their presence at the protest. Laughing, they said a day off from school was reason enough.
â€¨In earlier times, class warfare meant pitting the poor against the rich. To Obama and modern progressives, class warfare has been simplified to the public sector versus the private sector, or more simply, tax consumers versus taxpayers. This is the new progressive version of "triangulation" – dividing to conquer by persuading middle-class government workers they are part of the oppressed masses.
So, what does Obama do to bring the light of reason and compromise to the explosive situation? He poured gasoline on the flames. He publicly backed the unions, attacked the governor and had the Democratic National Committee send funds and staff into Wisconsin to support the protest. Union organizers from as far away as New York and California are being brought to Wisconsin to swell the ranks of local activists.
It will strike most people as more than a little preposterous for President Obama to tell the governor of Wisconsin how to balance his state's budget, and Walker already reminded Obama that he ought to focus his energies on the federal budget, which has a deficit about ten thousand times larger than Wisconsin's.
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But quite clearly, this confrontation is about more than Wisconsin's budget. Whether organized labor chose Wisconsin for a showdown or whether this is mere happenstance is now unimportant. What is important is that the Democratic Party leadership has decided to pull out all the stops in order to set an example. Their message is – we will protect the public-sector unions at all costs.
What this should tell us – or rather remind us – is that what holds the Democratic coalition together is a commitment to an ever-expanding public sector. The public employee unions not only look after their own benefit packages, they support all of the progressive agenda in every sector – health care, education, environment, "emergency management," etc. An attack on one benefit package is seen as an attack on all. So, for political reasons, all the unions and all the Democratic coalition members have rallied to the side of the Wisconsin workers "threatened" by the governor's budget. If the governor succeeds, if the public is allowed to believe that union benefits can be reduced, who knows what "fascist mischief" might result.
Despite the popularity of the newly elected Wisconsin governor, the outcome of this standoff is not certain. Even Fox News saw the story as a controversy sparked by the governor's "anti-union proposal," suggesting that the union itself is under attack.
Will Republicans in Wisconsin, New Jersey and other states have the courage and fortitude to fight this battle successfully? We don't know. What we do know is that there is more at stake than Wisconsin's budget numbers.