Political Correction

Gov. Walker: Union-Busting Scheme "The Only Way" To Balance Budget

February 24, 2011 4:41 pm ET - by Alan Pyke

Remember the financial crisis and ensuing global recession that killed millions of jobs while Wall Street scored record profits by packaging and reselling mortgages that they didn't really own? Yeah, neither does Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).

Last night he told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren that "the reason we face a $3.6 billion budget deficit is because previous governors, previous legislatures, have used short-term fixes" instead of the "permanent change" he's proposing: to end collective bargaining for public employees. According to Walker last night, that's "the only way to do it."

WALKER: For us, it is all about balancing the budget and making sure that local governments have the long-term ability to do that, because we don't need a short-term fix. The reason we face a $3.6 billion budget deficit is because previous governors, previous legislatures, have used short-term fixes, one-time fixes to push us to the problem we have today. For me, we've got to make a commitment to the future and ensure that my kids and kids all across the state aren't saddled with this burden for years down the road. The only way to do it is in what we're proposing in this budget repair bill.


Walker's description of the problem relies on the standard right-wing myth that state budget troubles came about because of generous contracts with public workers. But that's not what got Wisconsin (or most other states) into hot water:

There was no sharp rise in collective bargaining in 2006 and 2007, no major reforms of the country's labor laws, no dramatic change in how unions organize. And yet, state budgets collapsed. Revenues plummeted. Taxes had to go up, and spending had to go down, all across the country. Blame the banks. Blame global capital flows. Blame lax regulation of Wall Street. Blame home buyers, or home sellers. But don't blame the unions. Not for this recession.

Walker's diagnosis is not only factually wrong, but his prescription is simply laughable on common-sense terms. If Walker believes the contracts public workers have bargained out with states and localities are bad for the state's budget, he can negotiate a better deal. (Unions say they're willing to renegotiate contracts.) Instead, he's taking his ball and going home — and pretending that's "the only way" to more favorable compensation agreements.

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