The 5 Ways Scott Walker Screwed Up

Republicans in New Jersey, Indiana, and Ohio are all fighting unions, but it’s the public-sector unions in Wisconsin that have captured the nation’s attention. Here’s what the governor did wrong… and one thing he’s been widely blamed for that’s not his fault.

Scott Walker isn’t the only Republican governor doing battle with public-sector unions, but unlike New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Walker’s popularity is plummeting, as the protests against him have dominated the news for weeks. He’s made a lot of errors, but he’s also been the victim of misinformation.

1. Having a state capitol in the same city as the University of Wisconsin

Consider the fact that the protests have been going on almost continuously for three weeks. I don’t think it takes away from the dedication of the protesters to note that a historically left-leaning city that houses both the state capitol and the largest public educational institution in the state is an inconvenient place to try to break public unions. A lot of people in Madison have reason to sympathize with public employees, especially educators.

It’s not a bed Walker made, but he does have to lie in it.

2. Public sector unions are more popular than private sector unions

It’s true. I can think of a lot of reasons for this. The main reason, I submit, is that people have more interaction with the work product of public-sector union members, and the union members themselves. If you buy a car, the components may or may not be the product of union members, and you can only know if you research. If you go to public school, or send your kids to one, or call the cops, or your house burns down, or use public transit, you’re dealing with a union member. Not a day goes by that I don’t, which isn’t the case with private-sector union members. Their presence is much more immediate.

Another reason, I think, has to do with political history and its interaction with popular culture. Unions have always been a flashpoint in American culture (particularly in the home of the Haymarket Riot and the Pullman Strike), but the 1950s were a turning point with the McClellan Commission (which lasted three years and was followed by Robert Kennedy’s book The Enemy Within) and On the Waterfront.

Put simply, it’s not the NEA that beats up Marlon Brando.

3. Teachers are really, really popular

Also true. By the time we reach adulthood, most of us have spent almost as much time with teachers as our parents. Of all the union members Americans interact with or rely on, we’re most likely to have spent time on the job with, and the ones parents are most likely to entrust their kids to. Teachers aren’t the only union members Gov. Walker is battling, but they’ve been at the center of attention, in part because teachers’ union members got the Wisconsin protests off the ground.

4. His divide-and-conquer busting of the unions failed

Notably, Gov. Walker didn’t take on public safety unions. That backfired on him, as firefighters and cops have been protesting in solidarity.

5. He overreached with collective-bargaining limitations

Gov. Walker refused to negotiate with unions that were conceding; alternately, Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, is trying to negotiate with a teachers’ union that won’t. If anything, Christie’s rhetoric is stronger, but he’s politically in a much stronger position, and is considerably more popular right now than Walker.

The latest word from Wisconsin is that removing the collective-bargaining provisions from the budget repair bill may be the crux of a compromise. If that happens, Walker would essentially be back at square one, having spent three weeks doing significant damage to his popularity.

(Speaking of Christie, he has his nose out of joint because For a Better Chicago is running ads in New Jersey papers about how his state’s taxes are too high.)

6. In which I defend Gov. Walker, sort of

One of the headlines I saw all over Facebook and Twitter and whatnot was “Wisconsin Gov. Walker Ginned Up Budget Shortfall To Undercut Worker Rights.” As of now that post has been shared 34,000 times on Facebook.

But it’s not accurate. The claimed budget surplus goes away if you include money that the state owes. There’s some flexibility about paying those debts, but they’re still debts.

It’s further claimed that the budget shortfall is due to new spending enacted by Walker. Politifact found that it’s not spending–it’s tax cuts–and it doesn’t impact the fiscal-year shortfall. Of course, Walker has made his own misstatements. It’s really a mess.

 

Photo: gregtarnoff (CC by 2.0)

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3 years ago
Posted by Rhoadie

Scott did not screw up......he is doing what is right for the people of Wisconsin...and balancing the budget.

The unions are not right.....they are milking tax payers...

Can the teachers....hire new ones that want a job.....

Get rid of Unions....it's the only way

3 years ago
Posted by alulu4youyou

I love this article--particularly the title.

As to point (1)I add only that Walker has only a high school education, and never graduated from college.

Point (2)fails to note that waging this war on the middle class was the straw that broke the camel's back because the middle class watched private sector unionized jobs in this country being outsourced by the GOP during Bush/Cheney. Easy to eradicate unions in the private sector if you send all the jobs to India--called a bank or computer company lately?

Point (3) fails to note that police and firefighters, medics, doctors, nurses, correction officers, court officers, and various other public sector workers are "very very popular" too--and they all live in neighborhoods. Not that teachers don't deserve a special "shout out" under the present circumstances Walker created.

Point (4) omits that Walker PURPOSEFULLY did not take on police and firefighter unions--because they voted for him--but those unions knew full well that he would go after them next. Seen the protests in NJ lately? Full of cops and firefighters, only.

Point (5)is spot on. Once given various generous concessions by the unions, Walker should have knocked off the rhetoric and bashing of any state workers and should have thanked them for working to help solve the problem. Unions and public sector workers have been helping governors and mayors to solve budget problems for years. . . go ask Cuomo and Bloomberg in NY.

Point (6) fails to indicate how the concessions offered by unions would have solved the budget problem this year, and in the future. It also fails to note that some debt is not harmful and helps the economy by infusing capital, which is why we like it when people carry mortgages on homes and are employed (instead of laid off).

3 years ago
Posted by alulu4youyou

I love this article--particularly the title.

As to point (1)I add only that Walker has only a high school education, and never graduated from college. He can't compete when it comes to complicated stuff.

Point (2)fails to note that waging this war on the middle class was the straw that broke the camel's back because the middle class watched private sector unionized jobs in this country being outsourced by the GOP during Bush/Cheney. Easy to eradicate unions in the USA private sector if you send all the jobs to India--called a bank or computer company lately? The middle class are tired of losing their jobs due to the GOP.

Point (3) fails to note that police and firefighters, medics, doctors, nurses, correction officers, court officers, and various other public sector workers are also "very very popular" too--and they all live in neighborhoods. Not that teachers don't deserve a special shout out under the present circumstances Walker created.

Point (4) omits that Walker PURPOSEFULLY did not take on police and firefighter unions--because they voted for him--but those unions knew full well that he would go after them next. Seen the protests in NJ lately? Full of cops and firefighters, only. Workers and unions stick together when faced with any kind of massive layoffs by an overreaching government official. Plus, Walker has shown nothing but contempt for the very people who he needs to support him.

Point (5)is spot on. Once given various generous concessions by the unions, Walker should have knocked off the rhetoric and bashing of any state workers and should have thanked them for working to help solve the problem. Unions and public sector workers have been helping governors and mayors to solve budget problems for years. . . go ask Cuomo and Bloomberg in NY.

Point (6) fails to indicate how the concessions offered by unions would have solved the budget problem this year, and in the future. It also fails to note that some debt is not harmful and helps the economy by infusing capital, which is why we like it when people carry mortgages on homes and are employed (instead of laid off).

3 years ago
Posted by worker_beez

The corporations say unions are bad and tax cuts for the wealthy are good.

I'm a low income worker but all the commercials they buy have swayed me.

The unions have to go.

3 years ago
Posted by Hubman

Walker is a dim bulb and only erred in his naked ambition to out-reagan Reagan by taking out unions in the state of Bob La Follette. GOP is just itching to use the recession they cretaed to take the US back about 150 years

3 years ago
Posted by MrJM

@Rhoadie almost convinced me... but he just didn't use enough ellipses...

--MrJM...

3 years ago
Posted by Izzy Man

This is very interesting article coming from a Magazine based in Wisconsin's neighbor to the south.

I am an Independent Wisconsin voter who happened to vote for Scott Walker for Governor. I also have to confess that I have NOT traditionally been a big fan of labor unions. That being said, I agree that Scott Walker's has made a critical miscalculation in this recent debacle. Like so many throughout history, his fatal flaw is HUBRIS. I doubt that the labor unions were initially inclined to give-in to the payroll concessions as easily as they did (Like in New Jersey), but when it became evident that the national press corp was spotlighting Gov. Walker stubbornly (and unreasonably) sticking to his demands, and unwilling to compromise, the unions wisely conceded the money, in favor of public sympathy. They changed the issue from a monetary one, to one of social justice. If Walker were wise, he would have GRACIOUSLY taken the monetary concession, balanced the budget, and been a HERO. But now his pride has exposed a more nefarious intention, to bust the labor unions,and their historic support of the Democratic Party.

The Governor has now painted himself into a corner. If he gives-in to the unions now, he loses (despite the payroll concessions). If he plays hardball and lays-off government workers to make up the budget short-fall, he increases unemployment, and he loses. The longer this stand-off continues, the more fatally this damages both his image, and that of the newly reigning Republican party, and unites the Democratic base. His only hope is that voters will develop political amnesia before the next elections roll around.

3 years ago
Posted by Carl W

Walker's utopia already exists.

We already have places with no collective bargaining, anemic public education, small government, low taxes, and great corporate freedom.

They are called names like Nigeria, Liberia, and Estonia.

Would someone please cite some *successes* of these never-ending idiotic Republican economic plans?

We were told that Bush's tax reductions would spur job growth... it did the exact opposite.

We were told that weakening Detroit unions would result in lower prices for automobiles... it did the exact opposite.

We were told that lower taxes created more revenue... it is the exact opposite.

We were told liability caps would provide for affordable health care... exact opposite.

At what point to you guys realize the Republican Party has an INCREDIBLE record of utter failure?

Like:
• The first income tax
• Alcohol Prohibition
• Opposed WWI
• Opposed WWII (In fact, republicans gave speeches in congress SUPPORTING Hitler)
• The Great Depression
• The S and L Collapse
• Funded and trained the Mujahadein
• Arms to Iraq
• Greatest Amnesty for Illegal immigrants EVER
• The Great Recession

Can anyone name just a FEW things the Republican party has done in the last one hundred years to improve your quality of life?

Please-- no baloney meaningless terms like 'pride' and 'patriotism', I mean real, concrete things you enjoy here in America-- like Medicare, for example.

At this point you *should* have some accomplishments to crow about.

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