1,200 jobs eliminated, funding to public schools reduced, collective bargaining on benefits for public-employee unions nuked, and total spending slashed by 6.7 percent. Is there any governor in America, Daniels and Christie included, more willing than this guy to risk political death in the interests of solvency?
Union-skeptic liberal Mickey Kaus says it’s too late to turn back now:
It’s all about the deficit to [David] Brooks. But the damage done by public sector unionism isn’t mainly the producing of deficits. It’s the crippling of government, so that bad teachers can’t be fired and productivity stagnates and virtually everything the government does it does crappier than private industry does it. That’s a big, ongoing problem for Democrats, which is why maybe it doesn’t trouble Brooks. But it should trouble even non-neo liberals. Democrats are the party that needs the government to be good at something other than mailing out checks.
Is Gov. Walker using the deficit as an excuse for making long-term institutional changes? You bet. It’s “all or nothing” because when you threaten the core institutional basis of AFSCME and the SEIU they will make it all or nothing. They have no choice.
It would be a disaster for union reform if Walker succumbs to Brooksian flaccidity now–whether his position is popular or not. The message, as gleefully interpreted by the MSM, would be that Republicans go too far when they threaten the treasured institution of government unionism (never mind that Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana ended state employee union collective bargaining six years ago, by executive order, and he still stands). That would be worse than if Walker had never made the attempt. He has the votes and can pass the bill whatever the polls say–just as Obama had the votes on his health care bill despite poll-measured popular disquiet.
Walker’s not going to succumb; by skipping town to block the bill, Senate Democrats have made this such a prominent test of wills that his credibility would be shattered if he caved at this point. And even if he could cave while preserving some credibility, I don’t think he would. He seems genuinely to understand that long-term solvency requires that this Democratic/PEU racket be stopped, and he’s willing to do it no matter how bad the polls might look (for now). If he had Christie’s flair for melodrama and “messaging,” he’d be the biggest conservative rock star in America.