Hitting the unions where it hurts

In response, the unions and their defenders have argued that they are being punished for the states’ fiscal problems, which were really caused by the Wall Street induced recession. Yet, the fiscal crunch in the states is not simply a consequence of the recession. Long before it hit, the pension and health-care benefits that unions negotiated locked in huge long-term structural deficits.

This is why Walker wants to limit collective bargaining to wages, which don’t rise very fast and are not dramatically out of sync with the private sector. Pensions and health care, on the other hand, are huge commitments, outpace the private sector, are easily sweetened in legislatures, and threaten to crowd out spending on other government priorities.

If successful, Walker’s plan may put Wisconsin on a course to become more like Texas or Virginia (two states that weathered the recession relatively well), where most collective bargaining in the public sector is illegal and the percentage of unionized public employees is paltry. His hope is that in the future, Wisconsin will have as bright a fiscal outlook as those states.