Staving off Europe - for now

Wisconsin voters barely keeping ruin of socialism at bay

Barely and temporarily.

That's how Wisconsin voters last week turned back attempts by public unions to put the state back on the unsustainable path toward Greece and Britain.

Voters in the Badger State kept Republicans in control of the state Senate, but by a hair. Democrats, doing the bidding of bullying and insatiable public unions, were able to stage recall elections for six Republican senators - to punish them for going along with Gov. Scott Walker's plan to reduce public-union bargaining powers in order to save the state financially. The unions needed three of the six Republicans to lose, and only two did.

But the unions vow to be relentless - tens of millions were spent on the recall effort - and Wisconsin voters will no doubt be tested again.

The outlook, we fear, is grim. Special interests have always been focused, fierce and unyielding in their perpetual quest for more tax money, but never more than now. Meanwhile, taxpayers - who are busy making a living, while working under the assumption they live in a fair society - are much more diluted, distracted and detached, and not as able to defend their flanks as special interests are to attack them.

It's the age-old problem of "diffuse costs and concentrated benefits": The benefits are enjoyed by a concentrated group that is active in seeking them, while the costs are spread out among a larger population that's not as engaged.

Add to that the fact that Democrats have encouraged a mob mentality; remember the assault on the capitol in Madison. Even the president, sad to say, took the side of the unions, lecturing Wisconsin voters that public employees are their friends and neighbors.

Absolutely they are. It's just that they're taking to the streets to protect their grip on their friends' and neighbors' wallets. States have several billion dollars in unfunded public-employee pension liabilities and, in Wisconsin especially, the unions are fighting like badgers to keep them, regardless of what it does to the host.

And, oh by the way, many public pensions are infinitely more generous than what the private-sector taxpayers who are paying for them are getting. Wisconsin's public-employee unions also are being asked to pay pennies on the dollar for health care and retirement co-pays, compared to what their private-sector "friends and neighbors" pay for theirs.

But if Wisconsin's or any other state's voters require more impetus than their own wallets in order to stand up to the public-employee unions, they merely need to watch the news emanating from Europe. Greece's ongoing problems with civic unrest at having to scale back fat public benefits to stop from going under are now legendary. And now Britain is aflame.

Yes, the riots touched off in London had several other flashpoints - including race, after police shot a man allegedly affiliated with gang activity. But the area was already a tinderbox of discontent from unemployment and the austerity measures needed to prevent Britain, too, from failing.

"In late June," writes
CNBC.com, "half the public schools in Britain were closed by a massive protest over public pension cuts, including three major teachers' unions, customs and immigration officers, and air traffic controllers. Some 750,000 people took part in the protest."

Wisconsin's future? Other states'?

The unions' irrational message: Keep spending no matter what! But it goes beyond that: The message now is, keep spending no matter what, or we'll try to have you fired!

In a time of frightening signs, that's one of the most alarming.

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Rick McKee Editorial Cartoon