The message out of Wisconsin couldn’t have been clearer Tuesday night: Voters wanted a strong leader to make tough decisions and lead a rescue from fiscal disaster.
Gov. Scott Walker kept his seat in a recall election that pitted him, a defender of taxpayers, against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who threw his lot in with public-sector unions determined to bleed state coffers dry.
Opposition hyperbole flourished. One protester, as the votes piled up for Walker, bemoaned to a CNN reporter that “democracy died tonight.” Rubbish. About 2.5 million voters – an estimated 58 percent of Wisconsin’s registered voters – showed up at the polls, and he said democracy died?
And consider this prevarication: CNN’s website ran the headline “Walker survives recall election” – as if the governor’s 7 percent victory margin could be considered barely scraping by.
No, no, no – you know what survived? Fiscal sanity.
Walker ran for and won office in 2010 on a pledge to reverse Wisconsin’s gaping multibillion-dollar deficit by trimming government spending instead of relying on more burdensome taxes. And that trimming meant putting long-needed limits on unionized government workers.
And those workers screamed when Walker pushed his platform requiring public workers to pay more of a fair share toward their pensions.
They exploded in protest when Wisconsin legislators passed a bill logically limiting public-sector union pay raises to the rate of inflation.
They howled when the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Walker and the legislature legally – and we would add responsibly – put a rein on public workers’ collective bargaining rights.
Every step of the way, irate workers and their sympathizers clawed desperately at the power and taxpayers’ money that unions have clung to since Wisconsin became the first U.S. state, in 1959, to institute collective bargaining rights for public workers.
That kind of bargaining on the citizen’s dime cannot continue if Wisconsin’s government is to remain solvent.
And the voters agreed. In the words of Henry Olsen of the American Enterprise Institute: “After $100 million and national attention for 17 months, the Wisconsin voters have said, in their polite Midwestern way, ‘Yeah, we really meant it.’”
Union workers tried to feed the public a diet of red herring by flogging this as a labor-rights issue, when it was a fiscal issue from the get-go. What about taxpayers’ rights? Would you like to see up-close what happens when public-sector unions get the upper hand? Buy a ticket to Greece.
Pundits are busily debating how Tuesday’s results could affect this fall’s presidential election. Henry Olsen called Walker’s legislation a “defunding of the Democratic-party shock troops.” Also, Walker’s win could embolden governors to take similar brave stands to repair their states’ economies.
It’s an encouraging path to recovery, and the roadwork continued Tuesday in Wisconsin.