HELLO FROM EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN - merchants slogan: "We don't have it but we can get it for you."

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Scott Walker’s top 10 myths, lies and fabrications
What the governor says isn’t always true

1. Press conference, February 21: “We’re broke. We don’t have any more money.” WRONG Governor Walker has repeatedly claimed that the state is “broke” and “we don’t have anything to offer” as reasons that state and local employees should not have any say in their working conditions. But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the website PolitiFact quote experts agreeing that “the state isn’t broke” and has many options at its disposal to balance the budget. Wisconsin does face difficult economic challenges, and that is why public-sector workers have agreed to concessions Walker is proposing. But know this: Walker is clearly out to attack workers. His agenda is not about money – experts say the state isn’t broke and employees have agreed to fiscal concessions.

2. CNN, February 18: “It’s a very modest request of our government workers all across the state.” WRONG. Light years away from “modest,” Walker’s campaign against working families has created a system of chaos for public schools. That chaos includes some districts – Freedom, Granton, Harford Union, Kiel, Monticello, New London, New Richmond, Northern Ozaukee, and Westby – sending non-renewal notices to their entire teaching staff. Other districts have issued preliminary non-renewal notices to 10-40 percent of their staff. Remember, a non-renewal notice is basically a firing, and it’s not how staff reductions are generally handled by districts in typical years. How are families supposed to plan their child’s education when Walker is sending their children’s schools into turmoil?

3. Radio interview, February 18: Under his bill, “collective bargaining is fully intact.” WRONG. Walker has been claiming that civil service protections cover local employees such as educators – but they don’t. Actually, what Walker won’t say is that no school district or technical college has a civil service system in place. Civil service protections specify certain employee rights, but the terms are set by the employer – employees have no right to bargain or negotiate over these items. Collective bargaining has been a success for the last 60 years of Wisconsin’s history – and Walker wants to completely destroy the collective bargaining system.

4. TV commercial supporting Scott Walker, February 22: “State workers haven’t had to sacrifice.” WRONG. Again and again, educators have been making salary concession to maintain health insurance packages – that means savings for local districts. Wage freezes have been commonplace in districts across the state because educators have been at the table negotiating with local administrators. In fact, Wisconsin teacher pay has not kept up with the rise in inflation for nearly 20 years now and is at its lowest level in 50 years. Everyone has made sacrifices in this economy; educators have been doing it for two decades.

5. Fox interview, February 21: “I don’t want a single person laid off in the public nor in the private sector.” REALLY? This is what he told someone posing as an out-of-state oil billionaire: “The other thing is I’ve got layoff notices ready. We put out the at-risk notices. We’ll announce Thursday, and they’ll go out early next week. And we’ll probably get 5 to 6,000 state workers will get at-risk notices for layoffs. We might ratchet that up a little bit, you know.” “RATCHET THAT UP A LITTLE BIT” – those are the words of someone who is using the lives of hardworking people to further his political goals. Walker isn’t interested in helping working families; he’s interested in hurting them.

6. Press conference, February 18: “To protect our schools, to protect our local governments, we need to give them the tools they've been asking for.” WRONG. The executive director of the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators says that group “never sought to eliminate collective bargaining rights” and the executive director of the League of Wisconsin Municipalities – which represents 190 cities and 393 villages – says Walker’s bill goes far beyond anything that group has ever talked about. In fact, more than 200 local officials signed a petition opposing the bill, with school boards, city councils and county boards continuously passing resolutions supporting continuation of collective bargaining for their employees.

7. Press conference, February 21: “The simple matter is I campaigned on this all throughout the election. Anybody who says they are shocked on this has been asleep for the past two years.” WRONG. Walker never mentioned during his campaign that he would try to strip away the rights of working families. He mentioned he would seek health insurance concessions from ALL state workers, but he NEVER said he would restrict negotiating only to salary (a subject he also is proposing limiting in itself).

8. “Meet the Press,” February 27: “And as I mentioned repeatedly, I don't think we can take that 5 and 12 percent (concessions) to the bank … because unions have shown us the last two weeks that, that they're not going to do it.” WRONG. A coalition of labor representatives for state and local workers have agreed to concessions in health insurance and pension packages. In fact, they’ve agreed to the very same concessions Walker is proposing. And on top of that, some of the public workers Walker didn’t include in his onerous bill – firefighters, particularly – have agreed to increased contributions to help out the state and stave off limits on collective bargaining. This isn’t about money anymore – Walker has tossed aside the concessions public workers are willing to make. He is interested only in taking away the rights of working families.

9. “Meet the Press,” February 27: “We have, in many of our school districts, a requirement through collective bargaining contracts that they have to buy their health insurance from a company that's owned by our state teacher's union, WA Trust.” WRONG The health insurance Walker refers to – actually called the WEA Trust – is far from a “requirement.” According to the nonprofit organization of which Walker can’t even get the name right: About 35 percent of public school employees in Wisconsin are covered by the Trust. Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay are self-insured or purchase from companies other than the Trust. Furthermore, Trust insurance premiums have increased at a rate LOWER than the national average, saving districts money.

10. Phone call to “David Koch,” February 23: Walker said he’s been telling people protesters “are in from other states today.” WRONG. WEAC members have been down to the Capitol. AFSCME members, SEIU members, Madison police and firefighters, teaching assistants from UW-Madison – they’re just some of the Wisconsinites protesting this shortsighted legislation.


Posted at 1:01 PM ET, 03/ 4/2011
Will Walker layoffs backfire on Wisconsin Republicans?
By Greg Sargent

It's been widely assumed that once Governor Scott Walker starts sending out pink slips to public employees, it will increase pressure on fugitive Dems to return to Wisconsin and vote on Walker's measure rolling back bargaining rights.

But what if the opposite is true? What if the layoffs will actually increase pressure on Republican Senators to reach a deal with Dems and labor?

I'm told that Wisconsin Dems are mapping out an aggressive plan to make that happen, if and when layoffs start happening -- one designed to pin the blame for them direcly on Republican Senators.

"We don't think Republicans want these layoffs to happen," Graeme Zielinski, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told me this morning. "They're going to eat this, and it's dawning on them."

Pressed on whether the layoffs would increase pressure on Dems to return, Zielinski said Dems strongly regretted the impact layoffs would have on communities, but rejected the idea that it force Dems to come back.

"The public is not going to blame us for these layoffs -- when they're on a totally arbitrary timetable and have nothing to do with the fiscal solvency of the state," Zielinski said. He added that Dems would respond aggressively, characterizing the Dem pushback as follows:

"This was totally preventable. Walker gave $140 million in tax breaks to corporations that don't need it, and yet he's laying off teachers in your own back yards and ending the summer recreational program in your neighborhood."

"They will own these policies," Zielinski said of Repubicans.

The basic idea here is that polls suggest that Wisconsinites have already made up their minds about the ongoing standoff. On the core issue of bargaining rights, they side with labor and Dems, and against Walker. Dems think layoffs won't change that dynamic; if anything, if Dems can persuade the public that the layoffs are the fault of Walker's unreasonable insistence on an unpopular and extreme proposal, that dynamic could be exacerbated in their favor.

Also: One labor official tells me that if and when layoffs start, they will aggressively highlight the moment on the fake Koch call in which Walker explicitly said he'd use the threat of layoffs to ratchet up political pressure on Dems. I'd say it's very possible the politics of layoffs will backfire on Wisconsin Republicans in a big way.


BREAKING! New Poll shows Scott Walker is toast.

A new Rasmussen poll in Wisconsin shows Governor Scott Walker, who won with 52% of the vote just four months ago, has become incredibly unpopular, with 57% of likely Wisconsin voters disapproving of Walker. And that's Rasmussen, the most Republican leaning polling outfit on earth!

48% of these voters strongly disapprove of him, while only 43% approve of the job Walker has done. This may be one of the most dramatic reversals in public opinion we've ever seen.

Jon Terbush of TPM reports that almost 80% of public union members disapprove of the Governors strong-arm approach to governance. 67% of families with children in school disapprove, with 54% disapproving strongly.

I have felt that this would be a victory for Unions and for Democrats, but I am shocked by how fast Governor Walker's political ship is sinking.

Hallelujah for those brave protesters, marching and standing in the bitter cold of a Madison winter. We must do all that we can to help them, and ourselves, to press onward in this fight for human rights and the dignity of working people.

There is no time to rest on our laurels. We must destroy this anti-labor virus in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana before it spreads to other parts of the country. This is a battle between the people and the oligarchs. At this moment, the people appear to be winning.


Just how nervous is Scott Walker feeling in Wisconsin? The Washington Post's Greg Sargent alerts us to a Wall Street Journal article and a local news item in Wisconsin suggesting that two more Republican state senators may be on the verge of rejecting Walker's budget repair bill. Republicans have 19-14 majority in the state Senate, and with one senator already on record in opposition, two more nay votes will kill the bill.

I'll believe it when I see it, but now that even conservative polling outfits have started reporting that significant majorities of Wisconsin citizens voters disapprove of Walker, it could be time to call it a day. Amazing as it might seem to anyone who still remembers the midterm elections, it's looking more and more like Democrats are coming out ahead in this battle, a fact that could have enormous political implications going forward. Even if Walker does get his bill passed, Republican governors are likely to pause before copying his tactics. The recall efforts in Wisconsin are for real. Politicians are starting to run scared.

Two things to note about Stephen Moore's hand-wringing in the Wall Street Journal.

First, there's the brilliant headline, "The Wisconsin Wobblies." Whoever came up with the idea to smear wavering Republican senators with a name that immediately recalls the infamous radical union activists who joined together under the name Industrial Workers of the World (a.k.a The Wobblies) -- should get a special award. A sane person might argue that Republican senators are actually paying attention to the will of the people, but to the Wall Street Journal, their lily-liveredness is cause for a total blacklist. Why not just call them Bolsheviks and be done with it?

Then there is this panicked quote, along with accompanying analysis from Moore:

"Republicans can't turn back in Wisconsin," says Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Foundation. "This will only embolden the unions and weaken efforts at reform all over the country." It's foolish to believe that backing down will satisfy the unions. If history is any guide, more than 90 percent of union money will be used to defeat Republicans no matter what happens.

I have to echo Jonathan Chait here: Wait just a minute -- wasn't this fight supposed to be about balancing the budget? Aren't Republicans supposed to be a little more discreet about admitting that the real goal in Wisconsin was to break the knees of a political opponent?

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21. More: Andrew Leonard
Jonathan Chait
It's Possible Wisconsin Republicans May Have Slightly Overreached

Jonathan Chait

March 4, 2011 | 4:05 pm
WSJ editorialist Stephen Moore, in the course of urging Wisconsin Republicans to hold firm, gently acknowledges that things have not gone exactly as planned, politically speaking:

On Wednesday, Republicans held a "unity" press conference that was attended by all but one senator, Dale Schultz. But a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing that 62% of respondents oppose curtailing collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers over health care, pensions or other benefits suggests that the GOP position may be losing some support among independent voters.
I love all the qualifications: a poll showing the the public siding against you 2-to-1 suggests that the party may be losing some independents. That's one way to put it! Also, Scott Walker is looking at 57% disapproval. According to Rasmussen, no less.

As Emperor Hirohito put it on August 15, 1945, "the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage." Of course, Hirohito was arguing for surrender. Moore's conclusion, on the other hand:

"Republicans can't turn back in Wisconsin," says Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Foundation. "This will only embolden the unions and weaken efforts at reform all over the country." It's foolish to believe that backing down will satisfy the unions. If history is any guide, more than 90% of union money will be used to defeat Republicans no matter what happens.
You mean the budget, right? It's about the budget, and preventing bankruptcy and saving the children, and so forth. Not crippling Democratic fund-raising. You almost forget there for a moment.


Governor, Open the Doors

Tom Giffey / editorial page editor Leader-Telegram

In his short tenure as Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker has shown a noticeable fondness for quoting the state constitution, specifically, Article I, Section 22. In his inaugural address, in his State of the State speech and again in his budget address this week, Walker referred to the passage, which reads as follows:

"The blessings of a free government can only be maintained by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles."

Unfortunately, while searching for the perfect quote that coincided with his conservative philosophy, Walker apparently breezed past another important part of the constitution, Article I, Section 4: "The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged."

That clear-cut constitutional standard was ignored by Walker's administration in recent days, as it has clamped down on the large but peaceful protests in and around the Capitol. And the passage definitely applies to the Capitol itself: According to the annotated version of the constitution, a prior opinion from the attorney general's office stated, "The legislature cannot prohibit an individual from entering the Capitol or its grounds."

It's true that normally sedate halls of the building aren't accustomed to the thousands of citizens who have come -- and some of whom have stayed. But, then again, the Wisconsin people are unaccustomed to the radical steps that Walker has proposed, namely his unyielding approach to crippling public employee unions. That approach has applied to the protesters and other members of the public as well. Visitors have been barred from entry, and seemingly arbitrary instructions have been given to lawmakers whose constituents want to visit them.

"I have personally been refused entrance into the Capitol multiple times, in some cases where I refused to show my identification card; in other cases where I did show my identification card I was still refused entrance," state Rep. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, told WUWM radio of Milwaukee. "I haven't been able to get constituents in the building, my interns and staff have not been able to sometimes get in the building themselves or bring constituents in. And in one instance, I actually had to climb through a colleague's window to get back into the building."

Earlier this week, some frustrated lawmakers took the extraordinary step of holding office hours outside the building, lugging their desks to the Capitol grounds. For their trouble, they were scolded by Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch (a former Republican lawmaker and Walker appointee) for daring to take state property (their desks) out of the Capitol.

Furthermore, for several days the Walker administration defied a court order issued Tuesday by Dane County Judge Daniel Moeser, which said the doors to the Capitol must be open to the public during regular hours. On Thursday night, another Dane County judge, John Albert, rules that the Walker administration had "closed the Capitol impermissibly" and, beginning Monday, must allow the public access. (However, he also banned protesters from staying in the building overnight.)

It may be inconvenient for the governor and lawmakers to have so many people tramping through their workplace, but no one ever said democracy was supposed to be convenient. The Capitol is the people's house, and it should be as open as possible to the people for whatever reason -- even and especially when they are there because they disagree with elected officials. The Walker administrations attempts to keep the public out of the Capitol have flown in the face of the state constitution and common decency.


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