The Money Pit

George Will notes what many upper-Midwest conservatives have been saying since February; the left went all-in on Wisconsin because if they can lose there, they can lose any and everywhere.

I’ll start with Will’s conclusion:

As the moonless night of fa$ci$m descends on America’s dairyland, sidewalk graffiti next to the statehouse-square drinking fountain darkly warns: “Free water . . . for now.” There, succinctly, is liberalism’s credo: If everything isn’t “free,” meaning paid for by someone else, nothing will be safe.

That’s the crux of it all, really – but it wasn’t what the Wisconsin flap was about.

In fact, you could be forgiven for watching the American left this past seven months and having no idea what it was all about:

During the recall tumult, unions barely mentioned either their supposed grievance about collective bargaining, or their real fears, which concern money, particularly political money. Teachers unions can no longer bargain to require school districts to purchase teachers’ health insurance from the union’s preferred provider, which is especially expensive. This is saving millions of dollars and reducing teacher layoffs. Also, unions must hold annual recertification votes.

And teachers unions may no longer automatically deduct dues from members’ paychecks. After Colorado in 2001 required public employees unions to have annual votes reauthorizing collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent. In 2005, Indiana stopped collecting dues from unionized public employees; in 2011, there are 90 percent fewer dues-paying members. In Utah, the end of automatic dues deductions for political activities in 2001 caused teachers’ payments to fall 90 percent. After a similar law passed in 1992 in Washington state, the percentage of teachers making such contributions declined from 82 to 11.

Democrats furiously oppose Walker because public employees unions are transmission belts, conveying money to the Democratic Party. Last year, $11.2 million in union dues was withheld from paychecks of Wisconsin’s executive branch employees and $2.6 million from paychecks at the university across the lake. Having spent improvidently on the recall elections, the Wisconsin Education Association Council, the teachers union, is firing 40 percent of its staff.

Progressives want to recall Walker next year. Republicans hope they try. Wisconsin seems weary of attempts to overturn elections, and surely Obama does not want his allies squandering political money and the public’s patience. Since 1960, no Democrat has been elected president without carrying Wisconsin.

Will – or the copy editor that wrote his headline, anyway – uses the “Waterloo” metaphor; a defeat that makes further victories impossible (until some sort of radical game-changer):

Walker has refuted the left’s sustaining conviction that a leftward-clicking ratchet guarantees that liberalism’s advances are irreversible. Progressives, eager to discern a victory hidden in their recent failures, suggest that a chastened Walker will not risk further conservatism. Actually, however, his agenda includes another clash with teachers unions over accountability and school choice, and combat over tort reform with another cohort parasitic off bad public policies — trial lawyers.

I can hardly wait for the next session – on both sides of the Saint Croix.

5 thoughts on “The Money Pit

  1. WEAC (Wisc teachers union) organized many of the most loud and obnoxious protests against the governor. Including going to non-political events the Governor was speaking at and trying to shout him down. Why the hatred? Well, here are the salaries of WEACs top employees. From the Lakeland Times:

    For example, according to its 2009 fiscal year IRS form, the organization employed 151 people and paid them $14,382,812. That’s an average compensation total of $95,250 per employee.

    But high-ranking union officials were doing much better than that. For instance, Dan Burkhalter, WEAC executive director, was raking in $242,807, with $177,366 in wages; government relations director Robert Burke hauled in $189,505, with wages of $128,428; information and communications technology director Nathan Harper made $189,528, with wages of $129,221; financial and membership services director Jane Oberdorf made $188,164, with wages of $131,328; affiliate relations director Robert Baxter was paid $186,461, with wages of $127,774; and collective bargaining director Daniel Holub made $165,112, with wages of $110,534.

    And what about WEAC president Mary Bell, the union’s public persona, who describes herself as a teacher from Wisconsin Rapids? She made $173,466, with wages of $138,031. That’s on par with Gov. Scott Walker’s salary of $144,423.

    All totaled, those seven employees collected $1,335,043, with wages of $942,682.

    Beyond wages and salaries, WEAC paid $801,105 in legal expenses, another $59,357 in accounting costs, and $1,395,381 in office expenses. The group traveled heavily as well, spending $1,835,207 on travel expenses and $185,398 in conferences, conventions and meetings.

    It spent $2,827,270 on “other fees for services.”

  2. So, basically WEAC has become like so many leftwing pressure groups. They exist to raise money so the leaders can have cushy community-organizer jobs. Lots of pay. Lots of perks. Little work.

    I wonder if that special education teacher or Milwaukee Public School teacher who does really work hard for moderate bucks knows that she is being played like a fiddle by the union.

  3. Workers of the world unite! And send in your money to the union!
    Dan Burkhalter, WEAC executive director earned that $242,807. It’s not easy standing up for the rights of the little guy.

  4. Most of these guys are paid a salary commensurate with the amount of money they can get from politicians who are spending other people’s money. If you work for an agency that is supposed to provide housing for people your competitors are other housing agencies, not those odd, profit-oriented people called “realtors”.

  5. Did I interpret Will correctly? WEAC spent so much money that they had to fire 40% of their staff???

    I don’t think I have EVER had a more satisfying episode of schadenfreude in my entire life. Reading that made my whole WEEK!!

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