I CAN'T HEAR YOU, YOU'RE SHOUTING!
It's a Frank Capra picture. Jimmy Stewart has a lump in his throat and Donna Reed is batting her eyelashes. They're coming from every corner of the state to their state capitol by bus, by automobile, to petition their government. The people, the citizenry, taking time off from their jobs and enduring the long trip to Madison to make known their views on the state budget.
Their message: we work hard, we're having trouble making ends meet. Show us some mercy, our taxes are high enough as it is, thank you.
Now, you can disagree with that message. You may be able to counteract that message with more facts than the Library of Congress. But should not those poor misbegotten souls at least receive a polite hearing?
Are you kidding? This is Madison! They were shouted down. And by whom? By state employees! The so-called public servants who work for the taxpayers of Wisconsin!
At a raucous rally just outside Gov. Jim Doyle's office Wednesday, roughly 800 state workers and others tried to shout down about 350 anti-tax advocates who praised Republicans for blocking a budget that includes tax hikes.
...(They) "blew air horns, yelled through megaphones and screamed in an attempt to drown out the anti-tax group..."
I don't have any problem with counter-protests. But the anti-tax group got a permit to do their thing. Like Reagan said during the 1980s primaries, they paid for their microphone. And they deserve a hearing.
This counter-protest was no spontaneous thing. State employees union boss Marty Beil helped organize the demonstration led by the state AFL-CIO and public employees' union AFSCME.
The afternoon Progressive Dane newspaper tried to spin the anti-tax protest as a bunch of Hollywood extras bused in for the event.
Americans for Prosperity, the group that organized the rally opposing the enactment of the compromise state budget proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle, is not from Wisconsin. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
Typical Progressive Dane disinformation: impugn motives, dispute the provenance rather than debate the issues. If you want to play that game, John Nichols, let's stipulate that WSEU, as a member union of the AFL-CIO, is also based in Washington D.C.
But the bottom line is that the state employees union could not have hurt themselves more if Karl Rove was in charge of mixing the Kool Aid. Arrogant, thuggish and thickheaded. They could not counter the anti-tax citizens with facts, so they substitute brute noise in an attempt to intimidate. That is totalitarian in nature, the polar opposite of sifting and winnowing.
It's the Soviet Union jamming Radio Free America. It's Boss Jim Taylor shoving the Boy Rangers' newspaper wagons off the sidewalks in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
Us v. Them is not a good strategy for the long term. Here in Madison, the State of Wisconsin is the largest employer, but travel 50 miles north, east, south, and west of Madison and state employees are scarcer then hen's teeth. And, thanks to the antics of the state employees union, more unpopular than ever.
Consider that Wisconsin has a workforce of right around 3 million people. Of those, 2.5 million are in the private sector. (Another 140,000 are currently unemployed.) That leaves just over 400,000 government (state, county, municipal, school) employees. In other words, there are 87 private sector workers for every 13 public sector employees in the state of Wisconsin.
Those are Custer at Little Big Horn numbers, folks. Can state employees, even assuming they inherit the automatic support of other government workers, afford to antagonize the great majority of Wisconsin workers?
Here is the outrage of the week: not one mainstream news source is shaming the bullies. State employees (and I am one) could not have been more ill served. Are public employees in bad odor? I wonder why. This one will fester until it emerges to bite state employees in the gluteus maximus.
State employees spend too much time talking to themselves and (aside from Vicki McKenna) no one to set them straight. Oh, I hear criticisms of the public employees unions all the time from the city's opinion makers. Just never in print, never on the record.