- Will Wilkinson on the situation. I'm disappointed he fails to address how collective bargaining will be affected if the law passes, as that seems to be the most objectionable part of the legislation.
- Ezra Klein on what the bill would actually do if passed.
- The Washington Post with today's article on the situation.
- Harold Meyerson writing at The American Prospect yesterday. This is the piece that drew me into the issue.
- Will Wilkinson and Matt Steinglass actually discussed this issue about a week and a half ago. Here is WW's and MS's pieces respectfully.
Commentary: This is a very specific issue that has led to a major debate over the role of unions, the role of public sector unions, political favoritism, and addressing fiscal crises. Some bulleted thoughts:
- Unions serve a valuable purpose in our economy, and while the private sector has largely eliminated unions I would suggest that has not been a net positive for workers.
- I agree with much of Mr. Wilkinson's description of exceptionalism as it relates to public sector unions, but does that mean they should be broken up? I'm unconvinced at this point.
- It is unsurprising, but also unseemly, that Wisconsin's Gov. Walker has put in an exemption in the bill for firemen and law enforcement unions. I think it undermines the governor's ability to be serious about the fiscal crisis when he leaves out the unions it is most political treacherous to confront, and who tended to support him.
- Clearly many states need to get their fiscal houses in order. They can't finance debt like the federal government can. However, I've heard that Gov. Walker did not approach the unions to re-negotiate terms. This, again, undermines his credibility in my eyes. If you go to the table and people say "no" then you need to explore other options. I think he's trying to do this quick and dirty which seems to make it more about politics then fiscal responsibility.
One final thought: I see something happening in the political discourse surrounding public budget and fiscal crises. I see the debate being framed by two principles, "Any new public spending is wasteful and reckless," and "Any spending cuts are virtuous and necessary." This framing concerns me, because it's not true. Do municipalities, states, and the federal government need to tighten their belts? Yes. But we can't forget to invest in the future. Likewise, many proposals to cut spending are thoughtful and necessary, but many are punitive and seek to cut to a magic number not based on campaign promises.
My feeling to this point, without really diving into the issue, is that Gov. Walker's proposal is overly punitive. I also believe some concessions will likely need to be made by the public sector unions and if they prove intransigent, then alternatives would need to be offered.