by N. A. Halkides 6/8/14
I’d like to continue my ongoing examination in these pages of the problems we Conservatives face in trying to find an acceptable Presidential nominee for 2016 (see What Conservatives Should Look For and The Problem with Rick Santorum) with an examination of Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Walker is a reasonably prominent figure within the Republican Party and has definite support among the Conservative grass roots because of his fight with the Wisconsin public-sector unions, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he intends to run. At the risk of seeming to be a perpetual party-pooper who finds grievous faults in every possible nominee, I’m going to suggest here that Walker, although well-intentioned, is not the Conservative hero we need. My case rests upon the following assertions:
1a. Walker is more Establishment than Conservative.
1b. Like other Establishment-men, he favors de facto amnesty for illegal aliens and continued high levels of third-world immigration.
2. Walker misunderstood the nature of his opponents (the public-sector unions and Democratic politicians), meaning that he misunderstood the political Left and probably still does. This is another characteristic of the Establishment-man which renders him unable to effectively fight the Left.
3. Because of (2), he misplayed his hand against his opponents and at least twice very nearly lost it all. He made a cold-sounding fiscal analysis without ever attacking the fundamental problem – collusion between Democrats and union leaders to rob the taxpayer blind and buy votes – and allowed them to seize the moral high ground. Furthermore, he left his opponents still standing, although with less dues money from the union, when he had the opportunity to strike a much harder blow against them, and they will continue to retaliate any way they can. In other words, Walker is not a good political strategist, and his small victories against the union are as much dumb luck as they are the result of purposeful, well thought out action.[pullquote]To put the nation’s fiscal house in order, a President is going to have to be able to cut social spending. And to do that, he’s going to have to make a moral case, not just the Establishment GOP’s timid accounting approach (“We can’t afford this”).[/pullquote]
4. Whatever success Walker has had in Wisconsin would not be easily replicated at the Federal level. That is because the fiscal problems of the states are caused mainly by government employee salaries and pension obligations. The Federal Government’s fiscal problems are much more intractable because in addition to the costs of worker salaries and benefits, they are rooted in all kinds of unsustainable social welfare spending including Medicare and Social Security. To put the nation’s fiscal house in order, a President is going to have to be able to cut social spending. And to do that, he’s going to have to make a moral case, not just the Establishment GOP’s timid accounting approach (“We can’t afford this”). By (3), Walker is not this man.
Let’s tackle the amnesty question first. Walker of course claims to be against it. However, that means little since every Republican politician knows that amnesty is a poisoned pill his party’s base will not swallow. Therefore, the pro-amnesty Republican has learned to mouth the words “I’m against amnesty” while nevertheless supporting “a path to citizenship” or some such that amounts in practice to amnesty. (If illegal aliens are allowed to remain in this country rather than being sent home to get to the back of the line, that’s an amnesty). Here are some of the things Walker has said about immigration:
“In an exclusive interview with Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon for the Sirius XM Patriots network, Wisconsin GOP Gov. Scott Walker said he does not support amnesty and the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, who previously reported Walker supports a ‘pathway to citizenship’ for illegal immigrants took him ‘out of context.’ Towards the end of the interview, Bannon noted that ‘Amnesty is about the sovereignty of the country.’ But, he asked Walker, ‘the Washington Post said earlier that you’re pro-pathway to citizenship.’
‘See now that’s where they take it out of context,’ Walker said in response. I’ve not said there should be amnesty in this country. I don’t believe that. I don’t support the legislation being kicked around. What I’ve said repeatedly is we need to fix the immigration system, but fix the legal system. So if people want to come in this country we should have a legal immigration system. If you’re somebody, whether you’re from Mexico or Germany or Ireland, and you want to come to this country legally, we should find a way to make it happen,’ Walker said.” (See more at: Alternative News Now).
What this means is that when Walker says the immigration system is “broken,” he means it’s not letting enough immigrants in(!), unbelievable as that sounds. This is the exact opposite of what most of us think of as “broken,” namely, that we don’t have control of our borders and that anyone can get in. 1,000,000 immigrants per year isn’t enough for Walker – if you want to come to this country, “we should find a way to make it happen,” regardless of the effect on American citizens already here. No, he doesn’t support “amnesty”; he supports open borders. Walker is blithely unconcerned about where we’re going to find jobs for these millions, or how much welfare they’re going to demand, or how they’re going to shift the country Leftward until the Democrats are unstoppable.
Or: “If people want to come here and work hard in America, I don`t care if they come from Mexico, or Canada, or Ireland, or Germany or South Africa or anywhere else, I want them here. To me, if people want to come to live the American dream, if they want to work hard, self-determination and have their kids have a better life, that`s what folks like my brothers-in-law who immigrated a generation ago from Mexico or people like my ancestors who came from places like Ireland and Germany and other parts of the world many generations ago. I mean, there`s a similar pattern there people who risked a lot whether it was traveling across the ocean or across a national border… Not only do they have to fix things for people already here, find some way to deal with that, there`s got to be a larger way to fix the system in the first place because if it wasn`t so cumbersome, if there wasn`t such a long wait if it wasn`t so difficult to get in you wouldn`t have the other problems that we have with people who don`t have legal status here in the first place.”[pullquote]So the reason we have a problem with illegal aliens is that we had any restrictions on immigration that kept anyone from coming here legally who wanted to! Note the bleeding-heart concern for the wishes of these immigrants, while the wishes and needs of Americans are completely ignored.[/pullquote]
So the reason we have a problem with illegal aliens is that we had any restrictions on immigration that kept anyone from coming here legally who wanted to! Note the bleeding-heart concern for the wishes of these immigrants, while the wishes and needs of Americans are completely ignored. Walker sounds exactly like Marco Rubio and his Los Bandidos Ochos in the U.S. Senate. 24 ahead.com has the full story here and this excellent analysis:
“1. Walker is a typical fiscal conservative in that his only concern is economic: he’s not concerned with the political and cultural impacts of immigration. What if, for example, immigration from one country gives that country political power inside the U.S. (see Mexican government)? Walker doesn`t care.
2. Walker`s idea that today’s immigration is like yesteryear’s is the immigration tradition fallacy. Walker is using the ‘system is broken’ canard.
4. The idea that more legal immigration would dry up illegal immigration is absurd. There’s a huge supply of potential illegal aliens, and loosening our immigration laws even more would send a message to them that they should try to come here one way or another. Increasing legal immigration would increase the network effect, encouraging more people to come here one way or another. It would also give more power to the groups that currently support massive and/or illegal immigration.”
In one respect this analysis is too generous: Walker’s economic concerns seem to stop with large business interests and their desire for cheap labor, because he certainly isn’t thinking about the American worker. Clearly, then, Walker belongs to the open-borders crowd who hasn’t given a single thought to what should be the first question asked: is all this immigration good for America? This isn’t the place to explore the issue in detail, but most StubbornThings readers are surely familiar with it. Mass immigration over the past 50 years has been transforming America, and not for the better: it has replaced Americans who believe in independence and self-reliance with aliens who believe in Big Government and lots of welfare to the point of bankrupting the country. It has made it impossible for Conservative Republicans to win any state-wide election in California and has pushed any area with substantial numbers of new immigrants to the Left. In brief, immigration has meant importing millions of new Democrats. The difference between amnesty and continued high levels of legal immigration is whether we destroy ourselves immediately or string the process out over a few decades.
Walker, like his buddy Rep. Paul Ryan, is a fiscal “conservative” only who in practice would merely slow the rate of this country’s collapse relative to a Democratic President. He has done everything possible to avoid discussing social issues. He is, in short, yet another Republican Establishment-man and not a true Conservative.
In my view, this by itself is enough to disqualify Walker – once you’ve destroyed the country through immigration, other issues tend to fade into the background, and it should be apparent by now that no candidate of the Establishment can save this country. But I think it will be worthwhile to go into his battle with the Wisconsin unions anyway, because I think it shows why Establishment-men are usually unable to take on the Left and win even a strictly fiscal battle.
Like many other states, in 2011 Wisconsin was in dire economic straits, and for the usual reason: for many years it had promised health care and pension benefits to public-sector workers that it could not afford to pay. Facing a $3.6 billion deficit, the legislature passed Act 10 in March 2011, although due to desperate Democratic efforts (which we’ll focus on later) it did not take effect until June 29. Act 10 cut $749 million in state aid to local K-12 education, and to make up the loss to local school districts contained four key provisions:
(i) Public employees are required to pay 5.8% of their salaries toward their pensions and to pay 12.6% of their health insurance premiums.
(ii) Collective bargaining is limited but not eliminated (strangely, public-safety employees are exempted from this provision). Bargaining over base wages is still permitted but limited to the increase in the Consumer Price Index.
(iii) Local government is prohibited from collecting union dues. Employees may “opt out” of paying them. Unions must be re-certified annually in a secret ballot.
(iv) Health insurance may be obtained through competitive bidding, instead of through the WEA trust – an insurer founded by the union (WEAC)!
It’s important to understand that the unions, by being empowered to bargain collectively, had long since formed an unholy alliance with the Democratic Party to enrich their members at taxpayer expense, in turn rewarding Democrats with both the votes of their members and some of the money which had been squeezed from the taxpayer, who was thereby compelled to fund those politicians (Democrats) most determined to act against his interest in keeping taxes low – an unbelievably corrupt (but successful) racket. To put it another way, the (legitimate) interest of the taxpayer, whose money it is, in keeping his taxes low was sacrificed to the (illegitimate) interest of the public-sector employee in bleeding the taxpayer dry with taxes as high as possible, thanks to the Democratic Party which profited financially and electorally from this public-sector parasitism.
Too much emphasis cannot be laid upon this point. It is the duty of those who represent the people to keep the costs of government as low as possible, since those costs are borne by the taxpayers. This is true regardless of party affiliation; the representative has a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer. (Note that public-sector workers are not taxpayers: while there is an accounting fiction in which these workers fill out state and federal tax returns, their pay and benefits come directly from the public treasury; thus, they are a net drain on public funds.) Nothing is more dangerous in a democratic republic than to allow one group of voters to have the power to vote themselves an income at the expense of another group of citizens, and such misuse of the privilege of voting should be prevented by Constitutional means, that is by limiting government and/or disfranchising those who would otherwise so misuse the privilege. That is why during the colonial period many colonies did not allow poor people to vote – it was understood they might vote to use the power of the government to take the property of those who had more than they did. A better method is to so limit government that it cannot institute any redistribution of wealth, which allows to the poor to participate in the government while not abusing their voting privileges to legally steal the property of others. This is what the Founders thought they had done with the Federal Government. Presently there are two such parasitic groups, welfare recipients (who are beyond the scope of Walker’s struggle in Wisconsin but are relevant to the fight the save the country) and public-sector workers. Let us take a moment to consider how it is that they have gotten so far out of control.
The Constitution, properly construed, forbids Congress from enacting income-redistributing welfare schemes. It may have been thought that this protection was sufficient to gradually expand the franchise without danger, but as Congress ignored the Constitution and created a welfare state anyway these newly-created welfare voters became a source of great danger (unrecognized, be it noted, by the Republican Establishment). At the state level a similar problem emerged, and as both state and federal governments bloated to enormous size, the number of government workers increased far beyond anything the Founders could have imagined. With the idea that everyone has the “right” to vote now generally accepted, there was no way to strip the franchise from an entrenched class of voters made up of welfare recipients and public-sector workers who could be depended upon to vote for what we should term “The Party of the State” – in America, the Democrats – which continually betrayed its responsibilities to the taxpayer in order to increase its own power, and which would be able to institute one-party rule as soon as this class became large enough. The problem with public-sector unions is that they serve to concentrate the political power of those who, for the health of the republic, should have none.
To anyone paying attention to this discussion, it will be obvious that what has just been described is The Tipping Point, a concept that has received a lot of attention (though not enough) in Conservative media the past couple of years. But even before this point is reached, the collusion between the “takers” (welfare/public-sector voters) and the Democratic Party must necessarily become inimical to the Republican Party, bestowing an advantage upon the Democrats in every election. And anything that made this collusion more effective, such as the ability of public-sector workers to bargain collectively (thus increasing their political power) should have been recognized by Republicans as extremely dangerous both to themselves and to the country. It was precisely the failure of the Establishment GOP to recognize this that has allowed the steady creep of the country further and further to the Left as Democrats took full advantage of the situation they had created. For Republicans who wish to restore freedom in this country, as well as maintain the viability of the GOP (or any other party) as a true opposition party, it is essential to reduce or eliminate the political power of the parasitic “taker” class.
Does anyone think that Establishment-men like Scott Walker understand this? Do they ever point out how the Democrats betrayed the people they were supposed to serve in order to help themselves to more wealth and power? We have seen repeatedly that the GOP Establishment is extremely poor at abstract concepts and in fact dislikes anything but a myopic “practical” approach to politics. If Walker understood what has been presented here, he (and his fellow Wisconsin Republicans) would have realized that the public-sector unions needed to be broken completely. There would have been nothing “extreme” in this step, except by the debased standards of Wisconsin unionism, since President Franklin Roosevelt himself understood the danger of allowing public-sector workers to bargain collectively, and it could have been explained to Wisconsin citizens as a necessary measure to protect them as taxpayers from the rapacity of the unions and their Democratic enablers. But instead, Walker took the typical Establishment approach, put on his green eyeshade and best penny-pinching manner and announced rather timidly, “we can’t afford this”. Republicans adopted the very modest reforms (i. – iv.) described above, which actually avoided laying off a single government worker (again showing that they did not understand how dangerous government workers are to them and fiscal sanity), and then were surprised at the onslaught unleashed against them by the Democrats.[pullquote]For Republicans who wish to restore freedom in this country, as well as maintain the viability of the GOP (or any other party) as a true opposition party, it is essential to reduce or eliminate the political power of the parasitic “taker” class.[/pullquote]
The behavior of the union/Democrat faction was beneath contempt, and cannot be fully described here due to space considerations. Democratic State Senators deserted their posts, fleeing to Illinois (where they could not be arrested by Wisconsin authorities and returned to the Senate) to prevent Republicans from achieving a quorum and passing a budget based on the reforms in Act 10. Union members deserted their jobs and converged on the Capitol in Madison, actually occupying the building for a time. Violence was threatened against Republicans – for example, the windows on Senator Dan Kapanke’s car were broken and his wife reported nails strewn on their driveway – and Walker was obviously caught by surprise. What he had done was to confront a dangerous serpent and, instead of cutting off its head with a single stroke (banning the unions entirely, which Republicans had the power to do), had poked at its body with a sharp stick (Act 10). He should not have been surprised when, in response, the snake reared back and showed its fangs. He should have understood that the Democrats and their union allies were implacable foes, not statesmen to be reasoned with about restoring fiscal sanity but a howling mob desirous of ever more power and money that needed to be run over with a steam-roller.
Even all that did not cause Walker to change tactics – instead of finally making a moral case for his actions based upon the rights of taxpayers, he continued to defend Act 10 in the manner of a cold-blooded accountant: “We can’t afford this,” “We’re asking union members to make a modest contribution” etc. This turned out to be a nearly-fatal error as Democrats quickly seized the moral high ground Walker had left undefended and presented themselves, absurdly, as the defenders of working families! (But not, it would seem, of those families working in the private sector, who found no vocal defenders among Walker’s Republicans either). Once again (for we have seen this movie many, many times before), Democrats presented themselves as caring about ordinary people (a monstrous lie) and Establishment Republicans were left looking like soulless, uncaring automatons programmed to perform accounting functions. This is the same strategy that had failed so often for Republicans in the past, resulting in one Democratic gain after another.
And yet, Walker was able to hang on by his fingernails and ultimately did prevail, at least in a small way and in the short run, as we will see in a moment. But my view is that this was due more to luck than skill, and does not amount to a workable strategy for future Republican Governors – or Presidents. Let us see this by returning to the history of Walker’s efforts when Act 10 had been passed but had not yet gone into effect.
To begin with, and I think most importantly, the Democratic attacks were working – Walker’s popularity sank like a stone, and his approval rating dropped to a mere 37%, with 59% disapproving of his job performance. Six Republican Senators faced recall elections (Democrats needed to win only three of these seats to take control of the Senate) as did Walker himself. Finally, Democrats had found a sympathetic judge in Dane County (Madison – where else?) who on March 18 issued an injunction summarily blocking publication of Walker’s new law, and without publication, the law could not go into effect. (Judge Sumi also had a son active in radical politics with financial connections to organized labor, and should never even have heard the case, further displaying the level of ethics we have come to expect from the Democratic Left.) If her decision were upheld, all of Walker’s efforts would come to naught.
Taking up the court challenge first, we must look to the State Supreme Court and an election that was about to take place pitting incumbent Republican David Prosser against challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. Kloppenburg was an environmental prosecutor at the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know about her brand of politics. Even the term “environmental prosecutor” carries with it a connotation of totalitarian nightmare. Democrats and the unions poured their support into Kloppenburg’s campaign, but she ended up losing to Prosser by 7004 votes. When the case was heard by the Supreme Court, Prosser provided the deciding vote that overturned Judge Sumi as the Justices ruled 4-3 that Sumi had unconstitutionally interfered with the legislative process (June 14, 2011). By a little over 7000 votes (0.46%), Walker and the Republicans had prevailed, for there can be no real doubt that Kloppenburg would have sided with the union/Democrat alliance. This is part of the reason why I maintain Walker was lucky, for Prosser could very easily have lost to Kloppenburg, who in fact claimed a 200-vote margin of victory the day after the election.
Next we turn to the recall elections. There were actually two groups of these, one in 2011 and one in 2012. Democrats needed to take three seats in 2011 to get control of the Senate, but won only two, leaving Republicans with a 17-16 majority. The results of the June 5, 2012 election, in which the seats of Districts 13, 21, 23, 29 were at stake, were three wins for Republicans and one (District 21) for Democrats, which flipped control of the State Senate to them. Walker and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch won their races by 53% to 47%. The Democrats, then, were not able to unseat Walker, nor could they capitalize on their Senate victory because the Senate was out of session and would remain so until after the Nov. 2012 election. (In that election control flipped once again when Republicans won an 18-15 majority).
I have gone into perhaps headache-inducing detail here to emphasize how narrowly Republicans managed to hold on. Walker’s win in his recall election garnered the most headlines, but Democrats came very close to undoing everything he had accomplished, for if Kloppenburg had defeated Prosser, the Supreme Court would have overturned Act 10 on technical grounds, and if they had won three Senate seats instead of two in the recall election of 2011, Republicans could not have re-passed the Act, which would have sent them back to square one. And for those who still aren’t convinced that Walker got lucky, let’s consider briefly the very similar experience of John Kasich in Ohio.
Kasich had championed Senate Bill 5, which was similar to Walker’s Act 10. Like Walker, he argued for Bill 5 in the manner of an accountant wearing a green eyeshade:
“(The bill) gives local governments and schools powerful tools to reduce their costs so they can refocus resources on key priorities like public safety and classroom instruction,” Kasich said in a [signing] statement. (See this Reuters article for more.) “Reduce costs,” “Refocus resources” – but not one word about the rights of taxpayers to pay no more than absolutely necessary for government services, or about taxpayers as the owners of those “resources”.
Meanwhile, Democrats/unions prated on about “worker rights,” which means, apparently, the “right” of government workers to sit on both sides of the bargaining table in order to fleece the taxpayers and elect more Democrats:
“Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, testified: ‘What no organization in any sector of the trade union movement will do is succumb to threats of union abolishment and the dismantling of workers’ rights and beg for crumbs or carve-outs.’” (See this Cincinatti.com article).
Once again, the familiar pattern: Establishment Republican cedes the moral high ground to the Democratic Left. The result? In a ballot issue, 62% of Ohio voters voted to repeal Bill 5, a resounding defeat for Kasich and an undeniable win for the Democrat/public-sector parasite alliance – and this in Ohio, no Democratic stronghold (outside of its larger cities) and a must-win state for any Republican Presidential candidate. (See The Columbus Dispatch recap). At no time did either Walker or Kasich suggest that there is no such thing as a “right” to bargain collectively, especially in the public sector, where the will of the taxpayers should be king.
Walker, as we have seen, avoided complete disaster by the skin of his teeth. The next question to be asked is, how successful were his reforms? This is difficult to say because of the ever-present danger of accounting tricks being used to disguise unpleasant budgetary realities (a Democratic specialty, but something Republicans can be guilty of also). Among other things, it depends on whether the method of “cash accounting” or “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)” is used. GAAP includes promised payments on the negative side of the ledger whereas cash accounting simply examines cash on hand at the end of the year. By cash accounting, Walker could claim he had balanced the budget, but by GAAP criteria Wisconsin had a $3 billion deficit in 2012. Politifact gives this summary:
“Walker’s 2011-’13 budget is running a small surplus… But his proposed 2013-’15 budget will be in the hole by $2.64 billion by the end of its second year, as page 33 of his budget summary shows.”
I was unable to check this budget summary because the provided link went nowhere, but The Wisconsin Budget Project essentially confirms these numbers. It thus seems fair to conclude that Walker’s small reforms were not sufficient to solve Wisconsin’s overspending problem. At any event, I hope it is clear I have done my best not to minimize Walker’s success, such as it is, out of any sort of personal bias against him.
I would concede there was one bright side: the provision of Act 10 banning local governments from collecting union dues (the “opt-out” provision”) has had a negative effect on union finances as some members have stopped paying dues. Overall union representation declined from 13.3% to 11.2% of all Wisconsin workers according to the U.S. Dept. of Labor. Thus Walker did strike a blow against one part of the bribery and extortion racket that is the Democratic Party, specifically its extortion arm, and slightly weakened the unions.
To summarize, Walker’s very modest Act 10, which he was very lucky to be able to keep on the books, left the public-sector unions largely intact and free to continue to fight against Republicans at every step (in fact police and firefighters can still bargain collectively over all wage issues, while the rest of the unions can still bargain over base pay!) and was not enough to solve Wisconsin’s budget problems. John Kasich, using essentially the same approach as Walker, could not achieve even that much.
Given the overall failure of Walker’s and Kasich’s efforts to solve their respective states’ budget problems, it might seem unnecessary to inquire as to whether their methods are replicable at the Federal level. Obviously Walker, who gives every sign of running for President in 2016, is going to claim that he was successful and that he could work the same magic at the Federal level. Some Federal employees do have unions, but the situation is more complicated at the Federal level than in Wisconsin. Furthermore, we need to remember that while the unions serve to concentrate power, the ultimate problem is the existence of so many government workers in the first place. Even if their unions were abolished, most would still vote Democratic (that is, for the Party of the State). One of the ways in which we can hurt Democrats and move the country back to the Right is to reduce the number of government workers, something Walker deliberately avoided doing in Wisconsin. Finally, there is the brutally-difficult problem of cutting entitlement programs, which Scott Walker did not deal with in Wisconsin and which must be done at the Federal level if the country is to be saved.
Scott Walker seems to mean well, and perhaps other Establishment Republicans do as well. But good intentions will never substitute for strong moral arguments in favor of less government, and Walker’s type does not understand the basic nature of the enemy we’re up against in the Democratic Left. They are unable to think in principle and act in accordance with those principles. They will continue to make their emotionless penny-pinching arguments, allowing the Democrats to posture as the party of the middle class, while never arguing about how wrong it is for Democrats to collude with public sector unions to rip off the taxpayer or buy votes from welfare recipients. They will, in short, continue to forget William Graham Sumner’s Forgotten Man, and so they will continue to lose to the Left. As yet another Establishment-man Republican nominee, Walker would almost certainly lose the election to whomever the Democrats choose to run, and in the unlikely event he won, would not know how to begin rolling back Leviathan. He would also institute (if permitted by Congress) an open-borders immigration policy, guaranteeing the destruction of America as a free nation. Scott Walker, then, is not what Republicans need in 2016 – or in any other year.