Governor Scott Walker is scheduled to speak today to outline his plan for the FY 2011-2013 budget for Wisconsin, which currently is projected to have a $3.6 billion deficit. The likelihood is that Walker will propose steep cuts in state aid to local governments, which in turn will require those local governments to make harsh cuts in their own spending. This is why Walker is at pains to give local governments the power to cut public employee pension and health care benefits without having to go through collective bargaining to do it. He knows that the unions won't agree to sacrifice, and that many communities will have no choice but to layoff public employees (including teachers), or to raise taxes, all of which will make Wisconsin's already hurting economy grind to a halt.
Naturally, President Obama does not understand this logic. Yesterday, speaking before an association of governors, Obama offered that "I don't think it does anybody any good when public employees are denigrated or vilified or their rights are infringed upon. We need to attract the best and brightest* to public service. These times demand it."
Walker's office fired back:
"I'm sure the president knows that most federal employees do not have collective bargaining for wages and benefits while our plan allows it for base pay. And I'm sure the president knows that the average federal worker pays twice as much for health insurance as what we are asking for in Wisconsin. At least I would hope he knows these facts.
"Furthermore, I'm sure the president knows that we have repeatedly praised the more than 300,000 government workers who come to work every day in Wisconsin.
"I'm sure that President Obama simply misunderstands the issues in Wisconsin, and isn't acting like the union bosses in saying one thing and doing another."Ouch! Obama isn't doing himself any favors by making vague statements of support for an indefensible position. And Walker, somewhat to my surprise, is rapidly becoming a formidable national figure.
* As a side note: the phrase "the best and the brightest" comes from the David Halberstam book about the young liberals who swarmed Washington in the Kennedy administration, and who did so much to set in motion the liberal welfare state that began with the Great Society of Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s. How did that all work out? Not so well... it's the main reason we're nearly bankrupt as a country now.
Moreover, the use of this cliche suggests a laziness of expression and thought on the part of Obama that is unappealing in a President. Do we really think that the "best and the brightest" go into public service? (Ever stand in line at the DMV? Ever attend a County Board of Supervisors hearing? Ever listen to some of the picketers who have been caught on film at Wisconsin's capitol?) More importantly, is it really a good goal as a country for the "best and the brightest" to become local government bureaucrats? I want my son and my daughters (all of whom in my somewhat biased view count as among "the best and the brightest") to become entrepreneurs or scientists or engineers or doctors. (Note: not lawyers; listen to your father!) I certainly do not want any of them to become the Assistant Director of Human Resources for Milwaukee County.