Let’s be clear about how the governor in Wisconsin is operating. Just weeks before precipitating this crisis, the governor pushed through the legislature 117 million dollars in corporate tax breaks. Now, the current shortfall in the budget is 137 million dollars.
Let’s also not forget that this push to end collective bargaining for the teachers and other state employees does not include the firefighters union or the police since, coincidentally, they supported the governor in the recent election. It seems if you supported the governor during the election then your right to collective bargaining is not a threat to the state budget.
The real problem in this country is vastly unequal income distribution and it is only getting worse. How is it that hedge fund managers have their income taxed at a 15% rate as if it were capital gains, but the rest of us in the middle class have to pay 28% of our income? The difference is that they are able to hire lobbyists who push Congress to rewrite the tax code in their favor.
This is but one example among many that point out the inequality rampant in our tax code. Let’s face it, the super rich are happy to see the various parts of the middle class fighting over a small portion of the pie. So long as we leave their half alone.
The fact that many state governments are in bad financial shape is not fiction and must be treated seriously. It is also quite true that there are no painless remedies. We want the services we have, we just don’t want to pay for them. But do we really want to cut teachers pay or benefits? Could it really be true that the reason state budgets are busted is because public employees have too generous a health care plan? While it’s true, as a self employed business owner I am envious of the benefits public workers have, I’m just not naïve enough to think this is the reason states are in poor financial condition.
Solving state budget problems will take sacrifice, including higher taxes on all who can afford it. Let’s just not delude ourselves into thinking that the rights of folks in our schools and hospitals and courthouses to bargain collectively are the problem. They are only the problem to governors who hate unions and don’t really care to see that unions and collective bargaining have brought millions into the middle class.
--Larry Stopper is an entrepreneur and strong union supporter from Afton