American Elephants


Two Down, Fourteen to Go. by The Elephant's Child

I’m really troubled. The two most accomplished governors in the country have both suspended their campaigns for the Republican nomination. Rick Perry administered a state that created most of the new jobs in the country. Liberals predicted that Texas would go bust along with oil prices when they started to drop, but 2014 was the year that oil prices fell to $53 a barrel in December from more than $107 in June.

But Austin has little exposure to the energy industry, and business other than government is booming. Texas has no personal or corporate income tax, and job growth continues to soar. Texas is in the business of wealth creation, not redistribution.

Scott Walker shifted power from unions to workers, where it belongs. Wisconsin has outdone the nation on most economic indicators. The unemployment rate is lower than the national average, and improving. After four years of Gov. Walker, more Wisconsinites are employed and his policies are clearly working. Add in an attempt to recall him, death threats to his family, protests at his parent’s home, and the use of law enforcement as a political instrument in an attempt to undo election results. Above all, he clearly has a steel spine, something we have all been wishing for.

Well, sour grapes. Walker, perhaps rose to the top too soon,too fast, and the vast number of candidates, hostile unions determined to destroy him,  a liberal media that regarded him as the most dangerous man in the bunch — liberals will do anything to silence those who disagree, and someone who is successful in overturning everything in the original progressive state is very dangerous to the liberal agenda.

I expected some to drop out, but not my two favorites while the less deserving, hang on. It’s politics, and the unexpected usually happens.

ADDENDUM: I’ve read dozens of other commentary on Scott Walkers suspension of his campaign. The only satisfying answer, setting aside the snark, is that he entered the race on a vast wave of enthusiasm, and the campaign spent way too much money in the first weeks, and as yet people are just getting acquainted with the candidates, and not really ready to settle on a single favorite. The too much money spent too early wasn’t getting replenished that fast. He just ran out of money and poll numbers.



Punching Back Twice As Hard! by The Elephant's Child

urlPresident Obama, since the Republican ”wave election” has been irritable. Republicans clearly had no right to take over the Senate and increase their power in the House. He has things he wants to do, and he has no intention of allowing a bunch of uncooperative dummies in Congress to interfere with his executive right to finish fundamentally transforming the United States of America to his own particular tastes.

Naturally as President of the United States, he feels called upon to comment on anything within his purview, which is everything. In this case, he noticed that one of his states has signed a right-to-work bill into law, without his permission. He issued a written statement condemning the law:

“I’m deeply disappointed,” he said, “that a new anti-worker law in Wisconsin will weaken, rather than strengthen, workers in the new economy.”

Obama then claimed that Walker’s action was part of an “inexcusable assault on unions, led by powerful interests and their allies in government.”

The bill that Governor Scott Walker signed was the result of twenty hours of debate in the Wisconsin legislature, a vote by the state’s duly elected representatives 62-35 to pass the bill. Democracy at work.

Governor Scott Walker promptly responded to Mr. Obama’s bad manners, and his need to recall basic civics.

On the heels of vetoing Keystone pipeline legislation, which would have paved the way to create thousands of quality, middle-class jobs, the president should be looking to states, like Wisconsin, as an example for how to grow our economy,” Walker told National Review Online.

Despite a stagnant national economy and a lack of leadership in Washington, since we took office, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is down to 5%, and more than 100,000 jobs and 30,000 businesses have been created.

Pow! Want to compare economies and just who is helping workers?

Walker said that the legislation, “along with our investments in worker training and our work to lower the tax burden, will lead to more freedom and prosperity for all of Wisconsin.”

 



Democrats Are Out Trying to Mobilize Public Emotions, But Screwing-Up Big Time! by The Elephant's Child

The moment some Republicans appeared as possible presidential candidates, the Left was out combing the weeds and bushes for dirt with which to discredit them with — imaginary crimes. The Democrats are big on imaginary crimes, because most Republican politicians are not particularly sleazy.

In the last few weeks Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin has emerged as a popular possible candidate. Unleash the attack dogs!  New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote that Walker had cut state aid to education, causing valued teachers to be laid off in 2010. Unfortunately, Scott Walker didn’t become governor until 2011. Conservative news sites had great fun with the error over the weekend. Perhaps, Politico said “In hindsight, perhaps the headline ‘Scott Walker Needs An Eraser’ wasn’t the best idea.”

The New York Times issued one of their frequent corrections:

Correction: February 15, 2015
An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that teacher layoffs in Milwaukee in 2010 happened because Gov. Scott Walker “cut state aid to education.” The layoffs were made by the city’s school system because of a budget shortfall, before Mr. Walker took office in 2011.

Well, everybody makes mistakes, frequently in the pages of the New York Times —”the paper of record.”

Then on Monday evening, the unions that Governor Walker has defeated three times in elections, recall election, and election,unloaded a busload of union toughs in front of the home of the Governor’s elderly parents. The Journal Sentinel reported dutifully that the unions were protesting in front of the Governor’s house. Oops! The Governors sons corrected the media. Update:

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Here are the protesters, who seem to be from the teachers’ union. The pre-printed signs say “Governor Walker’s Budget hurts Public Education.”



A Conversation with Governor Scott Walker by The Elephant's Child

Wisconsin’s outstanding young governor, Scott Walker,  appears on the Hoover Institution’s Uncommon Knowledge, wonderful interviews conducted by Peter Robinson.

I am deeply impressed with this young man. He was elected to face a state in trouble, with problems with the schools, the state budget, domineering public sector unions. The Democrats in the Legislature skipped town to avoid having to face up to a vote they might lose. The Governor was picketed, threatened, the subject of near riots by angry protesters, and he went ahead and did what was right anyway. Courage, and then some.

He has fixed the problems, survived a recall election, and put Wisconsin on the path to freedom and good government, opportunity and growth. Courage, character and determination.  He seems to be a really nice guy as well.



Some Elections Matter More Than Others: The Reasons. by The Elephant's Child

Some elections matter more than others. The recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker matters a lot.  But we may misunderstand why it matters so much. The media tried desperately to portray the election as a dead-heat, and too close to call, but the polls had shown Governor Walker leading for some time.

The question was whether taxpayers have any hope of controlling the entitlement state. Can a politician take on powerful government unions and survive?  For months, the American Federation of State, County,County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) had been busing in their members, and other unions had been adding theirs, to demonstrate in Madison, occupy to Capitol building and show their support for recall. They carried rude signs, issued threats, called vicious names, and screamed and shouted.

Public unions don’t operate quite like private sector unions which negotiate terms with a single company or a single workplace. Public unions, flush with member dues, can often buy the politicians with campaign contributions and get-out-the-vote efforts. The politicians, who are supposed to represent taxpayers, are often more concerned with their own reelection. So when the time comes to vote for raising union retirement benefits or improving health care the politicians’ choice is reelection or keeping taxes low? Public unions sit on both sides of the bargaining table.

Over time, public unions have been able to extort excessive wages, benefits and pensions. They have even been able to arrange contracts that allow monopoly provision of health insurance.

It is hardly surprising that state and local governments — required to balance their budgets —have been shocked to discover that the generous benefits they have given with the best of intentions to their union workers — are unaffordable. Governor Scott Walker’s principled stand may give them courage. So that is indeed important for the whole country.

But Governor Walker’s reforms ended Wisconsin’s practice of automatically collecting union dues. Now dues are voluntary. And it turns out that many government workers don’t want to belong to a union after all.

Since Governor Walker’s reforms took effect, membership in government unions has dropped significantly. Membership in the AFSCME has dropped from 62,818 in March of 2011 to just 28,745 in February of this year, according to the Wall Street Journal. 34,072 workers decided that they are better off keeping their own dues if they are not forced to pay them. The union can no longer guarantee monopoly wages and benefits. That is the very big deal for the left, and a significant crack in the Big Government Project.

The Big Government Project is all about special interests, and special rules that aid the special interests.  Everybody has good intentions, and they like to do nice things for their friends. And when the web of special interests becomes too wide and too thick, they inevitably vote themselves more benefits that society can support.

Big Government — the entitlement state — is in crisis. A recession, with thousands of people unemployed, businesses closed and less economic activity means governments at all levels are getting less revenue. The federal government with huge borrowing power and no requirement to balance the budget that can’t be put off, is somewhat immune, if irresponsible. Efforts to pass a balanced budget law have met congressional resistance. All states, except Vermont, have a balanced budget requirement.

When there is less revenue for a state, the excessive wages and ballooning benefits stand out like a sore thumb. And sweetheart retirement benefits, promised but unfunded, have many states in dire straits. And the people, who are designated to pay for all this excess, may just fire the public officials who have got them into such a mess.



The Wisconsin Win is a Very Big Victory. Here’s Why. by The Elephant's Child

Yesterday was election day in Wisconsin, and the newscasts were full of “the neck-and-neck battle, too-tight-to-call, a close race,” but the intrade numbers were over 90 in favor of Gov. Walker. Polls suggested that it was not close at all. That undoubtedly explains Democrat anger and astonishment that Governor Walker had won handily. One recall supporter was nearly in tears screaming that it was “the End of Democracy in America.”During the entire battle, the unions were not shy about using some extreme language to describe their position. “First they came for the Jews…”

Wisconsin had a budget deficit of $137 million — in a state required to have a balanced budget. The relationship with the public-sector unions had deteriorated into a cozy arrangement where the unions lobbied the legislators who gave them ever increasing benefits, whereon the unions then voted the legislators back in, who were then willing to give the unions more benefits. A sweetheart deal to say the least. Wisconsin could not afford it. No money.  Collective bargaining in the public sector does not work.

Even after Walker’s reforms, public workers are still overpaid.. Union members’ are having to pay more for their health care and pensions, but far less than average.  The whiny, screaming union members after Gov. Walker’s reforms are better paid than comparable workers in the private sector, pay less for health insurance and pay less for their pensions. Jobs have been saved (the teacher’s union was ready to get rid of them). And the unemployment rate is now lower than the national average.

  • Before Act 10, Wisconsin state workers received health benefits about 2.3 times as valuable and pension benefits about 5.7 times as valuable as what workers in large private firms receive. After Act 10, Wisconsin state workers still receive health benefits nearly twice as valuable and pension benefits more than 4.5 times as valuable.
  • Before Act 10, Wisconsin state employees received total compensation (salary and benefits) about 29 percent higher than comparable private-sector workers. After Act 10, the compensation premium is about 22 percent.
  • In dollar terms, the average Wisconsin state worker after Act 10 receives total compensation including benefits equal to $81,637, versus $67,068 for a similarly skilled private worker.

Union workers are far better off that comparable workers in the private sector, and a state  that is in financial health is more apt to retain their jobs. They are suffering far less than the rest of the country where unemployment is much higher. It is a hugely important victory, not just for good government but also for fair treatment. (That item the Left claims as their goal). It does prove, however, that with political courage, the corrosive effect of public sector unions and outrageous benefit packages can be defeated. And that is the source of all the hate.

Wisconsin is far from the only state with overly generous pensions, overpaid union members, and benefits the state can no longer afford. Scott Walker stood up to enormous pressure and hate. But he provides an example for the rest of the states.



A Win for Political Courage and Good Governance! by The Elephant's Child

Imagine! A politically courageous Governor does what he promised, restores solvency to the Wisconsin budget, saves jobs, reins in out-of-control unions, and dramatically improves Wisconsin’s solvency.  And the people appreciate it. The Unions spent big money, screamed epithets, carried rude signs, beat drums and protested steadily. Wisconsin returned Governor Walker to office successfully along with his lieutenant governor, and the state senators facing recall as well. Congratulations to all.

Political courage pays off. Doing the right thing works. Balancing budgets works too.

ADDENDUM:Governor Walker’s Victory Spells Doom for Public Sector Unions



Successful Reform in Wisconsin: Sullen, Angry Unions! by The Elephant's Child

EAGnews.org has produced an exclusive video report titled “Anarchy 101: How Wisconsin’s Left Embraces Chaos” disclosing who and what were behind the massive demonstrations, the occupation of the Capitol in Madison, and extreme tactics employed to stop Walker’s reforms from being enacted.

Remember the riots and the drums, the signs and the screaming mobs in the Capitol building? Lawmakers  fled to Illinois to avoid voting on Governor Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law last year. The unions were enraged that government workers and union members were to pay 5.8% of their paychecks toward pensions and 12.6% of their health insurance premiums— a pittance compared to the average in private business.

Since Governor Walker’s reforms went into effect, the doom and gloom scenarios failed to materialize. Property taxes in the state were down 0.4% in 2011, the first decline since 1998. Wisconsin moved up four more places in an annual CEO survey of the best states to do business, after jumping 17 spots last year. The Governor’s office estimated that altogether the reforms have saved state taxpayers more than $1 billion, including $65 million in changes in health-care plans, and some $543 million in local savings documented by the media.

The school board president says the district saved $4 million as a result of last year’s reforms, including $2 million from pension reforms. Schools across the state saved an average of $220 per student because of the ability to introduce competitive building for health insurance. Unexpectedly, only 12% of Wisconsin voters say “restoring collective bargaining rights” is their priority.

The May 8 Democratic recall primary will determine who will run against Mr. Walker in the recall election on June 5. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the front runner, is focusing his campaign on jobs, education, the environment and safer communities. No mention of collective bargaining.  Former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk is heavily supported by unions, but her she has made only passing reference to collective bargaining.

The union reaction was so ferocious because the reforms reduced the clout of Big Labor over state and local taxpayers and the lost ability to milk taxpayers year after year, unchallenged.

Democrats and unions liked to claim that Gov. Walker’s recall campaign was funded by a few wealthy donors.  The head of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin claimed that Mr. Walker’s “shady, under-handed and even downright criminal dirty tricks to deny democracy” are funded by “extremist groups.” The language doesn’t vary much across the country, does it?

“Unexpectedly” according to receipts filed by the campaign, the governor received contributions from more than 89,000 donors, and 87% of those individuals gave $100 or less.  22.000 of the donations were from Wisconsinites., but people all over the country sent in contributions. You can join them at ScottWalker.org  Political courage is all too rare, and should be honored.  Governor Scott Walker is a courageous man.



Congratulations, Gov.Walker. A Job Well Done! by The Elephant's Child

Governor Scott Walker has stood fast against an angry mob — a mob that is all seething emotion incited by the usual demagogues — chanting their hate for Gov. Walker and making bizarre claims about what was actually transpiring.  While the mob shrieked about their “rights,” and the future of the state, without any realization that Governor Walker was saving their jobs. It takes courage to stand up for what is right.

Union power was out in full force, defending their right to the power and influence of union dues.  The usual rabble-rousers arrived to rouse rabble — inciting and egging on protesters to violence with outrageous language.  Michael Moore, multimillionaire hypocrite, was there to proclaim his solidarity with union workers who he refused to allow in his movie crews.  He obviously was hoping to rouse the mob to revolution. (Were the cameras waiting behind the scenes?) Jesse Jackson turned up to incite once again.  He has never missed a chance to address a protest, and will go wherever the cameras are.

Wisconsin schools, which are failing to teach basic reading and math, will have a chance to keep outstanding teachers, instead of losing them to antiquated seniority rules. Governor Walker wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

In 2010, Megan Sampson was named an Outstanding First Year Teacher in Wisconsin. A week later, she got a layoff notice from the Milwaukee Public Schools. Why would one of the best new teachers in the state be one of the first let go? Because her collective-bargaining contract requires staffing decisions to be made based on seniority.

Ms. Sampson got a layoff notice because the union leadership would not accept reasonable changes to their contract. Instead, they hid behind a collective-bargaining agreement that costs the taxpayers $101,091 per year for each teacher, protects a 0% contribution for health-insurance premiums, and forces schools to hire and fire based on seniority and union rules.

The most important element is quality education is the excellence of the teacher in front of the classroom.  A good teacher makes all the difference. I was fortunate enough to spend two years in a one-room school with 8 grades and perhaps 20 children and an excellent teacher.  It wasn’t one of President Obama’s “crumbling schools” but it didn’t have indoor plumbing either.

Union members retain the right to bargain collectively over wages.  They are asked to contribute 5.8% to their pensions and 12.6% contribution to their health insurance — a situation that would be deeply desired by most people in the private sector.  And the massive layoffs of teachers and other public employees that were the alternative aren’t going to happen.  Unions don’t care much about their members losing their jobs, it’s losing their dues that matters. The taxpayers have won a great victory.



The Pathetic, Pitiful Protesters in Madison, Wisconsin. by The Elephant's Child

The Public Service employees in Wisconsin are going to have to get along with having their pensions and benefits determined by the legislature. Governor Scott Walker has achieved a significant victory for the taxpayers of Wisconsin.  Public sector workers are going to have to pay a little more of their health care insurance, though not nearly as much as the rest of us out here in normal-land do. They can still bargain collectively over their wages, so all is not lost.

And they’re going to have to contribute a little more to their pensions.  Since most of the folks in normal-land  now have 401 (k)s, and our employers contribute differing matching funds, most people aren’t terribly impressed that the poor Wisconsin public servants aren’t going to get their future generous pensions completely for free.  Do you suppose that’s what they are shouting about when they claim they are fighting for freedom?  Freedom from having to pay anything?  Freedom to force the taxpayers to finance their golden years. Pathetic.

The protesters, especially those who are college students or have been sent down to Madison by some other union or MoveOn.org are truly enraged.  You can tell by the speeches of Michael Moore, who doesn’t belong to a union, doesn’t live in Wisconsin, and is a multimillionaire cum rabble-rouser who wandered on down to rouse some rabble and get a little attention for himself.  They rant about “rights” as if they had a right to have taxpayers provide their generous benefits. The teachers were not striking  “for the kids” either.  They were protesting because their union told them to, for the benefit of the union.

Lawmakers have been threatened with death and physical violence.  The passion coming from liberal  legislators is understandable only if you are gullible enough to swallow their rhetoric.   Collective bargaining is not a civil right.  The bill does not kill the middle class, but saves their pocketbooks. Public sector unions kill jobs, and  seniority is rewarded over expertise. Common sense has prevailed.



Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Explains the Situation: by The Elephant's Child


All those screaming teachers who have shut down the schools in Madison, dragged bewildered kids along to demonstrate, and waved Hitler signs around, are  hollering ‘Kill the Bill” and insisting that the wicked Governor Walker is trying to deprive them of their rights.  The Governor is asking them to pay a small percentage of the cost of their health insurance, and a modest portion of the costs of their pensions — much less for each than most people in the private sector pay.

The Governor is not, as protesters claim, trying to “break the union.” He is required by law to balance the budget.  The unions are going to have to give up the right to bargain over their benefits, an impossible situation, or he’s going to have to lay off a big number of public employees. States cannot possibly continue to do that. An example: the teacher’s union has sued the state to force them to pay $700,000 for free Viagra for male teachers.

Public service unions should be abolished, and they certainly should not be allowed to strike against the public interest.  Every year in the fall,  just before it’s time for the kids to return to school, teacher’s unions strike for higher wages and benefits; although in most cases it is against the law for public service unions to strike.  Striking public employees should be fired promptly. There are limits.




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