Newly elected Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has introduced what he calls a "budget repair" plan that would, among other things, require state employees to pay about 5.8% toward their pension (about the private sector national average) and about 12% of their healthcare benefits (about half the private sector national average) and restrict the collective bargaining powers of government-employee unions. In response, as many as 25,000 state workers and their supporters have been protesting in and around the state Capitol.
Today the Washington Post reports in a banner headline,
Obama joins Wisconsin budget battle
Yes, the president of the United States is inserting himself into a medium-sized state's battle over how to balance its budget. And not just the president, but his entire political machine and its national labor union allies:
President Obama thrust himself and his political operation this week into Wisconsin's broiling budget battle, mobilizing opposition Thursday to a Republican bill that would curb public-worker benefits while planning similar action in other state capitals.
Obama accused Scott Walker, the state's new Republican governor, of unleashing an "assault" on unions in pushing emergency legislation that would nullify collective-bargaining agreements that affect most public employees, including teachers.
The president's political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to mobilize thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals....
By the end of the day, Democratic Party officials were working to organize additional demonstrations in Ohio and Indiana, where an effort is underway to trim benefits for public workers. Some union activists predicted similar protests in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania....
The White House political operation, Organizing for America, got involved Monday, after Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine, a former Virginia governor, spoke to union leaders in Madison, a party official said.
The group made phone calls, distributed messages via Twitter and Facebook, and sent e-mails to its state and national lists to try to build crowds for rallies Wednesday and Thursday, a party official said.
It's always easier to organize special interests than unorganized taxpayers. It wouldn't be easy to get 25,000 taxpayers, who have lives and jobs and a variety of concerns, to rally at the state capital for budget reform. And it won't be easy for one governor and Wisconsin's Republican legislators to fight the entire national Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO and other giant unions, and the Obama machine.
But maybe if other governors took up the same battle, if Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey and Gov. Rick Scott in Florida and Gov. Brian Sandoval in Nevada and Gov. Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania -- and even Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York and Gov. Jerry Brown in California, both of whom are smart enough to know why their states are running multi-billion-dollar deficits -- take on the government unions, then maybe the Washington-based political machines won't have the capability of responding everywhere at once. Two, three, many Wisconsins!
By the way, the strikingly uncivil posters comparing Governor Walker to Hitler and Mubarak, and the classic "Don't Retreat, Reload" slogan along with Walker's picture in cross hairs, take on greater relevance with the revelation that there's so much support and organization of these protests coming from sophisticated national politicos.