Wisconsin Gubernatorial debate – Friday, May 25th, 2012

I watched the Wisconsin Gubernatorial debate on Friday, May 25th, 2012.

My overall impression of the debate was that Governor Walker spent most of his time discussing the changes he and the GOP legislature made, particularly regarding changes to public employee unions’ collective bargaining powers.

Mayor Barrett and Governor Walker
square off in debate
Photo by Rick Wood
of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Mayor Barrett spent most of his time attacking Gov. Walker personally and trying to pin a scandal, any scandal, on the Governor.  He never once mentioned the horrible shape Milwaukee is in as a result of his own policies.

The second question, in particular, irked me, not the question itself, but Mayor Barrett’s non-response.  I think it aptly summed up the entire debate.  The question was from Erin Davisson, a reporter and anchor at WFRV-TV in Green Bay.  In my humble opintion, it was a relevant question and was asked in a fair, non-leading way.  She asked:

Change in public employee collective bargaining law last year is one of the reasons that we’re here tonight.

Governor Walker, if you had it to do all over again, would you seek the same changes in the same way and do you plan more collective bargaining law changes?

And Mayor Barrett, if you disagree with the changes that Governor Walker made, some of which you used to your advantage in the city of Milwaukee budgeting process, would you seek to undo those changes and if so, how would you go about it?

That’s a two part question, one to Governor Walker, the other to Mayor Barrett.  Governor Walker answered first, his response in it’s entirety is:

Well Erin, that’s a great question.  I get asked that a lot out on the campaign trail.

Looking back, without a doubt I’d change how we did things.  I think in the end, the results, and people say this all over the state, they like the results.  They just wish we’d done it differently.

I think, if I had a chance to do it again, if I’d gone out last January and early February and made the case all across the State of Wisconsin and explained what was happening back then, because remember before our reforms?

School districts all across the State were literally spending tens of millions of dollars more than they needed to, because under collective bargaining they were forced to buy their health insurance from essentially just one company.

(Note: That company is WEA Trust, established and probably run by the Wisconsin teachers’ union, WEAC.  Is that corrupt?  You decide.)

In fact, I talked to a small business owner today in Cuba City, at a farm just outside of Cuba City on the west side of Grant County, and he talked about working with school districts all across southwestern Wisconsin and literally the money that they’ve saved is money that’s going right back into the classroom.

If I told people that was what was at stake back then, I think that most people, most taxpayers, be they Democrat or Republican, would have said “Governor, you need to fix it.”

If I talked about how, under the old collective bargaining system, you had abuses in overtime, in places like the city of Madison, where a bus driver was able to make $150,000 because of overtime abuse, I think most taxpayers would have said “you need to fix it.”

My problem was, I fixed it, then I talked about it.  Most politicians spend all their time talking about it, but never fix it.

In the future, we’re going to both talk about it and fix it.  We understand the product is ultimately the most important thing, but the process itself is very important.  That’s why I spent the last year working with Dr. Tony Evers on education reform.  We’re going to continue to build off that base, where we bring stakeholders in, and untimately create a good product and a good process.

OK, he admits that his big mistake was taking on the unions without getting the taxpayers on board first.  He didn’t directly address the second part of the question “… do you plan more collective bargaining law changes?”  My guess is that he has no immediate need nor desire to change it further.  It sounds like he’s focusing on education reform, probably trying to upgrade the deplorable schools in Mayor Barrett’s Milwaukee Public School District, which are the worst in the State.

Anyway, Ms. Davisson’s question to Mayor Barrett was

… if you disagree with the changes that Governor Walker made, some of which you used to your advantage in the city of Milwaukee budgeting process, would you seek to undo those changes and if so, how would you go about it?

Mayor Barrett totally ignored the question and went on the attack against Governor Walker.  He turned to face Governor Walker and said:

Scott, you started this by saying that you’re going to drop the bomb, and that you’re going to go first after the public employees, and that you would use divide and conquer as your strategy to go after the workers, and that you would use a budget bill to tear this State apart.

I think of great leaders, leaders like Franklin Rooseveldt, leaders like Giuliani, and what do they do in a time of crisis?  They tried to bring their people together.

You decided to use a budget crisis to try to divide and conquer this State.  That’s what happened.  That’s what led to all of this.  And you succeeded, you succeeded in dividing this State.  But you said, you said it was the first step, because this is really about workers’ rights, and it’s not just about public employees, it’s about the middle class, and whether people who work in the middle class have rights.  Whether they have safety rights.  Because I talk to people who are working in our prisons right now, and they said they have never been more afraid, because their rights were taken away.  I am concerned about those rights.  I am concerned that those rights have been taken away, and I think it’s an attack on the middle class.  There’s a reason he hasn’t said he would veto a Right to Work bill, and the reason is, is because he wouldn’t.

Who addresses the Governor of a State by his first name IN PUBLIC?  The wife or a close friend of a Governor might address him by his first name in private, but never in public.  MAYOR BARRETT, YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!  But of course, he’s a Democrat and Democratic politicians have no shame.

Mayor Barrett’s last sentence is interesting, “There’s a reason he hasn’t said he would veto a Right to Work bill, and the reason is, is because he wouldn’t.”  Like that’s a bad thing!  I guess it is a bad thing if you’re a union boss or a union-bought-and-paid-for politician.

Unless you’re a union boss or a union-bought-and-paid-for politician, Right to Work is a good thing.  No one should be forced to pay tribute to a union in order to get or keep a job.  Thomas Jefferson mentioned this when he said that “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”

Right to Work states enjoy more growth in wages and employment than forced unionism states.  Indeed, there’s a job boom happening in Indiana, America’s 23rd and most recent Right to Work state.  Right to Work is right for America.  Mayor Barrett thinks there’s something wrong with Right to Work. That’s enough for me to Stand with Gov. Scott Walker, how about you?

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