Why Wisconsin Matters to Us

The State of Wisconsin is in political turmoil.

Thousands of public employees flooded Madison, the state capital, to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal. Walker plans to limit collective bargaining for most public employees to wages only. While municipal law enforcement, state troopers, fire and emergency medical service employees will be exempted, Walker’s

proposal have infuriated many people, some of whom have converged on the Capitol to protest.

The protesters were waving signs calling him a bully and comparing him to Scrooge and Hitler. The governor said the changes would help the state save $30 million in the last three months and reduce the state’s $3.6 billion deficit. Under his plan, state workers would pay 5.8 percent toward their pension and 12 percent of their healthcare benefits, thus  reducing their retirement benefits. Once again we have another story of political backlash.

The federal government is straddled with a huge national debt. The same problems trickle down to the states. Wisconsin is not the only state that is facing conflicts of governor’s budget plans. Florida, Ohio, Texas and Arizona are in a similar position of relying on budget cuts to eliminate the massive deficits that grew during the recession.

Unfortunately, these cuts come at the price of hardworking taxpayers who are dealing with the high cost of living, along with the uncertainty of their health and retirement benefits being reduced or eliminated.

The 55,000 Wisconsin demonstrators have every right to be angry at their government.

It is easy to understand the looming financial problems states face. But at the same time, it’s unfair for underpaid and

under-appreciated teachers, fire fighters and other service employees to have their bargaining rights taken away.

This crisis involves every political group-the Democrats, the Tea Party and the President and his staff. Democrats and union leaders say they are willing to compromise on benefits if Republicans back off on their bid to weaken collective

bargaining. The political debacle in Wisconsin will set the stage for the nation as we head for the 2012 presidential election.

Unions defend the rights of the middle class. They deserve a place at the bargaining table.