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The Koch Trope in Wisconsin

Sunday, February 27, 2011  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

The left thinks it is winning the battle for Wisconsin when in fact every day the majority of Americans see continued outrageous demands from a privileged set of tax payers upon the burdened set of taxpayers. The latter group doesn’t dislike the former, and in fact esteems them in many cases. Ordinary teachers, firefighters and police are among a communities most respected professionals.

But while the respect is a given, the limits of the ability of the much larger group of taxpayers to continue to support the former at previous levels of deference is exhausted, the consequences of three years of private sector austerity that has not been recognized or matched in the public sector. (Public sector employees point to the difficulties of furlough days, hiring freezes and the slow down in “step-increases” as testaments to their sacrifices, but these arguments haven’t persuaded their private sector fellow citizens that the tax-takers have really tightened their collective belt.)

So the clash in Wisconsin is about big issues and important debates, but the left knows it will lose this debate because the left knows that the public sector is in fact bloated, its salaries and benefits far too generous to be sustained and that the tax burdens already required have ground down the patience of the tax-paying public.

So on the brink of losing the argument and the preferred position as tax-takers among tax-payers, two attempts have been made to change the argument.

The first is the failed effort to claim that “collective bargaining rights” is distinct from the “cost of the public sector” debate. This is nonsense and the public knows it and supports structural reform. Treating the underlying disease of the bloated and expensive public sector is necessary for long-term fiscal health, and that means scaled back “rights” for public sector unions.

The second failed effort is the attempt to turn a debate over the size and scope of government into a conspiracy to seize power by the Koch brothers. This absurd, silly and almost hilarious bit of political showmanship marks the desperation of the left as it realizes that the public has genuinely turned deaf ears to their cries for preference. Like a teenager being grounded we see the public employee unions now screaming that we don’t understand, this is all somebody else’s fault, in this case the evil Koch brothers.

As Mark Steyn pointed out, this is the sort of crazy charge that is just ridiculous and beyond any sort of ordinary, rational analysis, even though it is made by none other than the New York Times. Powerline’s John Hinderaker took his litigator’s scalpel to the Times’ nonsense, and the shredding was so complete that the reporter, Eric Lipton, decided to fire back at the blogger, not realizing perhaps that Powerline has been down this road before and sharp lawyers almost always quickly dispatch not so sharp reporters who are trying to hide something, in this case journalistic malpractice, and of course Hinderaker did just that, with ease and finality. Mr. Lipton is well and truly discredited for his low-handed “reporting,” and the Times is exposed, again, for its long-ago complete abandonment of any claim to objectivity when it comes to matters of domestic politics. It is simply a band that strikes up familiar tunes whenever the (left’s) party starts.

And nothing has changed in the public’s mind except that the Times’ reflexive lurch into hysteria confirms that we are seeing another attempt by the left to intimidate the rest of the country, another chapter in the 70%-30% battle described by AEI’s Arthur Brooks in which 70% of the country which is center-right is just shrugging off the 30% on the left and saying “Sorry, we cannot indulge you anymore.”

Steyn’s summary statement of the issue deserves repeating:

Big Unions fund Big Government. The union slices off two per cent of the workers’ pay and sluices it to the Democratic Party, which uses it to grow government, which also grows unions, which thereby grows the number of two-per-cent contributions, which thereby grows the Democratic Party, which thereby grows government… Repeat until bankruptcy. Or bailout.

In his pithiest maxim, John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of the 20th century social-democratic state and the patron saint of “stimulus”, offered a characteristically offhand dismissal of any obligation to the future: “In the long run we are all dead.” The Greek and Wisconsin bullies are Keynesians to a man: The mob is demanding the right to carry on suspending reality until they’re all dead. After that, who cares?

If the new class war is between “public servants” and the rest of us, some countries no longer have enough of “the rest of us” even to put up a fight. That’s why you can’t wait to fight in the last ditch. The longer you wait to stand up against the “public service” unions, the less your chance of winning.

The 70% is standing up, and it is winning, and all the silly attacks against all the left’s bogeymen of the past, present and future won’t change the public’s opinion, because they aren’t paying for it anymore.


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