Protest or Abdication of Responsibility?

When we get right down to it, the behavior of just about everyone involved in the Wisconsin budget controversy is reprehensible. The most obvious villain is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who is using the need for budget cuts as an excuse to bust public unions in Wisconsin, or at least the unions that didn’t help get him elected. Eliminating the right of collective bargaining goes way beyond any needs to control salary and pensions. In fact it has been documented that the unions are willing to compromise on salaries and pensions. That is not good enough for Walker who wants to make a national name for himself as a union buster.

The natural response to this power grab is to put all our weight behind any and all efforts to stop Walker. Unfortunately, neither of the two most newsworthy responses to Walker pass the smell test as appropriate.  First, we have the Democratic State Senators who have fled to Illinois and other parts outside Wisconsin to avoid a vote on the budget in the Senate. Without a quorum, the vote cannot take place. To make matters more bizarre, the Senators can be compelled to show up at work if they are in-state. Hence, their decision to flee across state lines. This might make most liberals cheer but I find it plain irresponsible. Senators are elected to legislate. They speak their mind, they debate, and they vote. And the chips fall where they may. That is the way the system works. To sabotage the system by playing fugitive is juvenile at best and dereliction of duty at worst.

Of course the other newsworthy “protest” going on is that of the “people on the street”. But these aren’t just run of the mill people. These are not postal workers, or other public workers whose work would be missed but not to any great consequence in the short-term. These are teachers. When teachers refuse to teach, our kids don’t get an education. To make matters worse, they are not officially on strike. They are calling in “sick”. Don’t we teach our kids that it is wrong to call in sick to school when you are not sick? Not only are these teachers sending an incredibly hypocritical message to their students, they are encouraging students to protest with them. The students don’t belong in the rotunda of the State capitol, they belong in school. The teachers belong in school doing the jobs tax payers pay them to do.

In the 80’s when Ronald Reagan fired the striking air traffic controllers, I for one, cheered. There are certain jobs where there should not be the luxury of a walkout. Those jobs involve life and death issues (like air traffic safety, or doctors or nurses or police) and the education of our children. Collective bargaining is one thing and I believe in it but the threat to walkout should be off the table as a bargaining tactic.

Perhaps we are witnessing the consequence of a slow devolution of societal norms: whether it’s Joe Wilson yelling “you lie” at a sitting President of the United States during a national address or Christine O’Donnell making a career running for office to pay her rent or Democratic Senators playing hooky to hijack the legislative process or teachers teaching by example that if you don’t like the system just opt out. We no longer have any shame. Any tactic will do.

I’d love to just go partisan on this one. Clearly Governor Walker’s intent and methods are out of line. But I just can’t get behind folks refusing to do their jobs. Walker may be wrong but he’s showing up to work everyday. That puts him one notch above his opponents in my book.

Rutherford Political Blogger Alliance