Echoes of Wisconsin
The link between Wisconsin’s recall elections and national politics is minimal.
As has been otherwise claimed… the recall was:
- Not an indictment of President Obama’s policies
- Not about the decay of unions
- Not about big money buying elections
- Not about the legitimacy of the recall process
- Not about Democratic electoral prospects in November
- Not even about union busting!
Sure, those things crystallized many voter’s thinking, but they were not the defining issue.
Arguably, the issue is this:
Can you solve massive state budget shortfalls without firing people and destroying a state’s economy?
It’s a state issue. It’s a local issue. It’s the same issue facing every other state in the United States.
Governor Walker made an unfortunate choice of method. For that mistake the state paid a heavy price.
In the end, though, pay-stubs are more powerful than partisan politics.
Apparently, results matter more than method!
The Fiscal Crisis Facing U.S. States
More than anything else, Wisconsin’s recall is about the core problem smacking every state government in the United States – budget deficits, jobs and a state’s economy.
A couple years ago, all the jobs President Obama talked about creating and saving with ARRA were public sector state and local jobs… primarily teachers. You need look no further than www.recovery.gov to verify that. Current ARRA cost per job for each “created/saved” jobs (mostly teachers) is $1.7 million!
Most ARRA money ran out the end of 2010. Additional funding was approved to employ teachers through last June and extend UI benefits. That money is gone now and states have to learn to live with tax revenues that look like they will remain lower for years to come.
That is the problem Scott Walker had to solve and that is the same problem every state must solve now that ARRA has dried up. In addition to that, Wisconsin is forced by state law to balance its budget. Most U.S. states have balanced budget laws.
All states do NOT have to solve the problem the same way Walker did.
Oregon is strikingly similar to Wisconsin. It had a newly elected governor in 2010; it has similar demographics; it also requires a balanced budget and it faced a $3 billion state budget deficit.
Most Americans have never heard of Oregon’s new governor, John Kitzhaber, because he accomplished what Walker did… but quietly from WITHIN the collective bargaining process.
Wisconsin’s recall will strengthen political will to take on budget deficits to get state fiscal houses in order.
Kitzhaber proves it can be done without busting unions in the process.
Wisconsin’s Recall and National Politics
I saw a Wisconsin town hall meeting on TV before the election where the moderator asked a widely diverse group of about 50 opinionated participants questions. There was 100% agreement on only one question… Is this election about President Obama and his policies? The answer was a resounding “No!”
Wisconsin is still Obama territory. It will take more political blundering by the Obama Campaign or a serious tailspin in the economy to change that dynamic. Either or both are possible.
There are two peripheral national issues that come out of Wisconsin:
- The strength of unions to craft the outcome of elections
- President Obama’s snub of unions and Tom Barrett
National unions put all their eggs into Wisconsin’s recall basket. It didn’t work. Walker won with a higher percentage of the vote than in 2010. It was a demoralizing defeat and sure to affect the enthusiasm of union rank and file membership everywhere going forward.
It is as if they gave up at the end after their preferred candidate lost in the primary to Tom Barrett and defeat looked imminent.
President Obama saw the writing on the wall early and avoided Wisconsin Democrats and unions like a hot frying pan. That was a very bad move.
Instead of abandonment, the President should have chosen to strongly support Barrett and unions, even in a lost cause. By doing so it would not have changed the final outcome but it would have narrowed the margin and energized core Democratic union support nationwide for a pitched battle against Republicans in November.
Instead, the President played defense. He decided to preserve a lead in one state at the expense of the traditional Democratic power base – unions. It will not be forgotten.
Though there is some national political fallout from the Wisconsin recalls, it will not change the outcome of the November elections. Jobs and the economy will determine that.
The real legacy of the Wisconsin recalls is its effect on states and their political will to solve their massive long-term budget problems.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker took the heat and won the war to give other governors courage to face their own state budgets head on.
But Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber shows them it can be done without alienating their citizens or busting unions.