(Re: “Revolution comes to the Midwest,” Danish Plan, Feb. 24.) Seems like Mr. Danish may have had a few too many rounds of Republican Kool-Aid before he sat down to write his latest column. His arguments are based upon a series of factual inaccuracies pulled straight out of the pro-corporate, anti-labor lobby playbook. As part of a larger pattern of untruths, it seems appropriate to call this “disinformation” rather than “misinformation.”
Danish: Public unions “object to legislation ... that would require public employees to pay part of the cost of their pension plans and health insurance ....”
Reality: Wisconsin’s public employee unions have agreed to all financial increases upon them imposed by Walker’s proposed legislation. Because the finances are merely a ruse for a union-busting agenda, Walker has refused this offer.
Danish: The protesters have the “vocal and unreserved support of Obama.”
Reality: Obama’s support of the protests has been weak. Eleven days into the protest Obama has made only one brief statement of mild support during an interview with a Wisconsin television affiliate. He has failed to visit Wisconsin or other states facing similar challenges, nor made any direct statements from the White House. When questioned during a briefing for more information on Obama’s response to the labor unrest, press secretary Jay Carney had “no further comments.” Obama’s response has been so pallid that MSNBC’s Ed Schultz asserted (Feb. 24) that if Obama did not start to deliver soon on his campaign promise to support labor, that he did not deserve reelection in 2012. “Where are you?” Mr. Schultz asked in utter disbelief of the president’s lack of leadership.
Danish: “Public employees are no longer church mice ... the average WI teacher’s pay and benefits package comes to $87,000.”
Reality #1: No one becomes a teacher, librarian or trash collector to get rich. The average teacher salary in Wisconsin is approximately $51,000, and 52 percent of these teachers hold master’s degrees. According to the Economic Policy Institute, Wisconsin’s public employees make less, not more, than their private-sector counterparts: “Controlling for a larger range of earnings predictors — including not just education but also age, experience, gender, race, etc., Wisconsin public-sector workers face an annual compensation penalty of 11 percent. Adjusting for the slightly fewer hours worked per week on average, these public workers still face a compensation penalty of 5 percent for choosing to work in the public sector.” Benefits packages average less than the $33,000 per year per teacher that Danish alleges. Additionally, the vast majority of public union benefits monies are paid to for-profit health insurance companies. Perhaps “reining in” the health insurance companies would be a more direct route to lowering state costs.
Reality #2: Collective bargaining rights are important not only for resolving financial remuneration issues, but also for negotiating working conditions like class size, teacher prep time, etc.
Danish: “Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker explicitly campaigned on reining in unions” and “Wisconsin voters knew what they were getting.”
Reality: Walker campaigned on a disingenuous platform of reining in public employee costs but hid his core agenda of destroying collective bargaining. Over 50 percent of Wisconsin voters, including those who voted for him, actively oppose his aggressive efforts to destroy unions.
Danish: “State governments are expected to run up deficits totaling $125 billion this year.”
Wisconsin Reality: When Walker assumed the office of governor in January the state of Wisconsin had a $123 million budget surplus. Walker himself created an artificial budget shortfall with a corporate tax cut just large enough to outweigh the budget surplus.
National Reality: Public employee unions are not responsible for the spate of state budget shortfalls. Excessive risk-taking with experimental financial products in a deregulated and corrupted Wall Street have caused the returns on investments for state pensions to fall dramatically, and the overall damage to the economy has drastically reduced state tax revenues. Additional burdens have been placed upon the states by excessive profiteering in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, which have drastically increased health care costs.
Danish: “... politically, this is a bad fight for unions and Democrats to pick.”
Reality: According to a Feb. 25 USA Today poll, 61 percent of Americans would oppose a law in their state similar to the proposed Wisconsin law, compared to 33 percent who would support it.
Inexplicitly unreported in Colorado media was that during the Super Bowl week cold snap there was a natural gas shortage that resulted in frozen water pipes and people shivering in their homes in Taos and northern New Mexico.
Coming on the heels of record gas exploration and drilling, this should serve notice to those who see natural gas as the rescuing cavalry storming across the West to meet our energy needs: Don’t bury your heads in the (coal bed) sand. It is time for fossil fuel proponents to ride slowly off into the sunset.
Xcel Energy’s cutting off of rebates to those installing solar energy panels has more to do with serving its profit margin than being of public service. Hopefully the Public Utilities Commission will recognize this and reinstate the rebates.
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