I really can’t believe it. First, Wisconsin Republicans attacked the collective bargaining rights of teachers and municipal employees. That drew tens of thousands of protesters to Madison. They were smart to exempt firefighters and police officers from that bill. Teachers were an easy target. They don’t work the full year; they get decent benefits. Republicans easily painted them as freeloading public employees. They didn’t mention that teachers do one of the most important jobs in our country. They educate people. Nearly all of us went to a public school and based on that education have achieved great things. Public schools made it possible for people to work hard and succeed. Prior to nationwide public education you were taught by anyone availible. Most likely you ended up working in a factory for very little money. It is not surprising that thousands of protesters wound up at the Wisconsin Statehouse.
It is far more surprising that emboldened by their success dealing with teacher’s rights, Wisconsin Republicans are now taking on firefighters and the police. As the Associated Press reports, the Wisconsin legislature is trying to raise the amount of money police and firefighters pay for healthcare and pension benefits. They also are trying to strip collective bargaining rights over design and choice of healthcare plans. While cost may be negotiated, they can’t bargain for a better coverage plan. In other words, Wisconsin Republicans are trying to eliminate competition in the market. Interesting, if you consider the fact that Republicans constantly rave about the free market and competition.
What is really at stake here is much more important than ideology. Police officers prevent crime. It is that simple. If we take away incentives for people to become police officers then less people will do so. It will become harder for police departments to find qualified personnel. The same is true for firefighters. These people put their lives on the line everyday to help protect us. Just today a police officer died in Missouri. He was struck by lightning during the search and rescue operation in Joplin. This man was trying to find survivors of a deadly tornado in a dangerous environment. His courage like the courage of firefighters and police officers around the country, should be celebrated.
If it were possible to make healthcare and retirement benefits free to all public employees, then we should. It’s not possible, but we should make these benefits cost as little as possible. A simple fact about government is often ignored. Without government, society as we know it wouldn’t exist. You can trumpet the benefits of private enterprise all you want, but without government to keep it in check we would be worse off.
Sarah Palin recently said she believes any mandate from government is bad. She was loosely referring to the “individual mandate” in President Obama’s healthcare law. She wanted to stir up some anti-government sentiment. That’s something Mrs. Palin is quite good at. She’s counting on the notion that people won’t think too hard about her statement. In reality, a “mandate” is just a law or regulation that requires someone to do something. Mrs. Palin seems to think these are all bad for America. I’d like to provide a couple of examples to the contrary.
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: This is a law that limits the amount of time a person can be required to work in a week without additional compensation, establishes a minimum wage a person can be paid and restricts
The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990: A law that ensures people with physical and mental disabilities are not discriminated against in various ways. Signed into law by a Republican President.
I could go on and on, but let’s also mention that their are government mandates that say you can’t kill someone else, take somebody else’s stuff or yell “fire” in a crowded theater. That last one isn’t just a mandate, it actually restricts the 1st Amendment.
I don’t understand this anti-government zealotry. I know Sarah Palin is taking advantage of it, but what I don’t understand is why so many people buy into it. We are so willing to blame government, and so slow to blame business. We are so eager to think that public employees have such a great deal, but slow to realize that it is the corporate culture that keeps that great deal from so many of us. We seem to be so afraid of hurting the economy that we vote for policies that do not benefit us. There was a compromise over raising taxes for the wealthiest Americans by 3%. Enough Americans thought that a 3% increase in a few peoples taxes would actually hurt the economy substantially.
If we continue to assault the poor, and middle class, we will only harm America. Firefighters, police officers, and teachers aren’t getting rich, but they are providing the most essential services. We should remember that.