Am I alone in finding the Wisconsin Democrats who have been AWOL anything but democratic? Sure, they weren't doing anything illegal like soldiers who go absent without leave. But that's a legalism that makes little difference here. What counts is that these Democrats refuse to join their Republican colleagues in an effort to sort out how the state might be brought to its economic senses.
Just think of it like a household where enormous debts have accumulated because some members have spent and committed for future payment way more than the family resources and now something needs to be done so as to put the family back on some kind of manageable budget, which will entail reducing allowances and restricting what can be spent on food, household goods, entertainment, education and the rest. So some of the family call a meeting to discuss just how this should be accomplished but, alas, half of them refuse to show.
Except in Wisconsin it's worse. In a household the few members who do stay to try to deal with the situation are usually authorized to make decisions without those who refuse to take part but in Wisconsin the rules of the process make this approach impossible – a quorum is required to do anything at all.
Now I believe those who take advantage of this and block the work by going AWOL are not serving their constituents properly at all. Because, remember, you cannot get blood out of a turnip. The coffers are empty. The only alternatives are to default or to impose such high taxes that it will kill Wisconsin's economy – unemployment will increase, investments will vanish, shops and firms will close by the droves. And who wins? It is the Democrats who seem to have only one objective, namely, not to be legally associated with making cuts that will impact public workers. Why? Because by their lights the constituents are too stupid to realize that, well, you cannot get blood from a turnip! So these citizens will not see the effort to make cuts as a means to save at least some elements of the system, to make substantial retirement payments still possible. No. If you just reduce these retiree's payments, they will certainly retaliate by voting you out of office.
It is at this point that one can raise the question, where is there some leadership around here? Why don't the Democrats come back and teach their constituency some elementary accounting, like that one needs to makes cuts when one has no funds with which to keep paying the hefty pensions. Indeed, this is one of the more reasonable roles of politicians, to explain public finance to voters instead of to keep promising to deliver what cannot be delivered!
But the Democrats have chosen another path, at least for a long period until finally the Republican colleagues managed to come up with a few adjustments. As reported in The Washington Post,
"In Ohio, Republican lawmakers agreed to modify a bill that would have banned collective bargaining, allowing state workers to negotiate on wages. Michigan's GOP governor offered to negotiate with public employees rather than create political gridlock. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) called on GOP lawmakers to abandon their "right to work" bill that would have made it a misdemeanor for an employer to require workers to become or remain members of a labor union.
"Even in Wisconsin – where more than 60,000 demonstrators have camped out at the Capitol for the past week to protest a budget plan by Gov. Scott Walker (R) to end collective-bargaining rights for public employees – Republicans and Democrats took a small but significant step toward resolving their clash…."
It was about time. What is still a mystery is just how all these phony obligations to public workers, obligations that were known as impossible to fulfill from the git-go, seem acceptable to make in the first place. If you work for me and my budget goes to a certain level but you demand I pay you a lot, is it not fraud for me to promise that I will pay you way beyond it? How come something like that isn't the focus of the debate? Why is it even permissible to make such promises? It would seem to me even illegal to do so, no?
But it looks like politicians are held to a far lower standard of negotiation than we ordinary citizens are when we deal with one another. And the Democrats in many states would appear to be willing to corrupt their precious democracy itself so as to try to avoid the problems with their evidently reckless public finance policies. But then they have corrupted the idea of limited government all along, so this isn't a stretch for them.