Welcome to President Obama’s bizarro-world America, where public servants are quickly becoming our public masters. Wisconsin public school teachers have effectively declared a strike against the taxpayers and their own students, demanding benefits that most of the public they profess to serve are not afforded.
These teachers, many of whom fraudulently claimed a sick day on the taxpayers’ dime to protest Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to balance the state budget, effectively declared a strike that forced the closure of several schools. Not only did they abandon their students - except those poor kids they rounded up as pawns in their protest - they also abandoned any claims that their motivation is “for the children.”
The average annual total compensation for a Milwaukee public school teacher is $100,005. That’s not a typo - $100,005 per year - $56,500 in salary and an amazing $43,505 in benefits, paid for by nurses, mechanics, secretaries and other hardworking people who don’t get their summers off.
Our redistributor in chief, Mr. Obama, has referred repeatedly to families earning $250,000 or more annually as “millionaires and billionaires” in his effort to target their success. So here’s where the bizarro world begins. Surely of all those Wisconsin teachers, some must be married to each other. And if $100,005 - or $200,010 per couple - is the average compensation, surely some of those couples must have crossed onto the wrong side of Mr. Obama’s $250,000 line between good and evil. By the president’s definition, such people would be millionaires and billionaires.
The hypocrisy doesn’t stop there. Mr. Obama may pay lip service to reducing the deficit, but he proposed a $3.73 trillion budget that would increase the national debt by $14 trillion over the next decade. Meanwhile, Mr. Walker took courageous steps to balance his state’s budget, and Mr. Obama responded by mobilizing his political machine, including the Democratic National Committee, to block the effort. Why? Because the government itself, on the backs of private-sector taxpayers, has grown so large, it has become its own constituency, and public employee unions have become not only a voting bloc but an engine of more government growth.
We’ve lost touch with reality in regard to these public-employee unions. Leaving aside for now the debate of benefit versus harm of unions in general, at least when private-sector union members strike, they do so to claim part of the profits they themselves helped create. Public-employee unions, on the other hand, create no such profits; their strike, therefore, is against the taxpayer. Private unions increase the costs of the goods and services they produce, of course, but at least the American consumer has the option not to purchase them. The American taxpayer, on the other hand, cannot opt out of tax increases resulting from public-employee unions. This is why public-employee unions were unthinkable for decades. Even the grand New Dealer himself, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, once wrote, “The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
Mr. Obama recently has taken a fancy to another president, Ronald Reagan, even going so far as to refer to himself as “the Gipper.” When Reagan was faced with the illegal strike of government-employee air-traffic controllers against the American taxpayers, he stood with the taxpayers and fired all 11,000 strikers. He imposed a lifetime ban against rehiring any of the strikers and even dismantled their union. Mr. Obama is no Reagan. Instead, Mr. Obama brushed aside the plight of the taxpayers and joined the picket line. In the struggle between the government and the people, Mr. Obama has chosen the government. Battle lines have been clearly drawn. Democrats are the party of the government, and Republicans are the party of the people.
America is watching Wisconsin closely because, while Mr. Walker’s proposals are modest, the stakes are enormous, and the same battle is brewing in other states. We’ve seen protesters by the thousands, a capital under siege and a president enter the fray. We’ve even seen wayward Democratic state senators cowering under their beds at a Best Western hotel in Rockford, Ill., to block democracy and protect their big-government machine. The implications of this struggle go well beyond one state’s budget or even the role of unions. This battle cuts right to the heart of America.
Inherent in this struggle are the same choices our Founding Fathers had to make more than 230 years ago. What should be the size and scope of our government? Will we recommit ourselves to the limited government and individual liberty that has made America the most prosperous nation in human history, or will we abandon the American revolution and sacrifice our liberty on the altar of an ever-growing government? Ultimately, will the government serve the people or will the people serve the government?
Mr. Walker deserves the support of every American who understands the economic importance and even moral imperative of balancing our budgets. These decisions are never easy, but the cruelest fate of all would be the financial collapse of our states and our nation because of runaway, unsustainable spending. Mr. Obama should try balancing the federal budget instead of dedicating his time and resources to blocking state governors who are trying to balance theirs.
Dr. Milton R. Wolf, a Washington Times columnist, is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist and cousin of President Obama’s. He blogs daily at miltonwolf.com.