If you’re like me, you’ve been watching the protests in Madison, Wisconsin–and indeed throughout the Middle East and the world–with great interest and some fear and trepidation.
On the one hand it’s good to see people standing up for what they believe. On the other hand, the Madison protests in particular seem bullyish and quite deceptive–with teachers closing down the schools with faked sick notes and fourteen Democratic law-makers fleeing the state to shirk their legislative responsibilities.
For the protesters, their main justification seems to be that the end justifies the means.
But that principle only applies to despots, tyrants, or anarchists. It does not apply to Judeo-Christian-based republics, their ethics and manners.
Does that give us a hint of the meaning of Madison?
For those who haven’t been following this story, here’s a little background. The 2010 elections saw a large number of conservative governors, legislators, and representatives rise to leadership promising a return to fiscal sanity. Many of them were elected in states where the previous liberal leadership had run up huge budget deficits through unrestrained growth of government workers and services.
In Wisconsin, enter newly elected Governor Scott Walker who inherited a 3.6 billion dollar deficit from the out-going administration. As in many other states, the people elected him to reverse direction and deal with the budget problem caused by egregious spending.
Governor Walker remarked last week: “I’ve said all along the protesters have every right to be there, but I’m not going to let tens of thousands overload or overshadow the millions of people in Wisconsin, the taxpayers of the state, who want us to do the right thing and balance the budget,”
Walker decided to take his budget axe to the root of the problem: the unsustainable and unfair growth of government employee entitlements. He proposed having government workers:
- Pay twelve percent of their own health insurance costs. That seems reasonable.
- Pay five percent of their pensions. That seems fair too.
- Have some limitations on their collective bargaining agreements. (More on that later.)
The first two points are no-brainers. These are modest changes that are totally necessary. We are in a deep recession. People in the private sphere are struggling to make ends meet, and, in some cases, are making draconian cuts to their businesses and lifestyles to survive.
Shouldn’t government workers be asked to make some sacrifices too?
The average America believes so. That’s why deficit-reducing governors, legislators and representatives were swept into office in record numbers in November.
In fact, the problem is much bigger than just asking government workers to give a little. The truth is that times have changed radically in America over the past fifty years.
It might even be necessary to re-define “white collar” and “blue collar” workers.
For most of America’s history, white collar stood for the private sector professionals and business people who wore nice suits and made more money than farmers, factory workers and people in the trades. The blue collar workers were the lower rung of society who got dirty for a living.
How times have changed. Today, the white collar workers are the government folks (plus some professionals and business people). They wear the nice suits and work for a smorgasbord of agencies like the IRS, FAA, FDA, NSA, and thousands more. And today’s blue collar are the self-employed and small business owners who are being strangled by government regulations, fees, and rising taxes to pay for the salaries and benefits of the new government white collar class.
It’s the new American reality–and it’s a huge economic problem.
According to the generally liberal newspaper–USA Today–this growing discrepancy between the salaries of government white collars and private blue collars is exploding. Here’s their take:
“At a time when workers’ pay and benefits have stagnated, federal employees’ average compensation has grown to more than double what private sector workers earn, a USA TODAY analysis finds. Federal workers have been awarded bigger average pay and benefit increases than private employees for nine years in a row. The compensation gap between federal and private workers has doubled in the past decade.”
“Federal civil servants earned average pay and benefits of $123,049 in 2009 while private workers made $61,051 in total compensation, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The data are the latest available.”
“The federal compensation advantage has grown from $30,415 in 2000 to $61,998 last year.”
“What the data show:
•Benefits. Federal workers received average benefits worth $41,791 in 2009. Most of this was the government’s contribution to pensions. Employees contributed an additional $10,569.
•Pay. The average federal salary has grown 33% faster than inflation since 2000. USA TODAY reported in March that the federal government pays an average of 20% more than private firms for comparable occupations. The analysis did not consider differences in experience and education.
•Total compensation. Federal compensation has grown 36.9% since 2000 after adjusting for inflation, compared with 8.8% for private workers.”
USA Today’s number relate to the federal government work force. But the same escalation in state government entitlements–especially pensions–has followed the national curve.
At a basic level, the current battle in Madison boils down to the simple need of shrinking the size of government and its perks. It will soon spill over to many other American states that are also “government-heavy.”
It’s way past due.
Government service has been historically viewed in this nation as “public service”–a sacrifice one makes for less pay and benefits to “serve” his country. This concept comes directly from the Bible in Romans 13 where government is viewed as a “minister of God for good.” A minister is a servant. He’s not the boss, the wealthy owner, but rather the one who sacrifices for the greater good.
For over two hundred years, America kept to this wise political model.
But over the part few decades the power of government unions has changed all that. Instead of seeing government employment as a “service,” it is now viewed as a right that demands more money and higher benefits than those who pay the bills in the private sector.
Let’s talk about unions for a moment. I was a union member for a short time in my life, and I’m certainly not against the concept. The union movement was born during a time in which private business was neglectful of a number of basic human rights. The early unions helped correct that by encouraging and passing some good child labor laws and eventually the five day work week. I’m not sure that is biblical (six days in the Scripture norm), but it was a healthy step.
Unions helped balance the economic ledger in the early days of the Industrial Revolution.
However, today, unions have become a noose around the neck of business trying to compete in a global marketplace. With basic human rights issues settled decades ago, unions have become primarily a potent liberal political force–without the concurrence of members. They have gotten in bed with state and national lawmakers in raiding the government till for health services and pricey pensions that the average taxpayer cannot afford to underwrite.
Truth be told, union power and their demands are financially raping many state governments. Wisconsin and many other states are broke because the private sector has been forced to support out-of-control government growth and its associated costs.
Now to the controversial part. The union members are saying that the Wisconsin protests are not about paying their fair share of health care and pensions. They say it is about collective bargaining rights. But history is clear on this point: Government unions should not have collective bargaining rights. So said Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1940s and every president prior to him. Roosevelt believed government workers were servants of the people, and should never be put in the position where they can paralyze or shut the government down–as they doing in Wisconsin.
Private unions can collectively bargain–not government ones. They are essential to the smooth functioning of a civil society.
If you’re interested in the “facts” about the Wisconsin protests, click here for valuable information.
But there is a bigger meaning to the Wisconsin riots that are destined to hit other cash-strapped states. It is this: A battle is going on for the heart and soul of the American nation. It is a 230 year battle between the forces of liberty and those who look to government controls.
America began in liberty–essentially the first constitutionally-born Christian republic in the history of the world. America’s great experiment in liberty was the result of spiritual revivals, faith in God, morals in society, and godly principles in family life, economics and civil polity.
Over time, the forces of tyranny turned the American nation from a Christian republic to a Christian-based democracy; Then to a secular-based democracy; Following the election of Barack Obama–they were on the verge of changing the American nation into a secular-based social democracy with huge government overreach (programs and entitlements) and a great erosion of freedom.
But the people rose up in 2010. Step one in restoring the American heritage of liberty was the Tea Party movement. Step Two was the landslide November 2010 elections which included the election of Scott Walker as governor of Wisconsin.
We are now entering Step Three in the reformation process–the paring back of bloated governments and its restraints on American competitiveness, greatness and freedom.
Many battles lie ahead in various state capitals. In Washington, D.C., a revitalized House of Representatives is leading the way for federal reforms in the growth of Big Government. It will be a a test of wills, but the cause of liberty is worth fighting.
Step Four will be the 2012 national elections. We need a US president and administration that is committed to scaling back the crippling power of the Entitlement State. We also need a United States Senate that is willing to look at vital tax reform, a balanced budget, and dealing with the federal entitlement monsters of Social Security, Medicare, and Obamacare.
This is the meaning of the Madison protests.
Step Three has begun.
It is a fight for America’s future under God and his principles of freedom.
Will you pray and join the side of liberty?