In an interview with the Associated Press, Scott Walker proposed stripping nearly all government workers of their collective bargaining rights. And as a warning shot across the bow, he told Wisconsin reporters Friday that he’s alerted the National Guard ahead of any unrest, or in the event that state services are interrupted. Under his plan, which he’ll include in his forthcoming budget proposal, most state workers would no longer be able to negotiate for better pensions or health benefits or anything other than higher salaries, which couldn’t rise at a quicker pace than the Consumer Price Index.
We used to have a simple social bargain in this country: government jobs were for people who would accept a slightly lower-than-market salary in return for job security and good (but not great) benefits. Since that bargain was struck, healthcare costs exploded, and corporations stopped providing pensions. What once looked like decent, middle-class benefits now look like “Cadillac” plans.
Any reasonable person looking at this state of affairs would conclude that the standing of the middle class has declined in the past few years. The functional, reasonable response would be to work to restore affordable middle class retirement and healthcare benefits. Instead, Republicans want to draw horns and a tail on government employees because they’re the last group who are getting what everyone in the middle class used to take for granted. It’s a simple case of scapegoating and indirection and, as usual, it’s working quite well.