Anyone who has played pick-up basketball as a kid knows this familiar scenario: the ball owner’s team loses, he takes it too personally, and, in a huff, grabs his ball and goes home, preventing the other kids from playing. This, in essence, is what Democrats are trying to do in Wisconsin, where Republican governor Scott Walker has proposed a plan that would make public workers contribute more to their health plans and pensions, end government collection of union dues, allow workers to opt out of unions, and force unions to hold re-certification votes annually.
So just how bad are these changes? According to the New York Times, Walker’s proposal, which has significant support in the state’s Republican-led Senate, would force public workers to contribute 5.8% of their pensions (as opposed to the less than 1% they contribute today) and increase their health care plan contribution from 6% to 12.6%. Compare that to the non-federal public and private employer average of 30% health care contribution for family plans and 19% health care contribution for single plans. Pension comparisons are more difficult because of the 401(k) system the majority of private employers opt for, where the employee decides how much to put into his retirement fund (with or without employer matching).
While the changes to the government employee plans are stark, they still fall below national averages. The Democrats’ move to literally flee the state and hide out in hotels elsewhere is embarrassing. Just as it was with Republicans in the U.S. Senate filibustering to defeat the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, it is shameful for the elected Democrats of Wisconsin to shirk their duties just because they may not get their way.
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