The hubris defense

There is quite a brouhaha that started in Wisconsin and similar events have also appeared in other states. It is typified by extreme filibuster tactics such as physical departure to avoid a quorum, protests and demonstrations, and a whole lot of rationalizing. One representative even said such action was necessary, you need a bit of blood in the streets, to show what’s right.

Invictus asks Who’s Breaking the Bank in Wisconsin? is another attempt to rationalize a specific point of view that can provide a few lessons for the critical reader.

The first indicator is that of problem definition. The fact that it centers on public employees is fairly well accepted. After that, it becomes a matter of whether or not public employees should be allowed to unionize. That latter matter is expressed as providing local governments the power to manage their employees for best budget performance or employee rights to unionize or union busting.

You can see that the problem definition is one of the first things Invictus obfuscates as he digs up data regarding participation in unions without segregation between public and private. That is then compounded by citing salary comparisons that include only public employees without regard to private sector employee compensation. Toss in a few snide remarks and the result is the appearance of an unseemly and dishonest bias. His final affirmation of his point of view does not help.

Finally, I’d dare say that this budgetary problem seems to have crept up and taken most governors by surprise, as evidenced by the fact that references to it (in State of the State speeches) skyrocketed over the course of one short year, going from only 20 mentions (of 44 speeches) to 33 (of 42 speeches) from 2009 to 2010. Even fewer — far fewer – have been mentioning “Pensions/OPEBs” (Other Post-Employment Benefits). Have they just not been paying attention? If I didn’t know better, I’d swear it smells a bit political.

Of course it is political! That is why it is all about public employees and laws regarding their employment and governmental budgets. What Invictus overlooks is the economic situation of the last couple of years. When the property tax base took a nosedive and unemployment doubled, the hit on local government budgets was tremendous. The time frame Invictus notes is about right for the action time line as politicians respond to circumstances.

As always, when someone comes up with the idea of trying to set you straight on the facts of a complex issue, take care because the odds are often pretty good they are trying to sell you a bill of goods.

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