Lies and truth in Wisconsin

Published on Intrepid Report, (former Online Journal), by Walter Brasch, March 4, 2011.

Historian Thomas Carlyle said “a lie cannot live.” However, Mark Twain casually remarked, “It shows that he did not know how to tell them.”

More than a century later, newly-elected Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-dominated Wisconsin legislature have proven themselves to be “quick studies,” having learned how to tell whoppers about the working class and unions. Here are just a few.

LIE: The public workers’ pensions are what caused much of the financial crisis not just in Wisconsin but throughout the country. Gov. Walker has repeatedly said, “We’re broke … We don’t have any money.” 

FACTS: Wisconsin had a $120 million surplus when Walker came into office in January. Had the newly-elected Republican-dominated legislature in January not given about $140 million in special tax breaks (also known as “corporate welfare”) to business, the state could have had a surplus, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. About two-thirds of all Wisconsin corporations pay no taxes at all, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue … //

… LIE: The protestors are unruly, and should be arrested for violating the law.

TRUTH: The First Amendment gives people the right to assemble peacefully. There have been no arrests because there have been no crimes committed by the protestors. Further, when the governor and the Legislature demanded that protestors be thrown out of the state capitol, and not allowed to stay overnight, the chief of the Capitol Police refused to do so, believing the order was a violation of Constitutional rights. In contrast, Walker had actually considered, then rejected, the idea of planting troublemakers among the protestors—a “dirty trick” that dates back to the ’60s.

LIE: Public sector union workers are overpaid.

TRUTH: A USA Today analysis, published March 1, shows that, on average, public service workers, with wages and benefits included, are paid about $2,500 more per year than those in the private sector. In Wisconsin, the difference is only about $1,800. However, government workers usually are “older and substantially better educated than private sector workers,” according to researchers Robert Pollin and Jeffrey Thompson, professors of economics at the University of Massachusetts. But, again contrary to the lies spewed by the anti-worker Rabid Right, individual union workers, when compared to the same criteria as private sector workers, actually earn 4 percent less income, according to the Center for Economic Policy Research. In Wisconsin, public sector union workers actually earn 4.8 percent less total compensation, according to research published in February by the Economic Policy Institute. One statistic stands out. “The average member of AFSCME, our largest public-sector union, earns less than $45,000 a year,” says author/journalist Bill Press, “and retires after a career in public service with a whopping pension of $19,000 per year.”

LIE: Public service union workers are lazier than non-unionized private sector workers.

TRUTH: Strong labor unions generally have higher productivity, according to independent research done by Harley Shalen of the University of California, because there is less turnover, better worker communication, better work conditions, and a better-educated workforce.”
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(Walter Brasch, an award-winning syndicated columnist and author of 17 books, is a former newspaper and magazine writer/editor and tenured full professor of mass communications. You may contact him by email).

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