Wis. woes a learning experience

Posted Feb. 22, 2011, at 7:45 p.m.

The protester’s sign read “U2 4 Workes Rights.” I must admit until I saw that with 25,000 teachers and students and others around, I thought it was pathetic. I don’t know what a “Workes” is or are, but I think with that amount of educators around, one might have noticed something. If this is the level of education, we are in trouble.

The issue in Wisconsin is the governor trying to balance a budget with unfunded pension and other benefits for teachers and state workers. The government employees do not want to give anything and don’t want to have their bargaining rights curtailed in any way. This is now affecting all states, and is not a Democratic or Re-publican issue.

In Wisconsin, the teachers pay .2 percent to their pension and nothing to health care. The average salary without benefits tops $58,000 and with benefits is over $89,000. If you prorate the three months off every year, it comes to more than $105,000. I wish I had this deal.

The governor is asking for a 5.8 percent contribution to pension and a 12.8 percent contribution to benefits. I wish I had this deal. The only problem is that with the current retirees and these payments the states are bottoming out. These are unsustainable. States are seeing payouts that will more than triple the income from taxes in years to come, and because so many cans have been kicked down the road to date, there is no money left for anything. One of those states is Maine, and there is nothing left to kick down the road.

Obama said he was running on change. Why is he so dearly clinging to the past? The people who are instituting the change are the ones elected in November. And why is he sending his people from Organizing for America, his campaign people and the Democratic National Committee out to bus these people to protest not only at the Capitol but also at legislators’ homes? These are the same techniques used against the banks when they wanted to vilify them.

These are state issues. New York, California, New Jersey, these are all states that have come to the same conclusion as Wisconsin and are watching this play out to know what they will be facing. Will Obama send his people there too? And the teachers who are so dedicated to teaching the children, why are they closing most of the schools in Wisconsin by doing this “sick out” on the streets? That’s dedication. This also is in violation of their union contract, which doesn’t seem to be of concern to their union. Per their contract, they can’t cause a school shutdown to protest.

This is a Reagan moment. They should all be fired. The graduating teachers last year and the year before can’t find the jobs they really desperately want, so there isn’t a shortage. This group in Wisconsin doesn’t seem to have any ethics. I wouldn’t want my kids in those schools.

I do not think that what is being asked of these teachers is outrageous; it isn’t even half of what the private sector contributes to their benefits. And how much more can the average taxpayer pay out with gas prices that obviously will hit over $4 per gallon this summer, and have you been to the supermarket lately?

For those who are looking for a cost of living increase next year, well, the story on that is gas and food aren’t included when they figure cost of living. The people are at the breaking point and the teachers, they want you to give some more. Don’t ask them for a dime.

This is not against all unions, the millworkers surely don’t have this package. This isn’t against teachers, there are some really great teachers, and there are some very bad teachers (whom we can’t get rid of). But when the belt has to get tightened, it includes everyone.

After watching this fiasco in Wisconsin, and thugs coming in to harass, and Democratic legislators leaving the state rather than doing what they are being paid to do, I must say, it has been a real learning experience.

Diane Walters is a retired government employee who lives in Bradley.

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