On June 1, I boarded a plane from Colorado Springs to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at the invitation of the citizens group Americans for Prosperity. I was one of 75 people from across the country who gathered in Wisconsin to show support for the policies of Gov. Scott Walker, who was fighting off an attempted recall election pushed and bankrolled by his state’s public-employee unions.
What had the governor done to anger the unions? He had the audacity to challenge — and to attempt to rein in — their back-breaking cost to Wisconsin taxpayers.
Even after a devastating recession in which so many Wisconsinites and other Americans lost their jobs and homes, the state government’s union employees have continued to demand top-dollar salaries and benefits, including budget-busting pensions. And the taxpayers have had to bear the burden.
That is why Gov. Walker led the charge for a bill in the Wisconsin legislature last year that limited collective-bargaining powers for most government workers. And that is why the unions were as mad as hornets. To say the least, I was happy to travel to Wisconsin and take a stand for this courageous governor who was standing up for ordinary taxpayers.
After we arrived, we were divided into two teams of walkers and phone-bank operators. My assignment was as a walker along with nine teammates, going door-to-door and handing out information and talking to homeowners.
We knocked on more than 1,000 doors that afternoon, and it was an eye-opener. People we met — of diverse political views — wondered why they even were having a recall election. There was no crime committed; they saw it as a big waste of their tax dollars. The people we met were happy that we had come from all over the country to support the conservative principles of their governor. It was David vs. Goliath — the big unions against ordinary taxpayers.
Of course, we weren’t spared the trademark union tactics, either. The unions were walking the same precincts as we were, and if no one was home, they would remove the information we left at residents’ front doors. We probably should have anticipated it; by comparison, we’ve got it pretty good on the campaign trail here in Colorado.
The election was watched by the entire country as an early indicator of the nation’s mood — and of Barack Obama’s chances for re-election to the White House. Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group built around many of the same principles as the tea party, deserves a great deal of credit for rallying the entire nation’s taxpayers, including a team of activists like me, on Gov. Walker’s behalf.
Governor Walker went into the election with strong support from Republican conservatives, tea party supporters and a majority of independent voters, and it showed. As we all now know, he won the election decisively — despite the best efforts of big, organized labor to defeat him. Despite the hoopla and hysteria stirred up by union organizers and their sympathizers among many liberal national media, the silent majority, aided by efforts like Americans for Prosperity’s, came through in the end.
Obviously, I was heartened by Gov. Walker’s victory, and I now wonder if it just might have been worth the cost and political upheaval. After all, it made clear to the whole nation that middle America supports sensible policies like Gov. Walker’s. And it also sent a signal to our Deficit Spender in Chief that Americans want to see government go on a diet — and that the president’s job is on the line.
Yet, the election also was unnecessary because it turned out Wisconsinites didn’t really buy the need for a recall in the first place.
In that light, it was another blow to taxpayers — delivered by the unions that had demanded the election. The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board estimates the direct cost of the election to taxpayers was $9 million, and that’s not counting the tens of millions raised by the candidates’ campaigns. If you think that’s a waste of money in these tight times, you can thank the Democrats and their friends in Big Labor.
Ed Jones is a former state senator, El Paso County commissioner and a longtime Republican activist in Colorado Springs. Ed’s on KVOR-AM 740 radio in Colorado Springs. Learn more about him at www.theedjones.com