Friday, January 17, 2014

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

It is not a deep, dark secret that I am not all that keen on Mary Burke.  And I say that even as it is breaking that Kathleen Vinehout is expected to announce that she is not going to formally enter the race.

I had concerns about her even when she first announced.  I did not sense that she was very labor friendly.

I was, and still am, concerned that she spent $120,000 on a school board seat.  She spent more than ten times what her opponent - a good labor man - to buy that seat.  And while in that office, her claims to fame has been to invest millions into a charter school and to vote against giving teachers a raise.

My concerns were slightly eases when she finally came out in an interview with Judith Davidoff of the Isthmus saying she opposed Act 10 and wanted to restore collective bargaining.  Sadly, that was extremely short-lived when she betrayed the fact that she either doesn't get or doesn't care about the damage Act 10 has caused:
You've said you're opposed to Act 10. What specifically would you do to try to roll that back?

I'd want to restore collective bargaining rights, and I'd have to work with the Legislature to make that happen.

So you'd look to repeal Act 10?

I think there is a difference, and what I'd look at is restoring collective bargaining.

Are there any parts of ACT 10 that you agree with?

Yes, I do believe [state employees] paying a fair share of health care and pension costs is something we needed in order to be able to balance the budget.
This is a very unfortunate position for her to take for a couple, three of reasons.

First of all, Burke fails to acknowledge that if the budget at that time was even truly out of balance, it's not because the workers were receiving luxurious benefits.  If there was a hole in the budget, it was caused when Walker and his fellow corporate stooges spent hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and other giveaways to their campaign donors.

Secondly, as was discussed in Forbes by Rick Ungar at the time when Walker was dropping the bomb of Act 10 on the state, taxpayers actually contribute nothing to the cost of the pensions public employees receive.  The reason for this is because public sector employees traditionally were paid less than private sector employees, deferring that money to their pensions.

In other words, private and public sector workers were being paid about the same.  The difference came in the fact that public sector workers looked further ahead and put some of their pay at the back end of their careers.

This was backed up by a report from the Economic Policy Institute which clearly showed (on page 7) that public sector workers did receive better benefits in exchange for lower wages:

click on image to embiggen

Thirdly, Burke ignores the fact that when Walker dropped his economic bomb, it caused hundreds of millions of dollars to leave the state's economy, which in turned caused a great downturn in the state's economy as well as months and months of straight job losses:

To put it as succinctly as I can, what Walker did was take the money from the public sector workers to give to his campaign donors and other benefactors.  That cut in pay, not to mention the thousands of jobs lost when he cut fund shares with local governments, meant that public sector workers had to make cut backs of their own.  That causes a ripple effect as private sector businesses - especially for non-essential things like restaurants and the such - to cut back on their own staff if not close altogether.

When Burke says that she is not willing and/or interested in finding a way to reverse this, it makes me question how serious she is about fixing the economy or bringing good paying jobs back to the state.

Last week, despite her less than thrilling attitude towards workers, she went to the Labor Temple in Madison to ask for the unions' help. Ruth Conniff of The Progressive reported on this, adding a new twist to this saga:
At the Labor Temple, Burke's got a polite reception. The first question was about how she could square her assertion that she supports collective bargaining with her support for Walker's move to make union members help pay for their benefits.

Burke told an anecdote about a friend who worked for the state in information technology. After Act 10, she said, he felt so disrespected that he quit his job —and is now making 50% more in the private sector. This proves, Burke said, that public employees are not overpaid, despite the Republican stereotype.

“The reason I support contributions to health care and other benefits is because the public should be aware of compensation—that public employees are not overcompensated," she said. "It’s an issue in the public mind, if public employees have something they do not, they think they’re over-compensated."

Instead, she implied, public employees should be paid more but should contribute to their benefits in the same way private-sector employees do.

That prompted a bit of polite push-back from a police officer in the group, who pointed out that public employees gave up pay raises in negotiations in order to protect their benefits. "I feel the rules of the game are being changed at the end of the game," he said. Burke nodded.
That is one of the most convoluted things I've ever read, but if I am understanding Burke correctly, she is acknowledging that public sector workers are not being overcompensated, but to show the public that they are not being overcompensated they need to be be undercompensated.

To add to the confusion, she says that public sector workers should be paid more, even as she was saying people think they are already overcompensated.  Er, shouldn't the decision on how the compensation is paid out be part of the collective bargaining Burke claims she is a fan of?

In summary, while Burke has said a couple of good things regarding the mess created by Act 10, she has also said things that should cause great concern.  Even more troubling is that her actions, which speak louder than words, are not very reassuring either.

Although it's extremely unlikely, I would still like to see a true progressive get into the race.  Because if it came down to Scott Walker versus Mary Burke, as much as I'm trying to like her, I can't say that I would vote for her.  I know that there are many that would chant the "anyone but Walker mantra," but Chris Abele has shown just how foolish that argument can be.  Abele is just as bad as Walker is, and in many aspects, is even worse.

Either Burke has to get her act together very quickly, the Democrats come up with another, more populist candidate or we all need to brace ourselves for another four years of Walker's corruption and maleficence.


  1. I sincerely hope that Labor expends all of it's financial and volunteer resources on Senate and Assembly races as I don't think Burke's wishy washy stances will swing many voters. Walker will be running from the extreme right while Burke will be running from the extreme middle. Good luck with that.

    1. With you on this Gareth.

      Expending resources on Burke in terms of cash or time, to end up with a Senate and Assembly that could overturn any (seeming unlikely at the moment) potential gubernatorial veto and continue to hobble the state, has me asking how best to oust my R Senator Lasee and two R Assembly seats come Nov.

      To Burke and Tate and Progressives United, none of you have convinced me you deserve my vote.

      My thoughts at Blogging Blue here:

  2. Jon Erpenbach!! I think he could do it, not sure why he's not.

  3. Burke can't win. Draft Mark Harris.

  4. I could support a "defeat Walker" campaign but I can't support an "elect Burke" campaign. Would love to see an Independent run. Really sick and tired of the parties. Power to the people!

  5. Maybe burke and tate are in league with walker to help him get reelected.

    Just maybe ???

  6. Just ask Sen Chris Larsen to run for the Gov job.

  7. United you may win but divided you will be handing Scottie his dreams on a silver plate. Nobody is perfect but surely at her worst she is better than what you have got? Time to put on the big boy pants. Suck it up cupcakes

    1. Better than Scottie, you have anything solid to base that statement on? Ms Burke's holding the line on taxes and spending, i.e. which easily translates to continued corporate tax breaks and continued austerity for the rest of us. Not from around here apparently are you? Telling us what WE need to do. You planning on putting on your big boy pants and coming to WI and doing any of the work. Talk is pretty cheap, cupcake. We have enough, "embracing the suck," already with our "representatives." That's good enough for you, apparently.

    2. See Larry, that type of attitude has to go. I want Dems TO WIN AND GET THINGS DONE WHEN THEY DO. And milquetoast, "embrace the suck" candidates don't do either of those things.

      Don't tell us to get in line and stop blindly waving pom-poms. Give casual voters a reason TO WANT TO VOTE FOR BURKE. Not enough of that has happened yet.

  8. She did say fair shair. What that means has not been defined by Burke. We will never go back to the old ways but we can elect Burke to stop the right wing extremism.

  9. The more I hear from Burke, the more convinced I become that she is, frankly, not that intelligent. This statement alone is naive, simplistic, and just plain clueless: "I do believe [state employees] paying a fair share of health care and pension costs is something we needed in order to be able to balance the budget."

    She is an awful politician and Walker and the Right Wing machine will just dismantle her as a viable candidate. It will be almost too easy. We really need another candidate to step up.

    1. This statement is right where I'm at concerning Burke.

  10. You guys realize that the other choice is Scott Walker, right? Just checking.

  11. If you weren't already crazy, Walker sure as hell drove you crazy. I look forward to reading your deep thoughts in November about how either Burke lost because she didn't agree with you or how she won despite not agreeing with you. You ought to be thanking the deity of your choice that we have a viable candidate. Read the GOP press releases: they want to give you and your fellow knee-biters a megaphone. Think about what that means.

  12. What upsets me is how I feel she is being forced on us. I never heard of her until she decided to run and sure I am not alone. What I am hearing now I don't like..we have so many worthwhile people out there, surely there is someone else to step up

  13. Look - would she be elected if she came out and said - no - I want to back to the good old days?

    Sorry about KV. now get behind Burke or perish.

    Maybe that's what Capper wants- I mean - his material would dry up - no?

    1. Depends on your definition of good old days, fair pay, re-establish solid manufacturing jobs, have strong union representation for labor, environmental protection?

      Have no clue what you mean by Capper's material drying up.

      Or just as easily get behind Burke and still perish. Campaign being supervised and run by and Obomba operative and a former DPW executive director, and you think they will deviate one iota from the corporate sell-out national party norm? Flipping the state senate is more important the just electing the executive. Priorities, none easy.

    2. Well - find another candidate who has the balls to run against Walker. Put up or shut up.

    3. "Get behind Burke, or perish." Oh, if she happens to be the candidate, I'll vote for her. But I'm betting your job relies a lot more on Burke winning than ours does.

      With that in mind, I'd be listening a lot more to our concerns if I was you, kid. Because you won't get much of a chance to correct a "I voted for it before I was against it," type of waffle when you go against the RW propaganda machine.

      And since people like you think you don't have to work for my votes, I might just decide to follow nonquixote's plan and work downticket. After all, Burke's got her own money to run on, right?

    4. The state is divided, you get arrested for singing but the elected officials go on a taxpayer funded tour of the state to ask big money donors "how can we love you more?" , if you give enough money you can write legislation that directly benefits you, only a few people in WI can actually decide on who represents them thanks to the most unethical redistricting in the country, we have waged a war on women, and public schools have been decimated, ESPECIALLY rural public schools. Any economic indicator you can use has WI ranked in the 40's and the Governor fell woefully short of his jobs promise which he used to get elected.

      Yes why in the world would we want to move away from that stellar record. What the hell is Capper thinking?

  14. And yet, he has no illusions of an alternative to Burke emerging in the primary.

    "Mary is going to be our nominee," he said. "And I think we should simply accept that."

  15. I was previously a moderate republican, and made the mistake of voting for Walker once. Then I worked to recall him and volunteered for Barrett. I am in the "I'll vote for anyone but Walker" camp, but as a 29+ year public employee it is difficult to get excited about Burke with her perpetuating the Walker myth of public employees being overcompensated before Act 10. That really bugs me. But it bugs me less than Scott Walker and his ilk and the damage they have done to our fine state.

  16. Ever wonder if the whole thing started years ago with the healthcare act when employers like Menards (Menards had horrible health plans to begin with I hear, way high in expense) are now going to have to offer a good health coverage product instead of substandard over priced as they had?

    It all comes down to the owners of the country, Burke is simply one of the heirs of a one of these owners.

    One cannot simply rely on the interviews or "real world business" experiences these candidates spout, one MUST investigate the entire family and friends circle if one is to truly understand the influences of a candidate.

    Well to do white woman has nothing better to do than run for public office. Kind of like Walker, the son of a preacher man, only preachers kids aren't usually well to do....

  17. Like I said - find another person with the balls and money to run against Walker. It's going to take both to beat Walker. I suspect the whiners in this discussion won't even vote because KV didn't run. Capper - we know you despise Burke and won't lift a finger to elect her. Are you just projecting or what.

  18. Sounds like many of you are just throwing in the towel.

  19. First of all, to you people using Anonymous, Kindly differentiate yourselves with an a, b or c to make it easier to follow along in this comment format. Too difficult a request?

    @ 7:16 AM: To throw in the towel, one has to have begun supporting a particular candidate (in the context of the subject we are discussing here) before giving up on her or him. If you actually read the previous comments, there are factors mentioned that hint at tactics of staunching the current Republican regime that don't depend solely on electing Burke as necessarily the most effective strategy to put a wrench in the gears of the R machine.

  20. A vote for a non-existing "other" on a state wide election would send a message of "unhappy" populace.

    Electing something to office that isn't even in existence would be more effective than any of these money players.

  21. Three themes. 1) Burke is a less than ideal, less than dynamic candidate. 2) The alternative Democrat is non-existent and will very likely remain that way. 3) She's running against Scott Walker.

    And to equate Scott Walker with Burke is delusional. Seriously delusional.