Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Truth getting milked in Wisconsin showdown

Protestors demonstrating inside Wisconsin's Capitol.
Protestors demonstrating inside Wisconsin's Capitol.

Our colleagues at PolitiFact Wisconsin have been busier than, uh, badgers tracking what-all is getting said in the legislative standoff over a push by Republicans there to reduce unions’ collective-bargaining rights.

Democratic state senators have kept GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal from floor consideration by leaving the state, depriving the Senate of the quorum needed to take up the measure.

Their departure to Illinois hearkens to similar episodes in Texas. In 2003 Democratic legislators twice left the state in failed attempts to stop majority Republicans from redrawing the state’s U.S. House districts.

More than a dozen Truth-O-Meter articles have pinned down the Wisconsin facts.

A sampling:

--This week, a reporter asked Walker if the GOP move to limit union power was payback for Democrats’ pro-union efforts in the past. "It’s not a tit for tat," Walker responded. "The simple matter is I campaigned on this all throughout the election. Anybody who says they are shocked on this has been asleep for the past two years."

That’s False, turns out, because Walker did not go public with even the bare bones of his multi-faceted plans to sharply curb collective bargaining rights until after his election in November.

--A Wisconsin state senator, Lena Taylor, told a reporter Feb. 15: "The history of Hitler; in 1933, he abolished unions, and that’s what our governor is doing today."

The Milwaukee Democrat followed up two days later with a Twitter post saying: "LIKE HITLER in 1933, WALKER is busting unions."

Fair comparison?

Well, Hitler not only ended all collective bargaining, he abolished unions, seized their funds and sent their leaders to concentration camps. He did this by fiat, not with legislation. Walker has not suggested abolishing unions, though his proposal would prohibit some government workers from joining unions and curtail the collective bargaining rights of most public employees.

Unlike Hitler, Walker cannot order any of the changes; they would have to be approved by the Legislature, whose members were electedp in November. Taylor’s comparison is ridiculously extreme, rating Pants on Fire!

--MSNBC talk-show host Ed Schultz said the impact of Walker’s proposal to make state workers pay more for health and pension benefits would require far more than the 8 percent of an average worker’s salary--the percentage aired by a gubernatorial aide.

Schultz said on his Feb. 15 show: "People who earn $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 a year might have 20 percent of their income just disappear overnight."

While Schultz hedged a bit with "might," the implication was that Walker’s proposals would cut the income of large numbers of state workers by 20 percent.

No one associated with Schultz’s show came through with back-up information. And when various experts were asked for their breakdowns, the answers ranged from 6.8 percent to 11 percent. Even if the higher payments comprise 20 percent of the income of some employees, there’s no indication it will be that high on a wide scale, particularly for state workers earning as much as $50,000 per year. The rating: False.

Just posted: The first statement connected to the Wisconsin showdown rated True.