The trouble with Milfred Where to begin?

Scott MilfredWe see over the weekend that Scott Milford, State Journal chief editorialist, has set out another nice barrel of burning tires. That is to say, he has editorialized again. He apparently cannot be stopped.

He was off to a good start by observing that ramming a new, anti-union, right-to-work bill through the legislature would “distract and divide” us once again. (But wait, isn’t that kind of the idea, the intention? Distract-and-divide works as an effective, if cynical, political strategy. It always has.)

Amazingly you can read only as far as Milfred’s second sentence before seeing him go off the rails, first by glossing over the cynical beauty of distract-and-divide, and then by echoing the bad faith talking-point. Here’s the whole second sentence:

Their hasty decision is sure to distract and divide, with little benefit to the economy and jobs.

Now what is that at the end? He’s repeating the GOP spin — namely, that right-to-work is intended to boost the economy and jobs. It’s not. It’s another bad faith argument (like voting restrictions to stop “voter fraud”, or new abortion clinic rules “to protect women’s health”).

Like the first round of union-busting, this latest is really intended to knee-cap union workers for their bad habit of supporting Dems. And intended also as a payoff to their most deep-pocketed and ideologically right-wing donors.

What’s really sad here is that Milford doesn’t even acknowledge that further union-busting could (we would argue will) harm Wisconsin’s economy by putting downward pressure on wages. That question isn’t even raised, or seemingly, imagined.

But let’s move on, as Milford does… His main point being there’s no reason to rush… except that leaders in the Senate and Assembly want it done before opposition really gets organized. Which is true. OK, Milfred’s momentarily back on track.

Oh, but wait. Then there’s this

On its face, the measure is reasonable. Workers shouldn’t have to join and give money to unions if they don’t want to.

What in the world is he saying? There’s a whole family of similar arguments that just don’t stand up:

  • I have no children, so I shouldn’t have to pay for schools
  • I’m a pacifist, so I shouldn’t have to pay for the military

Of course, schools and soldiers need a broad base of funding, and frankly that funding needs to be compelled, coerced if you like, or it just won’t work. It’s the same with unions. Voluntary dues is just not going to work.  It’s why groceries stores insist on payment, not just voluntary donations.

And what does he mean, “On its face, the measure is reasonable”? Where does this come from? Imagine a lawyer showing up in court, pointing to his client, and saying, “Look at him. He’s clearly innocent,” and then resting his case. That is not professional-grade work. How does such silliness make it into print? Does Milfred have an editor, a minder? What’s the role of the State Journal “editorial board”? Do they read this stuff before it goes to publication? It’s hard to believe that all four of them would approve, “On its face, the measure is reasonable. Workers shouldn’t have to join and give money to unions if they don’t want to.”

But let’s move on, because Milford has more:

When state Republicans approved Act 10, they could point to union excess in government that made it harder to balance budgets and improve schools. Public-sector unions were strongly influencing the election of public officials who then negotiated union contracts.

Is there truth to this? A little. The public unions with many thousands of members did have some influence come election time. But it wasn’t outsized. The state workers were getting fairly skimpy raises and even reluctantly accepting work furloughs. You’d expect them to have influence, that’s fair, but they weren’t that powerful.

Still, compared with even worse-off workers, the public workers could be, and were, painted as doing too well. This was the divisive strategy employed by the gov and his party (too-often unchallenged in the general media) during the Act 10 period.

Meanwhile, you know who was really cleaning up? It was the people who are always powerful — extremely wealthy individuals, corporations, and business lobbies. It wasn’t the teachers or the prison guards. And currently it’s not the private construction and manufacturing workers. Milfred, as he does so often, has missed the big story even as it continues day after week after month after year.


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