Yesterday I spoke with Wisconsin Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (along with my Breitbart colleague Mike Flynn, who was visiting St. Louis). This grassroots mom and cancer survivor is in the fight of her life, under attack by labor groups who want to recall her because the reforms she enacted with Governor Scott Walker are working.
"I've never seen people so attacked for doing their jobs," I said to her.
"We have terrific public employees here, but it's the big union bosses that we are really concerned about, wrestling control of our government back from we the people, we the parents!" she replied. "These big union bosses they want to put parents in the backseat and they want to drive."
An important distinction, as noted by Flynn, is that the union bosses themselves aren't generally teachers. Their income comes from the forced dues collected from teachers across Wisconsin. It's a distinction Kleefisch doesn't want lost.
"This isn't about folks who are forced to join a union, this is about the big bosses that tend to be even out of state, not even in the state of Wisconsin that are pulling strings from New York City, from Washington DC, and Chicago, trying to determine the outcome of an election in Wisconsin," says Kleefisch.
"They understand that this is about their survival, this is about the continued effort to siphon money out of the dues of the folks who dutifully pay their union dues that may not agree with the political candidates that their dues and union are backing. The fact is what Governor Scott Walker and I did, and our legislature as well, was give folks the opportunity to choose whether they wanted to be in a union or not. That's what being an American is, having the right to pick what your destiny is going to be. Pursuit of happiness in your own way is the American way, and it is now officially the Wisconsin way. And saving taxpayers' money is officially the Wisconsin way, too."
"The recession hurt, says Kleefisch. "And the taxpayers who were being seriously pinched said, 'Hey, guys, you need to do this without raising taxes. You need to fix this $3.6 billion dollar budget deficit without raising taxes.' And so we did. We did it. We did what the people asked and this is what we're facing because of it."
Wisconsin has since saved $848 million dollars for state and local governments. As Kleefisch notes, they've seen fewer teacher layoffs as opposed to previous years, fewer cuts to extra curricular subjects, all due to reforms, and teachers are now able to have their efforts awarded with merit pay.
Those reforms saved millions for the state and saved job loss for the talented younger teachers who were often on the chopping block because they were the last hired--they stopped teacher job loss due to budgetary issues, period. The result is that they reduced the budget deficit, saved the state millions, improved education, and they did it all without raising taxes or cutting teacher jobs.
Kleefisch makes the point of verbally underscoring the importance of saving Walker, the leader of this first generation of reform governors. Walker is nationally known as a result, but Kleefisch as a result her battle risks being lost in the shuffle.
"We also need to make sure we keep his best partner in the LG's office," Kleefisch says.
Imagine Walker leading with a lieutenant governor fighting him from within? He could not continue to be as successful. While Kleefisch is polling about even with labor's candidate, it's not good enough considering hers is now a high-profile race for an office in which her performance has been outstanding. She's tight on cash because every dime of Republican money is going towards shoring up Walker against Big Labor's $80 million dollar war chest. The need to protect Walker is a necessary one, but the downside is that nothing is left over, not for Kleefisch and not for the four state Republican legislators also being recalled, which is important because the balance of power in Wisconsin's senate leans Republican, but a single labor victory could jeopardize it. If Walker goes, the state senate will most certainly go blue, and with elections a few months afterward, so goes the entire state legislature.
The Obama campaign needs a victory in Wisconsin--even one--to use as an accomplishment from which to campaign. His stimulus failed; the "recovery summer" never happened; gas prices are higher on his watch than they were on Carter's; scandals like Fast and Furious are plaguing the administration; there isn't a singular victory he can use to restore hope in his candidacy. It's a campaign of hopelessness. That's why the Wisconsin race is just as (some say even more) important as the presidential race.
Every other governor--including New York's Andrew Cuomo, as Flynn notes--is watching Wisconsin. If Wisconsin keeps moving forward with reforms, other governors will most certainly follow. If this 7% of the overall workforce succeeds in stunting the first generation of reform politicians in a recall election, the hopes for similar reforms in other states will be dashed.
This is why it's important for you to GET interested in what happens in Wisconsin. It may be Wisconsin, but tomorrow it could be your state. If you'd like to help Kleefisch fight back against the out-of-state millions being spent to defeat her, she could use it. You can do so here. Another important thing you can do is to share the link to this story with five people. Talk about it in coffee shops. Call your local radio stations, write your local newspapers. Wisconsin needs our help. Will you answer the call?