Recall losses should prompt rethinking

In the world of business or military, a major failure, such as losing a battle or blowing a product launch, is cause for immediate and in-depth reassessment. Corrective actions follow so future outcomes avoid a repeat.

At least, that’s true for those outfits that have become “learning organizations.” Their “after-action reports” provide the platform for constructive improvements going forward.

In the political world, such as the incalculable defeat suffered by the Democrats and union leaders in Wisconsin last Tuesday, and to a lesser degree by the Republicans in losing control of the state senate, the surface reaction is to blame someone else: outside interests, media bias, tepid support from the national party, negative advertising, etc. The sound biters attempt to minimize the magnitude of the loss.

This time, though, the dimensions of the blow-out by Gov. Walker will cause deep soul-searching, and therein lies the possibility of some relief for the frustrated citizens of the state from the nasty polarization that has ruled the polity for more than a decade.

Wedge politics has wrought a lot of collateral damage. The fabric of our society has been ripped.

Sensing the disgust of the populace, some politicians in Wisconsin are calling for conciliation. Preachers are doing the same from their pulpits. Good. But it can’t be platitudes if the fabric is to be repaired. N

Gov. Walker invited Democrats to the governor’s mansion for burgers and brats. That’s a good start. The Dems should attend and take the beer.

The leaders on both sides need to set a more healthy tone. The insults, profanity and death threats need to be repudiated, dishonored and stopped. Only bipartisan respect can head off the gross incivility. Competition is OK; pig-headedness is not.

In addition to spiritual repair, there is the political reality that nothing will get done in the Capitol in the next half year without bipartisan collaboration. It is almost certain that he Democrats will run the state senate with a one-seat margin. Two rounds of recalls have added three seats to their ranks, so the Republicans can hardly claim an over-riding mandate.

The legislature doesn’t reconvene until January, following a round of legislative elections in November. But a special session on jobs creation could be be called in the interim.

The last session on jobs got off track with a host of right-wing bills. That is a non-starter this time around with the Democrats in charge of one house. There will be gridlock on the ideological issues from the right or left.

But bridges could be built on some major jobs issues by pro-growth politicians on both sides. Progress on one or two of them could provide a foundation for a working relationship, if not full healing.

The missing ingredient in putting together collaboration on job creation has been the pro-growth Democrats.

Left wing Democrats like Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison, a candidate for the U.S. senate, talk incessantly about standing up for “the middle class.” By that she means public employees, about 15% of the work force.

Her language and logic are painfully flawed. Most of the middle class is in the private sector and their American dream is a good job.

You can’t be anti-corporation across the board (even though the fat cats in the private sector deserve Baldwin’s attacks) and be serious about job creation. Corporations create jobs, and the great majority of business people are not fat cats.

You can’t push for more public spending without acknowledging that the taxes to pay such outlays come from the private sector, which means businesses.

Bill Clinton was a pro-business, pro growth Democrat. As such, he won elections.

Here are a few places where pro-growth Democrats could work with the GOP on behalf of of private sector job creation:

* Matching state funds for private early stage investments in new companies. There is bipartisan agreement that entrepreneurs create most of the new jobs.
* Real health care reform that adds benefits while cutting costs for state and local employers.
* Ditto for Medicaid and BadgerCare through a bipartisan request for a federal waiver.
* First steps toward a balanced state budget for 2013-2015, using honest (GAAP) accounting.
* A ferrous mining law that incorporates a transparent EMS — environmental management system — on the part of the mining company, but contains permit approval deadlines.

As for union leaders, they were the biggest losers Tuesday. Union rolls are plummeting. They have to be reconsidering their long-held adversarial posture in favor of pro-growth collaboration. Adversarial models just don’t work anymore. Resistance to change doesn’t either.

For example, they could seek profit sharing in private companies and drop their proclivity for grievances.

For another, they could help to find innovative solutions to benefit management in both the public and private sectors. Benefits can be preserved or improved without busting budgets.

The reality for union managers is that act 10 is here to stay for a number of years. The push-back on benefits, a necessary swing of the pendulum, can be turned into a positive outcome only with innovative solutions.

The wounds from the recall will be a long time healing and will be possible only then with reassessment and corrective action on both sides.