Teachers’ unions and representatives of every liberal interest group in the country may have taken over the streets of Madison for demonstrations, marches and speeches, but inside the Wisconsin governor’s mansion its chief tenant remains calm and resolute. The Badger State’s budget will be balanced, Gov. Scott Walker (R) assured The Heritage Foundation in a one-on-one interview. The stakes in Wisconsin are high not just here, but across America.
“I’ve said all along the protesters have every right to be there, but I’m not going to let tens of thousands overload or overshadow the millions of people in Wisconsin, the taxpayers of the state, who want us to do the right thing and balance the budget,” Gov. Walker told us.
Fourteen state Senate Democrats fled to Illinois last week, preventing a quorum and blocking passage of Walker’s budget repair bill. But that doesn’t dissuade Gov. Walker. He told Heritage he would prefer to see the stalemate last indefinitely rather than compromise on his principles.
For the strength to stand so firmly, Gov. Walker said he draws on his past experience as Milwaukee County executive—a fiscal conservative leading a county that voted overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2008 by a margin of 67% to 32%.
The political role model Gov. Walker looks up to is also important, as it is none other than President Ronald Reagan. Of Reagan, Gov. Walker said, “He knew who he was, he knew where he was going and he did what he had to do to get there.”
Reagan was no stranger to bold and difficult decisions, and Gov. Walker said he was prepared to follow in the former president’s footsteps for as long as he served in office.
In 1981, about six months after taking office, Reagan defined the tenor of his administration with his own bold decision to fire more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who ignored the president’s orders to return to work. Reagan emerged victorious, his presidency emboldened by the conflict.
The stakes were high for Reagan then—he risked an enormous public backlash by disrupting commercial air travel—and they’re high for Gov. Walker now. In many ways, Wisconsin will be the prototype for other deficit-laden states whose leaders attempt to balance their budgets.
Gov. Walker is aware of just what Wisconsin—and the rest of the country—stands to gain or lose with the ultimate outcome of this debate. That’s precisely why he insists the outcome be a balanced budget. For that, he’ll endure personal insults, the comparisons to deposed Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. He’ll face days of chanting outside his window and threats to his safety.
In fact, Gov. Walker is not merely enduring—he’s “feeling good,” he said. He’s even found something in common with the protesters: They share the same taste in music. The songs blaring over the loudspeaker take him back to his college and high school days.
The music’s not the only aspect of the protests Gov. Walker appreciates. He’s also grateful they’ve remained peaceful—even this weekend, when his supporters turned up to counter the protesters. Maybe that’s why Gov. Walker seems so grounded even in the midst of the churning: He’s appreciative of, rather than worried about, what the protests signify—that the people of Madison, those on both sides of the issue, care enough to come to the Capitol to debate.
But that’s where he draws the line, promising to remain committed to his principles in the face of adversity. “We have to be clear and realistic about our challenges,” he said, “but optimistic about our solutions.”
The world's No. 1 guitarist and blues man Joe Bonamassa is set to release his latest studio album "Dust Bowl" on March 22. You can pre-order the new album by clicking on the album cover link below.
This is Bonamassa’s ninth studio release on his own J&R Adventures label, which he created with longtime manager Roy Weisman. Dust Bowl was produced by Kevin “Caveman” Shirley (Black Crowes, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin) making it their sixth collaboration in five years. Shirley most recently produced Bonamassa’s 2010 release Black Rock, which debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Blues Chart and #39 on the Top 200.
Dust Bowl was recorded in sessions at Black Rock Studios in Santorini, Greece, Ben’s Studio in Nashville, TN, The Cave in Malibu, CA and The Village in Los Angeles, CA. It combines the gritty, blues-based tones of Bonamassa’s first albums with the fluid, genre-defying sounds he’s mastered in the years since and adds a dash of country from Joe’s collaborations with the best of Nashville including legends Vince Gill and John Hiatt.
“Dust Bowl,” Shirley explains, “is very firmly rooted in the Blues, but definitely explores the outer reaches of the genre and showcases Joe’s amazing virtuosity as he digs deep into his psyche in some lengthy and blistering guitar solos.”
“This is the best album we’ve ever done,” adds Bonamassa. “I’m finding more inspiration in storytelling in my 30s, in writing songs that are about something more profound than ‘my baby left me.’ I like albums that are made with the right intentions and sound organic and a little rough around the edges, like a great band playing live in the room, and that’s what we accomplished with Dust Bowl.”
On the John Hiatt/John Porter-penned “Tennessee Plates,” Hiatt duets with Bonamassa and Vince Gill lends his signature guitar stylings. Gill also plays on “Sweet Rowena,” a song he composed with frequent writing partner Pete Wasner. Arlan Scheirbaum, Beth Hart and Blondie Chaplin play on the Michael Kamen/Tim Curry track “No Love On The Street,” and Glenn Hughes sings on the Paul Rodgers-penned “Heartbreaker.”
The album opens with Bonamassa originals “Slow Train,” an old-style British Blues song, and title track “Dust Bowl,” the album’s first single. “The title track of the album just describes my life. It really fits my voice, it fits me as a solo artist and just has a really nice feel to it.” Other standout originals include “Black Lung Heartache,” “The Last Matador of Bayonne,” and “The Whale That Swallowed Jonah.”
The Democratic/government-union days of rage in Madison, Wis., are a disgrace. Paul Ryan calls it Cairo coming to Madison. But the protesters in Egypt were pro-Democracy. The government-union protesters in Madison are anti-democracy. In fact, Democratic legislators are fleeing the state so as not to vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s budget cuts.
The teachers union is going on strike in Milwaukee and elsewhere. They ought to be fired. Think Reagan PATCO in 1981. Think Calvin Coolidge police strike in 1919.
Governor Walker is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, and he wants state workers to pay one-half of their pension costs and 12.6 percent of their health benefits. Currently, most state employees pay nothing for their pensions and virtually nothing for their health insurance. That’s an outrage.
Nationwide, state and local government unions have a 45 percent total-compensation advantage over their private-sector counterpart. With high-pay compensation and virtually no benefits co-pay, the politically arrogant unions are bankrupting America — which by some estimates is suffering from $3 trillion in unfunded liabilities.
Exempting police, fire, and state troopers, Governor Walker would end collective bargaining for the rest. Unions could still represent workers, but could not get pay increases above the CPI. Nor could they force employees to pay dues. And in exchange for this, Walker promises no furloughs for layoffs.
So, having lost badly in the last election, the government-union Democrats have taken to the streets. This is a European-style revolt, like those seen in Greece, France, and elsewhere. So it becomes greater than just a fiscal issue. It is becoming a law-and-order issue.
President Obama, who keeps telling us he’s a budget cutter, has taken the side of the public unions. John Boehner correctly rapped Obama’s knuckles for this. If the state of Wisconsin voters elected a Chris Christie-type governor with a Republican legislature, then it is a local states’ rights issue.
Obama should stay out. And Governor Walker should stand tall and stick to his principles. Otherwise, a nationwide revolt of state-government unions will destroy the country as well as its finances.
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