Honesty really at center of dispute

There’s quite a battle going on in Wisconsin. Just like Tea Party members have protested legislation they don’t like, employees are protesting legislation they don’t like.

Newly elected Gov. Scott Walker, bolstered by Republican majorities in the Legislature, is asking public employees to make financial concessions, and give up collective bargaining rights, to help the state with its budget woes. Those employees are protesting that last part because a union is essentially created for collective bargaining.

That legislation isn’t going through right now because of the Wisconsin 14 — the state senate’s Democrats, who left the state and denied the 19 Republicans who control the house of a necessary quorum to pass the bill.

But it’s not about saving money. If it was, Gov. Walker would have accepted the union’s offer to make all financial concessions, and called it a victory.

If it was about saving money, Gov. Walker wouldn’t have instituted $140 million in new spending plans, then turned around and lectured policemen, firemen and teachers about a “shared sacrifice” so a $137 million deficit could be closed.

This is about weakening the biggest electoral stronghold Democrats have — the unions — and doing it in a state where unions have helped raise the tide for many Americans.

You defeat the unions, you defeat future Democratic campaigns.

It’s not about saving money nationally either, or Republicans wouldn’t be trying to cut funding to PBS and NPR while giving the Pentagon money to advertise during NASCAR races.

I’m not trying to say Republicans can’t do any of this, nor am I saying the 14 Democrats who bolted the state are right. These are the consequences of elections. I’d just prefer Wisconsin Republicans took the honest approach and told us, “We got elected because the election was a referendum on the other party. So we’re doing the opposite of what they’d do, while weakening their ability to do such things again.” And the 14 Democrats should be saying, “We’d like to stop this legislation, but we didn’t win enough elections to do that.”

But this isn’t about honesty, either. It’s hard to demand honesty out of our government because we rarely demand it from ourselves.

This is not about honest budget choices, and a Reuters poll from January shows just that. An overwhelming majority of Americans don’t want further deficit spending — 71 percent don’t want the debt ceiling raised. But ask they how to cut spending, and 73 percent want to cut foreign aid. Problem is, that accounts for 1 percent of our budget.

This isn’t about honest expectations, and an Associated Press-GfK Roper poll from January shows just that. In this poll, 75 percent of Americans don’t think it’s realistic to expect noticeable economic improvements in a president’s first term. But ask the entire group how they felt President Obama’s handled the economy, and 85 percent either approved or disapproved. We can conclude that a majority of those polled don’t believe there’s enough evidence to make a conclusion, yet they make one anyway.

We should expect honesty from our government, and we should expect it from ourselves. Too bad that’s not what we’re battling about.