Regardless of your political views, one should always strive to correct inaccuracies whenever you see them.
Readers will recall that I called out Joe Vanden Plas of Madison’s In Business over his claim that Gov. Scott Walker never mentioned his plans for public employee collective bargaining “rights” before he was elected. That claim is, as you know, not only false, but provably false:
Vanden Plas has now stepped up and revised his view in a blog titled “Touché, Mr. Prestegard”:
Conservative blogger Steve Prestegard has convinced me that I’m spreading a myth, a yarn that contends Gov. Scott Walker did not campaign on changes to collective bargaining for unionized state employees. …
My old view, flawed that it was, actually is shared by many, perhaps because Walker didn’t exactly blare his intentions from loudspeakers. The press accounts I allude to noted that he thought the state could save $176 million a year by requiring state employees to contribute to their pensions, something I did not object to.
Another passage notes that Walker supported a bill to take away the rights (privileges, actually) of workers to negotiate health care benefits.
So there it is. You could argue that it was in the fine print, but it was there.
Vanden Plas also channeled his inner John Cleese, which is preferable to channeling his inner Brenda Lee:
I would quibble with one thing Vanden Plas wrote:
Mr. Prestegard and I exchanged several emails, the first of which wondered how the editor of a business magazine could take the side of government employees instead of those whose excessive taxes pay their salaries, or why I was taking the side of government employee unions over my readers.
I responded that our business readers depend on public employee unions to deliver services, including preparing the next generation workforce, so I try to refrain from making it an “us-versus-them thing.” I noted that I’ve also criticized certain union supporters for their harassment of businesses, in Madison and beyond, that wanted to remain neutral.
In so doing, I’ve tried to point out how much Madison businesses support the livelihoods of public employees with the tax base they create in a town chock-full of tax-exempt property.
It’s not his summary of our email exchange, which was accurate. It’s that public employee unions do not deliver government services. Government delivers government services, and those services are delivered by public employees, who are (unfortunately) members of public employee unions. If public employee unions didn’t exist, government would still provide government services and still employ people. Public employee unions contribute absolutely, positively nothing to this state, other than their contribution to this state’s reputation and reality as a tax and regulatory hell.
I don’t expect this to change anyone’s opinion about Walker or Recallarama. I read on Facebook Tuesday morning assertions that it’s not about public employee collective bargaining, it’s about “the sale of Wisconsin to the highest corporate bidder, across the board,” “the coming abuses to our natural resources,” how Walker “ran on a platform of Jobs, not on the things he began doing the moment he took office, namely the will of the Koch Bros and making sure all of his cronies and funders were taken care of,” blah, blah, blah.
The important thing here is that Vanden Plas helped dispel a misconception that the media doesn’t care about whether what it writes or broadcasts is accurate. Every time I speak to groups about the media (for instance, Thursday at the Marian University Appleton Center), I point out that of course the media makes mistakes, but those mistakes become perpetuated if alert readers don’t seek to have them corrected.