Podcast: 3 Very Real Threats Facing America in 2012

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In Heritage Work

America faces three threats that could drastically change our country for the worse, Heritage Foundation scholar Matthew Spalding writes in his new book, Changing America’s Course.

Our country faces an entitlements challenge which threatens our economic prosperity, a defense challenge that threatens our national security, and a constitutional challenge that will threaten our self-governing democracy.

Despite these threats, Americans need only to look to their past to remind themselves of their great capabilities. “Americans have faced—and surmounted—similar challenges in the past,” Spalding reminds us. Moreover, “in each case, great leaders emerged and rallied the American people, and freedom emerged triumphant.”

In a new podcast, Heritage Vice President of American Studies Matthew Spalding discusses both the book and Wisconsin’s recall election.

Last week’s unsuccessful recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was only the third gubernatorial recall election in the nation’s history. It serves as a “micro-example” that signals to other governors, members of Congress, and constituents, that changes need to be made in order to save our country from the fiscal crisis we are in.

What do you think are the most important challenges America faces?

Audio: Matt Spalding on Changing America’s Course and Wisconsin

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Matthew Spalding

Matthew Spalding

In this week’s Heritage in Focus podcast, Heritage Foundation scholar Matthew Spalding discusses his new book, Changing America’s Course, and the Wisconsin recall election.

Changing America’s Course outlines the challenges our nation faces and the choices we must make to reduce spending, restore constitutional government and provide for the common defense

Listen online here.

David Weinberger hosts.

Wisconsin Votes in a Recall Election, But Were Reforms a Success?

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In Heritage Work

Today, Voters in Wisconsin are heading to the polls to vote in a hotly contested election to recall Gov. Scott Walker and others in the state leadership.

Liberal groups were animated to begin the recall process in large part by Walker’s reforms to public employee unions. His reforms require public-sector workers to make larger contributions to their pensions and health benefits, as many private sector workers do. Moreover, they limit the power of public-sector unions by restricting collective bargaining for most workers and not automatically withholding union dues from workers’ paychecks.

These reforms improved the health of the state’s pension system and empowered workers to choose whether or not to pay union dues. The Heritage Foundation’s Jason Richwine points out that despite having to make larger contributions to their pensions and health benefits, Wisconsin government workers are still overpaid compared to private sector employees. Continue Reading »

Were Scott Walker’s Wisconsin Reforms Actually Radical?

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In Heritage Impact

Jason Richwine

Jason Richwine

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker faces a recall election in part because of his reforms to government employee compensation and pensions. Government employees’ unions called his reforms radical and unconscionable.

But The Heritage Foundation’s Jason Richwine, writing in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, says these pension reforms “are far from radical. And much more remains to be done.”

“Using proper financial accounting methods,” Richwine reports, “the pension plan for most state workers actually costs more than two-and-a-half times what the government’s actuaries claim.”

Under the Walker reforms, government workers must now contribute 5.8 percent of their wages towards their pension. This number has been misrepresented as half of a worker’s total pension cost when it is really just one fifth.

What do you think? Did Wisconsin’s pension reforms go far enough?

Conservative Voters Turn Out in Wisconsin to Beat Unions

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After months of political warfare and millions of dollars in campaign ads, the dust has finally settled, and a winner has emerged between liberals and conservatives in Wisconsin. Tuesday night, in an unprecedented recall effort to weaken conservatives’ presence in the state legislature, liberals lost big.

Democrats tried to recall six GOP senators in an attempt to gain a foothold in the state’s legislature—and they lost in four of the races, failing to regain a majority in the state senate. Those losses came despite a $14 million effort waged by unions and liberal groups from across the country.

In last November’s election, the Tea Party surge brought new conservative voices to Wisconsin’s state government, and under the leadership of Gov. Scott Walker, a new way of thinking took hold in the state’s capital. When Walker took office, Wisconsin faced the fourth highest tax burden in the country, the state carried a $3 billion structural deficit, and unions had a monopoly on power. In June, Heritage’s James Sherk explained just how sweet of a deal the state’s unions had:

Government employees in Wisconsin paid just 6 percent of their health care premiums and next to nothing for generous pensions, and the average teacher in Milwaukee makes $101,000 a year. Government union contracts also require layoffs to occur on the basis of seniority. Long-time government employees can rest assured that they will never get laid off.

With the reforms Walker instituted, including a new budget and a new collective bargaining law restraining the unions’ power, liberals fled the state in an effort to shut down the government.  Ultimately, the reforms passed and now the state is reaping the benefits by adding a net of 9,500 new jobs in June — more than half the 18,000 created nationwide.

Moral of the story: In even the bluest of blue states, the Tea Party movement is one to be reckoned with.

Wisconsin is Back in the Headlines

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In Heritage Work

Last June, the U.S. economy added a meager 18,000 jobs nationwide – and 9,500 of them were in Wisconsin alone. Coincidence? Not at all, explains Heritage Foundation investigative reporter Rob Bluey.

Just six months ago, Wisconsin’s new governor, Scott Walker, was making headlines for his controversial budget repair bill. The teachers’ unions claimed the bill would have a catastrophic impact on Wisconsin’s already wobbly economy (more than 150,000 jobs were lost in the three years before Walker became governor.)

But the union leaders were flat out wrong. As the Weekly Standard recently reported, Walker’s new bill actually saved teaching jobs by shoring up money for school districts to avoid layoffs and reduce class sizes.

In addition, the governor has overseen a flourishing of the private job market. Bluey explains that “Since [Walker] took office in January, the state has added 39,300 private-sector jobs. That puts Walker on pace to exceed his goal of 250,000 new jobs in four years.”

Interested in learning more about how pro-growth policies foster healthy competition and job creation? Listen to Heritage’s recent interview with Gov. Scott Walker below. And be sure to leave your comments on MyHeritage.

Left-Wing Site Credits Heritage’s Work with State Groups

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In Heritage Impact

The Heritage Foundation has been deeply involved with state and local efforts to limit Big Labor’s over government, and the liberal press is taking notice.

In a review of these fights, Mother Jones magazine (begrudgingly) credits Heritage with laying the groundwork for recent successes in Wisconsin and elsewhere:

Conceived by the same conservative ideologues who helped found the Heritage Foundation, the State Policy Network (SPN) is a little-known umbrella group with deep ties to the national conservative movement. Its mission is simple: to back a constellation of state-level think tanks loosely modeled after Heritage that promote free-market principles and rail against unions, regulation, and tax increases.

Author Andy Kroll continues:

According to SPN’s website, Roe launched the conservative network “at the urging” of President Reagan himself as a way to shape state-level policy just as Heritage has influenced federal policy.

Heritage continues to work closely with the State Policy Network and other organizations to advance conservative principles nationwide. This week, in fact, Heritage is hosting the annual Resource Bank Meeting in Dallas to bring together conservatives from around the country and the world to discuss strategy and tactics.

Government Union Collective Bargaining 101

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In Heritage Work

The fight to balance Wisconsin’s state budget intensified yesterday as Governor Scott Walker issued a ultimatum to Democratic Senators who have refused to return to the capital to vote on the his budget repair bill. The ultimatum comes as Wisconsin approaches a crucial deadline to restructure its debt. But while the fight has become more intense, there has never been a shortage of heat in this debate. Union leaders have been especially vocal, with SEIU President Mary Kay Henry characterizing Walker’s proposal to weaken collective bargaining, as part of a “struggle for economic justice”. Some Wisconsin rabbis have even claimed that collective bargaining “rights” are mandated by the Torah (Bible). President Obama also weighed in, calling it an “assault on unions”.

But while the controversy continues to attract national media attention, there has been little focus on what exactly collective bargaining is and how it works in a system with government unions. And with a majority of union members now in government rather than the private sector, this is an important issue to understand. When union leaders claim that collective bargaining is a right, Heritage is here to provide the facts.

Our new video is a helpful primer on the rise government unions and the monopoly power given to them through collective bargaining.

How do you feel about government unions having the “right” to collectively bargain?

Myth vs. Fact: Government Unions

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In Heritage Work

A new one-page fact sheet released today by The Heritage Foundation dispels several liberal myths about public sector unions.

Heritage explains what government collective bargaining is, gives the history behind it, and outlines the consequences.

For example, the fact sheet notes that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt “believed collective bargaining had no place in public service and that a government strike was ‘unthinkable and intolerable.’”

What do you think is the biggest threat posed by public sector unions? Tell us in the comments.

Heritage on TV Today: Libya

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In Heritage Impact

Peter Brookes

Peter Brookes

At 11:05 a.m. Eastern on Fox News’ “Happening Now,” foreign policy expert Peter Brookes will discuss the latest developments in Libya.

Heritage experts have outlined a series of steps the Obama administration can take to promote freedom in the North African country.

Update: Tonight at 8:00 p.m. on Fox Business Network’s “Freedom Watch,” labor expert Jason Richwine will discuss public sector unions in the context of the Wisconsin protests.

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