Dispatches (IX): 49,000-85,000 100,000 Rally In Madison

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Source: “Capitol Square overflows in largest Wisconsin labor solidarity demonstration yet,” The Isthmus (3/12/2011).

From USA Today:

By 3 p.m., tens of thousands of people crowded the Capitol Square. There is a big discrepancy in the crowd estimates compiled by Capitol Police and the Madison Police Department. Capitol Police estimated about 49,500 at 2 p.m. while Madison police said the crowd was about 85,000.

Latest Reuters estimate at up to 100,000.


I thought this episode, recounted in The Milwaukee Sentinel Journal was emblematic:

Walker signed the bill privately in the morning and held a separate, ceremonial bill-signing in front of reporters later in the day. He was joined by his cabinet and four Republican lawmakers.

This article indicates that the bill passed had passed muster, in terms of having no fiscal provisions. I am no lawyer, so I will merely observe that there are many provisions with implications for the budget in the bill, as noted here by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. In a TIME article, intriguingly titled “Wisconsin’s Governor Wins But Is He Still Dead Man Walker?”, constitutional challenges are assessed more circumspectly:


The anger and activism may also propel legal challenges regarding the way Republicans may have violated open meetings law and internal procedures to get the bill passed without a necessary quorum (Democratic senators had fled to Illinois specifically to prevent this). [UW Political Science Professor Kenneth] Mayer says, however, that such claims are unlikely to succeed because “there is case law where the state courts have declined to get involved and force a legislature to enforce its own rule.” A constitutional challenge — based on whether the Republican reclassification of the bill from fiscal to non-fiscal was legal — may have a better chance but, says Mayer, “it’s not a slam dunk.”

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25 thoughts on “Dispatches (IX): 49,000-85,000 100,000 Rally In Madison

  1. C Thomson

    Why should the rest of us care about the precise headcount of some rent-a-mob?
    Some states allow collective bargaining; some don’t. For most of US history none did. Big deal.
    Let’s get back to something of economic significance, please, Professor Chinn? How about the appalling tragedy in Japan, for example? Leave the little provincial, lefty stuff for the kids and rejoin the world.

  2. Ivan Karamazov

    “Some states allow collective bargaining; some don’t. For most of US history none did. Big deal.”
    Some US states also allowed slavery for much of their early history, and practiced legal discrimination against minorities decades after. I guess you think that’s a fine idea too.
    But hey, that’s just provincial lefty stuff. Right?

  3. Steve K.

    Thank you, C Thomson, for telling everyone what is and isn’t significant. Systematic attempts to dismantle what remains of the middle class in the U.S.: Not Significant.
    Do I even need to bring up how absurd it is calling a crowd of 85,000 a “rent-a-mob?”
    Most of U.S. history consisted of terrible working conditions, child labor, and horrific inequality. That’s why unions and collective bargaining came about.

  4. thepolemarch

    “Some US states also allowed slavery for much of their early history, and practiced legal discrimination against minorities decades after. I guess you think that’s a fine idea too.”
    I don’t get it, are you comparing collective bargaining to slavery? An idiotic, and structurally unsound economic idea, sure, but please don’t compare it to slavery.

  5. Ivars

    Its getting boring. Clear states will have to reduce deficits. Clear the USA will have to tighten both fiscally and monetary.
    The reasons for this do not lay in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is just a consequence, and one part of population do not want to share the bust ( the other part, of course, being the 0,1% controlling the wealth).
    This is not middle class, government/state unions since its fed by taxpayer money. The real middle class is being milked both ways.
    Real middle class is always the ones who pay for all, not receive donations and or crony government subsidies and skewed laws. That is a definition of a middle class, not the income level.
    Real middle class is relatively under leveraged, little loans, in contrast to over leveraged ones who has tried to jump into future.
    Of course, the over leveraged ones get into panic mode when the taxpayer refuses to support their borrowed lifestyles- but as there is no money left, vaporised by boom/bust cycle, the consequences are obvious.
    It would be better to discuss the impact of Japanese tragedy on economy, Japan’s willingness to spend cash on USA or EU treasuries, and the impact of potential disastrous nuclear reactor meltdowns on oil price and home drilling as nuclear alternative gets less attractive once more.

  6. bc

    I am very disappointed in your coverage of this issue.
    I come to econbrowser for your explanations of economic policy and current issues in economics, backed up by empirical results and impressive background knowledge.
    This has become scarce in recent weeks, and I can only hope that you will not become an unreadable nega-Mankiw.

  7. C Thomson

    So…if those keen-eyed, ever helpful folks at the WI department of motor vehicles or the school janitors aren’t allowed to nag the tax payers en masse, civilization as we know it is doomed? Slavery returns… Darkness falls on the land…
    To those who believe this piffle – go have a few beers, snivel a little – then get on with it. In six months you and everyone else will have other concerns.
    Now, what about Japan?

  8. 2slugbaits

    Rich Berger This was not a taxpayer issue. In fact, in the long run it will almost certainly end up costing taxpayers more in the form of higher wages. The GOP state senate leader even admitted that it was all about putting Wisconsin in the “R” column in 2012. Try to keep up.
    C Thomson The reason those of us living outside of Wisconsin should care is because what happens in Wisconsin may not stay in Wisconsin. Several midwestern GOP governors and state legislatures have been watching and taking their cues from what is happening in Madison. When it looked like Gov Walker’s gambit might be a political winner one of his neighboring GOP governors proposed a 20% income tax cut at the same time he argued the state had a budget “crisis” and had to cut all kinds of programs that helped low income folks, pre-K funding and large reductions in public university spending, further reductions in state worker benefits on top of the actual 4% pay cuts they had already agreed to…but proposed new giveaways to private universities. If successful those policies would likely kill any economic recovery nationally.

  9. Ivan Karamazov

    “I don’t get it, are you comparing collective bargaining to slavery? An idiotic, and structurally unsound economic idea, sure, but please don’t compare it to slavery.”
    Check C Thomson’s post. Reducto ad absurdum.

  10. SMG

    Why should the rest of us care about the precise headcount of some rent-a-mob?

    A group of people equivalent to 40 to 50 percent of the size of Madison, Wi turned out for a demonstration. In spite of the size of this group, the Governor of the State, the Speaker of the State Assembly, and the Leader of the State Senate have chosen to dismiss the concerns leading to this sizable protest. This can only mean that we have leaders in the State who believe that the ends justify the means.

  11. Russell L. Carter

    I find it absolutely amazing that now wingnuts believe they can shout down opinions they don’t want voiced on a person’s private property website. They actually presume to tell site owners what they are allowed to speak out, and without the slightest shred of irony demand that the site owners must use their own private property to reinforce the right wing’s idiotic, childish, and imbecilic opinions.
    People who can handle a more mature and hopeful outlook on the world should read Harry’s dispatches over at Crooked Timber. The contrast between the wingnuts and Harry could not be more stark.
    There is a lot ruin in a country, and the evidence in these comments is that we’re well down the path.

  12. Menzie Chinn

    C Thomson: Thank you for your advice regarding optimal subject choice. Since Econbrowser has made the Time top 25 (as well as WSJ list, earlier on) by ignoring your advice, I think I will continue to choose my discussion topics in the manner I have become accustomed to.

    Since you wish to read about Japan, which I agree is important, you can refer to this article. For more in-depth (i.e., statistical, although I am aware that you disparage the use of econometrics) analysis, please see this paper by Ilan Noy (a former UCSC student!).

  13. Anonymous

    “This was not a taxpayer issue. In fact, in the long run it will almost certainly end up costing taxpayers more in the form of higher wages. The GOP state senate leader even admitted that it was all about putting Wisconsin in the “R” column in 2012. Try to keep up.”
    Menzie – two questions: why will it cost more in higher wages? Second, if this is so unpopular, why would passing the bill help put it into the R column in 2012? I thought this was supposed to galvanize the unions.

  14. 2slugbaits

    Anonymous I think you intended your question for me, not Menzie. It will end up costing taxpayers more because public employees are part of the larger labor market and over the long run all employees earn their marginal product one way or another…and it doesn’t matter whether they work for the private sector or the public sector. One of the reasons federal, state and local governments opted for nonwage benefits (e.g., health insurance, retirement packages, vacation, etc.) was because it was an alternative to direct wage compensation. Collective bargaining wasn’t just good for unions, it was good for local governments because it offered opportunities to discuss nonwage compensation in lieu of wage compensation.
    The economy will not be in recession forever and eventually Wisconsin is going to have to compete with private sector companies. Because the state has essentially reneged on previous agreements, future public sector employee demands will take the form of more immediate and portable compensation packages. That’s going to cost Wisconsin taxpayers a lot more.
    There’s a similar case with federal employees. Back in the late 70s and 80s federal employees really took it on the chin relative to private sector employees. That was okay as long as the economy was weak and federal employees were tied to the Civil Service Retirement System; but Reagan abolished CSRS and put new federal employees under Social Security and with a very much reduced retirement benefit. During the 90s the federal government found that because a lot of the nonwage benefits and security of govt employment were taken away, the govt found that it had to dramatically increase pay in order to recruit and retain people. The net result is that today federal employees make slightly more than most private sector employees. Wisconsin taxpayers will eventually learn the same lesson. There is no free lunch.

  15. Kirk

    I AM NOT RENTED AND I HAVE LIVED IN THE STATE MY WHOLE LIFE. Many of you are upset about the true headcount because it BLEW away the tea party rally in Washington DC. Just think how many people would have been in Madison Saturday if it wasnt WI and cold :)
    Anyone and I mean anyone with a shred of common sense can see that the tactics to push this bill through were nightmares to democracy. If it was such a GREAT thing than why not debate it or have public hearings. There is no doubt this bill will A. Fall for the illegal way in which it was passed. B. Get lots of republican senator recalled and make everyone second guess anything Walker wants to do in the future. There is no doubt that there will be enough signatures to have this recall.
    YOU CANT DEAL WITH FANATICS THAT THINK WHAT WALKER DID WAS FAIR. YOU CAN SAY YOU BACK HIM BECAUSE YOU THINK IT IS RIGHT BUT YOU CAN NEVER SAY THE WAY HE DID IT WAS FAIR.

  16. Rich Berger

    2SB-
    Nonsense.
    Kirk-
    You are absolutely right, you can’t deal with fanatics – ask Governor Walker.

  17. Hans

    Capt Kirk, how many of those that showed were paid or had their trip or hotel paid for??
    NOW IS THAT FAIR?

  18. Hans

    W C Varones, a simple but brilliant sentence…
    The public unions have been urinating on their taxslaves for decades and now are being properly defrocked…
    The greedy labor gangs only know how to pillage their host, until they too die out….
    As I have said before, the left (Maoists) knows or cares little of economic matters and as such becomes its contraception….

  19. 4runner

    Interesting that somewhere between 50-100k marching on a state capital is not “something of economic significance.”
    It took one disgruntled 20 year old to cause the first world war. 50-100k disgruntled people bear watching.

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