We met as strangers, but we left that Wisconsin city as brothers. Last night was brutally cold, but today as I bid two busloads of Tea Party activists a safe trip back to Virginia, I knew that we had achieved something. So many of the activists were members of the Greatest Generation or their parents and these patriots knew how to fight.
We had endured a lot of heckling in our time in Madison. I kept having protesters come up to me and rudely tell me that Wisconsin ranked second in ACT/SAT scores while states without collective bargaining rank 5 states rank 44th,47th,48th,49th & 50th, but when I'd ask them out of how many these rankings were, they'd just look at my with big eyes and then slowly walk away. They never thought somebody would question their data.
I said goodbye to Leo whose dad was a strikebreaker back in the 30s and Helen who always had a smile and an Obama joke when our spirits were low and I went back into the Howard Johnson's to pack up my own things. Though there was a bit of language barrier, I was able to explain to the hotel maid just how bad unions were by talking loudly and slowly and using gestures for her.
After, a quick lunch at the George Webb, I awaited my limo to take me to the airport for my flight back to D.C. Not spending time at home with my family was difficult, but since returning the phone has been ringing non-stop. I was the only Congressman in Madison for the riots and many of my colleagues were jealous. On the plane, I was able to write down a few truths that I had learned from the experience:
1. Madison is just one front in this war - I'd love to say union leaders are intelligent people who are open to compromise, but I wouldn't be fooling anyone. Even if we meet them half way, they will refuse to simply dissolve their unions and go home quietly. They are already mobilizing in Indiana and Ohio to take on the governors there and we must stand strong. You know the word union appears nowhere in the Constitution. They should appear nowhere in this country.
2. Patriots don't let the fact they're not from a state, stop them from working hard to fight for the Governor that other people worked so hard to elect - There were very few Wisconsinites at our counter rallies, but that didn't stop us from reminding the protesters that elections have consequences and unlike a television, you can't return your Governor a month later.
3. Unions are unnecessary in this day and age - Unions are a vestige from a time when corporations put their bottom line ahead of everything else. Nowadays, if you want something from your boss, the simplest thing to do is to ask your employer. That's what I used to do before I entered politics when I worked for my dad.
4. We will never compete against economies like Germany when we have unions - They are an albatross that slow us down and make us too slow, costly, and inefficient.
5. We will never compete with emerging economies in the future like China unless we eliminate antiquated ban on child labor - Children have certain talents that can make them very valuable to corporations. They eat less so they need shorter lunch breaks and their hands are smaller and much better able to reach into clogged machinery to unclog it. Their smaller size makes them ideal for fitting into the sometimes claustrophobic tight spaces of coal mines.
6. Public employees caused our current crisis. Now it's up to them to sacrifice in order to fix it - There are just under half a million public school teachers in the United States. Assuming each one of them has been overpaid by an average of $10,000 per year that would cost our country's taxpayers that's $50 Billion dollars per year. With that kind of money, we could bail out AIG every two years.