Dave Van Domelen (dvandom) wrote,
Dave Van Domelen

Are you entitled to your own facts? Cheesehead Pharaoh Edition

The quote (attributed variously to numerous people) goes something like this. You are entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. But there's a middle ground: you're also entitled to your weighting of the facts. If the facts support multiple interpretations, you can choose to favor one set over another.

So, to take the current mess in Wisconsin as an example, here's some facts I feel reasonably confident in stating. Should Governor Walker's proposals to unilaterally back out of numerous contracts and agreements with state workers' unions pass into law, three things will happen:

  1. The state will save money in the short term (long term effects are harder to predict).

  2. Many state workers, especially those in borderline financial situations, will be significantly hurt.

  3. The state will find it almost impossible to negotiate in good faith with the unions so long as Walker is in office (why agree to ANY deal when you know the governor's ready to toss it out as soon as it becomes inconvenient?).

Whether this is overall a good thing or a bad thing depends on how you weight the facts. #1 (save money) is a good thing, #2 (hurt workers) is a bad thing, and #3 (hurt the ability to negotiate) could go either way depending on your politics.

Publicly, the governor is saying that #1 is more important than #2. There are strong indications that he thinks #3 is not only important, but is a good thing (he's a union-buster). The tens of thousands of people protesting on the streets of Madison right now either think #2 is more important than #1, or that #3 is more important and is a bad thing (long term shooting-self-in-foot action). While you can probably find people who would deny any or all of the three facts, they're solidly in the "your own facts" territory and unsupported by reality.

Mind you, this presupposes that he doesn't actually do something stupid like call out the National Guard as he threatened last week. Siccing the National Guard on protestors rarely gives good results in the long term, and tends to polarize national opinion against the position of the one who called them out in the first place. And when direct comparisons can be made to Bahraini soldiers being sent in against protests going on at the same time, Walker's odds of coming off looking like a banana republic dictator approach unity if he tries it.

TL;DR version: both sides in the Wisconsin workers' situation have facts on their side, just arranged differently. But the governor could easily tip the balance against himself if he keeps pushing the matter.
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