He was born into wealth and privilege. He graduated from Yale and married a Rockefeller. In his last job, he spent $12 million of the family fortune to get elected as a U.S. senator. He was called by a respected magazine “one of the worst senators in America.” He is Mark Dayton, Minnesota governor and champion of the public-employee unions that donated so heavily to his campaign and recount efforts.
He grew up in a very modest home where his father was a preacher. He is the first Wisconsin governor in decades to not have a college degree. In his previous job, he refused tens of thousands of dollars in salary to help balance a bloated budget. He was hailed by many as an up and coming star as he took on the tough budget battles in Milwaukee County. He is Scott Walker, Wisconsin governor and a man called everything from the Midwest’s Mubarak to Hitler by the public-employee unions he seeks to rein in.
Rarely has there been a greater contrast to two incoming governors than Dayton and Walker. One learned the value of a dollar at a very early age. The other always had the trust fund of Dayton Hudson to rely on. Dayton, who has never known poverty, is a classic limousine liberal. Walker, who reduced his salary and brown-bags it to lunch, practices and preaches budget austerity.
Are government employees overpaid? The average Las Vegas firefighter collects $185,000 a year in salary and benefits and can retire young with a pension from a system that pays many enormous salaries each year until the recipients die. The average Milwaukee teacher costs taxpayers over $100,000 a year when health and benefits costs are added in. With sick days, leave, summers off and numerous breaks, they work 8 months a year. Thirty-three thousand retired New York City police officers receive a Christmas bonus of $12,000 on top of very generous pensions. These are local examples. There isn’t enough space to start examining very high federal pensions and benefits.
Something is very wrong when government employees (who are supposed to serve the public) are bankrupting the people who pay them. Walker, Chris Christie in New Jersey, John Kasich in Ohio and even Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York all realize the largesse of government and the fact that public employees must share in the pain of a long recession.
A couple of years ago, an executive in Wisconsin made a very unpopular decision to many working-class people known as Cheeseheads. He changed the way of doing things by letting the beloved quarterback go. That quarterback ended up in Minnesota and the Packers went with a new system. Oh ya, the results? The Vikings and Metrodome collapsed, and Aaron Rogers and the Packers won the Super Bowl.
As a diehard Vikes fan and 5th generation Minnesotan, I see Wisconsin as the model of leadership these days — in both the football and political arenas.
Cain Pence is an independent salesman living in his hometown of Minneapolis. He can be reached at caino [at] cainpence [dot] com.