Unions are portraying Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker as some
sort of dictator for his proposals to demand more pension contributions from
public workers and to roll back collective bargaining. Conservatives are
hailing him as brave.

But, judging
by the details of his proposal, Walker may be a wimp.

pension rollback is particularly hollow because it exempts the group most
responsible for the mounting pension obligations in his state and around the
country: law enforcement. Cops and firefighters are specifically exempt.

If that
sounds familiar to Californians, it should. Meg Whitman talked tough on
pensions, but also didn’t apply her proposals for pension reforms to law
enforcement. The difference: her opponent and the media called her on it.
Walker has gotten a free pass, at least on this point.

Walker’s demands for greater
pension contributions are not that tough. Public employee unions say they are
willing to accept these financial demands, as they should.

No, the
reason for the protests is Walker’s attempt to limit collective bargaining.
That’s a controversy not about balancing budget, but about politics, given how
important collective bargaining is to the political power of the public
employee unions that bankroll Democratic politicians. If you are a strong
partisan of one party or the other, you care about this.

But anyone
who is serious about dealing with pension obligations – and providing a
sustainable base for the government services we need – should feel free to
ignore Wisconsin. This is a big, loud fight that doesn’t have much to do with
the rest of us.