It was only a matter of time until leftists attempted to obtain political mileage from the unhappiness of football fans over the lockout of NFL referees. Today, Brad Plumer of the Washington Post set out to accomplish this.
In an article called (in the print edition) “Wisconsin governor fumbles on Twitter,” Plumer criticized Scott Walker for calling for the return of the “real referees.” Walker is a Green Bay Packer fan, and the Packers were victimized by a bad call from a crew of replacement referees on Monday.
Plumer found Walker’s position “ironic” because Walker took a hard line stance in dealing with Wisconsin’s unionized public employees. Plumer claimed that “in many ways the NFL referee feud is entirely representative of modern battles playing out in Wisconsin and elsewhere.” (A later version of this article on the internet backed off a little, employing weasel words to describe the NFL dispute “fairly representative” of the dispute in Wisconsin).
But there is almost no meaningful relationship between the two disputes. Gov. Walker pushed for requiring public employees to contribute to their healthcare costs and pensions (as other employees do) in order to overcome a $3.6 billion deficit and balance the budget, without raising taxes. Moreover, Walker won an election in which he promised to pursue this course. After keeping his promise, he won a recall election.
The NFL does not face fiscal difficulties comparable to those confronting state governments, and referee pension costs do not threaten the NFL’s long-term financial viability. Thus, the NFL’s hard line stance towards the referees on pensions — which is only one part of this labor dispute — is far less justifiable than Walker’s stance towards public employee pensions. And, unlike in Wisconsin, the NFL’s stance arose wholly outside of any political process in which the public had the opportunity to vote.
Finally, the NFL referees are not a powerful special interest group, and they do not help select those who make collective bargaining decisions that affect them. Public employee unions, by contrast, have significant political clout. And they have taken advantage of it by helping to elect the people who, through collective bargaining, confer benefits upon their members which taxpayers must fund. Thus, the need Walker perceived to limit public employee collective bargaining rights finds no analogue in the football context.
Scott Walker, therefore, did not “fumble.” The fumble — which is probably too kind a word for it — consists of Brad Plumer’s absurd, politically motivated claim that the NFL referee feud is “entirely representative” (or even “fairly representative”) of the battle that played out by in Wisconsin.