The True Face of Political Courage, by Anthony J. Oleck

The True Face of Political Courage, by Anthony J. Oleck

Published: Jun 11, 2012 at 4:54 pm

So what does political courage look like? Let me first tell you what it does not look like… it doesn’t look like Andy Dinniman or Dominic Pileggi or even Gov. Corbett for that matter.

Two weeks ago I criticized Sen. Dinniman’s “education rally” in West Chester.  I called it a union rally because while decrying the education fiscal crisis the senator did not address the main issue, an unfunded pension mandate for the public union sector.  The pension issue is a crisis that if left unaddressed will bankrupt countless school districts in Pennsylvania and states across the country.

I followed up my letter to the editor with a call to the senator’s office to see if I could get more color on his specific position regarding the defined pension benefit and the prevailing wage mandate.  The senator offered to meet with me to discuss his position.  Unfortunately the timing was bad for me and I was not able to make the meeting, but a friend and fellow political and educational activist, Alan Walter, was able to attend.  He met with the senator for almost an hour and these are the salient points he conveyed to me.

Sen. Dinniman absolutely understands the depth and the severity of the looming pension crisis, he presented a picture even more severe than either Alan or I had surmised.

The senator seemed to agree that no tinkering around the edges would fix the problem, but bold and politically unpopular solutions would be necessary.

Walker was looking for some leadership from the senator on the issue but the senator expressed the reality that even if he stepped forward, Republicans who are now in control, do not have the stomach for this fight. He is right, both sides of the aisle lack the political courage to bite the union that feeds them.

The senator seems to feel, that at least in Pennsylvania, nothing will change until the crisis hits and the people force change.

Well, I sadly agree with the senator.  Republicans currently control our state House but Pileggi, Corbett, Ross et al show no sign of taking the bold steps necessary to fix the problem.  So where do we stand? Public service unions and their generous benefits driving taxes higher and higher?  Unfunded teacher pensions bankrupting school districts? A Greece or Spain in our future?

Well until Tuesday night I would have said yes. But Tuesday in Wisconsin changed everything. Scott Walker showed the country and timid politicians everywhere what real leadership looks like.  He took on the unions.  He made common sense changes to public union benefits to more closely mirror what the rest of us in the private sector are dealing with.  He addressed issues in his state that politicians in Greece and Spain would not address until their entire economies collapsed under the weight of an out of control entitlement state.

His bold leadership is turning his state around, a deficit is turning into a surplus, the unemployment rate is falling and the people of Wisconsin know it.

On Tuesday the union-backed recall election failed … the people stepped up to keep their bold, courageous leader.

So Sen. Dinniman, I agree that change will require a grass roots effort.  And where it begins is with “we the people” replacing politicians on both sides of the aisle with true leaders like Scott Walker.  Republicans are waking up to the fact that we have a lot of house cleaning to do to rid the party of “Republicans in name only.”

What happened in Wisconsin on Tuesday is big; it’s a template for what is needed in states across the land. It shows what can be done with a little political courage and with a real leader.

Let’s hope politicians around the country get the message… if they don’t, they will do so at their own peril.