Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wisconsin - the new front in the War on America

I'm not sure how many of you have been paying attention to the protests by unionized public workers in Wisconsin this past week. Their turnouts have been much larger and more impassioned than most Tea Party events I've seen, but that's not exactly the point.

At issue is the attempt by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) to end collective bargaining by public employee unions. There has been an enormous push by conservative state governments around the country - and an organized national effort by conservative PACs to marginalize public employee unions as being at fault for budgetary shortfalls around the country. This is an outright lie, but that never seems to matter when money is at stake. 

This attempt by Governor Walker to to fix his budget (read: austerity measures) comes in the wake of him passing a tax cut for ... you guessed it ... the wealthy. As I've explained before, you don't narrow budget gaps by lowering taxes.

Here's the problem with Governor Walker's plan. If he really wanted to simply lower state expenditures he could do so by negotiating less generous benefits with the state employee unions. They've already offered to reduce their benefits packages to help with the short fall. But he's not taking that offer. He's demanding the end of collective bargaining. Without collective bargaining, unions have no teeth. They can't actually improve the quality of working conditions or compensation for their members. 

This is a bald attempt by a conservative governor to kill a union. His supporters claim Wisconsin teachers make too much and have too sweet a deal. I personally don't think teachers make enough anywhere, but I am a strong believer in the importance of improving our educational system and I don't see how that's possible if you reduce the incentives for people to actually become teachers in your community (which is the effect this would have in Wisconsin). Also, putting teachers aside for a moment - this school union includes bus drivers and janitors. Not exactly fat cat bureaucrats, are they?

Why is this so important? Why am I bothering to blog about something that's happening in a single state? Well, its pretty simple. The Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling gave corporations and labor unions the right to spend unrestricted amounts of money on political advertising. If conservative states are successful in busting public employee labor unions, they appreciably weaken the ability of Democrats to raise funds and finance advertising for progressive political issues. In short, if the war against unions takes hold and corporations are successful in ending organized representation of labor, there will be very limited funding for liberal political campaign activities. 

Like I said, it all comes down to money, but not in the way you might think. This has little to do with Wisconsin's budget deficit and very much to do with the ability to dominate American politics with cold hard cash. 

Corporate interests are already in control of way too much of our daily lives and this will make it even worse. Support the proud public employees of Wisconsin. 

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