Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Does Wiscon Sin, Boys?*

My first experience with a union rep was in a swamp. I'd been working to build a major sewer system through the boondocks: my summer construction job in college. The man had slogged out there to tell me that I had to join the union or quit working. Since I'd spent most of the summer there already (and all of the previous one), and the amount I'd have had to pay was more than I'd earn in the remaining couple of weeks, I quit.

Years later, there was a movement among some employees of my clinic -- which had had about thirty-five docs when I joined, was then up to around two hundred, and is now at over three hundred docs with more than twelve-hundred employees, I think -- to unionize. It didn't succeed; recently, the clinic was named as one of Fortune's top one-hundred companies to work for in the US. (I think it has less to do with whether or not it's unionized than with the fact that it's still owned and operated by the docs themselves, who care about employees in ways not all big corporations do. I'm very proud of the place, and of my contributions to it.)

I'm not a reflexive supporter of unions in all things.

In Wisconsin, though, I think if the unions are successfully busted, it'll be the beginning of the end of any remaining pretense of democracy in the US. Teabagger naivete notwithstanding, it's becoming increasingly clear that the strings of power in the US are being pulled by the super-wealthy. In fact, it's because of teabagger naivete: in their gullible blindness, they've let themselves be manipulated into thinking they're a people's movement, when the exact opposite is true. I've said it before. Paul Krugman's latest opinion piece, not unexpectedly, says it much better:

.... Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away.

In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signaled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions.

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain. ...

... it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power.

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). [Bloggers note: the Koch brothers are the main money behind teabaggers, as well.] ...

... Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. ...

.... There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people should hope that it doesn’t.

Predictably, teabaggers have showed up in Wisconsin right on cue, unknowingly (one would hope) doing the bidding of those who would complete the coup against their own power. And every time I allow myself the glimmer of hope that they'll wake up to see how they've been used, I get another comment here from the Jersey shores that convinces me I'm wrong. There's no getting through to these people.

Never have so many been so deceived by so few, so easily, into doing so much so clearly against their own interests.

* A reference to this, for the culturally deprived.


  1. We have seen what demos are made of, though. The demos with power have fled the whole state! The fleebaggers are holed up in Chicago, waiting for more instructions from their union masters. The other demos are marching around with pix of the gov as Hitler! Walker in crosshairs! A deranged bunch there in Wisconsin teaching the kids, aren't they?

    And the government has been shut down! I'll bet you were one shouting about how the Republicans were going to shut down the government--but not a word now, huh?

    Will the fleebaggers come back and submit to democracy? Or will they stay away and do the will of their union masters? Stay tuned!

  2. It works both ways, and neither does themselves any honor. Fox "news" for example, is excoriating the protestors, who are doing exactly what teabaggers did: except when it was teabaggers, they called them patriots, brave Americans, exercising their free speech rights. And their signs of Obama as Hitler were just fine with them. But I do agree that some of the current protestors have done what they decried (I assume) in the past.

    One difference, of course, is that teabaggers were demanding their country back when nothing had been taken nor was there a threat of same; the WI people are resisting overt and actual threats to "take away their freedoms."

    And if you disagree with the point of this post, that there's a very disproportionate power shift to the very rich industrialists, of which the Koch brothers are a prime example, say so. If you think we will be better off as a country (and were, just years ago) when there are no fetters on that sort of power, explain why.

    It's all how you look at it: both sides, as I've said many times, will protest that which they lauded when the power is reversed. Over and over.

    I guess you feel about secret holds and filibusters by Rs the same way you feel about this legislative shenanigan by Ds, right?

    And, no, you'll not see anything here about government shutdown, far as I recall. I, for one, hope the teabagger Rs DO shut it down, like they did when Gingrich, our greatest American patriot, was on his roll. Bring it on.

  3. "Taking our country back" is an evergreen political phrase. The dem's patron saint even made one of his really accurate films about it:


    The WI people are not "losing their freedoms," unless you see it as a human right to skip work and get a fake doctor note.

    I do disagree about your "very disproportionate power shift to the very rich industrialists," although George Soros can be a little scary. Unions might have had a place a hundred years ago when there was only one place to work, but the modern world is quite different. "No fetters" on power? Are you kidding?

  4. You should change your moniker to "Believe Beck First, Hook, Line, and Sinker."

  5. If you enjoy watching Beck, then I'll take your word for what he says. Maybe the fleebaggers should be reading this guy:


    Key sentence: "Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees."

  6. It's a well-established argument, as your reach back to 1937 shows. As I'm sure you know, the public employees in WI agreed to all the give-backs the governor demanded, except for losing bargaining rights. They have, in other words, given much more than the gov. Which is typical of liberals, and of conservatives as iterated currently.

    And, depending on party and who's in power, one man's "militant tactics" is, as I've said, another's freedom of expression.

    As usual, I tire pretty fast of your sort of "argument," so if you have anything to add that's worth publishing, I'll let it be the last word.

  7. Okay, nice try. Rejected. Call it what you want.

  8. P.S.: You seem to ignore the fact that I agreed with you on much of what you said in this thread, and, until you couldn't stand it any more, gave credible responses when I didn't.

    I assume you come by here for some form of amusement, as opposed to engaging on the terms of any given post. You are making an impression, though, in that you continue to verify my worst fears about the right wing of the teabagging variety.

    Even so, I don't have a lot of patience for it, so don't expect to see a lot of your stuff in print here, unless it rises above the current level of predictable and unoriginal trollage.

  9. Isn't it interesting that most countries with the highest standards of living, overall quality of life, least income disparity, etc., are also the most highly unionized? A few clicks on Google will substantiate those claims, empirical facts. And despite significant labor concessions via collective bargaining, Germany is the economic gem of Western Europe! I find it incredulous that the teabaggers and many American workers, by opposing unions are in essence opposing their own self interest. I previously worked in the airline industry, one of the most unionized industries in America, next to the auto workers- and most cockpits (flight decks) are filled with mostly with Right wingers, ex-military types, most of whom are die hard supporters of their own unions, but not others. Go figure. It's that "I've got mine, now you get your own" mentality. I suppose it's no wonder these last few years have gutted most airline union bargaining power, wages, and union supported pensions. The public perception of airline pilots being wealthy only applies to about the top 5% of all commercial pilots. But there I go about public perception- the perception of the "American" way of life. If BOF were savvy enough, he might blame the money spent lobbying politicians first.... no wait.. he should BHOFS (Blame his own fucking self)- he's indicative of the typical American who is so eager to point fingers, but won't take any responsibility at all starting with himself. WASF (We are so fucked).


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