Wisconsin is the current site of the plutocrats' war on public employees, and an NYT op-ed on the spreading anti-union agenda points out that "Republican talk of balancing budgets is cover for the real purpose of gutting the political force of middle-class state workers, who are steady supporters of Democrats and pose a threat to a growing conservative agenda:"
In Wisconsin, union leaders agreed to concessions requested by Mr. Walker: to pay nearly 6 percent of their wages for pension costs, up from nearly zero, and double payments for health insurance. At that point, most governors would declare victory and move on. Instead, Mr. Walker has rejected union concessions and won't even negotiate. His true priority is stripping workers of collective-bargaining rights and reducing their unions to a shell. The unions would no longer be able to raise money to oppose him, as they did in last year's election, easing the way for future Republicans as well.
The game is up when unionized state workers demonstrate a sense of shared sacrifice but Republican lawmakers won't even allow them a seat at the table. For unions and Democrats in the Midwest, this is an existential struggle, and it is one worth waging.
George Lakoff explains that the deficits in Wisconsin and other states "are convenient ruses for destroying American democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all areas of life." and Paul Krugman observes that "it's not about the budget; it's about the power:"
What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin -- and eventually, America -- less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. And that's why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators' side.
Kevin Drum explains why we need unions at Mother Jones, observing that they are "the only large-scale movement left in America that persistently acts as a countervailing power against corporate power:"
...the decline of unions over the past few decades has left corporations and the rich with essentially no powerful opposition. No matter what doubts you might have about unions and their role in the economy, never forget that destroying them destroys the only real organized check on the power of the business community in America.
Drum sketches the financial history of the past 40 years in Plutocracy Now, and ends with the observation that "It's a story about power:"
It's about the loss of a countervailing power robust enough to stand up to the influence of business interests and the rich on equal terms. With that gone, the response to every new crisis and every new change in the economic landscape has inevitably pointed in the same direction. And after three decades, the cumulative effect of all those individual responses is an economy focused almost exclusively on the demands of business and finance. In theory, that's supposed to produce rapid economic growth that serves us all, and 30 years of free-market evangelism have convinced nearly everyone--even middle-class voters who keep getting the short end of the economic stick--that the policy preferences of the business community are good for everyone. But in practice, the benefits have gone almost entirely to the very wealthy.
Richard Wolff explains that corporate tax avoidance is the real reason for the public finance crisis and notes that "Organisations such as Chambers of Commerce and corporations' academic and political allies together shaped the public debate. They did not want it to be about who does and does not pay the taxes:"
If corporations paid taxes proportionate to the benefits they get from government and in fair proportion to what individuals pay, most US citizens would finally get the tax relief they so desperately seek.
GOP governors are shifting the tax burden to poor and middle-class taxpayers and advancing their plutocratic agenda:
...union busting, draconian cuts to social programs, and massive corporate tax breaks. These misplaced priorities mean that the poor and middle class will shoulder the burden of fiscal austerity, even as the rich and corporations are asked to contribute even less. [...] ...in spite of the supposed "crisis" and being "broke," as Walker himself has said, his budget plans will include "a LOT more tax breaks" for the rich and corporations that will have to be balanced on the backs of workers or with painful cuts to state services
Ed noted at Gin and Tacos that the text of Walker's bill includes provisions for the no-bid sale of public assets, and reads "like a highlight reel of all of the high-flying slam dunks of neo-Gilded Age corporatism: privatization, no-bid contracts, deregulation, and naked cronyism:"
In case it isn't clear where the naked cronyism comes in, remember which large, politically active private interest loves buying up power plants and already has considerable interests in Wisconsin. Then consider their demonstrated eagerness to help Mr. Walker get elected and bus in carpetbaggers to have a sad little pro-Mubarak style "rally" in his honor. There are dots to be connected here, but doing so might not be in the public interest.
In The Republicans Are Coming, The Republicans Are Coming, Theo Goldberg notes that "Republicans are bent on evaporating anything that resembles a public good, on curtailing government and most anything government does beyond security and basic services:"
They are committed to dissolving all regulatory regimes, from financial and banking to environmental conditions and labor standards. They are insisting on swapping out social security support for privatized and self-directed retirement schemes (401(k)'s). They are pushing to dissolve public education and to destroy union representation, especially for public workers such as teachers. And they are working to outsource public functions to private for-profit outfits.
It's another verse of the same old GOP song--privileging capital over labor. Goldberg observes that "Sarah Palin has chided state workers that 'You must be willing to sacrifice'," and makes this observation:
But of course, legislators and the governor have not voted to sacrifice their salaries, and corporations have not been asked to contribute a small percentage of their profits for the public good - quite the contrary. The fix proposed is once again on the backs of the more vulnerable among the state's citizens.
Not surprisingly, the Wisconsin anti-union efforts are (like other Teabagger Astroturf events) bankrolled by the Koch brothers:
Even before the new governor was sworn in last month, executives from the Koch-backed group [Americans for Prosperity] had worked behind the scenes to try to encourage a union showdown... [...] [AFP] is already working with activists and state officials in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania to urge them to take similar steps to curtail union benefits or give public employees the power to opt out of unions entirely.
Speculating from this ad, Susie Madrak asks at Crooks and Liars if Koch Industries is already collecting managers' applications for the plants that it doesn't own yet. Madrak writes that "we can't know for sure, but it's a pretty good guess that the Kochs...are apparently so confident they're going to own the Wisconsin state-owned power plants, they're already advertising to hire new plant managers!"
Energy client is looking for experienced Plant Managers for multiple power plants located in Wisconsin. You need 15+ years of operations & maintenance experience in a power plant environment. You should have at least 5 years of experience managing operations & maintenance teams in an operational power plant. The ideal candidate has experience in a coal fired power plant. Salary is commensurate with experience.
While we're talking about Koch, the prank call to Gov Scott Walker has been dissected numerous times for what it reveals--or doesn't--about the governor. Ezra Klein makes the point that athough "the transcript of the conversation is unexceptional, the fact of it is lethal:"
The state's Democratic senators can't get Walker on the phone, but someone can call the governor's front desk, identify themselves as David Koch, and then speak with both the governor and his chief of staff? That's where you see the access and power that major corporations and wealthy contributors will have in a Walker administration, and why so many in Wisconsin are reluctant to see the only major interest group representing workers taken out of the game.
Walker claimed at a press conference that "I take phone calls all the time," but that's a lame evasion for his eagerness to placate the plutocrats. Will he get called out for his craven pursuit of conservative campaign cash?