Once again, and probably not for the last time, let us repeat what happened in Wisconsin:
- Unlike most states that really do have a big budget shortfall, Wisconsin had a surplus until Governor walker started giving out corporate tax cuts.
- Governor Walker then hyped up the budget crisis he caused, announced that federal workers’ benefits were the problem, and that his budget had to be rushed through. His budget included some power grabs, including mandating the end of collective bargaining for federal workers, as well as allowing him to make sweetheart deals with the state’s power plants.
- Walker refused to accept the union financial concessions that he claimed to want. He will accept nothing less than busting the union.
The right wing has done its best to stir hatred against unionized federal workers for “enjoying lavish taxpayer-funded pensions.” This is false. Pensions are funded by workers. The pension fund is made up of deferred salary that is paid out as delayed compensation. No taxes were used. Their contract spells this out. Using pension money for the state budget would be stealing the workers’ own money from them. Instead of resenting the pensions of state workers, private sector workers should be asking why the private sector can’t have pensions, too? (quick answer: they used to, but companies took them away.)
Financially, the unions are pretty much the last leg the Democrats are standing on. Of the ten biggest political donors, two are unions and the other eight are right wing. Busting unions is a calculated Republican strategy to deprive Democrats of the money to be heard. What does a party look like when it has no big money to promote itself? It looks like the Green party in America. It makes little inroads here and there but is mostly invisible and has no impact on national policy.
What is at stake is not just the Democrats but democracy itself. One party with all the money and media on its side is not a democracy; it is an empire. A corporate-funded puppet empire. What can stand against it?
And that empire will do just what Scott Walker and other Republicans are trying to do now: sell off public property to cronies, defund public broadcasting, remove women’s rights, and roll back all social reforms since the Civil War, including the Labor movement. Next time, there will be no Democrats who can leave and prevent a quorum.
Do you ever wonder why right wing Tea Partiers talk about the Constitution like it’s the political version of the Bible, containing all the answers anyone needs? Because the Constitution only limits what the government can do. It does not limit what corporations can do.
Corporations can do things that government cannot legally do. The government can’t search your home or office without a warrant, but your company owns your email and can search it any time it wants to. The government can’t do anything to you you for saying something negative about the country, but a company can fire you for badmouthing the company. Yes, it’s different because the government can do things like throw you in jail, too. And yes, corporations still have limits on what they can do to enemies (cf Bank of America and Wikileaks) But if government is the puppet of corporate guys the way Scott Walker is with the Koch brothers, then you have corporations that can direct the government to give corporations unfettered power to do anything. And bury the provision in a bill no one notices.
WHO IS TALKING ABOUT THIS?
The way we talk about issues is important. The right wing works very hard to frame what is going on in Wisconsin as a “budget crisis,” and it is not. We need to spread the real story everywhere so that all people will understand why it’s worth fighting about. When someone like Jon Stewart refers to this as the Wisconsin budget crisis, as he did Monday, we all miss an opportunity to spread awareness about what is really going on and what is really at stake.