Friday, February 25, 2011

On Wisconsin!

I haven't said anything about the events in Wisconsin - well duh, obviously I haven't - even as I have been following them closely. The latest bit, of course, is the Assembly GOPpers stripping away workers' rights in a quite literally middle-of-the-night vote and then again quite literally immediately scurrying away like the shameless cowards they are. That it was a consciously-designed maneuver to sneak in a vote before debate had finished is obvious:
Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, opened the roll and closed it within seconds,
a time frame sufficient to allow more than enough GOPpers to vote to pass the crap while 25 of the 38 Dems got skunked. Clearly, those GOPpers knew this was coming and were waiting for it. Scummy does not begin to describe it, but labeling it as displaying "a craven yet well-founded fear of a full and open discussion with time for the public to understand and react instead of cramming 60 hours of 'debate' into three days" might make a start.

Rachel Maddow had a clip of the immediate aftermath of the vote, featuring Dems chanting "Shame! Shame!" as the GOPper skulked away. The second time it was on, during her interview with State Sen. John Erpenbach, one of the honorable Wisconsin 14, there is a moment when one of the departing GOPpers pauses as if to argue with a Democratic Assemblywoman. Immediately, someone steps between them and the GOPper behind the guy who paused gives him a "keep moving" push and all three of those guys leave. Which serves to confirm that there was indeed a pre-planned decision of "flash vote then get up and leave without talking to anyone."

Even before that bush-league ambush, it had become obvious to any observer who can see or hear or breathe that this has nothing to do with a budget shortfall and everything to do with attacking labor. This is part of a coordinated attack not only on the standard of living of the middle class (or what's left of it) but on workers' ability to sustain that middle class, on labor's right to unite to resist the class war that has been directed against them and the poor for three decades or longer.

Governor Scott Walkalloveryou made that abundantly clear all the way back on Sunday, telling Faux News that
he did not believe union leaders were really interested in giving up their benefits and cities, school districts and counties will need weakened unions to cut spending for years to come.
It's hard to get more direct than that. Even so, "Oh, but still, even there he's talking about the money!" the wingnuts screeched and the selfish wailed. "It's about the deficit!" It's hard to accept that anyone would seriously raise such transparent nonsense, but if there really was any lingering doubt about the real goal - although I can't imagine its source - Governor Walkalloveryou surely dispelled it during his appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Tuesday. Asked why he kept talking about the need to reduce benefits to state employees when the unions had already said they agreed to the cuts, cuts which amount to, on average, a rather dramatic 10% reduction in take-home pay, he lamely sputtered that no one had made that offer to him directly. But when asked a bit later if would he meet with the unions, he flatly said no - which of course makes it impossible for anyone to say it to him "directly." He can't take it seriously because no one has said it directly while he is actively preventing anyone from doing so.

This is, to put it mildly, an exceedingly dishonest man.

In that same appearance, he was asked about who else besides unionized state workers should bear part of the burden for closing the budget gap and his answer, in short, was "no one." When he was asked specifically about raising taxes on the wealthiest people in the state, well, you know what he said without even having to watch the clip: Raise taxes? Omigod! It will destroy the economy! How you even think of doing such a horrific thing to "the hardworking families" of the state? Which not only suggests that Walkalloveryou thinks that state employees are neither hardworking nor taxpayers but, recalling that the question was about taxing the richest, he is actually arguing - really, he is, and we're supposed to regard it as a serious stance - that middle-class state employees can afford to pay more but millionaires can't, that state employees have excess income but millionaires don't.

Reprise "exceedingly dishonest."

And then of course there was the phone call from "David Koch." Others have covered that quite adequately, but I bring it up because it serves to raise the issue of the shortcomings of much of the media coverage. In responding to the report of the call, Walkalloveryou lamely claimed he said nothing in that call which he hadn't said publicly. As near as I can tell, not only did the assembled press corps not burst out laughing, no one asked him when he had publicly described a plan to trick Dem state senators into coming back to the capitol in order to get a quorum or when he publicly said that he and his staff had considered sending "troublemakers" among demonstrators to cause a "ruckus" but rejected it on the purely political tactical grounds that it might backfire.

Speaking of the protests, that in turn brings up the TPer rally with its pre-printed "Pay your share" signs. I'll leave aside for now my fury at the news media which just talked about the total number of protesters on that day and it being "the first time pro-Walkalloveryou supporters turned out" without feeling it necessary to mention either that the TP rally was organized from out of state and bused in people or that the number of pro-union demonstrators utterly dwarfed the number of TPers. However, I will express my fury at a different failing: Why were none of those people, why weren't the TPers and their ilk, why weren't any of the "screw you, I got mine" crowd, asked "What's your share?"

I would like to see every one of those people asked what benefits they are going to give up to chip in toward solving "the budget crisis," what tax increases that they would have to pay are they are ready to accept, what loss of public services that affect them personally are they prepared to advocate. I'm tired of this crap of "everyone has to pitch in" actually meaning "except me." I've referred to this attitude before in the case of the rich and the attack on Social Security, but frankly it applies across the rightwing half of the board.

In fact, I want someone to ask Walkalloveryou the same thing: Governor, what are you giving up? What losses are you accepting? What sacrifices are you making? And I mean you, personally.

However, I suppose the media failure there is not surprising since it has been a failure in a number of ways. Here's another: Initially, the talk was about a $137 million shortfall. When a few people tried to argue that Walkalloveryou and his minions had driven that deficit with the tax cuts that got rammed through in the first few days of the legislative session, they got shot down with the observation that the cuts don't take effect until next year. Fine. Except that, apparently deciding that $137 million wasn't scary enough, W., et al., started talking about a $3.6 billion shortfall, a figure dutifully repeated in the press - and not once did I see that mainstream press note that that puts it into the period affected by the tax cuts and therefore that W.'s cuts do drive a significant part of that deficit. Maybe some did, but I didn't see it, any more than I saw any of them comment on the absurd behavior of the GOPpers of the state Senate, who proposed to act even without the Dems on non-budgetary matters (as in fact they can) - such as passing a tax cut for dairy farmers.

Wait - at the same time that you're screaming about deficits you're proposing more tax cuts? And this was not considered worthy of notice by our esteemed free press?

What's more, I am sick to death of hearing about the supposedly fat $48,000 paychecks that Wisconsin public school teachers get on average when that is below the median household income in Wisconsin, which is $50,000, and even further below that of Dane County (where Madison is), which is $58,000. As David Sirota says, comparing this to the failed attempt to limit CEO pay as part of the bailout of the bankers, in the corporatist-government view,
$500,000 isn't nearly enough taxpayer cash to retain government-funded bankers, but $48,000 ... is too much to pay educators.
On that same point I want to turn to David Cay Johnston, author of Perfectly Legal and Free Lunch, who argues cogently that slipshod media coverage of the workers' benefits has
created the impression that somehow the workers are getting something extra, a gift from taxpayers. They are not.
Rather, he says, the benefits are in the form of deferred wages, with whatever the state is contributing to benefits being done, according to the terms of the agreement, "on behalf of the employee." What that means more directly is that whatever the state is putting in for pensions and health insurance is money that otherwise would be paid directly to the employee.
This shows that this is just divvying up the total compensation package, so much for cash wages, so much for paid vacations, so much for retirement, etc.
His point, besides criticism of the failure of the media to realize that fact, is that Governor Walkalloveryou says he wants state workers to "contribute more" towards health and pension benefits when in fact they are already fully, even if indirectly, funding them and what he's really demanding is an outright pay cut or more technically an outright compensation cut.

Workers - to be precise, unionized state workers - must accept a 10% reduction in their standard of living while everyone else, including (or rather especially) millionaires, remain untouchable. And even if they do accept that, which they have, it's not good enough unless they also give up the ability to stand up for themselves in the future.

No wonder the rightwing scream machine is in full-throated roar about the "freeloaders" and "parasites" that teach your children, keep your house from burning down, plow your streets, watch over your health, and haul away the crap you throw out: There is a great need to keep people from thinking about what is really happening, to keep them distracted from what is being done to them. Unlike the beleaguered, befuddled, and bewildered useful idiots comprising the TPers and the dittoheads, the operators of that machine know who their real enemy is.

Footnote: PHC* has been almost completely silent on this; his one contribution was an all-but-passing remark nearly a week ago to a local media outlet that it "seems like" that Walkalloveryou is mounting "an assault" on public employee unions. Even that minimal involvement did not sit well with the GOPpers:
"I think the president should be focusing on what we're doing in Washington," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said today on NBC's Meet The Press.
Y'know, Lindsey, maybe you can give some attention only to one thing at a time, but most of the rest of us are not so intellectually stunted.

*PHC = President Hopey-Changey

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