Playing for Politics

February 24th, 2011

In what amounts to a brazen political attack at a Democratic base, Wisconsin Republicans are trying to incapacitate the teacher’s unions. They claim that it is about balancing the budget, but that claim is pretty much pure BS. Stripping the unions of their collective bargaining rights will not even come close to solving the state budget crisis; instead, the worst culprits, according to Business Week, are “anticipated Medicaid expenses and a court-ordered repayment to a fund that was raided four years ago.” Additionally, Gov. Walker proposes another big chunk–$117 million–to be given to businesses in the form of a tax cut. Somehow, cutting the direct stream of revenue will increase revenue, but paying a fair wage to workers who directly spur business and pay money back in taxes is a revenue-killer.

Meanwhile, despite determined efforts to demonize the unions and frighten a gullible public into viewing them as lazy, greedy, and destructive, public support for the unions is surprisingly solid–a fact which Fox News, of course, shamelessly lies about.

This is not about balancing the budget. Walker and the Republicans are not doing what would be necessary to accomplish that–quite the opposite. This is 100% political. It’s about cutting the legs out from under one of the Democrat’s only remaining base constituencies–workers–while shoveling the state more into debt by further engorging a Republican constituency–business. Walker believes that he’s a Republican hero, setting a trend that will spark a nation-wide conservative revolution. When asked if he would back off on the unions if they agreed to pay cuts, he said no–this is not about money, this is about political support and power bases.

As if to punctuate that, Walker–who is not easy to reach by phone–accepted a prank phone call by a blogger claiming to be infamous billionaire and Tea Party funder David Koch. Walker spent twenty minutes on the call, during which he explained how he planned to lie to Democratic lawmakers, tricking them to coming back so he can ram through his budget. The call also highlighted Walker’s cozy relationship with big business in his state, ending with Walker showing enthusiasm at the suggestion that Koch would treat him to a vacation in Cali after Walker succeeds with his plans.

  1. Troy
    February 24th, 2011 at 12:57 | #1

    but paying a fair wage to workers who directly spur business and pay money back in taxes is a revenue-killer.

    I kinda disagree with this.

    State workers certainly provide useful services for their pay — in education, public infrastructure, prisons, etc. but this money going through the state does not necessarily “spur business” nor is it “paid back” in taxes.

    Education, prisons, and health care are not necessarily productive enterprises, in that they do not create or facilitate the creation of hard wealth.

    This is not to say that the state needs tax cuts, I think the core challenge every screwed-up economy is facing is too little taxation, not too much.

    Now, education does improve the labor ability of the next generation, so it probably does “pay for itself”, plus education is a solid middle-class profession and US economy needs more of these kinds of jobs not fewer.

    As you know and argue on your blog well enough, the wealthy in this country have been becoming ever-more-wealthy since 1980.

    I think it’s clear that the US is kinda entering the end-game where the wealthy cement their wealth position by dismantling the 20th century welfare state — specifically, the promises the Democrats have written for the baby boomers are beginning to come due now and the wealthy DO NOT want to start having to write the checks that pay for them.

    There are two futures the US can move to — the 40% tax level of LBJ, where high government services were paid for with high marginal tax rates — or the 19th century regime where the rich didn’t have to worry at all about the teeming millions.

    The story of 1970-2010 has been the fight of great wealth to recapture the public debate and create the political forces that beat down the welfare state.

    It’s been a very impressive public propaganda effort and they’re pretty much winning, the election of 2010 being a signal example.

    They’re now less than two weeks away from shutting down the government again. The last time they did this I was fully relocated and happy in Japan — wish I could say the same now.

    But back to the public sector thing. There is apparently a great degree of abuse and over-generosity that has gone on for a long time now. Those who milk it can do very well for themselves, and this makes the entire thing vulnerable at the political level.

    As I mention here a lot, total government spending this year is going to be $5.7T. This is $50,000 per household and is entirely unsustainable, even with massive tax increases — something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark, so to speak.

  2. Troy
    February 24th, 2011 at 13:38 | #2

    and, man, your semi-adopted home state just can’t catch a break, eh

  3. Tim Kane
    February 25th, 2011 at 03:54 | #3

    As the Uber-wealthy Republican right become more and more successful at there goals of ever increasing concentration of wealth and power, they become less and less able (and perhaps willing) to cloak their true motives with finesse and fine marketing arts. They never really cared, but when they get to the point that they can’t or don’t have to, then they won’t – especially if it cost money.

    In 1979, David Stockman says, the top 2% controled $9 trillion. Today they control $40 trillion. What do you think they will control in 2020? Where will it come from?

    Compared to that top 2%, the 98% of us have but-kiss. Nada. Nothing. In fact, all we have are us. Do you think that after plotting, scheming and working to get to that $40 trillion mark, we can just ask them to give say have of it back? Do you really think they would go along with that. With $40 trillion, do they not have the very means to beat back any attempt at society retaking back what was once part of the common wealth or the commercial economy (demand side of the economy?).

    These people aren’t getting weaker, they are getting stronger. Their control of society exist through their ownership of corporations. Everytime mom and pop sell their shares to pay for a house, college education, survive a layoff, or pay for retirement, they people just buy more shares. When they get dividends, they buy more shares. These people are getting stronger, not weaker.

    They are like the Ga-ool from Star-Gate. It is, perhaps best to think of them that way. An uber-race that has parasitic relationship with the rest of us, whom they otherwise view as cockroaches/vermin.

    I agree, on a philosophical level, that it may not be fair for public service employees to have unions, in normal times. These are not normal times. The private sector unions that protect us from the Ga-ool are decimated. The public sector unions are all that’s left to protectus from peonage, the serfdom the right wing tried to convince us Keynesian/demand side economics would lead us to.

    This is all about one thing: power and wealth and whether or not you want America to look and smell like Haiti in 2020 or not.

    It’s not looking good for the good guys at this point. 40,000 union protestors in Madison Wisconsin versus a small clique of cadres that control tens of trillions of dollars, (and with those trillions, they own and control the media, think tanks, and even university professors graveling for grants.)

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