Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Monday, February 21, 2011

Governor Walker, " IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY!"

Howard Schweber, Associate Professor of Political Science and Law, University of Wisconsin-Madison, explains that IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY! 

But first, read how he describes himself:

"I am not what you would call a real "progressive" in the modern sense of the word. I actually have significant concerns about the role of public sector unions when they become too large -- they can begin to act like monopoly players in the labor market and to exert an unwholesome amount of political influence. "

"IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. It has NEVER been about the money: from the very beginning union leaders said they are willing to accept the contribution requirements. And it's worth pointing out that public sector employees have had four years of no raises (including one raise that was retroactively clawed back for some of us) and pay cuts in the form of unpaid furlough days. As a matter of fact, by promising to end furloughs, Governor Walker goes a good ways to mitigate the impact of the increased contribution requirements in the short term.

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. If I say it loudly enough, will anyone hear it? It's about preserving collective bargaining and a governor who negotiates before he makes radical decisions and huge, transformative bills getting a public hearing before they are voted on. It's about "democracy," and it's not really a coincidence that every petty tyrant you have ever heard of from Latin America to the Middle East started by crushing the trade unions.

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. Every speaker, every sign, every chant in the crowd is about collective bargaining. You might not think that "meet us at the bargaining table" would make an effective chant, but you would be surprised. Walker introduced his bill and right away said that he would not negotiate -- with anyone, about anything -- and that if the public sector workers tried to have a work action he would call in the National Guard. That was before any protests! This Governor went to Defcon 4 and started warming up his nukes before anyone had even indicated a hostile intent. How bad is it? Even the Chair of the Madison Chamber of Commerce is starting to sound a little queasy.

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. If it were, what would public unions exempted from the bill be doing in the street? Police and firefighters have been out in force to support the protesters -- these are public employees, but they are exempt from the provisions of Walker's Bill. They are also core Republican constituencies. Some of these Republican legislators may have to run for re-election against the opposition of local chambers of commerce, police forces, and firefighters. In other words, the GOP is losing the Reagan Democrats and betting, instead, on the Tea Party.

And it's not just public unions. I saw an awful lot of Machinists and Pipefitters and Electricians and Teamsters -- again, not exactly traditional Democratic constituencies. One of the guys in the Teamster jackets was a burly, grizzled man with close-cropped grey hair, neon blue eyes, and hands like shovels. His comment to me was, "If this was our protest, it wouldn't be so peaceful."

Governor Walker, are you really looking to go to war with the Teamsters? With what? On Saturday I asked four different state troopers (to whom all our thanks is due for their exemplary professionalism) what they thought, and to a man each one gave me the same tight little smile and said "We can't comment on that," and all the other troopers nodded soberly. Then I asked my follow up question: "Well, how are the protesters behaving?" And to a man, each one broke into a warm grin and said "They're great!" And all the others nodded enthusiastically. Governor Walker, as the saying goes, are you sure you hold the army?

The much-vaunted counter-protest on Saturday was tiny, weakly organized, and you had to be standing right next to the crowd to be able to hear it. And unsurprisingly, perhaps, most of the pro-Walker people still did not seem to understand that IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. Lots of wonderful myths floating around -- "the average teacher in Milwaukee makes $100,000!" (the actual figure is $56,500, the rest is obtained by valuing benefits at more than 100% of salary. Try that with your own salary.) I won't even tell you the idiotic ideas people have about how much college professors make: if the Tea Party could arrange for me to earn as much as they think I do, I would join the Tea Party.

The signs were a wonderful mixture of poetry and silliness. "Give you tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free... and we'll take care of them! We're nurses." A sign that read "I love my Public Defender" and another being carried by a member of the Wisconsin States' Attorney Association. I liked the one that read,"I blame Favre" ....well, around here, who doesn't? "Never poke a badger." And everywhere, everywhere, "This is a peaceful protest." Inside, the rotunda was packed solid with people, many of whom have been there for days. "This is what democracy smells like," as a friend of mine put it.

How does this end? I truly don't know. Republican legislators insist that there is massive support for their position outside the Capitol, and thus far party discipline has been absolute. (I can't remember the last time I wanted to see some reliable polling data so badly.) If I had to bet, I would bet that the bill will be passed in its present form, and collective bargaining rights will be lost for a while.

But that's when the really interesting part begins. Does Walker have any political capital left at all among Republican legislators after needlessly and pointlessly subjecting them to this? And what will the next election cycle look like? We have a long history of political division in this state: we elected Joe McCarthy and Bob LaFollette. But we have no history of governors seizing power and publicly declaring themselves answerable to no one. And Walker is trying to raise the threat level: a few days ago he was saying the bill was necessary to prevent 6,000 layoffs. Now that number has climbed to "11,000." Governor Walker, did you really just threaten to fire 11,000 people unless your bill gets passed? Is that how you think politics works in Wisconsin?

IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY. It's about the politics, about the representation and about the duty that public officials have to treat their constituents who are taxpayers with a minimal degree of respect. People get angry when politicians think they are monarchs. What this bodes for GOP candidates going forward depends on how angry ordinary Wisconsinites are, including a lot of traditional Republican voters. How angry are the teachers and the nurses and the police officers and the firefighters? How angry are our Teamsters and our Machinists, our janitors and security guards, our food service workers, and -- oh, yes -- our incredibly underpaid graduate instructors and the bone-poor teachers at our community colleges?

The protests are going to be a lot quieter for a bit: weather is back to "normal" here in Wisconsin, which means driving sleet and frigid temperatures. But I don't think people have stopped paying attention. As I said at the outset, I'm not really a true-blue Progressive, but like a great number of other people I am angry, angrier now than I was a week ago. And IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY."


Sue said...

one of my friends in Wisconsin says Walker will fight til the end, he will not give up, she has been calling him Hitler for the past 8 years. This man is a true piece of shit and is absolutely trying to union bust which they THINK will spread across the country and lead to the end of the democratic party as we know it. Unions are largely contributors to democrat candidates, do the wingnuts actually think they can kill the party therefore giving America no other choice in elections?? Do they really think we can be a one party nation?? These fuckers are dictator wanna bes but want the country to believe it is the liberals who will bring down the country! HA!!

I don't think there has been a subject that has got me so pissed. Beck is right, a revolution is coming to America but he is wrong on who is to blame

Shaw Kenawe said...

I keep hearing from our conservative friends that "elections have consequences."

Strange that, no?

When Mr. Obama was handily elected in 2008, less than 3 months later a group of people calling themselves the Tea Party were crying that they wanted their country back.

And our conservative friends went ballistic when President Obama passed the health care reform. They said he was "shoving it down our throats."

Apparently, elections seem to have consequences only when the conservatives win them.

And shoving stuff down voters' throats is bad only when Democrats do it.

Dave Miller said...


Here's another great article explaining the Wisconsin issue in a way conservatives of course, will completely ignore because it differs from their narrative.


Infidel753 said...

Of course it's not about the money. If this weren't primarily a case of political Blitzkrieg, the unions which traditionally support Republicans wouldn't have been exempted.

We have been warned for decades that if union membership was allowed to erode, eventually the rights that unions fought for would start to erode as well. It appears to be coming true.

I feel lucky to live in a state where someone like Walker would be unlikely to get elected.

BB-Idaho said...

Sounds a bit familiar. Oh, yeah...
"Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist." M. Niemoller
Sue's (above comment) friend has it nailed...

Shaw Kenawe said...

Thanks for the link Dave. Here are some of its points:

"There is a kernel of truth in Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s claim of a “budget shortfall” of $137 million. But Walker, a Republican, failed to tell the state that less than two weeks into his term as governor, he, with his swollen Republican majorities in the Wisconsin Legislature, pushed through $117 million in tax breaks for business allies of the GOP. There is your crisis.

The state Legislature’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau—Wisconsin’s equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office and a refuge for professional expertise and nonpartisanship—warned Walker and the Legislature that the measure would create a budget gap. There is your shortfall—and not one resulting from established public employee benefits. Before the tax giveaways, the fiscal agency predicted a surplus.'

And this:

"During his run for governor, Walker had substantial financial support from the Koch brothers, billionaire industrialists who have funded various anti-Obama, anti-science, and anti-national government movements. In short, they are opposed to anyone and anything that might diminish their exorbitant profits. And for the Kochs, destroying labor unions is in the top tier of their to-get-rid-of list.

Walker’s own hostility to labor unions is a touchstone of his prior political experience. He is out to realize his every long-held political fantasy, with the help of such allies as the National Association of Manufacturers; Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; and the Chamber of Commerce. Ever since the 1930s, when national law recognized the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, that gain has been under assault from right-wing ideologues and much of the business community."


Shaw Kenawe said...

Infidel and BB I:

The Economic Policy Institute has an article on how public sector employees are compensated BELOW AVERAGE, even though they're education credentials are the same as those who are compensated more in the private sector.


Shaw Kenawe said...


NOT "they're"


Dave Miller said...

Shaw, even if we accept the convoluted logic that puts their pay at 110K, isn't that still way below what a middle class plumber named Joe, at 250K was making?

The GOP partisans cannot argue that Joe at $250K was middle class and then call teachers making less than 100K overpaid.

It is all so much BS...

K. said...

The way I look at, so what if they do make 110K. That's good, isn't it? What's with the conservative fetish of begrudging people a good standard of living?

TAO said...

Slowly but surely, year after year for the last 30 years we have found ourselves subjected to a constant message from the right: Rich people and corporations create jobs not demand.

See, demand can't be a good thing because over two thirds of our economy is created by the demand of consumers, who are also workers.

We cannot empower them.

For 30 years the right has talked about a romantic novel, Atlas Shrugged, as if it was a textbook on economic principles.

For 30 years we have heard about how charity can solve all of our problems, how the individual is important and we have to free ourselves from big government and high taxes....

NOW, the business oligarchy, has shown its real hand and its real goal and that is to imprison each and everyone of us, to enslave us to creating wealth for them.

They are not patriots, they don't give a damn about this country.

We are one step away from small step. With the destruction of the unions you will also see the destruction of the democratic party because the democrats will have to seek funding from the same sources that the republicans do as that will be the only source of contributions left....and the end of democracy in the United States.

If the unions fail in Wisconsin, the state that gave birth to the Progressive Movement, then we will become an oligarchy.....

Wouldn't that really flip a few wigs amongst our founding fathers?

billy pilgrim said...

the percent of unionized workers has been decreasing at an alarming rate for a few decades, from 20.1 in 1983 to 11.9 in 2010. the trend is the governor's friend but i guess he smells blood and wants to be man of the year at some right wing shindig.

Octopus said...

The reason why union enrollments have dropped precipitously: Outsourced jobs in the manufacturing sector. Here is part of the story: The Book of Jobs - Revised Global Edition