Paul Krugman cuts to the core motivation behind Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s bid to strip many of his state’s public-employee unions of their bargaining rights, on the way to crushing the unions altogether.
Why bust the unions? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes.
So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power.
In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.
Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.
You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.
And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.
Even though Walker, a radical-right Republican, raised his right hand and swore to serve the people of Wisconsin, his actions reveal him to be nothing but the Koch brothers’ hired hand.
That’s right, Wisconsin’s chief executive isn’t a public servant. Rather, he’s an agent of two Texas billionaires with extensive business interests in the state. They wanted — and are getting — the best Wisconsin government their money could buy.
The same can be said for Wisconsin’s wealthiest citizens, who are benefiting to the tune of $400 million from the tax cuts Walker arranged for them almost as soon as he became governor. Oh, and the $42 million budget surplus Walker inherited upon taking up his duties? Not two months in office and it’s gone.
This is blatantly government of the oligarchs by the corrupt and for the wealthy.
Walker claims he’s just doing what he must to deal with a $360 million fiscal crisis, not mentioning that he very deliberately caused the fiscal crisis.
Sound familiar? It should because it’s right out of the Karl Rove/George W. Bush playbook. It’s the same dirty work that made a complete mess of U.S. finances just in time for the worst economic collapse in 80 years.
Walker’s conniving mismanagement and union busting must be stopped. Because if he succeeds it’s only a matter of time before his radical-conservative clones in Ohio and elsewhere follow suit.
The good people of Wisconsin who’ve turned out in tens of thousands in Madison to raise hell and demand fairness are doing their best to see to it that it is stopped. We wish them good luck, Godspeed and plenty of support from millions of good Americans nationwide. But even if Wisconsin’s public employees succeed in beating back this assault on their bargaining rights, it won’t be enough.
The proper and absolutely necessary response to Walker and other Republican governors like him is a recall election. We understand Wisconsin law is such that a recall can’t be undertaken for a year. That’s a terrible restriction, given how much damage one power-hungry, sold-out pol can do in a year.
Alas, the law is what it is. But once the year is up, the people of Wisconsin should go after Walker with a justified vengeance, unelecting him by a landslide margin.
To borrow a term from the Tea Party dupes who did plenty to help elect this Bush clone, this fraud, a successful recall would be a splendid example of the people taking back their state.
That is, taking Wisconsin back from their marionette governor and his Texas billionaire puppeteers.
Did we say Bush clone? Read this excellent report at Think Progress to learn how Walker is gutting environmental oversight and rules enforcement to benefit Georgia Pacific and other heavy-polluting Koch industries.