And now for the Propaganda

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011, at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

The Right Wing Media and John Birch society outlets are pressing hard against the protests happening in Wisconsin and other places where government workers’ rights to collective bargaining are under assault.  We’re seeing police state tactics employed by the Republicans in Wisconsin and typical hateful propaganda from the mouthpieces of the plutocracy.  Here’s an excellent example of right wing hysteria worthy of a dying despot using State TV to scare people from WSJ.

A seminal showdown between public unions and taxpayers.  —  For Americans who don’t think the welfare state riots of France or Greece can happen here, we recommend a look at the union and Democratic Party spectacle now unfolding in Wisconsin.

That’s right, Wisconsin is having ‘welfare state’ riots like France or Greece. I’ve missed the fires, but hell, what’s a little purple prose compared to having every one sing ‘The Internationale’ eventually?  Is that what they think of Fire Fighters and Teachers?  Do the services we provide fall under a ‘welfare state’? Do the years we spend at school or training need to be discounted because we work for the public sector instead of the private?  Look at that pejorative word ‘riots’.  Isn’t every one in Wisconsin exercising their constitution-given rights to free speech and assembly?  Are they really rioting?  This reminds me of the characterization in Egypt by the state TV of journalists and protesters as provocateurs of foreign agents.  That was the trigger pulled on a gun pointed at the head of journalists among others.

Catch what’s called a ‘modest proposal’ in the second paragraph.  Unbelievable.  This Op-Ed was unsigned and that in itself is telling. It’s an edict from above.

Mr. Walker’s very modest proposal would take away the ability of most government employees to collectively bargain for benefits. They could still bargain for higher wages, but future wage increases would be capped at the federal Consumer Price Index, unless otherwise specified by a voter referendum. The bill would also require union members to contribute 5.8% of salary toward their pensions and chip in 12.6% of the cost of their health insurance premiums.

How can you ‘bargain’ for higher wages when you’re currently under a salary freeze?  How is it ‘bargaining’ when they start your position with wage increases capped at the CPI?  What happens if there’s a shortage of something like Civil Engineers and the going wage for Civil Engineers doubles?  Does that mean you have no right to ask that your salary be brought up to the market level so that your only choice is to leave your job and go else where?  What is the basic purpose of having the right to collective bargain but to be able to sit down and negotiate from a position of strength to a reasonable, mutually agreed position?  What does it say when the state wants to handicap you from the get go and start you from the minimally acceptable position to begin with?  How does this do anything but decimate the collective bargaining process?

I need to make a disclosure here.  I’ve been a member of the NEA and I worked with the negotiating team at my college in Nebraska. This is something I sorely miss down here in Louisiana because I haven’t had a decent working situation since then. My livelihood was subjected to the capricious whims of both Deans and politicians many times. None of this would have happened if I had a strong bargaining unit. I would have had a vehicle for redress and I imagine they may not have even tried what they’ve gotten away with under different circumstances.  An example would be that my last position offered me a job and salary–taking me off the job market–then 10 days before school started, they changed both my salary and job grade to a much lower position when I had no options at that point. I’d have never taken that offer had it been made when I was in a position to do something else. This last teaching job never paid me any of the salaries they offered me for either of the two academic years I worked there.  I received two contracts after school had started that were distinctly different from the terms they gave me mid summer.  That’s just one example of abuse too.   Also, what few benefits we had in the Louisiana public university systems are the result of the collective bargaining power of the clerical and janitor’s unions.  That goes for administrators too.  If they hadn’t achieved a minimal threshold, the rest of us would never have gotten similar deals. The only employees that have control over the terms of their jobs are the very top administrators and the sports coaches.

But then, I speak now as the new enemy of the people.  Just read right wing media sources.  Oh, and watch CNN and NPTV.  I learned exactly how horrible people like me are on State of the Union and The Nightly News Report last night.  I’m the new face of communism and the caliphate.  I switched to MSNBC last night because I simply couldn’t take the public bashing of my profession and my colleagues any more.  This bashing came via Journalists and Politicians which– last time I checked–were the two least respected professionals in the country.

I won’t even show you some of the more egregious right wing bloggers who basically portray all teachers, policemen, firefighters, janitors, prison guards,  and other civil servants as greedy bastards who sit around all day doing nothing and collecting outrageous salaries that they’d never be able to achieve in the private sector. This is all based on bogus assumptions.   One blog calls the protests in Wisconsin ‘hate rallies’.  This farcical stereotype is being tooted by Republican pols who have premier pension plans and insurance programs immediately and have access to discounted and free services.  How many of you have a barber shop or a gym you don’t pay for?  I didn’t even have that at either of my University jobs and universities have some pretty nice gym facilities.  Faculty and staff have to pay to join. How hypocritical is that?

How far have we sunk when so many elected officials and media figures are trying to make enemies of the very people that are here to serve us?  What has a park ranger at a state park done to deserve this kind of  vituperative treatment? Why do they so hate the middle class and the very groups of unions that set the tone for wages and benefits in many places?  What type of plantation mentality does it take to eagerly seek to force workers into such a hapless position? Better yet, why are so many people duped by these voices of the plutocracy?

Perhaps every one recognizes that we may be crossing the Rubicon. This maybe the threshold of our final chance to stop the Republican and Chamber of Commerce led plot to put us all back on plantations with a debt form of indentured servitude that we can never escape.

What’s happening in Wisconsin is more threatening to unions because it’s not just giving back money–something that’s become a mainstay in the auto industry for years. It’s giving back hard-won rights. By going after collective-bargaining rules, Walker has taken on public-employee unions in a way that’s more fundamental, profound, and threatening to unions than New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie’s wielding of the budget axe. Christie has become the darling of the GOP circles because of his administration’s fiscal austerity.

By taking aim at the ability of public employees to strike, Walker has found a tool that may well cut the state’s budget deficit. In doing so, however, he has lit a fire under Democrats and a chastened labor movement that has gotten used to givebacks.

Collective bargaining is the infrastructure–the essential core of labor’s rights and power–and so  attacks on that right go to the heart of the union movement. That is why the president weighed in on what is at first glance a local issue. If the battle of Madison spreads beyond Columbus and Des Moines to the rest of the country, we’ll be hearing a lot more on this topic from the president.

It isn’t far fetched to say that the fascist elements in this country are using police state tactics to squelch dissent.  The plutocracy that funds the so-called tea party is deep in the trenches on this one.  Here’s one such group of little fascists in training bragging they chased the 14 Democratic senators out of Rockford, Illinois.  How many of these idiots realize that their being used by folks like the trust fund baby Koch brothers to suppress people who they have a lot more in common with than difference?  Why are they being used to attack others fighting for the few scraps left to those outside the bonus and inherited wealth class?

The NYT has also put a no-name editorial up signifying the force of the board of editors.

Like many governors, he wants to cut the benefits of state workers. But he also decided a budget crisis was a good time to advance an ideological goal dear to his fellow Republicans: eliminating most collective bargaining rights for public employees.

Not surprisingly, thousands of workers descended on the Capitol building, pounding on windows and blocking doors, yelling “shut it down.” So many teachers called in sick that public schools in Madison and more than a dozen other districts had to be closed. On Thursday, the Democrats in the State Senate refused to show up, vowing to prevent any action until the governor drops his plan. The state police were sent to find them.

Mr. Walker has decried the chaos, but it was entirely self-inflicted. His plan to undermine the unions, which would have no direct impact on the budget, would take away nearly all of their rights to negotiate.

They would be barred from bargaining about anything except wages, and any pay increase they win would be limited by the consumer price index. Contracts would be limited to a year, and union dues could no longer be deducted from paychecks. As President Obama correctly put it on Wednesday, that “seems like an assault on unions.” (The archbishop of Milwaukee and players for the Green Bay Packers have also come out in support of the workers.)

I personally hope this is the moment of plutocratic overreach that puts people in the streets to protest.   We have public goods for many reasons.  Some times, it is the only way a good–like public transportation–will be provided.  Some times it’s the only way that a good–like education–will be provided to any one but the rich.  Other times, public provision is necessary because the social costs of private provision are huge. Examples of these are processes that cause security risks and crime, pollution, or other public health risks.

Bringing Public workers down is not a way to lift every one else up.   Traditionally, unions have provided the benchmark for every right we have including five day work weeks, overtime pay, holidays, child labor laws, worker safety initiatives, and benefits.  Much like public plans for insurance, they provide an anchor of the minimally acceptable contract in markets that are so lop-sided. In other words, its a way to fight off monopoly on the other side of the market.  If you’re a teacher or you want to go into law enforcement or fire fighting or civil engineering, then you’re going to have to work for a municipality or state. They are the sole employers.  They are monopolies.

Collective bargaining is necessary when the other side of the equation in a market is a monopoly.  It is the only offset to the overwhelming power of the monopoly.  It is frequently why you still see unions in private markets where the company is also either a monopoly or oligopoly like the steel industry or the automobile industry.  Monopolies take advantage of customers and they take advantage of the factors they use in their production process if they can.  Collective bargaining is an important offset to this power.  Without out, all of us would be much worse off.

So, you can want your MTV and Super Bowl and tacky Chinese made jeans.  Give me my union.


update: Green Bay Packers join the Protests.  National Guard representatives balk at being used as tools.

“The NFL Players Association will always support efforts protecting a worker’s right to join a union and collectively bargain. Today, the NFLPA stands in solidarity with its organized labor brothers and sisters in Wisconsin.”

The support of the Packers players hasn’t been lost on those marching in the streets. Aisha Robertson, a public school teacher from Madison, told me, “It’s great to see Packers join the fight against Walker. Their statement of support shows they stand with us. It gives us inspiration and courage to go and fight peacefully for our most basic rights.”

and from the same source:

Yes, in advance of any debate over his proposal, Governor Walker put the National Guard on alert by saying that the guard is “prepared” for “whatever the governor, their commander-in-chief, might call for.” Considering that the state of Wisconsin hasn’t called in the National Guard since 1886, these bizarre threats did more than raise eyebrows. They provoked rage.

Robin Eckstein, a former Wisconsin National Guard member, told the Huffington Post, “Maybe the new governor doesn’t understand yet—but the National Guard is not his own personal intimidation force to be mobilized to quash political dissent. The Guard is to be used in case of true emergencies and disasters, to help the people of Wisconsin, not to bully political opponents.”

Already this week, as many as 100,000 people have marched at various protests around the state with signs that reflect the current moment like “If Egypt Can Have Democracy, Why Can’t Wisconsin?” “We Want Governors Not Dictators,” and the pithy “Hosni Walker.”

53 Comments on “And now for the Propaganda”

  1. Beata says:

    For the life of me, I can’t understand the hatred so many people in this country feel toward public school teachers.

    Not too long ago, people cheered Gov. Christie’s “smackdown” of a NJ teacher who regularly spends money out-of-pocket for classroom supplies and dared to criticize his budget cuts for education.

    Now, I am witnessing the protests in Wisconsin quickly being spun by media and right-wing bloggers as a ruthless attempt by evil, selfish teachers to bankrupt Wisconsin with their unreasonable demands.

    WTH is all I can say.

    • dakinikat says:

      I have no idea. The only thing that I can figure is that teachers are a solid democratic block and the NEA is a solid donor to democrats.

      We’re being blamed for things that simply aren’t true also. If I see one more person pushing that stupid charter school trash I’ll throw tomatoes at them, I swear.

      • madamab says:

        Come on, you all know why the Repubs and corporatist Dems are attacking teachers. It’s so they can privatize the public sector. That is their goal – that is what they mean by “drowning government in the bathtub.” All their policies are meant to accomplish this goal. Every, single, one – including all the attempts to defund abortion and birth control.

        If there is no public sector, then everyone has to pay corporations for everything instead of paying taxes. In the corporatists’ worldview, this is the best possible type of society – a religious corporatocracy. Imagine the trillions that would flow into their pockets!

        Once the government no longer pays for reproductive health services, there will be plenty of private clinics popping up which will take care of all your reproductive needs – for a very, very large fee. If you can’t pay, you’re worthless anyway, so you should just die. Plenty more where you came from.

        Yes, this is how the sociopaths running our
        country think – at least, that’s my theory. It seems to be a good lens through which to view the outrageous things that are being done by our federal and state governments.

    • dandelion says:

      most teachers are women

    • bostonboomer says:

      I can’t understand it either. But to tell you the truth, I’m surprised the NYT defended the workers. They are usually anti-union. They must have gotten instructions from the WH.

  2. TheRock says:

    Can anybody find any word on the White House’s official reaction to the events in Wisconsin?

    • dakinikat says:

      There’s not exactly anything official but WAPO is reporting statements he made when asked:

      Obama accused Scott Walker, the state’s new Republican governor, of unleashing an “assault” on unions in pushing emergency legislation that would change future collective-bargaining agreements that affect most public employees, including teachers.

      • TheRock says:

        Thanks Dak. I was on the cable news sites and nothing definite was released. It’s going to be fun watching how he tries to sdtraddle the fence on this one, especially with the number of GOP congresscritters that killed the similar federal bill. You have to believe his rich CEO friends can’t be liking what is going on in Madison, and I’m fairly sure he has received a few phone calls about it….

      • Fredster says:

        Well here’s one thing he said:

        Obama spoke with a WTMJ television reporter for ten minutes, an interview set up hastily as the scale of the confrontation in Wisconsin began to become apparent.

        The first question was about his reaction to Walker’s actions in pushing through legislation to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

        “Everybody’s got to make some adjustments to new fiscal realities,” he began, endorsing the basic falsification employed by Democratic and Republican politicians alike to justify cuts in public employee wages and benefits.

        None of these big-business politicians suggests that the wealthy “make some adjustments.” On the contrary, Obama and Congress pushed through a further extension of tax cuts for the rich less than two months ago. This is on top of the trillions of dollars that US authorities have handed to Wall Street during the Obama administration.

        Obama also endorsed the hollow claim that wage cuts are necessary to “save jobs,” echoing the pretext used by Walker that his cuts were critical to “avoiding layoffs.” The president added that he himself had imposed a two-year wage freeze on federal government workers, using the same justification, that it would avert layoffs.

  3. TheRock says:

    KUDOS TO THE GREEN BAY PACKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I rooted for the Steelers during the Super Bowl, but I have now become an un-closeted Packers fan!!

    Hillary 2012

    • janicen says:

      While I did pull for the Packers in the Superbowl, I’m a Bills and Seahawks fan at heart, but hearing this news, I can see myself joining the Packer Nation.

  4. dakinikat says:

    MSNBC has a good round up of some of the issues in the Wisconsin battle.

    It looks like Wisconsin does not have some of the budget problems that Walker describes and that he has had to lie to create them.

    What is the real budget gap?
    — Walker’s Democratic predecessor, Jim Doyle, estimated that in June of 2011, Wisconsin would still have a $10 million surplus, but Walker has said the state is facing a $137 million deficit today. Why the discrepancy?

    — Walker made a number of adjustments to Doyle’s estimates, mainly accounting for higher-than-expected Medicaid costs.

    — Walker also pushed through three tax cut bills negatively impacting projected tax revenues by $117 million — the tax cuts went toward health savings accounts, deductions for relocated businesses, and exclusions for hiring new employees.

  5. TheRock says:

    The gov. of Wisc. just finished speaking in his first press conference. He never addressed the tax cuts that created the budget shortfall, but did well to diss the former dem gov. for leaving the state in a bad way.

    • dakinikat says:

      and he implied every one who wasn’t on the job was a lazy good for nothing … obviously he doesn’t value freedom of speech or assembly so much for tea party constitutional values.

  6. Outis says:

    I’m so happy to see people standing up and Democrats acting like Democrats. Seems the lessons from Egypt were heard and people aren’t going to take it anymore.

    And to give an opinion on one of Dak’s earlier posts which asked, are they just greedy and stupid? I think the answer is a definite yes. I hope their overwhelming greed is finally outed and smacked down. There’s been such an insidious creep with liberals allowing the right to control the argument, not even speaking up or kicking back in the face of union busting or the erosion of constitutional rights. I hope the Rs absolute lunacy in hammering on abortion rights now that they are in power instead of working on jobs which could have made them look like heroes and stayed in power forever will wake everyone up and we can kick back on that too. I’ve got my marching shoes on.

    • Sima says:

      “I’ve got my marching shoes on.”

      Me too! My partner is busting for a march or protest. He told me seriously that if they start up around here, nothing will hold him back.

      • Beata says:

        Me, three! I keep searching for a march, protest, rally, whatever, in my area but nothing seems to be organizing yet.

  7. Linda C says:

    I am more concerned about using the threat of the National Guard. Those are fighting words especially if you are from union county. Strikers have been killed by the Guard and the militia in our past. To bring out that threat again is thoughtless. We are experiencing the 1900’s all over again complete with extreme disparities in wealth and threatening of US citizens with violence who dare to demand a livable wage and the right to representation. I studied the Gilded Age in college. I never thought I would have to live it though.

  8. mgreenwood says:

    You know, with all this political upheaval going on in the world and because I’m a child of the 90s, it has reminded me of that line in Fight Club.

    Tyler Durden: We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not… f**k with us.

    Good post Kat, as always. It is odd how the media portray people revolting against oppression as a bad thing, using negative language and imagery.

    • dakinikat says:

      Our media is worthless.

      • Linda C says:

        NO our media is worth quite a bit to the highest bidder.

      • mgreenwood says:

        Worthless? That’s a bit harsh. I mean as a source of unbiased, quality journalism, yes, completely worthless. But I must admit, the new Bill O’Reilly memes are quite funny and without a shoddy news media, your blog would have much shorter articles and possibly wouldn’t even be needed. 😉

      • dakinikat says:

        Well, I guess they’re the best media that the right wing plutocracy could buy under current circumstances.

      • Sima says:

        On ‘Empire’ this week on Al Jazeera, Amy Goodman responded to a question about freedom of the press in the USA. She said yes, we definitely have a free press. Then she asked, ‘Would it look any different if it were unfree?’ And answered her own question. No.

  9. Karma says:

    It might be the crab mentality. Workers in the private sector don’t have as many of the protections that union members have, so the sympathy isn’t there.

    I have a friend who went all FoxNews and O’Reilly is fair and balanced a while back. She would rail about Clinton tax rates while giving Dubya lots of props. I tried to explain that we would have to pay the bill sometime for those wars and they were truly bad men. She went silent.

    A few years pass and now she is railing about teacher’s unions and their pensions ruining the state of CA.

    However, she worked for the school district and gets the same pension as they do. But she was arguing that THEY were greedy. Sigh.

    She knows what it is like to be at the bad end of weird boss with no protections. That school district job was one of her favorites because of the employment protections that the union provided.

    Her husband has had his own business since the Clinton Admin. So I guess the protections she enjoyed were fine when she was a public employee. But not so much now since FoxNews got to her.

    • Sima says:

      It’s amazing how people are so unaware, isn’t it? They simply can’t connect the dots. I want to say it’s a failing in the school system, but I don’t think so. I think some people are just like that. Lazy in thought.

  10. Beata says:

    Rachel Maddow is doing an excellent analysis of the GOP governors’ union-busting strategy tonight. I don’t know if Ed Schultz is on next from Madison, but if he is, I’ll be watching.

    Ah, I’m an MSNBC junkie again. LOL.

  11. Fredster says:

    Regarding all of the right wing bat-shit crazy pundits who are putting down the protesters in WI, I hope they think long and hard about it if they’re houses catch fire or they call 911.

    Little something for them to think about.

  12. Peggy Sue says:

    I have to tell you I am astounded at some of the things I’m reading in regards to the Wisconsin demonstrations. You might think every public employee is living in hog heaven, sucking up million dollar bonuses, own private jets and spend their disposable income on private yachts, while ripping off the American taxpayer.

    Oh wait a minute, that’s the Wall St. gang.

    The people in the streets are communist thugs, vying to overthrow the government by thinking they have a right to peaceable assembly and collective bargaining. Where do they think they live? In the United States of America? That solar flare must have knocked out their GPS units.

    The Tea Party people are showing up tomorrow to set things right. So there!

    I’ve never heard so many right-wing pundits run around with their hair on fire. At least they could call the dustup by its proper name:

    Union Busting.

    Looks like the old battles are about to be fought all over again.

    • Fredster says:

      Wish *our* protesters would start singing this. The right-wingers would just keel over!

      • Sima says:

        We just need to gin it up and make it a rap song and everyone’ll sing it.

        I really like this version though, with Pete Seeger. I love his version of Joe Hill too.

        Gods, I hope we don’t have to redo the early 1900’s again! But here it comes.

    • Beata says:

      The animosity toward union members, especially teachers, that I have seen in blog comments around the Internets just amazes me. Who are these people and why do they hate workers so much?

      • Outis says:

        I agree. Don’t they have family members who work in public service? The only cushy public servant I ever knew who had something like 60 days of vacation and made a boatload worked for the Pentagon.

        The assault on teachers in this country is most distressing.

      • Sima says:

        I don’t know. Part of me thinks they must be paid astroturfers. I read an article on a news site in New Orleans about taxes, and the same comments, it seemed word for word almost, were there as in any article here in Seattle about taxes. It was weird.

    • Minkoff Minx says:

      @peggy sue, you are so right about the Wall St. excess, I can never understand why the people don’t rise up against those bonus junkies. The way the media is portraying the WI employees is ridiculous.