Category Archives: Wisconsin Protests

>Crank, Prank or Pwn? It’s Real! Walker Punk’d

>[UPDATE]: 2

After threatening to file ethics charges against Wisconsin Democrats, it appears Gov. Walker may be in some ethics trouble himself. Taking a phone call from a big campaign donor? That’s a no-no:

“If you didn’t believe it before, you have to now—this fight isn’t about the budget, it’s about favors for corporate special interests,” continued Donnelly. “If Wisconsin law forbids coordination with political donors similar to federal law, Gov. Scott Walker is not just in political trouble, but in legal hot water.”

Public Campaign Action Fund is currently in discussions with election experts on whether Gov. Walker may have broken state election law and whether a complaint should be filed.

Woopsies.

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[UPDATE]:

Walker’s office confirms the call is for real. Oy vey. Scott Walker just made a colossally stupid mistake, bragging in true fan boy fashion to a man he thought was oil billionaire David Koch. Wisconsin, this just tells you so much about the guy you elected governor, where his allegiance lies and how he thinks. He won’t talk to Senate Democrats (unless it’s a trick to get them back into the state capitol so Republicans can declare a quorum), but he eagerly takes “David Koch’s” phone call and dishes all his secrets.

Schadenfreude. It’s what’s for breakfast.

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Did a crank caller really convince Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker that he was talking to David Koch? And did Walker really spill the beans on his strategy to hold Wisconsin Senate Democrats’ pay and file ethics charges if any took help from union supporters? And did the prankster really tape the whole thing and post it on the internet?

We still don’t know if This is for real but the tapes sound pretty convincing. and it’s not the first time a prominent conservative got punk’d, either.

(Note: I accidentally left off the second recording in my original post. I’ve corrected that mistake now …)

Here are some juicy bits. For one thing, if this IS for real, it seems Walker is trying to set a trap:

GOV. WALKER: An interesting idea brought up to me this morning by my chief of staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democrat leader that I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the Assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders. Talk, not negotiate, and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn — I’ll only do it if all 14 of ‘em come back and sit down in the state Assembly. They can recess it to come back over and talk to me but they’ll have to come back there.

The reason for that is, we’re verifying it this afternoon but legally we believe once they’ve gone into session they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day and they take a recess, this 19 senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have a quorum because they started out that way. Um … so we’re double checking that.

If you heard that we’re gonna talk to ‘em that would be the only reason why, is we would only do it if they came back to the capital with all 14 of ‘em. My sense is hell, I’ll talk, If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that! I can deal with that! But I’m not negotiating.

What. An. Asshole.

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More ….

I just finished listening to the second part of the recording. I’m struck by three things: Walker has a tremendous ego and is incredibly arrogant. This is not a humble man.

Two: he realizes this is not about Wisconsin, this is about crushing organized labor nationally. He knows what killing collective bargaining in Wisconsin means. This was the plan. This was never about Wisconsin.

And three: Walker’s obviously seeking David Koch’s approval, which speaks volumes about Koch’s role in all of this. Walker might as well be saying, “I did good, didn’t I, huh huh, didn’t I?” He reminds me of my dog when we’re playing fetch, the way she’s just so eager for approval when she drops the ball at my feet. Walker is practically doing somersaults and handstands to show Fake Koch what a star politician he is, what a big player he is, how in control and manly. If he were a peacock he’d be spreading his tail feathers. He is, in short, showing off. Which, knowing this was Fake Koch not a real Koch, is sorta pathetic.

Anyway, it’s clear David Koch is the Republican Party’s new king maker. That’s just obvious from the conversation, from Walker’s conversation. Fake Koch barely says two words and Walker is tripping over himself doing the “how do you like me now!” song and dance.

And here’s my question: Who the hell is David Koch’s “guy on the ground” in Madison? Hello? Hello news media, the fact that Koch Industries has “a guy on the ground” should sorta tell you everything you need to know about the Tea Party!

Anyway, here’s some more transcript:

FAKE KOCH: Goddamn right! We sent Andrew Breitbart down there.

WALKER: Yeah!

FAKE KOCH: Yeah!

WALKER: Good stuff!

FAKE KOCH: He’s our man, y’know.

WALKER: Well it has been amazing to me the massive amount of attention .. I’ve done all, you know — every day I do a 5 o’clock press conference, tonight I’m actually doing a fireside chat which the state TV stations are gonna tape but I guess a bunch of the national ones are too, and um in the last couple of days when I do the TV shows I’ve been going after Obama, ‘cuz he stuck his — although he’s backed off now — but he stuck his nose in here and I said — they asked me what I thought and I said, “Y’know, last time I checked, this guy’s got a much bigger budget deficit than we do, maybe he should worry about that!

FAKE KOCH: (laughs)

WALKER: … and not stick his nose in Wisconsin business, right?. We’ve had all the national shows, we were on Hannity last night, I did Good Morning America, The Today Show and all that sort of stuff, was on Morning Joe this morning, we’ve done Greta, we’re going to keep getting our message out, Mark Levine last night. And I gotta tell ya, the response from around the country has been phenomenal. I had Brian the new governor over in Nevada call me last night, said he was out on the Lincoln Day circuit in the last two weekends and he was kidding me — he’s new as well as me — he said, “Scott don’t come to Nevada, cuz I’d be afraid you’d beat me running for the governor.”

FAKE KOCH: (Laughs)

WALKER: That’s all they want to talk about is, what are you doing to help the governor of Wisconsin? The next question is, I talk to Kasich every day, and John’s gonna stand firm in Ohio, I think we do the same thing with Rick Scott in Florida. I think Snyder if he got a little more support probably could do that in Michigan, when you start going down the list, there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.

FAKE KOCH: You’re the first domino!

WALKER: Yup! This is our moment.

FAKE KOCH: Now what else can we do for you down there?

Walker: Well the biggest thing would be, and your guy on the ground is probably seeing this, is the, well two things: one, our members, originally kinda got freaked out by all the bodies down here, although I told them an interesting story about when I was first elected county executive in Milwaukee of all places….

Actually, the story was really boring about how when he was a county executive and pissed off the unions, everyone totally loved him at a Veteran’s Day parade except one guy who gave him the finger. It was another piece of arrogance and ego on display, showing off to the guy who is clearly Very Important. Later in the conversation Walker compares what he’s doing to Ronald Reagan firing the air traffic controllers, and how he sees that as the first chink in the Berlin Wall because the Communists were put on notice that Reagan “wouldn’t be pushed around.”

So this is all very interesting … very interesting indeed.

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Filed under Fake Koch, Gov. Scott Walker, unions, Wisconsin Protests

>Next Stop Indiana!

>[UPDATE]:

Gov. Mitch Daniels now tells legislature to drop “right to work” legislation that forced Indiana Democrats to flee.

I’ll bet someone is thinking of his 2012 presidential aspirations.

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Indiana statehouse fills with protestors as Indiana’s Democrats leave the state to avoid vote against unions:

Here’s a question I’ve asked: how come no one is mentioning ALEC in all of this? The industry-funded, free-market, limited-government, conservative anti-worker American Legislative Exchange Council? Through their “model legislation” they push industry’s agenda at the state legislative level. I mean, it’s no coincidence that so many states have similar anti-union legislation on the floor right now. This is all coordinated. And ALEC is funded by big corporations.

And here’s another question: if industry can unite and push their agenda under the aegis of groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, ALEC, the American Enterprise Institute, etc., then why can’t workers unite and push their interests in the form of unions? I mean, if you’re going to say unions are bad for democracy (though no one has ever adequately explained that one to me) then isn’t the U.S. Chamber bad for democracy, too? If you want to get rid of one, shouldn’t you get rid of the other?

It doesn’t make sense unless your entire worldview is based on the idea that everything is peachy when workers are slaves to their employers, that all of the power should be handed up to big business and workers should be silent and take what lumps of coal they are given. You know, I get why billionaire corporate elites think this way, but I don’t get why anyone else does.

It makes no sense.

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Filed under protests, unions, Wisconsin Protests

>There Are Two Sides To Every Budget

>I dunno, but our discourse in this country is really just too stupid. I just never understood why when we’re discussing things like budgets, government spending and tax cuts we always address these as separate things. I’m no math whiz but last time I checked, budgets are made of two things: spending AND revenue. Yet our national debate has somehow separated these things as if they are completely unrelated issues.

I just finished hearing an interview on Good Morning America with Mike Huckabee where he goes on and on about how the government is broke, state governments are broke, and we have to live within our means. We all have to tighten our belts. Right. Raising revenue wasn’t even mentioned.

And then I read this rundown of Wisconsin lawmakers’ views on Gov. Walker’s controversial budget bill. Most Republicans seem to be supporting Walker despite the thousands of protestors because, hey, the state is broke:

“We have a financial crisis facing the state of $137 million in cuts that’s needed to balance the budget by June 30 as we are required to do by the state’s constitution and an expected deficit in the 2011-13 budget of upward of $3.5 billion in a budget that hasn’t even begun,” Lazich said.

And:

“I think the bill was done to cause the least amount of pain,” Wynn said. “The state is broke. It’s the best way to prevent a lot more tragedy.”

And finally, we have Gov. Scott Walker himself, refusing to budge on the collective bargaining issue, despite wage and benefits concessions the unions have agreed to, because, he says

I want to give those local governments the tools they need to balance the budget now and in the future. They can’t do that with the current collective bargaining laws in the state.

Walker has failed to adequately explain how collective bargaining prevents local governments from negotiating, or why collective bargaining is fine for some groups (police, firemen) but it’s a budget-buster for others (teachers). Oh well, we’ll just have to take that one on faith since no one in the media seems interested in asking that question either.

But no one asks about raising revenue, either. Gov. Walker signed a bill eliminating corporate taxes back in January; well, if he’s so worried about future budgets (since the unions have made concessions addressing the current one), then why did he cut revenue? Why, when we’re trying to balance budgets, is it always done on one side of the ledger sheet? You can’t cut revenue and then all of a sudden go “oh my GOD we have no money how did THAT happen?!”

I mean, I thought the whole conservative ideology was that tax cuts were stimulative. Apparently they aren’t, since we’ve been cutting taxes on people and corporations for years now and the result appears to be a fiscal crisis from the federal level on down to local governments. Guess this just proves you guys have been wrong all these years, then.

And if Walker’s tax cuts are supposed to be so wonderful for the economy, then I’m sure local governments won’t need to worry about ditching collective bargaining for certain groups of workers because the money will just be flooding in to government coffers.

No? Well why the hell not? Why did you cut all those taxes, then? And maybe y’all ought not have done that? Ya think?

Of course, we never draw these conclusions because we always address spending and revenue as completely separate issues when they are quite obviously part of the same conversation. I just have to wonder how the hell that happened.

We just went through a few weeks of yammering about extending the Bush tax cuts which affect the wealthiest individuals in America; now suddenly we are yammering about a national budget crisis. We have people like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin and other conservatives talking about the need for Americans to sacrifice. Clearly, since they just supported tax cuts to the wealthy, they mean other people need to sacrifice — not the millionaires and billionaires, the ones who can most afford it. They mean the people already living with tight belts. That’s just immoral.

I mean, I’m just waiting for Diane Sawyer or Katie Couric or someone to ask Walker (or any legislator) this question: “You cut taxes and now you complain the government is broke. Did you flunk math in school?” Forget raising taxes, how about just leaving them where they are for a while?

But no one asks these questions because we always treat these two issues as if they weren’t connected. And it’s such an obvious failure on the part of the national narrative that I have to think it’s intentional. With that in mind, I direct readers to Amy Dean’s Huffington Post column today. She writes:

While the particulars of each individual battle are important, in the end this is not about one state. It is about confronting the disturbing tendency among our lawmakers to seek scapegoats rather than real solutions to our nation’s most central problems.

Yes, I think that’s the nib of the nub. As long as no one slaps their forehead and says, “wow maybe we shouldn’t have tax cuts at a time when our budgets are already strapped and we’re killing sacred cows like education,” it’s so much easier to scapegoat middle class public employees and sell the idea that eliminating their rights will solve everything.

I mean, seriously. There are two issues at work here. Why are we only talking about one of them?

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>Jealousy

>In 1979, a movie about a union organizer in a North Carolina textile mill won nine Academy Awards and was a huge box office hit. Some 30 years later, unions have been so demonized I wonder if “Norma Rae” would even sell 10 tickets if it were released today?

It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot in the past few years: when did unions become the bad guys? We’ve all heard the stereotypes about “union thugs” and corruption, a narrative so firmly embedded in the American consciousness that conservative activists like Phil Parlock have capitalized on the shifting attitudes for political gain. I’ve always wondered how unions went from American hero to zero in one generation.

Andrew Leonard’s interview with author/labor historian/Georgetown University professor Joseph McCartin touches on this very topic. Leonard asks the “what changed” question. McCartin responds:

A lot of this was really produced by the events of the last few years. There was a tremendous loss in the stock market that left a lot of pension funds looking underfunded, and that set off a lot of alarms in people. Now I’m not going to say that there aren’t some workers in some places that have gotten some pensions that aren’t really fully justifiable but that is different than saying that the whole principle of collective bargaining is wrong.

But an even more important factor is basically a 20- or 30-year period of failure in the private sector. What we are really looking at here is a private sector that for quite a long time now has not generated a lot of rising income for the great majority. It has not generated stable benefits for its workers, it has not generated increasing retirement security — in fact we’ve had income stagnation or decline, we’ve had rising indebtedness, we’ve had growing insecurity for retirement. The private sector has failed on a massive level. And the tenuous position that so many American workers find themselves in as a result of that now makes it suddenly appear that public sector workers are just living off the fatted calf. I think some of it has to do quite simply with the way in which so many nongovernment workers have been suffering, and legitimately so. You can go to those folks and say: Why are you paying for the pension of the guy down the street? You don’t have one!

That seems to be a real political liability for public sector unions.

It is a real liability, but it is liability that is not the result of union munificence, or that came from squeezing the taxpayers; it is a liability that basically flows from the fact that the private sector has done so poorly at creating a really broad growing thriving middle class in the past 20 years. And without a broad growing, thriving middle class, government workers are increasingly isolated and increasingly under threat and it is easy to play the dynamic this way, unfortunately for them.

In short, capitalism has failed a large segment of the American population, and conservatives have successfully laid the blame on unions. How they did that is a neat trick, but I think corporate interests in the guise of the GOP have been selling anti-union Kool Aid for decades, so it’s no surprise some of it started to stick. These days we’ve got “right to work” states and anti-minimum wage movements and the current spate of anti-collective bargaining initiatives in places like Wisconsin and Tennessee, and yet the glorious free hand of the market still hasn’t righted things. Indeed, it’s made things worse.

The result is resentment and jealousy directed at those people who have what I don’t have. Instead of directing their anger where it belongs — the wealthy and powerful who enjoy the lowest taxes in the Western world who have pulled the ladders up to keep out the riff-raff — conservatives are resentful of the people with the crappy jobs who were able to secure some very modest concessions over years of negotiating — and renegotiating, and renegotiating. The history of unions is nothing if not a history of reneged deals.

Somehow folks think if they work hard enough they’ll be bazillionaires like the Koch Brothers, not realizing the Koch Brothers have stacked the deck against them. I mean Jesus, it’s not like people aren’t working hard now. I know people with four jobs. They’re barely treading water. There’s no getting ahead when you are saddled with healthcare debt, or can’t get a job because your credit score isn’t high enough or because you’re unemployed, which takes the cake for stupid reasons not to hire someone. We are fast headed to a country with a permanent underclass and a permanent ruling class, and no movement betwixt the two.

Yes, somehow jealousy and resentment has convinced some people that their solution is to hand their power over to those who will never give them a place at the table. It’s quite baffling, really, how the wealthiest and most powerful interests managed to convince those lower down on the ladder that they should accept a less equitable arrangement. I really don’t get it, but then women tend to understand these things more easily anyway. We’re always being asked by society to give up our power to someone else. We’re always being told our priorities and issues are less important and we’re somehow deserving of less. So naturally we’re suspicious when some rich asshole drives up in his limousine and tells us that we should accept lower wages and pay higher taxes than he does, just ‘cuz. Being asked to accept inequality is something most of us women find a little reprehensible. And we know when we’re being sold a shit sandwich.

I’ve linked to this Financial Times article from last summer before, but I’m going to do it again. Here we go:

Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French chronicler of early America, was once misquoted as having said: “America is the best country in the world to be poor.” That is no longer the case. Nowadays in America, you have a smaller chance of swapping your lower income bracket for a higher one than in almost any other developed economy – even Britain on some measures. To invert the classic Horatio Alger stories, in today’s America if you are born in rags, you are likelier to stay in rags than in almost any corner of old Europe.

Combine those two deep-seated trends with a third – steeply rising inequality – and you get the slow-burning ­crisis of American capitalism. It is one thing to suffer grinding income stagnation. It is another to realise that you have a diminishing likelihood of escaping it – particularly when the fortunate few living across the proverbial tracks seem more pampered each time you catch a glimpse. “Who killed the American Dream?” say the banners at leftwing protest marches. “Take America back,” shout the rightwing Tea Party demonstrators.

Statistics only capture one slice of the problem. But it is the renowned Harvard economist, Larry Katz, who offers the most compelling analogy. “Think of the American economy as a large apartment block,” says the softly spoken professor. “A century ago – even 30 years ago – it was the object of envy. But in the last generation its character has changed. The penthouses at the top keep getting larger and larger. The apartments in the middle are feeling more and more squeezed and the basement has flooded. To round it off, the elevator is no longer working. That broken elevator is what gets people down the most.”

CNN recently covered this issue in its “Rise Of The Super Rich” piece, and included a neat little chart:


Admit it, folks. This is why you are angry. Not at some public school teacher who earns $50,000 a year but if you include their union-negotiated benefits and pension it sounds like a whole lot more, while the guy selling this resentment tea has a personal net worth of $27 $21.5 billion.

You’re pissed because capitalism has failed. For the past 25 years 90 percent of us have been working harder to stay in the same place, while a very small group of people have surged ahead thanks to policies which keep everyone else down. Everyone else has seen the American Dream slip away.

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Filed under economy, unions, Wisconsin Protests