I hate politics. It makes me feel angry, threatened, helpless, and depressed. It grinds my nose into the murky broken-tea-bag grit at the bottom of a glass half-empty. But the Wisconsin issue just has me sick.
For the fraction of a person-percent of you happening upon this fleck of cyberspace long after this hoo-hah is done, the governor of Wisconsin, one Scott Walker, has descended into a small eddy of first-termer psychosis. (He is joined in this by his fellows in the House of Representatives, who have produced a budget based apparently on the principle of, “If I’m not too sure of what this thing really does, we’re getting rid of it.”) In short, he has claimed a “mandate from The People” on an issue which he never once mentioned in his campaign, and which he tacked onto a budget bill (which also gives him various kingly powers as sole arbiter of other stuff having nothing to do with the budget at all).
He decided to close up a budget shortfall with the sinews of his public employees. First, he demanded that they pay so much more of their benefit costs that at least one of my friends now needs a second part-time job to cover the gap. (Wisconsin public employees aren’t paid very well in comparison with either their counterparts in other states, or in private industry.)
Then he pretty much ended collective bargaining. Bad unions! Bad! After a couple of days, the unions rather meekly and politely rolled over and gave him all the monetary concessions he wanted–remember now, we’re talking about the budget, meaning money–but he needed to take the collective bargaining thing off the table.
(Mind you, he isn’t a total union-buster–he exempted the cops and the firefighters, whose unions endorsed his campaign. Members of these unions have now decided that “To Protect and Serve” means standing firm with their fellow citizens. Watch for a last-minute rider yanking those exemptions.)
Nope, no deal. Not budging. Ignoring money offer, still saying budget. (The thought occurs that he actually might not know what “budget” means.) So the 14 Democratic senators, miffed at this lack of necessary vocabulary, refused to come in and give quorum. (Before you scold them, remember that this bill was introduced only a week before the vote, with little time for analysis and discussion; and that at his point, due to the union concessions, the actual M-O-N-E-Y issue was off the table.) Walker took advantage of a vague bizarreness in the state constitution saying they could be “compelled to attend” sessions, and sent the state police to their front doors. They in turn took themselves down to Illinois.
Now here’s a bit of the psychosis part. First, they decided to deny the WI 14’s staff copying privileges. (And yeah, of course they pulled parking spaces.) Then they announced that the senators would be fined $100/day of their absence. Then . . . the governor announced that if they didn’t return to pass his bill, well gosh, he had to make up the money somehow, and he will pink-slip thousands of those employees. I wish I were making this up.
And oh yeah, the senators’ paychecks are no longer going into their direct deposits; they must come to the Capitol to pick them up. I am getting very worried for their pets. And maybe their kids.
Meanwhile, Mr. Walker is gulled by a prankster pretending to be David Koch into saying all sorts of dumb stuff, including admitting he had considered sending troublemakers in to make trouble in the middle of a peaceful protest demonstration.
Oh. Yeah. Protest demonstration.
For two weeks straight, there have been thousands of people at the Capitol; for a good bit of the time several hundred were actually camping inside the building itself. All perfectly peaceful. (Consider that this is the state which brought us both Ed Gein and Jeffrey Dahmer. Not only do they kill people, they eat them and make useful household objects to boot.)
First Amendment made beautiful. At one point, the estimate was 80-100,000. And they aren’t getting bored or tired. They get off work, and in they head. The teabaggers are going nuts. The very best part was the FOX News clip reporting completely fictitious violence (I have first-hand reportage, loyal readers) and . . . rolling a bit entitled “Union Protests”–showing palm trees.
Yeah, some teabaggers showed up a week or so ago, but maybe 5 or 6,000. Which sounds scary, until you compare it to the 75,000 people on the other side. They’re shipping some more in tomorrow, but bear in mind that the majority of the people in Capitol Square who are trying to save their collective bargaining rights are all citizens of Wisconsin. I’m looking forward to what will likely be FOX pinhead gloating on how far they had to dredge to bring up what they will tout as “wide and deeply entrenched support;” perhaps these non-Wisconsinians are the people whose mandate the governor of Wisconsin is obeying. I dunno.
I’m a Badger myself (BS Art ’89) and I am sick and heartbroken. I don’t think there’s a prayer in hell for this to end well. The Wisconsin unions are screwed, blued, and tattooed.
But people around the country–around the world, really–are noticing. Finally. I’ve been aghast at the stupidity of the liberals blinking amiably at all those hate and ignorance-filled Tea Party rallies. La la, let’s make intellectually humorous remarks about the gomers. Now Planned Parenthood is about to lose its federal funding. Hmm.
At the very least, those plucky Badgers, who are mad as hell and not going to take it any more, are showing the rest of the left their sad, lazy asses, and maybe we’ll get our country back. The one true and fair and face-slap thing the Tea Party is wanking itself about is their bleating, “Elections have consequences.” Yup. Sure do. But the great loophole in their argument is that we are a democratic republic. Meaning that the demo-‘s still have a say in the fact that the “equal power” part of that has been dead for decades, and perhaps now it’s time for the ball to start rolling against the oligarcho-‘s. And that ball will be made of Wisconsin snow.
Wisconsin is a beautiful place filled with friendly people and the only collectively-owned football team in the NFL. (This explains my confusion on Super Bowl Sunday, when the Heismann trophy was handed to the coach instead of the greasespot owning the team–and having had absolutely nothing to do with the win. “Oh,” I’d thought. “They finally caught on that it was dumb.” Well, no. But I digress.)
On second thought; no, I don’t. It’s all about the coach. It’s all about the players. It’s all about the people who do the work. It’s just too damn bad that the people with the clever signs in the 20-degree weather don’t get rings, ’cause they oughta.