Weekly Audit: A Recall Fight Brewing in Wisconsin?

 

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Tens of thousands of people continue their peaceful occupation of the Wisconsin state capital to protest a bill that would abolish most collective bargaining rights for public employees. As the protests entered their eighth day, GRITtv with Laura Flanders was broadcasting from Madison, Wisconsin in collaboration with The Uptake.

Flanders interviewed Nation journalist and seventh-generation Wisconsinite John Nichols. Nichols and fellow guest Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive noted that the bill isn’t just an attack on collective bargaining rights. The bill would force public sector unions to hold recertification votes every year, which would put their very existence on the line annually. “The unions realize that this is a threat to their very existence,” Rothschild explained.

A game of chicken

The Wisconsin state Assembly begins debate on the bill on Tuesday, but 14 Democratic senators remain in hiding in Illinois, depriving the Senate of the quorum it needs to vote on the bill. According to an obscure procedural rule, the state Senate can still pass bills on non-fiscal matters.

The result is that a game of chicken is about to begin, in which the Republicans will attempt to pass as many non-fiscal bills hated by Democratic senators as possible, such as legislation mandating photo ID for voters, in an attempt to provoke their colleagues into coming back home to vote on the fate of public sector unions.

The Democrats don’t control the state Senate at the best of times, so it’s not clear why they would be more eager to come home to lose on voter ID and public sector unions. As of Tuesday, the legislators in exile showed no signs of wavering, telling CBS that they were waiting to hear from the governor.

“I think if this [bill] gets pushed through, we’re going to have a recall effort and take this governor out,” Rothschild predicted.

Solidarity

An estimated 80,000 protesters gathered in Madison, Wisconsin to protest a Republican-backed budget bill that would abolish collective bargaining rights for most public employees, Democracy Now! reports.

The bill would spare the bargaining rights of unionized police officers and firefighters. However, Mahlon Mitchell, president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association, tells host Amy Goodman that Wisconsin’s firefighters and police officers stand with other public sector workers. “An assault on one is an assault on all,” Mitchell said.

Union busting, not budget fixing

Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive argues Gov. Walker’s real agenda is union busting, not budget repair. Walker claims that he is forced to abolish collective bargaining rights because the state can no longer afford them. But this is a matter of priorities, not a true fiscal emergency. Walker is asking working people to pick up the tab for his economic agenda. During his brief tenure in office, Walker refused $800 million in federal funds for high speed rail, which would have created jobs and stimulated the economy. He has also pushed through $117 million in tax breaks.

The captain of the Superbowl-winning Green Bay Packers, the NFL’s only non-profit team, has come out in solidarity with the protesters in Wisconsin, Dave Zirin reports in The Nation. Captain Charles Woodson said in a statement:

Last week I was proud when many of my current and former teammates announced their support for the working families fighting for their rights in Wisconsin. Today I am honored to join with them. Thousands of dedicated Wisconsin public workers provide vital services for Wisconsin citizens. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. These hard working people are under an unprecedented attack to take away their basic rights to have a voice and collectively bargain at work.

“Budget crisis” theater

Forrest Wilder in the Texas Observer notes that the Lone Star State is facing a $27 million shortfall of its own. He argues that Republicans are construing this relative small shortfall as a “budget crisis” in order to imbue their crusade against public services with a false sense of urgency. The budget gap could be bridged with a small and relatively painless tax increase, Wilder notes, but Republicans only want to talk about cuts.

Raise our taxes

Fifteen thousand Illinoisans massed in the state capital with an unusual demand for their state legislators: Raise our taxes! The Save Our State rally was one of the largest citizen assemblies in the history of the state legislature, David Moberg reports for In These Times. The event was organized by the Responsible Budget Coalition (RBC), an alliance of more than 300 organizations including social service agencies, public employee unions, and religious and civic groups. The RBC is calling on legislators to fix flaws in the Illinois tax structure that threaten essential services and the long-term financial health of the state.

No help for 99ers

Rep. Barbara Lee’s (D-CA) bid to attach a 14-week unemployment insurance extension for Americans whose benefits have run out (known as 99ers because they have already been unemployed for at least 99 weeks) to the continuing resolution to fund the government proved unsuccessful last week. Ed Brayton of the Michigan Messenger reports that the provision foundered late last Wednesday due to a procedural objection.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the economy by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Audit for a complete list of articles on economic issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Mulch, The Pulse and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

What A Difference A Few Decades Make

“The test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt

Sometimes I wonder what has happened to us as a nation. How have we allowed greed and selfishness to thrive and flourish so rampantly in our society? How can anyone take these so-called leaders seriously when on the one hand they continue to provide the corporate class and the wealthy with tax-cuts and on the other they tell the other classes that they are costing the country too much money? Can someone explain to me how the last time we faced similar economic conditions and the country was suffering so much pain that we created safety nets and today we are demolishing safety nets? How could we in the midst of a catastrophe find the resources and courage to provide for our countrymen but today we can provide for oil companies, wars, and corporate subsidies yet nothing for education, the unemployed or medical care?

I wonder what has fundamentally changed in our national psyche that we can now look at our fellow citizens suffering and have the ability to not only walk right by them but also curse them as we do so. The problem is not that we don’t have enough resources. It comes down to our priorities and what things do we value. Shortly there will be debates concerning our national priorities and what resources we are willing to allocate to them. There will be a lot of posturing and demagoguery concerning entitlements. Entitlements have become the new scapegoat for all that is wrong in America. Programs that have allowed seniors to live longer and more fulfilling lives will now be cut to shorten those lives. Obviously, it has been working too well and we have to cull the herd according to the wing-nuts. Death panels? Pulling the plug on grandma? How is this possible that even programs that have been successful are now being cast as failures? Sound familiar?

It is simple they have to cast these programs as failures so they can cut and eventually demolish them. The wing-nuts are realizing that the socialism tact is losing steam and so they have to develop a new strategy and with the help of the Democrats they will. If you continue to reduce revenues or shift revenues to corporate subsidies and war then of course the deficits are going to go up and spending cuts are going to seem like a necessary evil. The problem with this theory is that it flies in the face of reality and in the face of the majority of Americans who do not support these draconian cuts being proposed by the wing-nuts and the teabaggers. The majority of Americans do not support reducing the deficit on the backs of the poor and the elderly. The majority of Americans want to see the taxes of the wealthy increased not reduced and yet here we are. In America it is never about lack of, it is always about priorities.

We have gone from the poor and the elderly having problems to saying they are the problem. You see this is one of the things governments do, they support the weak and the old. So by saying that the government is the problem you are by extension saying these folks are the problem and to me that is a problem. The continued and strategic assault on unions, the middle-class, the elderly, and the poor is beginning to pay dividends, but for whom? If the majority of Americans support these items and yet the politicians are continuing to press their eradication then somewhere there is a disconnect. The will of the people is being circumvented by the interests of the moneyed few.

If our politicians aren’t willing to listen to us then we must “take our government back”, but not in the false sense of the teabaggers and their desire to return to 1776 when only white male property owners had rights. No, we must return to a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. Decades ago in the midst of a worse economic crisis our leaders used that opportunity to tell the American people the truth that many of our economic woes were due to the greed of unchecked capitalism and laid the foundation of many of the programs that ushered in the middle-class and dignity for our seniors. Wow, what a difference a few decades can make. Now our political leaders are telling us that the problem is no longer unchecked greed and capitalism it is the victims of unchecked greed and capitalism. Yeah, that’s it. This is akin to saying that prior to Nader’s crusade against unsafe cars that what caused the needless traffic fatalities wasn’t that automakers were designing and building unsafe cars, it was that drivers were buying and driving the unsafe cars.

When the “great debate” begins about cutting this and cutting that I hope we remember what made us a great nation. It wasn’t our huge military, it wasn’t our giveaways to corporate America, and it certainly wasn’t the unchecked greed of capitalism. What made us a great nation was our willingness to provide for the least of these and to provide an opportunity for all to succeed. These policies allowed a child from a family of 12 children living in a 2 bedroom house to attend college and grow up to be the Speaker of the House. It’s funny how these same folks who have benefited from these policies once they gain power want to pull up the ladder behind them. I will never understand the arrogance of these people.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

The Disputed Truth

Bankruptcy Is Not An Option

"Should taxpayers in Indiana who have paid their bills on time, who have done their job fiscally be bailing out Californians who haven't?" House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., asks. "No. That's a moral hazard that we are not interested in creating." - Fox News Blog

So the financial wiz-kid of the Republican Party believes that we are just a group of states that happen to share borders but have no inherent connection to one another? It is this type of rhetoric and mentality that fosters the divisions that keep us from moving forward as a nation. This simplistic view of the economy shared by the wing-nuts and tea-baggers makes it difficult to take any of their proposals seriously. We are not talking about some teenagers who have overspent their allowance and so the answer is to send them to their room with no dinner. We are talking about our fellow countrymen who just happen to live in another part of the country, our country. We already know that being born in Hawaii makes you a foreigner, but this is ridiculous.

The fact that these clowns speak about morality just demonstrates their own immorality. Is it a moral hazard to watch our fellow countrymen suffering because the wealthy in this country decided they needed another transfer of wealth through market manipulation? What is a moral hazard is that we have seen the biggest financial theft of our economy in history and no one was prosecuted, no one was so much as even charged. Has our definition of morality been so corrupted that it is morally right to give billions to millionaires and billionaires, but immoral to give support to the elderly, unemployed, and mentally ill?

As long as we continue to allow these snake oil salesman to advocate their bad medicine we will continue to focus on cutting out our safety nets so we can continue to provide tax breaks to the wealthy. I’m sorry I obviously missed the memo that stated paying taxes in a democracy is optional. It’s amazing how all of the tea-baggers want government services, but they don’t want to pay for them. The wing-nuts want wars, nuclear arsenals, and government bail-outs they just don’t want to pay for them. There is a reason we pay taxes. There are certain things we have decided as a society that are important enough to share the costs. The problem arises when one segment of the population is paying more than their share.

One of the challenges we will face as a country is how do we make the tax code more progressive and more balanced in the face of this anti-tax and cut spending at all cost false meme being promoted by those who have demonized the very concepts that have made our country great. Shared sacrifice, social safety nets for the needy, and a common sense of fairness are concepts that make a nation strong. We can no longer continue to allow the corporate interests and money changers to undermine and tear at the fabric that makes us a nation. This idea of undermining the middle-class and the poor is nothing new to America. From the Hooverites, to the greed of the 80’s, to the butter and war rhetoric of the last administration we have been under assault it seems with every generation. And every generation has had to reconfirm our commitment to what makes America great.

Unfortunately with the decline in liberalism and the ascension of conservatism and it’s everybody for themselves mentality the very underpinnings of our society are at risk. Programs such as Social Security, benefits for the unemployed, and funding for education are now bargaining chips, but what are not on the bargaining table are tax-cuts for the wealthy and military spending. What type of society is willing to defund the programs for the middle-class and poor to reduce the taxes of the wealthiest among them? I could understand if the tax burden for the wealthy and the corporations were oppressive but under our current tax system the secretary of a CEO will probably pay more in taxes than her boss. To argue that our current tax system is unfairly slanted towards the wealthy is an understatement. To present Mr. Ryan, as a voice of reason in the deficit conversation when he is saying that everyone is on their own is like saying that a secessionist was a voice of reason during the civil war.

We are a country; we are a diverse nation that still manages to share some common threads. We should not allow those common threads to be unraveled for the benefit of a small group who value profits over national interests or their own citizenry. It’s amazing to me how the media and the pundits criticized the Chinese when their president was visiting, but no one has found it necessary to criticize the very American business people who have handed the keys to the American economy over to the Chinese and the Indians. Mr. Ryan doesn’t want to bail-out the states but he doesn’t have any such misgivings about bailing out the folks who have put the states in dire straits.

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today” - Mahatma Gandhi

The Disputed Truth

Bankruptcy Is Not An Option

"Should taxpayers in Indiana who have paid their bills on time, who have done their job fiscally be bailing out Californians who haven't?" House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., asks. "No. That's a moral hazard that we are not interested in creating." - Fox News Blog

So the financial wiz-kid of the Republican Party believes that we are just a group of states that happen to share borders but have no inherent connection to one another? It is this type of rhetoric and mentality that fosters the divisions that keep us from moving forward as a nation. This simplistic view of the economy shared by the wing-nuts and tea-baggers makes it difficult to take any of their proposals seriously. We are not talking about some teenagers who have overspent their allowance and so the answer is to send them to their room with no dinner. We are talking about our fellow countrymen who just happen to live in another part of the country, our country. We already know that being born in Hawaii makes you a foreigner, but this is ridiculous.

The fact that these clowns speak about morality just demonstrates their own immorality. Is it a moral hazard to watch our fellow countrymen suffering because the wealthy in this country decided they needed another transfer of wealth through market manipulation? What is a moral hazard is that we have seen the biggest financial theft of our economy in history and no one was prosecuted, no one was so much as even charged. Has our definition of morality been so corrupted that it is morally right to give billions to millionaires and billionaires, but immoral to give support to the elderly, unemployed, and mentally ill?

As long as we continue to allow these snake oil salesman to advocate their bad medicine we will continue to focus on cutting out our safety nets so we can continue to provide tax breaks to the wealthy. I’m sorry I obviously missed the memo that stated paying taxes in a democracy is optional. It’s amazing how all of the tea-baggers want government services, but they don’t want to pay for them. The wing-nuts want wars, nuclear arsenals, and government bail-outs they just don’t want to pay for them. There is a reason we pay taxes. There are certain things we have decided as a society that are important enough to share the costs. The problem arises when one segment of the population is paying more than their share.

One of the challenges we will face as a country is how do we make the tax code more progressive and more balanced in the face of this anti-tax and cut spending at all cost false meme being promoted by those who have demonized the very concepts that have made our country great. Shared sacrifice, social safety nets for the needy, and a common sense of fairness are concepts that make a nation strong. We can no longer continue to allow the corporate interests and money changers to undermine and tear at the fabric that makes us a nation. This idea of undermining the middle-class and the poor is nothing new to America. From the Hooverites, to the greed of the 80’s, to the butter and war rhetoric of the last administration we have been under assault it seems with every generation. And every generation has had to reconfirm our commitment to what makes America great.

Unfortunately with the decline in liberalism and the ascension of conservatism and it’s everybody for themselves mentality the very underpinnings of our society are at risk. Programs such as Social Security, benefits for the unemployed, and funding for education are now bargaining chips, but what are not on the bargaining table are tax-cuts for the wealthy and military spending. What type of society is willing to defund the programs for the middle-class and poor to reduce the taxes of the wealthiest among them? I could understand if the tax burden for the wealthy and the corporations were oppressive but under our current tax system the secretary of a CEO will probably pay more in taxes than her boss. To argue that our current tax system is unfairly slanted towards the wealthy is an understatement. To present Mr. Ryan, as a voice of reason in the deficit conversation when he is saying that everyone is on their own is like saying that a secessionist was a voice of reason during the civil war.

We are a country; we are a diverse nation that still manages to share some common threads. We should not allow those common threads to be unraveled for the benefit of a small group who value profits over national interests or their own citizenry. It’s amazing to me how the media and the pundits criticized the Chinese when their president was visiting, but no one has found it necessary to criticize the very American business people who have handed the keys to the American economy over to the Chinese and the Indians. Mr. Ryan doesn’t want to bail-out the states but he doesn’t have any such misgivings about bailing out the folks who have put the states in dire straits.

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today” - Mahatma Gandhi

The Disputed Truth

The $28 Billion Challenge

At the State of the Union, President Bush proposed to cut spending by $14 billion for this year's budget by cutting or eliminating 140 programs.  The recent budget fights in the House and Senate give us an indication of just how Republicans go about cutting spending.  Student loans, food stamps, Medicaid and Medicare are all going to be put on the chopping block.  Those at the bottom are going to be expected to pay for the tax cuts handed out to those at the top.

And for what?  The CBO has projected that this year's deficit will reach $337 billion.  Bush wants to cut $14 billion?  Out of a total budget of $2.7 trillion that is a tiny drop in the bucket.  This isn't a real attempt to control spending and reduce the deficit.  It's all smoke and mirrors.

Democrats are faced with two political opportunities.  The first is to stand up and defend the programs that the Republicans will be going after.  However doing so will play into the Republican narrative of Democrats being fiscally irresponsible and unwilling to cut spending.  And so the second challenge is to advocate our own plan to cut spending.  I introduce to you the $28 billion challenge.

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