The Hangman Cometh

The results of the Wisconsin recall election were, of course, disappointing, although not unexpected. The movement to oust the governor was initially tied to his attack on public employee unions, which don’t exactly enjoy widespread support from the whole population—especially since Republicans have expertly used a divide and conquer strategy to exploit resentments between workers.

But for now I want to call attention to how union households voted on Tuesday. First, in the original 2010 election that brought Scott Walker to power, union households represented only 26% of all voters. In Tuesday’s election, they represented 33%, a substantial increase. Where were all these folks in 2010 when Walker could have been stopped then?

Scott Walker won that 2010 election with 52% of the vote, with about 125,000 more votes than Tom Barrett. The totals were:

WALKER  1,128,941

BARRETT  1,004,303

Tuesday’s recall election saw Barrett get 1,160,245 votes, clearly enough to beat Walker in 2010. Again, where were those folks back then? (Walker, obviously, also increased his totals, too, but we are talking about union motivation to vote; despite not completely revealing his hand, if Scott Walker didn’t frighten union folks in 2010, then they weren’t paying attention.)

Finally, given how Walker made no secret of his disdain for unionism, particularly unionism practiced by public employees, one would think that the opposition from all union households—whatever happened to solidarity?—would have been very dramatic on Tuesday. Well, it was dramatic, but not very. From the exit polling data:

As you can see, almost 4 in 10 who live in a union household voted for the union buster. As a union guy, I find that appalling, but I can assure you it would be worse if the election were held here in southwest Missouri.

Again, I have to marvel at how successful the right-wing has been in getting people to vote against their own economic interests and in getting a large number of folks to help build the gallows that will eventually be used to execute their middle class existence.

The Hesitancy Of Hope?

President Obama and his campaign team have decided to sit out the epic battle in Wisconsin, a fight to oust a sitting Republican governor who has waged war on unions and working class men and women in his state, even as he has taken in tons of cash from billionaires. Those rich folks want to see Gov. Scott Walker finally thrash a champion of what’s left of the middle class, the public employee unions.

There are plenty of good political reasons for the President to have stayed out of this fight. But there is one decisive reason he should have been in the middle of it: because it was the right thing to do.

If the Democratic challenger, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, goes down in Tuesday’s recall election, it won’t be because Mr. Obama stayed away. After all, this is a local fight and the folks involved should not need
any outsider, even if it is the president of the United States, to motivate them.

But it is important that Democrats, particularly those affiliated with unions, understand that Mr. Obama has their back, even when it might cost him something.

The fact that Gov. Walker may retain his office is stunning enough, for those of us who had hoped that the people of Wisconsin would reject the Tea Party, Koch-backed Republican.  But I find it even more stunning that President Obama, who can’t win in November without the help of organized labor, public and private, would essentially stand by and watch Democrats in Wisconsin fight without so much as a quick presidential visit that might serve to boost the morale of those in the trenches.

But as Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake at The Washington Post put it this morning:

In the end, Obama, like all of us, is shaped by his own experiences. And roughly two years ago, Obama gave in to pleas for him to make a last-minute campaign stop for Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D), who was struggling to hold the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy. Obama’s trip changed nothing. Coakley lost to now-Sen. Scott Brown (R), and the president had to endure a series of stories about whether he had lost his mojo.

Seen through that lens, Wisconsin looks like a no-win situation for Obama. As one Democratic consultant closely following the race put it: “From his point of view, (there’s) not much to gain and something to lose.”

With 155 days left before what is expected to be a very close general election, Obama and his team simply weren’t willing to risk being too closely associated with a defeat in what is widely expected to be a critical swing state this fall.

It’s not lost on some of us that Mr. Obama campaigned in 2008 partly on the idea that he was a different kind of politician who didn’t necessarily make the kind of political calculations like those outlined above. Afraid of losing his “mojo“? “Not much to gain and something to lose“? “Weren’t willing to risk being too closely associated with a defeat“?  What happened to the audacity of hope?  There isn’t much boldness in sitting on the sideline while your team is gutting it out on the field.

Finally, and to be fair, there are those who believe that Mr. Obama’s presence in Wisconsin wouldn’t have helped Barrett with a key constituency. The Washington Post article quoted a “Democratic operative who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about strategy”:

Barrett’s problem is is white men, lots of them union members, and Obama doesn’t cut much ice there.

What a shame that many union members will vote for the anti-union Walker on Tuesday. Such shame I know well, as I would bet ten thousand Mitt Romney dollars that way more than half of my own local union members would not walk but run to the polls in order to cast a vote for Walker and against Obama, if they were given the chance.

So, maybe there is a good reason Obama stayed away, but that reason is still not good enough.  There are those of us out here who admire a fighter, even if it is a fighter of seemingly lost causes.  And isn’t victory the sweetest when defeat is expected?  What if Mr. Barrett pulls off an upset?

Audacity, Mr. President, audacity.

“Conservatism Can Cure Classroom Cancer, Blah, Blah, Blah”

George Will’s column in Saturday’s Joplin Globe touted the efforts of John Kline, a Minnesota congressman who is on a crusade—or is it a Marine expedition, since Will makes a major issue of Kline’s military background—to use his position as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee to, oddly, get the federal government out of education.

Yes, I know. That’s nothing new.  Will’s column touted the usual conservative chestnuts: Teachers’ unions are the root of all education evil, charter schools “operating outside union restrictions” are the answer, conservatism can cure classroom cancer, blah, blah, blah.

But one of those blahs had to do with No Child Left Behind and that law’s decree “that schools shall achieve 100 percent proficiency by 2014.” Will suggested that states, which are nearly en masse failing to meet the current proficiency targets, have “a powerful incentive” “to define proficiency down,” much like the state of South Carolina, heaven-on-earth for conservatives, has.  Then Will wrote this:

There also are reasons to suspect that NCLB‘s threat of labeling schools as failures constitutes an incentive to cheat. In a number of jurisdictions, including 103 schools in the District of Columbia, machines that grade the tests have detected suspiciously high levels of erasures as test-takers changed incorrect to correct answers.

Now, George Will doesn’t say so, but any “cheating” that occurred in the District of Columbia occurred under the tenure of D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, currently a conservative hero (don’t give me any of that, “but she’s a Democrat” nonsense; she is openly cheerleading for Republican governors who are attacking teachers and their unions). 

Rhee—Will once praised her for being “constructively confrontational“—is the leader of the so-called “education reform” movement, which should really be called the “get professional teachers out of education” movement.  

I last saw Rhee, who resigned after her boss, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, was defeated in the 2010 Democratic primary, on the IQ-eroding Fox and Friends, where she exclaimed: “I’m a huge fan of Governor Christie,” referring to the current political champion of right-wingers everywhere, the governor of New Jersey. 

Indeed, it was Rhee, perhaps more than anyone else in the country, who made it safe for Republicans like Christie and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker to bash teachers and trash their unions.

But, because there is still such a thing as journalism, USA Today did an expose of sorts on Michelle Rhee and her alleged success in dramatically improving the standardized test scores in Washington, D.C., most notably of a formerly low-performing school, Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus.

Using some old-fashioned authoritarianism, as well as her laissez-faire formula for education success, Rhee fired teachers and handed out awards and bonuses for improved performance, especially using Noyes as the poster-school to validate her approach.

But it turns out that, as Will mentioned without mentioning USA Today‘s reporting, the improvement in test scores may not have been real. The paper reported:

A USA TODAY investigation, based on documents and data secured under D.C.’s Freedom of Information Act, found that for the past three school years most of Noyes’ classrooms had extraordinarily high numbers of erasures on standardized tests. The consistent pattern was that wrong answers were erased and changed to right ones.

Gene Lyons wrote a couple of weeks ago—which is how I first learned of increasing doubts about the Rhee-inspired phenomenon in D.C.—that,  

Although the national media appear determined not to notice, similar testing scandals have taken place in New York, Texas, Georgia, California — basically anywhere school funding and/or jobs have been linked directly to multiple-choice testing. Private charter schools as well as public schools, incidentally.

“This is like an education Ponzi scam,” a teacher’s union official told USA Today. “If your test scores improve, you make more money. If not, you get fired. That’s incredibly dangerous.”

Yes, it’s dangerous.  Test-driven formulas for education excellence, as the conservative George Will and the liberal Gene Lyons both might agree, are not a panacea for the real or imagined ills of our education system. (Lyons points out that over the last 30 years “overall student performance” has actually gone up.)

Now, someone just needs to tell President Obama, who seems to have embraced the idea of test-heavy reforms.

Will says that Rep. Kline,

promises that the current system for measuring “adequate yearly progress” “will not exist when we are done.”

We shall see about Kline’s promise, but if that happens it will be an unwitting repudiation of Michelle Rhee’s effort to, in the words of education historian, Diane Ravitch, “subject public education to free-market forces, including competition, decision by data, and consumer choice.” 

Ravitch continues:

All of this sounds very appealing when your goal is to buy a pound of butter or a pair of shoes, but it is not a sensible or wise approach to creating good education. What it produces, predictably, is cheating, teaching to bad tests, institutionalized fraud, dumbing down of tests, and a narrowed curriculum.

It has also produced a conservative celebrity, sometimes openly promoted by Democrats, Michelle Rhee.

Finally, it needs to be said here that there is no magic in turning ill-nourished kids raised in anti-learning environments, mostly without an intact and interested family, into little Einsteinian prodigies, which, I suppose, is what some Americans expect teachers to do in urban schools and elsewhere.

Standardized tests won’t do it. Cutting teachers’ pay, or taking away their collective bargaining rights, won’t do it.  Devilizing their unions and starting non-union charter schools won’t do it.

Perhaps nothing will do it.

But a start might be to stop blaming teachers and start listening to them. Commenting on the anti-teacher film, Waiting for “Superman,” Richard Kahlenberg wrote in The Washington Post that the movie,

implies that teachers unions are to blame for the failures of urban education and that non-unionized charter schools are the solution. The movie includes no acknowledgment that the things teachers want for themselves – more resources devoted to education, smaller class sizes, policies that allow them to keep order in the classroom – are also good for kids.

Resources devoted to education? Smaller class sizes? Order in the classroom?

Imagine that.  Teachers actually want things that are good for the kids.

Who would’ve thunk it?

Remarks and Asides

Jason Linkins of HuffPo, previously a semi-supporter of Republican Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, has changed his mind. Here’s why:

Snyder’s just lost me completely with his apparent desire to enact a law that would impose “financial martial law” upon struggling communities in the form of “financial managers” that would have the power to abrogate contracts at will and supercede the democratic process. There’s been a lot of recent media attention focused on a similar disregard for the public will in Wisconsin, but what’s happening in Michigan really makes Scott Walker look like an amateur.

Linkins quotes the Michigan Messenger:

According to the law, which has already been approved in the House, the governor will be able to declare “financial emergency” in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services.

Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.

Czars, anyone?

_______________________

Politico is reporting on the “conservative backlash” against Sarah Palin, including one Weekly Standard writer calling her an Alaskan Al Sharpton.  Wow.  That has to hurt the pale-faced Palinistas out there.

_______________________

Speaking of Palinistas, I saw George Will, who admitted his wife “occasionally advises” the Lady Gaga of the Tea Party movement, Michele Bachmann, dismiss her presidential candidacy as not serious:

We know who settles presidential elections, they’re independent voters. Independent voters are not inflamed, and not inflamed in the way that some of the marginal Republican candidates are.

Oh, George!  “Inflamed”?  That is a perfect description of the Tea Party, whose “energies” you welcomed last year into your party:

But eight months ago, the worry was the worst case analysis for Republicans was that the Tea Party energies would be diverted in a third party candidacy splitting the conservative vote in this country. Sarah Palin, think of her what you will, has brought them into the Republican Party, and they are one of the main reasons for what is going to be probably decisive in November and that is the enormous enthusiasm and intensity gap that favors the Republicans this year.

You see? The unelectable teapartier Bachmann is “inflamed,” but teapartiers in general are endowed with “enormous enthusiasm and intensity.”

Only conservative intellectuals can weave these kinds of contradictions into a seamless defense of the indefensible.

___________________________

Democrats have been damning Mitt Romney with praise lately. They have been reminding voters that Romney’s 2006 health care law in Massachusetts was sort of the model for the much-hated “Obamacare.”

Some worry it will backfire, should Romney win the GOP nomination next year and Democrats are left trying to convince independents that Romney is really, truly a scary sort of guy.

Well, I wouldn’t worry.  By the time Romney makes himself fit to win the nomination, he will be a really, truly scary sort of guy.

The Working Class’ Pearl Harbor

Since there’s no way I could do it better, below is the incomparable Rachel Maddow’s summary of the fraud and phoniness in Wisconsin, perpetrated by too-clever-by-half Republicans.

This war on unions and working people is not over, of course, and in some ways what the shameless Republicans have done couldn’t have worked out better for Democrats, not only in Wisconsin, but nationally.

That is, if they know how to take advantage of it.  Watch:

America Aint Broke, But The Fix Is In

Michael Moore, filmmaker and gifted liberal propagandist, gave a great speech in Madison on Saturday.  It began:

America is not broke.

Now, maybe I loved Moore’s speech so much because I, too, have argued that America is not broke.  It’s simply not true. No matter what you hear on television or radio or read in the papers, it’s not true.

Most of that nonsense comes from panic-inducing politicians and pundits who represent a segment of the population who will benefit from your fear, from your sense that America is failing and on the edge of financial ruin.

Politifact, the fact-checker, posted an article about two weeks ago refuting the whole notion that states are broke.  The article was set in the context of the Wisconsin fiasco, brought on by Governor Scott Walker, who,

started using the “broke” description as he unveiled his controversial budget-repair bill, which would force state employees to pay more for health care and pensions and curtail collective bargaining rights for most public employees.

The article cited five Walker quotes, which are typical of what you hear all over these days:

I don’t have anything to negotiate. We are broke in this state. We have been broke for years.

The bottom line is we are trying to balance our budget and there really is no room to negotiate on that because we’re broke.

We’re broke. We don’t have any more money.

You can’t really negotiate if you don’t have any money to negotiate with.

The facts are clear: Wisconsin is broke and it’s time to start paying our bills today – so our kids are not stuck with even bigger bills tomorrow.

This stuff is sort of like another popular phrase we have all heard a thousand times, sometimes even from the lips of President Obama, who should know better:  “We have to live within our means.” 

“Means”?  What does that mean?  If it simply means we have to get closer to balancing our budget, we can all agree.  We do.  But if it means what one writer cited by Politifact thinks it means, then, well, we shouldn’t agree:

There may be talk about governments being bankrupt and insolvent when what is meant is, “We don’t want to raise taxes and don’t want to spend so we have to cut.”

Politifact demolished the idea that “broke” actually means “bankrupt.”  A University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, Andrew Reschovsky, put Walker’s hysterical claims in proper perspective with another point I have made over and over:

“That’s obviously absurd,” Reschovsky said. “We obviously aren’t broke. The analogy to a household is really a fallacious one.”

He said the government has powerful tools at its disposal to make ends meet: taxes or manipulating fees. You could also put off some spending or shift some debt into the next fiscal year — tricks that state budget offices have routinely used.

No, government budgets aren’t like household budgets, something Obama also says way too much.  Governments can tax; they have the power to responsibly increase their revenues, if the will is there.

But like Republicans everywhere, Governor Walker refuses to consider raising taxes.  In fact, he cut them when he took over, adding to the state’s deficit problems.  So, it’s just false to use the word broke.  Or, “We have to live within our means,” if by means one happens to mean a grossly underfunded government.

Here is how Michael Moore put it:

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you’ll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It’s just that it’s not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Calling the idea that our nation is broke the “Big Lie,” Moore said,

For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we’d have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite.

He also made yet another point I tried to make a while back in Grandma Margie’s Magic Pie—you can see how great minds think alike here, right?  Moore said,

They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day – this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart — because you — yes, you, too! — might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep your head down, your nose to the grindstone, don’t rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

I had pointed out that I knew people who received Social Security and Medicare—Democratic programs—who couldn’t wait to vote for Republican budget-slashers last November.  I knew people whose children enjoyed free and reduced lunches—a Democratic program—who couldn’t wait to go to the polls and punish liberals.  And I knew union members—long supported by Democrats—who would salivate as they cast their votes for the very people out to destroy their union.

Mostly because of the false idea perpetuated by the wealthy class, that anyone can be rich and those nasty liberals and Democrats want to ruin everyone’s chance at success and make everyone a ward of the state.

Saying our country is broke is just the latest way of convincing the working class of voting against their economic self interests. But perhaps Governor Walker’s actions in Wisconsin have, at least for the next election cycle, motivated enough folks to work to throw out a large number of Republicans and restore at least some semblance of fiscal sanity without further devastating the American worker.

Want To Make Yourself Sick?

If you want to make yourself absolutely sick, listen to the conversation below—posted today—between someone pretending to be billionaire and master of the conservative-libertarian universe David Koch and Governor Scott Walker. 

The Wisconsin governor was punked by current editor at the Buffalo Beast, Ian Murphy. The Beast is an online newspaper founded by Matt Taibbi.  As I said, it makes you sick to know for sure—of course, we always suspected it—that this stuff is going on behind the scenes. 

If you want a partial transcript go to the Beast site, but just to give you an example, during the conversation, “David Koch” says, “We’ll back you any way we can,” and then follows it with this:

David Koch“: What we were thinking about the crowds was planting some troublemakers.

Governor Walker: We thought about that…

Here are the two parts of the conversation, which confirms what those of us on this side have said about Governor Walker’s motives:

George Will Rats Out Wisconsin Governor

George Will has done us a favor by ratting out Governor Scott Walker.

But first:

Will’s latest assault on public employee unions is full of his usual lack of candor dressed up as an excess of it.  Writing about the goings-on in Madison, Wisconsin, he says:

This capital has been convulsed by government employees sowing disorder in order to repeal an election.

The convulsion is, of course, a convulsion of democracy, which Mr. Will and his fellow conservatives like Glenn Beck—whom Will resembles more and more with each column—just don’t seem to like all that much.

Unless the convulsive sowers have tea bags hanging from their hats.

Beck said on his radio show on Tuesday:

What is the job of he AFL-CIO?  I contend the job of the AFL-CIO is to create a global disruption…sowing the seeds of a global revolution.

So we have:

Will: “government employees sowing disorder.”

Beck: “AFL-CIO…sowing the seeds of a global revolution.”

As they say, paranoid minds think alike.

George Will (or Glenn Beck) never once characterized Tea Party town hall protesters as sowers of disorder, whose delirious democratic seizures were by design intended to repeal the 2008 election.  Not once. 

But nevermind that inconsistency. Here’s the ratting-out part:

In his Beckish column, Will’s Reaganization—deification, for conservatives—of Governor Scott Walker merely repeats the half-truths, quarter-truths, and lies that is the “it’s my story and I’m sticking to it” strategy of the Governor and his Republican allies. 

But we’ve heard all the misleading statements of the Governor.  No need to recount those. What we haven’t heard, and what Will contributes to the controversy, is this little paragraph about Walker’s motives:

I am convinced,” he says, “this is about money – but not the employees’ money.” It concerns union dues, which he wants the state to stop collecting for the unions, just as he wants annual votes by state employees on re-certifying the unions. He says many employees pay $500 to $600 annually in union dues – teachers pay up to $1,000. Given a choice, many might prefer to apply this money to health care premiums or retirement plans. And he thinks “eventually” most will say about the dues collectors, “What do we need this for?”

There it is for all to see.  No need to learn it from a Democrat or a union leader. The Governor’s goal is to make unions unnecessary by starving them to death, sort of the way Republicans have starved government through massive tax cuts, hoping to shrink it small enough to drown it in a Koch cocktail.

From the start, this was all about killing the public employee unions and there is no hiding that fact now.

And we have George Will, who had hoped to apotheosize Scott Walker, to thank for it.

Wisconsin, Missouri, And Workers’ Rights

Governor Walker in Wisconsin—part of a Republican brigade waging war on the rights of the American worker—has made it clear that his motivation for creating havoc in his state had absolutely nothing to do with how much state workers paid for their health care or contributed to their pensions.  Nothing.

Now that the governor has rebuffed the public employee unions’ offer to give him every dollar he says he wants to address the state’s inflated budgetary woes, we know without a doubt that Governor Walker wants nothing less than to destroy unionism in Wisconsin. There is no point in arguing about that.

But a rational person would ask, why?  What’s going on?

Well, besides the obvious fact that unions and their members tend to support and organize on behalf of Democrats, we have the rather disconcerting reality that Republicans—including Missouri Republicans—see workers not as human beings deserving dignity and respect in the workplace, but as cogs in a business machine, and it’s the business machine that deserves the dignity and respect.

It wasn’t an accident that the conservative Republican Supreme Court breathed into corporate nostrils and turned them into living souls.  And it’s not an accident that Republican governors and legislators are attempting to bring down the labor force and make workers nothing more than business-serving beggars, who should be happy to have jobs anywhere and at any wage and under just about any conditions.

The only thing that stands in their way are labor unions and the Democratic Party, which thanks to overreaching Republicans, is—at least in Wisconsin—beginning to get loin-girded for a protracted battle.

Governor Walker, like all governors, including Democratic ones, wants his state to be attractive to business development.  Fair enough. But what’s the best way to attract businesses without alienating the people who will go to work for them?

Walker cut corporate taxes, which added to the state’s budget deficit, and which, of course, he expects government workers to pay for.  But does this strategy, which is being used by Republicans everywhere, actually work?   

In other words, is cutting business taxes and outlawing the rights of workers the way to create good jobs, or is there more to it than that?

As Mitch Albom wrote recently about this same Republican philosophy currently being applied in his state of Michigan:

…if all problems were solved by low business taxes, why isn’t South Dakota the most popular state in the U.S.? According to the Tax Foundation, South Dakota has the most business-friendly tax climate in America. Do you see everyone flocking there?

Now, stop and think about that.  Google or Microsoft or other such companies are not moving their businesses to South Dakota, even though it is true that the state does indeed havethe most business-friendly tax climate in America,” as conservatives measure it. Yet, as Albom points out,

Its growth rate was below the national level the last 10 years. It has three of the six poorest counties in the nation.

How can that be? Albom mentions how his governor, Republican Rick Snyder, used to head the computer company Gateway, which up until 1998 was headquartered in…South Dakota.  What happened next?

…the computer company moved to California… — the second-worst business tax climate in America — looking for a hipper environment and a deeper talent pool.

Actually, Gateway’s Chief Executive, Theodore Waitt put it this way, as reported by Business Week:

Why is Waitt leaving Sioux City, the land where his family raised cattle for five generations and where he has become a hometown hero? It’s essential for ensuring Gateway’s future, he says. Waitt wants the world’s second-largest direct marketer of PCs to increase revenues 40% to 45% per year, to hit sales of $25 billion by 2001. To get there, he needs the top managers and engineers he hasn’t been able to attract to South Dakota. ”It’s all about growth, at the end of the day,” Waitt says.

With better talent, Waitt figures he can tap into markets well beyond Gateway’s stronghold of selling consumers high-end PCs by phone.

Top managers and engineers.” “Better talent.” “It’s all about growth.”  Funny, but Mr. Waite never mentioned a damn thing about taxes when he went looking in business-unfriendly California for a way of “ensuring Gateway’s future.”

He also didn’t mention the minimum wage.  Or workers’ compensation. Or discrimination law.

Yet Republicans here in Missouri are worried about those things and falsely claim that “reforming” them will make Missouri “a more attractive and competitive place to do business.”  Again, if that were all there were to it, Sioux Falls would be the Singapore of the Midwest.

As part of redefining workers as cogs in our state’s business machine, Missouri Republicans are:

• Trying to weaken our minimum wage law—put in place by a vote of the people;

• Trying to further limit already severely limited rights of injured workers;

• Trying to make it easier for businesses to fire employees through amending our employment law. 

And they brazenly do this in the name of “promoting jobs in our state.”

About the effort to undermine worker protections in Missouri, Ray McCarty, president of the Associated Industries of Missouri, a “pro-business” lobbying group, said,

We’re asking the legislature to invest in Missouri’s economy through responsible policy change, and the dividend will be a stronger business climate that will lead to more jobs and more tax revenue in the long run.

Invest.” “A stronger business climate.”  That’s what the man said.  Well, let’s look at the conservative Tax Foundation again.  Here is a segment of the “business tax climate” map showing the ranking of Missouri and its neighbors:

You will notice something interesting.  Missouri by far has the “best” business tax climate of our neighbors.  In fact, it’s the 16th best in the country. If the Republican theory were correct, then Missouri would be flooded with businesses fleeing our neighboring states, and our unemployment rate wouldn’t be 9.5%, higher than the national rate and tied for 15th worse among the states.

No. This isn’t about attracting businesses to our state or Michigan or Wisconsin or anywhere else, as much as it is about a war on the rights of the American worker, who with unions and collective bargaining have a voice in the workplace, a voice that doesn’t beg on the floor for crumbs but negotiates at the table for a fair share of the feast.

Republicans And The Neo-Feudal State

In Wisconsin, we have on display the strategy of the Republican Party to transform the entire country into something that will, in some disturbing ways, resemble the feudal states of old.

And Democrats everywhere need to pay attention.

Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, who is good friends with GOP budget guru Congressman Paul Ryan, is undertaking an assault—he has threatened to bring out the National Guard—on public workers and their unions that is unprecedented and it is being done in the name of “a fiscal crisis,” the contemporary battle cry of Republican insurgents. 

Bryan Kennedy, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, said of Walker and his proposal:

It is a power grab, a coordinated effort to kill the union here. This is essentially the governor saying, ‘Sit down, shut up and do what you are told.’

Kennedy said this morning that the governor’s scheme, “Guts workers rights and essentially takes away the right to collectively bargain.” 

William Gould, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board—the arbiter of disputes involving private sector unions and employers—said about the assault in Wisconsin,

I think it’s quite possible that if they’re successful in doing this, a lot of other Republican governors will emulate this.

Of course they will.  But they will emulate it whether it is successful or not because Republicans believe this is the time to launch a full-throttled attack on the last remaining stronghold of progressivism and liberalism left in our economic life.

It is no secret that public employees and public employee unions have long been a thorn in the flesh of Republicans, particularly conservatives.  There is the obvious practical reason: These unionized folks are well-organized and can mobilize in support of those who support them, usually Democrats. 

But there is a larger, more philosophical, reason that conservatives want to unleash some pent-up hate on government workers, who, through collective bargaining, have achieved decent wages and working conditions and other associated benefits, which in turn help keep upward pressure on wages and benefits in the private sector.  Thus, the public employee unions represent the only bulwark against complete domination of American economic life by the business class.  Period. 

The governor of New Jersey, Chris Jesus Christie, the savior of the Right,* says public sector unions are “greedy, selfish, and self-interested.”   The truth is that Christie and other Republicans, who would never call multi-million-dollar-making CEOs, for instance, “greedy” or “selfish,” don’t like the idea that ordinary American workers can have some leverage in the workplace, some kind of voice that is powerful enough to stand up to the Voice of Business. 

And since Republican propaganda has been very good at turning most of the private sector against unionism, the last redoubts left are the public sector unions.  It’s just that simple.

And my message to Democrats, especially President Obama, is to not only stand with your friends, but get out on the front lines and lead, while there is still time. 

Mr. Obama, who hasn’t exactly been a fearless leader on this issue, did come to the defense of public workers yesterday:

As a general proposition, everybody’s got to make some adjustments to new fiscal realities…on the other hand, some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions.

And I think it is very important for us to understand that public employees, they’re our neighbors, they’re our friends. These are folks who are teachers and they’re firefighters and they’re social workers and they’re police officers. They make a lot of sacrifices and make a big contribution.  And I think it’s important not to vilify them or to suggest that somehow all these budget problems are due to public employees.

So, I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to the well-being of our states and our cities.

Now, I know some liberals think that was a rather tepid response, but the Right saw it somewhat differently.  Here’s a headline from Fox “News”

Although all of us wish Obama would speak with a lot more lightning in his voice, that’s just not his style when he’s not on the campaign trail.  But it’s important to note that he did hit the right note in his assessment of what’s happening in Wisconsin.  After all, he did characterize it as “an assault on unions.”

The good news is that the good guys are fighting back.  Thousands of protesters have met the governor of Wisconsin head-on this week, and schools are closed in Madison again today, because teachers are joining the fight at the Capitol.   The truth is, though, that Republicans will likely succeed in their union-busting assault in Wisconsin.

And if this sort of thing happens all over the country, it will mean that the last outposts standing against complete corporate dominance of the American workforce will have fallen.  More important, it will mean that the Republican Party—the party of business—will have gone a long way in transforming the country into a neo-feudal state.

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* Ann Coulter, the Anti-Christ, gets all soggy over Chris Christie.  She said the other day,

I don’t care if he wants to run, his country needs him.

Now, I just want to say, that if you make Ann Coulter soggy, you are a very bad man.  A very bad man, indeed.

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