Unions Have Long Memories

I just heard a conservative on Fox say that Scott Walker’s comparison of union members to ISIS beheaders was a “fake gaffe.” He said that this will be “forgotten next week.”

Oh, yeah? Betcha.

Walker responded to a question during his appearance on Thursday at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference—an event that demonstrates the surprising truth that turds can talk—about how he would handle ISIS:

I want a commander-in-chief who will do everything in their [sic] power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up on American soil. We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message, not only that we will protect American soil, but do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on a hundred thousand protesters, I can do the same across the world.

Overhead view of hundreds of people wearing red for the teachers' unions, protesting against Walker's bill.If you can restrain yourself from puking up your lunch, you may recall that Walker’s efforts in Wisconsin to destroy public employee unions wasn’t exactly popular with working people, and thousands came out to protest and show their disapproval. It is those protesters—working men and women—whom he compares to Islamist zealots and psychopaths who have committed unspeakable crimes against humanity.

And if anyone thinks that working people and the unions who represent them will forget Walker’s remarks, look out. Even without that stupid and offensive comparison to fanatical killers, union folks will be stirred up in 2016 against what has become an obvious Republican hatred of collective bargaining rights for workers. But throw Walker into a general election, with his claim that “taking on” protesting working people qualifies him to fight ISIS freaks in Iraq and Syria, and you will see an effort to defeat Walker like you have never seen.

It has become quite clear that Walker is the favorite among the worst of the worst on the far right. One of the reasons he is their favorite is his aggressive anti-union stance, something he highlighted in his well-received CPAC speech on Thursday. Comparing union protesters to Islamist killers will only endear Walker to the legions of union-hating freaks on the right, and should Walker wrestle the Republican nomination from the well-funded third leg of the Bush triumvirate, Walker can absolutely count on one thing: union people won’t forget what he has said and, more important, what he has done.


Scott Walker And “The Money Power”

Catching up with Charles P. Pierce’s irreplaceable The Politics Blog, I found a gem that needs to be passed around and admired by all who can appreciate it. Pierce, who graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee, zeroed in on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s stupid attempt to change the mission of the state’s university system—known and celebrated as the Wisconsin Idea, which was born out of early 20th-century progressivism—and Walker’s subsequent lies about what he was doing.

Pierce summarized the history of the Wisconsin Idea, mentioning “its greatest political advocate, Robert LaFollette,” and Teddy Roosevelt, who appealed to it “as the source of the Progressive movement.” Then Pierce produced this sparkling description of the dangerous political game being played by some powerful Republicans:

The forces that Scott Walker represents are the same forces, dressed up in modern drag and operating with the speed and efficiency of modern communication, that Roosevelt and LaFollette and the rest of them saw as threatening to the creative process of self-government back at the turn of the last century. The money power does not need the political entity that is the United States of America except as an organizing infrastructure through which private profits can be insured and increased. The money power does not need its fellow citizens as anything but disposable commodities, and anonymous, interchangeable units, in the mechanism that produces those profits. That is the political and social reality against which The Wisconsin Idea was raised up to combat. It depended vitally on the intellectual ferment of the state’s universities, and the products of that ferment as applied in pursuit of a better life for all the state’s citizens. The forces for which Scott Walker is only the most recently popular front man are threatened by education, and by knowledge, so they use all the power they have to frighten people about new ways of looking at things, about fresh knowledge, about the process of education itself. They force a kind of mental surrender of the rights of the people to create and sustain a self-governing political commonwealth by convincing those people that anything done together, through the mechanisms of self-government, is a threat to personal, private liberties. You can see it in what Walker’s trying to do to the University of Wisconsin, and you can see it to a smaller degree in the way that potential Republican presidential candidates have bamfoozled themselves on the subject of childhood vaccinations. We conquered polio, and smallpox, and measles because we all worked together, and when intelligent people offered us a cure, we made a national movement out of the effort to eradicate these diseases. The government and the universities and the people they produced showed the way, and the country made that cause its own, and we by god eradicated these diseases. We didn’t do this as a mindless and fearful herd. We did this because we educated ourselves on what the experts told us was the best way to prevent these diseases. and then we acted on the knowledge that we had gained for ourselves.

Now, though, a substantial portion of the population has been taught that the worst people in the world to trust are the people who know the most about anything. They have nothing to say to us. We have our good old common sense which, I have learned, grows less sensible as it grows more common. This has been a lesson devised by people whose power is threatened by the act of creating a political commonwealth in which their power needs must be scrutinized and, if necessary, limited. That is the game Scott Walker is playing. It is far from a new one, and it still can be lost.

That line—“a substantial portion of the population has been taught that the worst people in the world to trust are the people who know the most about anything”—describes perfectly right-wing radio and Fox “News” and most of the rest of the conservative media complex.

Sitting at or near the top of that complex is a man named Matt Drudge and his The Drudge Report. Guess who Drudge is pushing as the Republican presidential nominee? Yep:

Details on how Drudge is promoting Walker, a radically conservative union-buster, can be found at Media Matters (“Clear GOP Frontrunner”: How The Drudge Report Shills For Scott Walker). With Drudge in his corner, Walker can count on Limbaugh and Hannity and most of the other know-nothing zealots on the right, on radio and television, to support him during a bruising primary battle with Jebby the Bush.

As for the rest of us, Charles Pierce is right: Scott Walker is playing a very old game on behalf of profits-above-people forces, those “money power” folks who see the rest of us as little more than “disposable commodities, and anonymous, interchangeable units, in the mechanism that produces those profits.”

The Measles, Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp, And Your Republican Party

Surprise, surprise. There are a few Republican presidential hopefuls out there this year (here and here) who question whether the government should require people to get vaccinated for measles because, dammit, it may lead to “profound mental disorders” and is a transgression against our freedom. Yet there are people in the Republican Party who have no problem putting some women through mental anguish by making it difficult, nearly impossible in some places, for them to exercise their reproductive freedom, and there are some zealots on the right who have no problem subjecting women to government-mandated vaginal snooping. You tell me which is a greater assault on personal freedom.


All of this vaccination talk reminded me of former GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, in 2011, attacking poor Governor Oops! for forcing Texas school girls to get a vaccine against human papilloma virus. Dr. Bachmann, apparently an expert on the subject, famously and falsely suggested the vaccine might cause “mental retardation.”


Speaking of intellectual disabilities, televangelist (and also a former GOP presidential candidate) Pat Robertson has given his blessing to the idea that the government ought not force parents to vaccinate their kids because “natural immunity is a pretty good thing” and “we should be very careful not to force people to do stuff that they earnestly feel they shouldn’t do.” Yes, again, this same man, a Christofascist, believes women should not be able to control their own bodies because God says that “abortion is murder.”


Speaking of even more strange GOP presidential candidates, you gotta love this recent CNN headline:

Huckabee compares being gay to drinking, swearing

Yes. It makes sense. A girl-loving guy goes out and gets drunk and the next thing you know, he has a boyfriend who cusses up a shitstorm.


But Mike Huckabee didn’t just pass on the old lie that homosexuality is a choice people make like, say, preferring Bud Light over Bud. He said the whole matter was “a biblical issue” and the Bible did not give him permission to “evolve” and that Christian businesses ought to have the right to discriminate against the deviants:

It’s like asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli. We don’t want to do that — I mean, we’re not going to do that. Or like asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him, or to have dogs in his backyard. We’re so sensitive to make sure we don’t offend certain religions, but then we act like Christians can’t have the convictions that they’ve had for 2,000 years.

That’s interesting. Besides comparing gay people to bacon-wrapped shrimp and adulterated dogs, Huckabee says that convictions from the Iron Age ought to be honored in the law today. That would include the conviction that the bacon-wrapped shrimp and impure dogs should be executed because, as Leviticus 18:22 says,

The penalty for homosexual acts is death to both parties. They have brought it upon themselves.

Oh, but you may say: Christians no longer believe in executing bacon-wrapped shrimp and adulterated dogs for sinning against nature. Except that, remember, Huck said:

This is not just a political issue. It is a biblical issue. And as a biblical issue — unless I get a new version of the scriptures, it’s really not my place to say, OK, I’m just going to evolve.

So, without a new Bible, Huck can’t really evolve on the issue because it is a biblical issue and it says in the old Bible that you should kill the bacon-wrapped shrimp and the adulterated dogs. And if you don’t kill the deviant shrimp (or is it the bacon that is the deviant, or both?) and the adulterated dogs, then you are guilty of evolving, and I am quite sure the penalty for evolving is either death or losing the 2016 Iowa caucuses, whichever hurts the Huckster the most.


Speaking of the Iowa caucuses, if you think all this talk about crazy Christofascist Republican candidates is just for the fun of it, the Real Clear Politics polling average for the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus shows the Huckster leading the field by over 3 points. But if you happen to believe, like I do, that Huckabee has exactly zero chance of becoming the Republican nominee, let alone president, there is still good reason to fear some version of Christofascism will be a part of the 2016 general election campaign on the Republican side: Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker is “surging” in the latest Iowa polls.

Despite his growing and misleading reputation as a “moderate” in the party, Walker is, like the Huckster, an evangelical Christian who says his “policy decisions” are, “without a doubt, driven by my faith.” Walker not only sought the endorsement of an anti-gay group in Wisconsin last year, but the Koch-blessed, union-hating governor also believes, like Reverend Pat Robertson, that abortion should be illegal in all cases, including when a woman is impregnated by a rapist.

I don’t know if Walker thinks gay people are like “bacon-wrapped shrimp” to a Jewish deli owner, or like dogs to a faithful Muslim, but I do know he has at least some 2,000-year-old Christian convictions that ought to worry all of us.

UPDATE: The Des Moines Register published a piece yesterday (“Walker tells Iowans he’s one of the ‘fresh faces’ Romney had in mind”) that discussed the death threats that Walker says he received after all the “reforms” he brought to Wisconsin. Walker is quoted as saying:

Part of me looks back and thinks that maybe God put me and my family through all this for a purpose – and it wasn’t just to get things done in Wisconsin, and it wasn’t just to win all those elections in a state that normally doesn’t go Republican. Maybe it was to set us to … help get our country on the right track.

Like Pat Robertson in 1988, like a lot of other Republicans since, Scott Walker apparently believes his candidacy is somehow tied to the Creator of the Universe. And I can’t think of anything more dangerous than that.

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:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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:

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