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Friday, February 18, 2011

On Wisconsin!

Wisconsin is our neighbor state around here, and "weekend getaways" (when we used to take weekend getaways) often meant jumping on the Tollway and crossing the border into Wisconsin. I've probably traveled more throughout Wisconsin over my lifetime than I have traveled throughout Illinois. Rivalry between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers aside, I love Wisconsin; let me make that perfectly clear.

I'm closely following the happenings in Wisconsin these days. The new Republican governor is trying to break the public unions.

He says it is necessary to break the unions to fix a budget shortfall. How does ending collective bargaining fix a budget shortfall? Of course, accompanying the end of collective bargaining would be cuts in benefits for public workers, but these really are two separate issues, aren't they?

Here's an article at Talking Points Memo that discusses the Wisconsin budget crisis.. important reading for anyone who is following this issue.

The Republicans are not a bunch of dumb bunnies. They know people are hurting, and they are following the right-wing bagger-think playbook of villainizing government workers, in particular, unionized government workers. Government workers these days can actually pay their mortgages, put food on the tables, and they still have health care coverage. The Repubs know that they are then good targets for those who are struggling and can't do these things. They know that there are people out there who want public workers to be as miserable as they are.

They know that unions, in particular, public worker unions have been villainized for years by many segments of the population who believe that government workers are lazy and useless, including the nation's teachers. I've had mixed feelings about teachers' unions, but I also remember days when teachers made 7 grand a year, and that was considered progress!

The Republicans want to divide and conquer the population: Let's get the "taxpayers" on our side by blaming government workers whom "we" support. The big problem in budgets these days isn't really spending, it's revenue. Tax cuts for the wealthiest (a big issue in the Wisconsin mess), high unemployment with people not contributing to the nation's and states' coffers, and loopholes for various corporations have combined to make a mess for the states. Instead of the "taxpayers" being angry at the wealthiest among us and the big corporations who pay little or nothing, the "taxpayers" will be angry at the government unions. The union employees, however, are just middle class people like all of the rest of us, and they are getting squeezed like all of the rest of us.

But better to get people angry at a teacher making $60,000 grand a year instead of a hedge fund manager making billions a year, right?

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