Saturday, March 19, 2011

Wisconsin is just another strategy of the austerity ghouls

While it has been fascinating to watch as my cheesehead neighbors attempt to stand up to an austerity strategy that has caused riots from Greece to England to Egypt (remember prince Chuck getting his limo attacked in London during the attempt to saddle English students with greater education debt?), it is sad and instructive to watch how uncoordinated, ad hoc, and unplanned these responses have been.

The Plan to Steal Everything and Sell the People into Slavery
Wisconsin Death Trip
On Wednesday evening, in a veritable Night of the Long Knives, Wisconsin's integrity was brutally murdered on the floor of the state Capitol in Madison. On 9 March, integrity and trust built up over a century was obliterated as Wisconsin state senators quickly reversed course and cleaved its budget "repair bill" in half. Financial items require a quorum, thus, collective bargaining was split off from the budget repair bill and voted on separately so as to permit its being voted on now. Even so, this still broke the state's open meeting law requiring 24 hours' notice to ensure transparency. Instead, the Wisconsin senate Republicans pulled out this new legislation without advance notice and began voting, leaving only a stunned Democratic legislator, Peter Barca, to read the open meeting law out loud to prevent the senators from voting. The senate voted over his objections anyway.
The Wisconsin brand has always centered on integrity. This was really about the only distinctive comparative advantage the state could lay claim to. Now, it is gone. With collective bargaining abolished, huge issues remain beyond labor. The privatization of public assets is now on the agenda, with the yet-to-be-voted-on budget repair bill.
Wisconsin is a state that invented Progressive Era Republican rule in the 19th and early 20th centuries under such progressive populists as Robert LaFollette. Under their tenure, rent-seeking from the public domain and similar insider corruption were checked by a strong public sector anchored in integrity. The state's long history of reforms nurtured a prosperous middle class and made it a model of clean government, solid infrastructure, trade unionism and high value-added industry managed by socialists and the LaFollette Progressives.
Fast-forward to Scott Walker today. Representing a new breed apart from Wisconsin's earlier Republicans, he is seeking to re-birth the asset-grabbing Gilded Age. A plague of rent-seekers is seeking quick gains by privatizng the public sector and erecting tollbooths to charge access fees to roads, power plants and other basic infrastructure. more

"This is a Class War": Michael Moore Calls for Renewed Pro-Democracy Movement as Anti-Union Bills Approved in Wisconsin and Michigan
As Wisconsin Republicans passed Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union bill in the State Senate, a bill in Michigan goes even further. In the measure, emergency financial managers would be allowed to break union contracts, dismiss elected officials, and even disincorporate entire municipalities. Michigan Senate Republicans approved the bill yesterday, and protests are expected in the Lansing State Capitol building today. We speak to filmmaker Michael Moore. “[This] is a class war on the people,” Moore says. “I think that the whole world has been inspired by what happened in Tunisia and in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. And while their problems are different than ours, the spirit is the same. And we need a pro-democracy movement in this country, badly, right now.” more
Judge blocks Wisconsin anti-union law
The judge issues a temporary restraining order to block the measure, signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker, that limits collective bargaining rights for most public employees. Union activists applaud the move, but 'this doesn't end this fight at all,' says an AFL-CIO official.
By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
March 19, 2011
A Wisconsin judge on Friday issued a temporary restraining order blocking the new state law that curbs collective bargaining rights for most public employees.
Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi granted the temporary order that prevents publication of the measure signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker after weeks of protests and a boycott by Senate Democrats that turned the capital ofMadison in a national political battleground on the issue of limiting public employee union power.
The judge was acting on a request by Dist. Atty. Ismael Ozanne, a Democrat, who had filed a lawsuit contending a legislative committee had violated Wisconsin's open meetings law by pushing the measure onto the floor. That maneuver was key in unblocking the legislative stalemate and allowing the bill to be signed by Walker on March 11.
"This legislation is still working through the legal process. We are confident the provisions of the budget repair bill will become law in the near future," Cullen Werwie, the governor's press secretary, said in a statement.
"Judge Sumi confirmed today what we knew all along – that the bill stripping hundreds of thousands of hardworking Wisconsinites of their voice on the job was rammed through illegally in the dark of the night," said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO. "I'll definitely take it." more
Of course, in theory, NONE of this austerity is necessary.  NONE of it!  In fact, all these austerity measure will only make the economy worse--and you can take THAT to the bank.  Talk about a "preservation of archaic traits."
Beyond Austerity
William Mitchell
March 16, 2011 
It is difficult to expose the underlying myths because the assertions are framed in an opaque jargon. Further, the language of austerity has become ingrained in public debate by decades of miseducation and daily onslaughts from Fox News and its ilk. Those networks feature conservative politicians and denigrate those who challenge their views. Anyone who dares advocate larger deficits is shunned as being incompetent and/or a dangerous socialist. However, constantly shouting that government deficits are bad doesn’t make them so.
When British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the government deficit is just like credit-card debt and that Britain was facing bankruptcy, he was invoking the false neoliberal analogy between national budgets and household budgets. This analogy resonates strongly with voters because it attempts to relate the more amorphous finances of a government with our daily household finances. We know that we cannot run up our household debt forever and that we have to tighten our belts when our credit cards are maxed out. We can borrow to enhance current spending, but eventually we have to sacrifice spending to pay the debts back. We intuitively understand that we cannot indefinitely live beyond our means. Neoliberals draw an analogy between the two, because they know we will judge government deficits as reckless. But the government is not a big household. It can consistently spend more than its revenue because it creates the currency. Whereas households have to save (spend less than they earn) to spend more in the future, governments can purchase whatever they like whenever there are goods and services for sale in the currency they issue. Budget surpluses provide no greater capacity to governments to meet future needs, nor do budget deficits erode that capacity. Governments always have the capacity to spend in their own currencies.
Why? Because they are the issuers of their own currencies, governments like Britain, the United States, Japan and Australia can never run out of money. President Obama was wrong to suggest otherwise. Most people are unaware that a major historical event occurred in 1971 when President Nixon abandoned what had been called the gold standard (or US-dollar standard). Under that monetary system, which had endured for eighty-odd years (with breaks for war), currencies were convertible into gold, exchange rates were fixed and governments could expand their spending only by increasing taxes or borrowing from the private sector. After 1971 governments issued their own currencies, which were not convertible into anything of value and were floated and traded freely in foreign currency markets. Most nations have operated “fiat monetary systems” ever since, and as a result national governments no longer have to “fund” their spending. The level of liquidity in the system is not limited by gold stocks, or anything else.
Why, then, do governments borrow? Under the gold standard governments had to borrow to spend more than their tax revenue. But since 1971 that necessity has lapsed. Now governments issue debt to match their deficits only as a result of pressure placed on them by neoliberals to restrict their spending. Conservatives know that rising public debt can be politically manipulated and demonized, and they do this to put a brake on government spending. But there is no operational necessity to issue debt in a fiat monetary system. Interestingly, conservatives are schizoid on the question of public debt: public borrowing provides corporate welfare in the form of risk-free income flows to the rich because it allows them to safely park funds in bonds during uncertain times and provides a risk-free benchmark on which to price other, riskier financial products. The fact that bond yields have remained low throughout the latest economic crisis (reflecting strong demand for public debt) tells you that the parasitic bond markets do not buy the neoliberal rhetoric. They know that national governments (outside the Eurozone) have no solvency risk. more

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