Friday, February 25, 2011

More on Wisconsin

No one, including me, has any idea how the events in Madison will work out.  But what has already happened is that folks are already thinking bigger thoughts of how to fight back against the evil forces of neoliberalism.  And this, my friends, is a good thing!

The War Against the Republic: The Battle Of Madison
by RJ Eskow | February 24, 2011 - 9:34am
Sometimes it's worth looking at current events through the eyes of a historian chronicling the end of an age, or those of a district attorney in a time of corruption. Come to think of it, the two perspectives aren't all that different.
However you look at it, calling the Wisconsin struggle a "labor dispute" is like calling the Battle of Normandy "a fight over a beach." There's a war on, one that's best understand by using an Latin expression popular among prosecutors: Cui bono? Who benefits? Gov. Scott Walker's union-busting budget contains buried goodies for somebody, including possibly the Koch Brothers who paid to have it drafted. More importantly, it's another step toward replacing the American dream of prosperity for all with imperial visions of massive wealth for the few.
The heavily-financed army behind Scott Walker has as its ambition the death of the American Republic. If that sounds like rhetorical overkill, then it's worth remembering the words of someone who watched a republic fall. "The enemy is within the gates," said Cicero. "It is with our own opulence, our own folly, our own criminality that we have to contend."
"Money money money money," added the O'Jays, "some people do things, do things, do bad things with it."
If this end-of-the-republic rhetoric sounds extreme, listen to Gov. Walker's phone call with a prankster pretending to be David Koch. He spoke to Koch the way an employee talks to the boss. That's a glimpse into the world of corporate political power. Madison's the epicenter for a battle between the dying American middle class and a plutocracy - no, make that a "Lootocracy" - determined to rob it of everything it's earned over the last 75 years. more

The Incredible Ecosystem of the Wisconsin State Capitol
By: David Dayen Thursday February 24, 2011 6:25 am 
MADISON, WI (FDL) – There are two stories going on here. One is a political story, and it’s a battle of wills, in many ways. Will Senate Democrats crack by returning to Madison and allowing the budget repair bill to pass, or will Republicans call off the assault on worker’s rights and move on with the bill? That’s what it boils down to, and in my next post I’ll explain why I think the Republicans, (mis)led by Scott Walker, are losing their grip and may have to concede at some point.
But there’s another story as well. And that’s the story of the state Capitol building, under a virtual occupation for the 10th straight day. What started as a protest has taken on the quality of a virtual city on the square. It’s very hard to explain unless you see it for yourself, but I’ll try. The Capitol has become a site for dissent, an information center, an organizing hub, a pizzeria, a display of wit and the site of a new progressive movement. That’s really not overstating the case.
As you walk into the Capitol, the walls are basically covered, and not just with protest slogans and witticisms, though they are there as well (“Hey Stewart/Colbert, we came to your rally, now come to ours”; “The Curdish rebels of Wisconsin”; “Thank God for CNN or I’d never know what’s on Twitter”). Scott Walker is getting a lot of mockery as well; my favorite banner read “Hey Scott Walker, this is David Koch, will you talk to me?” Madison is the birthplace of The Onion, after all. But the walls are also festooned with a surprising amount of graphs and charts, depicting inequality in America, or the percentage cuts to BadgerCare in the budget repair bill, or how much of the federal budget is spent on war and the military. There are even historical treatises about how Abraham Lincoln once jumped out of a window to avoid a quorum call in the Illinois Senate. This is a wonk rebellion too, furthered by the Internet and the easy accessibility of data.
And then there’s the organizing. While protesters rally and wave signs and give public testimony on the legislation (a process that has been going on for days), others are harnessing the frustration and passion. Phone banks have been set up. Other flyers announce self-organized protests, including one today in front of the new lobbying offices for Koch Industries, which popped up just a couple weeks after Scott Walker’s election. There’s a sign-up sheet that reads “I would strike to kill the bill,” with a pretty long list of names. (The idea of a general strike has been discussed, and even endorsed by a local labor council. Private unions wouldn’t be able to go out because of Taft-Hartley, but by mid-March most public unions would not be operating under a contract with the state, so you could absolutely see something like this happen, depending on what legislation goes forward.) At another station on the ground floor is the pizza distribution; Ian’s Pizza on State has basically become the official supplier of the protests, paid for by donations coming in from around the country and the world. There’s coffee as well, and periodically calls for supplies go out, and get fulfilled. There are websites up devoted to the protest, likeDefend Wisconsin. Other fliers announce Twitter feeds to follow for information, or sites collecting YouTube videos of the event. more

Thank you, People's Republic of Madison!
by Dennis Rahkonen | February 24, 2011 - 10:53am
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Unless you're Governor Scott Walker, who gladly granted business interests costly tax breaks, but stubbornly contends Wisconsin can't afford to collectively bargain with public employees.
"He ain't heavy, he's my brother."
Unless you're House Majority Leader John Boehner, who insensitively exclaimed "So be it!" over the prospect of thousands of Americans losing their jobs due to Republican policy.
"All for one and one for all."
Unless you're callous Tea Partiers showing disdain for unemployed and homeless folks desperately needing governmental help to survive an economic crisis caused by a monopolized financial aristocracy's destructive greed.
Conservatives always put mammon-worshipping selfishness and narrow profit above the common good.
It's the same attitude that sent ancient Greece, Rome, and other once-great societies speeding down the skids to oblivion.
Principled devotion to the first three moral outlooks -- the heart of progressive belief -- is the only brake that can keep us from winding up in history's scrap heap. more

Wisconsin and the Death of Capitalism
Gov. Walker and the Ghost of Andrew Mellon
By RICH BRODERICK  February 24, 2011
After the Great Crash of 1929, Andrew Mellon, one of the wealthiest men in America as well as Secretary of the Treasury, gave President Hoover a bit of advice right out of the playbook of laissez-faire capitalism.
Liquidate, liquidate, liquidate.
Liquidate banks, liquidate factories, liquidate commercial and private real estate, liquidate farms and liqudate ranches. Let it all collapse and then the economy would correct itself, slowly but surely, as those still in possession of capital scooped up undervalued assets, cranked up the wheels of commerce and industry, and hired back workers now willing to work for a fraction of what they used to make.
Hoover, a conventional though not cruel or even callous man, turned a deaf ear to Mellon's advice; like our current President, he tried to steer the country out of crisis by adopting fiscal and monetary policies informed by the "best minds" of the day.
As we all know, those policies either proved to be too little, too late or – in the case of his trade policies – aggravated the downtown. By 1932, unemployment peaked at 24 percent and the nation's GDP had shrunk by more than 40 percent from its high point in 1929.
Now, it must be pointed out that, in a crude and almost autistic fashion, Mellon was correct. Allowing the country simply to go bankrupt would, eventually, have resulted in economic recovery. Certainly it was not the only road to that recovery, and surely not the one most likely to provide a decent living for the overwhelming majority of Americans.
An amped-up version of the somewhat tepid policies of the New Deal would also have achieved full economic recovery. In the end, the version of the New Deal that was implemented helped ameliorate the worst effects of the Great Depression – at least enough to prevent revolution -- without quite marshalling the resources to end it.
In the confrontation taking place right now in Madison, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker seems to be channeling the ghost of Andrew Mellon in his attempt to liquidate that state's public employee unions. His budgetary arguments are, of course, a sham, a cover-up for long-held ideological opposition to the union movement. At the same time, it should be pointed out that neither side is directly addressing the foundational cause of the Great Recession that lies behind the standoff: the fact that, as it "matures" (if that is the right word!), capitalism can only survive by creating ever more frequent – and desperate -- crises of the kind we're struggling with right now. more

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