So it’s generally been a pretty good couple of days all things considered. There was the big rally at the Capitol Square on Saturday the 26th that drew between 70,000 – 100,000 people. Of these people in attendance there were very few Walker / Tea Party supporters…. and when I say very few I mean like less than 50 people in total. Not too shabby. Walker went on “Meet the Press” on Sunday morning where he regurgitated the same old garbage that he’s been saying for weeks now. David Gregory actually held his feet to the fire a bit (of course not the level I’d prefer, but you can’t have everything) which you could tell was irritating Walker. I think his generally insecurity as a person came out a bit when he started to have to answer a few “big boy” questions. Also on Sunday the government tried to remove the protesters from the Capitol, ostensibly for cleaning purposes, at 4 PM. There was an announcement made earlier in the day that this would happen and at 4 PM the police started asking people to leave. Some did leave, but others were determined not to and didn’t. The interesting thing though was that the police did not step in, start arresting people, and hauling them out. As always it appears the police know what side they’re truly on and are really cool with the protesters (as they are protesters themselves!). Finally a new New York Times / CBS News poll was released today showed that nationwide the US public “oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent.” This is an increase in percentage points for opposing weakening rights of previous polls from the past couple of weeks. The poll also suggested that Americans would rather increase taxes that decrease services. Interesting.
Which brings me to my pessimistic blog post title. Walker is due to release his FY2011-2013 budget tomorrow (3/1/2011) at a press conference. No one was expecting it to be very pleasant to begin with, but based on the fact that it’s one of the last major weapons in his arsenal that he has complete control over and with the heat he’s been taking I’m expecting him to be more brutal and vindictive with it. The reasons for this belief are that he acts like a spoiled brat (not bratwurst mind you, but the ornery child type) to begin with and we all know how those types like to lash out when they’re not getting their way. Another reason for this is to possible try to prove that his two threats last week to start laying workers off weren’t just paper tigers. In case I haven’t mentioned it he first threatened to layoff 1500 people if the Wisconsin 14 didn’t come back and pass his debt restructuring scheme by last Friday and then warned that he’d “have to” layoff 5000-6000 people if his plans weren’t passed by Tuesday (tomorrow). We’ll see what happens there as there was a new article put out today that details his debt restructuring scheme as nothing more than borrowing money on a 10 year loan which will actually cost the Wisconsin taxpayer $14 Million the first 2 years. If he succeeds in this plan he’ll be joining the ranks of all the other governors that he constantly scolds for “kicking the can down the road” and not “dealing with the problem today.” Hypocrite. We’ll also see where he gives his budget press release from as even though they failed to clear the Capitol building last night, they are slowly but quietly trying to get everyone out as they’re not allowing anyone into the building any more. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has a great blog post on it today.
All that said I have to leave this post with one final thought. I stumbled across the following story today which sums up the whole state of the US economy and Tea Party politics:
“A public union employee, a tea party activist, and a CEO are sitting at a table with a plate of a dozen cookies in the middle of it. The CEO takes 11 cookies, turns to the tea partier and says, ‘Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.’ “
So everyone’s good friends at the Heritage Foundation, a right wing think tank in Washington DC, published a post today commending Scott Walker and comparing him to “great” (and I use that term loosely) Republican governors before him such as Calvin Coolidge and Ronald Reagan. The author, an intern with the Heritage Foundation, waxes nostalgically at how Coolidge handled the Boston Police Strike in 1919 and Reagan handle the air traffic controllers strike in 1981 by firing them all. What the author, Brittany Baldwin, fails to remember are a couple of key things. The Boston Police ended their strike at the urging of AFL because the country was in the middle of a Red Scare after World War 1 as well as the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and people were associating the strike with a Bolshevik inspired insurrection and “agents of Lenin.” The other thing that she fails to remember is that within months of Reagan firing the air traffic controllers he ended up rehiring the vast majority of them so in effect it was just a publicity stunt.
The other thing that I find interesting about comparing Walker to Coolidge and Reagan is that both of them failed miserably during their Presidencies at the one thing conservatives are supposed to love above all other things… the economy. Coolidge was President in the 1920s and an advocate of laissez-faire government. This philosophy worked ok for a few years but then ended kinda badly with the whole Great Depression thing and US Stock Market collapse. Reagan and his economic policy, famously called “voodoo economics” by his Vice President George H.W. Bush, didn’t really do much other than expedite a faster redistribution of wealth to the richest Americans and in large part is responsible for the massive federal debt the US has because while he cut taxes he couldn’t stop spending money on national defense and the military industrial complex. Oh yeah, Reagan’s economic plan also ended with a major recession that started a little bit into George H.W. Bush’s term as President and ultimately help elect Bill Clinton in 1992.
Since we know that Walker hearts Reagan, thanks to his phone call with billionaire (Fake) David Koch the other day, I only hope Wisconsin can get rid of him before he ruins Wisconsin’s economy like Reagan because the State really needs to be open for business now and can’t afford the time to clean up first.
What is it with these Republicans currently in charge in Wisconsin? From Walker to the Fitzgerald boys none of them make any sense. They say their primary goal is to fix the budget and that they need $3.6 billion in concessions from the public sector to do that. They say that State workers need to pay more for health care and pension costs. Ok, fine. The unions agreed to all of these financial demands on Friday, February 18th. Now Walker and the GOP say that’s not enough and that the only way to solve the budget problem is to give the municipalities the tools that they need by ending collective bargaining ability of employees. According to the Republicans somehow the collective bargaining ability of employees keeps the local municipalities from being able to solve their budget problems. Huh? If local governments know how much they can spend and how much they need to save why on Earth would they agree to a contract with anybody that was more than what they could pay for? Agreements by definition are between 2 different parties. Nobody is forcing the local governments to sign deals that they can’t pay for. Besides as what’s been repeatedly demonstrated by the employees and people protesting these last 2 weeks is that they ARE willing to and HAVE concede(d) all the money the State and the local governments need to balance their budgets. That sounds like a problem solved to me. The thing that I haven’t even mentioned yet is that a large group of local government leaders from around the State of Wisconsin have just sent a letter to Walker saying that THEY DON’T WANT collective bargaining rights of employees eliminated (Click here for letter). In fact they say that in fact the elimination of these rights causes more problems than it solves. Finally, if ending collective bargaining rights of public employees is the end all solution for solving budget problems why is it that Texas has one of the largest budget problems in the whole country (up to 20% of the state’s GDP) (Click here for article)? Why do I mention Texas you ask? Well because it’s been run by a Republican governor for about 10 years now, is highly deregulated, and is one of the most anti-union states in the entire country. The public employees their can’t even negotiate for salary. So if busting the unions is the answer to budget problems why hasn’t it not just worked in Texas, but why isn’t Texas the poster child for financial security?
People he accepts phone calls from:
- People he thinks are David Koch
People he does not take phone calls from:
- Elected Democratic Lawmakers
- Union Leaders
- Wisconsin Citizens
Things that are in the “Budget Repair Bill”
- Authority for the Governor to sell State owned power plants (electrical, nuclear, etc) to any party without solicitation of bids and to whomever the Governor wants
- Ending discrimination protection in State contracts for sexual orientation
Things that we learned from his phone call with Fake David Koch
- Walker considered hiring goons to spark violence during the peaceful protests but ultimately decided not to because it would upset the public which might force him to cave on ending collective bargaining
- Walker thinks threatening to layoff innocent State workers as a tool to “ratchet” up political pressure is a good thing
- Walker thinks it’s a good think to try to trick the Wisconsin 14 into coming back to Madison by offering to meet with him only to secretly get a quorum so that his Republican henchmen can then quickly approve the Budget Repair Bill
- Walker thinks it’s acceptable to threaten people with baseball bats, or as he calls it a “slugger with my name on it”
Koch Whore | The Beast
Wisconsin State Senate Bill 11
Wisconsin State Assembly Bill 11
This morning Scott Walker continued his campaign to strip the bargaining rights of Wisconsin’s workers by threatening to layoff 1500 employees starting next week if the Wisconsin 14 (Wisconsin Democratic State Senators) doesn’t come back to work in Madison (Link 1). He claims that in order to realize savings to solve the current fiscal year’s budget (FY09-11) he needs to have some debt refinanced by this Friday the 25th which requires Senate approval and because it’s a budget related activity it requires a quorum. We all know that the Wisconsin 14 can’t come back to vote on this debt restructuring because as soon as they’re back in Madison and the quorum is achieved the first bill that will be voted on won’t be the debt restructuring, but the so called “Budget Repair Bill” that would strip workers’ collective bargaining rights.
So how did we get here? We’ll its actually Scott Walker’s own creation. The current FY09-11 “budget crisis” is actually his creation. As documented by the Capital Times on February 16th (Link 2), the State Fiscal Bureau actually projected at the end of January 2011 a $120 M surplus by the end of the FY09-11 which ends in June 2011. This surplus was achieved by all State employees bargaining on good faith for the past 2 years with previous Governor (Jim Doyle) and continuing to take 8 furlough days a year, which translates into about a 5% paycut per year. Fearing Walker would try to try to inflict further harm on the State employees and Wisconsin’s budget the Doyle administration pushed for the approval of the negotiated State contracts with the Unions that would lock in the savings for the State and the job safety for the State employees before he left office in December 2010 as he still had a Democratic majority in both the State Assembly and State Senate.
This was the plan and it seemed doable until Walker worked behind the scenes to surprise people. The contracts were approved by the Assembly, but when they came up for approval in the Senate 2 Democrats shocked everyone and voted with the Republicans to deny the contracts (Link 3). These 2 Democrats were the Senate Majority Leader Russ Decker and Jeff Plale. Suspiciously enough 2 weeks later in January 2011 it was announced that Jeff Plale would be joining the Walker administration earning $90,000 / year as the administrator of the Division of State Facilities (Link 4),
So how did that cause the need for a budget repair bill for FY09-11? Within weeks of being sworn in as Governor in January 2011 Walker and his new Republican majority in both the Assembly and Senate passed $140 M in new spending for his supporters (Link 5).
So what does this all mean? Walker is more interested in holding 1500 people hostage, who didn’t do anything to deserve this, all so that he can try to use public pressure to bring the Wisconsin 14 back to Madison which would seal the passage of his “Budget Repair Bill” on a pure party line vote and ultimately remove collective bargaining rights from Wisconsin workers that they have had them for over 50 years and also kept labor peace for the State and the people of Wisconsin.
- “Walker warns state workers layoff notices could come next week if bill isn’t passed”
- “Walker gins up ‘crisis’ to reward cronies”
- “Doyle Surpised By Decker’s Vote”
- “Former Democratic senator Jeff Plale lands job in Walker administration”
- “Walker Concocts ‘Scoop and Toss’ Borrowing Scheme to Pay for $140 Million in Special Interest Spending“
As you’re probably aware of by now there have been mass protests in Madison, Wisconsin over the past week or so. What you may not know is actually what’s behind them and the history of Wisconsin that’s driving them. As a 4th generation native of Wisconsin and avid follower of politics I feel that I have a good background to explain and chronicle what’s going on here as well as a desire to do so.
To that end a good starting point to get one up to speed is a quick history lesson about Wisconsin and it’s progressive history involving unions. Thankfully Rachel Maddow did just this last Friday, February 18 in a much more fun and concise way that I could ever hope to. 🙂 Yes, I know she’s an admitted “liberal” but as someone who has lived in Wisconsin for over 30 years I can safely assure you that she’s got the history part down correctly. So anyway if you’re looking for a place to start please check out her clip. I’ll be posting more stuff as it plays out in Wisconsin over the coming days.