Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sundial Bridge, Redding, California

The Sleeping Giant

Protests against the Neoliberal/Reaganomics union busting policies of Wisconsin's Republican governor continue to grow and are now spreading to other states, and after more than a week of news accounts of this controversy I still hear repeated  the lie being told that the Wisconsin governor, that shameless, boot-licking servant of the rich, is only doing what he promised to do, that this is what the people elected him to do.

No, Scott Walker never said anything about eliminating public sector unions' collective bargaining rights during the election campaign, as John Nichols, long time writer for The Nation magazine and a Wisconsin resident and native told Amy Goodman Friday on Democracy Now. (Scan down a little for the transcript.)

Walker sprung his plan on Wisconsin and its legislature just two weeks ago, Nichols informs us, as part of a minor budget adjustment bill, in which he also sought to restructure state government, eliminating cabinet positions and putting all their functions in his office, and giving him almost unchecked power to, among other things, sell off state owned utilities and land with no bid contracts.

Walker didn't either say anything about another part of his plan to speed our return to feudalism by eliminating collective bargaining rights not just for state workers, but all public employees in Wisconsin, even those who work for city and county governments, Nichols said, which part of the plan doesn't even have any effect on the state budget. It's just simple union busting, period. It's about Walker decimating unions wherever he can find unions. It's simply slobbering fealty to his rich patrons like the Koch Brothers. It's about neoliberalism, that is, Reaganomics, about moving the standard of living of the working class in the US backwards.

Typical of the comments you hear quoted by the national media are this by Indiana's Republican Governor:

"Governor Walker, after all, is only doing something he promised to do and he ought to be commended, I think, for trying to keep his commitments," Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told ABC News.

Daniels, along with New Jersey's governor, Chris Christie, and Wisconsin's Walker, form a triumvirate of Republican governors trying to outdo each other to please their rich patrons by attacking unions, teachers, and the working class in general, just keeps repeating the same lie over and over:

“He is simply keeping a commitment that he made very openly in running for office,” Mr. Daniels said in an interview over the weekend.

Not true, Daniels. I heard Daniels repeat this and even more outrageous lies when he was a guest this past week on the National Public Radio program The Dianne Rheem Show, which airs from Washington, DC and is essentially an inside the beltway discussion, within a very narrow range, among members of the ruling and media elite. Neither Rheems nor any of her media guests ever questioned Daniels as he made a string of false statements, such as, that public sector workers make on average 50 percent more than private sector workers, and it was left to callers and emailers to call Daniels on the lies.

And so why does the national media continue to repeat the lie that the voters of Wisconsin wanted Walker to do what he is doing, when they didn't know about his plans either? Are the highly paid members of the national media just getting in on the attack on the working class? Or are they that incompetent, that lazy, that stupid?

The people of Wisconsin disapprove of Walker's schemes, despite the so-called "counter rallies" in Madison given a lot of media attention of unwitting working class stiffs bussed in by the rich to repeat slogans made up by consultants and advertising agencies hired by the rich, who started the Tea Party movement in the first place and who fund it.

A late poll by GQR shows Wisconsinites against Walker's plan 54-42 percent, and that his approval rating has plummeted. 

"Since the protests began, Governor Walker has seen real erosion in his standing," the GQR pollsters write in their analysis, "with a majority expressing disapproval of his job performance and disagreement with his agenda."

And so why don't you hear this kind of thing on TV, or read this in the national media?

Nichols is also a good source for reaction in Wisconsin to what Walker said during a much publicized phone call, when a blogger from Pennsylvania called pretending to be one of the infamous Koch Brothers and Walker fell for it. Some law enforcement officials in Wisconsin are alarmed at what Walker thought he was telling one of the big shots whose interests he serves regarding sending thugs into the crowds of protesters -- crowds that included children -- to foment violence.

Read more of Nichols reporting on the Wisconsin uprising here.

What is to be made of what is happening in Wisconsin, and how it is playing out nationwide? There is already speculation about whether Republicans have overplayed the hand they were dealt with their electoral victories of November past. Some news outlets are reporting the fact that has been able to muster up rallies in support of the Wisconsinites struggle in all 50 states. At the end of her column in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Jill Burcum quotes people who are protesting in Wisconsin, and some who flew in to Madison to support the state workers about their motivations, and it seems to give some credence to a college professor she quotes, who says that a sleeping giant has been aroused.

But she also miscasts the struggle as being between special interests: corporate types and unions. Until people realize that this is class war, pure and simple, and that it is the rich waging war on the working class, it's hard to see the kind of mass mobilization taking place that would be needed, and the kind of unity being demonstrated in the uprisings in the Middle East. Divide and conquer is very much in play, as is pointed out by Salon's Steve Kornacki here

Something could very well happen that suddenly makes us realize that we, the people, are all in this together. The national media, with its pack mentality, could suddenly turn on our leaders, as it sort of did against Richard Nixon. Republicans might be voted out wholesale, as they were then.

What happened then was that we, the people, simply turned our power over to Democrats, who are little different than Republicans when it comes to protecting the interests of Capital. The hopes and dreams of the 60s generation, that there might be a better world around the corner, soon faded. Rock and protest songs gave way to disco. Long hair became not a symbol of rebellion but just another fashion statement. We finished college, started careers, raised families. And went to work every day. Then came Ronald Reagan. Reagan Democrats. The unrelenting attack on "government," the discrediting of the idea that it represents, that we share responsibility for how things are run and that we are in it together. The discrediting of anything public, anything we have or do in common, and the glorifying of the private, of greed. And here we are today, with declining standards of living for us, while the bonuses being paid out to the banking and Wall Street thieves who fleeced us out of trillions are being paid out at record levels, and with unions almost eliminated.


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