Wednesday, June 06, 2012

On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin

            It was so sweet.  All those earnest, scrubbed Mid-west faces, genuinely believing that they could use a loving-hands-at-home grassroots recall movement to overcome the power of money, the power of resentment and envy that supports an effective political race to the economic bottom and the supremely effective power of false narratives.
            Naturally, the grassroots recall of Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, failed. How could it not?  Recalls are, in the best of times, difficult things to pull off.  There’s only been a few in history.  People hate recalls.  For most of them, it’s a long, long stretch between, “I hate that guy,” and “I’ll actually vote to toss the bum out.”  Instead, people will endure all sorts of awful governance and won’t lift a finger to do anything more than just grumble and wait until the next election. And in Wisconsin, the bar had been set even higher – recalls only for illegal wrong-doing. And with Walker, that was (at this point) lacking, though there is an ongoing investigation into some illegal activities alleged to have gone on in the Governor’s office.
            And nobody should ever, ever underestimate the power of envy in a bad economy.  In hard, scary times, instead of raising all boats, the reverse is true.  After all, the secret heart whispers, Why should you, via your union benefits, be doing better than I, who am without those benefits?  And if you’re a public worker and my taxes are paying your salary, well, I’m gonna make sure you really, really get cut down to my size.
            And, of course, one should never, ever underestimate the overwhelming power of the false narrative fueled by unlimited money.  The big lie too often wins in the short run, and in politics, it’s all short run.  Plus, negative ads work, no matter how many times we tell ourselves that that don’t.  They do.
            So, there’s Wisconsin, which became a sort of laboratory for what’s roiling the rest of the nation: an unbalanced economy with only a few boats rising while the rest have been scuttled or sent to China; a political ideologue (Walker) who forgot that while you can run as an ideologue you have to govern as a moderate, and instead of compromise, took an ax to the few remaining boats, gave tax breaks to his rich cronies, then openly going after union’s bargaining rights – an arrogant act of overreach that triggered the revolt.  And finally, Wisconsin became the first chance to see what unlimited (and secret) PAC money can do in a hot-button, clearly partisan, ideological,  political fight.
            Interestingly, the battle isn’t quite over.  There’s a few GOP state senators up for grabs and ultimately, the outcome of that battle may moot Walker’s win – a new Democratic majority that will block any more of Walker’s unilateral ramrodding.  
            Perfect cheese fight! With the outcome pretty predictable.  But, bless all those fresh, hopeful mid-west faces. Wisconsinites, you got the government you deserve, ot once but . . . twice! 

Speaking of Cheese Fights

            The guy even looks like Jeremy Irons, star of Showtime’s “The Borgias.”  In a new book, “His Holiness,” by Gialuigi Nuzzi, who got his inside info from a Vatican “deep throat,” the Pope is portrayed as a weak doofus surrounded by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, “the Holy See’s influential secretary of state.  In his quest to consolidate power for himself and his cronies, Bertone made many enemies at the Vatican.  The picture that emerges is of powerful groups fighting it out for control beneath an ‘almost absent’ pope, who is fully ‘under the thumb of the powerful cardinal.”  Toss in the head of the Vatican Bank, who was abruptly fired (amid rumors that he actually got the boot because he had really been trying to root out financial corruption at the bank), and now the Pope’s personal valet is caught with stolen documents . . .
            Bring on the poison-in-the-ring!
            Or, better yet.  Send a whole bunch of those fresh-faces Wisconsinites over to Italy to recall the Pope and all his minions.  Considering the still-ongoing disgrace of the child-raping priests and the still indifferent/obstructing hierarchy, maybe it’s time for a total recall.  Throw the bums out and start over.

Oh, Noooooooo . . .

            Oh, Dear God, No. . . .  John Edwards’ mistress, Rielle Hunter, has just written a new tell-all book that’s due out on June 26.  Haven’t we had enough?  Really, Rielle?  A tell-all-book?  Really?

            “Hunter told GQ magazine in 2010 that she said she did not want to capitalize on the affair to make money.

            Yet here she is. 

Time to move to France.


TCG said...

I think the root of the issue in Wisconsin is similar to the root of the Supervisor's election in San Luis Obispo County in the Patterson-Arnold race. How?

An influencial group of people with special interests, the public employee labor unions in Wisconsin, refused to consider the big picture.

Working in concert with the Government instead of taking the usual hard line union negotiating tactics, they could have easily said "yes, our workers do make considerably more that their counterparts in the private sector even though they pay the same property taxes and sales taxes to run our Government programs--and we will agree to pay a small amount more of the cost of our pensions and insurance."

Instead, the elected State officials had to make that logical decision for them to bring the State's budget into the black. The State also had to give the employees a choice as to whether they wanted to be represented by those unions. The unions wouldn't do that. Consequently, many employees chose to reject that union representation and the public employee unions in Wisconsin lost a lot of their power through their obstinate greed.

SLO? I think that the Sierra Club may have just cut off their nose to spite their face by specifically NOT endorsing Jim Patterson, and allowing Debbie Arnold--a candidate much less to their liking--to push past Mr. Patterson this time. Like the unions in Wisconsin, they could not abide by not having every single decision go their way. I believe that they just learned that having a strong influence is better, in this time of government, then trying to have it all and failing.

There are some unsettling factors in today's government. The U.S. population is not growing over all, so we can't consume as many goods and services as in the past--making new business very challanging. Half the people in the country don't pay income tax, and a growing number are having to be totally supported by others.

The rest already pay a good deal, and even if they payed extremely higher amounts of taxes the extra income would only cover a fraction of the budget deficits being run up by most of elected officials in Washington (and California).

I don't know if it will ever happen, but big Government needs to change and I have no problem with what is occurring in Wisconsin and a few other states. It is certainly not perfect, and the leaders are not flawless, but I believe it is a movement in the right direction.

It will be very interesting to see the future reaction of the unions and others in Wisconsin and around the country in the next several months--will they figure out a way to get in the game cooperatively, or continue to take the all or nothing approach that has not served them so well recently?

Alon Perlman said...

Oh nooo so much to comment on so little time...

The 8 to 1 spending advantage. A wiser person than I said: You can beat a 1:2 advantage maybe even a 1:3 but not a 1:8.
Speaking of 1:3, sad to see Patterson and other "Smart" things go.$!2c+2012+Presidential+Primary/ElectionNightResults.pdf

Funny, I skipped over the cheese fight reference because I was fixated on the Edwards and had intended to post on the previous blog entry. And yet...
Isn’t the internet wonderful,
I am proud to say that everything in your previous blog post on this delectably decedent and sordid affair was news to me, even the legitimate news elements
But once my interest was piqued it took only seconds to find the following tidbits. This is not just a Cheesy made for TV movie, it is every Cheesy made for TV movie we have ever watched (Or avoided).
This He got a house with two wings and sold a book, the Moor did his, the Moor can go. Not a bad writer for a first timer (I base this on his prologue))

And this

(J. J. Druck’s, AKA Alison Poole’s first brush with infamy: what happens when an American psycho hears her biological clock ticking)

And even this
(Rare picture of what may be “The Horse” Henry the hawk)

But mostly this cheese whizz on 3 processed cheese slices of a recycled statement "A lot has been said. But no one has heard the truth of what really happened until now"
The s¢ent of something, all right.

The only way for justice to be served and comeuppance applied is to sentence Edwards to move in with his “that woman”.

Churadogs said...

TCG: Yup, there's a profound shift happening in America. What happens to a country that no longer makes stuff anybody wants? Or has no money to consume stuff other people make? Or a nation that mistakes gambling with "investment." Investment in what? More gambling. Or a nation filled with people who all want free pudding and expect the Other Guy to pay for it? Or a nation that allows itself to compete in a suicidal wage-race to the bottom so the CEO can enrich himself and pocket the difference. Let them eat cake! and the rank and file say, "Here, take my portion, too, Your Worship." Or allows the nation's wealth to be skimmed off and moved upline to a handful of a few multi-nationalists with no interest in the welfare of the country they reside in since they no longer reside in any country? Or what happens to a country that turns into a third-world economy that depends on extractions of it's wealth for the benefit of others? What happens to a country that refuses to invest in the value of the Commons, refuses to invest in its children, their education, refuses to invest in infrastructure and technology that can lead to a future? A nation locked into Ayn Randian "Ive Got Mind, F--k You," which, really, is a nation that has already died, a nation that no longer believes it has a future.

America, 2012. So, We'll see, won't we? Crossroads, indeed.

And, yes, I do suspect the Sierra Club shot itself in the foot -- As mentioned in the post above, you can politic from the extreme edges, but then ya gotta go meet at the sausage factory and get your hands in the tub of blood and guts if you want to get anything done in the real world. And in the real world, there's no "perfection."

Unless you're watching my Zuri run. There you have perfection.

Anonymous said...

What Wisconsin means

By Charles Krauthammer, Published: June 7

Tuesday, June 5, 2012, will be remembered as the beginning of the long decline of the public-sector union. It will follow, and parallel, the shrinking of private-sector unions, now down to less than 7 percent of American workers. The abject failure of the unions to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) — the first such failure in U.S. history — marks the Icarus moment of government-union power. Wax wings melted, there’s nowhere to go but down.

The ultimate significance of Walker’s union reforms has been largely misunderstood. At first, the issue was curtailing outrageous union benefits, far beyond those of the ordinary Wisconsin taxpayer. That became a nonissue when the unions quickly realized that trying to defend the indefensible would render them toxic for the real fight to come.

So they made the fight about the “right” to collective bargaining, which the reforms severely restricted. In a state as historically progressive as Wisconsin — in 1959, it was the first to legalize the government-worker union — they thought they could win as a matter of ideological fealty.

But as the recall campaign progressed, the Democrats stopped talking about bargaining rights. It was a losing issue. Walker was able to make the case that years of corrupt union-politician back-scratching had been bankrupting the state. And he had just enough time to demonstrate the beneficial effects of overturning that arrangement: a huge budget deficit closed without raising taxes, significant school-district savings from ending cozy insider health-insurance contracts, and a modest growth in jobs.

The real threat behind all this, however, was that the new law ended automatic government collection of union dues. That was the unexpressed and politically inexpressible issue. That was the reason the unions finally decided to gamble on a high-risk recall.

Without the thumb of the state tilting the scale by coerced collection, union membership became truly voluntary. Result? Newly freed members rushed for the exits. In less than one year, ­AFSCME, the second-largest public-sector union in Wisconsin, has lost more than 50 percent of its membership.

It was predictable. In Indiana, where Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) instituted by executive order a similar reform seven years ago, government-worker unions have since lost 91 percent of their dues-paying membership. In Wisconsin, Democratic and union bosses (a redundancy) understood what was at stake if Walker prevailed: not benefits, not “rights,” but the very existence of the unions.

Anonymous said...

So they fought and they lost. Repeatedly. Tuesday was their third and last shot at reversing Walker’s reforms. In April 2011, they ran a candidate for chief justice of the state Supreme Court who was widely expected to strike down the law. She lost.

In July and August 2011, they ran recall elections of state senators, needing three to reclaim Democratic — i.e., union — control. They failed. (The likely flipping of one Senate seat to the Democrats on June 5 is insignificant. The Senate is not in session and won’t be until after yet another round of elections in November.)

And then, Tuesday, their Waterloo. Walker defeated their gubernatorial candidate by a wider margin than he had — pre-reform — two years ago.

The unions’ defeat marks a historical inflection point. They set out to make an example of Walker. He succeeded in making an example of them as a classic case of reactionary liberalism. An institution founded to protect its members grew in size, wealth, power and arrogance, thanks to decades of symbiotic deals with bought politicians, to the point where it grossly overreached. A half-century later these unions were exercising essential control of everything from wages to work rules in the running of government — something that, in a system of republican governance, is properly the sovereign province of the citizenry.

Why did the unions lose? Because Norma Rae nostalgia is not enough, and it hardly applied to government workers living better than the average taxpayer who supports them.

And because of the rise of a new constitutional conservatism — committed to limited government and a more robust civil society — of the kind that swept away Democrats in the 2010 midterm shellacking.

Most important, however, because in the end reality prevails. As economist Herb Stein once put it: Something that can’t go on, won’t. These public-sector unions, acting, as FDR had feared, with an inherent conflict of interest regarding their own duties, were devouring the institution they were supposed to serve, rendering state government as economically unsustainable as the collapsing entitlement states of southern Europe.

It couldn’t go on. Now it won’t. All that was missing was a political leader willing to risk his career to make it stop. Because, time being infinite, even the inevitable doesn’t happen on its own.