How often do you see the same solutions offered up for any given problem? Tax cuts for the rich, gut government, get rid of unions, privatize Social Security, etc. (And more tax cuts for the rich.) When something shocking happens the right always has ready-to-go, pre-packaged solution waiting in the wings that they offer to fix the problem.
Take Wisconsin for example. They ginned up the appearance of a budget crisis, got everyone worked up, and wham-o, introduce a bill to kill public-employee unions, gutting worker pay and pensions and their ability to do anything about it.
But in fact, like so many of their "solutions" this was something they already wanted to do, and were just waiting for the opportunity to push it through, or creating the crisis to bring about the opportunity to push it through.
These pre-packaged "free-market" "solutions" are not what the public wants, but are always forced through before anyone can react. They don't solve problems, just make the rich richer at the expense of the rest of us.
When the public is worried, stirred up, hopefully to the point of panic you put in your pre-arranged "solution" and start getting them stirred up about the next problem you will "solve." And those conservative solutions never seem to work out.
The deficits get worse, wages don't go up, retirement gets harder... This is because the real purpose of these "solutions" -- cut taxes, cut what government does for regular people, get rid of unions, privatize social security and for good measure cut taxes more -- are not to solve the problem they were offered up to fix. They have another purpose: make deficits worse, make wages stagnate, make retirement harder...
It always, always, always comes down to a simple formula: more (and more) to the rich at the expense of everyone else.
Right now there is a showdown in Wisconsin that as Rachel Maddow notes, has the future of everything we take for granted as workers in this country at stake -- days off in the form of weekends, the right to a safe workplace, a guarantee that at the end of the day we'll actually get paid what we're supposed to(unless we work for Huffington Post, but that's another story for another day):
There was a time when public sector workers were given generous benefits in order to offset the fact that salaries were lower in the public sector than in the private one. For decades, no one objected, because everyone understood that public sector compensation took a different form than that enjoyed by people employed in the private sector. That is because in the aftermath of World War II, a thriving middle class, built and encouraged by the G.I. Bill, flourished in this country, buying houses and cars and those newfangled color TVs and new GE ranges and refrigerators and Schwinn bicycles for the kids they were having. I'm not discussing the entrenched and persistent poverty that existed at the time and still exists today; not because I want to ignore it, but because what we're seeing in Wisconsin isn't about people who have been poor for decades, it's about people who will be poor tomorrow -- and how their own government (in the case of Wisconsin, their governor) will make them that way, because That Is What He Has Been Paid To Do.
I'll get to Scott Walker and the Koch brothers in a minute. But first, let's get back to those generous public sector benefits and the days when there was a middle class that believed in its own future. That middle class was fueled by a number of things, all of which would be derided as "socialist" today: a college education for returning veterans. Low-cost housing bought with VA loans. Defined benefit pension plans. Cost of living increases. A blue-collar component of that middle class could look forward to seeing its children grow up and get the college education they never had, because they were able to go to the plant every day and build cars that Americans bought and make a living wage doing it. The workers of the UAW have always been blamed for the decline of the automobile industry in this country, but it wasn't the guys on the assembly line who are to blame, it was the guys in the suits in Detroit who, when faced with a 200% jump in gasoline prices in 1973 and another jump in conjunction with a fuel shortage in 1977, were caught with their pants down and an inability to make the kind of reliable fuel-efficient cars that recession-conscious buyers wanted. While Honda was importing Civics and Toyota was importing Corollas, General Motors and Ford were putting out crap like the Vega and the Pinto. The UAW didn't cause the auto industry to be caught with its pants down, and neither did the guys who built these cars. It was bad corporate decisions, and over the last three decades we've seen not the guys at the top, but the guys on the assembly line take the blame.
But there's more to this middle class in which I was fortunate enough to grow up. This middle class had optimism about the future. It participated in a consumer-based economy that wasn't about a sense of entitlement to the same trappings of luxury as the rich, but about a country in which there was the opportunity for the children of that middle class to BECOME rich and to be able to afford those trappings. There's a reason why "Doctor Lawyer CPA" was a suburban mantra; those were professions in which one could buy a house with a pool and a luxury car and clothes from Saks.
But then something happened. Over time, the salary advantage enjoyed by private sector workers disappeared, as companies decided that what the American workforce needed was a race to the bottom -- competition from countries where workers made a dollar a day. Cost of living increases disappeared in the private sector, but not the public one. Private sector wages dropped and public sector wages stayed the same or grew. Unions lost their power in the private sector and kept it only in the public one.
And so we now are watching a hideous and sad irony of this spectacle take place in this country. It's one in which middle-class people with only a tenuous hold left on being middle class and those who have already left it due to executive suite decision-making and the wholesale purchasing of government by corporate titans like the Koch brothers, are defending the people who pulled the rug out from under them. They're defending the robber barons while regarding the members of the very unions to whom they owe much of the benefits enjoyed by the middle class while there was one as the enemy. Instead of wanting the kind of benefits still enjoyed by public sector, the kind they and their fathers and mothers USED to have, they want the members of public sector unions to get screwed over just as badly as they are.
Imagine the possibilities of what could happen if everyone who has been hurt by the Republican mantra that if we just shovel enough cash into the pockets of the Koch brothers then happy days would be here again joined together with the public sector workers in Wisconsin. Imagine if the aggrieved Tea Partiers who are driven by the loss of economic opportunity in this country stopped pointing their fingers down the ladder while largely, but not exclusively, Republican politicians and their corporate masters steal the few bucks left in the wallet in their back pocket. Imagine if the worried moms who are believing what they hear on the morning news while they're packing the kids' lunchboxes -- that what's happening in Wisconsin is all about a refusal to accept benefit cuts rather than about the end of collective bargaining by gubernatorial fiat actually listened to what is going on and realized that this is about them too. Imagine if they were joined by people who have been unemployed for 99 weeks despite having education and skills because they're regarded as "overqualified" (read: too old) or because there are too many people chasing too few jobs. Imagine if they were joined by the tech workers and people in other fields whose jobs have been outsourced. Imagine how big the crowds would be in Madison, Wisconsin and elsewhere.
But alas, that's not what's happening. It's not happening because these people are having the message pounded into their heads every day by Republicans and by corporate-owned media that has itself purchased a sizable chunk of government, that it's all about greedy teachers and firemen, that Scott Walker is just a responsible adult who is trying to impose discipline on a bunch of id-driven two-year-olds. The problem is that this is not what Scott Walker is at all. In reality, he's a bought-and-paid-for lackey of the aforementioned Koch brothers, who architected a deficit in Wisconsin for the express purpose of union busting.
Brian Beutler at TPM reported on Thursday that Wisconsin's "budget crisis" was created by, you guessed it, Scott Walker:
Unlike true austerity measures -- service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money -- rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker's doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.
Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.
"Walker was not forced into a budget repair bill by circumstances beyond he control," says Jack Norman, research director at the Institute for Wisconsin Future -- a public interest think tank. "He wanted a budget repair bill and forced it by pushing through tax cuts... so he could rush through these other changes."
THAT is why public sector workers in Wisconsin are protesting. It isn't because of a resistance to givebacks, or an unwillingness to make concessions. It's about eliminating in perpetuity the ability to collectively bargain. It's about union-busting.
And at whose behest is Walker working? It isn't for the benefit of "the taxpayers of Wisconsin", no matter what he said yesterday. It's for the benefit if his masters, the Koch brothers:
According to Wisconsin campaign finance filings, Walker's gubernatorial campaign received $43,000 from the Koch Industries PAC during the 2010 election. That donation was his campaign's second-highest, behind $43,125 in contributions from housing and realtor groups in Wisconsin. The Koch's PAC also helped Walker via a familiar and much-used politicial maneuver designed to allow donors to skirt campaign finance limits. The PAC gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, which in turn spent $65,000 on independent expenditures to support Walker. The RGA also spent a whopping $3.4 million on TV ads and mailers attacking Walker's opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker ended up beating Barrett by 5 points. The Koch money, no doubt, helped greatly.
The Kochs also assisted Walker's current GOP allies in the fight against the public-sector unions. Last year, Republicans took control of the both houses of the Wisconsin state legislature, which has made Walker's assault on these unions possible. And according to data from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the Koch Industries PAC spent $6,500 in support of 16 Wisconsin Republican state legislative candidates, who each won his or her election.
Walker's plan to eviscerate collective bargaining rights for public employees is right out of the Koch brothers' playbook. Koch-backed groups like Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the Reason Foundation have long taken a very antagonistic view toward public-sector unions. Several of these groups have urged the eradication of these unions. The Kochs also invited (PDF) Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union outfit, to a June 2010 confab in Aspen, Colorado; Mix said in a recent interview that he supports Governor Walker's collective-bargaining bill. In Wisconsin, this conservative, anti-union view is being placed into action by lawmakers in sync with the deep-pocketed donors who helped them obtain power.(Walker also opposes the state's Clean Energy Job Act, which would compel the state to increase its use of alternative energy.) At this moment—even with the Wisconsin uprising unresolved—the Koch brothers' investment in Walker appears to be paying off.
And here, via The Political Carnival, are the Koch brothers' talking points. Scott Walker is a good little lackey, isn't he?