The politics of public despair

POSTED BY ORHAN

I’ve been listening to Part 1 and Part 2 of the Ian Murphy prank call to Scott Walker, where Murphy impersonates billionaire David Koch.  Only Walker knows what was in his mind at the time, but a few conclusions about him can be drawn from the exchange.

The word “compromise” is not in Walker’s lexicon: “…if they think I’m caving, they’ve been asleep for the last eight years”, “I’m not negotiating”, “I’ve taken on every major battle in Milwaukee County and won, even in a county where I’m overwhelmingly overpowered politically,…’cause I don’t budge.”

Walker sees his base as consisting of two main groups: 1) wealthy business leaders, and 2) resentful working people, regular people who’ve either been savaged by the system or are just scraping by and are telling themselves, “I don’t have a secure middle class job with benefits and a pension, why should the other guy have those things?”  Today there are a lot of folks like this in America, and Walker taps into this feeling.  He brings up a story in the New York Times that highlights “a guy who was laid off two years ago…he’s been laid off twice by GM…everybody else in his town has had to sacrifice except for all these public employees and it’s about damn time they do”.  Back in the thirties, muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens captured it perfectly when he quoted a Pennsylvania politician, “We know that public despair is possible and that that is good politics.

Walker is a conservative true believer with the sense that he is riding the crest of history.  He talks about conservatives the way evangelicals talk about themselves: he refers to people as being “one of us” or “not one of us”.  He refers to a Democratic senator who made a lot of money in the private sector as “a little more open-minded” but “he’s not a…conservative. He’s just a pragmatist.”  Towards the end of the call he likens Ronald Reagan’s firing of the air-traffic controllers to the “first crack in the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism” and compares it to the current situation in Wisconsin: “this is our moment, this is our time to change the course of history”, “…we’re doing the just and right thing for the right reasons, and it’s all about getting our freedoms back”, “The bottom line is we’re gonna get the world moving here because it’s the right thing to do.”

The notion that Walker’s legislation is an emergency measure required by the current crisis is ludicrous.  It’s just a continuation of the agenda he’s
championed his entire career: privatization, deregulation, tax cuts, cuts in social services to poor and working people.  And it’s been the plan all along.

31 responses to “The politics of public despair

  1. “The notion that Walker’s legislation is an emergency measure required by the current crisis is ludicrous.”
    I kinda think that $3 billion in the hole somewhat of a crisis.
    “I don’t have a secure middle class job with benefits and a pension, why should the other guy have those things?” Uh, Moe … the guy doesn’t mind others having that stuff. He just doesn’t want to be paying for the other guy to have more than he has. Where’s the social services cuts “for poor people” Moe? Also keep in mind when people like Obama use the term “working people” they mean Union Workers. Union Workers = big $ for Democrats. (period) Rush said the other day that the NEA is nothing but a money laundering system for the Democrats, and he couldn’t have been more right on. Since when does anyone have a “right” to collective bargaining for TAXPAYER money? Who actually represents the taxpayer? No one.
    I just fail to understand why those on the left don’t get the fact that the state is broke. That means no money, none, nada. But, nope, the unions bitch about having to actually pay a bit more into their own pension plans. What a bunch of selfish bastards.

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    • Hi Steve – I didn’t write this post! At the top it says POSTED BY ORHAN. He’s my first guest blogger and likely to be a co-blogger.

      Let me note however that the WI unions have already agreed (a week ago) to pay more into pension plan, to freeze and even cut wages, to pay more into their medical plans. they’ve agreed to everything except the right to collective bargaining.

      And it’s true that unions support Democrats – just like big business supports Republicans. But with the union fight, politics should be put aside. It really is about the right to unionize.

      And by the way, that 3 billion hole in WI? Check out Walker’s big tax cuts he issued as soon as he came into office and see what an impact THAT had on the State’s deficit!

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      • Sigh … It’s NOT about any “rights”. ALL of this has to do with politics my dear. Also, unionizing public sector ‘workers’ to have collective bargaining “rights” for tax-payer dollars is not right; that is, unless they “bargain” with the tax-payers directly. The tax-payers, or the ones actually paying these people, should be the ones to determine the rate of pay, benefits, retirement, etc. Not the other way around. The “big business” argument supporting Republicans is very weak. You don’t get a much bigger business than General Electric … and we see where that went. The only reason the WI unions have agreed to anything is they know they’ll get the stuff back soon enough. Cutting taxes is not why WI is in the hole. All government debts and deficits are not an income problem; it’s a spending problem. We could be taxed 99% of our income, and the government still would not have enough money to cover the spending. Republican and Democrats alike are out of control. The government “shutting down” is certified b.s. The essential functions and programs of the government would continue no matter what. The spending on social and entitlement programs is what needs to be addressed.

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      • Hi Moe, thanks for pointing out to Steve that I wrote this post, and replying to his comments in your inimitable way.

        I’d like to add that in addition to crushing the unions and permitting Walker to sell off energy assets paid for by TAXPAYERS to private corporations at whatever price he feels like and with no input from the public, the Budget Repair Bill also cuts health care services to the poor. Section 112 paragraph (c) mandates the Department of Health Services to “Reduce income levels for purposes of determining eligibility to the extent allowed by federal law” for Medical Assistance.

        Item 2 of paragraph (c) is particularly vicious: it requires DHS to “Authorize providers to deny care or services if a program benefit recipient is unable to share costs, to the extent allowed by federal law or waiver.” So if you’re REALLY broke, Walker will do his best to ensure you get no medical assistance at all.

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  2. I’d leave a comment stating what I think about Walker, but you’d have to edit the language.

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  3. Walker is a stooge for business interests. He doesn’t care anything about workers at all. Wisconsin had a surplus when he came into office in January, he destroyed that by giving a huge tax break to business bringing them under the national average (they were at the national average before) and handing out sweet heart no bid contracts to his business buddies. That CREATED the deficit, which is only an excuse to bust the unions, which he’s tried to do on a smaller scale before. From what I hear from Wisconsin bloggers, he’s headed for a recall vote next year. They now see what a slime they elected.

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  4. excuse me, but I must reply. I love the REthugs and their “tax cuts don’t count towards a deficit.” That’s some idiocy isn’t it? It does to every economist I know. And the idea that unions need to “negotiate with the taxpayers” is another duh argument. ALL of them? Whom would you suggest? Joe the mechanic? Don’t you think that the people who negotiate on behalf of the state are people who know something about the subject? Your argument is nonsensical. It’s easy to say, negotiate with the taxpayers, but frankly provide a workable plan. I’m really tired of all this stupidity based on lack of knowledge. Unions people in public service actually, receive nearly 5% less than their comparable private sector people. So I think the “taxpayers” are getting a pretty good deal. Learn some facts and stop listening to the perveyor of lies, Fox noise. Sorry Moe if my comment creates problems…delete it.

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    • Thank you for your intellectually challenged comment Sherry. Facts are something that you and ojmo are lacking, or misconstruing, which is typical of those on the left that just have to get something for nothing, or at other people’s expense. “to the extent allowed by federal law or waiver” means just that … if it’s applicable via federal law … keep it. Oh, that’s right, federal laws don’t mean anything to the left if they don’t like them. (http://stevex09.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/february-26-2011/)
      (Moe, forgive me for putting a link to a post on my blog. I posted that this morning and it fits the claim of the preceding sentence)
      And Sherry, I suggest the unions negotiate with … oh … an elected offical … like Scott Walker; someone that just might have the interests of the taxpayers in mind. Obviously, the people that have been negotiating on “behalf of the state” don’t know much about the subject.
      I sincerely hope your weekend is a good one.

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  5. Sherry,

    The unions give enough money to Democrats mostly, but sometimes Rinos who then give them sweetheart pensions and pay packages. The unions have huge power to select Governors and Legislators. When the economy was good it all worked. Now it does not. Private sector workers have taken it on the chin but public employees have had their jobs and pay scales protected from the recession.

    As far as evil business interests getting tax breaks, earth to Sherry, all of the States are in competition for getting those evil business interests to come in and stay in their States. States run by people who think like you are having businesses and jobs leave their States.

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    • An excellent example of the attitude of resentment described in one of the points in the original post: the idea that working people in the private sector have been ravaged, now it’s time for the public sector to get the same treatment.

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  6. ojmo,

    The people in the private sector pay the people in the public sector. They are their bosses, not the other way around . Although the way the media plays it, I understand your confusion . When the private sector folks decide they want to pay ‘ their ‘ employees less, that is their right . The public sector people have the right to decide not to work for that rate of pay by finding other employment, though most I suspect have it to good to leave .

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    • Alan, the confusion is on your part. The issue here is the legislature limiting the right to collective bargaining by public unions – not wages.

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  7. I really wish one of these raging a-holes would just say what they all mean: “Poor people are poor because they deserve to be poor and rich people are rich because we deserve to be rich.” In a way, I sympathize with the right wing nuts. I also detest as a miserable disease the filthy subhumans who vote in favor of their own serfdom. If your income is not seven figures, then voting Republican is exactly that.

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    • Your oars are not hitting the water desertscope and your speach bewrays your lack of of knowledge and understanding of the subject matter. There’s no need to “sympathize” with those of us on the right. I’ll do my best to comfort you; as it is written, “comfort the feebleminded” …

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      • Steve – it’s truly a delusion to think that those who protect the uberwealthy really give a damn about the rest of us. They say all the words – freedom, liberty, individualism, aspirations, the american dream, ya da ya da ya da ya da . . . and they get people to say’yeah!” and all the while they’re getting their pockets picked.

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  8. Excellent post. Poor counter-comments, which only repeat the worn out and incorrect assumptions of supply side economics and misplaced resentment directed toward unions. In the most recent era of our nation’s greatest economic booms (1947 – 1975) almost a full third of our nation’s workforce was unionized. The economy was growing at a steady clip and real wages have not been as high since. Since Reagan, union busting has been on the rise, the middle class has been on the decline, and we are now reaping the benefits of fantasy economics. The consumer class has finally run out of money and credit. Make no mistake, Walker is on the front line of a coordinated and intentional attack on biggest and last strong union, taking even more spending power out of the middle class and making the state’s budget issues worse in the process.

    The amount of the WI budget this represents is nothing compared to the supply-sided idiocy being practiced by the state’s republicans, led by Walker. It has nothing to do with money anyway.

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  9. Pingback: The Politics of Public Despair « The Conservative Lie

  10. Excellent post Oran.Too bad people like Steve couldn’t take his coservative agenda hat off long enough to read it……Ofcourse it’s all about politics…It’s about union busting, it’s about dividing the working class.

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  11. I think it’s funny as hell. “union busting” and “dividing the working class”! Jay, did you get dropped on your head as a child, or are you just naturally that simple minded?
    “The Conservative Lie” thinks the middle class is union workers! Gawd Moe, where do you find these people that “darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge”?
    Oh well, it’s written; “speak not in the ears of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of thy words”.
    You all have a great week. Get to Wal Mart and buy some extra tissues to dry your tears.

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    • WalMart Steve? No one has killed more small retailers or forced more manufacturers off shore than WalMart. This American won’t go near the place.

      “These people’ are bringing thoughtful commentary and responses and you are calling them names. That’s not nice.

      Meanwhile, who do you think IS the middle class anyway? Cops? Firefighteres? Teachers? The guy who plows the snow? The guy who runs the sewage plant? The lady who gives you your hunting license? The lawyer who does the city’s business in court? These ARE the government workers. They are taxpayers. They are the public. It’s utter nonsense to pretend they are anyone other than us. And if you think they are the enemy ., . .

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  12. The Conservative Lie ,

    ” In the most recent era of our nation’s greatest economic booms (1947 – 1975) almost a full third of our nation’s workforce was unionized. The economy was growing at a steady clip and real wages have not been as high since. ”

    Where do you get this stuff ? 1947 to 1975 was not just one long economic boom. The decline of the unionized workforce from that time was an effect, not a cause of middle class decline . The shifting economic trends from that time were caused by the first oil shocks, new technologies, and the rise of new economic rivals who finally fully recovered from WW2, namely West Germany and Japan.

    Anyway, the public unions are different from private sector unions . To believe, as many on your side do that public unions counteract corporate influence is fantasy. Public unions are in it for themselves against the taxpayer .

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    • Alan, I just said to steve and I’ll repeat – the union members who are ‘in it for themselves’ are not against the taxpayer because THEY ARE THE TAXPAYER.

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    • If public unions are “in it for themselves against the taxpayer”, at least in Wisconsin they’re not being very ruthless – according to the Economic Policy Institute public, workers are compensated about 5% less than their private sector counterparts.

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  13. ojmo,

    I dispute the accuracy of your statement. I looked at the board of directors of the Economic Policy Institute. The are hardly unbiased. Now to prove that Wisconsin public sector workers do make more than their private sector counterparts I cite what I hope is an unbiased source.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-03-01-1Apublicworkers01_ST_N.htm#table

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    • Alan – you decide that EPI is biased. Nonsense. From their ‘about’ page:

      EPI was the first — and remains the premier — think tank to focus on the economic condition of low- and middle-income Americans and their families. Its careful research on the status of American workers has become the gold standard in that field. Its encyclopedic State of Working America, issued every two years since 1988, is stocked in university libraries around the world. EPI researchers, who often testify to Congress and are widely cited in the media, first brought to light the disconnect between pay and productivity that marked the U.S. economy in the 1990s and is now widely recognized as a cause of growing inequality.

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    • The EPI study adjusts for education, while the USA Today study does not (and acknowledges), which accounts for the discrepancy in results from the two studies.

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    • Perhaps you think ‘focusing on the issues of lower and middle income Americans’ is in itself bias? If so, how sad.

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  14. Ms. Holland ,

    ” Alan – you decide that EPI is biased. Nonsense. From their ‘about’ page: ”

    Uhhhh yeaaa, and I can back up what I say .

    On Board of Directors:

    Barry Bluestone ; Former senior staff member for Congressman Richard Gephardt.
    R. Thomas Buffenbarger ; President of International Association of Machinists.
    Larry Cohen ; President Communications Workers of America.
    Anna Burger ; Officer Service Employees International Union ( SEIU ) .
    Ron Gettelfinger ; President of United Auto Workers .

    ” Its careful research on the status of American workers has become the gold standard in that field. Its encyclopedic State of Working America, issued every two years since 1988, is stocked in university libraries around the world. EPI researchers, who often testify to Congress and are widely cited in the media, first brought to light the disconnect between pay and productivity that marked the U.S. economy in the 1990s and is now widely recognized as a cause of growing inequality. ”

    Media and Universities, no left wing socialist marxist bias there. 🙂

    ” Perhaps you think ‘focusing on the issues of lower and middle income Americans’ is in itself bias? If so, how sad. ”

    Not focusing on, exploiting for political and economic gain. How sad .

    ojmo,

    ” The EPI study adjusts for education, while the USA Today study does not (and acknowledges), which accounts for the discrepancy in results from the two studies. ”

    You can make all kinds of adjustments to make the numbers come out the way you want .

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  15. “Media and Universities, no left wing socialist marxist bias there.”

    You mean left wing socialist marxist forums like Fox News? The Washington Times? Bob Jones University? Liberty University? Are you actually saying that if a study comes out of any university, then it automatically has a left wing bias? Or a report from any news outlet?

    “Not focusing on, exploiting for political and economic gain. How sad.”

    Now you’re just tossing out allegations with zero evidence. Who is going to study the issues relevant to working people – the Koch brothers’ foundations? Heritage Foundation? The Republican Party? Those groups aren’t seeking the political and economic gain of the wealthy? Oh yeah, that’s right, they’re not media outlets or universities, so they must be unbiased…

    “You can make all kinds of adjustments to make the numbers come out the way you want.”

    Exactly my point! According to EPI, “public-sectorworkers consistently make less than their private–sector peers. Workers with a bachelor’s degree or more—which constitute nearly 60% of the state and local workforce in Wisconsin — are compensated between $20,000 less (if they just have a bachelor’s degree) to over $82,000 a year less (if they have a professional degree, such as in law or medicine).”

    Now those numbers are significant.

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  16. ojmo,

    Perhaps government workers are just over educated for the work they do. In this economy I know many people working at Walmart with 4 and 6 year degrees. If I were to compare them to say high school kids working McDonalds, I could seriously make the case that Walmart employees are grossly underpaid by education .

    Like

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